Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Volume 6, Issue 38

Welcome to  The Transit Coalition weekly newsletter! Our organization participates in meetings with key decision makers and community leaders. Our goal is to keep you informed on the latest developments in the transportation scene across Southern California.

We Would Delight In Your Presence: The Transit Coalition will host its monthly Dinner Meeting next Tuesday, September 28, featuring an update from Angie M. Starr, Director of Communications on the Metrolink system rebranding. Also, the September and August 2010 issues of Moving Southern California are now available online with new features and news, as are past issues. Here is a review of our August meeting, a video clip of our June meeting with Art Leahy and the latest July video featuring Dennis Allen, Executive Director of LA Streetcar. See Upcoming Events below for details.

A Metrolink locomotive built by Rotem arrives at the port.
Last week, we mentioned that Metrolink is in a position to acquire $90 million worth of new and safer rail cars for a net cost of $32 million, a deal too good to pass up. Metrolink CEO John Fenton says that he wants to move quickly to acquire more rail cars, but admits that agencies are very constrained right now. Richard Katz, a Metrolink and Metro board member, says he would love to have the new cars, but the financial ability of Metrolink to pay for the cars must be there. The Transit Coalition's own Bart Reed said that when it comes to passenger safety, exercising the contract option is a "no-brainer".

The public comment period is well underway for the Westside Subway Extension. Interested parties may comment at several public meetings happening during the next two weeks. Written comments may also be submitted through October 8. The Metro Board will make a final decision on subway route on October 28. At issue is whether or not there will be stations at Crenshaw and the VA Hospital, as well as the exact location for the Westwood and Century City stations. It is likely that concerned but misinformed homeowners in Beverly Hills will submit public comments advocating a sub-optimal route and station placement, so it's important that subway supporters get their comments heard. While the Westside subway enjoys more support than ever before, whether or not it should be built is still debated.

A rendering of the proposed Expo Line bike path.
Cheviot Hills NIMBY's aren't just trying to beat the Expo Light Rail project in court, but also the accompanying bike project. Last week, news broke that a group of homeowners who would lose lawn space for the planned bikeway's easement were filing suit to force a full environmental review of the Bikeway which had been exempted. Local homeowners' opposition seemed mixed, depending on whether or not they supported the rail line in the first place.

Many observers have been unable to figure out exactly what Metro's motivation is in pursuing $32 million worth of legal action to recover $10 million from Red Line contractor Tutor-Saliba, and the latest development in the 10-year-long fight is just as confusing. Metro has apparently dropped their remaining claims against the contractor, with a stipulation that Metro must pay over $1.1 million to Tutor-Saliba. This is not expected to end litigation between the two parties, as Tutor-Saliba is likely to appeal any ruling finding that it violated the California False Claims Act, which would make the contractor ineligible to bid on future government projects. Metro said that it dropped its claims for "efficiency." This legal battle has been anything but efficient.

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Some advocates have been fretting that the slow roll-out of news that 7.5 miles of L.A. City streets are going to be closed to car traffic on 10/10/10 as part of the CicLAvia festival would dull the response and confuse residents and drivers who don't read blogs to get their news. This Wednesday, Mayor Villaraigosa kicks off the official P.R. campaign for the festival with a press event aimed at getting the word out.

USC proposes banning bikes in parts of its campus.
More bad news for cyclists came from USC. The city's largest employer is banning bicycles from two major thoroughfares on the campus. Even though 80% of students identified themselves as cyclists, the administration decided that it would be easier to ban bikes than to figure out a way to seamlessly integrate them with the campus. More distressing is a rumor that the campus might start sending letters to incoming students telling them to leave their bikes at home. Meanwhile, the construction of L.A. County's first Bike Boulevard down in Long Beach continues. Streetsblog has an exclusive photo essay showing that the route is nearly completed.

A bill has been introduced in Congress that, if approved, would raise the $200 million train crash liability cap to $500 million. Lawyers for victims of the 2008 Chatsworth crash say that $200 million is not enough to cover losses and medical costs. The crash was caused by an engineer who was found to be texting seconds before the collision. Metrolink and Connex have signed papers accepting $200 million in liability, but a judge has yet to approve of the settlement.

A drawing of the new El Monte Busway Station, now under construction.
The El Monte bus station has seen its last days, but a new station will rise in its place with almost double the bus bays and the ability to accommodate bigger buses. Overall, capacity will be increased from 22,000 riders per day to 40,000. The new station will have a more modern look, very much unlike the Brutalist concrete design of the former station.

