Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
Volume 6, Issue 44

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.

Don't Hesitate: The Transit Coalition will host its monthly Dinner Meeting tomorrow, Tuesday, November 30, featuring Metrolink CEO John E. Fenton. The November, October and September 2010 issues of Moving Southern California are now available online with new features and news, as are past issues. Here is coverage of our October and September meeting and a review of our August meeting. See Upcoming Events below for details.

Rail2020 Conference: Don't miss out on this excellent opportunity to stay apprised on statewide passenger rail matters. The event will be held November 12-14 at the Capitol Plaza Halls Conference Center in Sacramento. Seats are still available at $99. (Non-members add $25.) This includes continental breakfast and luncheon. You can also purchase a separate excursion including lunch to visit the Alstom Plant on Mare Island in Vallejo at the special rate of $99.

A partial map of the existing and proposed Westside Subway.
The Metro Board has chosen (somewhat) final routes for both the Westside Subway and the Regional Connector. As expected for the subway, the Board chose Alternative 2, which would run down Wilshire Boulevard, with a jog down an as-yet-undetermined station in Century City, eventually terminating at the VA Hospital. To appease Beverly Hills homeowners, Boardmember Zev Yaroslavsky ordered a " full exploration" of the risks involved in tunneling under Beverly Hills. The Crenshaw station, a West Hollywood spur, and the final push into Santa Monica were all rejected.

As for the Regional Connector, the Board voted for an all-underground alignment, but a station at 5th and Flower was axed. However, Metro is working to see if private entities are willing to pay for a station there. With their blessing, the two projects will now move into final environmental studies. Also, the Board voted to supply Metrolink funding to purchase additional Rotem cars and thus replace the majority of its fleet.

While the meeting had a heavy agenda, one item was introduced for a future debate. Former Board Chair Ara Najarian has sponsored a resolution that would require a new appraisal of the cost of constructing the 710 connector study before the Board approves nearly $60 million for environmental studies. The previous estimates for the tunnel have varied tremendously.

Meanwhile, Metro continues its roadshow on the South Bay Green Line Extension. Residents presented the usual concerns about noise and safety, with more than one suggesting the line should run down Hawthorne Boulevard instead. Architecture critic Chris Hawthorne blasts what he sees as contradictory views that damage the discussion on how Los Angeles should grow. A Daily Breeze op-ed reminds us all that the Crenshaw light rail line must not be forgotten, especially since it received a federal loan for construction.

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Want to know what the general public feels about transportation? HTNB Corporation released the results of its latest America Thinks 2010 survey, focusing on mass transit. Of note is that 46% of respondents believed there was "too little" money spent on public transportation. Curiously, when asked to pick among a choice of transport modes, 43% of respondents chose buses.

A rendering of the new Siemens locomotives ordered by Amtrak.
High-speed rail has become a political football across the country, and California is no exception. Gubernatorial candidates Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman have already expressed their opinions on the state HSR project. Let's not forget Propositions 22 and 23, which have serious ramifications for transportation in the state. Meanwhile, an editorial in the Press-Enterprise suggests money already allotted to the project should be spent on other pressing infrastructure needs. An opposing view believes HSR has the advantage of implementing smart technology with greater ease then other modes. Infighting notwithstanding, the federal government announced another $2.4 billion in grants to bring high-speed rail to the country, of which California garnered $900 million.

While the California High Speed Rail Authority was awarded $715 million from the federal government, the high desert DesertXpress High Speed Rail project, being a private-sector project, was not awarded. Construction for DesertXpress is slated to start in 2011 while CSHRA plans to break ground in 2012.

With Amtrak attaining its highest ridership since its inception, the national passenger railroad is working to replace its aging fleet. The agency awarded a $466 million contract to Siemens to build 70 electric locomotives. Siemens will build the locomotives in its Sacramento plant, which would in turn create 200 additional jobs there.

In other news, a judge issues an injunction against restrictions on which truckers may enter the ports. A Chinese firm introduces designs for a ginormous straddling bus that swallows traffic whole. Parking sage Donald Shoup suggests repeat parking offenders should get higher parking fines. UCLA launched a program where students can rent a bicycle for the quarter at a bike library.

