Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Monday, December 18, 2006
Volume 2, Issue 51

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.

Hear ye hear ye: Next Tuesday is The Transit Coalition Dinner Meeting. See Upcoming Events below for details.

Barely a year after it opened, the pavement on the Orange Line busway has suffered grave deterioration. Metro and the contractors are sparring over who is responsible for the shoddiness of the right-of-way, even as the two work together to repair it. The Los Angeles Daily News editorial acknowledged that such wear on a road only 14 months after opening is not normal.

Several letters in the Daily News responded to the development. Transit Coalition Communications Director Numan Parada suggested that efforts to extend the busway to Chatsworth should instead focus on improving Metrolink. Transit Coalition President Ken Alpern believed that upgrading the busway to a light rail line should be pursued. Still another letter suggested replacing the busway with a monorail.

Cities across the nation are taking note of how mass transit has advanced in Los Angeles. The Washington Post featured an article regarding rail growth in the sprawling city. Transit Coalition Executive Director Bart Reed was quoted in the article, suggesting the "dense sprawl" that has developed in Los Angeles would make rail transit expansion inevitable. Indeed, it was noted by the Sacramento Bee that increased road congestion has made rail growth, including the seemingly impossible "subway to the sea" proposal, an immensely popular subject.

One person who seems to be quite happy with the Sprinter project is North County Times staff writer John Van Doorn, who shared his opinions as the DMU cars continue their tests on the track. Van Doorn believes, among other things, that the eastern end of the rail line in Escondido is poised to become a " chic rail head" infused with "class, class, class." Back in Pasadena, plans to bring the Gold Line to Ontario Airport were greeted with a pessimistic letter to the Whittier Daily News. To the north, limited funds threaten to stop expansion of the Sacramento light-rail system.

Bus service "improvements" on Van Nuys Blvd. got a scolding from a letter to the Daily News. The Richard Rofman letter explained that in exchange for using Metro Liners and adding capacity, frequency of service would be reduced. Metro SFV Governance Council Chair Kymberleigh Richards responds (under "Worth the trade-off") that the additional capacity is necessary to handle rush hour demand. Another improvement making the rounds is an innovative bus that can also run on rails… a rail-bus.

Los Angeles continues to be at the forefront of the "smart growth" movement. Two projects in Downtown L.A.the Grand Avenue project and the L.A. Live complex near the convention centerare moving forward, while a third in Universal City was recently announced. All three will incorporate a mix of retail, office space, housing and entertainment near transit corridors. Two letters to the Los Angeles Times chimed in on the three developments, with one noting that the similarly designed Century City was built with the belief that rapid transit would eventually serve it.

Elsewhere, one of the problems facing transit-oriented development is retail… or the lack of it. Even though most TODs feature retail space, many are left empty and unused. The problem was noted in a recent discussion about a TOD at the Fruitvale BART station, where 4 of 23 retail spaces continue to be empty.

The California Transportation Commission (CTC) is gearing up to select the first projects to use funds from the voter-approved bond measures. One project Antelope Valley officials are crossing their fingers for is an upgrade of State Highway Route 138, often dubbed as "Blood Alley" for its lack of shoulders and high rate of accidents. The San Diego Association of Governments released its wish list of projects it would like to build with bond money. Residents living next to the freeway are facing the possible widening of the I-5 through southeast Los Angeles County with an unusual sense of resignation. A recent survey revealed that South Pasadenans have softened their stance regarding completion of the 710 Freeway since plans to build the freeway as a tunnel have emerged.

Meanwhile, what does the future hold for future bond measures? As originally envisioned, the bonds approved in November were only the first in a series of bonds that voters would decide on. However, some believe that the approved bonds would be enough to stave off future bond proposals. An editorial appearing in the Whittier Daily News cautioned against asking for too much from voters.

Aside from finalizing its wishlist of projects for CTC review, the Riverside County Transportation Commission approved a ten-year highway construction blueprint that would bring toll lanes to the Inland Empire. The blueprint calls for building toll lanes along the 91 and 15 Freeways through the sale of bonds. However, San Bernardino County does not share the zeal of its neighbors in bringing toll lanes to the masses. San Bernardino is currently focused on plans to build truck lanes through the Cajon Pass that may feature tolls. Meanwhile, Orange County will soon allow tollway users to pay for parking with their transponders.

Speaking of parking, USA Today will have you believe that the nation is gripped with a parking crisis. The rebirth of Downtowns across the nation has led to a reassessment of how parking spaces should be distributed. Several high-density areas nationwide, for example, have done away with minimum parking space requirements. In fact, a prominent consortium of residents and merchants in Ventura is fighting to remove free parking altogether. Instead, some communities are focusing on development that encourages walking, bicycling and use of public transit. How does Irvine plan to solve its parking crunch at the Metrolink/Amtrak station? Build a parking structure like everyone else.