30/10 is a plan to get 30 years worth of transit projects build in just 10, but it relies on a federal loan. If Congress is too timid to tackle this ambitious plan, The Huffington Post's Joel Epstein suggests Metro go to the private sector. Find out how it might work in his latest article.

Last year, both the Riverside and Redlands Unified School Districts decided to cancel school bus service for several of its schools due to budget issues. Now that it's September and school has started, most of the school buses are stuck in the yard. This has caused major school rush hour congestion and hardships for several families within the City of Riverside. In contrast, most Redlands High School students migrated from the yellow buses to Omnitrans en masse, and traffic congestion wasn't affected.

Riverside Transit Agency.
Transit Coalition Community Engagement Director Nicholas Ventrone has been very proactive in advocating improved RTA school trip runs. Ventrone has noted that schools without bus service tend to be the most congested. Stay tuned for more information.

Many transit riders are fed up with the ongoing cuts to their buses. Transit agencies have been working hard in response to find alternative funding sources. Omnitrans has announced that no further service cuts are planned through the rest of the fiscal year. RTA reported the same news earlier this summer.

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City officials in Ontario want to take control of LA/Ontario International Airport. All that's missing is a solid plan to actually carry out a transfer of the airport to the city. According to Ontario's report, the city would manage the airport, but Los Angeles would remain the owner.

For those keeping track, Santa Clarita's NoHo Express has celebrated its first birthday. It has become the busiest commuter bus in Santa Clarita.

When President Obama announced his vision on Labor Day for investing in 21st century infrastructure, he put the United States on the right path toward smart transportation reform--a path that could transform communities across America and create desperately needed jobs.

But his bold vision to invest in safer streets, road and bridge repair, and high speed rail immediately came under fire from many of the usual suspects who prefer the current system of earmarks and oil industry tax breaks.

We need to respond to these attacks on transportation reform publicly and quickly to show the country and our lawmakers that the plan's supporters greatly outnumber its critics. Can you take 5 or 10 minutes to write a letter to the editor of your local paper today?

If we don't generate enough support for President Obama's plan, the skeptics are probably right: Our leaders won't get the job done. For any questions or assistance framing your LTE please contact Ryan Wiggins at Transportation for America.

Yes, the Tokyo Monorail does make a profit, but....
And finally, monorail hobbyists may want to come clean about the monorail's ability to turn a profit. The Monorail Society's web site states, "While capital costs can be as much as or more than light rail, monorail can turn a profit once built. The Tokyo Monorail is operated by a private business and turns a profit each year." This is because, when adjusted to American dollars, the Tokyo Monorail charges almost $7 for a one-way ride. Imagine the uproar if Metro decided to charge $7 per rail boarding. And even if a monorail line can cover its operational costs with fares, it doesn't stop the you-know-what from hitting the fan when bondholders get angry. Let us also observe that the one-mile long Seattle Monorail has a $2 fare compared to $1.50 for 22 miles on the Blue Line. The Las Vegas Monorail charges $6.50 for about 4 miles.

Donate to The Transit Coalition!Donate and Join! If you have not done so yet, we invite you to donate and join The Transit Coalition. A monthly subscription to Moving Southern California comes with your membership. Visit our new and improved Donations page to explore other options. Please include The Transit Coalition in your will, trust or estate. Your contribution is greatly appreciated.

Upcoming Events: Consider attending our monthly Transit Coalition Dinner Meeting on Tuesday, September 28, 6:45 p.m. to 8:45 p.m. at Philippe the Original, 1001 N. Alameda St., Los Angeles. We hope to see you there!

California High Speed Rail Authority Open House: Tuesday, September 21, presentations begin at 5:30 p.m., Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza, Los Angeles.

Westside Subway Extension Draft EIS/EIR Meetings:

  • Tuesday, September 21, 6 p.m., Westwood United Methodist Church Fellowship Hall, 3rd Floor, 10497 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles.
  • Wednesday, September 22, 6 p.m., Plummer Park Community Center, 7377 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood.
  • Monday, September 27, 6 p.m., Roxbury Park - Auditorium, 471 S. Roxbury Dr., Beverly Hills.
  • Wednesday, September 29, 6 p.m., Santa Monica Main Library, 601 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica.
El Monte Transit Center Groundbreaking: Wednesday, September 22, 8:30 a.m., El Monte Transit Center, 3449 Santa Anita Ave., El Monte.

Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority: Wednesday, September 22, 7 p.m., Arcadia City Hall, Council Chambers 240 W. Huntington Drive, Arcadia.

Metro Board Meeting: Thursday, September 23, 9:30 a.m., Board Room, Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles.

Riverside Transit Agency: Thursday, September 23, 2 p.m., Board of Supervisors Conference Room, County Administrative Center, 4080 Lemon Street, 1st floor, Riverside.

Westside Neighborhood Council Meetings on Expo Line Phase 2, 6 p.m., Westside Pavilion, Room A near the Food Court, 3rd Floor, Los Angeles:

  • Thursday, September 23: This meeting will feature representatives from the Expo Line Authority.
  • Thursday, October 4: This meeting will feature representatives from Neighbors for Smart Rail. CANCELLED.
Foothill Transit Executive Board: Friday, September 24, 8 a.m., 100 S. Vincent Ave., 2nd floor, West Covina.

SCRRA (Metrolink) Board Workshop: Friday, September 24 and Saturday, September 25, 8:30 a.m., Hyatt Westlake Plaza, 880 S. Westlake Blvd., Westlake Village.

OCTA Board Meeting: Monday, September 27, 9 a.m., OCTA Headquarters, 600 S. Main St., Orange.

Metro Regional Connector Draft EIS/EIR Public Hearings:

  • Tuesday, September 28, 6:30 p.m., Japanese American National Museum, 369 E. 1st St, Los Angeles.
  • Monday, October 4, 11:30 a.m., Los Angeles Police Department, Deaton Auditorium, 100 W. 1st St, Los Angeles.
LOSSAN Joint Powers Board: Wednesday, September 22 Thursday, September 30, 11:30 a.m., San Luis Obispo.

Ventura County Transportation Commission: Friday, October 1, 10 a.m., Camarillo City Hall, 601 Carmen Dr., Camarillo.

Los Angeles City Bicycle Advisory Committee: Tuesday, October 5, 7 p.m., Hollywood.

California High Speed Rail Authority Los Angeles-San Diego I-10 Alternative Community Open House: Wednesday, October 6, 4 p.m., Grace T. Black Auditorium, 3130 Tyler Avenue, El Monte.

Metro San Fernando Valley Governance Council Meeting: Wednesday, October 6, 6:30 p.m., Marvin Braude Constituent Center, 6262 Van Nuys Blvd., Van Nuys.

Exposition Metro Line Construction Authority Board Meeting: Thursday, October 7, 2:30 p.m., Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration, 500 W. Temple, 3rd floor, Board of Supervisor's Hearing Room 381B, Los Angeles.

Angeles Chapter Sierra Club Transportation Committee: Thursday, October 7, 7:30 p.m. Angeles Chapter Office, 3435 Wilshire Blvd, Suite 320, Los Angeles.

Metro South Bay Governance Council Meeting: Friday, October 8, 9:30 a.m., Carson Community Center, 801 E. Carson St., Carson.

Southern California Transit Advocates: Saturday, October 9, 1 p.m.

Metro San Gabriel Valley Governance Council Meeting: Monday, October 11, 5 p.m., City Hall East, 11333 Valley Blvd., El Monte.

Metro Westside/Central Service Governance Council Meeting: Tuesday, October 13, 5 p.m., La Cienega Tennis Center, Sunset Room, 325 S. La Cienega Blvd., Beverly Hills.

LOSSAN Technical Advisory Committee: Thursday, October 14, 11:30 a.m., Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles SANDAG, 401 B Street, Suite 800, San Diego.

Metro Gateway Cities Governance Council Meeting: Thursday, October 14, 2 p.m., Gas Company ERC, 9240 Firestone Blvd., Downey.

Metro Committee Meetings: Wednesday and Thursday, October 20 and 21, Board Room, Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles.

Mobility 21 Ninth Annual Southern California Transportation Summit: Friday, October 29, 8 a.m. 4 p.m., Disneyland Hotel, Anaheim.

Missed last week's newsletter? Read it here!

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Contact Us:
Bart Reed, Executive Director
Mina Nichols, Legislative Analyst

Zach Gutierrez, Communications
Damien Newton, Editor
About The Transit Coalition:
The Transit Coalition is a non-profit public charity exempt from federal income tax under Section 501[c](3) of the Internal Revenue Service. Our goal is to increase Transit Options and Mobility in Southern California by mobilizing citizens to press for sensible public policy to grow our bus and rail network.

As a grass roots group, we depend upon your contributions to allow us to pursue our important work.
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