Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Monday, February 26, 2007
Volume 3, Issue 9

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.

 Make A Date With Us: This Tuesday is the monthly Transit Coalition Dinner Meeting, featuring a speaker from the California High Speed Rail Authority. See Upcoming Events below for details.

For once, Giants and Dodgers fans might agree on one thing: Their hometowns got a "raw deal" from the California Transportation Commission. The latter released a list of staff-recommended projects that offered hardly anything for the two most congested urban areas in the state. In response, Los Angeles County politicos and transportation leaders launched a lobbying rally at the CTC aimed to secure funds for Southern California.

Even Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was unhappy with the choices, to the point where he listed his own recommendations, including two projects in the Inland Empire and the much-desired northbound carpool lane on the 405 Freeway between the Westside and the San Fernando Valley. Regarding the I-405 project, some suspect that the CTC was merely confused about when construction would begin on the project. Complicating matters is that other regions are stating their cases for why they should receive a bigger slice of the $4.5 billion allocated for the first round of projects.

San Gabriel Valley officials were also irate at the CTC for omitting improvements for the I-10/I-605 interchange. In response, leaders organized a press conference at the interchange to express their dissatisfaction at the choices and their resolve to undo the wrong. San Diego leaders also made their pitch to the CTC. Riverside leaders promised that their constituencies will receive what is duly entitled to their region. Rural counties, which some claim received  disproportionate attention in the short list, are also mounting a fight to get even more funds. Yes, this all makes for some good begging and groveling.

The displeasure was soundly expressed through various media outlets, with unusually high sympathy towards Los Angeles . The political gridlock revived debate whether engineers or politicians should make transportation decisions. Columnist Daniel Weintraub noted that the bonds were passed partly because they were supposed to be distributed without political meddling. Columnist Dan Walters lamented that, thanks to the recent antics from urban leaders, the selection process is quickly becoming another pork fest.

To counterpoint the claims, George Skelton pointed out that, when accounting for voter approval of the bonds, L.A. is getting even less. The Los Angeles Daily News even went so far as to call the CTC and ask them to make the I-405 carpool lane a high priority. (A second plea was also published.) The Daily News also asked the CTC to heed the recommendations of the governor. Everyone seems to believe that, suddenly, the bonds have become a "bait-and-switch" scam. Transit Coalition Vice-President Jerard Wright checked in with letters to the Los Angeles Times and the Daily News, expressing the need for a subway connecting the Westside and the Valley.

Officials in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties are also annoyed that their joint widening project on the 101 Freeway would still have to scrape up $20 million for design. They too lobbied the CTC to ease the restriction. The Ventura County Star expressed its disappointment editorially. Those in the Inland Empire felt the CTC should reward the area for ardently supporting the bonds.

But not all news is sad and gloomy. Orange County officials expressed their satisfaction that CTC staff listed a good number of their projects in their area. This should make Angels fans quite happy. Meanwhile, the Orange County Register published an op-ed stating that the 91 Express Lanes will return to state ownership once the project loans are paid off. The op-ed expressed that the lanes are a "cash cow" that should fund Orange County projects and not go to state coffers.

Also, Ortega Highway (State Highway Route 74) will receive major improvements that will require intermittent shutdown of the route for the foreseeable future. Caltrans asks drivers to seek "alternate routes". The problem is that the highway is one of a very small handful of highways that connects Orange County with eastern cities across the mountains. The only other "alternate routes" are the traffic-choked 91 Freeway to the north and State Highway Route 78 just south of Camp Pendleton .

With recent talk of fare increases floating around, an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times expressed that, if anything, Metro patrons should board buses and trains at no charge. Op-ed author D. Malcolm Carson believes that such a concept would vastly increase bus use in the area. One actual improvement to bus service may come in the form of WiFi. The Metro Board recently approved efforts to bring wireless internet service to buses and trains.

The Daily News published an exposť on indifferent Metro bus drivers in the San Fernando Valley. Staff writer Sue Doyle took several trips on lines that would be affected by a major restructuring plan due to take effect this June. Buses running either late or not at all were a common occurrence, according to her field study as well as citations by fellow passengers. However, some coach operators additionally show contempt at their customers by violating Metro regulations. Some even change the number of the bus line displayed on their headsigns so as to avoid picking up passengers!

Westside leaders continue to work together in bringing rail to the beach region. Los Angeles Council member Bill Rosendahl called on fellow leaders to help build a "rail network" for the Westside. Paralleling these efforts, state Assemblymember Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) introduced a bill that would create a construction authority for a Green Line extension to LAX.

San Bernardino officials are betting that a future bus rapid transit line will improve the luck of its ailing city core. The San Bernardino Express, or sbX, would run from Cal State San Bernardino to Jerry L. Pettis Memorial Veterans Medical Center in Loma Linda for a total of 16 miles. Officials will seek the $150 million to build the project, which could be opened as early as 2011.

