Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Volume 3, Issue 5

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: Metro is rolling out with its Metro Connections program that would spell doom to bus service in many regions. Metro has provided a list of routes to be downgraded or cancelled. The Transit Coalition urges you to attend the Public Hearings listed in Upcoming Events. You can also view a printable 11x17 map of these cuts that you can print and pass to fellow bus riders.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger recently signed an executive order establishing low-carbon fuel standards for California. Some are hopeful that this and changing attitudes in Detroit and Washington will increase interest in electrically propelled motor vehicles. Others, however, are sulking at the indifference of the governor towards increasing public transportation's role in reducing emissions and are interpreting this as an act of hypocrisy.

Somewhat along these lines, persistently high gasoline prices have finally spurred meaningful changes in driving habits, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times. National per-driver mileage fell by 0.4% in 2005, while transit ridership rose more than 6% on Metrolink trains and 5.7% on Metro buses and trains. However, transit hater Wendell Cox would like for you to believe otherwise.

Times columnist Steve Lopez is on the prowl again with regards to the Westside traffic crisis. This time, his hunt targets a small group of residents in Cheviot Hills (and much more specifically, the Cheviot Hills Homeowners Association) that have been responsible for thwarting construction of the Exposition Light Rail line to Santa Monica from day one. Are these folks serious? Just take a peek at their secret plan of attack. Still, some sanity prevails, as other Cheviot Hills residents buck the trend and show their support for the Expo Line with a snazzy new website ( www.lightrailforcheviot.org).

In response, Frank Gruber of The LookOut applauds the warmer attitude towards major transit solutions in the Westside, though he also laments continuous catering of motorists at the expense of pedestrian safety. One letter to the Times compared the loss of the Red Cars to the demise of printed news. Another letter, this time to Gruber, pleaded for officials to build the "subway to the sea" under Wilshire Boulevard. Another response to the traffic crisis comes from Bob Rosebrock, who believes Disneyland-style monorails are the solution. Rosebrock even has a website exalting its purported virtues over the subway. (If you really believe monorails will be a smash hit in Los Angeles, just look at the ridership disaster unfolding in Las Vegas.)

If you are not yet aware, Metro is scrambling over a structural deficit that threatens to destroy bus and rail service in the near future. One suggestion that has been given serious thought is raising fares, which have remained relatively unchanged since 1995. The Times came out in support of the idea, but a reader quickly responded that it would reduce ridership. New Jersey Transit will execute this tactic with a 10% fare increase to be approved by its Board, even though an increase occurred as recently as June 2005.

The Times editorial board also issued an editorial on the perceived inefficiencies of carpool lanes. Letters replying to the editorial attacked assertions that the lanes are used only by hybrid drivers and mothers with children.

In other transit news, bus riders in south Whittier are giving positive marks to the 25-cent "Sunshine Shuttle" bus. Those in the San Fernando Valley will experience some relief from Orange Line overcrowding, when Metro rolls out with even larger buses. The Los Angeles Daily News praised the development in an editorial. Metro will also consider creating its own transit court to handle citations given to fare evaders and other scofflaws.

Officials hope that Angels Flight will reopen this summer once a new drive system is installed. The funicular connecting Bunker Hill with Hill Street in downtown Los Angeles will return to a much different city center, with some suggesting that it might become a form of valuable transportation instead of a nostalgic tourist attraction. Much farther north, an Oregon-based firm was awarded a contract to produce the first domestically manufactured modern streetcar.

Job growth in the Inland Empire and other California inland communities is finally taking off, promising to put a strain on transportation infrastructure in the near future. To that effect, a coalition of city and county governments are working to bring funds to improve Interstate 10 in San Bernardino County. Caltrans has similarly produced a list of recommended projects for the Inland Empire. The Daily News rejoiced in an editorial at news that Proposition 1B funds were approved for northbound carpool lanes on I-405, but wailed at the lack of funds towards a similar project on I-5 between the 134 and 170 Freeways. However, some are asking (begging?) the state to increase the gas tax, which has stayed the same since 1994, as a way to supplement the bond money and build even more projects.

