Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Monday, February 27, 2006
Volume 2, Issue 9

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.

Last Call: Tomorrow night is our Transit Coalition Dinner Meeting. See Upcoming Events below for details.

City of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa joined San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzales on a visit to the State Capitol, calling on Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to address housing needs in his Strategic Growth Plan. Villaraigosa took the opportunity to vouch his support for high-density, transit-accessible housing and, in turn, funds for a Metro Red Line extension to the Westside. The Strategic Growth Plan is heaping up even more criticism, this time from State Treasurer Phil Angelides, because of the lack of money for mass transit. The Los Angeles Daily News expressed their concern in an editorial that the Strategic Growth Plan may be hijacked by political bickering and sternly warned against it.

Get ready to pay more to use the 91 Express toll lanes. Increasing demand for the lanes has prompted the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) to increase rates and stem growth in toll lane traffic. Tolls will surge to as much as $8.50 during Thursday and Friday peak periods. Most rates during other times will go up by 75 cents. "Congestion-based pricing", is sprouting in Denver, Houston and Washington, D.C. Edward Sullivan, engineering professor at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo who studied the lanes for five years, concluded in a Press-Enterprise article that, despite the increase, there will always be people who will value the lanes and pay to use them. It can be assured that drivers will look for other ways to reach job-rich Orange County, and an increase in vanpooling and patronage on parallel Metrolink lines will ensue. OCTA, along with Caltrans, must also deal with rising costs on expanding the Santa Ana Freeway between the Los Angeles county line and the Riverside Freeway. Meanwhile, OCTA is mulling tow-truck driver regulations after a recent series of accidents involving tow trucks, which may include background checks and drug tests.

When it comes to making public transit easier for the masses, you can count on the technology-savvy San Francisco Bay Area for fresh ideas. For years, BART electronic signs have largely been responsible for informing passengers at station platforms about updates, train times and delays. Next month, BART plans to provide up-to-the-minute updates and schedule information on its Web site as well as on hand-held electronic devices such as BlackBerrys. San Francisco Muni and AC Transit already provide Internet updates for riders at www.nextbus.com. As if that wasn't enough, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, which oversees BART, is partnering with nine Bay Area counties to improve bus service to low-income families. The funds may be used for expanded weekend and nighttime bus services, taxi vouchers, bicycle and pedestrian projects and shuttles specifically serving the transit dependent population.

After years of dealing with increased traffic during races, the California Speedway in Fontana announced a plan to increase traffic flow into the event. The plan was crafted by Gameday Management Group, which has created similar plans for other sporting events such as the Super Bowl and the Major League Baseball All-Star Game. Part of the plan includes color-coded parking passes for ticket holders. However, if this does not suit you, you can still take the Metrolink San Bernardino Line, which makes a special stop at the California Speedway during events.

Gold Line commuters continue to make their voices heard with regards to the new express service. This time, however, existing and potential passengers place the new service in a more positive light. Transit Coalition Executive Director Bart Reed was quoted in a Pasadena Weekly piece, sharing his opinion on service reductions on the Gold Line caused by the express service. Reed also voiced his concerns on this at the Metro Board meeting.

Burbank was recently deemed one of the sootiest cities in the nation. Jan Perry, Los Angeles City Councilmember and Air Quality Management District western region board member, believed that it is largely due to the Golden State and Ventura Freeways, which run through Burbank, because of their heavy use by diesel-burning trucks. And if you plan to use the nearby airport soon, be prepared to pay as much as $11 for daily parking.

Bart Reed and Transit Coalition President Ken Alpern had a front-page article published in the monthly newsletter of The Greater West Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce that addressed the obstacles facing the creation of the Westside Segment of the Expo Line to Santa Monica. The Mid-City Segment of the Expo Line is expected to clear all federal and local hurdles to break ground later this year.

A report and map on Santa Clarita Transit Route 8, the new bus service from Sylmar to Valencia opening Sunday, March 5, is now available.