The cities of La Palma and Buena Park are pooling their resources to launch a shuttle connecting their communities with Metrolink trains. A lack of parking coincides with increased ridership from the three Metrolink stations in Santa Clarita. Police  cracked down on motorists in Burbank and Glendale who illegally and dangerously cross train tracks. La Mirada and Santa Fe Springs residents are annoyed at learning that a much-needed grade separation at Valley View Avenue is short on funds.

Thanks to fuel-efficient cars, the gas tax is not as great a source of revenues as it once was. The Federal Government estimates that the Highway Trust Fund, which is funded by an 18.3-cents-a-gallon tax, will run into a $230 million deficit by fiscal year 2009. U.S. Department of Transportation secretary Mary Peters believes that the gas tax is obsolete and new funding mechanisms must be explored.

Union Pacific is getting bad press once again. Plans to build a rail spur from the Sunset Line in Arizona to Port Calumet in Baja California are creating a stir among Arizona farmers. Property owners accuse UP of not disclosing their plans to the public, leaving much of the project as a mystery to inquiring minds. Meanwhile, MagLev pokes up in Victor Valley , this time as a tool to that could move freight from the ports. Also, trucks from Mexico are coming soon to American roadways as part of a pilot program, sending transportation safety and air quality officials into a panic.

Ever wonder why there are more flight delays than ever before? Some list a combination of factors. Airlines stretch their employees and aircraft too thinly, and planes are scheduled too tightly, leaving little wiggle room for delays. Another problem is that the Federal Aviation Administration penalizes planes for returning to the gates, so pilots and passengers are forced to wait on the taxiway. Highly congested airports figure as some of America's most dangerous airports.

Meanwhile, state Senator Christine Kehoe (D-San Diego) is working on legislation that would change the structure of the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority and strip the Authority its responsibility to prepare land-use plans for neighborhoods next to existing airports. This comes as a response to the overwhelming defeat of its November ballot measure to move the airport to Miramar Marine Corps Air Station. The San Diego Regional Airport Authority has so far stayed mum on the issue.

Some are hoping that pedestrian-oriented development will reduce obesity. The City of Chino Council recently reexamined zoning laws and redevelopment efforts to see how they can promote walking with the direct intent to increase health. Ventura County officials will perform a "walkability" survey for cities and neighborhoods that will gauge the safety and usefulness of pedestrian facilities. Meanwhile, high-density development is coming to Pomona, where several projects are taking shape around the local Metrolink station.

Across the pond, European rail companies are working hard to make cross-continent travel even faster through the completion of several projects. Some believe these and other improvements could very well supplant airline travel by making long-distance rail travel faster and thus more relevant. "It isn't just environmentally friendly, it's more civilized," said Philip Beckett, operations director for European Rail.

Here is a list of other recent developments:

February 16 : National City filed a lawsuit against the San Diego MTS in hopes of preventing a takeover of their bus system. MTS believes the move would save money for the system. National City Transit counters that it was a bad deal, noting that Chula Vista Transit continues to administer its own bus system with help from MTS while achieving cost savings. MTS is scheduled to take over National City bus routes March 4.

February 19 : London expanded its congestion zone to cover western parts of the city. Drivers would have to pay $15.65 a day to enter the area. The plan would cost 120 million pounds and would generate 40 million pounds annually.

February 21 : The 5-1-1 traffic information system made its debut in San Diego County . San Diego motorists can now get the latest information about accidents and construction work that might be in their way, and an estimate of how long it will take to reach their destination. Motorists are also encouraged to visit the website at www.511sd.com.

February 26 : Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa joined airport leaders in a groundbreaking ceremony for the LAX Tom Bradley Terminal renovation. The $576 million project is the largest in city history. Completion is scheduled for March 2010. Some hope that the renovation will slow a decrease in international flight service from LAX. In recent years, other cities such as San Francisco and Las Vegas have made major strides in luring international companies to their airports.

The Orange County Transportation Authority reviewed the claims of 8 drivers from the 91 Express Lanes and 8 other drivers from the toll roads that the agency fined them to an excessive degree. The 16 drivers face fees totaling $335,000, ranging from $1,600 to $93,000. The group hopes to turn their complaint into a civil-action lawsuit.

Upcoming Events: 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: Wednesday, March 7, 6:30 p.m., Marvin Braude Constituent Center , 6262 Van Nuys Blvd. , Van Nuys.

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

Metro Gateway Cities Governance Council : Thursday, March 8, 2 p.m., Gas Company ERC, 9240 Firestone Bl., Downey .

Metro South Bay Governance Council: Friday, March 9, 9.30 a.m., Carson Community Center , 801 E. Carson St. , Carson .

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

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

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

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; Bill Bronte, Caltrans Division of Rail Chief.

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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