Novotopia 2010 Election Guide

Volunteer Opportunity: Volunteers needed for 27th Annual Clean-Up event on Saturday, November 6 along the Metro Orange Line Bike Path in Van Nuys. Registration begins at 8:00 a.m. at the Metro Orange Line Parking Lot at 6060 Van Nuys Blvd. adjacent to Aetna Avenue in Van Nuys. The actual clean-up gets underway at 8:30 a.m. Lunch will be provided after the event. Individuals are urged to take part in the clean-up to help make the bike path safer and more attractive for families and commuters. For more information or to volunteer call (818) 989-0300.

Advocacy in Action: Transit Coalition Boardmember Stephen Box took the Metro Board approval of the Hollywood Bike HUB to the LA Bike Working Group where they immediately went to work developing TOD standards for Metro's comprehensive transportation system that provides systemic commitments to pedestrians, cyclists, open space, connectivity, accessibility, and community benefit.

Proponents of clean freight movement met in Carson on October 22, for the yearly THE Impact Project to discuss ideas and strategies to battle against highway expansion and for clean trains. Oxy Professor Mark Vallianatos described the conference and some lessons learned at Streetsblog.

The Verdugo Avenue road diet in Burbank.
The City of Burbank put Verdugo Avenue on a Road Diet by cutting one lane off the four lane configuration. The City Council will vote on whether to make the diet permanent. A petition is circulating among some auto-commuters to end the diet, but residents of Verdugo and bicycle commuters are fighting back.

The Caltrans Bicycle Advisory Committee has formed a Sharrows Task Force to address the controversy surrounding the recent proliferation of sharrows in the Southland. Led by Dan Gutierrez, developer of Cyclist View, the Sharrows Task Force will be developing policy to be submitted to the National Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices in the hopes that transportation innovations can be applied effectively without controversy.

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles City Council voted to extend "franchise licenses" to taxi companies to allow them to operate in city limits for another five years. The good news? The taxi companies have promised to clean their fleets. The bad? Many of the problems plaguing the industry, including pay and benefits for drivers, were pushed off for the foreseeable future.

A Commuter Express bus operated by LADOT.
Meanwhile, the departure of Rita Robinson, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation General Manager, leaves a hole in an agency that is under fire for budget overages and controversy on the streets. Some wonder if the search for a new GM will go national while others contend that the choice is between Assistant General Managers John Fisher and Amir Sedadi. Fisher is a nationally respected engineer who has spent 37 years with the City of LA. Sehadi is the heir apparent, having spent significant time at Robinson's side as she visited the Transportation Commission, the Transportation Committee, and the City Council. The third option is that there would be no GM and that the LADOT would be absorbed into other departments, such as City Planning, Public Works, Finance, LAPD, all in accordance with a plan that LADOT has explored.

The US Department of Transportation announced a second round of competitive grants for innovative transportation projects that addressed economic, environmental and travel issues. The 75 projects announced today under the TIGER grant program, funded by $600 million in the USDOT budget, meet a broad array of challenges. Los Angeles received two TIGER II grants: $20 million for the Crenshaw light rail line and $16 million for the Port of Los Angeles West Basin Rail Yard.

The selected projects are spread out equitably across regions and a variety of projects. Roughly 29% of TIGER II money will go for road projects, 26% for transit, 20% for rail projects, 16% for ports, 4% for bicycle and pedestrian projects and 5% for planning projects.

Project applications had to show multiple benefits, with priority given to these criteria: 1) that projects improve the condition of existing facilities and systems, 2) contribute to the economic competitiveness of the U.S. over the medium to long-term, 3) improve the quality of living and working environments for people, 4) improve energy efficiency, reduce dependence on foreign oil, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and benefit the environment, and 5) improve public safety. Transportation for America and its partners support linking the spending of federal dollars to the objectives projects will achieve as a critical reform in the next federal transportation bill.

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Inland Empire transportation officials will be depending more on local funding for planned rail and highway projects as lengthy approval processes from both the state and federal level often slow down project timelines. Nevertheless, officials are outlining plans to encourage both the state and federal government to pitch in money for such projects.

