Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
Volume 2, Issue 12

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.

Reminder: Next Tuesday is our Transit Coalition Dinner Meeting. See Upcoming Events below for details.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger guaranteed that his bond measures will achieve victory at the polls… in November. Negotiations to have the vote in June collapsed amid a State Senate impasse even as the State Assembly approved a partial package of bond proposals to go on the ballot. The Senate rejected the package largely because nothing would be provided for transportation. What went wrong? Commentators suspect his "political capital" had been exhausted due to concern on the part of fellow Republican lawmakers that he asked for help from the Democrats before consulting his own party. Transportation agencies across the state will be forced to wait for funds to repair and upgrade aging infrastructure. In the Los Angeles Times Capitol Journal column, George Skelton blames the legislative process itself for the impasse.

Others contend that the Los Angeles region was to blame, since local leaders such as LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa were believed to be aggressively pursuing " more than their share" of funds. Despite this, Villaraigosa remains optimistic that a public bond measure will be ready by the November elections.

Bus agencies across California are experiencing change. Foothill Transit closed escrow for $8.55 million office building that will become their new headquarters by year end. The San Diego Metropolitan Transit System will embark on a major overhaul of the bus system, infuriating riders. A recent survey conducted by the Orange County Transportation Authority revealed that 70% of its users do not own cars and 90% are satisfied with the service. Haroun Mehdipour, who was run over by a Big Blue Bus in 2004 and lost his left leg, will receive some change in his pocket thanks to the unanimous decision by a jury to award him $2.7 million from the City of Santa Monica and the municipal bus operator for negligence on their behalf.

Oddly enough, San Fernando Valley leaders plan to celebrate the Orange Line by closing it and running a half-marathon on the route in October. A letter (under "Orange Crush?") to the Los Angeles Daily News praised the idea of the marathon but questioned the impact it may have on weekend riders who may use the line to reach work. Kymberleigh Richards, Public Affairs Director for SO.CA.TA., and Bart Reed, Transit Coalition Executive Director, voiced strong concerns before a Metro committee meeting reviewing this proposal. A separate letter (under "Busway's Better") suggested that below-level busways should be built for the Westside instead of a subway, which elicited a quick response (under "Money's Worth") by Transit Coalition Communications Director Numan Parada.

Blatant request: How can you help grow transit advocacy in Southern California? The Transit Coalition engages in many activities for the improvement of transit and the betterment of Southern California in its role as a policy framing and advocacy group. Each month, a print newsletter is published and the weekly eNewsletter you are reading is distributed. Additionally, Coalition members attend various transit related meetings where they engage in public comment and speak to board members to present views. But in running the Coalition comes the financial challenge to pay our costs. A volunteer may go to Washington or Sacramento and whose expenses need to be covered. Publishing a newsletter incurs printing and postage costs. That's where we need your help. Whether it's a small donation or a large gift, it all helps us grow. Can we count on your contribution?

With the recently reported brouhaha over new colors for Metro fixed Guideway lines, Eric Buckley of the LA Weekly made his own suggestions for what may soon be called the "Purple Line." The Metro Board will review the proposal on line colors on Thursday, March 23.

Metrolink launched its "sealed corridor" program, which aims to improve safety by physically prohibiting drivers and pedestrians from the rail tracks through numerous devices such as quad gates and zigzag pedestrian crossings. The Antelope Valley and Ventura County lines will receive the first set of improvements, leaving other lines to wait their turn. Also, UC Riverside is mulling a plan to let students ride all Metrolink trains at no cost.

Tustin has recently completed its segment of a 14-mile bikeway and trail that will run from Newport Bay to Irvine Park. The trail is part of the Peters Canyon Regional Park, which may be completed in five to seven years.

Did you know that the I-10/I-605 interchange is the 19th busiest in the state? The interchange was designed in 1964 and included a weave along the west side of the 605, which causes daily backups. In 1999, The South Coast Air Quality Management District deemed the area surrounding the interchange as one of the highest air-pollution-cancer risk factors in the San Gabriel Valley. A new overpass to undo part of the weave is proposed, but funding may not come easily. The Pasadena Star News published an editorial decrying the situation.

It is not the only road facility with severe challenges: The Route 90 Expressway in Marina Del Rey may not be upgraded until 2011 at the earliest due to the need for environmental reports that will take years to compile, and already it is causing considerable controversy. Ventura County may lose funds to improve highways in the area, in particular for the 118 Highway west of Moorpark. Coachella Valley is in a bind of its own, as it must find $2.6 billion to address congested highways and keep up with rapid growth. Mayor Villaraigosa had a change of heart regarding replacing incandescent bulbs on traffic signals with energy-efficient LED signals. The mayor recommended that the City Council have LA Department of Transportation do the work instead of award a contract to a private firm.

On a more positive note, solar-powered flashing lights have been installed at 31 school zones across Los Angeles County. The county will also launch new signals using wireless technology that will speed traffic flow at 51 intersections in the South Bay. Caltrans is moving forward with a much-needed upgrade of a 2.1-mile segment of the 138 Highway, a.k.a. "Blood Alley", in Llano. Even as these improvements come, Metro and Metrolink continue to pursue traffic alleviation through mass transit and better use of road capacity.

