Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Tuesday, August 1, 2006
Volume 2, Issue 31

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.

There are a slew of mixed signals regarding voter interest on the statewide infrastructure bonds package. It was reported that, according to a recent Field Poll, voters favor some of the measures, but not by much. Only the transportation bond measure enjoys majority support, while other measures simply have more supporters than opponents. Even though there are no formal groups working to oppose the bonds and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger enjoys growing popularity because of the proposals, recent failures of bond measures at the voting booths could alone work against them. Columnist Joshua Shaw notes that, even if the transportation bonds were approved, public transportation would continue to lose due to lack of commitment by the state government.

LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's plan to create a no-cost transit week was met with a cold reception by the Los Angeles Times, which published an editorial detailing the troubles Bay Area transit systems deal with when they implement their Spare the Air program and how those problems may very well deter ridership growth. Indeed, some note that there is no way to gauge either a reduction of air pollution or a permanent increase in transit passengers. (The San Francisco Chronicle acknowledged that the program has helped boost downtown commerce in San Francisco. Some in the Bay Area are pondering other sources of funding for public transportation, while others are asking to make every day a Spare the Air day.) The same paper also published a letter regarding the brouhaha over the name of the Exposition light rail line now under construction.

Meanwhile, the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) considered placing a renewal of Measure M, a half-cent sales tax that funds transportation improvements, on the November ballot. Three years after opening, the Pasadena Gold Line is enjoying " moderate success" that some hope will grow once it reaches deeper into the San Gabriel Valley. In Redlands, the San Bernardino Associated Governments continues to inform residents about plans to bring Metrolink service to their community. In Barstow, Mayor Lawrence Dale expressed disappointment that the DesertXpress, a proposed high-speed rail line between Victorville and Las Vegas, will not serve his city even though it is right in the pathway.

Gas prices topped an average of $3 a gallon across the nation, with California drivers paying some 22 cents more for a gallon of gas. With gas prices nearing their highest levels, fraud is increasingly rampant at gas stations. The Los Angeles County Department of Weights and Measures has issued 59 citations during the fiscal year ending June 30. Gas station owners and Department officials equally note that the latter has little in terms of manpower and new technologies to inspect the county's 1,800 gas stations. Officials also note that fraud at the consumer end is also growing.

Meanwhile, Caltrans works towards the completion of HOV lanes on 6.2 miles of the Antelope Valley Freeway south of Palmdale. Improvements like these may be limited in the future, however, since existing gas taxes do not fund as many projects as in years past and voters refuse to increase these taxes.

If you haven't noticed, Amtrak's Coast Starlight trains of late have been the victim of numerous delays and cancellations. Just a few years back, the Coast Starlight was considered to be the premiere long-distance train for the national passenger railroad. Now, it has fallen to disarray, with the Train Riders Association of California recently reporting that delays of up to 11 ½ hours are common on the Los Angeles-Seattle corridor. Union Pacific, which owns most of the track the Coast Starlight runs on, says it is working hard to dispatch both passenger and freight trains in a timely manner.

Taxi drivers are working to improve the climate for taxis in the City of Los Angeles. Currently, few designated taxi zones exist and the city strictly enforces ticketing at red curbs, where taxis would otherwise pull over for a short while to drop off passengers. Thus, taxi drivers are discouraged to drive around looking for potential customers, since that would require pulling over to an illegal spot or stopping in the middle of the street, obstructing traffic. Though the Downtown Center Improvement District is at the forefront of this fight, representatives from taxi companies and traffic engineers hope that, should a solution be found, it can be implemented elsewhere in the city.

Metro Investment Report recently interviewed Gloria Jeff, the new head of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation. According to Jeff, the city must work harder to get their "fare share" from the federal government to bring mobility improvements to the city. Jeff was particularly surprised at the mutual interaction between the disparate transportation agencies in the region. However, her decision to remove James Okazaki from his position as the Deputy General Manager has struck a bad chord within the Japanese-American community, since he was the second Nisei to depart from the LADOT since Villaraigosa became Mayor.

In light of the recent power outage at a radar center, air officials are working to find solutions to avoid a future collapse of the regional air traffic control system. The Federal Aviation Administration is currently working on a system where its 22 nationwide radar centers, including the one in Palmdale where the outage occurred, can take control of any other radar center should a power outage result. The new system will cost $2.1 billion and should be in operation by 2008.

Regarding the environment, researchers are concerned that as much as 25% of all air pollution in Los Angeles may actually be attributed to trans-Pacific sources such as China. Some worry that China will soon eclipse the U.S. in producing greenhouse gases and that increased fossil fuel consumption from this and other developing countries would exacerbate the serious threat of global warming.

Down at the ports, officials praise the success of the PierPASS program aimed at reducing truck travel from the ports during peak hours while increasing capacity at the ports. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency gave the Port of Los Angeles a grant to monitor air pollution in surrounding communities. The Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach gave residents near the ports another 30 days to comment on the San Pedro Bay Clean Air Action Plan. Over at the Inland Empire, business leaders are working to bring legislation that would allow private enterprise to fund transportation improvements, especially those pertaining to port traffic that comes into the numerous distribution centers inland.

Regarding non-motorized travel, Duarte continues construction of its portion of the Emerald Necklace, a series of interconnecting greenways with paths and trails. Ten cities around the San Gabriel River between the Santa Fe Dam and Whittier Narrows are working to make this project a reality. Pasadena, meanwhile, learned that projects to make the city " walkable" could cost up to $91 million… and it wouldn't address existing sidewalks that are in disrepair.

Out and About: How bad has the parking situation at the Bob Hope Airport become? Just look at this flyer, which was recently distributed on parked cars by airport officials.

Here is a list of other recent developments:

July 26: The Los Angeles Times reported on various transit-oriented developments sprouting along the Metro Red Line subway. Metro is working closely with private developers to build more than 20 of these projects valued at over $2 billion at Metro Rail stations.

July 27: The Daily Breeze reported on the recent trip to China by LA Councilmembers Greg Smith and Bill Rosendahl to see first-hand the purported virtues of MagLev. Smith believed that the technology is viable, but is not sure if it can be implemented in Los Angeles. Rosendahl hoped that such a technology could shuttle airline passengers to regional airports such as Ontario International Airport as well as fill a niche for long-distance ground travel. The Southern California Association of Governments is working to bring a 59-mile MagLev line between Ontario and the Westside at a cost of $5.5 billion and could see construction in 2015.

Matthew Amorello, the chairman of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority overseeing the Big Dig project, resigned amid pressure from Governor Mitt Romney. Amorello previously sued to keep his job, but Massachusetts' highest court turned down his suit. It was later revealed that insurance from the project might be able to pay for some of the repairs in the tunnels. The fallout stemming from the death of a motorist due to a fallen panel in one of the tunnels is considered another example of a " political culture that continues to value the interests of a few, whether it's influential contractors, powerful labor unions or former politicians" at the expense of public safety and taxpayer accountability, according to the Daily News of Newburyport. This "culture" is a stark contrast to the thoroughly regulated and relatively de-politicized methods employed in California, where different agencies work together to build a project while complying with each other's regulations.

Upcoming Events: 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.

Consider attending our monthly Transit Coalition Dinner Meeting on Tuesday, August 22 - 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!

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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.

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bart.reed@thetransitcoalition.us • The Transit Coalition