Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Tuesday, February 6, 2007
Volume 3, Issue 6

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.

Starting this week, Metro will hear public comment on its plans at individual Service Sector public hearings to reduce bus service across the region as a way to stave off a $104 million structural deficit. Various letters to the Los Angeles Times responded with calls to either decrease fares or increase them. Public transit enemy James E. Moore II also sent a letter with suggestions such as ending rail construction and use, giving transit vouchers to the poor, and "legalizing private transit", presumably jitneys, bandit taxis and such.

The NIMBYs of Cheviot Hills are mobilizing to defeat Phase II of the Exposition Line. Visitors to the pro-Expo Light Rail for Cheviot website are offered a sampling of literature opponents publish to discredit the project. Transit Coalition member Harold Katz wrote an acidic indictment against Westside NIMBYism in the Los Angeles Business Journal. Katz noted that when NIMBYs stopped freeway and transit projects in hopes of curbing development, development came anyway. Also, readers lashed out at overdevelopment of the Westside with several letters.

Proponents of airport regionalization rejoice! ExpressJet announced plans to expand their services at Ontario Intuh, LA/Ontario International Airport. United Airlines beat out Delta for a contract to serve LA/Palmdale Airport with twice-daily service to San Francisco. This can only mean good news to those who want to ease passenger use and car traffic at LAX. To celebrate the development, Los Angeles World Airports will launch an advertising blitz to spread awareness of the two airports. Meanwhile, air ridership through Bob Hope Airport reached record highs for the second year in a row.

How can you prepare yourself for a trip to LAX? Is there really any sort of transit to the airport? This Los Angeles Times report summarizes available alternatives to driving into the airport and how the airline passenger can use them.

As a testament to the growing popularity of Metrolink, Antelope Valley Line passengers experience decreased availability of seats and increased crowding. Some relief will come to the line in the form of new cars to ease the overcrowding, though they won't be available until 2009 at the earliest. (If you haven't done so already, come and get a sneak preview of the new Metrolink website.)

Meanwhile, Wi-Fi may soon come to the Gold Line should Metro approve funds for it. Los Angeles City Councilmember and Transportation Committee Chair Wendy Greuel is encouraging staff to take public transportation to work at least once a week. Up north, the San Luis Obispo Council of Governments released figures indicating that transit use and Pacific Surfliner ridership is up while carpooling and Coast Starlight ridership is down after five years.

In our last eNewsletter, we reported that ridership and revenues were on the decline for the Las Vegas Monorail. The Las Vegas Sun takes a jab at discovering why the monorail has been a failure. The paper noted that its stations tend to be several yards away from casino entrances whereas buses deliver tourists right to the casino floors. High fares, closeness of the stations for a four mile route, and lack of destinations were also cited. However, should the monorail fail to "pay its way", operators will use its insurance to pay off bondholders.

Hopes of building a high-speed rail line in California are quickly hitting some significant obstacles. The California High Speed Rail Authority recently approved $298.4 million for engineering the line. The Authority estimates it would need $104 million in the next fiscal year for engineering and right-of-way, but Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger proposes only $1 million, barely enough to keep the Authority office running. (Already some are commenting that his budget is dead on arrival, since it is based on too many unfounded assumptions.) High speed rail advocates are planning to educate elected officials in Sacramento on the project this March.

Some suspect that scuttling high speed rail would jeopardize the legacy of the governor. Across the pond, Spain and Morocco are moving forward with design for an underwater high-speed rail link between the two countries. At this rate, Africa will have HSR before America does! (Breaking news: Vietnam also announced plans to build its own HSR.)

A movement to reduce restrictions on Orange County carpool lanes grows. The new carpool lanes on the Garden Grove Freeway allow vehicles to enter and exit wherever they wish. Local officials wish to employ the same concept elsewhere on the freeway system. As a result, Caltrans is considering giving local transportation agencies (in this case, the Orange County Transportation Authority) the power to designate such lanes. The Orange County Register came out in support of the idea.

Speaking of which, the OCTA will also sanction a contractor who failed to complete said work on the Garden Grove Freeway on time. Additionally, the OCTA will give $250,000 to Riverside County for studies on widening the 91 Freeway in their area.

Even though construction will not start until 2015 at the earliest, Caltrans and the San Bernardino Associated Governments are working with Victor Valley cities to select a bypass route for U.S. Highway 395 and preserve the right of way. SANBAG will complete a study next year that would select an alignment for the bypass among a group of alternatives between northern Adelanto and I-15. Caltrans will complete its own study of other alignments, which includes segments of U.S. 395 further north of Adelanto, in 2011. In the meantime, Caltrans plans to widen the existing highway. Just south of that, San Bernardino traffic leaders broke ground on a major reconstruction of the I-215 in their city, which should be completed by 2014.

As a response to a USC report citing that children living near freeways are at greater risk of developing lung problems, some are questioning existing efforts to build houses, parks and schools next to them. Even though sites near freeways are unavoidably dangerous to one's health, planners often wind up building near them anyway because land is much more easily available. Some blame the phenomenon on a lack of a centralized effort to coordinate development.