The Port of Long Beach released a new 10-year strategic plan that hopes to make the port a better neighbor with the community by reducing environmental and health impacts. This effort might very well be moot if officials do not address traffic and pollution issues stemming from growing truck traffic from Mexico. Undoubtedly, ports and other transportation media must also prepare for the growing threat of bird flu. According to guidelines compiled by the U.S. State Department, transportation facilities must produce a plan to deal with concerns from the community and workers, as well as establish emergency procedures in the event that goods movement and travel is severely restricted due to a pandemic.

Want to learn more about the recently signed SAFETEA-LU? Metro Magazine has a report on the basics of this critical mass transit funding law, including new programs, radically different funding structures and improvements to Buy America and handicap access statutes. The Metro Board (not related to the above magazine) will soon review an amendment to the 2006 Federal Legislative Program to seek funds for a series of Small Starts proposals and address some serious gaps in the San Fernando Valley and fix new Rapid Bus corridors.

On the smart growth front, a mixed-use development has been approved by the LA Community Redevelopment Agency to acquire five parcels of land around Hollywood and Vine, next to a Metro Red Line station. Local merchants are protesting the decision for fear that the project would raze local landmarks. The project was among a list of transit-oriented developments praised by Good Jobs First as part of a report honoring 25 such developments across the nation. These mixed-use projects hold great promise in making housing available near transit stations, reduce both household and transportation expenses, and improving the local economy, or so according to the conclusions from a recent briefing sponsored by the Environmental and Energy Study Institute.

Plenty is happening with regards to hydrogen fuel cells. AC Transit in Oakland introduced three zero-emissions fuel cell buses as part of a demonstration project. The City of Burbank recently installed a hydrogen fueling station, although activists suggest that funds would be better spent on existing electric car technology. Even Gov. Schwarzenegger jumped in via satellite from the State Capitol, addressing delegates of the 17th Annual Hydrogen Conference in Long Beach. Schwarzenegger reiterated the state's commitment to protect the environment through development of clean technologies such as hydrogen fuel cells.

Here is a list of other recent developments:

March 12: The Los Angeles Times reported that some 600 bridges across California are at great risk of collapse during an earthquake. Caltrans has managed to rebuild most of the spans it maintains. However, cities and counties have been scrambling to find funds and retrofit their own bridges.

March 13: Tow truck driver John Meza was honored by the Orange County Transportation Authority for saving the life of an eleven-year-old boy on Friday, February 10. In his role as a tow truck driver for the Orange County Freeway Service Patrol, Meza responded to a call for medical aid on the 57 Freeway and found a van on the shoulder with a family and the boy, whose seatbelt became tangled around his neck, choking him. Meza freed the boy by cutting the belt with wire cutters.

March 15: Los Angeles World Airports and Metro debuted the new Union Station-LAX FlyAway service. LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa joined other officials in celebrating the new service. The service is part of a program that will create new FlyAway services across the Southland over the next several years to relieve congestion at and provide an alternative to driving to LAX, although it may not be much of a help for South Bay residents who want a similar service. Should the service prove popular, LAWA may install a FlyAway to Ontario Airport, which is poised to benefit from the recently aborted LAX expansion plan by absorbing more flights and passengers. Meanwhile, plans to install a FlyAway in Sylmar have stalled, and a letter (under "FlyAway stalled") from Transit Coalition Executive Director Bart Reed states that the poor location selected dooms this FlyAway.

South Pasadena Council Member David Margrave resigned from the Gold Line Construction Authority. Margrave was vocal on noise issues along the Pasadena Gold Line, but in recent months had been dogged by conflict of interest issues regarding a condominium project next to property he owns near the line. The City Council appointed Keith Hanks to fill the vacancy.

March 16: Amtrak made a FY 2007 funding request for $1.59 billion and outlined proposed reforms during a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee meeting. President Bush recommended that $900 million should be given to the national passenger rail service. Amtrak Chairman David Laney promised that Amtrak will " reevaluate" (often but not always a euphemism meaning "kill") long-distance services, which provide the only passenger rail service to 23 states. Such reevaluation may include eliminating, restructuring or adding routes, according to Laney.

The California Transportation Commission approved $208 million in state funding to construct the Exposition Light Rail Line to Culver City. Metro will request an additional $315 million at the next Commission meeting April 27 in Fresno. Groundbreaking is set for summer. The Commission also approved $12 million for local projects in Orange County. The funding brings the total for transportation planning and construction for FY 05-06 to $3.3 billion for 764 projects across the state.

March 21: DASH buses in the San Fernando Valley ran on a limited schedule due to a work stoppage. Organized workers for the contractor who provides DASH service are asking for a pay increase. The reduced service schedule is in effect until further notice.

Upcoming Events: 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. POSTPONED.

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!

Exposition Metro Line Construction Authority: Thursday, March 31, 2:30 p.m., Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration, 500 W. Temple St., Board Hearing Room 381B, Los Angeles.

Metro San Fernando Valley Governance Council: Wednesday, April 5, 6:30 p.m., Marvin Braude Constituent Center, 6262 Van Nuys Bl., Van Nuys.

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

Angeles Chapter Sierra Club Transportation Committee: Thursday, April 6, 7:30 p.m. Angeles Chapter office, 3435 Wilshire Blvd, Suite 320, Los Angeles.

SCAG MagLev Task Force: Thursday, April 13, 11:00 a.m. SCAG Offices, 818 W. Seventh St., 12th floor, 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