Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Volume 6, Issue 45

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.

Take a Spell: The Transit Coalition will host its monthly Dinner Meeting on 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: This is your last chance to sign up for this excellent opportunity to stay apprised on statewide passenger rail matters. The event will be held this weekend, 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.

California Governor-elect Jerry Brown.
Balanced transportation wins again in California. State Attorney General Jerry Brown was voted into office, while U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer was reelected. Both are seen as friendly to initiatives that would increase transportation options, such as high-speed rail. Proposition 23, which would have suspended the state's greenhouse-gas-reducing law until the economy improved, was soundly defeated. Voters also approved Proposition 22, the constitutional amendment which prohibits the state government from taking or borrowing from local funds, by nearly 61%. Residents in Riverside County felt the same way as voters overwhelmingly passed Proposition 22 with more than two-thirds of the electorate from within the county supporting the measure.

An Inland Empire ballot measured dubbed Measure K passed with 62.44% of Riverside County voters supporting. With low interest rates and reduced construction costs, The Riverside County Board of Supervisors placed Measure K on the November ballot and received unanimous support from RCTC. The approved measure will increase the debt limit and provide additional flexibility in planning for the financing and construction of Metrolink and highway projects throughout Riverside County including the Perris Valley Line and the gridlocked 91 Freeway into Orange County.

However, there is concern that a more conservative House of Representatives could stymie efforts to increase public transportation. In Minnesota, Congressmember and Chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee James Oberstar, a 37-year veteran of Congress and one of the longest serving champions for transit and livability, was defeated in his re-election bid. To his credit, Oberstar shows no regrets for his many courageous votes and leadership on transportation issues.

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Congressmember John Mica of Florida will replace Oberstar as chair and is already talking about the importance of a long-term federal commitment to transportation. Mica fancies himself as generally receptive to HSR but is either tepid or even hostile in supporting other travel modes of transport, especially Amtrak. Could this affect efforts to accelerate construction of key projects in Los Angeles? We'll just have to wait and see now, won't we?

Other states did not fare so well. Wisconsin Governor-elect Scott Walker, who made killing a Milwaukee-Madison rail improvements a top priority, did not have to do much. Hardly a few moments after the election (and days after certain contracts on the project were finalized), outgoing Governor Tom Doyle made the decision to halt work. (The Wisconsin State Journal editorialized a stern warning about scuttling the plan.) However, Walker is fast learning that train builder Talgo could pull out of Wisconsin, thereby making the state lose jobs, to the detriment of Walker's promise of adding jobs in that state.

The long-sought Ohio 3C Rail Project, which aims to connect that state's three largest cities with higher-speed conventional rail, is in even greater danger. The federal government already programmed more than $400 million for the project. However, Ohio Governor-elect John Kasich has vowed to kill the 3C once he takes office. To emphasize: Kasich made his opposition clear when he declared, " That train is dead". Why would Kasich dismiss years, even decades, of advocacy for the 3C, studies suggesting the project will create at least 8,000 jobs and generate $3 billion in economic development in Ohio, the federal government recently issuing a draft Finding Of No Significant Impact for the project, speeds on the project that are competitive with driving, record-breaking Amtrak ridership in Ohio despite existing anemic service, major demographic changes where aging Baby Boomers won't be able to drive and Millenials won't care for it, an alternative to driving through Ohio's infamous blizzards, and an increasingly grim energy outlook in the near term? Simple: Because he just feels like it.

The Ohio 3C could reach speeds of up to 79 MPH.
This has major implications for national passenger rail. For one, Ohio corridor service fills a crucial gap between the Midwest and Northeast higher-speed rail systems already in progress. Thus a partially national network could be a reality with this project. For another, if Ohio and Wisconsin reject the stimulus money, it will simply go to other states that want to build their rail projects. (By law, the money cannot be reprogrammed to other uses such as highway construction or mass transit.) Such threats do not deter Ohio rail advocates, who hope the future governor may soften his stance once he is informed of the benefits of 3C Rail.

While many are interpreting the election results across the country as an American endorsement of cutting back on government spending across the board the success of transportation ballot measures indicate that Americans do still support infrastructure spending as a worthwhile investment.

Nationwide 75 percent of local ballot measures on transportation were approved according to the Center for Transportation Excellence, a nonpartisan research center, proving once again that when the issue is made transparent, accountable and local, Americans will vote for improving transportation options, often voting in favor of raising their own taxes to pay the cost.

This could bode well for the notion of a bipartisan transportation bill that focuses on providing funding for high-speed rail, regional public transportation programs such as the 30/10 initiative, and greening our freight system. Previous bills have been passed by divided governments under presidents Nixon, Reagan, George H. W. Bush and Clinton.

For a more comprehensive rundown of the election results and their potential impact, read the full summary from CFTE and keep up to date with coverage from The Transport Politic and Streetsblog Capitol Hill.

But not all is bad news in Ohio. Check out this demonstration streetcar that is on display in Cincinnati. The city is slated to build and open its streetcar by 2013, with a projected 6,000 daily riders.

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Advocacy in Action: Transit Coalition Boardmember Stephen Box reports that LA's City Planning Commission rejected City Planning's proposed Bike Plan, demonstrating a commitment to connectivity and complete streets that was hailed by bike advocates as a tremendous victory.

The Planning Commission heard from a diverse crowd, representing a wide variety of perspectives and affiliations that included the Department of Public Health, the Sierra Club, Pacoima Beautiful, Bikeside, the LACBC, the Bike Writers Collective, Neighborhood Councils, the LA Bicycle Advisory Committee, the Los Feliz Improvement Association, the Equine Advisory Committee, Bikerowave, LA City Council offices, Midnight Ridazz, Valley Bikery, and the Bicycle Kitchen.

