Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
Volume 2, Issue 41

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.

We Welcome You: The Transit Coalition invites you to a special Metro Rail Customer Conference on Tuesday, October 24. This is your chance to voice your opinion on current Metro Rail service. See Upcoming Events below for details.

The U.S. population will hit 300 million in a matter of days, which has made American families reconsider the way they travel and the places they choose to live. Some hope that smart growth policies will help cities cope with the increase.

Will smart growth come to San Bernardino? Would it be appropriate? Urban planner expert Jim Mulvihill believes so. To this effect, the Cal State San Bernardino professor gave a description of what smart growth is in a recent op-ed. Mulvihill warned that existing smart growth projects have shown mixed results and that further research would be necessary to determine the practicality of such projects.

Cities not known for public transportation continue to explore and expand it. Irvine has launched a study that would determine what transit options would serve it best, be it streetcars, monorails or bus rapid transit. Already there is a proposal to bring FlyAway service to the proposed Great Park just east of Irvine.

UC Riverside and the Riverside Transit Agency launched their no-cost bus and Metrolink pass program for students. The San Bernardino-based Omnitrans has grown a great deal since its inception in 1976 and will play a prominent role in the growth of the region. Humor columnist David Allen gave kudos to Metrolink for changing the departure time of its last train from Los Angeles Union Station from 11:15 pm to 11:30 pm. The commuter rail service is considering installing a grade-level pedestrian crossing at the Camarillo station to ward off complaints about the cumbersome overpass currently in use.

Also growing is the Palm Springs SunLine Transit Agency, which narrowly avoided a strike when it recently reached agreement with its bus drivers and mechanics on a new labor contract. To the north, Caltrain expressed its support for the future Coast Daylight train Capacity improvements are still needed to make the Los Angeles-San Francisco train a reality. The American Public Transportation Association held its annual meeting in San Jose and celebrated continued increase in nationwide mass transit ridership despite numerous challenges.

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles transit experience grows more aesthetically pleasant. Metro completed a remodeling of its customer center on Wilshire and La Brea, which at one time used to be a restaurant. The L.A. Weekly commended the Green Line Aviation station for its whimsical mix of quotes from poetry and suburban-style furniture.

The Beverly Hills Mass Transit Committee is studying at least four different alignments for the proposed Purple Line subway below Wilshire. A town hall meeting is scheduled for Thursday, October 19.

For better or worse, transportation officials are working to improve road travel in San Bernardino County. The San Bernardino Associated Governments are writing up a wish list of road projects that could be funded with money from Props 1A and 1B, which they concurrently endorsed. Plans are in flux for a major realignment of a particularly dangerous stretch of U.S. Highway 395 near Adelanto. Construction on State Highway Route 330 has begun, and the closure is adversely affecting businesses in the mountaintop community of Running Springs and increasing traffic on nearby State Highway Route 18. The San Bernardino County Sun editorially lauded Inland Empire officials who are working to mitigate the effects of the Alameda Corridor East onto the area.

Nationwide, the U.S Department of Transportation will explore allowing trucks from Mexico to travel deeper into the U.S. as part of a pilot program, much to the chagrin of truck safety organizations. In Nevada, state transportation officials showed support for toll facilities in the state and recommending a pilot project on I-15 between Nevada and California. Even as LAX continues to lag in amenities, Chicago will launch non-stop rail service to its two airports in two years, New York La Guardia will have a Borders book store and Sacramento International Airport will build a replacement terminal that will house a hotel and people mover system.

Regarding the ports, a citizens advisory panel will adopt a policy that would constrain growth at the Port of Los Angeles. However, new projects can be built if their benefits outweigh the pollution they would contribute. Meanwhile, a small California company is working on smokestack scrubbers that aim to reduce pollution stemming from idling cargo ships.

Are transit agencies able to handle the expected increase in senior patronage of buses? Many agencies already have trouble funding existing paratransit services for the elderly, especially in suburban areas, where the senior population is expected to grow the most. The American Association of Retired Persons reports that 60% of persons over 65 do not have transit within a 10-minute walk of their homes. Some agencies have had to cut paratransit service due to budget constraints. One example is Santa Clarita Transit, which is offering no-cost rides for seniors on its fixed-route buses as a way to divert passengers from its dial-a-ride services.

Four Weeks Until the Election: The Los Angeles Daily News vouched support for Prop 1B but stated opposition to Prop 1C since the paper felt affordable housing was a local issue. The San Jose Mercury News also gave its support for Prop 1B. Officials in San Diego believe the bonds will give a shot in the arm for much-delayed transportation projects in the area. One particular highway that will be greatly upgraded with the bonds will be State Highway Route 99 through the San Joaquin Valley. However, there is concern that bond measures at state and local levels have become the only way to fund any sort of improvements.

Nevertheless, the transportation bonds are gaining more opposition. The Transportation and Land Use Coalition expressed its opposition to the bonds, claiming that state programs would be starved of funds to pay off the bonds. (The same article quoted the Bus Riders Union, which claimed that funds would be better spent on buses instead of rail.) The Los Angeles Times came out against Prop 1A, believing it would unnecessarily put a " straightjacket" on gas tax revenues. As if that wasn't enough, legislators from the Democratic party have abandoned a tour to promote the bonds, which have received only modest support in voter surveys.

Regarding local measures, backers of Measure R in Sonoma and Marin counties, which would install commuter rail service between the two counties, are having a hard time selling the tax increase to the masses.

Here is a list of other recent developments:

October 3: The Glendale City Council discussed proposals aimed at reducing traffic congestion in its downtown area. Proposals include widening streets like Colorado Street and Central and Glendale Avenues; installing one-way streets and extending certain streets to freeways.

October 7: The Port of Long Beach held its second annual Green Port Open House. Port officials provided families and visitors information on technologies and programs aimed at reducing pollution at the ports. Several dignitaries were also on hand to speak about these various initiatives.

Transit Coalition Executive Director Bart Reed attended the RailPAC Southern California Regional Meeting, which featured LOSSAN and Metrolink Chair Art Brown. Brown discussed current Metrolink projects, proposals to expand parking at Metrolink stations, and the possibility of creating a joint powers authority between commuter rail lines and the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner, in the same vein as the Capitol Corridor JPA in Northern California. A report of this meeting is now available.

Upcoming Events: 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 10 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.

Planning and Programming Committee: Wednesday, October 18, 1 p.m.

Finance and Budget Committee: Wednesday, October 18, 2:30 p.m.

Executive Management and Audit Committee: Thursday, October 19, 9 a.m.

Construction Committee: Thursday, October 19, 10:30 a.m.

Operations Committee: Thursday, October 19, 12 noon.

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.

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

Metro Board Meeting: Thursday, October 26, 9:30 a.m., Board Room, Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles.

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

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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