Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Monday, November 27, 2006
Volume 2, Issue 48

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.

Last Call: This Tuesday is The Transit Coalition Dinner Meeting. See Upcoming Events below for details.

As expected, road projects will receive the first round of bond funds through a recently created $4.5 billion account known as the Corridor Mobility Improvement Account. The Metro Planning and Programming Committee recently approved a wish list of projects that include two projects along the I-10 in the San Gabriel Valley. Orange County transportation officials also drafted their wish list of projects, with priority given to those whose environmental studies are complete. Additionally, a coalition of Inland Empire business interests are teaming up to bring some of the bond money for transportation in their area, provided that they can make a convincing case against other much needed areas. The San Gabriel Valley Tribune praised efforts by transportation officials to bring meaningful regional projects to life. Project applications are due by January 15.

The Westside continues to keep office vacancy rates low while fetching respectable rents for prime office space. This has led to increased concern that existing transportation infrastructure will not be enough to handle new workers. The Los Angeles Times published an editorial that recognized the importance of using the state bond money to build the subway and other worthy Westside projects. The editorial noted that such projects are wrongfully maligned for costing a great deal of money to serve a small area of the county, even though the terrible traffic in the area demands for bolder measures.

Meanwhile, Beverly Hills makes its preparations for a subway down Wilshire, a project once opposed by residents but now seen as a major boon and a necessity. The ad-hoc city Mass Transit Committee eventually recommended a route following Wilshire, with two stops at La Cienega Blvd. and Beverly Dr. Letters to the LA Times shot back at suggestions asking city leaders scrap the Wilshire subway for an inferior busway. While Los Angeles fiddles away, Beijing is moving forward with an ambitious subway project that would rival systems in London and New York.

As a means to aid shoppers during the holiday season, Santa Monica Municipal Bus Lines (The Big Blue Bus) launched a shuttle service that circulates between park-and-ride lots and the city's main shopping areas. Four uniquely wrapped, biodiesel buses will run on the Holiday Shoppers' Shuttle during afternoon and early evening hours and will charge one dollar for a round-trip ticket. To promote the shuttle, Santa Monica Police officers will pull over auto drivers on the street to "ticket" them for good driving. The "ticket" will give the driver two round trips on the Big Blue Bus and a ride on the shuttle at no cost. Santa Monica also launched a new website, parkingspacenow.smgov.net, that offers visitors real time parking information at some of the city's most popular attractions.

One thing that sours bus travel in Los Angeles is Transit TV, according to Times contributor Tim Cavanaugh. The TV screens installed on Metro buses show television advertisements to a hopelessly captive audience, and Cavanaugh believes they infringe on an otherwise peaceful and reflective bus ride. Also souring the bus experience is a contract dispute between First Transit and its bus drivers union, the Amalgamated Transit Union. A recent strike affected two paratransit services operated by First Transit under the auspices of Omintrans.

Gasoline prices rose slightly during the Thanksgiving holiday, with states in the West reporting the most notable increases. As a response, Metrolink provided special holiday trains as an alternative to the gridlocked 91 Freeway.

Atlanta Journal Constitution staff writer Paul Donsky came to Los Angeles and summarily reported on the benefits and problems of Bus Rapid Transit. Atlanta MARTA is working on a Rapid Bus-like system of limited stop buses with signal priority, while also mulling a network of commuter buses as well as a busway circling the city. Times staff writer Robin Rauzi discusses her adventures on the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner while making a plug for the Santa Barbara Car Free program.

In road-related matters, the extension of the 210 Freeway from La Verne to Fontana recently celebrated its fourth anniversary, and residents are eagerly waiting for its completion to San Bernardino in late 2007. Meanwhile, major construction on the 22 Freeway should be completed by this Tuesday, November 28, much to the relief of motorists. Caltrans is investigating whether or not there is a connection between carpool lanes and accidents, noting that vehicles in carpool lanes can travel by as much as 35 miles per hour faster than their single-occupant counterparts.

The roadside town of Yermo, however, isn't benefiting from the repaving of I-15 between Barstow and Las Vegas. Residents themselves do not benefit from the traffic that clogs their only connection to civilization. Worse yet, the traffic doesn't contribute to the local economy, since most drivers choose to bypass the town and thus their roadside establishments such as hotels and gas stations.

Burlington Northern Santa Fe is taking the high road by recruiting railroad hobbyists to keep an eye out for terrorist activity. Once dismissed as "foamers" and harassed after 9/11 for pursuing their hobby, the railroad now sees them as a no-cost method to improve security along its 32,000 miles of track. Through the BNSF-sanctioned group Citizens for Rail Security, hobbyists can report behavior and activity on railroad property that are out of line with regular railroad functions.

