Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Monday, November 29, 2010
Volume 6, Issue 48

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.

Now that you mention it... The Transit Coalition will host its monthly Dinner Meeting tomorrow, Tuesday, November 30, featuring Metrolink CEO John E. Fenton. The December, 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.

Metro Deputy Executive Officer of Service Planning and Scheduling Conan Cheung
What is Metro doing to improve bus service in the next 18 months? This was the subject of a discourse by Deputy Executive Officer of Service Planning and Scheduling Conan Cheung to the Metro Citizens' Advisory Council in November. Metro in particular aims to better coordinate its bus schedules with those of municipal agencies. Metro also wishes to reduce duplicate services and split lines that run on multiple streets as a means to improve efficiency. Right-sizing the Metro Rapid Bus and preparing a rail-bus interface for the Expo Line are also in mind.

Representative Jerry Lewis (R-Redlands) introduced a bill intended to undermine the federal HSR program. The "American Recovery and Reinvestment Rescission Act" would return the final $12 billion in unspent and uncommitted stimulus funds to the U.S. Treasury to help fight the $1.3 trillion U.S. deficit. Of those, $2 billion would come from grants already allotted to California. However, pundits believe the bill will not be able to pass the Senate or the President's veto.

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Not helping matters is the project's continuously criticized ridership figures. The state High Speed Rail Authority believes 41 million passengers would board the trains each year. Everyone agrees that the train's success revolves around ridership levels, to which accurate numbers are necessary. However, two professors believe that the numbers are based on numerous faulty assumptions that, among other things, were added into the models so that a Pacheco Pass route would look more favorable than the Altamont Pass route.

The chosen first segment of California high-speed rail, from Madera to Corcoran.
Concerns notwithstanding, the Authority announced Madera-Corcoran as the first segment of the project to be built. California received more than $700 million towards the project with the stipulation that it would be spent on the Central Valley segment first. Construction could start as early as 2012, with the line open in 2017. No new rolling stock will be ordered. Instead, connector tracks to existing BNSF rights-of-way will take Amtrak San Joaquin trains to the new track as a stopgap measure. The segment is projected to cost more than $4 billion and is considered the least controversial. Oh really?

Sacramento Bee Columnist Dan Walters checks in with his skepticism in a Sunday piece. One Congressmember is already up in arms because the segment does not end in Merced, which is just a few miles farther north of Madera.

For a project dubbed the "Subway to the Sea", one columnist is distraught that the route approved by the Metro Board in October for further study stops 3 miles short of the ocean. As it is, Los Angeles already has a line that goes to "nowhere": The Green Line stops a mile short of LAX. For those in the know, the Westside Subway extension has always been referred to as the Subway Towards the Sea, despite any whining from the disaffected media. And not to be outdone, another columnist thinks that that the 30/10 Initiative is a Weapon of Mass Financial Destruction, as having a subway in 10 years, rather than 30 years is really stealing from our kids who will actually become the user base.

Any possible transit improvements near or towards the sea seems to enflame the Westside NIMBYs as Joel Epstein points out, and the latest, in addition to the below-ground furor in Beverly Hills, is the Bus Rapid Transit project in the Condo Canyon Corridor of Westwood along Wilshire Boulevard between Comstock and Selby. Residents went so far as to hire their own traffic consultant to show that messing with their portion of Wilshire would be ruinous and life on earth would end as we now know it to be.

The officially-dubbed Metro Expo Line.
The Expo Line Phase 1 has achieved some key milestones. Trackwork installation is now complete from 7th/Flower to just east of the Culver City Aerial Station. Overhead Catenary is 75% complete and Train Control installation is 60% complete. The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has issued a determination of Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) for the Supplemental Environmental Assessment (EA) prepared for the improvements at Farmdale Avenue and Exposition Boulevard that include the Farmdale Avenue station and this means that the Farmdale Station has now been fully approved and the final design and construction can start as soon as a contractor is selected..

