Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
Volume 2, Issue 33

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.

Reminder: Next Tuesday is our Transit Coalition Dinner Meeting. See Upcoming Events below for details.

Action Alert: Metro Board Director and LA City Councilmember Bernard Parks will introduce his motion at the Metro Board meeting on Thursday, August 24, to officially designate Exposition Light Rail as the "Expo Line" (as opposed to naming it by color like other Metro Rail lines) and indicate it on maps by the color rose. If you like to let the MTA Board know your opinion on this, there is time to write: You may email a letter to all 13 Board members or, if you want to make a stronger impact, write a paper letter and send it via regular mail to the addresses provided. A sample letter outlining key issues is now available.

Residents in the City of Los Angeles will be overwhelmed when they head for the polls this November. 10 different bond measures will appear on their ballots, including a $1 billion affordable housing measure apart from the state version of the same. As a result, Councilmembers Greig Smith and Tony Cardenas announced that they would stop pushing for their $1.5 street-paving bond.

A lukewarm response from fellow Councilmembers and general public confusion of the measures as revealed in a recent poll have proven disappointing to the two Councilmembers. However, a delay would help the Bureau of Street Services finish their outreach efforts with local neighborhood councils on the backlog of streets that must be repaved.

Meanwhile, a dissenting voice in San Diego County suggests opposing the bond measures, since money for freeways may simply mean more money for carpool and bus-only lanes. Amazingly, some Northern California environmental activists are moving towards opposing the bond because there are too many freeway lane miles and not enough transit. A consultant assured Riverside County policy makers that private funds to build large transportation projects are gaining steam across the country, but that only legislative action would bring about meaningful public-private projects and funds.

In the San Francisco Bay Area, efforts are underway to try and establish a Universal Fare Program known as TransLink. Two agencies, AC Transit and the Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District, will participate in the second trial that will begin in September. TransLink was first tried in the 1990s, but the technology was too primitive to be effective.

In the City of Riverside, officials aim to keep up with the goal of building at least one grade separation over railroad tracks at any given time. The City of Placentia is poised to be a big loser, as they will lose $16 million lent to their OnTrac grade separation project. To the north, the City of Santa Clarita and Metrolink are mulling a plan to straighten the tracks at Bouquet Canyon and Soledad Canyon Roads.

On Metrolink, officials step up security on trains in response to the thwarted terrorist attack plans on flights between the United States and Great Britain. The increase in security will be funded by federal grants authorized by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Such would be welcomed, as consumers are "voting" for more rail transportation with increased patronage, according to an op-ed prepared by The States for Passenger Rail Coalition. The group believes Congress must provide an 80/20 federal/local match for rail projects in the same vein as highway and air projects.

A recent poll revealed that, in response to higher gas prices, drivers are reducing their use of the car. However, it has not prompted major changes in travel behavior such as carpooling and public transportation. The Pew Research Center poll concluded that Hispanics, lower-income households, urban residents and younger people, are more likely to change their behavior by carpooling or using mass transit. Some conclude that gas prices will have to stay high in order to see any notable reduction in consumption. Some consumers are even looking towards vegetable oil as a way to fill up. (Get out that Crisco in your pantry!) Meanwhile, David Pisarra of the Santa Monica Daily Press believes public transport is doomed for failure in L.A. due to the apparent wealth of residents, which purportedly affords even nannies and housekeepers to use the car. Go figure.

Orange County recently launched a road-widening project along the I-5 between the Riverside Freeway and the Los Angeles county line. However, there is grave concern that it will create a serious bottleneck, since the I-5 would be widened from six lanes to ten but, upon reaching the county line, it again reduces back to six. Metro intends to start widening its side of the I-5 in 2010. This is a far cry from state policy of years past, where state agencies oversaw regional fixes for entire highways. In 1997, counties were given a great deal more control of state funds for local projects. Meanwhile, columnist Charles Cooper offers this nugget of a thought regarding plans to complete the 710 Freeway to Pasadena.

Throughout the week, Pasadena wound up in a pickle regarding its 11 hybrid cars. Nissan, the manufacturers of the cars, has asked the city to return them now that their lease has expired, with the ultimate intention of destroying the cars. Some quick maneuvering at City Hall stymied plans from Nissan, when city Water and Power vehicles blocked tow trucks from the car manufacturer from taking the cars. The San Gabriel Valley Tribune published an editorial shaming Nissan for their actions. The city will wait until a review of the lease agreements by Deputy City Attorney Nicholas Rodriguez is completed. Meanwhile, officials in Elk Grove affirm that their hybrid commuter bus project is a total bust, since the buses have poor acceleration and inoperable air conditioning.

Regarding bicycles, several Ventura County cyclists congregated last month in Moorpark and Ventura to discuss how to make bicycle travel safer. The Ventura County Transportation Commission recently hired a firm to perform a study on how to improve and promote bicycle safety in the area. The county and all but three incorporated cities have bike plans, but the county plan must be redrawn every five years, and a renewed plan is indeed five years overdue. The county already boasts of 300 miles worth of bike lanes and paths, even though they are largely segmented and spread out.

