Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
Volume 3, Issue 8

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.

Pass It Along: Next Thursday is the monthly Transit Coalition Dinner Meeting. See Upcoming Events below for details.

Staff from the California Transportation Commission released a short list of recommended projects for funding from the infrastructure bonds. As expected, dissatisfaction abounds. San Bernardino County officials lamented the lack of funds for major projects in their area. Riverside County fared no better. San Diego County officials were particularly stunned that the Commission did not offer more money upfront and limited the amount they plan to spend to $2.8 billion instead of the entire $4.5 billion. To the north, many Bay Area projects were left in the cold, though the much-pursued fourth Caldecott Tunnel made the list. Funds for a joint project to widen the 101 Freeway in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties would be available only on a condition.

But the biggest loser of the first round of projects is Los Angeles County . Most planners showed disappointment that the county houses 28% of the population but will receive only 12% of the funds. (A complete list of recommended projects is included in the previous link.) Of note was the token consideration of carpool lanes on the 10 Freeway between Puente Avenue and Citrus Avenue in West Covina , but no consideration for improvements at the 10/605 interchange.

One major disappointment is that the short list did not include funds for a northbound carpool lane on the 405 Freeway. To resolve the matter, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa lobbied heavily in Sacramento alongside fellow political figures. Just recently, the mayor was caught stopping drivers at streets to hand out leaflets about the development. The Los Angeles Times printed an editorial decrying the development. Today, the Commission heard an hour long testimony from local transportation leaders and may make a decision during their next meeting on February 28.

Concurrently, several other newspapers published material of their own. The Los Angeles Daily News featured a report summarizing developments regarding the proposed High Desert Corridor between the Antelope and Victor Valleys . One Orange County Register editorial suggested that toll roads financed through public-private partnerships as a possible panacea. A Long Beach Press Telegram editorial also showed support for tolls, but only for port trucks. Meanwhile, the Whittier Daily News tacitly supported the Grand Avenue project in Downtown L.A. but strongly urged planners to rethink traffic strategies for the development.

News readers were quick to respond on various topics by sending letters to the editor. Letters to the Los Angeles Times reproached notions of building toll roads in California . The Daily Breeze received letters   supporting the Wilshire subway. In response to an anti-subway editorial to the Daily News, Greater West L.A. Chamber of Commerce President Jay Handel sent a letter expressing its equal opposition to the subway and instead offered monorail as a solution. Several letters came in defense of the statewide high-speed rail system, which was recently derided by transit obstructionist Jim Moore. The Santa Monica Daily Press published a letter by Transit Coalition President Kenneth S. Alpern that decried libertarian views of public transport.

The Los Angeles Weekly published an unflattering analysis on the Southern California Association of Governments. According to the article, SCAG publishes doom-and-gloom reports that are summarily tossed away by those who fund the regional agency. Particular scorn is focused on Mark Pisano, who has led the agency since its inception in 1976.

A quarrel over responsibility for repairs on a portion of the Gold Line has been settled. Chunks of concrete are falling from unusual wear in a shear key of the Chinatown viaduct. Metro and the Gold Line Construction Authority squabbled over who would pay for repairs. Eventually, Metro assumed responsibility and will soon receive a report on what is causing the damage. Officials insist that the viaduct is safe for everyday operations.

Another quarrel erupted last week, when L.A. Marathon organizers offered no-cost rides to participants on Metro buses and trains without the consent of Metro. Furthermore, the former wanted Metro to foot the $300,000 bill. This resulted in an e-mail war between officials of the two agencies. Fortunately, a deal was reached where the for-profit Marathon would pay for the rides.

ExpressJet will phase in 29 nonstop flights to 14 destinations out of LA/Ontario International Airport through May. Airport leaders cannot help but be jovial at the development, since this is considered a major step in offering a meaningful alternative to LAX.

