Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Monday, July 24, 2006
Volume 2, Issue 30

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.

Don't Forget: Tuesday night is our Transit Coalition Dinner Meeting. See Upcoming Events below for details.

LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is pushing for a week where passengers can travel on transit at no cost. The program is modeled after the Spare the Air days program in the San Francisco Bay Area, where transit use is not charged to patrons on particular days. Folks at the Bay Area are not lost on this interest, and other cities wish to follow suit. (The Bay Area Air Quality Management District declared today, Monday, another Spare The Air day.) Meanwhile, Villaraigosa turned over his chairmanship at Metro to Supervisor Gloria Molina, the latter promising to bring financial accountability to the $3-billion agency.

One issue that continues to be a thorn in L.A. transit policy is the naming of the Exposition Light Rail Line. LA Councilmember and Metro Board director Bernard Parks continues to stomp for his idea of naming the line simply as the "Expo Line" and giving it the color rose. Friends4Expo co-chairman Darrell Clarke explained that the color rose is more often associated with Pasadena, which houses the Rose Bowl and the Rose Parade. (At one time, Metro considered giving the name "Rose Line" to what is now called the Pasadena Gold Line.) The Transit Coalition published a letter that was distributed to individual Executive Audit and Management Committee members during their Thursday, July 20, meeting, stating opposition to the Parks proposal. Action on the matter has been postponed until the August Metro Board meeting. (The Franklin Avenue blog has also posted some opinions on the matter.) Another daunting problem for Metro is the purported excess of overtime pay to employees that did not earn it.

The new Metrolink weekend service on the Orange County and Inland Empire-Orange County lines is receiving praise from passengers. Many have braved the scorching heat to try the new services with their families. Some of the new riders were unaware that a special fare was being offered, while others had difficulty boarding the correct trains. Still Metrolink and Orange County Transportation Authority, the latter funding the service increase, hope that the new services will attract recreational riders, as opposed to the commuters it normally caters.

Meanwhile, a survey conducted for Whittier Transit revealed that passengers are satisfied with the service but have some important complaints regarding routes. The survey is prompting the agency to change its route structure to better serve patrons. To the south, the San Diego Trolley celebrates 25 years of service.

To the north, a plan to greatly expand ferry service in the Bay Area moves forward. Currently, the service moves 10,000 people a day, but officials hope the number will increase by 30,000 in 20 years. Also, the Contra Costa Times published an editorial exalting the importance of building a high-speed rail system across the U.S., with the vision in building the Interstate Highway System as an example. Ridership on the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority light rail system is reaching heights not seen since the dot-com boom that swept the Silicon Valley in the late 90s. In November, Marin and Sonoma County voters will decide whether to tax themselves for a passenger rail service along the Redwood Highway, while Kern County voters will vote on a tax to fund general transportation projects in the region.

Moving onto automobile issues, The City of Los Angeles is raising parking violation fees at various streets that have peak period parking restrictions, while city engineers start work on installing LED lights on LA signals, which promise to reduce energy use and costs. Caltrans continues to reinforce unstable slide areas along the Antelope Valley Freeway and protect motorists from falling debris. Starting in 2008, licensed California drivers must go in person to a DMV office and prove their identity and address with three different documents before getting a new, federally approved state license.

Regarding smart growth, officials in San Diego are preparing to update the city's General Plan. Some have expressed disappointment that the " City of Villages" concept, approved as part of said plan nearly four years ago, hasn't taken off. Among the challenges facing this concept have been escalating expenses in its implementation, lack of support from the city's administration, complicated regulations and the dismissal of citizen input. Still, officials hope these and other issues will be resolved when the Plan is completed later this year or early next year.

The Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles "celebrated" the second anniversary of what was a complete meltdown, caused by a labor dispute between shipping lines and dockworkers. Ships clogged up lanes and waited as long as a week to unload their cargo. Today, the situation has improved considerably, but officials and retailers now worry that something similar might happen again. To keep appraised on port traffic, retailers now obtain a report called Port Tracker, which includes the "Congestometer" that gives details on congestion at different ports, so that retailers can make sound judgments when monitoring their shipments.

