Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
Volume 3, Issue 7

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. If you use transit on the Westside, you can still come to the Westside/Central Governance Council meeting listed in Upcoming Events. The Transit Coalition also urges you to e-mail your concerns to Metro, or write a letter and fax it to (213) 922-6988. (Los Angeles City Councilmember Greig Smith sent in his own letter, which you can read and take some points.) You can view a printable 11x17 map of these cuts that you can print and pass to fellow bus riders.

The Los Angeles Daily News published yet another anti-subway editorial. Editors claim that even with interest growing, the large sums of money needed to build it would be better spent on smaller projects that are ostensibly just as effective. Indeed, it even goes so far as implying that busways like the Orange Line would be better suited and can achieve the same goals quickly.

Letters to the editor shot back at the notion, suggesting that, if anything, subways would be a worthwhile investment for the future. Indeed, a separate letter in The LookOut believed a busway would be useless in addressing Valley-to-Westside traffic and that a subway connection paralleling the 405 Freeway would work better.

Last year, Metro gave a separate color to the Wilshire/Western segment of the subway in hopes of reducing confusion. Instead, it appears that it has only made things worse. Only recently has Metro changed brochures and station maps to reflect awareness of the newly dubbed "Purple Line." Metro will change the maps inside the trains next month, which should end passenger confusion once and for all.

Did you know that rebranding a product can greatly change perception of it? This is what Metro has learned four years after implementing a uniform design on bus wraps, trains, stations and publications. 83% of riders surveyed perceived that service has improved as a result, even though that is not the case. 73% are more aware of Metro, which gives the perception that Metro accesses new destinations. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation brings an actual improvement by installing a bus stop for its Encino-Pasadena Line 549 at the North Hollywood Red Line station.

After an embarrassing response to a recent incident when mercury was spilled at a station, Metro is contemplating installing gates and attendants at rail stations in order to increase security. The plan would be costly: To do so, 500 attendants would have to be hired at a cost of $24 million a year. Installing gates would cost between $50 million and $100 million.

Omnitrans will soon roll out higher fares and various service changes. Single-ride fares would increase a dime from $1.25 to $1.35 starting July 1, while a day pass would go from $3 to $3.50. Over the course of five years, single ride fares could go up to $2.25. One possible victim of the service change is Route 31, a final remnant of the former Redlands Trolley. Another possible victim is dial-a-ride service in Yucaipa. Those interested in voicing their concerns are welcomed to attend their public hearing. (See Upcoming Events.)

The state Transportation Commission continues to review projects that were nominated to receive funds from Proposition 1B. Caltrans and local agencies have nominated 147 projects that could be built almost immediately, which total $11.3 billion, well past the $4.5 billion set aside for said projects. Knowing that even the nearly $20 billion of bond money approved by voters won't solve many traffic woes, officials are strongly pushing for private capital and more toll roads. According to economists, congestion pricing and the new technologies to support it can benefit the public good in many ways, not just in providing more road capacity.

After a brief respite, gas prices are moving up again. Much of the blame stems from California refineries, which must switch blending methods around this time, as well as an unusually brutal winter in the Northeast, which is driving up demand. While hybrid drivers may dismiss this problem, some want the state to scrap the sticker program entirely for those who already drive solo on carpool lanes with the permit.

The Port of Long Beach recently unveiled plans to develop Pier S, which they envision would be the " greenest shipping terminal in California." Community members lauded the development, which mainly focuses on reducing pollution and energy use, but showed concern about other elements such as water quality and wildlife protection. Meanwhile, a poll of truckers concluded that the OffPeak program significantly reduces traffic by encouraging truckers to drive at off-peak hours.

Did you also know that 6.4 million travelers that fly from LAX drive from Orange County? The southern neighbor in the past refused to increase flights at John Wayne Airport and defeated plans to build a new one at the El Toro military air base. A great deal of resentment exists between advocates of airport regionalization largely because of this mismatch. Officials hope that Orange County becomes active with the recently resurrected Southern California Regional Airport Authority and will find solutions that would handle a projected increase of more than 30 million travelers that would come from the county.

