Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
Volume 2, Issue 46

Welcome to a special election issue of 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.

The Washington Post reports that Metro Deputy CEO John Catoe has been tapped to lead Washington Metro as its new general manager. Catoe, a D.C. native, will come in as the Washington Metro copes with rising demand for its bus and subway services. Catoe will start his new job in January, pending successful contract negotiations.

California businesses are particularly relieved of the success of Propositions 1A and 1B, since they believe the improved infrastructure that would follow will improve the state economic climate. Pundits believe that the new interest in upgrading transportation will allure more businesses to the state and keep current residents from fleeing to other states. Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters noted the irony that Jerry Brown will take office in Sacramento as attorney general. His father, former California governor Edmund G. "Pat" Brown, was responsible for bringing major infrastructure projects alive in the '60s.

Now that voters approved the bonds, legislators are feeling the pressure to deliver the goods while municipalities are lining up to get a piece of the pie. Ventura County already is salivating at the prospect of building much desired transportation infrastructure, from widening the 118 Freeway through Simi Valley to installing freight and commuter rail along a disused railway from Ventura to Santa Clarita. Officials in southeast Los Angeles County hope that the money will be used to widen the I-5 from the Orange County line to the 605 Freeway. Los Angeles County will also enter the fray, as it will fight for its share of funds, which is prompting some to fear that projects will be funded based on political muscle instead of merit.

However, the City of Los Angeles stands to reap the most from the bonds, especially with regards to transportation and housing. Indeed, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who actively spread the word on the bonds, suggested that their passage and a concurrently attained Democratic majority in the U.S. Congress would translate into an improved quality of life for Los Angeles residents. (Note though that the transit-touting mayor was reprimanded when it was learned that he is chauffeured in an SUV quite regularly.) After recently synchronizing signals on two streets in the San Fernando Valley, city transportation officials are banking on money from the bonds to fund signal improvements along other city streets.

Meanwhile, Orange County transportation officials are thrilled that voters, if marginally, approved an extension of Measure M. Judging from this map, there's a loose correlation between commute times and voter approval. Also in Orange County, state lawmakers will meet with Caltrans officials to figure out why the transportation agency has failed to pay taxes on its long-acquired properties.

Oh, and a measure that would enable the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority to pursue a new airport in Miramar was soundly defeated by voters. This has forced the Authority to pursue alternatives to enhance Lindbergh Field, including consolidating rental car facilities and installing a people mover to connect to the San Diego Trolley. (An extension of the Trolley itself to the airport "remains hampered by numerous practical difficulties," according to the San Diego Union Tribune report.)

Talk about equating mass transit with leprosy: Downtown L.A. resident Robert LaFranco received a sharp rebuke from a friend for riding a Rapid bus down Wilshire Blvd. His defense? " Because we don't have a train." Mr. LaFranco is due to suffer more, thanks to LA City Councilmember Bill Rosendahl, who is pursuing an end to the bus lanes on Wilshire Blvd. in West Los Angeles. The councilmember wants the Cities of Santa Monica and Beverly Hills and Los Angeles County to install bus lanes in their constituencies before Los Angeles moves forward with their bus lane plans.

As if that wasn't enough, one lousy late train was all it took for this Mission Viejo resident to forever renounce rail travel and instead stick to purportedly more reliable driving. Residents in the Redlands express their gratitude for their new "trolleys." However, Redlands Daily Facts editor Jennifer Dobbs would be hard pressed to call the faux trolley "mass transit," despite the fact that they are nothing more than wood-and-brass buses fitted with shiny bells aimed at replacing low-performing Omnitrans lines. Perhaps it's good to know that Redlands has come a long way from horse and oxen travel, as was the fashion in the area before the town was founded in the 1880s. Also, columnist Sean Mitchell shares his experiences in living in an increasingly loud urban environment, while throwing a slight jab at the Gold Line, which is near his home in South Pasadena.

The City of Santa Clarita works on promoting a lunchtime faux trolley that will run weekdays through the end of the year. The Hometown Trolley, which connects the Valencia Town Center shopping mall with industrial areas, will incorporate into Santa Clarita Transit and adopt the agency's fare, bus route and schedule structure. The city is also updating its Transportation Development Plan, which the city council urged to add Santa Clarita Transit, Metrolink, possible light rail, and alternative fueling stations as part of the mix.

Even as the Foothill Gold Line extension has hit some snags, officials continue to assure the populace that light rail will make it to Montclair… eventually. The extension to Azusa will cost $402 million and may be opened as early as 2011, while the portion from Azusa to Montclair will cost $760 million and could be opened four years later. A shift of power at the U.S. Congress may also affect the project's chances to win the favor of federal officials.

The City of Del Mar in San Diego County expressed disappointment at the sluggish pace and expense it is taking to install a "quiet zone" along its portion of the Coaster railway. Already frustrated at the lack of money for other municipal projects, the city is reluctant to fund additional studies to reduce train noise and is shying away from considering actual improvements, which may cost as much as $4 million.

Regarding roads, recently passed state legislation will encourage construction of four high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes in the state, two of which will be located in Southern California. HOT lanes have been seen as a way of adding road capacity while maintaining fast speeds by charging tolls based on demand. Meanwhile, a new study for the South Foothill Toll Road in Orange County suggests it will do little to relieve congestion along the I-5, contradicting a previous study. Meanwhile, Inland Empire residents complain that improvements on the 215 Freeway are not coming fast enough to support exponential growth in the area. Back in Santa Clarita, carpool lane connectors between the 5 and the 14 Freeways will now come at a price of $157 million, a far cry from the $81 million figure used as recently as 2005.

