Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Tuesday, April 11, 2006
Volume 2, Issue 15

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.

State Treasurer Phil Angelides unveiled a plan to invest up to 5% of state employee pension funds into infrastructure. Called Cal-Build: Smart Pension Investments for California's Infrastructure, the initiative would provide a new source of capital for state and local infrastructure projects, supplementing funds from bonds and other mechanisms, while providing new investment opportunities for the pension funds and help them meet their need for solid, long-term financial returns. The proposal would need the approval of the two main pension groups, the California Public Employees Retirement System and the State Teachers Retirement System, but not from the Legislature.

Metro is having quite a problem finding a few good bus drivers. The strenuous employment process yields one new employee out of ten applicants. Metro needs nearly 260 drivers to give relief to current operators and reduce the amount the agency must pay for overtime. Meanwhile, the Authority is mulling several ideas to stem its $150 million budget shortfall, which may include hiking fares.

The San Diego Association of Governments launched a countywide "smart growth" road show, which hopes to educate the community on what smart growth is and how it can help communities. Residents were divided as to how this new concept would affect their communities and their commute. The recently approved Transnet county sales tax, which begins April 2008, will set aside 2% of the funds to foster smart growth.

The Riverside Transit Agency is seeking bids to build a multi-modal transit center in Corona. The $5-10 million project will connect a bus plaza with a Metrolink train platform via a bridge over the tracks. Construction is expected to begin in September 2007. Perris planning officials are also finalizing plans to build their own transit center, which will serve Metrolink trains in the future. The San Juan Capistrano City Council approved funds to be given by the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) to study a local transit link to connect residents with Metrolink. San Bernardino Omnitrans is searching for an independent firm to oversee operations at the exhaustively audited bus agency.

It Comes With A New Membership: Want to improve transportation in Southern California? Would you like to keep informed on what is happening in the transportation scene? Then help us by donating to and joining The Transit Coalition. Our volunteers meet with various transit officials and policymakers to discuss transportation needs in our region and work with agencies to make improvements a reality. But in running the Coalition comes the financial challenge to pay our costs. A volunteer may go to Washington or Sacramento, whose expenses need to be covered, while publishing a newsletter incurs printing and postage costs. If you decide to join and refer to this weekly eNewsletter, you will receive a print copy of the FY 2007 Amtrak Grant Request, in addition to a monthly subscription to Moving Southern California.

Caltrans moves forward with the next segment of upgrades for State Highway Route 138, which will include the replacement of two bridges with one. OCTA will spend an extra $28 million to make bridges on the 22 Freeway seismically safe. Parts of the I-10 between Ontario and Rialto were shut down during nighttime hours last week to complete a pavement rehabilitation project. Meanwhile, Orange County transportation officials are weary of a tunneling plan spearheaded by the newly formed Riverside Orange Corridor Authority and are contemplating reducing the Authority's powers and relegate it to perform soil tests.

The Port of Los Angeles held two workshops in the South Bay to address traffic issues at the harbor. Residents are concerned that the proposals may eat up precious open space and parks at key chokepoints. A panel studying traffic volumes at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach concluded that the two ports would be able to handle the increased amount of cargo at said ports, which hopes to quench concerns regarding Mexico building a new port that would surely compete with L.A. and Long Beach. Meanwhile, a top official at the port resigned to work for a Long Beach engineering and design firm after 25 years of service.

In the Rockies, Denver bus drivers approved and the Denver Regional Transportation District Board ratified a new contract that increases wages $1.80 an hour per year and contributes $20 per month on the part of the RTD towards health insurance. The striking union took stock of raises given to management of as much as $50,000, though the RTD replies that these raises were necessary to attract good managerial talent. The strike has caused numerous hardships to commuters of all persuasions. Drivers resumed work Monday.

New articles extolling the "parking management" movement are now available. The Cascadia Scorecard Weblog published an article citing examples of cities revitalizing their cores with various parking solutions. The Los Angeles Downtown News lauded the Community Redevelopment Agency for revisiting parking practices in Downtown L.A., though the newspaper expressed concern that the area of study does not include the emerging Arts District east of Alameda Street.

