Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
Volume 2, Issue 25

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.

Action Alert: In response to the tragic Metrolink January 2005 accident in Glendale, Assemblymember Dario Frommer (D-Glendale) is pushing forward with his bill to prohibit "push-mode" operations on California commuter rail services. Please contact Senate Transportation and Housing Committee members to express your opposition to this bill. They are: Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach, chair), Tom McClintock (R-Thousand Oaks, vice chair), Gilbert Cedillo (D-Los Angeles), Denise Moreno Ducheny (D-San Diego), Christine Kehoe (D-San Diego), Michael Machado (D-Linden), Kevin Murray (D-Los Angeles), Joe Simitian, Nell Soto (D-Ontario), Tom Torlakson (D-Antioch), Roy Ashburn (R-Bakersfield), Abel Maldonado (R-Monterey), Bob Margett (R-Glendora), and George Runner (R-Lancaster). (A list of phone numbers you can use is available.) You may look at a sample letter detailing the relatively safe "push-pull" operations that are standard across the globe. The text of AB 1699 as well as information about the status and history of the bill is available.

With the infrastructure bonds now on the November ballot, the vote to finance the California high-speed rail project through bonds is likely to be pushed to November 2008. To protect the state's investment in the project, State Senator George Runner is co-authoring a resolution to establish a committee composed of Senate and Assembly members and will monitor progress of the project.

US Congressmembers representing Southern California are working to get money for important transportation projects. Congressmember Mary Bono secured $2 million for a new airport control tower at Palm Springs International Airport. Elton Gallegly (R-Simi Valley) secured $500,000 for grade crossings in rural areas along Metrolink tracks. Various projects for the San Gabriel Valley are also set to receive federal funds.

Local operators across the Southland are developing plans to make public transportation easier to use. The City of Norwalk plans to spend $2 million to upgrade more than half of bus stops in its city with new benches, signs, lighting and trash receptacles. The City of Santa Monica purchased an underused property near the intended end of the Expo light rail line in hopes of redeveloping it for future use. Montebello Bus Lines will purchase 39 new buses and save $2 million by purchasing them in bulk in a consortium of other transit operators.

One possible transit amenity may not have such a smooth road: LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is pushing Metro to raise revenue by installing advertising on trains and in stations. Another amenity is sure to both protect and annoy drivers: Metro is moving forward with installing red light cameras at a dozen locations along the Orange Line busway.

In the Midwest, Chicago transportation officials unveiled a plan to bring 500 miles of bike lanes to the city, incorporating innovative ideas such as raising bike lanes slightly above the pavement and giving them distinctive colors to dissuade car drivers from entering them.

With regards to airports, LAX expects a burgeoning summer travel season. With that comes concern that airport officials will not be able to handle the throngs of passengers going through security clearances. A Los Angeles City Council panel recently asked officials at both LAX and the Transportation Security Administration what they are doing to reduce wait times at security checkpoints. City officials were concerned that long lines at the checkpoints would endanger passengers and actually create safety problems. TSA officials counter that lines are much shorter thanks to efforts at recruiting more officers and reconfiguring wait lines. Meanwhile Long Beach city officials will vote on a plan to upgrade the terminal of Long Beach Airport. The process has been a relatively calm one, with parties both for and against terminal expansion acting in a civil fashion to address lingering concerns.

Riverside County is one of the fastest growing regions in the nation. With that comes more suburban housing with more new streets. Riverside planner John Trichak is responsible for giving names to streets in new developments. However, the explosive growth of the area and the hundreds of new streets that result from them has made the process much more stressful and complicated. He keeps a few rules that help: Don't use a name that is in use within 10 miles, are difficult to pronounce or are too long to fit on a street sign.

Its neighbor to the south, San Diego County, is also experiencing growth. To this effect, the San Diego Association of Governments has been touting its transportation strategy, which is aimed at increasing public transit use. However, critics contend that the strategy is still too auto-centric.

Speaking of auto-centric, June marks the 50th anniversary of the Interstate highway system. Most acknowledge that the major public works project has been a major economic boon and has given the opportunity for people living in other communities to connect with employment centers, often out of the city core, with great ease. However, the system is falling apart, with major upgrades needed, and, as one commentator noted, " Americans love to build but hate to maintain." The Interstates have also been singled out as responsible for the decline of central cities, sedentary lifestyles and incessant dependence on the automobile for our mobility needs.

