Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Monday, September 27, 2010
Volume 6, Issue 39

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.

You Are Cordially Invited: The Transit Coalition will host its monthly Dinner Meeting tomorrow, 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 July meeting video featuring Dennis Allen, Executive Director of LA Streetcar. See Upcoming Events below for details.

Riders board a Red Line train during rush hour.
When transit projects, especially rail projects, get closer and closer to becoming a reality, the opposition really heats up. You may have noticed an increase in the number of pundits who are criticizing the Westside Subway extension in a futile attempt to put a dent into the widespread support for the long-awaited subway towards the sea. The LA Weekly has published the latest such screed against the Purple Line Extension. It didn't take long for Metro's official blog to post a rebuttal pointing out the LA Weekly author's ignorance of inflation, population growth and the alternatives analysis process. Metro doesn't always get it right, but they are right-on about the subway.

The LA Weekly author really attempts to throw everything at the wall to see what sticks. He even trots out the old "subway in earthquake country" argument. One only has to bring up the Northridge earthquake and point out the fate of I-5 and I-10 while noting that the Red Line was up and running later that day. Accompanying the article is an illustration of a man waiting on a subway platform while tumbleweeds roll by. Those who have actually been on the subway know how crowded it actually gets.

A rendering of the proposed Expo Line path through Santa Monica.
The Expo Line to Santa Monica may open by early 2015, according to a presentation by the Expo Construction Authority held at a meeting of the Westside Neighborhood Council. Two teams are bidding on the contract to construct Phase 2 of the Expo Line, and the winning bidder will be announced at a board meeting in February 2011. Though the project is delayed, much of the delay can be attributed to third-parties such as the city or utilities. The opening of Phase 1 is probably going to miss the Festival of Books at USC, just one of many events that the rail line will be able to service in the future. Phase 2 will also include a bike path but that is a separate project that will be constructed concurrent with the rail line.

A Metro Bus.
Metro could not escape dwindling tax revenues and a loss of state transit funding and has been forced to cut service by 4%, a fate that would been much worse if not for Measure R. Service cuts are never easy to swallow, but the most recent cuts are modest compared to what other transit agencies have had to endure. In Orange County bus service was cut by 20% with no restoration in sight. In St. Louis bus and train service was cut in half for several months until a new sales tax was passed, allowing the local transit agency to restore most of the service.

While discussions of the bus service changes and cuts were the major agenda item on last Thursday's Metro Board Meeting, it wasn't the only one that captured people's attention. Mayor Villaraigosa sponsored a motion which would increase bicycle capacity on buses and create new bicycle amenities at Metro train and rapid bus stations. Also, the Board voted to encourage the state's Air Resource's Board to set more strict standards for greenhouse gas emissions than those recommended by the Southern California Association of Governments.

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The development group the Urban Land Institute hosted a forum and one-day conference on the opportunities that high-speed rail could have for developers throughout the Southland. Los Angeles seems to be falling behind the curve in planning for high-speed rail development, but the ULI is hosting its own competition for design ideas to "improve" Union Station.

Transit ridership is up for the first time since late 2008. The uptick is very slight, only .01%, but that transit ridership is not continuing its decline is a promising sign that the economy may be picking up steam again.

Los Angeles Department of Transportation head Rita Robinson is resigning. She will be moving to the County as one of the five chief executive officers there. She would have served as the head of LADOT until 2013.

A San Francisco Muni train departs from the station.
Metro isn't the only transit agency in California that is having problems with new fare gates. Muni Metro in San Francisco has installed new fare gates on its underground light rail stations in order to accommodate a re-loadable smartcard system similar to TAP, but the gates can be easily circumvented with a wave of a hand. Other problems persist, such as gates becoming stuck open and smartcards not working (resulting in a citation for the innocent rider). One wonders whether $30 million worth of fare gates is appropriate for a light rail system that is mostly proof-of-payment. Remember, you do not need fare gates to accommodate re-loadable smartcards. Fare checkers also double as watchful pairs of eyes that can stay alert for problems on the rail system. Since most Metro Muni stations and stops lack fare gates, fare checkers will need to be hired anyway, making new fare gates redundant and wasteful. When fare gate manufacturers wine and dine transit agencies, riders and taxpayers lose valuable funds that could have funded better transit service.

A road is closed for construction.
Freeway construction workers are feeling the heat from the California budget impasse as California Highway Patrol officers will be no longer permitted to assist crews with overnight freeway closures, possibly creating safety issues and/or project delays. CHP will be able to assist workers again once a budget is signed by the governor. It should be noted that CHP is a fee based agency and does not depend upon the state general fund for its budget, though the governor plays politics with the Patrol to get his way.

A car fire fanned flames toward dry brush along the I-15 in northern San Diego County south of Temecula, causing a temporary freeway closure during the Friday afternoon rush hour. Firefighters were able to surround the fire, but commuters had to deal with massive 10-12 mile bumper-to-bumper backups in each direction and heavy traffic on north/south surface streets in Temecula.

