Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
Volume 2, Issue 20

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.

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

With the state infrastructure bond package locked for a November vote, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and state legislators from both parties are stomping across the state to promote the plan. Local government officials are selling the bond package as congestion relief that can be enacted almost immediately. Whittier is expected to benefit greatly, as it is believed that bond money would fund widening of the I-5 and grade separation in nearby Santa Fe Springs. Sacramento Bee columnist Daniel Weintraub noted that the infrastructure proposal with respect to transportation would have something for everyone, with money allotted to local cities as well as major urban centers. Reason Foundation fellow George Passantino stressed the potential of private-public partnerships as a way to add private funds to the mix and make even more projects a reality.

Meanwhile, action to push back bonds for California high-speed rail is in motion. Voters are now hoping that legislators will finally let them see these bonds in the November 2008 elections.

Metro Deputy CEO John Catoe gave praise to the Orange Line, not necessarily its blockbuster ridership but the integration of numerous technologies that keep the line operating smoothly. Further north, the National Park Service will soon run wind- and solar-powered ferries to connect San Francisco tourists with Alcatraz.

The Washington, D.C. Metro and the Federal Transit Administration unveiled a new rail simulator consisting of a commuter rail car that can turn 180 degrees that will help first responders tackle rail-related emergencies. Amazingly, a recent study conducted in nearby Virginia concluded that signal priority does speed up buses but also slows down cars and contributes to more gridlock.

The Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) was especially busy last week, approving installation of surveillance video cameras on 82 of its buses and the purchase of 250 buses that run on compressed natural gas. The agency also agreed to jointly study the feasibility of a transportation-water tunnel under Cleveland National Forest along with the Riverside County Transportation Commission and the Metropolitan Water District. The tests would be paid for with federal transportation dollars. The City of Orange approved the OCTA plan to build an underpass for Chapman Avenue near the Orange Metrolink station.

Even as accidents involving big rigs are decreasing in number across the state, the Inland Empire has seen truck accidents increase by 19% between 2001 and 2004. The number correlates with a rise in truck and auto registrations in San Bernardino and Riverside counties. Inadequate highway capacity and inexperienced truckers have also been pointed out as causes. Compounding troubles in Riverside County, bus drivers are readying for a strike, which would affect nearly half of Riverside bus routes. Health care costs have been a sore point between the drivers' union and the Riverside Transit Agency.

In other highway developments, Caltrans begins construction on upgrading a portion of State Highway Route 14 from a two-lane highway to a four-lane expressway, with a grade-separated interchange at California City Blvd. Caltrans and local governments are also working on installing signals to improve traffic flow along Pacific Coast Highway (State Highway Route 1) in the South Bay. The Orange County Transportation Corridor Agency shot back at the state for impeding local progress on the San Onofre toll road.

Meanwhile, Californians continue to express an insatiable thirst for gasoline despite high prices, which has led to a boon in funds from state and local sales taxes. High gas prices continue to fuel ridership growth in Southern California, though the San Diego North County Transit District is considering raising fares as a result of higher fuel prices.

As Downtown L.A. grows in amenities and residents, concern is now focusing on its pedestrian-unfriendly environment. Many newer buildings in the city center are often designed to look great from afar but are barren of activity at the ground level; in the case of the new Caltrans headquarters, an intimidating blank wall fronts the sidewalk. Most streets are designed for the speedy deliverance of car traffic, which places pedestrians in particular jeopardy. A Los Angeles Downtown News article reveals ideas that could improve the situation. Meanwhile, SCAG continues outreach efforts in educating officials about the potential of high-density housing, while the final Environmental Impact Report for the Westgate Project, a transit-oriented development in Pasadena near the Metro Gold Line, is now available.

Ontario Airport recently completed a taxiway project that will accommodate larger jet planes such as the Airbus 380. This is just one of a series of project that aim to make Ontario Airport a more attractive regional companion to the overused LAX. Among the projects on the move is a new cargo facility, wireless Internet at terminals, increased number of flights to Mexico and new service to Hawaii.

Meanwhile, Bob Hope Airport is almost clear to go ahead with runway and terminal improvements, while LAX launched valet parking near Terminal 4. Moving north, BART launched an advertising campaign promoting its fledgling San Francisco Airport extension, which has suffered a dearth of ridership (though the extension manages to recover 70% of its operating costs through fares, a notable accomplishment for this or any other transit agency). Towards the south, San Diego officials are moving for a joint use airport among several air force bases to be selected... whether military officials like it or not.

