Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
Volume 2, Issue 35

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.

The DASH shuttle bus system may be an inexpensive way to get around Downtown L.A. However, the DASH has also been plagued with unreliable scheduling, "leapfrogging" and short service hours. Most Downtown residents feel the service does not meet their needs, especially given the explosion of newcomers and activities in the area. This is set to change when the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) releases a study on the service that would also address changing demographics and traveling patterns.

In other transit developments, OCTA Line 794, the new Inland Empire-Orange County bus service, will premiere on Monday, September 11. Metro is now resorting to English and study preparation classes as a way to train future bus drivers, who are in short supply. LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa sees it as a measure to reduce labor expenses in the long run, since Metro spends up to $5 million annually on overtime just to keep existing services. AC Transit in Oakland will soon install Wi-Fi Internet on their buses.

People are responding to transit developments accordingly. Dr. Sergio Castillo discusses his daily routine involving a stress-less commute from Corona to Watts via Metrolink and Metro Rail in a Press Enterprise article. Metro SFV Governance Council Chair Kymberleigh Richards took exception to a recent Los Angeles Daily News article suggesting that the San Fernando Valley is being shortchanged when it comes to bus service. To the east, two Inland Empire mayors and the chairpersons of two Boards of Supervisors will hold an event at the BNSF yard in San Bernardino to protest the lack of funds for underpasses and overpasses on railroads in the rapidly growing area. In New Mexico, the Rail Runner commuter rail line between Albuquerque and Bernalillo recorded its 100,000th passenger after less than a month in service. Across the pond, international travelers voted London as the " best city in the world for public transport," while Los Angeles came in dead last.

Down in Marina del Rey, residents are coping with growth issues. The county has major plans for the unincorporated area, which includes an extension of the Marina Freeway west to the harbor. Residents vow that there will be a major fight against both the freeway and any redevelopment efforts. One of the best ways to get around is the intra-harbor ferry known as the WaterBus, which costs only $1 to board. But hurry! The seasonal service will end on September 4!

In road related developments, UCLA, UC Berkeley and UC San Diego will participate in a yearlong trial program that would let undergraduates between 18 and 21 years of age use Flexcar. Such may be a moot point for students at UCLA, as the Westside grapples with exponentially worsening traffic. For the area, the Expo and Wilshire Red Lines can't come soon enough. In the San Gabriel Valley, work on the HOV ramps between the 57 and 60 Freeways is due for completion early next year, while Caltrans will start the construction of soundwalls and HOV lanes on the 60 Freeway between I-605 and the 57 Freeway in January. A bill to ban the use of cell phones while driving quickly moves through the state Legislature.

Across the nation, engineers are facing the prospect of a major infrastructure crisis that may cripple the economy. Noted transit obstructionist Randal O'Toole published a screed detailing the strengths and weaknesses of the Interstate Highway System. The report condemns federal earmarking and "flexible funds" that could be used for either roads or transit while criticizes the relatively "centralized" planning process that made the Interstates possible in the first place. Meanwhile, in Washington, DC, a battle is brewing over how to provide parking to the new Nationals Stadium that would be convenient to patrons but would also not interfere with precious stadium views should it be built as a parking garage.

After a tough fight, Pasadena finally let go of their 11 Nissan Hyperminis. The city was lauded for their efforts despite ultimately losing the cars after all legal methods to keep them had been exhausted. The San Gabriel Valley Tribune published a glowing column by Robert Rector commending Pasadena city officials for holding out as long as they can. Meanwhile, jumping on the electric car bandwagon is comedian Tommy Chong, who owns a 1964 Oldsmobile that is being retrofitted to run on electricity, without sacrificing power and class. As Chong best said it, "by driving the ultimate electric stoner car, I can get off the titty. You know, the oil titty."

In the meantime, California will cross a major, if quiet, milestone this week when diesel suppliers will complete a mandated switch to an " ultra-low sulfur" blend of the fuel. The development promises to greatly reduce emissions from trucks and buses and thus keep the air cleaner. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power will follow suit as it installs "clean diesel" technology on 264 of their heavy-duty trucks. Private boaters in the Port of Los Angeles are also experimenting with biodiesel.

Regarding smart growth, there is growing concern that "gentrification" is pricing out residents of established neighborhoods at a faster rate than before. Some see the development as a sign of a continuously intense real estate market that is affecting every corner of the region.

Columnist George Skelton takes a critical look at recent bipartisan actions in Sacramento and examines how such cooperation will be needed to sell the infrastructure bonds proposals to the skeptical electorate.

