Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Volume 6, Issue 46

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.

Y'all Come Back Now, Y'hear? 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.

The Trousdale Expo Line station under construction.
More oversight is coming to Expo Line construction. The eponymous Construction Authority recently voted to replace its part-time ethics officer with the Metro Inspector General, who would have the power to audit and investigate the Authority. The project was set to cost $640 million when it broke ground in 2006. However, a new overpass at Venice Blvd., additional stations at USC and Farmdale, and unforeseen utility relocation challenges raised the price to $895 million. Authority Boardmember Mark Ridley-Thomas requested the change.

That same Inspector General released results of an audit finding that Metro spends an excessive amount on litigation with little oversight. Worse yet, Metro has no way to assess the risks involved in fighting a lawsuit in court so as to determine if settling would be more cost-effective. The Inspector General made several recommendations to improve the situation, including spending caps and Board approval for legal expenditures exceeding $200,000.

West Hollywood is in full self-reflection mode after their request to have the Purple Line subway head to their community was not pursued. The city has been approving large-scale, high-density projects partly in anticipation of a subway. However, Metro decided not to pursue the rail option after they determined that extending the line through West Hollywood would lower the subway's ability to meet criteria to receive federal funds. Writer Steve Martin (not that Steve Martin!) opines that maybe the city is better off without it and should instead focus on rationing parking as a means to reduce congestion.

In other news, an advocacy organization is asking the federal government to withhold money for the 30/10 Plan until Los Angeles adopts planning principles in tune with transit-oriented development and desist from overriding neighborhood plans when it comes to approving developments. OCTA and the union in charge of maintaining its buses agreed to a deal that doesn't include a wage increase. With buzz swirling around a recent proposal to build a football stadium in Downtown Los Angeles, Streetsblog takes a look at the transportation picture and considers possible solutions and challenges brought upon by such a project. Finally, Wetzel's Pretzels opened its doors in Union Station on Saturday, November 13. Yum.

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After an 8-year stalemate, the Alameda Corridor East Construction Authority will consider Montebello's request to build a railroad bridge over Montebello Blvd., which is expected to cost $100 million. Before then, Montebello backed out on an agreement with the Authority that would trench the boulevard under railroad tracks at a price of $89 million. The Authority has six more grade separations to complete, including the one in Montebello, before it can dissolve. Meanwhile, the Federal Railroad Administration awarded $38 million to various agencies in Southern California to install positive train control.

After such a game-changing event last October, CicLAvia wants your help in choosing the date for the next event scheduled for April. Organizers envision the same route will be used as the first event held last month, with minor tweaks. As in the last CicLAvia, streets will be closed to cars so that bicyclists and pedestrians can use and enjoy the route. However, organizers do not want the date to clash with other events that might spin off potential participants. Give them some help at the CicLAvia blog.

iPetition is hosting this particular petition.
Almost 175 advocates have signed a petition asking Mayor Villaraigosa to look outside the LADOT to pick a new General Manager to lead the department. In the post explaining the reason for the petition, Streetsblog writers opine, "...rarely does change come from within."

Many bike crashes are in the news. Locally, the trial of Angelina Everett, the hit and run driver who mowed down Ed Magos, was sentenced to a year in jail which she'll serve on weekends. However, the highlight of the sentencing was a recording of the 911 call where the operator can be heard telling Everett that she won't face jail time because people don't go to jail for hitting cyclists.

Perhaps this 911 operator is from Vail, Colorado. In Vail, prosecutors are declining to press felony charges against a driver who slammed into a doctor riding his bicycle. The reason? A felony on the drivers' record might endanger his job as a wealth manager at Morgan Stanley.

At last, at long last, there is a 3-month trial shuttle service between the North Hollywood Red Line station and Bob Hope Airport. The authority in charge of operating the airport will offer the free service to those who call SuperShuttle, without the need of making a shuttle reservation. The airport already offers a similar service from the Downtown Burbank Metrolink station and is served by Metrolink and Amtrak trains (the latter whose Coast Starlight trains began stopping at the airport just last week). The airport may also soon embark on building a $120 million transportation center, which the Burbank City Council recently approved.

The Gerald Desmond Bridge in Long Beach.
Advocacy in Action: Transit Coalition Boardmember Stephen Box reports that the proposed replacement of the Gerald Desmond Bridge has stirred vigorous opposition from multi-modal advocates who claim the "improvement" actually restricts access in violation of State Law (Streets and Highways Code 888). The Caltrans 7 Bicycle Advisory Committee (Caltrans BAC) will be reviewing the Gerald Desmond Bridge Replacement Project and the Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Assessment as presented by the Chief Deputy of Environmental Planning for Caltrans, Ron Kosinski.

