Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Tuesday, January 31, 2006
Volume 2, Issue 5

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

Once again, the question of transportation funding has taken center stage across the Southland. The Transportation Research Board released a report concluding that there is no imminent funding crisis for highways in the near future but to tackle nationwide road congestion, tolling should be pursued. Glendale recently made a $12 million request to Washington lawmakers for roads and buses. Realizing that the Governor Schwarzenegger Strategic Growth Plan will have nothing for urban rail, Westside governments are launching their own efforts to energize residents and community leaders so that they can write to the governor and ask for more funding towards Los Angeles rail, in particular the Red Line extension down Wilshire Blvd. Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters noted that transportation projects are at the mercy of convoluted funding mechanisms at the local, state and federal levels.

Beginning in February, Union Pacific will replace more than 43 miles of track between East Los Angeles and Riverside, which will affect Metrolink service on its Riverside Line. The project will replace over 300,000 wooden rail ties with longer-lasting concrete ties over a period of three months. Metrolink expects that the Riverside Line will remain open between the Industry station and the LA Union Station but said service east of the Industry station could be canceled up to 20 days over the three-month period. Metrolink will distribute information regarding cancellations and substitute trains with bus service, and recommends that passengers use the San Bernardino or the 91 Lines during this time. Complete information is available at the Union Pacific website.

SCAG has joined the chorus in championing the use of airports other than LAX. Los Angeles Daily News reporter Rick Orlov interviewed Mark Pisano of SCAG on the possibility of using other airports to relieve current and future cargo and passenger traffic at LAX, a notion the Daily News couldn't help but agree with. Pisano commented that Ontario International Airport, being the more developed of the Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA), could handle up to 30 million passengers a year. Pisano added that instead of placing all airports in the region under one agency, LAWA could instead negotiate agreements with airports not under their control.

Now, does L.A. Airport Commission Chair Alan Rothenberg share the same vision about regional airports? For that matter, what does the possible return of the NFL to LA have to do with public transportation? Does Orange County have the guts to turn itself into an urban metropolis? Thanks to editor Josh Stevens, these and other topics are addressed in the January edition of Metro Investment Report.

Want a more memorable, livable and pedestrian-friendly Los Angeles? We're getting there. Supervisor Gloria Molina expressed her concern that The Related Companies, who were selected to build the $1.8 billion Grand Avenue Project in Downtown LA, are giving too little focus on creating the civic park. Related assured concerned groups that the park will be designed this summer, with construction beginning at the end of the year.

A PowerPoint update on Eastside Gold Line construction is now available.

Shameless plugs: 2006 will mark the 50th anniversary of the Interstate Highway System. To be exact, it was on June 26, 1956 when President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the Interstate Highway Act, the federal legislation that provided for the construction of this massive project. Based on the speedy Autobahns of Europe used by then General Eisenhower during World War II, the system now spans over 42,000 miles across the United States. Yet even the celebratory website acknowledges that "many Americans no longer experience it as the ‘open road' that spurred a generation of novels and films, as population growth has outstripped system expansion, and heavy use has led to congestion." In any case, Autoblog reports that the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials ( AASHTO) will celebrate "The Year of the Interstate" with a coast-to-coast convoy along Interstate 80, beginning June 15 in San Francisco and finishing June 29 in Washington, D.C.

Livable Places is an organization dedicated to promoting transit-oriented development to relieve a serious housing shortage across the city and to give community members more access to services and amenities. Its mission is "to promote healthy communities through local policy reform and development of compact, affordable housing that incorporates a mixture of uses and income levels, as well as sustainable building practices in Southern California." One of its featured projects is Olive Court, located just one block from the Pacific Coast Highway Blue Line Station in Long Beach. The TOD will consist of 58 for-sale residences surrounding three landscaped courtyards.

Here is a list of other recent developments:

January 24: The Ventura County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a resolution to embrace increased use of rail, bus and bicycles to improve transportation across the county. The aptly titled County Transportation Vision will be written into the County General Plan. Officials hope that this will set precedence for other governments to follow and include alternative forms of transportation in their growth plans.

Developer Richard Meruelo, the largest individual donor to the Villaraigosa mayoral campaign, received a major setback when the LAUSD Board rejected his proposal for a $600 million joint-use project and instead chose to build a new high school on the property. The board certified the Final EIR and green-lighted acquisition of the property, formerly part of the defunct Taylor Yard. LAUSD would have to buy the 23-acre property from Meruelo, the latter claiming it would be worth as much as $3 million an acre. Meruelo contended that a joint-use development with the school district would have been a better use of the property.

The Daily News published a scathing letter from LA County Supervisor Mike Antonovich (in response to an editorial published on January 20), criticizing the movement to resurrect plans to build the Red Line subway to Wilshire and Fairfax. Citing residents who "overwhelmingly" voted to prohibit funds for subway construction in 1998, Antonovich fears it will take resources away from other areas of the county. Transit Coalition President Ken Alpern clarified LA City Councilmember Bill Rosendahl's intentions in another reply letter published on Friday, January 27, showing significant benefits for the San Fernando Valley.

