Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Wednesday, July 5, 2006
Volume 2, Issue 27

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.

A new year begins for Metro, and a new era dawns on the countywide, multi-faceted transportation agency. For Metro, there is no better way to start the fiscal year than with news of a contract agreement between labor and management. This would be the first time in decades that Metro and the labor unions agreed to new contracts before existing ones expired. Both sides assured that labor and taxpayers would be treated fairly in offering improvements for vehicle operators and mechanics while also reining in costs. Transit users will greatly benefit, since this would be the first time in years that service will continue uninterrupted without the cloud of a strike.

Another event of note took place on Thursday, June 29, when the Metro Board convened and voted for a package of Major Investment Studies for various transportation projects that may be built should voters in November approve the state infrastructure bonds. Among the projects to be studied are the Downtown Regional Connector, which would connect the Gold Lines to the Blue and Expo Lines through Downtown L.A., the Wilshire Red Line extension, and rail from Union Station to LAX and the South Bay via the Harbor Subdivision. LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was especially pleased with the turn of events, although some Board members expressed discontent at the fact that these studies were not discussed through the appropriate committees or the CEO, Roger Snoble.

Absurdity to Watch: The above-mentioned developments may be compromised by questionable political maneuverings of late. In July, Metro Board member Bernard Parks will ask his fellow Board members to approve a motion to not name the Expo Line by color. Instead, Parks will offer to call it the "Expo Line" and giving it the color rose.

In any case, the approved studies may very well usher in a new era in rail construction in the Southland. Other areas hope to get on the bandwagon, such as Riverside County, where the Transportation Commission will launch a study on building commuter rail between Temecula and San Diego. The rail line would prove especially challenging to build, since no railway exists between the two cities, largely due to the mountainous terrain, apart from a small railroad right-of-way that was washed out in the 1930s. Nevertheless, it is a possible route for the future California high-speed rail project.

Meanwhile, the Sprinter project between Escondido and Oceanside received a budget boost due to skyrocketing costs of materials. Cities along the route opposed the boost since it didn't ensure that mitigation for the line would be implemented as promised. Another rail project, connecting Victorville with Las Vegas, moves forward with the launch of an Environmental Impact Statement study and scoping meetings in late July.

One study to be performed by Metro will examine the effectiveness of possible solutions for the Long Beach Freeway outlined in a 2005 study. The Long Beach Press Telegram came out in strong support of the new $30 million study, which would address health, goods movement and commuter issues along the freeway. A separate study by transportation planners concluded that a new tunnel connecting Orange County with the Inland Empire would reduce travel times during rush hour on the parallel 91 Freeway from the current 100 minutes by 2030.

However, a recent report by Forbes.com warns that any new highway construction must be looked concurrently with global fuel shortages and suggests that private companies must find ways to improve efficiencies of hauling freight by trucks.

Whatever did happen to the electric car? In the new documentery Who Killed the Electric Car?, director Chris Payne explores the bizarre rise and fall of said vehicles. The filmmakers conclude that the matter is much more complex than at first glance, with the government, oil companies, car manufacturers and consumers sharing the blame.

One recent transit improvement may have created an unexpected effect: Shops on Spring Street in Downtown L.A. are losing customers. With the contraflow bus lane now gone, bus riders must head elsewhere to connect with their buses, leaving Spring Street depleted of lingering pedestrians and potential customers.

The Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are moving forward with a plan to aggressively tackle port pollution. The fruit of a rare cooperative effort between the two ports, the plan aims to cut down diesel soot pollution by more than 50% over the next five years. The Los Angeles Times editorially supported the plan and the newfound cooperation. The plan awaits final approval by both port commissions in September.

LAX will soon begin work on widening Runway 25L, which will necessitate its closure. Thus, as much as 25% of the airport capacity would be affected, and the Federal Aviation Administration is going as far as asking airlines to readjust their schedules. Numerous factors are converging to make this transition a difficult one, including record passenger levels at the airport and ensuing construction woes. The runway will reopen in March, and officials believe the revamped runway would reduce near-collisions at the airport and allow Airbus A380 jets to land at the airport next year. Still, it does not help to learn that LAX was again ranked near the bottom of a nationwide traveler survey relating to travel amenities and airport conditions.

How is the possibility of closing Six Flags Magic Mountain even remotely related to transportation? Well, residents are mostly upset since the amusement park is a strong source of tax revenue as well as a hotbed for employment. What is really irking residents, however, is the possibility that the park would be replaced with more residential developments, which would saturate the I-5 and 14 Freeways with more traffic. Already there are plans to bring new homes in the North County, which promises to make travel in the region even more difficult. Some would rather see new office developments in place of the park, should the park indeed close.

Here is a list of other recent developments:

June 27: The state Senate Committee on Housing and Transportation rejected a bill to ban "push" operations on commuter rail systems in the state. Instead, the Committee approved an amended bill that directs UC Berkeley to perform a rail safety study that included push operations. The LA Times previously came out with an editorial opposing the bill, since it would cause needless hardship to commuter rail lines and strain tight budgets at the local and state levels, while hardly improving rail safety.

July 1: The National Park Service launched a new ParkLINK shuttle, which connects San Fernando Valley and Calabasas residents with areas within and across the Santa Monica National Recreation Area, including beaches in Malibu. The shuttle fare is $1; children under 12 ride at no cost. For those using the Orange Line, a transfer at Warner Center station to Metro Line 161 would be needed. Metro Day Passes are accepted. A separate service from Santa Clarita to Santa Monica Beach named the Beach Bus is also operating.

China inaugurated a rail link between the Chinese lowlands with Tibet, ostensibly one of the most challenging transportation projects ever built. Chinese officials see it as a step forward to modernize western China, while Tibetan locals see it as another reminder of undesired Chinese control. Officials believe that it will be an economic engine to outlying areas of the country it crosses, while others hope tourists on passenger trains would bring even more success to the new rail line.

To close: Los Angeles Daily News columnist Mariel Garza concluded her experiment of traveling on the bus in Los Angeles. Her verdict? It sucks. The reality of buses that arrive late or never at all, the lengthy trips and limited destinations, and the general sense of dependency on others soured her experience. She also realized that the purported savings by traveling on mass transit instead of driving did not materialize. So, she will return to driving on the 101 Freeway, hoping that she will try mass transit "once or twice a week." Meanwhile, LA Times columnist Dana Parsons shares her recent experiences of detouring from the 405 in Orange County.

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

Exposition Metro Line Construction Authority: Thursday, 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.

Southern California Transit Advocates: Saturday, July 8, 1 p.m., Angelus Plaza, Rm. 422, 255 S. Hill St., Los Angeles.

Metro San Gabriel Valley Governance Council: Tuesday, July 11, 5 p.m. Metro SGV Sector Office, San Gabriel Valley Conference Room, 3369 Santa Anita Ave., El Monte.

Metro Westside/Central Governance Council: Wednesday, July 12, 5 p.m., La Cienega Tennis Center, Sunset Room, 325 S. La Cienega Blvd., Beverly Hills.

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

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

Metro Committee Meetings: Wednesday, July 19 and Thursday, July 20, Board Room, Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles.

Consider attending our monthly Transit Coalition Dinner Meeting on Tuesday, July 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, July 27, 9:30 a.m., Board Room, Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles.

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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