Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Monday, November 22, 2010
Volume 6, Issue 47

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.

It's Almost Time: The Transit Coalition will host its monthly Dinner Meeting next 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 September meeting and a review of our August meeting. See Upcoming Events below for details.

A rendering of the Fifth and Flower station in Downtown L.A.
So, who dropped the ball on the Fifth and Flower station? This is what Downtown L.A. interests are asking after the Metro Board voted in October to study the Downtown Regional Connector without the station. Curiously, the Board allowed a way to let private interests pay $2 million to study the station with the Connector if they choose to do so. So far, no one is biting. Transit Coalition Executive Director Bart Reed opined that Boardmembers easily reasoned that the intersection is already a short walk away from the existing 7th Street/Metro Center station, but such would deprive the jobs-rich area of meaningful transit access.

Some sad news to report: When it comes to transit access, pedestrian friendliness, and just plain friendliness, Los Angeles came in dead last in a travel survey. In terms of culture, we're quite behind such hotbeds as Portland, Maine. However, we're near the top in luxury shopping. I can take that.

In lieu of a subway towards the sea, Metro is working to bring bus lanes to Wilshire Blvd. Already, some entities are balking at the prospect. Santa Monica and Beverly Hills are saying no to the lanes, while residents in Westwood are also growing hostile towards them, among other issues. One blogger has decided to turn this into a class issue. In the meantime, Los Angeles is launching the Westside Mobility Plan, an effort by the city to find short- and long-term solutions to Westside congestion. Failing that, we can all wait a little more for the Expo Line, which will be known as such despite its aqua color designation.

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Beginning January 1, 2011, a major transit benefit could go on holiday hitting many commuters that rely on public transit where it hurts most their pocketbooks. We are talking about the tax benefit afforded to transit users, which was increased to $230 a month in 2009 as part of the federal stimulus bill but is set to expire by the above date. Without an extension, that benefit could fall back to $120 a month, pushing many commuters who have shifted to transit back onto congested highways and roads, and increasing the cost of transit for those who continue to ride buses, light rail and commuter trains.

The reduction also means that transit agencies, many of which are already struggling to maintain and expand service, will see a decrease in revenues as a result of declining ridership. Making matters worse, the parking benefit will remain at $230 a month, further incentivizing commuters to get back in their cars. TransitCenter makes a case to keep this vital benefit. Help make sure this happens by signing this petition from our friends at Commuter Nation. Make your voice heard and tell Congress it's time to pass the bill to make the commuter transit benefit permanent!

The new Metrolink Rotem cars.
With great anticipation, Metrolink is ready to roll out the first of its new Hyundai Rotem cars. Beginning December 6, Metrolink passengers will get to ride these new cars as part of a whistle stop tour. The 12 Rotem cars that will debut, as well as future Rotem cars, features crash energy management technology, thereby greatly increasing passenger safety from collisions. Metrolink also launched a mobile website that can be accessed through their regular website, www.metrolinktrains.com.

In other transit items, a local blogger figures how three small and seemingly pointless railways in Los Angeles are actually quite useful. One of those railways, Angels Flight, may benefit from a hypothetical fare increase according to another blogger. Google Transit adds more Amtrak services to its nifty directions search engine. Gold Line Foothill Extension officials introduced a design for a transit plaza in Arcadia. Speaking of the Gold Line, its Eastside Extension is one year old this November.

Metro is considering bringing toll lanes to five additional freeways in Los Angeles County: the 10, 57, 91, 105, and 405. Toll lanes are already slated for Routes 10 and 110, where work is underway. (Toll lanes are under construction on Route 10 from Downtown L.A. to Route 605; Metro is considering extending these lanes to the San Bernardino county line.) The San Gabriel Valley Tribune editorial board took a favorable view of this development.

In other highway news, South Pasadena officials regroup to discuss next steps regarding the completion of the 710 Freeway via tunnel after the City Council voted against the tunnel on November 3. Communities in Ventura County are fighting to modify the U.S. Route 101 widening project so that it has a better bicycle path design.

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With recurring shortfalls in the Highway Trust Fund and a dearth of money available for transportation infrastructure at all levels of government, a hike in the gas tax is sounding like a better and better idea. The big surprise is that private businesses are advocating for a 15-cent increase in the tax. The federal gas tax has been at 18.4 cents per gallon since 1993, and inflation has eaten away much of its purchasing power. A panel in charge of reducing the federal deficit also called for a 15-cent increase starting in 2013. While pundits debate the merits of such an increase, many agree that such would be a tough sell to lawmakers. Eliminating transportation projects from the federal earmarks process may do even more harm.

