Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
Volume 2, Issue 11

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.

LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has appointed Gloria Jeff, former director of the Michigan Department of Transportation, to head the LA Department of Transportation (LADOT). In a bit of irony, officials closed a block of Main Street in Downtown LA to announce the new hire. The Los Angeles Daily News gladly welcomed her with a positive editorial acknowledging her experience as well as the challenges that await her. Also, the LA City Council approved a measure to install left-turn signals at more than 450 intersections across the city. A list of intersections to be upgraded is now available, courtesy of the Office of Councilmember Wendy Greuel.

Beginning in May, Metrolink will begin a permanent weekend service between the Inland Empire and Orange County. The route is otherwise used for the seasonal SummerLink trains, which ferry beach-loving Riverside residents to the sandy shores of San Clemente and Oceanside. The service will consist of three round trips on Saturday and two round trips on Sunday. The Riverside County Transportation Commission recently gave its blessing to the expanded train and will work with the Orange County Transportation Authority and Metrolink to finalize the plan. Metrolink already offers Saturday service on the San Bernardino and Antelope Valley lines as well as Sunday service on the San Bernardino line. Meanwhile, Metrolink has begun retrofitting Tunnel 26 between Chatsworth and Simi Valley on the Ventura County line, which is expected to last 200 days.

Additionally, the recent 88 rail car order moves forward. The car purchase protest period was extended until Monday, March 13. No protests were filed. The next step will be to finalize the contract with Rotem. The Metrolink Board meets on Friday, March 24 to review the final results of the Crash Energy Management tests for the new cab cars.

Columnist Dana Parsons recently discussed the recent decision to build a toll road through San Onofre State Beach and turned it into a treatise on the ethics of using previously preserved open space for present development and potential future implications. (The environmental concerns have been responsible for a recent spike in the cost of constructing the road.)

In contrast, columnist D.J. Waldie takes a stab at the lack of turnstiles on Metro Red Line subway stations and suggests that this has created an " underground economy" of taxpayer-subsidized free rides and illegal sales of day passes. His suggestions fomented several quick replies. Former state Senate Transportation Committee chairman Quentin L. Kopp throws his own opinion on the indefinite postponement of a statewide vote for high-speed rail, even as other countries are quickly pursuing this option.

LA Weekly received a reply to an article regarding pollution from the harbor area and the trucks that are partly responsible for it, with particular scorn poured on the non-existence of cleaner diesel tractors. Transit Coalition Vice-President Jerard Wright sent his own reply to an editorial in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune regarding Foothill Gold Line funding problems.

On May 3, JetBlue will introduce new service from Bob Hope airport to Orlando, Florida, and Las Vegas, Nevada. JetBlue currently offers four nonstop flights from Bob Hope to New York City.

The Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) is mulling a proposal to allow a coalition of Southern California tribes to join the agency. This would make SCAG one of the largest metropolitan planning organizations in the country to include tribes.

Ventura County Transportation Commissioner Keith Millhouse ridiculed efforts to encourage mass transit growth in the county by dismissing the recently approved "transportation vision" plan as an "election year fluff-piece." This sparked a fiery debate amongst fellow commissioners, ensuring that the plan was meant to be a starting point of discussion so that residents can have alternatives to traffic and not merely alternatives to cars. In any case, Millhouse in his capacity as Metrolink Board member also announced the launch of a major grade crossing safety program, which would create a "sealed corridor" along the Antelope Valley and Ventura County lines.

With regards to the continuously unfolding Ferrari crash saga, the Los Angeles Times recently discovered just how easy it is to create your own police department. Stefan Eriksson, the purported driver of the Ferrari, was a deputy commissioner of the San Gabriel Valley Transit Authority Police Department. The police department came to existence through the efforts of one Yosef Maiwandi, one of three SGVTA commissioners and owner of their headquarters at Homer's Auto Service in Monrovia. The article revealed that state regulations allow transit agencies to have their own police force. Certification by the state Commission on Police Officer Standards and Training is not necessary, and police officers would have few powers beyond those of security guards other than the ability to carry weapons and make citizen's arrests.

There was plenty to congratulate this week. Columnist Dennis McCarthy gave congratulations to famed bus maintenance man Arthur Winston. On March 22, Winston will retire at the age of 100 from his job of more than 73 years at Metro and its predecessor agencies. Metro Board Member and County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky gave congratulations to ridership on the Orange Line, which has recently topped the 17,000-weekday-boarding mark. What is not being congratulated is the Gold Line express service, which garnered a letter of disapproval to the San Gabriel Valley Tribune.

Regarding transit-oriented development, the Urban Housing Alliance of Los Angeles plans a $50-million, 165-unit condominium development at the corner of Los Feliz Boulevard and Gardena Avenue. The project will be developed near the Glendale Metrolink station and shopping areas. Transit Coalition Executive Director Bart Reed noted that the proposed development is only a five-minute walk from the train station and to shopping.

The US Department of Transportation and Maritime Administration is promoting a plan to reinvigorate the practice of short-sea shipping as a way to relieve freight traffic and address the decline in truck drivers. Short-sea shipping involves transporting freight up and down rivers, lakes and canals to inland ports, a widespread practice until fifty years ago, when highway and railroad shipping developed and took a large share of freight traffic.

Don't Forget: On Wednesday, March 15, Los Angeles World Airports will launch a new FlyAway service from Union Station to LAX. Free rides will be given to transit users with valid Metrolink, Amtrak, or Metro Rail tickets for the rest of March. Thereafter, the 20-mile ride will cost $3 one-way for adults, $2 for children between 2 and 12 years, and free for children less than 2 years of age. You can learn more about the service in a previously published Transit Coalition report or by reading the LAWA press release. LAWA also provides information regarding the FlyAway bus on their website.

