Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Tuesday, January 17, 2006
Volume 2, Issue 3


Welcome to The Transit Coalition weekly newsletter! Our organization participates in meetings with key decision makers and community leaders and we aim to keep you informed on the latest developments in the transportation scene across Southern California.

One of the most promising (and also one of the most glaringly needed) transportation projects in Southern California has received a major boost from the state. On Friday, January 13, Governor Arnold Schwarzenneger approved a State Senate bill to fast-track construction of the 405 Freeway northbound carpool lanes between West LA and the San Fernando Valley. The Los Angeles Times and the Los Angeles Daily News reported this development; the latter editorialized their support for this project ( twice!). Not all are impressed; one local driver feels that this project will provide very little relief to the gridlocked freeway. Construction must begin before 2009 to qualify for federal funding.

Another promising project is the Southern California International Gateway, a rail facility to be built by BNSF that will reduce substantial truck traffic on the 710 freeway. The facility would feature a direct connection to the Alameda Corridor and house new dock-to-rail facilities near the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. The Port of Los Angeles has already released a notice of preparation with regards to the project, which features maps and descriptions of the facility. Meanwhile, a proposal to build toll truck lanes along the 710 has met fierce opposition, while a Daily Business News editorial offers a solution of its own.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenneger released a state budget that greatly restores transportation and education funding but also cuts welfare programs. The new budget is bound to at least please commuters in San Bernardino County. Additionally, the governor further discussed his bond proposal. As everyone wants a piece of the pie and the governor gets an earful from Republican lawmakers, Schwarzenneger is willing to make a few changes. Some, like this Santa Monica resident, showed concern about the long-term consequences of the proposal, which could circumvent "smart growth" policies by promoting new highway construction. Others fear it will bankrupt the state. Still, with a local Assemblymember at the helm, it is likely that there will be many projects in the Southland that will be added. Because of these proposals, Gov. Schwarzenneger called for the indefinite postponement of the California high-speed rail bond measure, which left a number of proponents quite upset.

Opinions surfaced on the revived idea to bring the Metro Red Line subway to the Westside. Some were enthusiastic, while others were more disapproving. Meanwhile, the LA Times gave a glowing editorial in support of the new City of LA Planning Director, Gail Goldberg.

An article appeared in Forbes.com lauding Amtrak and intercity passenger rail service in general. The editorial recognized the need for federal involvement in expanding passenger rail travel as a convenient and energy-efficient mode of travel that links large cities with distant rural areas. Amtrak is increasingly emerging as an important alternative to driving or flying, especially in light of an aging "baby boomer" population who may not be physically capable to drive or fly.

Here is a list reviewing other recent developments:

January 9: The Los Angeles County Department of Public Works unveiled a new shuttle for the South Whittier area. The route will serve an area previously lacking public transportation, from the Whittwood Town Center to Sorenson Park. The shuttle will cost 25 cents per ride, or $11 for a monthly pass. The service accepts MTA passes and connects with MTA buses and trains when it starts on January 21.

The LA Times interviewed City of Ventura Manager Rick Cole, a local proponent of "smart growth". In particular, he encourages compact designs of new developments that are easily accessible to the public, deemphasize car use and stay faithful to existing designs across the city.

January 10: RailPAC member Paul Dyson and The Transit Coalition Executive Director Bart Reed met with Jaime de la Vega, City of Los Angeles Deputy Mayor for Transportation, to discuss the proposal to extend the Orange Line to the Bob Hope Airport Metrolink/Amtrak station.

As one of his platforms, LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has supported transportation policies that would give Los Angeles a strong central identity.

January 11: Metro opened a new transit center next to the site of the Mid-Town Plaza, a mixed-use retail center under construction. The terminal contains eleven bus bays and will replace the Pico-Rimpau bus terminal, which serves Metro Buses and Santa Monica Municipal Bus Lines (Big Blue Bus) on Pico.

Also, The Los Angeles City Council voted against reviewing a contract with a firm that plans to move the southernmost runway at Los Angeles International Airport. Construction on a new taxiway 55 feet south of the current runway will continue. There had been concerns on the quality of the work Tutor-Saliba performed on projects for UCLA, LAUSD, and the Van Nuys FlyAway Terminal. Among the critics is Councilmember Tony Cardenas, who feared that "the city is willing to rubber-stamp a $250-million contract without providing substantial oversight."

