Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
Volume 2, Issue 4

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.

Event /speaker: Tuesday, January 24, 2006. Plan on joining us for our monthly Transit Coalition Dinner Meeting Tuesday - 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Philippe The Original, 1001 N. Alameda St. Los Angeles CA. 90012. Join us for a special presentation by Neil Garcia-Sinclair, President of CyberTran, on an automated Ultra-Light Rail Transit system that utilizes five ton, 20 passenger rail vehicles to move people. The system was designed to lower capital and operating costs and vehicles can be scheduled according to demand or frequency, or a combination. ( Map; December minutes.) See you there!

Public transportation and the "smart growth" it aims to encourage are on the minds of many. The American Public Transportation Association released figures showing strong use of subways, light rail and buses despite a drop in gas prices after Hurricane Katrina (although gas prices have been rising in California). For bicyclists, the Los Angeles County Flood Control District is set to build bike lanes across the flood basins of San Gabriel River and Rio Hondo.

On the "smart growth" front, the San Gabriel Valley Economic Partnership held a forum last Friday discussing this concept. The Los Angeles Downtown News shared their opinion about the new Planning Department chief Gail Goldberg. Meanwhile, Patt Morrison of the Los Angeles Times laments the lack of accessible public parks in Los Angeles.

With expansion of the 405 Freeway approved, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has turned his focus onto his bond proposal, now in the hands of state legislators. The governor desires to take advantage of public willingness to fund traffic fixes and emulate the vision of former Governor Pat Brown. Republican lawmakers are aiming to ease or eliminate several environmental review requirements for these projects. Some remain skeptical about his push for "design-build" methods (where a firm both designs and builds a project). Los Angeles Mayor Antonia Villaraigosa has given his support of the proposals, as reported Saturday, January 21, in the LA Times and Los Angeles Daily News.

Others hope this will be an opportunity to complete the 710 Freeway between Alhambra and Pasadena, even as the possibility of building this controversial project underground is under study. Funds to improve the existing stretch of the 710, as well as money to widen highways in remote areas across Southern California will also be sought. Meanwhile, transit and highway advocates alike hope to gain a greater share of funds for needed projects from the reestablished Proposition 42 fund. Amidst the frenzy, Chris Weinkopf of the Daily News had this to say.

Concerned about increased auto traffic between Los Angeles and Las Vegas? Even Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman is frustrated. For the last several years, governments in California and Nevada have been promoting the High Desert Corridor, a high-capacity highway that would link Palmdale with Victorville and thus bypass the congested Cajon Pass on Interstate 15 between San Bernardino and Victorville. Improvements along Interstate 15 have also been discussed. Funds, however, have been slow to come. It is worth adding that rail service between Los Angeles and Las Vegas via the Amtrak Desert Wind ended in 1997 and has yet to come back despite the efforts of both states that would have to fund it.

Speaking of Amtrak, according to the National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP), President George W. Bush nominated James S. Simpson to be the Administrator of the Federal Transit Administration, Tyler D. Duvall to be the Assistant Secretary of Transportation, Transportation Policy, and Roger Shane Karr to be the Assistant Secretary of Transportation, Governmental Affairs. Duvall in particular has been critical of Amtrak, contending in a recent passenger rail conference "we'll never see ‘cool' new services in rural America under the present model."

Here is a list reviewing other recent developments:

January 17: The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a recommendation to the Los Angeles City Council to lure airline flights to airports other than LAX. The package aims to reduce parking cost and landing fees at Van Nuys, Ontario and Palmdale airports and require a minimum number of flights so as to lure airline passengers and cargo to these airports. Palmdale Airport in particular is considered by airlines as too inconvenient for viable operations, as shown by the recent departure of its only flight service, Scenic Airlines, so this plan would be of great help. The plan is expected to reduce passenger traffic and automobile congestion at LAX. The following day, the Los Angeles City Council approved a final settlement with the Board of Supervisors and other plaintiffs over LAX expansion and will work on new ideas to modernize the airport. Transit Coalition friend Denny Schneider has a full report.

