Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Tuesday, January 9, 2007
Volume 3, Issue 2

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.

Action Alert: The Metro San Fernando Valley Governance Council will hold a meeting to discuss drastic cuts in bus service for June 2007. Those who are concerned about bus service in the San Fernando Valley are encouraged to attend. Also, the Metro Planning and Programming Committee will receive a report on installing passenger rail service on the Harbor Subdivision between Downtown L.A. and LAX but concludes that DMUs would best serve the corridor, without considering Metrolink regional service. See Upcoming Events below for details.

Three and a half years after opening, noise continues to be an issue along the Pasadena Gold Line. Metro, the Gold Line Construction Authority and the City of South Pasadena have been sparring over who is not fulfilling an agreement with the three parties on building 1,500 feet of soundwalls. Construction Authority CEO Habib Balian has recently said that it will soon release bids for construction of the walls.

With the Westside commute now hopelessly gridlocked, LA County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky is working with a traffic engineers to see if turning Olympic and Pico Boulevards into one-way roads is feasible. With major transit improvements such as the Expo Line to Santa Monica and a subway down Wilshire still a long way off, leaders have so far focused on piecemeal, road-based approaches to improving traffic, and the contraflow idea from Yaroslavsky will prove to be a controversial one.

Interest in building a new Metrolink station between San Bernardino and Riverside continues to grow. A local activist is leading the effort in bringing commuter rail service to the community of Highgrove. The nearby Cities of Grand Terrace and Loma Linda have already expressed their support, while San Bernardino County officials are also interested. Riverside County officials, however, are skeptical of the idea, but said they are doing a thorough study on it. Buying a nearby parcel of land for the station will be another challenge.

A major change will take place at the Orange County Transportation Authority, as Buena Park Mayor Art Brown will step down as chairman of the board at the end of January. Orange Mayor Carolyn Cavecche will replace him and promises a different attitude toward rail projects. Cavecche wants the OCTA Board to be more informed of the negative impacts of rail service, although she insists she is a supporter of Metrolink expansion.

Ventura County is subject to nine open-space laws that intend to preserve agriculture while keeping growth in check. With concern that these laws will expire in as little as 15 years, a task force will soon study a strategy where growth would be contained in 2% of available land in the region. Smart growth policies that place growth at transportation centers would be an important part of the strategy.

San Diego County will launch several transportation improvements in 2007, including Sprinter service between Oceanside and Escondido. Most of the improvements are highway-related, such as completion of several freeway interchanges and new carpool lanes on I-15. Some are looking further into the future, with speculation that the reversible lanes on said freeway could be used for automated driving. Columnist Phil Strickland extols smaller improvements to bus service that could go a long way if implemented, including expanding a pilot program where commuter buses use shoulder lanes. San Bernardino County will also look forward to 2007, when it will see the completion of State Highway Route 210 and the launch of a major overhaul of I-215 through San Bernardino.

Transportation agencies across the state are finalizing their nominations of projects to be funded by bond money. Caltrans has already submitted its nominations totaling 70 projects it wants to build. Most agencies will be grateful that they will receive any funds at all. Some fear that there will be too much focus on urban corridors, leaving rural transportation concerns in the dust. The California Transportation Commission will select the projects on January 15. An editorial in the San Fernando Examiner implored officials to look into public-private partnerships as a way to spread the wealth.

A recent report concluded that hybrid cars save money in the long run. The report took into account factors such as insurance, maintenance, and depreciation, whereas previous reports tended to focus only on fuel savings. Meanwhile, a changing world with volatile oil supplies has prompted General Motors to rekindle its interest in the electric car. If neither of these sound enticing, one could follow the lead of certain urbanites and take up bicycling as an actual form of transportation, instead of a mere recreational curiosity. Bicyclists and motorists alike chimed in on the development with several letters in response.

LAX secured its position as the fourth busiest airport in the nation. This could very well be a moot point so as long as the airport provides neither direct rail service or shower facilities, according to two letters to the Los Angeles Times.