Also, Metro gave $5 million to realign a road at the interchange of I-5 and Magic Mountain Parkway. Escondido mayor and SANDAG chair Lori Holt Pfeiler blasted claims made in a North County Times column that the agency is focusing too much on transit solutions while steering away from highway construction. In Del Mar, the fate of a 1933 highway bridge through sensitive wetlands will soon be decided.

And it just gets worse: Parking control officers are experiencing an increase in acts of parking ticket rage. However, officials are fighting back. San Francisco is pushing stronger protection for officers, while a bill in Sacramento would make it a felony to strike any parking control officer in the state and increase penalties for those who do.

Efforts to increase security and reduce pollution at the ports are placing a dent on the lives of short haul truckers. Since deregulation in the 1980s, most truckers are self-employed and must fiercely compete with each other to transport containers nearby, which in turn depresses already thin profit margins. Worse yet, it is estimated that one fifth of said truckers are illegal immigrants, a facet of trucking that may greatly change when the federal government issues guidelines for port workers.

Meanwhile, a power struggle brews at the Port of Long Beach. A proposed city charter amendment would effectively strip harbor commissioners of their power to independently approve terminal expansions and long-term leases. Nearby, the Port of Los Angeles, business owners and residents, in a rare show of solidarity, expressed derision at a watered-down (no pun intended) port growth plan.

In the Victor Valley, questions loom over a proposed freight rail facility. The intermodal facility at the Southern California Logistics Airport would generate new jobs and increase freight capacity for the nation. However, local leaders fear that the energy-saving and pollution-reducing qualities of transporting freight by rail would come undone. A recent report concluded that the new facility would increase air pollution in the area to a notable extent. Meanwhile, Caltrans is auditing $65 million it gave to Placentia for the controversial OnTrac project.

After a decade of stunted growth, Van Nuys Airport is experiencing a major resurgence. The boom comes after the Los Angeles City Council approved a master plan for the nation's busiest general aviation airport 16 months ago. Several private jet firms are moving forward with expansions, while some nearby residents are concerned that certain kinds of noise-generating jets would operate from the airport.

Regarding growth issues, the City of Thousand Oaks and the Ventura County Council of Governments reached an accord on the number of affordable homes the city could accommodate. To the west, Ventura city planning officials are finalizing a "smart growth" blueprint that would vastly alter the landscape of its central area. Closer to home, "smart growth" policies and the presence of the Red Line subway are being credited as the catalysts of Hollywood revitalization.

On the bicycle front, Assemblymember Pedro Nava (D-Santa Barbara) continues his quest to increase the buffer between cyclists and motorists. Nava recently introduced Assembly Bill 60, which would prohibit drivers from passing cyclists unless their vehicle stays at least three feet from the bike.

Here is a list of other recent developments:

January 22: The Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) Board voted to fine a contractor $5,000 a day for not completing work on a stretch of the 22 Freeway on time. The problem stems from a reconstruction of the Magnolia Street Bridge that was requested by the OCTA. Representatives from contractor Granite-Myers-Rados contended that the request pushed the completion of the project back from November, as originally intended. The Board mulled about fining the contractor $50,000 for each of the eight days following the deadline. (The Orange County Register published an editorial on the subject.) In other news, the Board also received a status report on their wish list of Proposition 1B projects and approved a joint study with the Los Angeles County MTA (Metro) regarding transportation issues between the two counties.

The Yucaipa City Council approved conceptual plans for a new transit center near their new city hall. Funds for the $1 million project would come from Omnitrans, San Bernardino County, and the state and federal governments.

January 23: U.S. President George W. Bush outlined a proposal to reduce consumption of imported oil by increasing production of alternative fuels during his State of the Union address. Energy experts faulted the plan, which they believe relies too much on ethanol production and vaguely aims for 35 billion gallons of alternative fuels to be produced by 2017. William W. Millar of the American Public Transportation Association laments that, like Governor Schwarzenegger, Bush gives no plans to increase transit use as a means to reduce oil consumption.

