Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
Volume 3, Issue 3

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.

Don't Forget: Next Tuesday is our monthly Transit Coalition Dinner Meeting. See Upcoming Events below for details.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger unveiled a budget whose goal is to eliminate financial deficits but also threatens to pull the plug on public transportation where it is most needed. Among other things, the proposal would pilfer funds from an account that serves as the only source of transit operation dollars from the state, and use them to build road projects instead. The so-called "spillover" fund is a surplus of gas tax revenues against sales tax revenues that came to $624 million in FY 07 and is projected to reach $1.1 billion in FY 08. (A further explanation of the spillover fund is provided.)

Advocacy groups are unleashing their wrath against the draconian proposal. Metro stands to lose as much as $260 million in operating and capital funds. Transit Coalition Executive Director Bart Reed denounced the cuts, saying that state leadership has already tapped the funds to the tune of $1.68 billion for unrelated programs. Both Democrats and Republicans icily received the budget proposal, the former fearing across-the-board program cuts and the latter believing that revenue projections are unrealistic.

Worse yet, the governor plans to permanently halt high speed rail plans by indefinitely shelving a $10 billion bond vote slated for November 2008.

Also on the governor's mind is his proposal to cut emissions from vehicles as a means to stave off global warming. Specifically, he is asking for a reduction in carbon content of fuels refined from oil over the next 13 years while encouraging the use of alternative fuels such as ethanol. One letter in response lamented the overuse of the private vehicle and suggested that planning walkable neighborhoods may be the answer.

To the north, the San Francisco Bay Area Metropolitan Transportation Commission approved a list of road projects that would be funded by the state infrastructure bonds approved in November. The California Transportation Commission will review this and other nominations in February. Objection came in the form of environmentalist David Schonbrunn of the Transportation Solutions Defense and Education Fund, who fears that there is too much focus on highway solutions that would hinder efforts to fight global warming.

Speaking of which, why are gasoline prices so high right now? Prices traditionally tend to be lower during the early months of the year. Instead, California is bucking the trend as gas prices remain at current levels and prices drop elsewhere in the nation. Could it have something to do with the arctic blast enveloping much of the nation? Is it related to refinery problems up north? The phenomenon is baffling economists and straining the wallets of Californians everywhere.

Growth issues continue to haunt Ventura County. Cities are now balking at the prospect of having to add more than 28,000 housing units across the county. Some cities like Thousand Oaks are nearing their limit for growth, while others like Camarillo feel they have too high a number to accomodate.

Metro recently opened its renovated customer service center on Wilshire and La Brea. The former restaurant also houses the Metro Lost and Found, which houses some 12,000 items. Sue Doyle, the new transportation reporter for the Los Angeles Daily News, explores this curious department and offers examples of the strange things people leave behind on the bus.

The nation continues to explore streetcars as a way to connect communities. In an era of tight transit capital dollars, cities are turning to streetcars for their relative affordability in contrast to building far-reaching but expensive light rail systems. Most people are attracted to streetcars because of their nostalgic feel, while officials see them as a way to foster compact development in once-decaying city centers. The Portland Streetcar, for example, has been responsible for bringing in 100 projects totaling $2.3 billion.

Everyone chimes in on transportation this week. In response to a Steve Lopez column in the Los Angeles Times bemoaning Westside traffic, various frustrated motorist vented out horror stories of all sorts and offered ideas ranging from monorails to population control. Respondents repeatedly clamored for a subway down Wilshire Blvd. Two letters also responded to the column. Also, columnist Steve Hymon explores several mysteries relating to parking fines in Los Angeles.

Here is a list of other recent developments:

January 8: The Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety released a report condemning government leaders in California for not adopting laws that could increase motorist safety. The report stated that there were 4,329 deaths on California roadways in 2005 and that car crashes cost the state economy $20.66 billion every year.

Federal regulators approved a collision-avoidance technology for freight trains that emerged partly as a result of a fatal collision in Placentia nearly five years ago. Known as positive train control, GPS technology and digital communications systems would monitor the location of trains and warn train operators of hazards. Brakes would automatically be applied when operators fail to act. Burlington Northern Santa Fe will install the technology on 15% of its rail network across 17 states, but will not do so in California until a future date. The technology has been one of the most sought after, with other railroads exploring versions of their own.

The Los Angeles World Airports revealed that it has received two bids to operate twice-daily service between Palmdale Airport and a major Western air hub. Delta Airlines proposes to operate service to Salt Lake City, while United Airlines proposes to offer service to San Francisco. The last service to operate out of Palmdale Airport, Scenic Airlines to North Las Vegas, ceased service in January 2006 after one year of operations. The Daily News later printed an editorial in favor of the development.

January 9: The Long Beach City Council passed a motion that would establish a task force to examine working conditions of truck drivers using the ports. Suja Lowenthal, the councilmember who introduced the motion, believed that the deregulation of the trucking industry in 1980 has led to the creation of smaller trucking companies that offered cheaper services at the expense of better wages and benefits for drivers.

The Los Angeles City Council voted to study whether building a park over a trenched portion of the Hollywood Freeway would be feasible. Officials believe the park-tunnel may be fiscally sound, considering that buying property for a park in the area would be expensive. One letter to the Daily News took exception to the development.

The American Public Transportation Association reported that public transportation saves $6,200 per household and 1.4 billion gallons a gas every year, according to a study. The full report is now available.

January 10: The Riverside County Transportation Commission Board voted to axe plans for a Metrolink station in Highgrove. A Commission report suggested that the station would cost at least $15 million while serving as few as 117 riders. Officials also cited a San Bernardino Associated Governments report that basically concluded the same thing.

January 12: The Los Angeles City Council declined to review a decision by the city Airport Commission to raise terminal fees for low-cost carriers and maintenance fees for airliners that use certain terminals under long-term leases. Discount airliners promised to petition the U.S. Department of Transportation regarding the matter, while other airlines intend to take court action.

January 13: A subway station under construction in Sao Paulo, Brazil collapses, damaging surface buildings and killing one person. Rescue teams continue to dig to liberate victims trapped a minibus that was entombed in the collapse. The incident brought to light concerns of building underground infrastructure in dense cities and echoed the Big Dig project, where a faulty overhead panel collapsed and killed a motorist last year. Oh, and…

January 14: The Big Dig tunnel where said faulty overhead panel collapsed and killed a motorist last year was reopened after major repairs were performed.

Upcoming Events: 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. ( Supplemental agendas.)

·  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 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.

Exposition Metro Line Construction Authority: Thursday, February 1, 2:30 p.m., Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration, Board of Supervisors Hearing Room 381B, 500 W. Temple St., Los Angeles.

Angeles Chapter Sierra Club Transportation Committee: Thursday, February 1, 7:30 p.m. Angeles Chapter office, 3435 Wilshire Blvd, Suite 320, 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