January 12: The Pasadena Star-News reports that a glitch in ridership figures may delay construction of the Foothill Gold Line extension to Azusa. Officials feared that the model used to calculate ridership focused excessively on middle-class commuters who may or may not ride the train. Accurate ridership figures are crucial in order to federally fund the project.

Concerned citizens attended a public hearing in Mission Viejo to voice opposition to a tollway project that would cross the San Onofre State Beach in South Orange County. Transportation Corridor Agencies board members are considering a 16-mile route from Rancho Santa Margarita to Interstate 5 in or near San Clemente. Claiming the agency released skewed figures, opponents offered an alternative plan to build a beltway linking the current tollway (State Highway Route 241) with the San Joaquin Toll Road (State Highway Route 73) in San Juan Capistrano, on top of improvements to Interstate 5 in San Clemente.

January 13: The Southern California Regional Rail Authority ( Metrolink) held its Planning & Development and Operational Oversight Committee Meetings. The Planning & Development meeting focused on the success and challenges of the 2005 Metrolink Holiday Toy Train, as well as the results of a survey of weekend riders. Also of concern was the considerable rise in fuel costs and the need to keep them in check, through possible fare increases and reevaluation of current fuel contracts.

January 14: The Daily News reported heavy ridership on the Orange Line during December, drawing nearly 15,500 passengers each weekday during December. Even as other rail lines experienced seasonal dips in ridership, Orange Line ridership has remained steady from 16,360 average weekday boardings in November.

January 15: The LA Times interviewed the newly appointed president of the Los Angeles Port Commission, S. David Freeman. Among the challenges Freeman must face are stagnant growth in cargo shipments, outdated facilities that cannot handle larger ships, and alarming increases in levels of pollution from the port.

Upcoming Events: Metro Committee Meetings: Wednesday, January 18 and Thursday, January 19, Board Room, Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles. Of note are the following items:

Finance and Budget Committee (January 18, 2:30 p.m.): Item 11 Continue funding a program aimed at improving bus service on municipal bus lines across the county.

Executive Management and Audit Committee (January 19, 9:00 a.m.): Item 17 Allow Los Angeles World Airports to run a FlyAway service (similar to the successful version serving Van Nuys) from Union Station to LAX.

Operations Committee (January 19, 12 noon): Item 25 Award a five-year contract to Mitsubishi Electric & Electronics USA to maintain elevators and escalators in Metro facilities.

Consider attending our monthly Transit Coalition Dinner Meeting on Tuesday, January 24 - 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Philippe The Original, 1001 N. Alameda St. Los Angeles CA 90012. ( Map; December minutes.) We hope to see you there!

Metro Board Meeting: Thursday, January 26, 9:30 a.m., Board Room, Metro Hdqtrs., One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles.

RailPAC invites you to meet Amtrak Acting President and CEO David Hughes at a reception to honor the bipartisan efforts of legislators and advocates in supporting Amtrak and passenger rail in California, Thursday, January 26, 11:45 a.m.-1 p.m., Room 317 in the State Capitol, Sacramento.

SCRRA (Metrolink) Board Meeting: Friday, January 27, 10 a.m. SCAG Conference Room, 12th Floor, 818 W. Seventh St., Los Angeles.

RailPAC Annual Meeting: Saturday, January 28, State Rail Museum, Sacramento, CA. Call 888-508-2640 for information.

Faster Freight Cleaner Air: Monday, January 30 Wednesday, February 1, 2006, Long Beach Convention Center, Long Beach, CA. A summit on North American goods movement and air quality sponsored by the Port of Los Angeles, the US Environmental Protection Agency, Air Quality Management District, and California Environmental Protection Agency Air Resources Board.

Angeles Chapter Sierra Club Transportation Committee: Thursday, February 2, 7:30 p.m. Angeles Chapter office, 3435 Wilshire Blvd, Suite 320, 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
Numan Parada, Communications Director



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.

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.

<>

Ken Alpern, President of The Transit Coalition, and wife Cecilia wish you a prosperous new year. Ken hopes that many rail projects will be completed by the time his five-year-old son Nate is off to college.

 

bart.reed@thetransitcoalition.us  The Transit Coalition