January 25: USC released results of a groundbreaking study concluding that children living next to freeways develop significant lung impairments over time. Those who lived within 500 yards of a freeway had a 3% deficit in the amount of air they could exhale and a 7% deficit in the rate at which it could be exhaled compared with children who lived at least 1,500 yards from a freeway. In areas with pollution from other sources, children had an average 9% deficit in the amount of air they could expel from the lungs. Scientists point to particulate matter as the culprit and warn that, though these numbers appear small, they could cause great damage as the child grows.

January 26: The Southern California Regional Rail Authority (SCRRA)/ Metrolink Board unanimously elected Riverside County Transportation Commission member and Temecula councilmember Ron Roberts as chair and Ventura County Transportation Commission member and Moorpark city council member Keith Millhouse as vice-chair. Both will serve one year terms.

January 29: The California High Speed Rail Authority Board voted to launch final environmental studies for three segments of the proposed system: Sacramento to Fresno, Fresno to Palmdale, and Los Angeles to San Diego. The news comes even as the governor threatened to cut funding from the Authority.

Departures: Roderick T. Goldman of Metro retired on January 25. He was awarded a plaque for his service at Metro and its predecessor agencies. Goldman announced that he has started a Gardena based firm, Diversified Transportation Solutions. The Transit Coalition wishes him the best in his endeavors.

Upcoming Events: 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. CANCELLED.

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

Trains, Planes & Automobiles: Perspectives on Santa Monica's Rich Transportation History: Friday, February 2, 2:00 p.m., Martin Luther King Jr. Auditorium, 601 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica. The discussion will feature a presentation by national transportation expert Joseph P. Schwieterman. For information, call (310) 458-8600.

Metro San Fernando Valley Governance Council Public Hearing: Wednesday, February 7, 6:30 p.m., Marvin Braude Constituent Center, 6262 Van Nuys Bl., Van Nuys.

SCAG MagLev Task Force: Thursday, February 8, 10:00 a.m. SCAG Offices, 818 W. Seventh St., 12th floor, Los Angeles.

Metro Gateway Cities Governance Council Meeting and Public Hearing: Thursday, February 8, 2 p.m., Gas Company ERC, 9240 Firestone Bl., Downey.

Metro South Bay Governance Council Meeting and Public Hearing: Friday, February 9, 9.30 a.m., Carson Community Center, 801 E. Carson St., Carson.

SCRRA (Metrolink) Committee Meetings: Friday, February 9, 10 a.m. SCRRA Offices, 700 S. Flower St., 26th floor, Los Angeles.

Orange County Transportation Authority Board Meeting: Monday, February 12 and 26, 9 a.m., Board Hearing Room, 600 Main St., Orange.

Metro San Gabriel Valley Governance Council Meeting and Public Hearing: Monday, February 12, 5 p.m., 3369 Santa Anita Ave. (near El Monte bus station), El Monte.

Metro San Fernando Valley Governance Council Meeting: Tuesday, February 13, 6:30 p.m., Marvin Braude Constituent Center, 6262 Van Nuys Blvd., Van Nuys.

Metro Special Board Meeting: Wednesday, February 14, 2:30 p.m., Board Room, Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles.

Metro Westside/Central Governance Council Public Hearing: Wednesday, February 14, 5 p.m., La Cienega Tennis Center, Sunset Room, 325 S. La Cienega Blvd., Beverly Hills.

Metro Committee Meetings: Wednesday, February 14 and Thursday, February 15, Board Room, Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles.

Consider attending our monthly Transit Coalition Dinner Meeting on Tuesday, February 27 - 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!

RailPAC Annual Meeting: Saturday, March 17, Metro Gateway Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles. Featured speakers: Gerald Francis, Metro Rail Operations; Alex Kummant, Amtrak President.

SCAG Goods Movement Task Force: Wednesday, March 21, 9 a.m., SCAG Offices, 818 W. Seventh St., 12th floor, 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