Here is a list of other recent developments:

February 28: Transit Coalition President Ken Alpern, who is also an elected Boardmember of the Westside Village Civic Association, gave a joint presentation with Ned Racine of the Metro Expo Line Construction Authority to update an enthusiastic crowd of approximately 100 Westside Villagers on the Expo Line. Westside Villagers have weighed in as pro-mass transit in the past, and many Transit Coalition newsletters were distributed.

Councilmember Bill Rosendahl also spoke, and reaffirmed his joint efforts with Alpern and TTC to create a full Expo Line to the beach within the decade, to create a north-south Green Line from the South Bay Galleria Mall to the future Expo Line, and to establish passenger rail service between LAX and Union Station via the Harbor Subdivision ROW.

March 3: In response to a Public Policy Institute of California report that indicated Palmdale residents have some of the longest commutes in the state, the Antelope Valley Press published a resentful editorial bemoaning the lack of well-paying, middle-class jobs in the Antelope Valley as one of the root causes of such disparate commuting times.

March 7: Union Pacific and Burlington Northern Santa Fe filed lawsuits against the South Coast Air Quality Management District. The two railroads claim that locally imposed air regulations by the District would set a precedent where other local districts will impose their own set of regulations and make freight service cumbersome. State officials fear that this will jeopardize a voluntary agreement between the railroads and the California Air Resources Board, which impose similar regulations onto the railroads.

March 8: The Los Angeles Daily News published a special exhortation by four former California governors to state legislators regarding the Strategic Growth Plan. The governors hoped that legislators would set aside their ideological differences and work together to address infrastructure deficiencies.

March 10: Metrolink held a special Board Meeting that dealt with a contract to purchase diesel fuel and adoption of quiet zones. Metrolink also released the most recent ridership figures. Ridership averaged 40,266 daily boardings in February, up 5% from 38,246 one year ago.

March 11: The State Senate rejected a $48.8 billion bond package that would provide funds to repair transportation infrastructure, among other things. The vote of 24-14 against the measure followed strict party lines. The measure would have consisted of nearly $39.7 billion for improvements for the public to vote on this year and another $9.1 billion to be voted on in 2008. Republican lawmakers were particularly concerned about the numerous environmental programs that made it into the measure. Negotiations have stalled largely due to a lack of consensus regarding the excess of highway projects in the Strategic Growth Plan according to Democrats and the lack of a "pay-as-you-go" plan advocated by Republicans. An equal stalemate exists in the State Assembly. (Meanwhile, State Senate leader Don Perata has been saving more than $1 million to promote his infrastructure bond measure.)

Upcoming Events: SCAG Goods Movement Task Force: Wednesday, March 15, 9 a.m., SCAG Offices, 818 W. Seventh St., 12th floor, Los Angeles.

Eighth Annual CITT State of the Trade and Transportation Industry Town Hall Meeting: Wednesday, March 15, 2006, 6:00-8:30 p.m., Carpenter Performing Arts Center, CSULB, 6200 Atherton Street, Long Beach, CA 90815. This meeting will discuss critical challenges facing the Long Beach and Los Angeles ports today. Anyone involved with and affected by trade and transportation including representatives of longshore, truckers, ocean carriers, marine terminals, freight forwarders, custom brokers, IMCs, distribution centers, shippers, community leaders, Federal/State/local governments and environmental agencies are welcomed to attend. Attendance and parking are free.

Metro Committee Meetings: Wednesday, March 15 and Thursday, February 16, Board Room, Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles.

Planning and Programming Committee (Wednesday, March 15, 1 p.m.): Item 5A Change sponsorship of Lankershim Depot rehabilitation from the LA Community Redevelopment Agency to Metro.

Finance and Budget Committee, Wednesday, March 15, 2:30 p.m.

Executive Management & Audit Committee (Thursday, March 16, 9 a.m., Supplemental Agenda): Item 13 Designate new colors to several fixed rail lines and busways, including "aqua" to the Exposition Light Rail Line and "purple" to the Wilshire branch of the Metro Red Line.

Construction Committee, Thursday, March 16, 10:30 a.m.

Operations Committee, Thursday, March 16, 12 noon. ( Supplemental agenda)

LAX Modernization Meeting hosted by LA Councilmember Bill Rosendahl: Wednesday, March 15, 6-9 p.m., and Saturday, March 18, 9 a.m.-12 noon, Flight Path Learning Center, 6661 W Imperial Hwy., Los Angeles, CA 90045-6309.

Valley VOTE meeting: Monday, March 20, 6:45-8:15 p.m., Galpin Ford, 2nd Floor meeting Room,15555 Roscoe Blvd, Sepulveda, CA 91343-6503. Guest speaker: Julie Korenstein, LAUSD Board Member.

SFV Economic Alliance Livable Communities Council: Tuesday, March 21, 8 a.m., Economic Alliance Office, Boeckmann-Fleming-Gelb Board Room, 5121 Van Nuys Blvd., Sherman Oaks, CA 91403.

Metro Board Meeting: Thursday, March 23, 9:30 a.m., Board Room, Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (next to Union Station), Los Angeles.

SCRRA (Metrolink) Board Meeting: Friday, March 24, 10 a.m. San Bernardino Conference Room, SCAG Building, 12th Floor, 818 W. Seventh St., Los Angeles.

Consider attending our monthly Transit Coalition Dinner Meeting on Tuesday, March 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!

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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.

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bart.reed@thetransitcoalition.us  The Transit Coalition