Oy gavalt: Members of the Bus Riders Union recently held a press conference blasting Mayor Villaraigosa's plan to have transit opened to patrons at no cost for an entire week. BRU spokesperson Manuel Criollo revealed that, according to the BRU, it would take $7 million to implement such a plan. Criollo voiced that such a cost would be better used in reducing the Metro monthly pass by $4 to $48, believing that "it has historically been proven that when you reduce bus fares, you attract long term transit users." Meanwhile, the days of power for the BRU could be numbered, as their Consent Decree will expire this October. As a last-ditch effort to drum up support for an extension of the Decree, BRU advocates are moving their fight to the Los Angeles city neighborhood councils.

Here is a list of other recent developments:

August 21: Work began on converting an abandoned Union Pacific right-of-way in Whittier to a greenway trail. The City of Whittier must still approve a traffic plan related to the trail. The new trail will run over the intersection of Whittier (State Highway Route 72) and Washington Boulevards via an existing steel truss bridge. The cost of the project is $14 million.

August 23: Los Angeles World Airports officials released eight alternatives that intend to address traffic issues at LAX. One calls for double-decking Century Boulevard, which would provide a direct connection between the airport terminals and the 405 Freeway. Officials have since held a meeting with residents and merchants near the airport, detailing and discussing the proposals. It was noted that Los Angeles is one of the few cities in the world where local and airport traffic share the same streets. The next event will be held tonight, August 29. See upcoming events below for details.

August 24: The Metro Board deferred a decision on assigning a color name to the Expo Line. Instead, the new light rail line will be simply known as the "Expo Line" and be marked by a black color on maps until a future Board decision dictates otherwise. Board member and LA City Councilmember Bernard Parks has been at the forefront of naming it as such yet assigning the color rose to the line. Public opinion repeatedly pushed for an aqua color, a fact not lost on Board member and Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who took note of the popularity of the aqua moniker during the meeting. The Los Angeles Daily News published an editorial satirizing the issue, while a letter to the editor blasts Parks for his stubbornness. Nevertheless, the Board adopted the name "purple" for the Wilshire/Western branch of the Metro Red Line, "silver" for the El Monte Busway and "bronze" for the Harbor Transitway. (The Transit Coalition would like to thank those who contributed to this effort!)

August 26: Seven Union Pacific locomotives fell on their sides in a derailment near San Timoteo Canyon and Live Oak Canyon roads, spilling diesel fuel that caused a blaze on one of the engines. The apparent cause of the accident was that the locomotives were going too fast around the curves. Another derailment earlier that day on the BNSF railroad tore up tracks in Highgrove and led to the closure of at least three roads that cross the tracks.

St. Louis opened its Cross-County Extension of the MetroLink line to great fanfare. Passengers voted with their feet as crowds filled train cars along the $678 million extension of the city's light rail system. Commuters embraced the extension with just as much enthusiasm when revenue service began the following Monday. The gem of the project is a 1.3 mile tunnel connecting University City with Clayton. However, the transit agency in St. Louis, also named Metro, faces a serious financial crisis as a result of project redesigns that included a subway portion.

August 28: The Orange County Transportation Authority Board approved the $22.5 million purchase of nearly 14 acres in Anaheim for a new transit hub. Local bus, Metrolink and Amtrak service will be moved to the new station by 2010. The Board also voted to add 78 CNG buses to their bus fleet and discussed an update on the widening of the Garden Grove Freeway.

The Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority added six more Capitol Corridor trains between Sacramento and San Jose. The new service translates to a 52% increase in service between the two cities and a 30% increase between Oakland and Sacramento, the largest increase ever in the history of the corridor.

August 29: Amtrak announced that former Union Pacific vice president Alexander Kummant will become CEO for the national passenger railroad starting September 12.

Acknowledgments: The Transit Coalition would like to thank laist.com for featuring our eNewsletter in their August 22, 2006 blog posting and listing us as one of the " eNewsletters that rock".

Upcoming Events: Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) Master Plan Stakeholders Forum: Tuesday, August 29, 2006, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., Flight Path Learning Center in the LAX Imperial Terminal, 61 West Imperial Highway, Los Angeles.

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.

Orange County Transportation Authority Board Meeting: Monday, September 11, 9 a.m., Board Hearing Room, 600 Main St., Orange.

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

SCAG Goods Movement Task Force: Wednesday, September 20, 9 a.m., SCAG Offices, 818 W. Seventh St., 12th floor, Los Angeles.

Consider attending our monthly Transit Coalition Dinner Meeting on Tuesday, September 26 - 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.

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