A lot of good news is coming out of Hollywood these days. Ground has been broken for a major mixed-use development at Hollywood and Vine, right next to the Metro Red Line station. Proponents hope that the project will inject the glitz and glamour that has been lacking at the iconic corner for some time. Access to transit will be a key part of the project. Still, Los Angeles City Council President Eric Garcetti warns that lack of parking in the area may hamper future growth.

Officials envision a bike trail to parallel the Sprinter DMU system in north San Diego County, which would connect with coast trails at its western end. While cities along the route have worked diligently to build the path, however, Oceanside faced several obstacles, including lack of funds and a difficult terrain, which forced the city to scuttle plans to build its portion of the trail. For now, bicyclists must continue their journey to the coast via Oceanside Boulevard. Meanwhile, Metro and the City of La Cañada Flintridge have reached an agreement on the design and construction of a local bike path.

Up north, the Oakland AC Transit Board of Directors approved a funding mechanism relating to the purchase (not the purchase itself) of 50 revised models of 40-foot Van Hool buses. AC Transit currently operates 100 40-foot Van Hools, along with 63 60-footers and 12 30-footers manufactured by the same company. The vote came despite transit users expressing nearly universal revulsion at the buses, although they did not express what exactly was wrong with them. Board members responded that drivers seemed to like them, but passengers retorted that drivers in fact hated them, if only because passengers hated them, too. Fortunately, a guest commentary in the Contra Costa Times takes the time to explain the problem with these buses.

In our human interest section, the San Diego Union Tribune takes a look at a day in the life of Coaster train engineer R.L. Thomas. One of his duties is to blow the train horn at crossings, which has given Coaster a bad reputation with the community, especially in Del Mar. Also, Coaster trains will offer rides at no cost to children aged 12 and under on Saturdays in February, March and April.

In San Bernardino County, SANBAG will move forward with preliminary engineering and environmental work on a railroad overcrossing that would eliminate a major freight rail bottleneck between two major rail routes. Meanwhile, opinions are mixed on efforts to stop the state high speed rail program. Transit opponent James E. Moore II wrote a marring op-ed pleading the governor to completely destroy California HSR progress.

Here is a list of other recent developments:

February 5: President George W. Bush rolled out the federal budget proposed for FY 08 that, among other things, offers $800 million for Amtrak. The National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP) condemned the request, saying it offers nothing to debt service and would strangle capital projects and operations of all trains.

The separately offered $100 million for "capital matching grants to States for intercity passenger rail projects" would be a condescending pittance compared with what advocates and officials have long been fighting for, especially in light of the Lautenberg-Lott reauthorization bill. This goes well against current ridership trends: Ridership on the Amtrak long-distance train Empire Builder through Montana increased by nearly 40% since 2002.

Similarly, the budget offers $9.422 billion for public transportation, $308 million below what was authorized for FY 08 under SAFETEA-LU. The American Public Transportation Association expressed stern disappointment at the development.

February 7: The U.S. House of Representatives voted to repeal a ban on federal funds for subway construction under Wilshire Blvd. Congressmember Henry Waxman reintroduced the repeal legislation this year after a similar one passed last year but failed to receive consideration in the U.S. Senate. The Senate will vote on the bill as early as this week.

Bus passengers threw criticism at a plan to reduce bus service in the San Fernando Valley during a public hearing on the subject. Final choices on service changes will be made in March. This is a sharp contrast to what is being done in Santa Monica, where efforts to increase service on Big Blue Bus lines move along. Letters to the Daily News reflected the need to increase fares as a way to preserve service.

February 12: A consortium of Westside elected officials announced the creation of a coalition to bring the Green Line to LAX. The newly formed Green Line Coalition is composed of Los Angeles City Councilmember Bill Rosendahl, Congresswoman Jane Harman, State Senator Jenny Oropeza, State Assemblymember Ted Lieu, and Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe. The group have sent letters to 80 local officials and urged them to join the coalition. A website has been set up at www.greenlinecoalition.com.

Upcoming Events: 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. CANCELLED.

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.

Omnitrans Public Hearing on Proposed Changes to Service and Fares: Thursday, February 15, 2 p.m. and 5:30 p.m., Ontario Senior Center, 225 E. B St., Ontario.

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

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!

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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