In the human-interest department, the Press-Enterprise published the story of John Thomas, bus driver for Omnitrans for over 25 years. Riders praise him for his "heart and compassion," especially given the fact that Thomas regularly drives the twilight shift. Of course, he also maintains a firm attitude towards unruly riders, which pop up on occasion. Still, Thomas keeps a healthy attitude by concluding, " You don't take it by the day. You take it by the trip."

Oy vey: The recent problems with the Big Dig are challenging politicians, officials and engineers to unprecedented extents. A safety official who purportedly wrote a memo warning problems on the tunnel where a concrete panel fell on a woman's car and killed her was fired when inaccuracies cropped up in his resume. Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney accused former Massachusetts Turnpike Authority chairman Matt Amorello for not cooperating in the investigation. And just who is getting the brunt of the blame? It is San Francisco's Bechtel Corporation, who oversaw construction of the Big Dig and has been repeatedly dogged with accusations of shoddy work and overpricing throughout the life of the project. A representative from said firm warned that safety tests on the questionable epoxy bolt assemblies were compromising the integrity of the tunnels. Romney fears that the repair work will increase the price tag of the project even further than the $14.6 billion spent on it to date. In the only positive development, one of the ramps that were shut down for inspection and repairs was reopened to traffic.

Here is a list of other recent developments:

August 7: LAX experienced another major equipment outage. The southern runway Instrument Landing System, a radio beacon that guides planes when they arrive, shut itself down before 9 a.m. after something got in the way of its signal. As it turned out, the matter could have been resolved promptly, but the only technician on duty at the time was attending another problem in Torrance Airport. Recent runway construction was ruled out as a cause for the incident.

August 8: Metro passengers and Sierra Madre officials responded angrily during a public hearing by the Metro San Gabriel Valley Governance Council on proposed changes in local bus service. Riders specifically were incensed to learn that Line 268, which runs between Sierra Madre and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge, would be truncated and that Line 487, which runs between Sierra Madre and Downtown L.A., would be split into two.

August 9: The Los Angeles City Council unanimously approved a motion to revive efforts at bringing the Metro Green Line to LAX. The motion would bring back the LAX/Metro Green Line Interagency Task Force, which worked more than a decade ago to bring the light rail line to the airport. This marks the first step in bringing serious discussion about the much-sought extension. The Transit Coalition, working with Councilmember Bill Rosendahl, has been steadfast in advocating for an extension of the Green Line past LAX to Venice and Santa Monica. (Last week, the LA City Trade Commerce and Tourism Committee considered a motion to support the efforts of the Task Force and, specifically, to investigate ways that Phase II of the Expo Line can be integrated with a future Green Line connection from the south. A separate motion to support efforts to bring the Green Line to Lincoln and Sepulveda Blvds. unanimously passed the Mar Vista Community Council Board, and is working its way through committee in the Venice and Westchester Neighborhood Councils.)

August 11: In response to higher fuel and labor costs, the Antelope Valley Transportation Authority moved forward with a fare increase and a reduction in bus service. Base fare will increase from $1 to $1.25, and three-hour passes will increase from $1.50 to $2. Service to outlying areas and during the evening hours will also be reduced. Route 8, which ferries passengers between downtown Palmdale and the Antelope Valley Mall, will be cancelled; Routes 2 and 3 will fill in the void.

August 13: Transit Coalition Executive Director Bart Reed met with consultant Steve Schnaidt of the California High Speed Rail Authority and discussed various topics regarding the HSR proposal. The two conversed on how the HSR project might benefit from the infrastructure bonds that will be decided this November, while not being directly funded by the bonds. The Legislature already delayed a public vote for the project until November 2008, but acted to give the Authority funding to broaden its outreach efforts by launching a newsletter on the project and preparing a 3-dimensional video that would give viewers a sneak peek at how HSR in California would look like.

August 14: LAX experienced yet another major equipment outage. This time, the incident has prompted LAX officials to ask the Federal Aviation Administration to investigate the possibility of more fundamental equipment problems. Also, authorities evacuated an Alaska Airlines flight originating from Guadalajara, Jalisco, after the crew found a suspicious item. Police and federal agents searched the plane but found no explosives.

Upcoming Events: SCAG Goods Movement Task Force: Wednesday, August 16, 9 a.m., SCAG Offices, 818 W. Seventh St., 12th floor, Los Angeles. CANCELLED: Next meeting is on Wednesday, September 20.

Metro San Fernando Valley Governance Council: Wednesday, August 16, 6:30 p.m., Marvin Braude Constituent Center, 6262 Van Nuys Bl., Van Nuys.

Metro Committee Meetings: Wednesday, August 16 and Thursday, August 17, Board Room, Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles. ( Supplemental agendas.)

·  Planning and Programming Committee, Wednesday, August 16, 1 p.m. Moved to 2 p.m.

·  Finance and Budget Committee, Wednesday, August 16, 2:30 p.m.

·  Executive Management & Audit Committee, Thursday, August 17, 9 a.m.

·  Construction Committee, Thursday, August 17, 10:30 a.m.

·  Operations Committee, Thursday, August 17, 12 noon.

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!

Metro Board Meeting: Thursday, August 24, 9:30 a.m., Board Room, Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles.

Orange County Transportation Authority Board Meeting: Monday, August 28, 9 a.m., Board Hearing Room, 600 Main St., Orange.

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