Today, it is not uncommon to hear of families sporting more vehicles than family members. Though some suggest this is a sign of affluence, others would tell you that this is done out of necessity than of luxury. This is a far cry from the 1950s, where one car per family sufficed. Such an interest in car ownership has been a boon for insurance companies but a nuisance to street and highway planners. Naturally, the abundance of vehicles contributes to traffic and pollution.

Earlier this month, South Pasadena scored a major legal victory that would force Caltrans to stop selling homes in its city. The suit, filed in 2005, argued that Caltrans formulated its own guidelines to dispose right-of-way property and thus skirted state requirements to develop such guidelines through the public process. Meanwhile, Burbank is working to improve traffic flow in the city by working with the street capacity they already have. Orange County highway officials continue to work on limiting or removing entry restrictions for carpool lanes, while Riverside County are doing the same for carpool lanes on the 60 Freeway.

This week's human interest piece revolves around the " Dinger dynasty", a family of railroad engineers that have operated trains at various locations for 90 years. Third-generation engineer Tom Dinger retired after 43 years of service, including running Pacific Surfliner trains between Los Angeles and San Diego . Dinger sees hope in the resurgence of passenger rail travel, noting that people will ride as long as gas prices are high.

In contrast to developments in Los Angeles public transit, New Jersey Transit is moving forward with a 9% increase in fares to offset service changes and inflation. Various transit agencies in the New York City metropolitan area are mulling about fare hikes as well. Elsewhere, Amtrak ridership rises alongside increased levels of service in Illinois . Last year, the state decided to increase its Amtrak budget to $24 million a year and increase service on the Illini and to introduce Saluki service. To the south, a small group of advocates are working to extend the Heartland Flyer to Kansas City , Missouri . The line currently runs from Fort Worth , Texas , to Oklahoma City , Oklahoma .

An update on Eastside Gold Line construction is now available. Also, the Train Riders Association of California have their January/February print newsletter available online.

Irony of the Week : Last week, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed David Crane, R. Kirk Lindsey and Curt Pringle and reappointed Rod Diridon to the California High Speed Rail Authority Board. Pity them, since Schwarzenegger is working to render the agency and, in turn, the board powerless, but, well, there you go.

Here is a list of other recent developments:

February 12 : Officials from the San Bernardino-based Omnitrans transit agency spoke on proposed service changes and fare increases to Yucaipa residents at a public hearing. The OmniLink dial-a-ride service in Yucaipa would be cut under the current proposal. About 150 people packed the Scherer Community Center ballroom to listen to the presentations and express their concerns.

February 13 : San Diego Regional Airport Authority officials took part in a retreat to suggest ideas on improving freeway and transit access to Lindbergh Field. Some also noted that a Marine recruiting depot near the airport could be used to build a new terminal. Participants took the retreat as an opportunity to regroup in light of a recent defeat of a plan to pursue a new airport in Miramar .

Return of the Shameless Plug : Metro is offering 50-cent rides on 18 bus lines during this week only. The reduced fare will be offered on Lines 102, 127, 154, 168, 177, 201, 202, 209, 214, 220, 233, 258, 265, 275, 305, 550, 577X and 761. For timetables and more information, visit the Metro website.

Upcoming Events: Metro Board Meeting: Thursday, February 22, 9:30 a.m., Board Room, Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles .

SCRRA (Metrolink) Board Meeting: Friday, February 23, 10 a.m., San Bernardino Conference Room, SCAG Building , 12th Floor, 818 W. Seventh St. , Los Angeles .

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!

Exposition Metro Line Construction Authority: Thursday, March 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, March 1, 7:30 p.m. Angeles Chapter office, 3435 Wilshire Blvd, Suite 320 , Los Angeles .

Metro San Fernando Valley Governance Council Meeting: Wednesday, March 7, 6:30 p.m., Marvin Braude Constituent Center , 6262 Van Nuys Blvd. , Van Nuys.

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

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.

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