Turning to biking issues, the City of Santa Monica is trying to increase bike usage by expanding its bicycling facilities. The city hopes to have bike lanes installed on 35% of arterial streets by 2010. However, city officials also admit that in doing so, ensuring safety for bicyclists has proven to be difficult. It doesn't help that most people would be interested in using a bicycle as a means to commute to work, but most existing facilities cater only to recreational bicycling. Meanwhile, a portion of a bike lane along the California Aqueduct near Moreno Valley nears completion.

An update on Eastside Gold Line construction and the Canoga Orange Line station is now available.

Here is a list of other recent developments:

July 18: Residents in San Bernardino got a first glimpse of future Metrolink service to Redlands. The San Bernardino Associated Governments held a workshop to discuss this and other transit options for the area. Officials also discussed the possibility of building transit villages at the stations.

A power outage at a regional radar facility sent commercial air traffic in Southern California to a halt for an hour. Initial reports indicated that the original power source was knocked out by a traffic accident, but a backup generator was quickly put online. However, the backup also shut down due to surge protectors that ironically were designed to avoid such shutdowns. As a result, hundreds of flights across the country were held on the ground.

July 20: The California Air Resources Board signaled to continue its support for a deal between environmental regulators and railroads regarding pollution. This move sparked the ire of South Coast Air Quality Management District officials, who contend that railroads are not doing enough to reduce emissions. Others criticized the "sweetheart arrangement" railroads received.

July 21-24: Transit Coalition Executive Director Bart Reed traveled to Boston, Massachusetts to perform a field study on various transportation developments. One particular development has been the fallout due to the Big Dig tunnel failure, which has led the chairman overseeing the project suing to keep his job and one of the firms responsible for building the tunnels defending its role. Revelations about a rejected idea of using lighter concrete panels are emerging. Polls indicate that the public has little confidence in the construction of the tunnels, while readers responded with letters decrying the project's numerous faults. The troubles have led to an increase in public transit travel and Amtrak Downeaster ridership. Onto more positive news, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority commuter rail line launched night and weekend service to Providence, Rhode Island, which received a favorable response from the Providence Journal. Other good tidings came from the recent opening of Newark Light Rail in New Jersey.

Upcoming Events: 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.

SCRRA (Metrolink) Board Meeting: Friday, July 28, 10 a.m. San Bernardino Conference Room, SCAG Building, 12th Floor, 818 W. Seventh St., Los Angeles.

Metro San Fernando Valley Governance Council Public Hearing: Wednesday, August 2, 6:30 p.m., Marvin Braude Constituent Center, 6262 Van Nuys Bl., Van Nuys. The hearing will discuss proposed modifications to San Fernando Valley bus service as part of Metro Connections, to be implemented in December 2006. ( Maps of major changes; text summary of all changes; June 7, 2006 motion regarding hearings on changes.)

Exposition Metro Line Construction Authority: Thursday, August 3, 2:30 p.m., Board Room, Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles.

Metro Westside/Central Governance Council: Thursday, August 3, 3 p.m., La Cienega Tennis Center, Sunset Room, 325 S. La Cienega Blvd., Beverly Hills.

Angeles Chapter Sierra Club Transportation Committee: Thursday, August 3, 7:30 p.m. Angeles Chapter office, 3435 Wilshire Blvd, Suite 320, Los Angeles.

Metro San Gabriel Valley Governance Council: Tuesday, August 8, 5 p.m., 3369 Santa Anita Ave. (near El Monte bus station), El Monte.

SCAG MagLev Task Force: Thursday, August 10, 11:00 a.m. SCAG Offices, 818 W. Seventh St., 12th floor, Los Angeles. CANCELLED.

Metro Gateway Cities Governance Council: Thursday, August 10, 2 p.m., Gas Company ERC, 9240 Firestone Bl., Downey.

Metro South Bay Governance Council: Friday, August 11, 9.30 a.m., Carson Community Center, 801 E. Carson St., Carson.

Southern California Transit Advocates: Saturday, August 12, 1 p.m., Angelus Plaza, Rm. 422, 255 S. Hill St., Los Angeles.

SCAG Goods Movement Task Force: Wednesday, August 16, 9 a.m., SCAG Offices, 818 W. Seventh St., 12th floor, 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