Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Monday, August 21, 2006
Volume 2, Issue 34

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 (Item 36) 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, Item 37) 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.

Now that the campaign for the state infrastructure bonds is in full swing, organizations are starting to state their official positions in hopes that they will influence voter decisions at the polling booths this November. The California Republican Party recently voted to oppose two of the measures, support two others, and take no position on the fifth. The two measures that enjoyed support were Proposition 1B, which would fund transportation fixes, and Proposition 1E, which would provide flood protection. Meanwhile, California Secretary of Business Sunne Wright McPeak recently informed Oxnard residents on the benefits that would come to the state should voters approve the bonds. Meanwhile, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Speaker Fabian Nuñez are at odds over whether or not a deal to appoint two appointees to the California Transportation Commission was made.

Public transportation in Southern California moves onward unabated. Ridership on the Metro Orange Line continues to grow, which is prompting Metro to mull getting even larger buses for use the busway. However, not all is a basket of oranges for the agency, as a recent Daily News article revealed that San Fernando Valley bus service receives the largest amounts of rider complaints in the Metro system. The Metrolink San Bernardino line experienced a 21% increase in riders in July compared to the same time last year. Hemet is now in the running to get a Metrolink stop now that the city made the cut as one of six to be studied by the Riverside County Transportation Commission for long-term transportation solutions. Perris hopes that the new service will also boost downtown development. Down in Orange County, Huntington Beach officials are working to get a grant to study a light rail line in their community. However, an op-ed piece published by the Orange County Register complains that the Measure M renewal would give too much money to transit and too little to freeways.

Concurrently, officials are turning towards safety and comfort issues. Metro is conducting training for its employees that would make them vigilant against possible terrorist behavior on the Metro system. Plans are also afoot to allow police officers to ride the Metro system at no cost as a way to enhance security. Next year, Metrolink will conduct a study to install wireless Internet on its system. Anaheim Mayor Curt Pringle is applying for a position on the California State High Seed Rail Authority as a move that might bring high-speed rail to Orange County, while Santa Clarita Councilmember Marsha McLean hopes that MagLev will solve all of Southern California's traffic woes by serving her city.

Construction on the 210 Freeway to San Bernardino should be completed by late next year. However, the San Bernardino Associated Governments, which oversees this and other road projects in the area, is grappling with rising materials costs that threaten to erode a projected increase in Measure I funds. A project to widen the 215 Freeway in San Bernardino rose from $395 million in 2003 to $600 million today, while another project to widen the I-10 in Redlands shot up from $29.7 million in March of last year to $33.7 million in August of the same year. Meanwhile, two letters to the Los Angeles Times expressed dismay at the recently reported plan to widen the I-5 just south of the Los Angeles-Orange County line.

In other road traveling developments, car sharing programs such as Flexcar and Zipcar are gaining momentum across the nation even as fuel costs continue to rise. In Virginia, carpoolers are saving money and time by allowing would-be carpoolers, fondly known as " slugs", to ride for free with a driver in exchange for the extra body required to use the local carpool lanes. Back home, Santa Monica College is looking to buy property for a parking lot as a way to ease parking woes at the school. Santa Monica also recently opened a hydrogen generation and fueling station that would serve as the first step in bringing Governor Schwarzenegger's vision of a " Hydrogen Highway" network to life.

Apparently, the Coast Starlight is not the only train on the Amtrak system that suffers from chronic delays, as columnist Steve Ford noted. The Carolinan (which serves North Carolina) and the Silver Star (which runs between New York and Florida) also have been the victims of dismissive treatment from host freight railroads, this time from CSX. As if that isn't stressful enough, a recent study revealed that rail commuters also experience high stress levels. In any case, neither problem is dampening plans to launch Coast Daylight service between San Francisco and Los Angeles via the coast. Officials hope that the service will launch as an extension of an existing Pacific Surfliner train as early as 2007.

Portland, Oregon, is seen as an example of a city planned around the " marriage of transportation and land use issues." Thanks to the support of private enterprise and coherent planning policies centered on non-automobile forms of transport, the city transportation system is viewed as a success and credited as a major curtailer of greenhouse gases. Cycling is also up in Portland by an astonishing 257% since 1996.

An update on Eastside Gold Line construction and a progress report on the Canoga Park Orange Line station are now available.

