Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
Volume 2, Issue 24

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.

The Orange Line has grown so popular, that some are wondering if it has the capacity to take on larger loads. Officials at Metro insist that buses can run even more frequently to meet the demand. A Los Angeles Daily News editorial recognizes the sudden success of the busway and urges for another transportation solution to complement it, while a reply in the same paper (under "Young on the bus") extols the lack of stress and excess of downtime one can afford while using transit. Part of the success can be attributed to high gas prices, which Metro has taken advantage of with an arresting ad campaign.

One bus innovation that has not been extolled is the contra flow bus lane on Spring Street in Downtown L.A. The lane has become a hazard since buses pass each other on the opposing lanes, creating opportunities for head-on collisions. On Sunday, June 18, the bus lane will be no more, as buses that previously used it will now use other parallel streets. Further south, the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System will bring new late night service to San Diego State University, while undoing an overlap between its Green and Blue light rail lines.

Metrolink reached 1,000,000 monthly riders in May for the first time in its history. The development was particularly lauded in Orange County, where an increase in service on the commuter rail line is underway. As for the new Metrolink Saturday service on the Orange County line, it was reported that the first day of service logged in 680 passengers, not bad considering that Orange County Transportation Authority officials were projecting 600 riders per day on the Saturday service after one year.

Caltrans is moving forward with plans to widen the 118 Freeway in Simi Valley from three lanes to four. A recent poll revealed that South Pasadenans are evenly split with regards to building a tunnel underneath the town to bring the 710 Freeway to Pasadena. The results are a far cry from previous polls, where residents overwhelmingly rejected ground-level options. In Palmdale, an 8-year project to improve Avenue S was completed. Meanwhile, Westside leaders are calling on the Los Angeles Department of Transportation to stop what is perceived to be a road-widening project in Westchester, even as LADOT contends it is merely adding six feet of a lane. As transportation planners celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Interstate highways, federal lawmakers are realizing that the system is decaying faster than governments can repair them.

The Port of Long Beach is making strides in reducing pollution in the area. Emissions at the port have been reduced by up to 670 tons compared to 2002 levels. Cooperation with terminal operators proved to be critical in making such reductions possible. Nearby, the Long Beach Planning Commission certified a Final EIR for a terminal expansion at Long Beach Airport. Fifty community activists and groups are organizing to appeal the decision. Long Beach Mayor Beverly O'Neill and City Attorney Bob Shannon invited appellants to make their voices heard at the City Council meeting on Tuesday, June 13.

Some of the hottest Transit-Oriented Development properties today are located at the North Hollywood Red Line/Orange Line Station. Two projects, the NoHo Commons and the 15-story NoHo Tower, are under construction, while a third, an unnamed property owned by Metro, will break ground in July. Officials and community leaders hope these projects will bring even more life to the burgeoning arts district while addressing housing issues in the area. Years of hard work and advocacy by the community, with a little boost of the Red Line, which arrived in North Hollywood in 2000, led to the intense redevelopment the area is enjoying today. Meanwhile, developers unveiled plans to build a 1,000-room hotel near the Staples Center as part of the LA Live project.

The recent defeats of several fundraising initiatives across the state have brought doubt to supporters of the bonds package to be voted in November. Sonoma and Napa and Solano County residents rejected a sales tax to raise funds for transportation. Santa Clara residents said "NO" to a sales tax increase for transport, which will force transportation officials to reconsider plans to bring BART to San Jose. The defeat of two statewide initiatives to refurbish public libraries and fund preschool programs did not help. In the Bay Area, transit agencies are asking the Metropolitan Transportation Commission to increase funding for transit service in low-income areas.

The Victorville City Council unanimously approved a memorandum of understanding between the city and DesertXpress Enterprises. The memo calls for the partnership to prepare a plan regarding 13,000 acres that may be required for the terminal of a proposed high-speed rail line. DesertXpress. The project is distinct from existing MagLev proposals to connect the Southland to Las Vegas (no rail technology has been selected for the DesertXpress), and purports that it will rely solely on private financing.

Up in Portland, transit planners are walking a tightrope these days, as rising operations costs are forcing TriMet to consider raising fares. Already the agency has had to cut bus and train service to stay within budget, and a drop in ridership has been noted. However, the agency also fears losing passengers if a fare increase is enacted, which in turn would bring people back onto already congested roads.

Regarding bicycle travel, the City of Redlands recently received a $68,000 grant to plan a trail system. The Redlands Conservancy is partnering with the city to make the Orange Blossom Trail a reality. Officials hope that the trail will connect with the existing Santa Ana River trail and bring more pedestrian-oriented activity in the downtown area.

For those into new innovations, watch out for TV screens at gas pumps coming your way. Gas Station TV, the brainchild of Michigan-based upstarts, will air news stories and consumer segments, and promises not to "over-advertise". In San Diego, one fuel station is making the news with its wide selection of alternative fuels. Many new car models that use a variety of fuels can now refuel at this innovative service station.

Here is a list of other recent developments:

June 5: LAX officials approved a $1.2 billion spending plan for the next fiscal year. Money would be set aside for preparations of major projects that have yet to be entirely funded. While other funds would be used to boost FlyAway service from LAX.

June 8: The California Transportation Commission approved setting aside nearly $1 billion for transportation projects across the state. Among the projects to be funded is a light rail connection between downtown Sacramento and the local Amtrak station, and Sprinter construction between Oceanside and Escondido. A complete list of projects is now available.

June 9: Metro and the Bus Riders Union revealed their arguments for and against extending the Consent Decree. Metro contends that the $1.2 billion it has spent in expanding bus service has reduced overcrowding on its busiest lines. The BRU argues that buses used by minorities and the poor remain crowded. Over the years, the court has ordered Metro to purchase additional buses to confront the problem.

June 10: State legislators struck out language in the upcoming budget that would have prevented construction of the San Onofre Toll Road, angering environmentalists who wish to protect the state park it would run through. A spokesperson for the Sierra Club stated that while the development was a disappointment, the fight is far from won.

June 12: The Los Angeles Times published a lunchtime exchange between LA City Councilmembers Dennis Zine and Jose Huizar. The Downtown Regional Connector, a proposal to connect the Eastside and Pasadena Gold Lines with the Blue and Expo Lines via Downtown LA., was referenced in the report. Transit Coalition Executive Director Bart Reed is quoted by noting that if planners do not pay attention, "they will open two more lines without connectivity."

Upcoming Events: Foothill Gold Line Community Design Workshops:

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.

Metro Westside/Central Governance Council: Wednesday, June 14, 5 p.m., La Cienega Tennis Center, Sunset Room, 325 S. La Cienega Blvd., Beverly Hills.

Metro Committee Meetings: Wednesday, June 14 and Thursday, June 15, Board Room, Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles.

Planning and Programming Committee, Wednesday, June 14, 1 p.m.

Finance and Budget Committee, Wednesday, June 14, 2:30 p.m.

Executive Management & Audit Committee, Thursday, June 15, 9 a.m.

Construction Committee, Thursday, June 15, 10:30 a.m.

Operations Committee, Thursday, June 15, 12 noon.

SCAG Goods Movement Task Force: Wednesday, June 21, 9 a.m., SCAG Offices, 818 W. Seventh St., 12th floor, Los Angeles.

Metro Board Meeting: Thursday, June 22, 9:30 a.m., Board Room, Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles.

Metrolink Board Meeting: Friday, June 23, 10 a.m., SCAG Offices, 818 W. Seventh St., 12th floor, Los Angeles.

Consider attending our monthly Transit Coalition Dinner Meeting on Tuesday, June 27 - 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