Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
Volume 2, Issue 17

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.

Hear ye hear ye: Join us Tuesday night for our Transit Coalition Dinner Meeting. See Upcoming Events below for details.

Gas has reached well past $3 a gallon in Southern California, fueled mostly by "refinery woes and international intrigue." According to many experts, high gas prices are here to stay. Economists fear that an extended stay of high prices will greatly harm the economy. Others contend that the price of gasoline should drop off starting around Memorial Day, even as the summer driving season begins, since transition from MBTE additive in fuels will be complete and more refineries will resume full operations.

Indeed, we would like to tell you the average price of gas for the whole state, but as the Los Angeles Times reports, agencies and consumer groups use quite a number of methodologies to compute this and each will give you quite a different answer. What is the solution to spiraling gas prices? Raise the gas tax to encourage growth of fuel alternatives on the part of gas companies, says the Christian Science Monitor. In the meantime, here are ten tips to help you get more miles out of your gallon.

Meanwhile, Metro released numbers indicating that ridership on its bus and rail lines have reached an all-time high due to the increase in gas prices. In March 2006, Metro bus ridership reached 1,239,704 average weekday boardings, an increase of 4% over March last year. The recently opened Orange Line logged in 18,242, an increase of 3% from February. The Blue Line recorded 84,078 average weekday boardings, while the Green Line recorded 37,473 boardings. The Red Line was the biggest beneficiary, recording 138,219 boardings. The Gold Line, however, recorded only 15,769 boardings due to an ill-advised 33% reduction in rush hour service.

State legislators are moving closer to a deal on the infrastructure bond measures. According to various reports, Republicans dropped dam construction as part of the bond package, while Democrats cut urban parks and environmental spending out. The $30-34 billion bond measure would still fund key infrastructure projects, especially those concerning transportation. A San Jose Mercury News editorial declared the announcement "was the best news to come out of Sacramento since talks on the bonds broke down in March."

After years of countless obstacles, the 23 Freeway will finally be widened. The project will consist of new soundwalls, bridge expansions and a new third lane along the median of the freeway from the 101 Freeway to New Los Angeles Avenue (State Highway Route 118). Residents will be informed through a regularly updated website dedicated to the project.

Meanwhile, dirt excavation for completion of the 210 Freeway in Rialto is finished. Paving will soon begin for the new freeway, which is expected to fuel more growth in what was recently deemed the fastest growing urban area in the country. Officials from the LA County Department of Public Works believe the 90 Freeway connector to Lincoln Boulevard (State Highway Route 1) will not be built until 2015 due to funding constraints. Nationwide, the highway death rate rose for the first time since 1986.

Two Congressmembers have jumped into the Riverside-Orange Counties tunnel debacle to broker a deal and create one unified agency to oversee the project. The transportation and water agencies of both counties are fighting for $16 million in federal funds to study the joint water and transportation tunnel. Orange County officials threatened to create their own agency that would include the Transportation Corridor Agency, which operates the Orange County toll roads. A consensus was reached on Friday, April 21.

Metro Magazine featured an article on the success of the Hiawatha Light Rail line in Minneapolis, as well as describing some of the more technical aspects of construction and operations. In Florida, state lawmakers are considering a rental car tax to fund transit projects.

Meanwhile, a slew of competing proposals to install liquefied natural gas offshore terminals along the California coast are meeting stiff resistance from environmental groups. A Ventura County Star editorial encouraged readers to attend meetings held on Wednesday, April 19, by the California State Lands Commission and discuss the proposals. In Long Beach, Pacific Energy Partners will soon release a plan to build a major docking station for fully loaded supertankers at the Port of Los Angeles, which is sure to attract controversy. Up north, The Ports of Oakland and Sacramento are teaming up to search for efficiencies in bringing goods into California.

On the new urbanism front, The Planning Report interviewed Latino Urban Forum co-founder James Rojas, who believes immigrant communities are redefining the role of streets and sidewalks in urban areas. Rojas was also featured in a series of LA Weekly pieces on local movers-and-shakers, which included head of the LA Planning Department Gail Goldberg and Planning Commissioner Diego Cardoso.

Glendale City Councilman Ara Najarian was selected as the nominee for a seat on the Metro Board and will replace outgoing Lancaster Mayor Frank Roberts.

An update on Eastside Gold Line construction is now available.