The Gift That Keeps On Giving: Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney continues with his efforts to consolidate control over the Boston Big Dig project, while taking the opportunity to bring major reform to the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority. Last week, Romney swore in the new chairman, John Cogliano, while the board of the troubled Authority voted to search for a new chief executive officer. The governor also announced that the engineering firm Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates Inc. will perform a "stem to stern" safety audit of the Big Dig. The firm was responsible for investigating the 1995 sinkhole on Hollywood Boulevard during the construction of the Metro Red Line. Documents revealed that in 1999, Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff, the Big Dig construction consortium, replaced the epoxy bolts that hold the concrete panels up. However, managers opted to retest only the bolts in the HOV tunnel and not those in the other tunnels.

Here is a list of other recent developments:

August 11: The Southern California Regional Rail Authority Operational Oversight Committee convened to discuss efforts with several communities to establish "quiet zones," where trains must limit their use of horns. SCRRA is working with ten communities to launch " quasi-quiet zone" projects.

A fire broke out inside the Shanghai Maglev train. No injuries were reported. Faulty electrical equipment possibly played a part in the fire, officials said. A photo of the incident is now available.

August 15: The California Energy Commission reported that recent tanker and refinery troubles, and not misdeeds by oil companies, have been responsible for the rise in gas prices. The Commission also expressed desire to gain more powers to scrutinize refining costs, fuel trading and port operations of oil companies. Environmentalists dismissed the report as an "apology for the oil industry."

The Federal Aviation Administration defended its role in investigating a glitch on a key landing system at LAX that failed twice over a period of a week. LAX officials accused the agency of ignoring systematic maintenance problems, while FAA officials insist that maintenance is adequate for the system even as these events are very rare. Still, the FAA promised that it would keep a full-time technician at LAX to work on the equipment and to reset it if it malfunctions.

The first DMU rail car for the Sprinter line between Oceanside and Escondido arrived for testing. Each car will have 136 seats and be able to carry about 220 passengers, including those standing. The North County Transit District plans to link two cars for most runs and operate them as a single train, which could see revenue service by the end of next year.

August 17: UCLA researchers released a study concluding that asthmatics living near freeways are as much as three times more likely to go to the hospital than those living in low traffic areas. Researchers hope that the study will hasten plans to establish stricter laws regarding vehicle emissions and community planning. A state law passed in 2003 already prohibits new schools within 500 feet of freeways.

August 18: Officials opened six new miles of HOV lanes along the Antelope Valley Freeway, ahead of schedule and on budget. Metro and Caltrans officials were on hand to open the lanes, completing the $41 million, 14-month project. Originally set to begin construction in 2003, the project was the victim of budget cuts and rising costs. In 2004, Metro shifted money from projects not ready for construction to finance the HOV lanes.

The Daily Breeze reported on efforts to bring passenger rail service to LAX and the South Bay. Of note was the Harbor Subdivision Right-of-Way, which runs between L.A. Union Station and the South Bay. The rail line has seen a marked decrease in freight traffic since the Alameda Corridor began operations in 2002. Officials hope that passenger service in the same vein as Metrolink can be implemented on the ROW in the near future. Transit Coalition Executive Director Bart Reed was quoted in the report, calling the corridor an "unused jewel" with boundless potential. Particularly, The Transit Coalition envisions the Harbor Subdivision as part of a regional rail system that would connect commuters to disparate points across Southern California.

Upcoming Events: 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.

SCRRA (Metrolink) Board Meeting: Friday, August 25, 10 a.m. San Bernardino Conference Room, SCAG Building, 12th Floor, 818 W. Seventh St., Los Angeles. CANCELLED.

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

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

Exposition Metro Line Construction Authority: Thursday, September 7, 2:30 p.m., Board Room, Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles.

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

Metro South Bay Governance Council: Friday, September 8, 9.30 a.m., Carson Community Center, 801 E. Carson St., Carson.

Southern California Transit Advocates: Saturday, September 9, 1 p.m., Angelus Plaza, Rm. 422, 255 S. Hill St., Los Angeles.

Metro San Gabriel Valley Governance Council: Tuesday, September 12, 5 p.m., 3369 Santa Anita Ave. (near El Monte bus station), El Monte.

Metro Westside/Central Governance Council: Wednesday, September 13, 3 p.m., La Cienega Tennis Center, Sunset Room, 325 S. La Cienega Blvd., Beverly Hills.

Metro Gateway Cities Governance Council: Thursday, September 14, 2 p.m., Gas Company ERC, 9240 Firestone Bl., Downey.

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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