Transit Coalition Chair Ken Alpern looks at the startling contrasts from the approach between the Expo Authority and the Crenshaw / LAX Team in building the intersecting corridors with his CityWatch piece, while another pundit thinks, while reframing reality, that the planning is bad both for Expo and the Westside Extension.

A shot of Angels Flight.
The issue of transit fares and pricing seems to be ever present. The downtown LA Angels Flight incline railway is looking into ways to boost revenue. Should the fare be adjusted from the current 25-cents to 50-cents or 100-cents? Should there be a tourist price and a local user price? How much will Angelenos be willing to fork over for the 298-foot trip?

A couple of weeks ago, Mayor Villaraigosa announced a plan to provide free transit passes for school classes for off-peak hour field trips. While his proposal has gotten generally favorable reviews, the group Transit People, which has been putting on transit oriented field trips for years has some major concerns. For example, will anyone be coordinating to make sure that buses to popular destinations, such as the Zoo, aren't overwhelmed on warm weather days in the Spring?

And in a holiday story sure to warm the heart, Environment California reported that if the government adopts a sixty miles per gallon fuel efficiency standard that the savings just from Thanksgiving would mean a lot more pies on the table come holiday time.

The Transportation for America logo.
In the final weeks of this year, the lame-duck Congress will have to pass an extension for the current transportation bill SAFETEA-LU which has already been extended for over a year. It is increasingly likely that Congress will elect to extend the bill for only six months. This is welcome news for groups such as the Transportation for America coalition because it means that lawmakers will have to take up serious discussions about passing a full six-year reauthorization in the first half of 2011.

Despite a congressional environment that will almost certainly focus on deficit reduction in the form of spending cuts, there are promising signs that the transportation bill can be passed next year. The incoming chair of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Representative John Mica (RFL) has indicated his intention to push a full reauthorization, and President Obama has indicated that his administration plans to release their version of the bill along with the next budget in the first few months of the new year.

A longer extension of one year has also been proposed but this would effectively cut-off any chance for a full reauthorization because it would run into the presidential election cycle making considering and passing the bill unlikely.

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At its last public meeting, the Riverside County Transportation Commission reaffirmed its support for expanded intercity rail service into the Coachella Valley. RCTC states that the establishment of such intercity rail service between Los Angeles and the southern desert cities is a worthwhile and important transportation and economic priority for Riverside County.

The OpenStreetMap Project.
The Transit Coalition has been a part of the collaborative mapping project OpenStreetMap, aiming to place transit-related and trailway features on a worldwide open-source database for all to see and use. Get ready to see these multi-modal features on big name mapping websites such as MapQuest and Bing Maps soon. Last week, OSM's founder Steve Coast was hired by Microsoft to coordinate Bing Maps with OSM. Will the long dominated car-centric commercial maps finally feature other mobility options like bus stops and neighborhood trails? Stay tuned for more information.

Smuggled in: Transit Coalition member Alexander the Great took some interesting videos of the Moscow subway. Could this be what the Beverly Hills NIMBYs are so frighten of?

Metrolink and its marketing partner Wild at Work put on a Thanksgiving Weekend Holiday online fare special. Ridership was up 11% over the same time last year. Look for more promotions during December

For those who have a penchant for enjoying dubious works of art, we encourage you to visit the Museum of Bad Art in Boston. Failing that, feel free to view this exhibit at LACMA titled "Metropolis II", which is a mishmash of small-scale car ramps and toy train tracks designed by Chris Burden.

Harold Katz
Departures: Long-time transit supporter and Transit Coalition member Harold L. Katz passed last Monday. Transit Coalition Chair Ken Alpern writes that Harold was straightforward, nonpartisan and non-agenda driven in his approach to his efforts and was someone who always had his head, his heart and his drive focused in the right places. He was "the real deal" and we will miss him. CityWatch editor Ken Draper also penned his farewell thoughts.

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.

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.

LOSSAN Board Meeting: Wednesday, December 15, 1:30 p.m., Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles.

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!

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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