Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Monday, October 23, 2006
Volume 2, Issue 43

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.

This Is It: 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. You must pre-register to attend this event. If you are not registered, you will not be able to enter the building. See Upcoming Events below for details.

Commute times across the nation continue to rise despite modest population growth, according to a recent study. With that in mind, some are wondering whether to spend limited transportation funds on more road construction or mass transit projects. Transit advocates assert that trains and buses are more capable of handling future travel growth, while critics believe it is a failed approach when it comes to attracting "white suburbanites" away from their cars. Perhaps the latter might vouch for a recent suggestion to " pimp our freeways." In any case, this growth has allowed Metrolink to retain new passengers even as gas prices reached their lowest levels in many months.

Then how can governments fund transportation systems in the future? This was the subject of a discussion by former deputy secretary of transportation Mortimer Downey III during a recent summit. According to Downey, the gas tax is a relic that was meant to build farm roads and, eventually, the Interstate Highway System. However, revenues from the tax are no longer sufficient to fund current needs, including a theoretical reconstruction of said Interstate System. Downey stated that various forms of tolling are now available, while car registration fees according to how much they pollute could add an extra push.

Even as commuting times grow, especially in California, residents continue to look deep in the hinterlands for affordable housing. Is Coachella Valley poised to be the next suburb of Los Angeles? Inland Empire economist John Husing seems to think so.

Meanwhile, Caltrans cancelled a weekend closure at the interchange of I-15 and I-215 in Devore, which will ease traffic through the Cajon Pass… until a rescheduled closure takes place in late November. Caltrans cancelled the closure due to a shortage of steel needed for the rehabilitation project now in full swing. The Orange County Register editorial board heaped scorn on Caltrans for its practices regarding property acquisition and maintenance, the subject of a recent Register investigation.

Monrovia, being in the middle of two transportation corridors, held a series of meetings last week to discuss how to improve public perception of public transportation. Participants expressed hope that the future Gold Line will help bring a positive view to public transit, while others believed that teaching children about the value of public transit could improve its image in the future. Meanwhile, momentum grows for a light rail line down Crenshaw Boulevard, being one of the busiest "busways" in the county and all. To the north, the San Francisco Bay Area continues to lead the way in offering public transit benefits to employees.

The Sprinter project in North San Diego County continues to receive federal funds, even though the U.S. Department of Transportation threatened to pull back. As part of its 30th anniversary celebrations, Omnitrans rolled out with a 1958 bus that was carefully restored by employees. Elsewhere, Fitch Ratings downgrades $451 million in bonds used to build the Las Vegas Monorail from "BB" to "CCC", making a default on the bonds a very likely outcome unless a miracle crops up.

Down at the ports, private entrepreneurs are joining the fight for cleaner air. One particular company is touting a filter that purportedly reduces particulate matter by 85% and hydrocarbons by 90%. Officials recognize that incentives, subsidies and new equipment at no cost must be provided so that trucks can comply with a recently released pollution reduction plan from the South Coast Air Quality Management District.

Regarding bicycle travel, activists are pursuing bicycle safety improvements for the Santa Monica Boulevard Transit Parkway. Of note is that the parkway consists of entrance and exit points for cars traveling between the frontage road and the main boulevard. According to blogger SoapBoxLA, the "ramps" were designed so that cars are not required to slow down, endangering bicyclist that would use the adjacent bike lanes that the cars would inevitably cross.

Two Weeks Until the Election: The Ventura County Star came out in support of Proposition 1B, which would provide $19.9 billion for transportation projects. A concurrent op-ed informed voters that Ventura County needs the bonds, since it has no sales tax for transportation. The City of Highland near San Bernardino recently discussed getting a cut of the bond money to widen State Highway Route 30 in their community.

However, voters are growing leery of the bond measures due to their sheer size. In fact, the $43 billion that would be released if all bond measures passed may balloon to $84 billion over 30 years. As a result, the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin editorially supported Proposition 1B but opposed the other four bonds measures that will appear on the ballot (1C, 1D, 1E and 84). Even more troubling is the possible passage of Proposition 90, which would limit eminent domain by governments. Some fear that, should voters approve all of the measures, many of the projects to be funded by bonds would be stymied because of the newly enacted property laws.