Transit Coalition Community Engagement Director Nicholas Ventrone has noticed that Southern California's Little Vegas, often called the Pechanga Resort in Temecula has seen a surge in visitor traffic with the improving economy and new attractions. This has become evident as increased casino-bound traffic on Friday evenings has led to gridlock at the I-15 freeway interchange in southern Temecula, causing mile-long off ramp queues, which in turn cause stopped vehicles in freeway lanes. Both the Coalition and several officials agree that private investments in transportation are a key to expediting projects, especially when safety becomes an issue due to stopped cars along a 70 mph. freeway.

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, November 30, 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!

Metro San Fernando Valley Governance Council Meeting: Wednesday, November 3, 6:30 p.m., Marvin Braude Constituent Center, 6262 Van Nuys Blvd., Van Nuys.

Metro Gateway Cities Governance Council Meeting: Thursday, November 4, 2 p.m., Gas Company ERC, 9240 Firestone Blvd., Downey.

Exposition Metro Line Construction Authority Board Meeting: Thursday, November 4, 2:30 p.m., Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration, 500 W. Temple, 3rd floor, Board of Supervisor's Hearing Room 381B, Los Angeles.

Metro Crenshaw/LAX Light Rail Project Stations Public Meetings (all meetings at 6 p.m.):

  • Thursday, November 4, LADWP Crenshaw Customer Service Center Auditorium, 4030 Crenshaw Blvd., Los Angeles. (Crenshaw/MLK & optional Crenshaw/Vernon Stations.
  • Saturday, November 6, Faithful Central Church, The Living Room, 400 W. Florence Ave., Inglewood. (Florence/La Brea Station)
  • Tuesday, November 9, Crenshaw High School, Library, 5010 11th Ave., Los Angeles. (Crenshaw/Slauson Station, Park Mesa Heights Alignment)
  • Tuesday, November 16, Westchester Senior Center, 8740 Lincoln Blvd., Los Angeles. (Manchester (Optional) & Aviation/Century Stations)
  • Thursday, November 18, West Angeles Church, The Crystal Room, 3045 Crenshaw Blvd., Los Angeles. (Crenshaw/Exposition Station)
Angeles Chapter Sierra Club Transportation Committee: Thursday, November 4, 7:30 p.m. Angeles Chapter Office, 3435 Wilshire Blvd, Suite 320, Los Angeles.

Ventura County Transportation Commission: Friday, November 5, 10 a.m., Camarillo City Hall, 601 Carmen Dr., Camarillo.

OCTA Board Meeting: Monday, November 8 and 22, 9 a.m., OCTA Headquarters, 600 S. Main St., Orange.

Metro San Gabriel Valley Governance Council Meeting: Monday, November 8, 5 p.m., City Hall East, 11333 Valley Blvd., El Monte.

Metro Westside/Central Service Governance Council Meeting: Wednesday, November 10, 5 p.m., La Cienega Tennis Center, Sunset Room, 325 S. La Cienega Blvd., Beverly Hills.

Rail2020 Conference: November 12 - 14, Capitol Plaza Halls Conference Center, 1025 9th St., Sacramento.

Foothill Transit Executive Board: Friday, November 12, 8 a.m., 100 S. Vincent Ave., 2nd floor, West Covina.

Metro South Bay Governance Council Meeting: Friday, November 12, 9:30 a.m., Carson Community Center, 801 E. Carson St., Carson.

SCRRA (Metrolink) Board and Committees Meetings: Friday, November 12, 10 a.m., SCAG Board Room, 818 W. 7th St., 12th Floor, Los Angeles.

Southern California Transit Advocates: Saturday, November 13, 1 p.m.

Metro Committee Meetings: Wednesday and Thursday, November 17 and 18, Board Room, Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles.

Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority: Wednesday, November 17, 7 p.m., Arcadia City Hall, Council Chambers 240 W. Huntington Drive, Arcadia.

Riverside Transit Agency: Thursday, November 18, 2 p.m., Board of Supervisors Conference Room, County Administrative Center, 4080 Lemon Street, 1st floor, Riverside.

LOSSAN Joint Board/TAC Technical Workshop: Friday, November 19, 11:30 a.m., Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles.

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

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.

Visit our Discussion Board for the latest dialogue on transit.

bart.reed@thetransitcoalition.us * The Transit Coalition