Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Volume 6, Issue 49

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.

You're more than welcomed: The Transit Coalition will host its monthly Dinner Meeting in Jaunary 2011. We hope to see you there. 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. New video of our November 30 meeting with Metrolink CEO John E. Fenton has just been added. See Upcoming Events below for details.

The LA Weekly takes a hit at the Expo Line.
The LA Weekly has turned its focus onto a hit job against the Expo Line this past week. The graciously thorough article (at least compared to other fare that the Weekly has published to date) took aim at what it perceived to be cost overruns and delays caused by building a line through the so-called negotiated design-build method. The article advocates that Expo Line Authority CEO Rick Thorpe should take the blame for taking a passive stance against enforcing timely fulfillment of project contracts. While such is of great concern to transit advocates, critics took advantage of this revelation to smear the Wilshire subway.

This pseudo-analysis, deliberate while typically unprofessional, determined that much of the cost increases stemmed from add-ons and enhancements to the project that was not called for initially. One of these was remediation for the Farmdale Avenue crossing for which the federal government gave its blessing just recently.

In less encouraging transit news, Rancho Palos Verdes is opting out of participating in Municipal Area Express commuter service. The LA Weekly again outdoes itself by misinforming its readers on why Metro should preserve underperforming bus lines, which ended their runs last weekend. Amtrak California unveiled a new website aimed at making purchases easier for the prospective traveler.

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All hail CicLAvia! Six months after CicLAvia changed the way hundreds of thousands of Angelenos think about our streets, CicLAvia will be back on Sunday, April 10, 2011. The "route" looks the same as the one used in the inaugural event held last October, from East Hollywood to Boyle Heights via Downtown LA., but it could also include a spur into South Los Angeles. The CicLAvia team hopes for four CicLAvias in 2011. For those unaware, CicLAvia shuts down city streets so that bicyclists and pedestrians have exclusive access to them. In other bike news, Santa Monica is preparing its Bicycle Master Plan.

A rendering of a possible MLS stadium supplanting the existing Sports Arena.
All is good for Downtown LA these days. The area now houses 54% of the county's newest apartments in 2010. A proposal to build a football stadium next to the Convention Center is actually gaining steam, while another proposal to replace the decrepit Sports Arena with either an amphitheatre or an MLS stadium was recently announced. LA Live won a prestigious design award, although those interested in the revival of the area continue to debate its merits.

In contrast, NIMBYism reigns supreme on the Westside. This time, residents are focusing their anger towards the Wilshire Blvd. Bus Rapid Transit project, which proposes adding a bus-only lane on Wilshire, much to the chagrin of one community. Fortunately for the condo dwellers, Metro learned that it could exempt a one-mile stretch of the project without jeopardizing federal funds. In turn, the change would reduce project costs from $31 million to $27 million. The Metro Board will vote on the matter on December 9.

The state High Speed Rail Authority Board voted in favor of building a 63-mile segment of HSR track between Corcoran and Madera at a cost of more than $4 billion. Not surprisingly, critics threw a multitude of objections. However, construction of this particular segment could provide much-needed jobs in an economically depressed area of the state. Though critics dubbed the segment a "train to nowhere", existing Amtrak San Joaquin trains can use the track as an interim measure. This comes on the heels of an opinion from the state Attorney General that Boardmembers cannot serve in two different transportation boards at the same time.

However, an incoming Congress eager to undo HSR might make things sticky for a while. Lawmakers opposed to HSR introduced a bill to rescind unspent stimulus dollars and return it to the U.S. Treasury. Much of the unspent money would go to rail projects. However, pundits conclude this is just posturing in an already busy lame-duck session and would surely not pass a Senate vote or a veto from the President. Nevertheless, the Orange County Register took quite the liking to this development.

Since the Nixon Administration, the Federal Highway Administration has kept what is called the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUCTD), which regulates highway signage, road markings and other peculiars. The MUCTD received an update in recent times, which unleashed a wave of anger and confusion among local transportation agencies and the public who noticed that implementing the new changes would cost a pretty penny.

Not to be outdone, however, is USDOT Secretary Ray LaHood, who was just as angry about the confusion. LaHood clarified that most of the required sign changes would take place when existing signs run their life course. For those unfamiliar with this obscure yet vital book, check out these resources from the Metro Transportation Library Blog.

