Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Tuesday, September 5, 2006
Volume 2, Issue 36

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.

A bill that would adopt tougher environmental goals for California now sits on the desk of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, awaiting signature. Businesses are divided as to whether the new regulations will help or hinder the California economy. Some hope that the law will stimulate environmentally friendly businesses into coming to the state and foster environmental awareness onto existing businesses. Others believe it will encourage the federal government and individual states to pass similar legislation. Another bill now at the Governor's desk would limit cell phone use to handless devices in cars.

With the Eastside Gold Line under construction and the Exposition Light Rail Line on the way, politicos are mulling at where the next light rail line should be built. Some would prefer to spend precious funds on finishing the Expo Line to Santa Monica. US Representative David Dreier (R-San Dimas) would rather have those funds for the Foothill Gold Line to Montclair. Meanwhile, a new report by the LA Community Redevelopment Agency rekindles talk of bringing trolleys back to Downtown LA. Onto more unfortunate news, Omnitrans bumped up fares on its bus system today. Base fare is now $1.25 and day passes are now $3. Metro Deputy CEO John Catoe is a finalist for the position to head the Atlanta MARTA bus and rail system.

Elsewhere, the Las Vegas monorail may be extended to the McCarren Airport despite its shortcomings. The airport connection could prove valuable as new hotels spring up along the Las Vegas Strip, although no one sees the system as a true solution to Strip traffic. North American Bus Industries (NABI) recently completed delivery of 12 articulated buses that run on natural gas to Los Angeles World Aiports. The buses will replace LAX's 22-year-old diesel fleet and will transport passengers between terminals and remote boarding gates.

With commute times increasing across the state, researchers have estimated that drivers value their time behind the wheel at $20 an hour ($40 an hour for wealthier commuters). Drivers are willing to pay as much to use toll lanes that can shave off a few minutes of their commute. With so much time behind the wheel today, many drivers must do all sorts of errands while in the car… with some finding love in the process. Based on numbers from a recently released Reason Foundation report, "driving during rush hour will take twice as long as it would take during off-peak hours" by 2030.

Meanwhile, the Riverside County Transportation Commission is considering installing new traffic level sensors for Interstates 15 and 215, at a cost of $2.3 million, thus completing a gap of real-time traffic information at www.commutesmart.info. Commission officials also coldly received the Reason Foundation report, which condemned transit and extolled toll lanes. Cities are implementing various ideas to rein in gas costs from their fleet of vehicles.

The editorial staff from various newspapers took the time last week to share their opinions on transportation developments. The Los Angeles Daily News came out with an editorial reminding readers that studies and reports like those from the Reason Foundation will in themselves not solve traffic woes and that government leaders must step up to provide the solutions. Columnist Steven Greenhut explains why Orange County voters should not renew Measure M, believing that there is plenty more time to hammer out a better measure that would reduce the role of mass transit. The San Bernardino County Sun chastised Union Pacific for the commuting and environmental havoc ensued from the recent derailment in San Timoteo Canyon. The North County Times equally chastised the North County Transit District for adding on amenities that would increase the costs for the Sprinter project on top of rising costs. The Los Angeles Times published an editorial denouncing the time and resources lost on dealing with naming the Exposition Light Rail line.

Commuters also expressed their opinions on transportation developments. LA Observed posted several letters regarding possible solutions to Westside gridlock, with the majority favoring an extension of the now-coined Purple Line down Wilshire Boulevard. Attendees at recent LAX Master Plan hearings expressed weariness at several proposals to modernize the airport, which some see as a thinly veiled attempt to expand capacity. Some are concerned that the new ultra-low sulfur diesel formula adopted by the state will translate to higher fuel costs for the consumer.

Regarding smart growth, LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is pushing forward with " urban villages" around transit centers that aims to bring residents closer to transit while coping with a serious affordable housing crunch. With that comes a fear that existing zoning laws may be uprooted to install unfavorable development against the desires of the communities. In the past, resistance from neighbors, arbitrary parking requirements and height requirements have discouraged developers to build mixed-use projects. Planners increasingly link transportation and affordable housing as a regional problem, as the Westside Chronicle noted in a recent article.

Los Angeles is once again considering a bid for a Summer Olympics in 2016. Most of the facilities for the event are either already in place or can easily be installed at a fraction of the costs, according to officials from the Southern California Committee for the Olympic Games. Chicago and San Francisco are also in the running as US candidates. One aspect that may give the Chicago bid a greater advantage is its compactness, since many of its venues will be close to each other. The Los Angeles bid will be considerably more compact compared to what was used when the Olympics arrived in 1984.

Here is a list of other recent developments:

August 31: The Los Angeles Times published a condescending editorial that both frowned down on Union Pacific and cast doubt on the intentions of new Amtrak president Alexander Kummant. The editorial was replied with three letters expressing discontent at current policies against Amtrak, with a notable finger-wag at Union Pacific for their operational woes.

September 5: President George W. Bush nominated Mary Peters for the Secretary of Transportation seat, which was recently vacated by Norman Mineta. Peters previously headed the Federal Highway Administration and the Arizona Department of Transportation. Peters is an advocate of highway privatization and plans to address aging infrastructure by instilling a more favorable climate that would allow private companies to rebuild it.

Requisite Shameless Plug: If you commute regularly on Metrolink, then the following website may be just for you: www.metrolinkrider.com. The new website hosts a forum where commuters can voice their opinions on the rail service and share their experiences on the trains.

Upcoming Events: 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: Monday, 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.

Metro Committee Meetings: Wednesday, September 20 and Thursday, September 21, Board Room, Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), 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!

Metro Rail Customer Conference: Tuesday, October 24, 6:45 p.m., Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles. An invitation is required to attend. To get one, write to us at info@thetransitcoalition.us with the subject line "Customer Conference" and include the following: First & last name; mailing address; daytime, home and cell phone numbers. Also include any questions you might want to ask. Information submitted must match that on your driver's license or legal ID, as you will enter a secure building.

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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