Traffic gridlock continued into the weekend due to two separate local freeway wrecks. Normally one would think that if a freeway incident occurs on a weekend morning, delays would be minimal. Not in Temecula. Because several corridors in the region are so automobile-oriented, even early morning wrecks can cause extensive back-ups. Well, several Temecula residents have had enough of this as the locals demand additional in-town services, college campuses, and high speed rail...Wait, high speed rail? Check out the latest public documents and happenings on the proposed Los Angeles-Murrieta-San Diego HSR segment.

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Before the economic meltdown in 2008, cities across the nation -- buttressed by almost $5 a gallon gasoline, increasing congestion, and worsening air pollution -- were on the fast track to add rail and bus service. During the recession people lost their jobs and gas taxes fell meaning fewer transit riders and less money to sustain existing services. As a result transit agencies throughout the nation cut services, raised fares, or did both. But now with the economy in a halting recovery transit ridership increased last quarter by 0.1 percent to 2.5 billion trips.

Robust transit systems will be crucial in linking people to employment centers. Unfortunately agencies are continuing to hemorrhage money and cuts are likely to continue to happen without federal assistance. Two bills are out there that could help. The first is for $2 billion in federal money to backfill transit agency losses, but it has not moved forward because deficit-hawking lawmakers in DC will not back more spending even if it serves to support the transit systems that give people access to their jobs. The other would simply allow for transit agencies to use federal funds designated for transit infrastructure to maintain existing services. This too has seen little movement. In the post-election environment, transportation spending must become the primary issue to ensure that these bills can move forward conserving public transit as a means to secure a long-term economic recovery. The Transportation Law expired just a year ago and Transportation for America writes about the administration moving on a long-term bill in 2011.

Some new greenhouse gas and anti-sprawl laws are going into effect. The regulations would lessen commute times by reconfiguring housing developments and helps workers to live closer to their workplace. It's a long-term plan designed to address the growing number of miles the average family drives to fulfill basic needs. Even with all the election season talk of "job-killing" environmental regulation, you can find support for environmental laws in places you'd normally not expect, big business.

Is it possible that City Council offices, City Departments, the Mayor's office and an army of volunteers can work together? Some of our right-wing road warriors are absolutely horrified and want to put up a fight. Nonetheless, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has announced that CicLAvia is coming on strong. For those that wonder what CicLAvia is, here is a video revealing all.

Iran is becoming a large depository of Maglev knowledge.
The Iran Maglev Technology group features a treasure trove of information on maglev for those interested. The group bills itself as the first, biggest and most complete maglev documents bank in the world, including feasibility studies and wonky technical papers. Who knew that the biggest maglev fans were in Iran? Many of the key developments in Urban Maglev actually come out of San Diego-based General Atomics, as the firm developed key technology to launch carrier based aircraft and has R & D teams working to develop future commercial applications.

And finally, a group of firms have pitched some alternative transportation ideas to officials in Long Beach. The ideas include aerial gondolas, trams and people movers. Long Beach would partner with Urban Innovations to apply for grant money from Metro and the Federal Transit Administration. When it comes time to actually construct the projects, if any, local money would have to be found, though that may be difficult because budget deficits are projected clear into the future. We believe in legitimate technology and proposals and there are many firms taking the risk to fill those needs. Some however prefer to invent their own facts and fight transit and new systems, no matter how successful they are. The comments from the readers show that the public can not be tricked no matter what libertarian screeds are presented.

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!

Westside Subway Extension Draft EIS/EIR Meetings:

  • 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.
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: 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.

OCTA Board Meeting: Monday, October 8 and 25, 9 a.m., OCTA Headquarters, 600 S. Main St., Orange.

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.

CicLAvia: Sunday, October 10, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Los Angeles. See website for exact route location.

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., 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.

SCRRA (Metrolink) Board Meeting: Friday, October 22, 10 a.m., SCAG Board Room, 818 W. 7th St., 12th Floor, Los Angeles.

Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority: Wednesday, October 27, 7 p.m., Arcadia City Hall, Council Chambers 240 W. Huntington Drive, Arcadia.

Metro Board Meeting: Thursday, October 28, 9:30 a.m., Board Room, Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles.

Riverside Transit Agency: Thursday, October 28, 2 p.m., Board of Supervisors Conference Room, County Administrative Center, 4080 Lemon Street, 1st floor, Riverside.

Foothill Transit Executive Board: Friday, October 29, 8 a.m., 100 S. Vincent Ave., 2nd floor, West Covina.

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

Missed last week's newsletter? Read it here!

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Contact Us:
We welcome your thoughts and comments on our new electronic newsletter. Please write us:
Bart Reed, Executive Director

Mina Nichols, Legislative Analyst

Zach Gutierrez, Communications
Damien Newton, Editor LA Streetsblog

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. Add yourself to our mailing list and please donate to help us grow.

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bart.reed@thetransitcoalition.us * The Transit Coalition