January 18: State assembly members who investigated last year's deadly Metrolink crash near Glendale recommended that commuter railroads stop pushing trains from the rear with locomotives, a widespread practice that some experts fear leads to more severe accidents. Rail officials on the other hand contend that push-pull operations are already safe and that improvements such as building turnaround tracks and purchasing "cabbage cars" would be costly and needless. Other recommendations included improved crossing gates and more aggressive education programs.

Los Angeles City Councilmember Bill Rosendahl recommended that the county ask voters to raise its transit sales tax to fund crucial transportation projects. The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association promised to come out against the measure if it comes on the ballot.

A Daily News column by Mariel Garza described a new amenity for Metro Bus: On-board television. These screens have been installed on about 1,000 buses across the city and feature news headlines, weather and advertisements. Transit TV furnishes the screens to Metro at no cost, while Metro expects to receive as much as $6.7 million from advertising revenues.

January 19: The Metro Executive Management & Audit Committee voted to work with Los Angeles World Airports to install a new FlyAway service at Los Angeles Union Station. The new service would be modeled after the successful Van Nuys FlyAway and provide a direct connection between LAX and Metrolink, Amtrak, Red Line and Gold Line services. Kevin Roderick reports in LA Observed that the Airport Commission (item 18, page 78) approved this service to start by as soon as March 15. The Metro Board will vote on this and other items on Thursday, January 26. A report on this and other Metro Committee meetings is now available.

The Orange County Transportation Corridor Agencies voted to postpone a decision on adopting a toll road route through San Onofre State Beach. The project has widespread opposition from environmental groups, park users, state officials and three nearby cities.

The Ventura County Transportation Commission voted to study commuter rail service between Santa Clarita and Ventura on existing railway paralleling State Highway Route 126. The line would serve as a bypass of Los Angeles-bound rail lines, serve the communities of Fillmore and Santa Paula, and connect Ventura County residents with job centers in Valencia and Metrolink trains near Newhall. However, the project would require numerous track upgrades as well as reconstruction of removed track in Santa Clarita. Transit Coalition Executive Director Bart Reed was quoted in a Daily News article and expressed support for the study. Meanwhile in Port Hueneme, a plan to build an upscale vehicle off-loading site near a little-used freight rail line has lit the ire of local residents, who took offense at the threat of eminent domain from harbor officials and wish for a housing subdivision on the plot of land instead.

Also, Metro formally announced a new express service on the Metro Gold Line. The service will stop at five stations (Union Station, Highland Park, Mission, Del Mar and Sierra Madre Villa) and shave off five minutes of travel. The service debuts Monday, February 13.

The Daily News published an editorial questioning the need to raise the county sales tax to fund the Red Line Extension to the Westside as recommended by Rosendahl. State law requires that such a raise in sales tax must be approved by 2/3 of voters in the county. Internal polling conducted by Metro showed only 61% of voters would approve it, well below the 2/3 needed for the measure to pass.

Other Announcements: Metrolink has taken delivery of four train cars leased from Altamont Commuter Express (ACE), the Northern California commuter rail service. The cars intend to bring relief to overcrowded trains on the Metrolink system and will be distributed onto different lines. The cars are undergoing testing and new signage will be installed. The cars will enter service in seven to fourteen days. Also, Metrolink will release its new combined schedule timetable in two weeks.

Mayor Villaraigosa appointed Transit Coalition Vice-President Jerard Wright to the Metro Westside/Central Governance Council. Congratulations!

Upcoming Events: 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.

Rail Users' Network Bi-Monthly Meeting: Saturday, January 28, Metropolitan Transportation Authority Hdqtrs., 347 Madison Ave., New York, NY. Call 207-776-4961 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.

LOSSAN Rail Corridor Agency Joint Powers Board Meeting: Wednesday, February 8, 11:30 a.m. 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
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.

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bart.reed@thetransitcoalition.us • The Transit Coalition