Lest ye forget: Thursday, May 18, is the 12th annual Bike-to-Work Day. Metro will celebrate the occasion by offering rides at no cost on buses and rail lines to those with bicycles or helmets. Metro will also host "pit stops" at locations across Los Angeles that will offer refreshments and giveaways. Beach Cities Transit, Commerce Municipal Bus Lines, Commuter Express, Gardena Municipal Bus Lines, Montebello Bus Lines and Norwalk Transit will also offer rides at no cost. Burbank already celebrated the occasion with a plan to improve bicycle facilities near public schools.

Here is a list of other recent developments:

May 5: The Westside Cities of Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, Culver City, Santa Monica and West Hollywood held a second transportation symposium at the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood. Topics of discussion included the Exposition Light Rail Line, the Wilshire Red Line subway, and the reconfiguration of the I-10 interchange at Robertson. Participants were especially pleased with the just-approved state bond proposals that could jumpstart some of these projects, as well as projections that 72,000 passengers would ride the Expo Line when completed to Santa Monica. It was cited that 11% of jobs in Los Angeles County were housed in the Westside.

May 8: Metro unveiled a $3 billion FY 06-07 budget that promises to increase service without raising fares. Instead, the agency will use reserve money, which will drop from $304.7 million in 2006 to $131 million in 2007 and $66 million in 2008. Light rail and carpool lane projects will continue to be funded, while Metro expects to launch seven new Rapid Bus lines in the coming fiscal year. However, the agency will cut back on some capital projects such as rebuilding bus engines, while officials warned that a fare increase might very well be inevitable in coming years. A Los Angeles Daily News editorial praised Metro for staving off a fare increase at a time when more people are using transit.

May 10: Construction began on widening the I-5 from the Riverside Fwy. (State Highway Route 91) to the LA/Orange County Line and will consist of two new lanes in each direction. Completion is slated for 2010.

Upcoming Events: SCAG Goods Movement Task Force: Wednesday, May 17, 9 a.m., SCAG Offices, 818 W. Seventh St., 12th floor, Los Angeles.

Metro Committee Meetings: Wednesday, May 17 and Thursday, May 18, Board Room, Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles.( Supplemental agendas.)

Planning and Programming Committee, Wednesday, May 17, 1 p.m.

Finance and Budget Committee, Wednesday, May 17, 2:30 p.m.

Executive Management & Audit Committee, Thursday, May 18, 9 a.m.

Construction Committee, Thursday, May 18, 10:30 a.m. CANCELLED.

Operations Committee, Thursday, May 18, 12 noon.

Exposition Light Rail Construction Authority Community Open House 2: Wednesday, May 17, 6:30 - 8:30 p.m. at Veterans Memorial Auditorium, Culver City, 4117 Overland Ave. Parking is available at this site.

Foothill Gold Line Community Design Workshops:

Wednesday, May 17, 6:30 - 8:30 p.m., Azusa Senior Center, 740 N. Dalton Av., Azusa.

Wednesday, June 14, 6:30 - 8:30 p.m., Monrovia Community Center, 119 W. Palm Av., Monrovia.

Monday, June 19, 6:30 - 8:30 p.m., Ayres Hall, Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden, 301 N. Baldwin Av., Arcadia. Parking available.

Tuesday, June 27, 6:30 - 8:30 p.m., City Hall, Outer Council Chamber, 5050 N. Irwindale Av., Irwindale.

Exposition Light Rail Construction Authority Community Open House 3: Tuesday, May 23, 6:00 - 8:00 p.m. at Los Angeles Trade Technical College, Cafeteria (Building H), 400 W. Washington Blvd. The campus is easily accessible from the Metro Blue Line. Limited parking is available on the roof of Building F, accessible from 21st and Grand.

CityLites 3rd Annual Inner City 21 and 5-Mile Bike Tour Festival and Carnival: Saturday, May 20, 9 a.m.-6 p.m., 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.

Consider attending our monthly Transit Coalition Dinner Meeting on Tuesday, May 23 - 6:47 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, May 25, 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