Here is a list of other recent developments:

February 11: Transit Coalition President Ken Alpern attended a conference of certified Neighborhood Councils within Los Angeles Council District 11 that was called by Councilmember Bill Rosendahl. 75 representatives from the eight Neighborhood Councils of the district, from Pacific Palisades to Westchester, attended this conference that included a discussion on transportation. Transit Coalition newsletters and handouts were distributed to participants, and an update on efforts to create and extend mass transit into the Westside was given.

The Los Angeles Times published a report on freight railroads, which are experiencing a major boom with increased cargo traffic and have record profits to prove it. However, most of the growth is attributed to increases in fees and has led to train delays, irritating customers. Railroads hope to use their net income to fund and build major capital projects at a rate like never before.

February 13: Alpern gave a presentation to staff members from the offices of Congressmember Jane Harman, U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer and Los Angeles Councilmember Bill Rosendahl to discuss federal and local funding priorities for current projects such as the Expo Line, as well as future projects such as an extension of the Green Line to LAX and the Metrolink regional rail plan that includes service to LAX via the Metro Harbor Subdivision Right of Way. Other topics of discussion included electrification of the rail network and increasing the level of Metrolink service throughout the region.

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

February 21: The City of La Cañada Flintridge City Council unanimously voted to accept property easements that will allow the city to link up several existing multi-purpose trails to complete a trail loop through the city.

The San Francisco Examiner published an article regarding local and national increases in public transportation patronage in light of rising gasoline prices. The article quotes a recent American Public Transportation Association report that claims that use of mass transit remained steady even after a drop in gas prices. The increases were evident on San Francisco transit systems, with BART seeing a 3.5% increase in passengers during the third quarter of 2005, Muni showing a relatively meager 2.1% increase during the first nine months of 2005 (despite recent fare hikes and cuts in bus service) and Caltrain seeing a whopping 14% during the same time.

¿Habla usted español? Entonces le gustará el nuevo sitio de web espanol.amtrak.com. Amtrak announced a new Spanish version of their website, which will make booking trains easier for Spanish-speaking passengers and hopefully attract new customers. The English and Spanish websites will employ MotionPoint technology, which avoids the need for parallel sites, duplicate work and repeated notifications of changes on the English site. The Spanish website can also be accessed through the English Amtrak page.

February 22: Opening statements began at the Big Blue Bus trial in the Los Angeles Superior Court, West Los Angeles Division. In 2004, the elderly Haroun Mehdipour sustained injuries on his head and left arm while trying to run after Big Blue Bus in Santa Monica. According to attorneys for the defendant, the bus driver closed the front door and drove off, running over Mehdipour in the process. Mehdipour is now suing the City of Santa Monica for negligence in hiring and supervising the bus driver.

February 24: The Metro Board discussed a report on the timeframe and costs of building a Red Line extension west to Santa Monica. Despite a lukewarm reception by most board members, Board Members and County Supervisors Mike Antonovich and Don Knabe chimed in with concerns that, should Metro eventually pursue the project, it would reduce the relative priority of other transit projects in the county. No further action was taken. However, the Board acted on motions regarding the Municipal Operators Service Improvement Program and the release of two bicycle planning documents.

Despite last minute opposition from Gov. Schwarzenegger, The Orange County Transportation Corridor Agency board approved an environmental impact report for the San Onofre Toll Road and selected the route through the park, which was recommended by its staff. The project would still require approval from numerous state and federal agencies and is expected to attract many lawsuits.

Upcoming Events: 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.) We hope to see you there!

Metro San Fernando Valley Governance Council: Wednesday, March 1, 2006, 6:30 p.m., Marvin Braude Constituent Ctr., 6262 Van Nuys Bl., Van Nuys.

Exposition Metro Line Construction Authority: Thursday, March 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, March 2, 7:30 p.m. Angeles Chapter office, 3435 Wilshire Blvd, Suite 320, Los Angeles.

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

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

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

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