Plans to modernize Los Angeles International Airport are under attack, as low-cost airlines using the airport are protesting a rise in terminal rents. Officials at Los Angeles World Airports claim that they have not charged fair market rents and as a result are subsidizing air service. Airlines claim that an increase of fees will hurt a financially drained industry that is coping with rising fuel costs. Also, the Engineers and Architects Association, which represents more than 7,500 Los Angeles city workers, performs its share of rolling strikes, starting with one at LAX yesterday.

The Port of Los Angeles continues to break records, as more than 800,000 cargo containers flowed through the harbor in October, outpacing the Port of Long Beach and leaving other ports nationwide in the dust. Many believe that the extended work hours and additional workers aided in the growth. Even so, the commissions overseeing each port approved a $2 billion package aimed at reducing port pollution, in particular by replacing some 16,000 aging diesel trucks. The votes came after acrimonious public comment, but an editorial in the Long Beach Press Telegram acknowledged that the balance between port growth and environmental responsibility is not lost on the minds of commissioners.

Growth is coming to the Coachella Valley, and water supply is the least of concerns. Instead, transportation will form the greatest worry to future residents, as outlined at a recent Urban Land Institute conference held in Rancho Mirage. The Southern California Association of Governments believe that the area will grow once the Inland Empire is built out in 25 years, but transportation infrastructure must be built to accommodate both local and interstate traffic.

Meanwhile, South Pasadena is reinventing its quaint little town with decidedly more urban amenities. Past attempts at revitalizing its neighborhoods would be quashed by slow growth advocates who would oppose most projects due to their relatively large size. San Gabriel Valley is poised to grow economically, even though a shortage in developable land is imminent, according to a recent report. To the south, the Orange County Transportation Authority doled out grants of $100,000 each to three more cities wishing to improve their connections with Metrolink stations.

Elsewhere, a recent study developed for San Diego and Riverside Counties urged for a reduction of freeway commuters between the two areas as a means to preserve economic growth. Simi Valley residents grew critical of a report suggesting its community needs 5,086 new housing units while other cities need less.

Here is a list of other recent developments:

November 16: The San Bernardino Associated Governments held a workshop that discussed " transit villages" along a proposed Metrolink line to Redlands. Even though a Metrolink line to the area is at least six years away, community leaders are taking the opportunity to learn about transit-oriented development and see how it can satisfy needs such as jobs and housing.

November 17: California State Parks named San Francisco-based Hargreaves Associates as the winner of an international design competition for the Los Angeles State Historic Park, commonly known as the Cornfield. The firm will now spend the next year meeting with community members and refining their designs. UCLA urban design professor Richard Weinstein concurrently outlined the pros and cons of such competitions in a Los Angeles Times op-ed. Weinstein concluded that many good ideas are often thrown out while second-rate concepts are routinely adopted and they may damage revitalization efforts in Downtown L.A.

The San Diego Association of Governments approved increasing the Sprinter project budget by $98.6 million to a total of $484.2 million, a figure to be presented to the Federal Transit Administration. Officials representing the North County Transit District, which oversees the line, believe it will cost $440 million to complete the line and will open by the end of next year.

November 20: A joint city-county authority approved the $2 billion Grand Avenue Project. Questions about tax rebates continue to loom over the project. However, the county Board of Supervisors, the Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency and the Los Angeles City Council will take up the tax questions when they review the proposals at their respective meetings in the near future.

Upcoming Events: 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!

Southern California Transit Advocates: Saturday, December 2, 1 p.m., Angelus Plaza, Rm. 422, 255 S. Hill St., Los Angeles.

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

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.

Exposition Metro Line Construction Authority: Thursday, December 7, 2:30 p.m., Board Room, Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles.

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

Metro San Gabriel Valley Governance Council: Tuesday, December 12, 5 p.m., 3369 Santa Anita Ave. (near El Monte bus station), El Monte.

Metro Westside/Central Governance Council: Wednesday, December 13, 5 p.m., La Cienega Tennis Center, Sunset Room, 325 S. La Cienega Blvd., Beverly Hills.

SCAG MagLev Task Force: Thursday, December 14, 10:00 a.m. SCAG Offices, 818 W. Seventh St., 12th floor, Los Angeles. CANCELLED.

Metro Gateway Cities Governance Council: Thursday, December 14, 2 p.m., Gas Company ERC, 9240 Firestone Bl., Downey.

Metro South Bay Governance Council: Friday, December 15, 9.30 a.m., Carson Community Center, 801 E. Carson St., Carson.

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