State Assemblymember Pedro Nava (D-Santa Barbara) is pushing for legislation that would increase buffer zones for bicyclists on the road by three feet. While most believe the proposal is a noble one, some question whether it would be viable for streets and highways to be retrofitted so as to meet the requirement.

Plans to fuse two regional planning agencies in Ventura County have hit a roadblock. In the meantime, SCAG and the Ventura Council of Governments launched efforts that would bring sustainable development to the region in a coordinated fashion. Such a "seamless" approach to regional planning was the subject of a Planning Report interview with LA Councilmember Wendy Greuel.

Onto railroad matters, the Bush Administration released a proposal to increase safety on rail lines, requiring freight and passenger train operators to inspect their cars and set them aside in secured areas. The plan would counter efforts by various cities to force railroads to reroute hazardous materials away from urban areas. In California, Amtrak celebrates the 15th anniversary of Capitol Corridor service. At the opposite end of the country, the Amtrak Downeaster celebrates five years of service. Also, Amtrak President Alex Kummant fires four top executives in an effort to reorganize the company.

Here is a list of other recent developments:

December 6: The Los Angeles World Airports held one of two meetings discussing options for the LAX northern runway. Letters written by LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Councilmember Bill Rosendahl and Congressmember Maxine Waters addressed to the Federal Aviation Administration were distributed to participants. All three letters indicated that they would be opposed to any reconfiguration of the runways unless the FAA clearly demonstrates that the reconfiguration would solve a safety issue.

December 13: The California High Speed Rail Authority approved the selection of two engineering firms that will perform environmental analyses on two segments of the proposed high-speed rail line. The joint venture of Hatch Mott McDonald and URS & Arup will study the portion from Palmdale to Los Angeles, while STV will study the portion from Los Angeles to Orange County.

December 14: Los Angeles City Councilmember Tom LaBonge called for a traffic summit for San Fernando Valley. As envisioned, the summit would discuss and select smaller road projects that would yield significant time savings for motorists. Projects would then be submitted to the California Transportation Commission for Corridor Mobility Improvement Account funds.

San Diego Metropolitan Transit System Board voted to take over National City Transit, which offers local bus service in nearby National City. The decision came after months of intrigue, where National City accused the agency of not giving it a voice in the matter, while MTS said that it held closed-door meetings regarding the takeover due to fears that National City would launch litigation against it. The move is expected to save MTS $565,000 a year.

The Southern California Association of Governments released their annual State of the Region report card. The region received an "F" in transportation, though SCAG believes the infrastructure bonds will significantly turn that around. Officials believe that programs aimed at bringing housing near transit would also help, responding to news that housing received a "D" in the report card. A Daily News editorial asked leaders not to waste this opportunity and reverse what ails the city.

Upcoming Events: 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!

Angeles Chapter Sierra Club Transportation Committee: Thursday, January 4, 7:30 p.m. Angeles Chapter office, 3435 Wilshire Blvd, Suite 320, Los Angeles.

Metro San Gabriel Valley Governance Council: Tuesday, January 9, 5 p.m., 3369 Santa Anita Ave. (near El Monte bus station), El Monte.

Metro Westside/Central Governance Council: Wednesday, January 10, 5 p.m., La Cienega Tennis Center, Sunset Room, 325 S. La Cienega Blvd., Beverly Hills.

Metro San Fernando Valley Governance Council: Wednesday, January 10, 6:30 p.m., Marvin Braude Constituent Center, 6262 Van Nuys Bl., Van Nuys.

SCAG MagLev Task Force: Thursday, January 11, 10:00 a.m. SCAG Offices, 818 W. Seventh St., 12th floor, Los Angeles.

Metro Gateway Cities Governance Council: Thursday, January 11, 2 p.m., Gas Company ERC, 9240 Firestone Bl., Downey.

Exposition Metro Line Construction Authority: Thursday, January 11, 2:30 p.m., Board Room, Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles.

Metro South Bay Governance Council: Friday, January 12, 9.30 a.m., Carson Community Center, 801 E. Carson St., Carson.

SCRRA (Metrolink) Committee Meetings: Friday, January 12, 10 a.m. SCRRA Offices, 700 S. Flower St., 26th floor, Los Angeles.

Southern California Transit Advocates: Saturday, January 13, 1 p.m., Angelus Plaza, Rm. 422, 255 S. Hill St., Los Angeles.

SCRRA (Metrolink) Board Meeting: Friday, January 26, 10 a.m., San Bernardino Conference Room, SCAG Building, 12th Floor, 818 W. Seventh St., Los Angeles.

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