Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Tuesday, April 4, 2006
Volume 2, Issue 14

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.

Gasoline is creeping back up to $3 a gallon, and most analysts believe this number won't be going down any time soon, even without major disruptions in production. California gas prices rose for the fourth week in a row, reaching an average $2.66 a gallon on March 27. Even so, summer driving is expected to increase, which will place a strain on ethanol producers. Analysts also believe that consumer "sticker-shock" won't be as damaging this time around. Nevertheless, with "peak oil" approaching and oil production eventually reaching a drop, what can we do? Electrify rail transport, says commentator Alan S. Drake.

With the resurgence of Downtown Los Angeles moving at lightning pace, a new parking challenge is emerging. Developers are snatching up parking lots to build new residential and mixed-use projects. The Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) recently recommended several proposals to add more parking and concurrently redo largely unchanged parking ordinances in the city core. Some ideas, such as adding parking for "adaptive reuse" projects, are receiving a cold reception from developers, according to the Los Angeles Downtown News.

Indeed, one commentator expressed concern with archaic and blight-inducing parking regulations imposed on property owners. As an alternative, Donald Shoup, author of The High Cost of Free Parking, believes that his two basic ideas of performance-based parking prices and local revenue return can revitalize neighborhoods as well as provide parking. Shoup is a vocal critic of current parking policies and costly ideas that have been implemented with no success, such as free off-site parking. Meanwhile, parking companies across the nation continue to test technology that allows drivers to reserve parking spots online or by cell phone and obtain real-time parking information.

DASH operators in the Northeast San Fernando Valley continue to strike due to the high cost of their health insurance. Meanwhile, Metro moves ahead with the purchase of 96 additional Metro Liners from North American Bus Industries, powered by Cummins Westport alternative fuel engines. Metro also locked in $208 million for construction of the Exposition Light Rail Line.

Metrolink was equally busy. Union Pacific completed rehabilitation of tracks on the Riverside line. To celebrate, Metrolink will offer discounted passes for Riverside line passengers. Unfortunately, the fun will be short-lived, as increases in fuel costs are forcing the commuter rail system to increase fares.

The Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) conducted a mail survey over the past several weeks, with at least 1,000 responses having been received. Respondents generally favored extending Measure M, a countywide transportation measure that funds rail and highway projects, which expires in 2011 after 20 years. Meanwhile, interest in building a tunnel between Orange and Riverside Counties grows amid worries from environmentalists on its effect on groundwater and wildlife. A recent consortium of realtors concluded that traffic was the single greatest threat to economic growth in Riverside County.

State Senator Alan Lowenthal introduced legislation that would include pollution control as part of lease renewals at ports. The Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners already includes mild pollution reduction requirements in their lease renewals. Meanwhile, shippers are expecting a very busy, no-frills cargo season in which shipments will hit record levels. Mexico has opened bids for a megaport to be built from scratch south of Ensenada, Baja California, while private interests are pumping capital into existing Mexican Pacific ports.

The Gold Line Construction Authority learned that it is eligible to tap into $5.4 million in federal funds to study the Pasadena-Montclair light rail line. $2.9 million would be used to study the line itself, while the other $2.5 million would study future housing and retail development along the line. The San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments, who did not process the materials in a timely fashion, put the funds in jeopardy, according to the Authority. Meanwhile, Arcadia residents will soon be voting for an $8 million bond package to build grade separation for the line over Santa Anita Avenue. Five activists wrote a letter to the Pasadena Star News (under "Yes on Measure A") that emphasizes the reasons why the grade separation is necessary, while one dissenting voice suggests that sales taxes from future developments should be used instead of bonds.

So what is happening in other transit systems across the nation? In the Rockies, the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1001 in Denver rejected a contract and triggered a strike that is crippling the city's rail and bus service. This has left Denver commuters scrambling for alternatives, while those with cars drive to find either no parking or prohibitively expensive parking. Moving east, Congressmember Anthony Weiner asks New York transit officials to install bomb-resistant trashcans in subway stations. In Oakland, AC Transit is mulling a fare increase of its own, while San Francisco receives $1 million in funding to study congestion charging in the downtown area. On a lighter note, while the Los Angeles Metro has line-coloring issues, the Chicago Transit Authority takes courage with a new color for the 54/Cermack spur: Pink! One board member promises, " Our marketing department is going to have a ball."

Meanwhile, plans for a major cargo center at Ontario International Airport are stalled three years after approval by Los Angeles World Airports, due to "environmental regulations imposed by the Federal Aviation Administration."

Here is a list of other recent developments:

March 27: The OCTA Board unanimously approved a 20-year Comprehensive Business Plan, which features increased bus service, introduction of Rapid-Bus-like services across the county and additional Metrolink service. The mix of rail and highway projects is not dependent on passage of the above-mentioned Measure M renewal.

Concerned about other states imitating California's half-century-old fascination with building freeways as a way to relieve congestion and stimulate growth? Frederick News-Post columnist Joe Volz shared with readers his unsavory experience with L.A. freeways during a recent trip. Volz used the moment to warn others of the problems with building more highways in the belief that it will give drivers "traffic nirvana".

March 28: The Glendale City Council unanimously voted to install safety features on the Metrolink crossing at Chevy Chase Drive. The city previously mulled closing the crossing altogether, but Atwater Village residents feared the lack of access it would create. The City of Glendale will now work with the City of Los Angeles and Metrolink to upgrade the rail crossing.

March 29: A Cal State Fullerton team of researchers concluded that air pollution costs San Joaquin Valley residents $3.2 billion in health care costs. The San Joaquin Valley repeatedly tops the lists of areas in the nation with the worst air, often joining Houston and Los Angeles with the dubious distinction. Costs often come from smog-related deaths, cancer treatment, school absences, hospital admissions and bronchitis treatment. Researchers recommended that Valley government agencies and businesses work together and meet state and federal air quality mandates.

March 30: The Metro Blue Line resumed full service ten days after a pickup truck veered of the Artesia Freeway (State Highway Route 91) and clipped the overhead wires. Three people were killed in that accident.

March 31: Metrolink Riverside County riders were treated to an early April Fools' joke. A certain "Rider X" left flyers, purportedly from Metrolink, announcing that work had to be redone on the renovated Union Pacific track and that riders would have to take a labyrinth of detours and transfers.

April 3: A section of the Santa Ana River bikeway between Fountain Valley and Anaheim in Orange County reopened after a water pipeline construction project was completed.

Upcoming Events: Metro Westside/Central Governance Council: Tuesday, April 4, 6:30 p.m., La Cienega Tennis Center, Sunset Room, 325 S. La Cienega Blvd., Beverly Hills.

Metro San Fernando Valley Governance Council: Wednesday, April 5, 6:30 p.m., Recreation Park, Multipurpose Room, 208 Park Ave., San Fernando.

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

Southern California Transit Advocates: Saturday, April 8, 1 p.m., Angelus Plaza, Rm. 422, 255 S. Hill St., Los Angeles.

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

SCAG Goods Movement Task Force: Wednesday, April 19, 9 a.m., SCAG Offices, 818 W. Seventh St., 12th floor, Los Angeles.

Metro Committee Meetings: Wednesday, April 19 and Thursday, April 20, Board Room, Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles.

Consider attending our monthly Transit Coalition Dinner Meeting on Tuesday, April 25 - 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!

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