Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Tuesday, December 5, 2006
Volume 2, Issue 49

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.

Newly elected state legislators will have plenty on their plate this upcoming session. However, some are expressing grave concern that these new lawmakers will cave to the interests of lobbyists while tempting themselves to bring home money from the bond measures and unleash a "porkfest". Those communities and counties that find innovative ways to finance projects and develop a strong relationship with Caltrans will be the first in line, according to Caltrans director Will Kempton. An editorial in the Los Angeles Daily News acknowledged this point and believes that it could be used to the advantage of San Fernando Valley residents.

Beverly Hills continues to move forward with its recommendations for a possible subway extension under Wilshire Blvd. At least one person is ecstatic at the development, even if there are still so many obstacles to overcome. However, LA County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich continues to vilify the subway extension, claiming that funds for the project would be taken from other projects across the county. (It should be noted that this is coming from the same man who objects to a cost-effective rail subway yet advocates for a car tunnel for the 710 Freeway that would carry only a couple hundred people per hour at a cost of multiple billions.)

In response to a previous article on the subway extension, a letter to the Los Angeles Times stressed that construction of new rail lines in the Westside and elsewhere should be expedited. Two more letters expressed that any plans to install inferior transit such as more buses would trivialize the Westside traffic crisis.

A survey of Gold Line passengers revealed that most are affluent and choose to ride the rail line despite having cars. The results prompted an editorial that believed the revelations would help bring federal dollars to the Foothill Extension. The editorial also took a jab at comments from Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, the latter believing that the light rail line would be too close to Metrolink tracks and thus become redundant. Moving to the construction zones of the Eastside Gold Line, breakthrough for the tunnel boring machine named "Vicki" should come later this week.

Metrolink continues to grow in ridership and popularity, with the service now regularly logging in some 42,000 daily boardings. For example, stations in Santa Clarita log in more than 1,100 boardings, more than any other station along the Antelope Valley line.

With this growth comes talk of expansion for the commuter rail system. A consortium of communities along the line connecting Riverside with San Bernardino is pleading with Metrolink to install a new station at the county line. A recent field study on a right-of-way between Riverside and Perris revealed that major track upgrades must be done before Metrolink service is launched. Meanwhile, a special planning commission in Redlands continues to work on bringing passenger rail into its city.

Not to be forgotten is the Metrolink Holiday Toy Express, where attendees can come and donate an unwrapped toy as they contemplate a Metrolink train dressed with over 50,000 lights and decorations. The special train will come to Newhall on Friday, December 8.

Also, officials want to install a coffee shop and attract other tenants in the newly restored Santa Fe Depot in San Bernardino to sell a cup of java to weary Metrolink commuters. Currently, the depot houses only a police substation.

Union Pacific and BNSF continue to search for new employees. The two railroads have trouble coping with the surge in cargo traffic and thus are in dire need of new hires. Meanwhile, a new study from the federal government revealed new ways to predict when railroad workers will be fatigued to the point of causing an accident.

Parking once again takes center stage in the City of Los Angeles. The Community Redevelopment Agency presented a plan that would impose sweeping changes in how parking is offered in Downtown Los Angeles. Sections of the central city would sport different parking rules based on the access of transit, while trying to discourage commuter parking. Another battle brews in Westwood, where " apron parking" has become a danger to both motorists and pedestrians. UCLA public policy professor (and former Massachusetts governor) Michael Dukakis and urban planning director Donald Shoup are joining forces to provide fresh ideas to solve the problem, while Los Angeles parking enforcement promises to crack down on illegal parking.

As a possible means of relieving traffic in Riverside County, officials are mulling an extension of existing toll lanes on the 91 Freeway and installing new ones along the I-15. Meanwhile, Orange County officials grin at the ongoing widening of the I-5 at the Los Angeles county line. To express their smug pride, the Orange County Transportation Authority proposed to install $175,000 in welcome signage and landscaping on the I-5. Caltrans is receiving more scorn for their management of properties, this time from Pasadena, where the state agency owns several historic homes that have been plundered of late.

Elsewhere in the country, while Oregon continues to experiment with mileage-based car taxes, Tennessee lawmakers are drafting legislation that would make the concept a reality in their state.

After years of planning, a new bicycle trail will start construction in spring. A portion of the former Pacific Electric right-of-way through Bellflower will become a landscaped trail for bikes and pedestrians. The project has locked $2.5 million in federal, county and private funding, and project bids will be issued in January.

For those of you who are not aware, the L.A. Auto Show is in town from now through Sunday, December 10. In a change of pace, automobile companies will unveil alternative fuel cars that may actually be available for sale at some future point. Activists contend that auto companies continue to lag in developing cars that could be sold to the public. Meanwhile, two major German auto companies are developing new vehicles that would use emissions-cleaning technologies and meet stringent California emissions rules. The diesel vehicles could go on sale in California as early as 2008.

