Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Tuesday, October 3, 2006
Volume 2, Issue 40

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.

You're Invited: The Transit Coalition invites you to a RailPAC meeting featuring Metrolink and LOSSAN Chairperson Art Brown. We would like to extend our invitation for a special Metro Rail Customer Conference on Tuesday, October 24. See Upcoming Events below for details.

Despite a steady drop in gas prices, commuters continue to take public transit. The American Public Transportation Association released figures showing that total trips on mass transit between January and June of 2006 were up 3.2% over the same period last year. Even for those who cannot use public transportation, many continue to take advantage of the new bonds formed by ridesharing. In the future, technologies such as real-time traffic conditions available right inside your car may greatly help people get around traffic altogether.

Discussion on the newly named Purple Line down Wilshire Boulevard continues to make the rounds. Los Angeles Times staff writer Steve Hymon took a break from his busy schedule to compute the time it would take to physically bore twin tunnels to Santa Monica. Staff writer Chris Hawthorne believed that, despite the high cost of building the subway, one should consider the relief it would bring to the Westside. Traffic in that area has turned even the most ardent opponents of the subway into full-fledged fans. However, Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich attacked the subway by telling constituents that money spent on the Purple Line means less money for regional projects. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Daily News editorially expressed jubilation that the Consent Decree may very well fade into oblivion at the end of October. The San Fernando Valley Transit Insider says that, as of today, the Decree has 22 days to go.

Inland Empire officials are coming out to urge more freight railway improvements. The Alameda Corridor connecting Downtown Los Angeles rail yards with the ports has placed a considerable strain on both railroads running through the Inland Empire and the automobiles that must cross their tracks. To this effect, officials representing various constituencies and organizations have called for a more regional approach to freight traffic. Some are calling for funds, such as tariffs on imported goods, to fund railway improvements. The Inland Valley Daily Bulletin expressed support for these efforts in an editorial.

For the historically inclined, an article published by the San Bernardino County Sun recounted stories regarding the installation of railroad tracks by both Pacific Electric and the Santa Fe railroads through the Inland Empire nearly a century ago. To save money on overpasses when crossing each other's lines, one railroad would tear out the track belonging to the other railroad and then continue laying its own tracks through the right-of-way. Cities along the Pacific Electric line today are converting the right-of-way into a bike path.

Regarding smart growth, San Francisco will soon experiment with vertical shopping with the expansion of the San Francisco Center on Market Street. The mall will be composed of two buildings, one with nine stories and the other with eight. The shopping experience is an alternative to the traditional suburban mall, but may prove to be a difficult sell in Los Angeles, since Hollywood and Highland, which contains elements of vertical shopping, is largely considered a bust. In Pasadena, residents are concerned that smart growth will undercut low-density yet arguably historic establishments.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed and vetoed various bills relating to transportation. The governor approved a bill that would add 10,000 hybrid vehicles on carpool lanes, but rejected a bill that would require backseat booster seats for children 8 and younger. The governor also signed a bill that would extend toll collection to 45 years on a San Diego toll road currently under construction by a private company. Privatization consultant Gabriel Roth believes toll roads are the way to go but laments that toll collection surpluses are misspent on "socialist" public transportation.

Onto more aesthetic aspects, transit agencies continue to search for the optimal bus shelter. In past times, shelters were seen as a mere means to protect bus passengers from the elements and often consisted of a utilitarian design and little else. Today, bus shelters are seen as a ways to attract ridership and use architecture to fit with the surroundings. Shelters are also making room for transit information that has often been lacking in previous designs. Indeed, spiffy bus shelters are in the mind of San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, who wants to overhaul the San Francisco Municipal Railway with this and other innovations.

Meanwhile, residents in the City of Orange are working to establish a "quiet zone" along Metrolink tracks. A Los Angeles couple is suing the Orange County Transportation Authority for not allowing them to contest $375,000 in fines from the use of toll roads. The Burbank Leader shot back at residents opposing a connection between the Los Angeles River and Chandler bike paths with an editorial debunking fears that it would bring in more traffic and crime. Oxnard will use a federal grant to install bilingual signage at its transportation center.

Five Weeks Until the Election: The Antelope Valley Press and the Orange County Register editorially supported Proposition 1A. Still, pessimistic attitudes abound. Recent polls by the Field Poll and the Public Policy Institute of California revealed that most of the measures are barely receiving majority support. Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters warns that, despite the merits of the bond measures, lackluster voter turnout may very well derail them. The American Society of Civil Engineers believes that the bonds will not do enough to fix state infrastructure. Though no formal opposition to the bonds has formed, some nevertheless believe that bonds for infrastructure would place a heavy burden on future generations and that tighter control of existing funds can accomplish the same thing. Even Bill Bradley's New West Notes blog has noticed.

To drum up support, elected leaders are spreading the message across the state, while the Let's Rebuild California committee so far has raised $3.3 million for the campaign. The governor himself launched a weeklong tour to promote the $37 billion bond package. Other leaders are holding meetings to explain what these bond measures contain and how they will help statewide infrastructure. Transit Coalition member James Fujita wrote an op-ed regarding the importance of voting for a local tax to fund road and rail projects in the San Joaquin Valley.

