Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Volume 2, Issue 38

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.

Lest ye forget: Next Tuesday is The Transit Coalition Dinner Meeting. Additionally, The Transit Coalition invites you to two RailPAC meetings, as well as a special Metro Rail Customer Conference on Tuesday, October 24. See Upcoming Events below for details.

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 during the last half of September. 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 (A summary of S. 1516 and descriptions of the three amendments are provided courtesy of NARP.):

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.

A major obstacle in building the now-named Purple Line to the Westside could soon be cleared. U.S. Congressmember Henry Waxman (D-Los Angeles) introduced legislation that would repeal a ban on federal funds for tunneling the subway. Created 20 years ago, the ban was a knee-jerk reaction to a 1985 methane explosion that questioned the safety of the project. However, a panel in 2005 concluded that new technologies were available that would make tunneling and operations safe. LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa continues to stomp for the "Subway to the Sea," although he risks alienating local Congressmembers who wish to pursue transit projects in their own districts.

Others are giving praise to the Orange Line, which continues its ridership growth. Officials are now talking about extending the line to the Chatsworth Metrolink station. Such an extension would use an existing right-of-way paralleling Canoga Avenue. A letter to the Los Angeles Daily News suggested jettisoning the ROW altogether and use Canoga Ave. instead, while another letter lamented the blown opportunity of building it to Burbank via the Chandler ROW. A Daily News editorial equally lambasted Metro for focusing on other rail lines in the region at the expense of San Fernando Valley traffic. (A map showing extensions at both ends of the Orange Line is available.) Meanwhile, red light cameras on the Orange Line are helping to reduce collision rates and have led to an increased number of citations.

Meanwhile, residents in Agua Dulce are suing for access to a shortcut that includes a Metrolink grade crossing. Property owners Rancho Agua Dulce LLC contend in a subsequent counter complaint that the crossing on the road, which is in their property, is dangerous. Burbank residents are bemoaning a plan to connect the Chander and Los Angeles River bikeways, arguing that it would lead to increased traffic and crime. Humor columnist David Allen decided to try his luck with the new late-night service on the Metrolink San Bernardino line.

To the north, a recent study reported that the awarding of transportation project contracts to minorities was greatly crippled after passage of Proposition 209, which curtailed affirmative action. SamTrans in San Mateo County received some timely advice from the Federal Transit Administration on how to boost sagging ridership on its buses. Meanwhile, BART is mulling the use of a flat fare across its system.

Regarding automobile travel, an op-ed in the Ventura County Star suggested that technologies to increase road capacity and safety without increasing lane miles exist and should be implemented. An editorial by Inside Bay Area chastised a state bill that would increase the amount of hybrids in carpool lanes without addressing existing capacity issues.

So what is the story on passenger rail service between Los Angeles and San Francisco? It was recently announced that the Coast Daylight train will have a slot available on Caltrain tracks between San Jose and San Francisco. The service would need a new train set, new stations along the Union Pacific Coast Line and additional sidings between Gilroy and Salinas. RailPAC estimates that it would cost $150 million.

The Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, as well as several others in the U.S., handled a record amount of incoming cargo last July. Palm Springs officials believe that freight traffic through the area will more than double by 2025. With such a great amount of cargo moving in, however, the security risk grows. It is good to know that the U.S. Senate approved a bill that would increase radiation screening at the ports (and boost rail and mass transit security in the process).

Seven Weeks Until the Election: The Sacramento Bee editorially supported Proposition 1B, as did the Contra Costa Times. State Senator Kevin Murray is also making the rounds, supporting both Propositions 1A and 1B, which, according to Murray, could pump as much as $6 billion for Westside transportation projects. However, some environmental groups are growing leery of the bonds. The Sierra Club recently adopted a neutral stance on the bonds, even as many of their Northern California members recommended opposing them, since more than half of the money would go to road projects. Columnist Phil Strickland believes likewise but also adds that the fragmentation of transportation policy is equally devastating. Backers of the bond measures also grew concerned about ad funds regarding other unrelated measures, which could drown out their campaign to woo voters.

Here is a list of other recent developments:

September 12: The Foothill Transit Governing Board approved the March 2007 launch of the new Silver Streak service. Articulated buses would ferry passengers between Montclair and Los Angeles, stopping at Pomona, West Covina and El Monte, and will utilize existing HOV lanes including the El Metro Busway. The service would supplement express Line 480. Bus service changes including restructuring of several Busway lines were also approved.

September 15: Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law a bill that would prohibit motorists from holding their cell phones while driving. This will allow drivers to use handless technologies as a substitute. Some lawmakers believed that the mere act of conversing with another is the real cause of distraction, while others noted that other distractions such as kids and eating while driving are just as dangerous.

September 18: The Los Angeles City Airport Commission awarded a $503 million contract to overhaul the Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX. It would be the first major construction project at the LAX terminals since the terminal was built for the 1984 Olympics. Upgrades will include new air-conditioning, paging and electrical systems; new elevators and escalators; and a new explosive detection machines in the terminal's baggage system.

An Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) committee approved a plan to spend $7 million for preliminary engineering and environmental study of high-speed rail service between Anaheim and Los Angeles. The proposed line would use existing rail corridors while trains reach speeds of up to 125 mph. (Metrolink trains currently reach 79 mph.) The full OCTA Board must still allocate the funds.

Nashville became the next city to have commuter rail, as the Music City Star launched service between Nashville Riverfront station and Lebanon, Tennessee. Riders responded positively to the new service. The $40 million rail line brought in 345 passengers on the morning of its inaugural run. The Regional Transportation Authority, which operates the train, expects 1,400 daily boardings in six months.

Congratulations! On August 30, Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) Rideshare received two national awards: The first is a Gold Medal in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) "Best Workplaces for Commuters (BWC) 2006 Race to Excellence". Gold was the highest level awarded, and only 4 public sector agencies received this award. Out of more than 50 companies to receive an award at any level (Gold/Silver/Bronze), LAWA was the only airport management agency on the list.

The second is the "Outstanding Service Award in the Public Service Sector" from the international Association for Commuter Transportation (ACT) for the LAWA employee transit pass program, which increased participation by 135% in 2005. LAWA currently distributes over 200 transit passes at no cost to LAWA employees every month and approximately 21% of their employees (695 out of 3375) participate in the transit, vanpool, or carpool program. LAWA recently completed the Annual Employee Transportation Survey, which revealed an average savings of 458 vehicle trips per day at LAX and 72 vehicle trips per day to ONT (out of 427 employees).

Upcoming Events: 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.

RailPAC Regional Meeting, Southern California: Saturday, October 7, 2006,1:30 to 4:30 p.m., Fullerton Amtrak Station Rail Restaurant. Speaker: Art Brown, Chair, Metrolink and LOSSAN.

RailPAC Regional Meeting, Northern California: Saturday, October 28, 2006
1 to 3 p.m., SamTrans Headquarters, 1250 San Carlos Ave., San Carlos, one block from the San Carlos Caltrain Station.

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.

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