The Gerald Desmond Bridge Replacement is a design-build project and is funded by the Federal Government and the Port of Long Beach with an estimated cost of $1 billion.

The Caltrans BAC meets on Thursday, November 18, at 1:30 pm. The meeting is preceded by "Open Space" at 11:30 am, a brown-bag lunch gathering of transportation planners, engineers, advocates and consultants from Los Angeles and Ventura Counties and featuring "Get TWO the Point!" (Two-minute presentations of innovations, projects, and campaigns).

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This last week a bipartisan pair of U.S. Senators wrote to the Federal Deficit Commission advocating for an increase in the federal gas tax to fund the federal transportation bill and reduce the deficit.

The Highway Trust Fund (somewhat of a misnomer since it funds both the highway and mass transit accounts) is no longer sufficient to fund our current transportation infrastructure much less invest in new projects such as high-speed, light, and freight rail that are needed to create the multimodal transportation networks we need to keep people, goods, and the economy moving forward.

As a solution, Senators Tom Carper (D-DE) and George Voinovich (R-OH) are proposing a 25/gallon increase in the fuel tax, to be gradually rolled out over the next three years. The federal gas tax hasn't been raised since 1993, thereby requiring general fund transfers to keep the highway trust fund solvent. The projected $200 billion in revenues would be split between deficit reduction, $83 billion, and providing $117 billon for transportation investments over five years.

Transportation for America, along with dozens of other organizations including the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, the League of American Bicyclists, and the United Brotherhood of Carpenters & Joiners of America signed a separate letter in support of the proposal as a critical mechanism to make critical transportation investments, reduce the deficit, and create more than 750,000 jobs.

Ohio Governor-elect John Kasich.
Antipathy towards improving national passenger rail heats up. Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle decided to suspend further work on a Milwaukee-Madison passenger rail line so that Governor-elect Scott Walker can make the final decision, effectively killing the project. Governor-elect John Kasich ordered outgoing Governor Ted Strickland to stop studying the state's 3C project, but Strickland quickly stood his ground. Both want to have their share of passenger rail money reallocated to roads, despite lawmakers from their same party saying such is impossible. As if that wasn't enough, Iowa Governor-elect Terry Branstad is getting cold feet about accepting $80 million to start up service between Iowa City and Chicago.

LaHood sent letters to the OH and WI Governors-elect, informing them of the benefits they stand to lose if they do not accept the money and build the projects. In fact, LaHood reminded Kasich that not only will the DOT simply send those more than $400 million allocated for its 3C project to other states, but that Ohio has already received more than $1 billion in stimulus money for highways and other infrastructure. The same goes for Wisconsin, which likewise received more than $700 million. Walker spat back by telling LaHood to give the $810 million programmed for passenger rail improvements between Milwaukee and Madison to highway projects in his state. Not saying no to opportunity, however, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn is wooing train manufacturer Talgo to move its manufacturing plant (which only recently opened) and associated jobs from Wisconsin to his state... and taking that state's money while he's at it.

If you live, work, do business or visit these states, please support efforts by rail proponents to save these critical projects. Visit All Aboard Ohio and see the actions you can take. Also, two Facebook pages have opened up: One supporting the Wisconsin project and one opposing it, with the former beating the latter in membership by about 10-to-1. It never hurts to call or write the offices of these soon-to-be-governors; Walker is already getting an earful of support for the train in that department.

Finally, would you like to see a steam train pull into your town? Do you live near Union Pacific tracks? If so, then you are invited to take part in UP's Great Excursion Adventure, where you get to vote where the steam train will stop. Specifically, you can vote once a day but you gain points by referring the contest to others. Then, Union Pacific will run a steam locomotive to the rail route with the most votes. You may also win a trip on the train or even in the locomotive cab if you earn enough points.

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 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 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. NOT 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. 2 p.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 Westside/Central Service Governance Council Meeting: Wednesday, December 8, 5 p.m., La Cienega Tennis Center, Sunset Room, 325 S. La Cienega Blvd., Beverly Hills.

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 South Bay Governance Council Meeting: Friday, December 10, 9:30 a.m., Carson Community Center, 801 E. Carson St., Carson.

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

Southern California Transit Advocates: Saturday, December 11, 2 p.m.

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

Foothill Transit Executive Board: Friday, December 17, 8 a.m., 100 S. Vincent Ave., 2nd floor, West Covina.

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