Shameless Plug Redux: Founded in 2002, CityLites is a non-profit organization aimed at promoting exercise, good nutrition and physical fitness in inner-city communities. On Saturday, May 20, CityLites will host the 3rd Annual Inner City 21 and 5-Mile Bike Tour Festival and Carnival in Jesse Owens Park at Century Blvd. and Western Av. Proceeds from the event will go to local middle and high schools to foster after-school sports- and physical-education-related activities. Call (323) 280-0288 or view this report for more information.

Here is a list of other recent developments:

April 14: Transit Coalition President Ken Alpern, Vice-President Jerard Wright, and Executive Director Bart Reed gave a presentation to representatives of Assemblymembers Ted Lieu and Jenny Oropeza, as well as to LA City Councilmember Bill Rosendahl's staff at his West Los Angeles office. The presentation, which was an update on efforts to extend the Expo Line to Santa Monica, extend the Green Line to LAX and to Westchester, and establish passenger rail on the Metro Harbor Subdivision Rail Right-of-Way, was well-received and fostered considerable discussion from those attending.

April 17 and 18: Transit Coalition Executive Director Bart Reed attended receptions for Gloria Jeff, the new LA Department of Transportation General Manager and, on the next day, the new LA Planning Department Director Gail Goldberg. Both were part of an event hosted by Mobility21 to introduce the new LA city transportation and planning heads.

April 19: Caltrans held a memorial service for the 166 maintenance workers who have been killed on the job in the past 82 years. Three Caltrans workers have died so far this year. Caltrans said that reckless or inattentive drivers cause most worker deaths, and officials continue to urge motorists to slow down and be extra cautious around work zones. Since its launch in 1999, the Caltrans "Slow for the Cone Zone" program has lead to a 35% decrease in work zone fatalities, while fatalities increased 46% nationally during the same time. However, the LA Times reports that motorists and not workers account for 90% of fatalities in construction zone accidents.

The first of two Los Angeles World Airports meetings was held near LAX to discuss the airport reconfiguration process that may be completed in two years. Transit Coalition President Ken Alpern distributed the Green Line/People Mover proposal that has been considered by planners from Metro, LAWA and LA Council District 11, as well as by Transit Coalition members. Councilmember Rosendahl referenced it in a letter given out to attendees. As Alpern reported, "support by meeting attendees for such a Green Line extension appeared strong, as well as the desire for greater Flyaway Bus Service sites throughout the region and remote check-in options." It was announced that ridership of the Union Station-LAX Flyaway Bus Service was three times that anticipated by LAWA and Metro. "Direct rail connections between Union Station and LAX via the Metro Harbor Subdivision ROW also received several different recommendations from those attending," said Alpern.

April 20: Metro Operations Committee members were briefed on the possibility of bringing bus service to Dodger Stadium. Staff concluded that such a proposal would be too expensive even if patrons were charged $4 a ticket and/or private operators stepped in. Staff did not contact the Los Angeles Dodgers to gauge their interest in the proposal. The fact that there is a current shortage of bus drivers does not help. A second status report will be presented in May.

The California Air Resources Board unveiled and approved a plan to cut down pollution emitted by cargo facilities, including ports and freight railroads. The plan includes mandating cargo ships to use cleaner fuels, upgrading existing diesel-electric trains at the yard and "writing up agreements for more Tier 3 locomotives that run cleaner." Critics fear that the Board plan lacks meaningful enforcement and has no way of funding the new requirements. One particular part of the plan is increasing "cold ironing", a name for shore-based electrical sources for cargo ships. The Port of Los Angeles is hosting a conference on cold ironing on April 24 and 25.

April 24: The LA Times published an article revealing uncomfortably low numbers of older children using booster seats. California requires booster seats in cars for children who are too old for car seats but have either not yet turned 6 or weight less than 60. Another article discusses how suburban sprawl and the quest for land strangles smaller airports.

Upcoming Events: 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 Westside/Central Governance Council: Tuesday, May 2, 6:30 p.m., La Cienega Tennis Center, Sunset Room, 325 S. La Cienega Blvd., Beverly Hills.

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.

Metro San Fernando Valley Governance Council: Wednesday, May 3, 6:30 p.m., Marvin Braude Constituent Center, 6262 Van Nuys Bl., Van Nuys.

Exposition Metro Line Construction Authority: Thursday, May 4, 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, May 4, 7:30 p.m. Angeles Chapter office, 3435 Wilshire Blvd, Suite 320, Los Angeles.

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

Southern California Transit Advocates: Saturday, May 13, 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