As for "smart growth", a recent study concluded that the Grand Ave. redevelopment project would increase traffic and overwhelm the police, while offering little assurance that low-income families would secure a residence in the mixed-use development. The environmental review proposed two options, one of which included as much as 532 below-market rental units at the expense of building a new County administration hall.

Is Riverside a model to behold when it comes to wheelchair access? Not in the slightest, according to wheelchair activists. Sloping and broken sidewalks with no ramps at street corners are the norm in this city. As a result, activists are stepping up their efforts with various lawsuits demanding better accommodations for the disabled. Municipalities contend that doing so would hamstring already tight infrastructure expenses to upgrade hundreds of miles of sidewalks.

Airport safety was the main topic of a recent meeting regarding the LAX Specific Plan Amendment study. Los Angeles World Airports organizers did not discuss options for the northern runway, since representatives from the Federal Aviation Administration were present and felt that there would be a "conflict of interest." The Los Angeles Times recently spent time with Los Angeles World Airports Executive Director Lydia Kennard, who is fast emerging as a major player in fight for improving LAX.

The Port of Los Angeles continues to crack down on soot-emitting diesel trucks. One major impediment is reluctance by short-haul drivers to replace their tractors, since they are the lowest-paid workers in the nation and new tractors are well out of their budget. Port officials hope that the recently passed Prop 1B, which includes funds specifically targeted to reduce port pollution, will improve on plans by both ports to fund replacements and retrofits of existing tractors. However, all may not go as smoothly, with the Port of Oakland also vying for funds. Meanwhile, port officials are touring the globe to promote their pollution-fighting methods.

Here is a list of other recent developments:

November 2: The Beverly Hills Mass Transit Committee held a town hall meeting to discuss suggested alignments for a speculative subway extension through their city. Transit consultant Dick Kaku, who was hired by the city to give his expertise, studied Wilshire Blvd. and Santa Monica Blvd. as two possible alignments, but ultimately suggested that any future subway should run below Wilshire. Kaku also suggested two stops, on Beverly Dr. and La Cienega Blvd., based on existing development densities. Residents showed concern regarding terrorism and crime. The Committee will present its final recommendations to the City Council on January 9.

November 8: The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted to enter a joint powers agreement with San Bernardino County to expedite planning and construction of a proposed freeway connecting the Antelope Valley with Victorville, known as the High Desert Corridor. The two counties will form a new authority, which will operate by the end of the year, and select five board members.

November 9: How does LAX rate in terms of transit accessibility? Not very well, according to Chicago Tribune reporter Ed Perkins. Yet this was the subject of a meeting of the LAX Area Advisory Committee. Transit Coalition Executive Director Bart Reed presented Committee members various ideas to improve transit access, with the goal of extending the Green Line 2.5 miles north to the rental car areas and installing a compatible people mover between the Green Line and the terminals. A copy of the presentation is now available.

November 13: The Orange County Transportation Authority approved giving $300,000 to six cities so that they can study transit improvements in their areas. Orange, Anaheim, Laguna Beach, San Clemente, Aliso Viejo and Villa Park will each receive a share of the funds. Anaheim in particular hopes to study a possible monorail connector, among other things, between its station near Angel Stadium and its various attractions and resorts.

Upcoming Events: SCAG Goods Movement Task Force: Wednesday, November 15, 9 a.m., SCAG Offices, 818 W. Seventh St., 12th floor, Los Angeles.

Metro Committee Meetings: Wednesday, November 15 and Thursday, November 16, Board Room, Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles. ( Supplemental agendas.)

·  Planning and Programming Committee, Wednesday, November 15, 1 p.m.

·  Finance and Budget Committee, Wednesday, November 15, 2:30 p.m.

·  Executive Management and Audit Committee, Thursday, November 16, 9 a.m.

·  Construction Committee, Thursday, November 16, 10:30 a.m. CANCELLED.

·  Operations Committee, Thursday, November 16, 12 noon.

SCRRA (Metrolink) Board and Committee Meetings: Friday, November 17, 10 a.m. San Bernardino Conference Room, SCAG Building, 12th Floor, 818 W. Seventh St., Los Angeles.

Metrolink Holiday Toy Train: Saturday, November 18, 5 p.m. at the Lancaster Metrolink Station, 44812 Sierra Hwy., Lancaster; 6 p.m. at the Palmdale Transportation Center, 39000 Clock Tower Plaza Drive, Palmdale; and at 6:45 p.m. at the Vincent Grade/Acton Station, 730 W Sierra Hwy., Acton. (See Page 3 of the November Metrolink Matters for additional dates and locations.)

Orange County Transportation Authority Board Meeting: Monday, November 27, 9 a.m., Board Hearing Room, 600 Main St., Orange.

Consider attending our monthly Transit Coalition Dinner Meeting on Tuesday, November 28 - 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!

LAX Specific Plan Amendment Study Public Outreach Meetings: Wednesday, December 6, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., and Saturday, December 9, 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, December 7, 9:30 a.m., Board Room, Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles.

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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