At the end of a marathon session that lasted for eight hours, Commissioners indicated a desire to work on Bike Plan issues that include the Cyclists' Bill of Rights, the Backbone Bikeway Network, bicycle boulevards, Complete Streets, EIR thresholds, street standards, multi-modal level-of-service standards, TOD standards, transparent regulation language and engineering standards, all of this using the Bike Plan as a catalyst for change.

The update process for the Los Angeles City Bike Plan started well over three years ago but the first version, developed by Alta Planning and Design at considerable expense, fell flat on delivery. City Planning took over the process and the current version gets credit from the community for being a huge step in the right direction. Commission President William Roschen has agendized the proposed Bike Plan for the December 16, 2011 meeting of the City Planning Commission, scheduled at 8:30 am at the Van Nuys City Hall.

However, said Bike Plan hit another bump in what's been a nearly three year road from scoping to completion. The City Planning Commission rejected moving the draft to the full City Council and negotiated with staff many significant changes. Joe Linton summarizes the meeting at Streetsblog. Earlier in the week, Linton wrote about the history of the plan from the announcement of the first meetings in January of 2008 until today.

The Verdugo Avenue road diet in Burbank.
Some good news came from Burbank. Swamped with a petition from 450 bicycle and community activists, the Burbank City Council showed support for the supposedly controversial road diet on Verdugo Avenue. The diet will continue for at least six more months, and staff was directed to find ways to add more bike lanes and pedestrian projects.

Last week, the Transit Coalition Newsletter broke the news that Assistant General Managers John Fisher and Amir Sedadi are the likely heir apparents to run the show at LADOT. Following up on that, Streetsblog took a look at the recent records for each of the contenders.

In other news, the Riverside Transit Agency is participating in two Stuff-the-Bus programs, each aiming to provide basic items to the Inland Empire needy. Both events will take place in the Downtown Riverside/UCR areas. Heading northward, businesses along an up-and-coming BRT route in San Bernardino are expressing concern that the project may threaten their livelihoods. Joel Epstein of the Huntington Post writes a Dear John as a way to counterpoint fears stemming from underground facilities, in reference to the Wilshire Subway currently in final environmental studies.

With the economic growth and housing market in recovery in the Inland Empire, the Western Riverside Council of Governments is looking at ways on how future development can be transit-oriented versus car-oriented. Last summer, the agency, in conjunction with SCAG, hired Hogle-Ireland, Inc. and Kimley Horn and Associates, Inc. to conduct a Western Riverside Smart Growth Opportunity study. This colorful report shows how some of the most car-centric activity centers from within the Inland Empire can be transformed into livable communities with transportation choices.

Remember that both Amtrak and Metrolink have new schedules that started this Monday.

Finally, you may recall that ginormous bus that swallows cars that we mentioned last week. Apparently someone was 40 years ahead on the concept, with an even more ambitious idea of a similar bus that swallows other buses.

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

  • 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)
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 8:30 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.

  • Planning & Programming Committee: Wednesday, November 17, 1:00 p.m.
  • Finance and Budget Committee: Wednesday, November 17, 2:30 p.m.
  • Ad Hoc Congestion Pricing Committee: Wednesday, November 17, 3:30 p.m.
  • Executive Management & Audit Committee: Thursday, November 18, 9 a.m.
  • Construction Committee: Thursday, November 18, 10:30 a.m.
  • Measure R Project Delivery Committee: Thursday, November 18, 12 noon.
  • Operations Committee: Thursday, November 18, 1 p.m. CANCELLED.
  • Ad-Hoc Sustainability Committee: Thursday, November 18, 2 p.m.
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.

Expo Line West End Corridor Project Status Update Open House: Thursday, November 18, 6:30 p.m., Culver City Senior Center, 4095 Overland Ave., Culver City.

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

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

Metro Meeting and Conference with Art Leahy and Governance Councils: Wednesday, December 1, 9:30 a.m., 3rd Floor, Gateway Conference Room, Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles.

Metro San Fernando Valley Governance Council Meeting: Wednesday, December 1, 6:30 p.m., Marvin Braude Constituent Center, 6262 Van Nuys Blvd., Van Nuys.

Exposition Metro Line Construction Authority Board Meeting: Thursday, December 2, 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, December 2, 7:30 p.m. Angeles Chapter Office, 3435 Wilshire Blvd, Suite 320, Los Angeles.

Ventura County Transportation Commission: Friday, December 3, 10 a.m., Camarillo City Hall, 601 Carmen Dr., Camarillo.

Los Angeles City Bicycle Advisory Committee: Tuesday, December 7, 7 p.m., Hollywood Neighborhood City Hall, Community Room, 6501 Fountain Ave., Hollywood.

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

Metro Gateway Cities Governance Council Meeting: Thursday, December 9, 2 p.m., Gas Company ERC, 9240 Firestone Blvd., Downey.

Metro San Gabriel Valley Governance Council Meeting: Monday, December 13, 5 p.m., City Hall East, 11333 Valley Blvd., El Monte.

Missed last week's newsletter? Read it here! Get the Print Edition of Moving Southern California, our monthly newsletter. Request a sample copy.

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 501[c](3) non-profit whose 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.

Visit our Discussion Board for the latest dialogue on transit.

bart.reed@thetransitcoalition.us * The Transit Coalition