Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Volume 2, Issue 37

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.

Action Alert: Amtrak has been without authorization legislation since 2002. Senators Trent Lott (R-MS) and Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) introduced the "Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2005" (PRIIA) on July 27, 2005. The bill provides for "Amtrak reform and operational improvements," authorizes Amtrak for the six years Fiscal 2006-2011, provides for capital assistance for states, and development of state rail plans. Debate and a vote in the full Senate on S.1516 are very likely to occur as early as Friday, September 15. Go to the Senate website, contact your two senators and ask them to approve S. 1516 but also to vote "no" for three bad amendments (visit NARP for details):

·  One by John Sununu (R-NH) would kill the long-distance network by requiring Amtrak to discontinue trains that lose more than a certain amount of money per passenger.

·  Another Sununu amendment would allow an entity other than Amtrak or the host railroad to petition FRA to replace Amtrak as the operator of a route.

·  Finally, an amendment by Jeff Sessions (R-AL) would strike language aimed at facilitating reduction of Amtrak's debt, even as Amtrak was paying interest rates as high as 9.5% on some debt.

Here's a surprise to no one: Ventura County will experience a two-fold increase in traffic congestion by 2030. The report concluding this also suggested that private interests take part in building road infrastructure. Surely the folks in San Bernardino will be much happier when several major highway projects will be completed by late 2007, including completion of the 210 Freeway. One of these projects will close sections of the I-15 and I-215 interchange in Devore for five weekends starting September 29. Closer to home, La Cañada Flintridge city leaders expressed concern how a completed 710 Freeway might affect the health of residents.

Meanwhile, Caltrans recently reported that carpool lanes are becoming more congested in part due to the increased use of single-occupant hybrid vehicles in the lanes. The report suggested suspending issuance of new decals for the vehicles, even as a bill to increase the amount of hybrid vehicles in the lanes awaits signature by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Late night train service on the Metrolink San Bernardino line has received mixed reviews. Some appreciate the new train run departing Union Station at 11:15 p.m., though some are disappointed that service was adjusted throughout the day to make it possible. The North County Transit District in San Diego will host workshops that will discuss mixed-use development on properties surrounding future Sprinter stations. San Francisco tourists and locals alike have been turned off by Cable Car fares that are as steep as the hills they climb. The cash-strapped SF Muni recently raised fares to $5. Atlanta MARTA continues phasing in a "smart card" system, while seven transit agencies in Seattle will band together to test its own "smart card" system.

A lot of negative vibes against mass transit reverberated in last week's newspapers. A Los Angeles Daily News article regarding plans to bring high density to transit centers through rezoning was met with a lukewarm response by the editorial board. One letter printed in the Daily News expressed contempt at transit-oriented development, though another one believed this would be a good thing. When the possibility of bringing trolleys back to Downtown L.A. crept up, two readers were quick to dismiss it. (The Los Angeles Downtown News published more details about the trolley.) Letters responding to last week's Steve Greenhut column in the Orange County Register mostly expressed derision at handing funds from a renewed Measure M to transit projects.

Still, not all is gloom and doom. An editorial from the Downtown News showed hope that the DASH system can be retooled to meet changing needs in Downtown L.A. One letter to the OC Register welcomed the Measure M renewal. Even The Economist magazine realized that mass transit is "not just for the desperate and disreputable."

Westside Chronicle reporter Tina Page continues exploring the mismatch between work and housing and how public transportation did not catch up to supplement the growth of jobs in the Westside. A recent study on affordable housing worsened the outlook, as it was revealed that new units were being built as quickly as the old ones were either being torn down or converted.

Regarding the ports, a bill to fund pollution control at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach sits at the Governor's desk awaiting signature. Senate Bill 927 by Sen. Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach) would impose a $30 fee on every 20-foot cargo container arriving and departing from the two ports. The bill also aims to fund security improvements at the ports, which are still lagging five years after 9/11 brought port security to the limelight. Shippers and retailers asked the Governor to veto the bill, claiming it would increase the costs of doing business at the ports. The Los Angeles Times editorially supported the Governor signing the bill, as it would be a true test of his environmental stance. Also, an invitation is extended to attend a panel discussion on port concerns. See Upcoming Events below for details.

So what should we expect from the new US Department of Transportation Secretary Mary Peters? One of her strong interests is to privatize highways, but some see her as a more balanced transportation figure that would be more open to improving passenger rail.