Meanwhile, Santa Barbara Independent staff writer Matt Kettmann compiled positions for and against Measure D, a quarter-cent sales tax dedicated to transportation projects in Santa Barbara County also up for renewal this November. Orange County officials are placing all their efforts on passage of Measure M, another sales tax measure for transportation, while staying mum on the bonds. Some are left wondering whether the original Measure M did its job in relieving traffic, while others note that sales taxes in Los Angeles and Orange Counties are used for markedly different purposes. A bipartisan coalition of San Diego Congressmembers are asking voters to reject Measure A, which would give local governments authority to pursue passenger services at Miramar Marine Corps Air Station.

Here is a list of other recent developments:

October 17: Caving in to local opponents, the Burbank City Council voted against plans to connect the Los Angeles River and Chandler Bikeways via Sparks Street. The move will place $265,000 in a Caltrans grant for the connection in jeopardy. The Council directed the Burbank Planning Department to seek alternative alignments.

October 18: The Los Angeles Daily News published an editorial that praised several recent airport developments, including the upcoming renovation of the Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX, the resurrection of the Southern California Regional Airport Authority, and the creation of a coalition to bring a fully functional airport to Palmdale. State Senator George Runner, who along with State Senator Richard Alarcon created the coalition, is inviting Santa Clarita Valley leaders to take up the cause for Palmdale Airport.

October 19:U.S. District Court Judge Terry Hatter heard a motion by the LCSC/Bus Riders Union on the pros and cons of extending the Consent Decree beyond its expected expiration date of Sunday, October 29. BRU attorneys contended that Metro has failed to meet requirements to reduce overcrowding, while Metro asserted that factors beyond the agency's control produce overcrowding. Hatter will make a ruling by Thursday, October 26.

Upcoming Events: 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.

California High Speed Rail Authority Public Meeting: Wednesday, October 25, 10 a.m., State Capitol Building, Senate Hearing Room 112, Sacramento.

LAX Specific Plan Amendment Study Public Outreach Meetings: Wednesday, October 25, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., and Saturday, October 28, 9 a.m. to 12 noon, Proud Bird Restaurant 11022 Aviation Blvd., Los Angeles. The meetings will discuss the North Airfield Preliminary Concepts. Those who wish to come can attend either one of the two meetings.

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

Friends of Jane Harman Bike The Beach Event: Saturday, October 28, 8 a.m. Omelette & Waffle Shop, 1103 S Gaffey St., San Pedro. Then the bike ride starts at 9 a.m. in Torrance Beach and ends in Venice, with six stops in between.

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.

Mobility21 5th Annual Transportation Summit: Monday, October 30, 8 a.m. (Continental breakfast at 7 a.m.), Sheraton Universal Hotel, 333 Universal Hollywood Dr., Universal City. Registration: $150 per person.

Metro San Fernando Valley Governance Council: Wednesday, November 1, 6:30 p.m., Marvin Braude Constituent Center, 6262 Van Nuys Bl., Van Nuys.

Angeles Chapter Sierra Club Transportation Committee: Thursday, November 2, 7:30 p.m. Angeles Chapter office, 3435 Wilshire Blvd, Suite 320, Los Angeles.

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

Metro Westside/Central Governance Council: Wednesday, November 8, 5 p.m., La Cienega Tennis Center, Sunset Room, 325 S. La Cienega Blvd., Beverly Hills.

Metro Gateway Cities Governance Council: Thursday, November 9, 2 p.m., Gas Company ERC, 9240 Firestone Bl., Downey.

Metro South Bay Governance Council: Friday, November 10, 9.30 a.m., Carson Community Center, 801 E. Carson St., Carson.

Missed last week's newsletter? Read it here!

Get the Print Edition of Moving Southern California, our monthly newsletter. Request a sample copy.

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.

Visit our Discussion Board for the latest dialogue on transit.


bart.reed@thetransitcoalition.us • The Transit Coalition