NIMBYism is alive and well in South Pasadena, as City Council candidates pompously assail the 710 Freeway, using the above report to indict even a tunnel version of the freeway. Safe-driving advocates are condemning 5-1-1, the traffic information phone number in many cities, because drivers are tempted to dial it on their cell phones while driving. Thus, 5-1-1 ironically causes the accidents its users are trying to avoid.

Problems are arising over a state bill to increase the buffer between bicyclists and motorists. One editorial in the Whittier Daily News lists the problems while offering more practical solutions that can be taken right now to improve bicyclist safety. Meanwhile, Lakewood officials inaugurate a nature trail along the San Gabriel River.

Metro CEO Roger Snoble talked about the problems of sprawl during an event in Downtown Los Angeles. Snoble announced that Metro will use its property holdings to entice developers into building transit-oriented developments around its rail and Orange Line busway stations. One curious consequence of such development in Downtown is that many properties that are developed were previously parking lots. This has led to a decrease in parking supply, an increase in parking costs, and a dearth of customers to establishments that relied on cheap parking. Transit Coalition Executive Director Bart Reed was quoted in the Times article, suggesting that good transit would make a suitable replacement for parking if it is available. Also, a report by the City of Los Angeles concluded that the Grand Avenue project would require substantially more tax breaks than previously expected.

Officials in the Inland Empire hope that the Goods Movement Action Plan proposed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger will offer funds for critical freight rail projects. Most acknowledge that the $3 billion allotted from Proposition 1B would only cover short-term needs and hardly make a dent of progress, though any help is better than nothing at all. On those lines, one local economist believes elevated toll lanes for freight trucks should be considered.

Yes, the ports have come a long way from the days where cargo had to be hauled by hand. To augment this, the Port of Long Beach prepares a proposal for a 160-acre terminal on Pier S, one of the last undeveloped pieces of land in the port complex.

At the national level, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to award Amtrak $1.294 billion for FY 07 as part of a continuing resolution, $304 million or 19% below Amtrak's "basic" request of $1.598 billion, and $579 million or 31% below Amtrak's full request of $1.873 billion, according to the National Association of Railroad Passengers. Transit would receive a boost of $480 million, meeting levels authorized in SAFETEA-LU, while highways get a $3.532-billion increase.

Cities across the nation are eyeing streetcars as a way to attract development in vacant downtowns, a sort of " development-oriented transit". Portland, Tampa, and Little Rock paid small sums to build streetcars and in turn reaped billions in development. Streetcars are not without its critics, however. Some simply view them as amenities instead of vital transit. Nevertheless, most developments around them foster pedestrian environments, with basic needs such within walkable distance.

One phrase that is gaining currency is " carbon neutral". This describes the practice of giving money to projects that, in theory, would offset pollution produced by certain activities. Critics claim that it would give people the mistaken impression that they can continue polluting as they wish so as long as they support pollution reductions elsewhere.

Here is a list of other recent developments:

January 18: Transit users at a community meeting in Montrose expressed fears that Glendale Beeline 3, which connects La Cañada Flintridge with Glendale, would be drastically modified or cancelled. Glendale traffic transportation administrator Jano Baghdanian assured residents and business leaders that the city will not cancel the line. Instead, the route will be severed at Glendale Community College, meaning that those coming from La Cañada and Montrose would have to transfer at the college to continue their journey to Glendale.

January 25: Former Metro Deputy CEO John Catoe was sworn in as general manager of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. Catoe will lead the $1.2-billion-a-year agency and overseee a $3.3-billion, six-year Capital Improvement Program.

January 31: Union Pacific began operations of new low-emissions diesel engines at its yard in Commerce. Each 2,100-horsepower train will reduce emissions by up to 80 percent while using as much as 16 percent less fuel than current low-horsepower switchers. Union Pacific will roll out 60 of these engines through July.

February 2: The state Department of Motor Vehicles announced that no more applications for hybrid vehicle stickers will be accepted. Caltrans reported that some increases in vehicles on the lanes were observed since the program launched. Hybrid drivers are going through a deep funk, since these stickers enabled single-occupant hybrid vehicles to use carpool lanes.

Upcoming Events: 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.

·  Planning and Programming Committee and Congestion Management Program Public Hearing, Wednesday, February 14, 1 p.m.

·  Finance and Budget Committee, Wednesday, February 14, 2:30 p.m.

·  Executive Management and Audit Committee, Thursday, February 15, 9 a.m.

·  Construction Committee, Thursday, February 15, 10:30 a.m.

·  Operations Committee, Thursday, February 15, 12 noon.

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.

Missed last week's newsletter? Read it here!

Get the Print Edition of Moving Southern California, our monthly newsletter. Request a sample copy.

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.

Visit our Discussion Board for the latest dialogue on transit.

 

bart.reed@thetransitcoalition.us • The Transit Coalition