Eight Weeks Until The Election: Are transportation officials really salivating for bond funds? Many are hoping that voters will approve the transportation bonds as packaged in Proposition 1B. The City of Los Angeles hopes to use some of the funds to synchronize signals. Metro has launched Major Investment Studies for several corridors in the area that could be eligible for funds. Some of the more, better or different crowd are annoyed that road projects will not take as big a role as when the bonds were first suggested.

Here is a list of other recent developments:

September 6: Port of Long Beach officials announced a pilot program to test low-emission hybrid cargo handling equipment. The program is part of the "green ports" initiative adopted by the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles to reduce pollution in the San Pedro Bay. The six-month testing period will begin next year.

Transit Coalition Executive Director Bart Reed was quoted in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution regarding the possible appointment of Metro Deputy CEO John Catoe to the position of general manager for the MARTA system. "This would be a tragic loss to Los Angeles, to lose John Catoe," said Reed to staff writer Paul Donsky. "He's one of the top guys in the industry and in the country in running bus systems." Los Angeles Daily News columnist Rick Orlov was not lost on Atlanta's desires to woo Catoe.

September 7: The Los Angeles City Airport Commission approved plans to install advertising at Los Angeles and Ontario International Airports. However, the Commission deferred action on bidding for new concessions at LAX, after hearing from representatives of existing airport concessions. Officials will work with labor leaders to see that jobs and pay levels will be protected as a result and will bring the matter back to the Commission later in the autumn.

Officials from Rio Hondo College near Whittier launched a no-cost bus pass program to relieve traffic congestion and parking crunches at the campus. Rio Hondo will pay $80,000 to proved special passes for all of its 4,810-student body. The passes are valid for travel on Metro, Foothill Transit and Norwalk Transit buses.

September 8: LAX officials launched remote baggage check-in at the Van Nuys FlyAway lot. At a counter, passengers can check in their luggage for $5 and, upon arriving in LAX, can head straight to the security checkpoints, saving valuable time. Other locations such as the Union Station FlyAway, the Los Angeles Convention Center and the Port of Los Angeles cruise ship terminal will feature the service later this month.

The Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) and the Riverside County Transportation Commission (RCTC) Boards held a joint meeting to discuss the Irvine-Corona highway tunnel. The Boards voted to perform tests under the Cleveland National Forest to determine whether the mountain soils and rock formations can support a tunnel. The agencies must still ask for environmental clearances to bore five holes for the tests.

Ironically Shameless Plug: Are you down and out and need work? Then the Union Pacific Railroad has a job for you! The railroad recently announced openings in Southern California. Training will be provided and salaries reach up to $40,000 in the first year. For more information, visit the Union Pacific employment page.

Upcoming Events: Metro Westside/Central Governance Council: Wednesday, September 13, 5 p.m., La Cienega Tennis Center, Sunset Room, 325 S. La Cienega Blvd., Beverly Hills.

Town Hall Los Angeles: Thursday, September 14, 8 a.m., The Omni Los Angeles Hotel, 251 South Olive Street, Los Angeles. Keynote speaker: Matthew K. Rose, Chairman, CEO and President of Burlington Northern Santa Fe, will be the Keynote speaker for the event. The Q & A session will be followed by a panel discussion titled "The Port of Los Angeles – A Secure, Green and Efficient Port?" Sponsored by the Public Policy Institute of California.

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.

·  Planning and Programming Committee, Wednesday, September 20, 1 p.m.

·  Finance and Budget Committee, Wednesday, September 20, 2:30 p.m.

·  Executive Management & Audit Committee, Thursday, September 21, 9 a.m.

·  Construction Committee, Thursday, September 21, 10:30 a.m.

·  Operations Committee, Thursday, September 21, 12 noon.

SCRRA (Metrolink) Board Meeting: Friday, September 22, 10 a.m. San Bernardino Conference Room, SCAG Building, 12th Floor, 818 W. Seventh St., Los Angeles.

Orange County Transportation Authority Board Meeting: Monday, September 25, 9 a.m., Board Hearing Room, 600 Main St., Orange.

Metro San Gabriel Valley Governance Council: Tuesday, September 12 26, 5 p.m., 3369 Santa Anita Ave. (near El Monte bus station), El Monte.

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 Board Meeting: Thursday, September 28, 9:30 a.m., Board Room, Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles.

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.

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bart.reed@thetransitcoalition.us • The Transit Coalition