A person pumps gas.
Interest in increasing the federal gas tax grows. The federal Deficit Commission proposed raising said tax by 15 cents a gallon by 2015, while also reforming the process to how government chooses which projects to support. The New Republic believes raising the tax would help reduce the federal deficit and, with certain safeguards, forces the government to focus on high-return projects. Our local group of civil engineers is in favor of the tax increase, since this would support needed infrastructure upgrades. Meanwhile, a proposal to ban earmarks, which would have adversely affected smaller transportation projects, crashed and burned in the Senate.

America's reliance on oil, particularly by our thirsty transportation system, comes with numerous costs that do not always show up at the pump, as well as the heavy dependence on foreign sources to sell us most of the oil we need to keep things moving each day.

A diverse group of experts are calling for a new approach that would acknowledge these hidden costs and help pave the way for a more diverse transportation system that could reduce oil consumption, keep us safer and give us better options for mobility.

The proposed "oil security fee" would be added to gasoline and diesel fuel to reflect the true cost of securing these supplies. Revenues from the fee would go toward increasing mass transit, intelligent transportation systems, telecommuting and other options to provide more choices for travel. Allowing Americans to live closer to where they work, play and go to school is also among their menu of 10 smart new policies.

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One of the planning world highlights of last week was the Q&A with new City Planning Director Michael LoGrande along with the interactive planning workshop by James Rojas. Streetsblog has a write-up of the planning seminar penned by Rojas, while CurbedLA reports on the substance of the Q&A.

Before the seminar, UEPI had a message for LoGrande in the form of a sign-on letter that produced more than 100 signatures asking LoGrande to "do good planning" during his time running the City Planning Department.

The current configuration of Colorado Blvd. in Eagle Rock.
For over two years, residents of Eagle Rock have looked at Colorado Boulevard and wondered why it's, well, so wide. A movement is underfoot to put this iconic Northeast LA Street on a diet. The chief opposition? Why, it's the LADOT!

A number of transportation infrastructure projects are moving forward out in the Inland Empire which promises to speed up travel trip times. The Riverside County Transportation Commission announced that a new park & ride lot will open in January in San Jacinto which will cater to carpools, vanpools, commuter buses, and local buses.

The massive SR-91 Implementation Plan hit a milestone last week as an eastbound lane on SR-91 from the Eastern Transportation Corridor (State Route 241) to the Corona Expressway (State Route 71) was dedicated and opened to traffic, shifting the massive bottleneck further east toward Corona. The plan's second set of projects, which will shift the bottleneck further, will include an extension of the 91 Express Toll Lanes to south Corona via I-15. The chokepoint should be finally dissolved when a separate RCTC highway project will bring the HOT lanes further south to Lake Elsinore with carpool lanes south to Temecula via Interstate 15. Planners are exploring how bus rapid transit and express buses can utilize the 55-mile infrastructure which could provide a seamless transit bridge between the planned high-speed rail stations between Murrieta, Ontario and Anaheim. Stay tuned for more information.

RCTC also reported some good budget-related news as the commission discovered that a freeway widening project in Murrieta, originally estimated at $21.8 million will cost $14.5 million, 67% of the original estimate. The I-215 will get one general purpose lane in each direction. This project combined with a local interchange project should shift a major north/south freeway and surface street bottleneck in the Temecula Valley further north into more rural areas and properly redistribute traffic flow from congested corridors. The I-215 construction will start after the first of the year and should be completed by next Thanksgiving.

Every week, OpenStreetMap contributors are invited to help out in OSM's Project of the week. Guess what this last week's worldwide project was: Adding your local train station, bus station, or other public transit center onto the open-source map.

And finally, the end has come for the 71-year-old Transbay Terminal in San Francisco, an obsolete eyesore in the area. The terminal will be replaced by a sleek and stylish new station, which will open in 2017. Transbay Terminal, we hardly knew ye.

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, January 25, 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!

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. CANCELLED.

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 San Fernando Valley Governance Council Meeting: Wednesday, January 5, 6:30 p.m., Marvin Braude Constituent Center, 6262 Van Nuys Blvd., Van Nuys.

Exposition Metro Line Construction Authority Board Meeting: Thursday, January 6, 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, January 6, 7:30 p.m. Angeles Chapter Office, 3435 Wilshire Blvd, Suite 320, Los Angeles.

Ventura County Transportation Commission: Friday, January 7, 10 a.m., Camarillo City Hall, 601 Carmen Dr., Camarillo.

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.

Visit our Discussion Board for the latest dialogue on transit.

bart.reed@thetransitcoalition.us * The Transit Coalition