Here is a list of other recent developments:

September 25: A study released by UCLA researchers revealed that the City of Los Angeles fails to regulate taxi franchises. Drivers often earn less than the city-mandated "living wage", have no health insurance and lack basic employee protections, according to the report.

The Orange County Transportation Authority Board approved spending $7 million to study a high-speed rail line connecting Los Angeles with Anaheim. The rail line would connect with the proposed California high-speed rail system and whisk passengers end-to-end in less than 20 minutes. The study will include preliminary engineering and environmental work. Some desired an extension to Irvine, but officials from the Cities of Orange and Tustin expressed concern about the extension, and the idea was summarily shelved.

September 28: The Metro Board voted to launch studies for an Orange Line busway extension along Canoga Avenue to the Chatsworth Metrolink station and on Van Nuys Boulevard. Van Nuys buses logged more than 25,000 boardings according to the most recently available statistics. Staff was further instructed to explore an extension to the 118 Freeway at a park-and-ride lot specifically built for the Orange Line.

New Amtrak CEO Alex Kummant spoke to Congress members on what he expects to do at the national passenger railroad. Kummant expressed the importance of rail transportation at a time of high gas prices and strained car and air infrastructure.

September 29: Metro and the Exposition Metro Line Construction Authority celebrated the groundbreaking of the $640 million Expo Line from Downtown L.A. to Culver City. The groundbreaking is the fruit of efforts over the course of two decades by transit officials and advocacy organizations such as Friends4Expo (represented by Darrell Clarke at the ceremony) and The Transit Coalition (represented by President Kenneth S. Alpern). Transit Coalition Executive Director Bart Reed was quoted by the Los Angeles Downtown News, noting that the line will be a successful alternative to the Santa Monica Parking Lot--er, Freeway. Alpern was quoted by KABC-TV, expressing that the light rail line will improve the quality of life for residents in the Westside. Expo Line Construction Authority expects to complete the project by 2010. Photos and a video of the event are now available.

September 30: The U.S. Congress approved a bill that aims to improve security at the ports. The bill authorizes $400 million in federal grants, requires minimum security standards for containers, and establishes a pilot program at three foreign ports to scan U.S.-bound cargo. Congress earlier this week allotted $12 million for security improvements at the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, even though the two ports requested far more. Also, the Senate confirmed former Arizona DOT head Mary Peters as the new Secretary of Transportation.

October 1: The Road Improvement Project released a report concluding that Los Angeles road conditions are the second-worst in the nation. The non-profit organization used monitors that record road vibrations and compared them to tolerance levels on humans. Deteriorated roads impose a " hidden tax" on drivers by means of increased spending on car maintenance, which adds on average $383 in car expenses.

Upcoming Events: Metro San Fernando Valley Governance Council: Wednesday, October 4, 6:30 p.m., Marvin Braude Constituent Center, 6262 Van Nuys Bl., Van Nuys.

Angeles Chapter Sierra Club Transportation Committee: Thursday, October 5, 7:30 p.m. Angeles Chapter office, 3435 Wilshire Blvd, Suite 320, Los Angeles. CANCELLED.

Exposition Metro Line Construction Authority: Thursday, October 5, 2:30 p.m., Board Room, Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles.

Orange County Transportation Authority Board Meeting: Friday, October 6, and Monday, October 25, 9 a.m., Board Hearing Room, 600 Main St., Orange.

RailPAC Regional Meeting, Southern California: Saturday, October 7, 2006,1:30 to 4:30 p.m., The Rail Restaurant, 110 E Commonwealth Ave., near the Fullerton Amtrak Station ( Directions from the station). Speaker: Art Brown, Chair, Metrolink and LOSSAN.

Metro San Gabriel Valley Governance Council: Tuesday, October 10, 5 p.m., 3369 Santa Anita Ave. (near El Monte bus station), El Monte.

Metro Westside/Central Governance Council: Wednesday, October 11, 5 p.m., La Cienega Tennis Center, Sunset Room, 325 S. La Cienega Blvd., Beverly Hills.

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

Metro Gateway Cities Governance Council: Thursday, October 12, 2 p.m., Gas Company ERC, 9240 Firestone Bl., Downey.

Metro South Bay Governance Council: Friday, October 13, 9.30 a.m., Carson Community Center, 801 E. Carson St., Carson.

Southern California Transit Advocates: Saturday, October 14, 1 p.m., Angelus Plaza, Rm. 422, 255 S. Hill St., Los Angeles.

SCAG Goods Movement Task Force: Wednesday, October 18, 9 a.m., SCAG Offices, 818 W. Seventh St., 12th floor, Los Angeles.

Metro Committee Meetings: Wednesday, October 18 and Thursday, October 19 Board Room, Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles.

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. To participate, fill out this form and include your first & last name, mailing address, birth date and gender, as it would appear on your legal ID, since you will enter a secure building. Also include your phone number so we can inform you of any last minute changes. Also submit any questions you might want to ask.

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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