Further south in Mexico, officials are cracking down on gas stations gouging customers with higher fuel costs. Fuel and the stations that provide them are entirely government-owned and operated, with the federal government setting retail gas prices, currently around $2.18 a gallon for regular unleaded, though price gouging at individual stations abound. Recent attempts at franchising stations to private parties have helped at making improvements, but problems such as selling "short liters" of gas remain.

Meanwhile, plans to construct a new port in Point Calumet, Baja California, have stalled, while daily freight service connecting Laredo, Texas and the Port of Lazaro Cardenas, Michoacan was inaugurated.

Opinions abounded last week regarding various transportation matters. Some expressed outrage at a recent decision by state lawmakers to strike out language that would protect San Onofre State Beach from an intrusive toll road proposal. Humor columnist David Allen shared his delight that Metrolink will soon run "midnight trains" to San Bernardino. The San Bernardino County Sun published an editorial praising a recent decision by a federal judge to keep pollution control laws aimed at railroads.

Transit Coalition members wrote to local newspapers about the success of the Orange Line busway and the ensuing fears that it would not handle more riders. President Kenneth S. Alpern expressed (under "Listening to NIMBYs") that pandering to a select group of residents at the expense of regional solutions prevented using the right of way for a more capable light rail line. Executive Director Bart Reed added (under "Light Rail Would Work") that the existing busway was a shortsighted project that will cost more to operate and yet move less people. Vice-President Jerard Wright suggested (under "Overcapacity Busline") installing express bus service on the busway.

An update on Eastside Gold Line construction is now available.

Here is a list of other recent developments:

June 13: The LAUSD Board voted to ask Metro to pay for rebuilding a school along the path of the Eastside Gold Line if costs exceed $35 million. Metro already has placed a $26 million cap on any contribution towards Ramona High School, located at Indiana Avenue and Third Street in East Los Angeles. Metro officials believe that they may reconsider the cap only if bids come in significantly larger than the estimated construction costs or if environmental problems emerge.

Metro with the aid of Caltrans released an initial report concluding that building a tunnel to complete the 710 Freeway through South Pasadena is technologically feasible. Officials pointed out deep-bore technology currently in use for construction of the Eastside Gold Line. Community support would be essential in bringing the $3 billion project to fruition. The Los Angeles Times lauded the development in an editorial, while others lamented building a freeway tunnel instead of a subway, including Transit Coalition President Kenneth S. Alpern.

The Orange County Board of Supervisors unanimously endorsed a plan to ask voters this November to extend Measure M, the local transportation sales tax, to 30 years. The existing Measure M will expire in 2010. The Orange County Transportation Authority must now approve the plan and is expected to reach a decision next month.

June 14: Caltrans held a public meeting in Encino to discuss upgrades for the 101-405 interchange with local residents. The five options currently under study may require new right-of-way or building across a wildlife refuge. Residents are especially concerned about the possibility of having their homes purchased to obtain the necessary ROW for whichever project is chosen. The report should be completed by early 2007.

June 15: The California Energy Commission released a report stating that California consumers spent as much as 60 cents per gallon more than consumers in other areas of the country this spring, costing drivers more than $132 million. A future report due in August may address the reasons behind the high gas prices. Some speculate that market was manipulated, though others acknowledge that refinery problems and other market influences may be to blame.

June 16: The San Diego Association of Governments voted to increase funding for the Sprinter project due to unforeseen increases in construction costs. Delays in securing federal funds for the project and approval from the state Public Utilities Commission also were noted. Completion of the project is expected by December 2007.

Upcoming Events: 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.

Wendy Greuel Community Forum: "The Intersection of Planning and Transportation." Monday, June 26, 6 p.m., Los Angeles Valley College, Monarch Hall. 5800 Fulton Ave., Van Nuys, CA 91401-4062.

Foothill Gold Line Community Design Workshop, Tuesday, June 27, 6:30 - 8:30 p.m., City Hall, Outer Council Chamber, 5050 N. Irwindale Av., Irwindale.

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!

Exposition Metro Line Construction Authority: Tuesday, July 6, 2:30 p.m., Board Room, Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles.

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

Metro San Fernando Valley Governance Council: Wednesday, July 5, 6:30 p.m., Marvin Braude Constituent Center, 6262 Van Nuys Bl., Van Nuys.

Metro South Bay Governance Council: Friday, July 14, 9.30 a.m., Carson Community Center, 801 E. Carson St., Carson.

Missed last week's newsletter? Read it here!

Get the Print Edition of Moving Southern California, our monthly newsletter. Request a sample copy.

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.

Visit our Discussion Board for the latest dialogue on transit.


bart.reed@thetransitcoalition.us  The Transit Coalition