The Daily News also reported a decline in "near-misses" between Orange Line buses and autos. Richard Hunt, general manager for Metro San Fernando Valley, reported that the busway is experiencing fewer crashes and Sheriff's deputies are writing fewer citations as a result of motorists obeying the law. Metro is in the process of installing photo enforcement cameras as well. (The Daily News published an editorial on Monday, January 30, expressing their contentment with this development.) A Metro PowerPoint report on Orange Line milestones is now available.

Transit Coalition Executive Director Bart Reed met with Dan Leavitt, Deputy Director of the California High Speed Rail Authority, to discuss provisions Senate Bill 1024 (Perata) that would fund HSR-related projects, which may greatly benefit Metrolink passengers by upgrading existing tracks and building at-grade crossings along Metrolink lines in lieu of actual HSR construction.

January 26: There were observances to mark the one-year anniversary of the fatal Metrolink crash in Glendale. Juan Manuel Alvarez parked his Jeep Cherokee on the tracks in an aborted suicide attempt. Southbound Train 100 struck the SUV and jackknifed onto the path of Northbound Train 901, killing eleven on board and injuring the rest. Alvarez currently awaits trial for eleven counts of murder. Survivors and the families of the deceased are trying to cope with the disaster to this day, even as efforts to increase safety on Metrolink trains march forward.

The Metro Board approved an agreement with LAWA to use portions of the Patsaouras Transit Plaza next to Los Angeles Union Station for use as a FlyAway Terminal. Metro will allow customers to use the parking garage below to park their cars and an auto drop-off site to load and unload passengers. The FlyAway service from Union Station to LAX will commence on March 15. Should the service prove successful, FlyAway buses to Ontario may be added.

Transit Coalition President Ken Alpern met with Councilmember Rosendahl and a neighborhood group regarding Westside rail projects under discussion.

January 27: Transit Coalition Executive Director Bart Reed presented a letter of concern to board members at the monthly Metrolink Board meeting. The letter detailed deficiencies in the relay of information on the communications system in Metrolink stations. Metrolink CEO David Solow assured participants that the matter would be addressed by staff and reported at the upcoming Metrolink committee meetings. Also, Metrolink has received bids for the purchase of 87 train cars (33 cab cars and 54 trailers). The final bids came in as follows: Rotem, $306 million; Bombardier, $389 million; and Kawasaki, $556.5 million. (These figures are for both Metrolink and Southern Florida Transportation Authority, assuming the base bid and all options are exercised.)

January 28: Transit Coalition Executive Director Bart Reed joined with newly elected RailPAC President Paul Dyson at the RailPAC Statewide Annual Meeting held in Sacramento. Participants included Bill Bronte, Chief, Caltrans Division of Rail, Dan Leavitt, Deputy Director of the California High Speed Rail Authority, and Eugene Skoropowski, Managing Director of the Capitol Corridor. Skoropowski and Bronte had lunch with Reed and Dyson to discuss rail issues within the state. Two reports by Paul Dyson and Russell Jackson, as well as a photo essay on the annual meeting, are now available.

Acknowledgments: The Transit Coalition would like to give special thanks to the Mayor Sam blog for featuring our eNewsletter on the dead pol's website.

Upcoming Events: Metro San Fernando Valley Governance Council: Wednesday, February 1, 2006, 6:30 p.m., Mission College, Campus Center Main Room, 13356 Eldridge Ave., Sylmar.

Exposition Metro Line Construction Authority: Thursday, February 2, 2:30 p.m., Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration, 500 W. Temple St., Board Hearing Room 381B, Los Angeles.

Angeles Chapter Sierra Club Transportation Committee: : Thursday, February 2, 7:30 p.m. Angeles Chapter Office, 3435 Wilshire Blvd, Suite 320, Los Angeles.

Metro Westside/Central Governance Council: Tuesday, February 7, 6:30 p.m., La Cienega Tennis Center, Sunset Room, 325 S. La Cienega Blvd., Beverly Hills.

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.

SCAG MagLev Task Force: Thursday, February 9, 11:00 a.m. SCAG Offices, 818 W. Seventh St., 12th floor, Los Angeles.

SCRRA (Metrolink) Committee Meetings: Friday, February 10, 10 a.m., SCRRA Offices, 700 S. Flower St., 26th floor, Los Angeles.

Southern California Transit Advocates: Saturday, February 11, 1 p.m., Angelus Plaza, Rm. 422, 255 S. Hill St., Los Angeles.

Valley VOTE meeting: Monday, February 20. RailPAC President Paul Dyson and Transit Coalition Executive Director Bart Reed will make a presentation on extending the Orange Line to Bob Hope Airport Metrolink / Amtrak station.

Consider attending our monthly Transit Coalition Dinner Meeting on Tuesday, February 28 - 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!

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