Fitch Ratings released a report that says efforts to expand public transit and improve their efficiency are gaining ground across the nation. Strongly supported voter initiatives, closer access to employment, and reliable alternative to automobile travel are some of the reasons cited for these successes. However, the report warned that transit systems are increasingly depending on tax revenue to fund day-to-day operations. The American Public Transportation Association published its own report announcing across-the-board increases in the use of mass transit. A Christian Science Monitor article reports plans by major cities to prevent rail attacks on transit facilities.

J. Richard Capka, a nominee to head the Federal Highway Administration, defended his role in managing the Boston Big Dig highway project to lawmakers, maintaining that he produced the first accurate budget for the project. Massachusetts Senator John Kerry questioned Capka regarding his inability to recoup the cost overruns as well as handing three lawyers involved with the Big Dig hefty severance packages.

Numerous innovations are coming to transportation facilities. Sprint is partnering with the Las Vegas Monorail and allowing passengers to purchase their tickets via their wireless phone. Los Angeles World Airports approved a "customer satisfaction improvement" that aims to make travel into LAX more pleasant for passengers and will feature Wi-Fi at airport terminals, valet parking, remote lot checked baggage and a registered-traveler program that can allow participants to use express security checkpoints.

And if the sight of black tunnels on the Metro Red Line somehow bore you, take a look at this: The Washington Metro installed overhead light boxes in a section of its subway tunnels which emit a series of images that produce a motion picture from the point of view of the passenger. The Washington Metro hopes that the new technology will be a successful source of advertising revenue. Another commuter innovation observed a milestone, when Bay Area commuter Lavonda Prier called the award-winning 5-1-1 traveler information service for traffic updates on the I-80 and became the service's 10 millionth caller.

Here is a list of other recent developments:

March 28: The City of Santa Clarita inaugurated a new, environmentally sensible transit maintenance facility. The $30 million straw bale building is designed to conserve water, power and the health of the employees. The building also features a heating and cooling system that relies on daylight and cool night air. The facility will house the city's fleet of 94 buses, a bus wash, a bus fueling and maintenance station, a public compressed natural gas station and a dispatching area, which will be fitted with GPS technology by year's end.

April 5: The Santa Barbara County Association of Governments approved placing a single measure to raise the sales tax to three-quarter percent for transportation to replace the existing half-cent transportation measure. The proposal is in direct contrast to their previous plan to place two separate ballot measures before voters.

State legislation that would speed approval of transit projects by eliminating the federal government's role in reviewing and permitting passed the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee. State Senator George Runner (R-Lancaster) hopes his Senate Bill 1812 will bring quick relief to the I-5 and State Highway Routes 14 and 138. The bill now moves to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

April 7: The Gilroy Dispatch published an article detailing the history of the transcontinental railroad and the numerous challenges and decisions engineers faced to connect Sacramento and Oakland with a rail link. Columnist Marty Cheek mirrors the past with present challenges of selecting a route for the proposed high-speed rail between the San Joaquin Valley and either Oakland via the Altamont Pass or San Jose via the Pacheco Pass, whichever suits your fancy.

To close: Stefan Eriksson, the failed video game executive who crashed a Ferrari Enzo in Malibu last February, was arrested on charges of grand theft. Sheriff's detectives concluded that the Ferrari and two other luxury cars were the property of British financial institutions and were reported stolen.

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

SFV Economic Alliance Livable Communities Council: Tuesday, April 18, 8 a.m., Economic Alliance Office, Boeckmann-Fleming-Gelb Board Room, 5121 Van Nuys Blvd., Sherman Oaks, CA 91403.

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.

LAX Master Plan Scoping Meetings: Wednesday, April 19, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturday, April 22, 9 a.m. to 12 noon, Flight Path Learning Center, Imperial Terminal, 6661 Imperial Hwy., Los Angeles.

State Highway Route 2 Terminus Scoping Meetings: Wednesday, April 19, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., Metro Gateway Headquarters, Windsor Room, 15th floor; and Thursday, April 20, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., Barlow Hospital, Williams Hall, 2000 Stadium Way, Elysian Park, L.A.

SCRRA (Metrolink) Committees and Board Meeting: Friday, April 21, 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, 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!

Metro Board Meeting: Thursday, April 27 Wednesday, May 3, 9:30 a.m., Board Room, Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), 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