The Gerald Desmond Bridge in Long Beach.
Advocacy in Action: Transit Coalition Boardmember Stephen Box contends that the billion-dollar replacement of the Gerald Desmond Bridge should start with a multi-modal commitment as the foundation, not as an afterthought. This position has been taken to the California Coastal Commission and the Caltrans Bicycle Advisory Committee by community leaders and advocates, all in an attempt to support a vision for connectivity that includes people who use all modes of transportation.

The Gerald Desmond Bridge connects Long Beach to Terminal Island and the replacement project falls under the authority of the Port of Long Beach, the City of Long Beach, Caltrans and the California Coastal Commission. Caltrans is currently the lead agency and progress depends on a delicate balance of funding commitments, political alliances, and a commitment to a vision for connectivity that reaches 100 years into the future.

The current debate over the project hinges on an impending fork in the road. The first proposal is a simple commitment to support the current trucking/commuter vehicle traffic. The second proposal is to seize this as an opportunity to link California Coastal Trail from San Pedro to Long Beach, to support the greening of the Port, and to establish a multi-modal commitment that will resonate throughout the Southland.

Get ready for more bus rapid transit proposals in the Inland Empire. Omnitrans has identified five additional potential BRT corridors within San Bernardino County which promises to bring speedy alternatives to local bus rides for longer trips. sbX is best identified as a hybrid Metro Orange Line through high demand corridors and Metro Rapid through lower density areas. These proposals also promise to bridge transit gaps, such as connecting Diamond Bar directly to Chino Hills and possibly the RTA bus system. Local officials also hope the expanded BRT system will draw smart growth.

The Orange County Transportation Authority logo.
The economic recession forced OCTA to cut bus transit service last March and the Authority is seeking public input for its Transit System Study. The goal of the study is to have OCTA find new, affordable ways to provide cost-effective bus service given the transportation agency's strapped budget. OCTA offers an online discussion board for anybody interested in providing opinion. Topics range from service and fares to alternative funding sources such as public-private and interagency partnerships.

Last week, Streetsblog presented a focus on three very different advocates from the bicycling community. The first was Ed Magos, the cyclist run down on January 6th, who saw his hit and run driver recently sentenced to a year in prison. Magos wrote a "thank you" to the cycling community for their support and efforts in bringing the case to the public view. He wrote: "Collectively these writings were very validating to me as they made clear that hit-and-runs are not ok and should not be accepted. I appreciated the writings that made a clear distinction between an 'accident' vs. a crash vs. fleeing the scene. Words do matter. Thank you for your words."

Next, Streetsblog sat down with Ayla Stern, a bike advocate from the San Fernando Valley who is the only woman on the City of LA Bicycle Advisory Committee. Stern has been at the center of the movement to maintain a road diet on Wilbur Avenue and she talks about some of the difficulties advocating for cyclists in an environment that can be hostile. (Note: Transit Coalition Executive Director Bart Reed also sits on the BAC)

The third is Seamus Deaver, an actor on the ABC romance drama Castle. Deaver is a bike commuter and talked one of his co-stars into going car-free for a week for an online documentary. You can watch the films on YouTube.

To close, on the national front President Obama has proposed to replace his nascent high-speed rail system with a highly touted high-speed bus plan. Buses will rocket along highways at speeds up to 165 mph and are said to be extremely cost efficient. Improving America's infrastructure remains a high priority of the administration.

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 Meeting and Conference with Art Leahy and Governance Councils: Wednesday, December 1, 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.

LOSSAN Board Meeting: Wednesday, December 8, 10:30 a.m., NCTD Offices, 810 Mission Ave., Oceanside.

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.

OCTA Board Meeting: Monday, December 13, 9 a.m., OCTA Headquarters, 600 S. Main St., Orange.

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

Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority: Wednesday, December 15, 7 p.m., Arcadia City Hall, Council Chambers 240 W. Huntington Drive, Arcadia.

Riverside Transit Agency: Thursday, December 16, 2 p.m., Board of Supervisors Conference Room, County Administrative Center, 4080 Lemon Street, 1st floor, Riverside.

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

Metro Gold Line Phase 2B (Azusa-Montclair) Meetings (All meetings start at 6 p.m.):

  • Wednesday, January 12, Ganesha Community Center, 1575 N. White Ave., Pomona.
  • Thursday, January 13, Glendora Teen and Family Center, 241 W. Dawson Ave., Glendora.
  • Wednesday, January 19, Oakmont Elementary School, 120 W. Green St., Claremont.
  • Thursday, January 20, Ekstrand Elementary School, 400 N. Walnut Ave., San Dimas.
Metro Committee Meetings: Wednesday and Thursday, January 19 and 20, Board Room, Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles.

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