Moving on to airport matters, the Los Angeles World Airports will launch a second round of meetings that will deal with the two northern runways of LAX. Several options are on the table, which mostly include shifting one or both runways. The proposals intend to improve airplane safety by giving space between the runways to handle larger airplanes and extending them several thousand feet to reduce close calls. Some opponents see the proposals as a rehash of previous plans from the days of former LA mayor Richard Riordan that would have increased capacity at the airport.

The Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach continue to sift through pollution-reducing ideas. One that has been recently touted is MagLev freight trains specifically designed to transport cargo to inland distribution centers. Proponents believe that at $100 million a mile, a MagLev freight system would be cheaper to build than a passenger system and is equal to the price of building a lane-mile on urban freeways, while dispensing with harmful emissions more associated with trucks and locomotives. A letter to the LA Times blasted the idea and suggested that simple electrification of existing rail lines would be just as helpful and yet not as expensive.

In the short term, a proposal to levy fees from freight containers to fund pollution reduction programs gains steam. Opponents claim that the fees would lead to an increase in product prices. A panel hosted by Cal State Long Beach and composed of legislators, economists and health experts refutes the notion. A Long Beach Press Telegram editorial suggests using the threat of legislation as a way to coax retailers to phase in fees voluntarily. Indeed, state Senator Alan Lowenthal fashioned legislation this year that would impose the fees, but was vetoed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Regarding human interest, the Riverside Transit Agency provides a special program where at-risk youth can board the bus at no cost to Operation SafeHouse in Riverside and the Boys and Girls Club of Temecula. Buses are labeled with the yellow "Safe House" sign that are often associated with such programs.

To the north, the Sacramento City Council will vote on plans to open up a former rail yard for development, which would include a new regional transportation center. Officials envision the new facility as, among other things, the new home of Greyhound. The bus line is eager to leave its dilapidated depot in downtown Sacramento, which is experiencing a redevelopment boom. Officials see the current shindigs as an eyesore and a social pariah. Later this week, the Sacramento RT light rail line extension to the local Amtrak depot will open for service.

Got Milk? To bring more awareness of milk to the masses, the California Milk Processor Board and its advertising agency developed a new campaign that was introduced at select San Francisco bus stops this week. Through state-of-the-art technology, scents of chocolate chip cookies would emanate from adhesive strips in bus shelters, accompanied by a ubiquitous "Got Milk" advertisement.

Not days after the San Francisco Chronicle published the development, everyone was up in arms about the campaign. Complaints ranged from the safety of the scents to whether they were "flavors" or "fragrances." Some opponents even flavored (pun intended) the debate with bizarre accusations that the campaign exacerbates class divisions, while others believed it would worsen the obesity epidemic. The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency took up the matter at its Board meeting.

Here is a list of other recent developments:

November 29: LA County Supervisor Mike Antonovich met with La Cañada Flintridge City Councilmembers to discuss local transportation projects that could be built through the countywide Call for Projects process. Most of the projects focus on pedestrian and even equestrian improvements, including new trails that would ring the city. According to the La Cañada Valley Sun, the city hopes to apply for as much as $5.3 million in funds from the " Metropolitan Transit Agency" in the 2007 Call for Projects.

November 30: A remodeled Garden Grove Freeway made its debut... or did it? The contractor responsible for the construction informed the OCTA at the last minute that it needed more time to work on key parts of the project, keeping construction crews even more busy and leaving wishful commuters quite annoyed. The highway improvement will feature the only carpool lane in Orange County that allows users to enter it at any point along the lane. Work on the Magnolia Street overpass remains incomplete. The OCTA will soon launch preliminary engineering for carpool lane ramps between the 22 and 405 Freeways.

The owner of an old railroad overpass on the 605 Freeway met with attorneys from various agencies to discuss security and maintenance of the bridge. Two teenage boys were shot at the bridge in November, prompting Caltrans, Los Angeles County, the Sherriff Department and the City of Pico Rivera to find the absentee bridge owner and discuss solutions. Owner Arnold Whitey Carlson has had problems with Pico Rivera for years regarding the development of his properties.

The Los Angeles Times printed quotes from a 1925 article describing the grand opening of the first subway tunnel in Los Angeles, 76 years to the day after it first opened. The subway tunnel between Glendale Blvd./Beverly Blvd. and Hill St. provided uninterrupted access for trains originating in Hollywood and Glendale to Downtown Los Angeles. The original celebration featured a Chamber of Commerce luncheon at the Biltmore Hotel and an appearance by the Pacific Electric Band.

Upcoming Events: 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. Flight Path Learning Center, Imperial Terminal, 6661 W. Imperial Highway, 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.

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; next meeting scheduled for Thursday, January 11.

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

Exposition Metro Line Construction Authority: Thursday, December 7 14, 2:30 p.m., Board Room, Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station) Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration, 500 W. Temple, Third Floor, Board of Supervisor's Hearing Room 381B, Los Angeles.

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

Consider attending our monthly Transit Coalition Dinner Meeting on Tuesday, December 26 - 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!

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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