Also, Los Angeles World Airports Executive Director Lydia Kennard will step down on January 31. Kennard has been a director of LAWA since 1999, with a brief respite between 2003 and 2005, before being wooed back by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. The Daily News praised her work at the agency in an editorial, while also supporting crucial name changes to Ontario and Palmdale Airports, both operated by LAWA. The Times took note of her steadfast efforts in modernizing LAX with more practical improvements.

The Port of Long Beach is working with the City of Victorville to see how a multi-modal freight center can be built. The desert city currently houses the Southern California Logistics Airport and a major Burlington Northern Santa Fe rail line. Officials hope that a new rail spur into the airport to be built this year will improve goods movement across the state. Just south of the Cajon Pass, transportation leaders are working to improve Colton Crossing, where two major BNSF and Union Pacific routes cross at grade-level. The notorious freight rail gridlock that has resulted would be undone with a grade-separated interchange.

With regards to opinions, the Los Angeles Daily News gave its support for the proposed High Desert Corridor between the Antelope and Victor Valleys. Times staff writer Chris Hawthorne shares his observations on how the immigrant rights marches held in early 2006 enabled the city to rediscover the street as a public place. Inland Valley Daily Bulletin writer Michelle Groh-Gordy reviews several new traffic laws that took effect at the start of 2007.

So what is the verdict on the new food service on Amtrak long-distance trains? It depends on whom you ask. Amtrak has replaced dining cars with less labor-intensive "streamlined dining service" on all but two trains, the Empire Builder and the Auto Train. Older customers who remember the dining cars miss them, while younger folks don't seem to mind. If you don't like it, too bad: Deeper cuts in food service are forthcoming.

Across the pond, getting to Mornington Crescent in London will be a lot pricier. Transport for London raised already expensive cash fares by 33% for travel on the Underground subway system, with the intention that patrons will resort to Oyster cards and other cashless media. Other cities don't even come close to the high fares the Tube excises. The increase has led to a backlash from the traveling public, with one commentator suggesting that it should stem the high salaries prevalent in management.

Here is a list of other recent developments:

January 3: Federal authorities released final specifications for the Transportation Worker Identification Card, which would be used by employees at ports across the nation. Employees must go through a thorough background check before obtaining the card. Worker union representatives showed concern about the cost of the cards, which ranges from $139 to $159. In the end, some 6 million employees will be required to use the card.

January 4: The Los Angeles Harbor Commission approved sharing the costs of a pilot program to test electric tow tractors that would be used to deliver goods from the ports to local warehouses. The South Coast Air Quality Management District will pay the rest of the $527,000 program.

January 8: The Los Angeles City Airport Commission voted to buy back leases from several airliners for two terminals at LAX. The commission plans to reconfigure the airport terminals in a way that would give priority to low-cost carriers and encourage competition. Five major airliners currently have long-term leases to use certain terminals, which has stemmed requests by other carriers that want to add flights. The Airport Commission will allow the current tenants to remain at the terminals but would charge higher rates. The airliners that leased the terminals vowed to fight the decision.

Upcoming Events: 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. This meeting will discuss a proposal to cancel bus lines and reduce service on Metro Buses in the San Fernando Valley.

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

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.

SCAG Goods Movement Task Force: Wednesday, January 17, 9:30 a.m., SCAG Offices, 818 W. Seventh St., 12th floor, Los Angeles.

Metro Committee Meetings: Wednesday, January 17 and Thursday, January 18, Board Room, Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles.

Planning and Programming Committee, Wednesday, January 17, 1 p.m. (Of note is Item 6--Harbor Subdivision Technical Feasibility Analysis)

Finance and Budget Committee, Wednesday, January 17, 2:30 p.m.

Executive Management and Audit Committee, Thursday, January 18, 9 a.m.

Construction Committee, Thursday, January 18, 10:30 a.m. CANCELLED.

Operations Committee, Thursday, January 18, 12 noon.

Orange County Transportation Authority Board Meeting: Monday, January 22 and February 12, 9 a.m., Board Hearing Room, 600 Main St., Orange.

Consider attending our monthly Transit Coalition Dinner Meeting on Tuesday, January 23 - 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!

South Orange County Major Investment Study Stakeholder Working Group Meeting: Wednesday, January 9 24, 10 a.m., Mission Viejo City Hall, Saddleback Room, 200 Civic Center, Mission Viejo.

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