Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Tuesday, March 6, 2007
Volume 3, Issue 10

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.

You're Invited: RailPAC, The Transit Coalition and the National Association of Railroad Passengers will hold a joint conference on Saturday, March 17, at Metro Gateway Headquarters. You can now register in advance and view the program online. Also, the Expo Line Construction Authority is holding Scoping Meetings for Phase 2 of the Expo Line from Culver City to Santa Monica . See Upcoming Events below for details.

Officials from the California Transportation Commission approved a final list of projects that would be funded with $4.5 billion out of the nearly $20 billion from the statewide transportation infrastructure bonds. Two days before the final vote, CTC staff came out with a new list of recommendations. Funds for Orange County , considered a major winner in the first round of recommendations by many, remained the same, except for a small boost of $22 million for the 91 Freeway. Riverside County officials were especially pleased with the addition, prompting them to reflect on their gains.

The CTC also voted to fund improvements for the 10/605 interchange after all, but diverted a final decision until June to allot an additional $20 million towards a U.S. 101 widening in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties . The latter project promises to worsen future delays on U.S. 101 due to existing widening projects in Santa Barbara .

The northbound carpool lane for the 405 Freeway through the Sepulveda Pass was among the approved projects. The deal comes after days of intense lobbying by local elected officials. The Los Angeles Daily News thought of the development as something to celebrate indeed! Some, however, believe that the new lane will hardly solve Westside traffic issues. Others are concerned that some pricey real estate will be razed in order to widen the freeway for the carpool lanes.

Not surprisingly, not everyone is happy. Funds for interchange improvements along the 10 Freeway in Fontana and Rialto were dumped, which garnered the anger of Inland Valley Daily Bulletin editorial board. The Pasadena Star News expressed disappointment that carpool lanes on the 10 Freeway were not included. Rural communities resented the lobbying efforts of urban communities that led to the eventual demotion of some of their choice projects. Most recognize that even the $4.5 billion to be doled out are a mere " drop in the bucket" in solving state transportation problems, a situation made worse by the lack of new funding sources. Some believe mega-highway projects will save cities from death by congestion, despite the fact that transportation policy focused solely on highways is doomed to frustration.

State Assemblymember Ted Lieu introduced a bill that would create a construction authority that would build a Green Line extension through the vicinity of LAX. Some believe the proposed authority should also bring the Green Line to the South Bay Galleria.   Meanwhile, what will the federal government do to increase public transportation support this year? Find out in this interview with Congressmember Jim Oberstar.

An award-winning paper on walking revealed that people tend to walk farther to reach public transit than previously assumed. Those who walk often factor in time savings and directness of the route they choose to walk.

If you have not noticed, gas prices are swelling past the $3-a-gallon mark again. Refinery and pipeline problems are blamed for the increases. Some predict higher prices will be a regular occurrence in 2007. Naturally, we all want the price hikes to stop. Worse yet, the hot weather expands liquid gas, which makes gas pumps register a higher number of gallons purchased than normal. It is estimated that Californians would save as much as $450 million a year if pumps were adjusted to temperatures.

The Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach will roll out with a sweeping plan to reduce pollution. One possibly contentious recommendation would be for port companies to hire truckers as full-fledged employees. Some of the funding may come from a reintroduced and revamped bill by state Senator Alan Lowenthal that would charge $30 per container for infrastructure and pollution programs. The Long Beach Press-Telegram tacitly editorialized their blessing to his efforts. A huge market awaits an Ontario-based manufacturer of battery-powered pickup trucks. The ports are very interested in replacing at least a portion of their fleets with these innovative vehicles. Also on their minds are hybrid tugboats, which would arrive in Long Beach as early as 2008.

The surge in port activity has translated into a boom for freight rail. However, the ensuing rail congestion affects cross traffic in various cities. Many of them try to build grade separations as fast as they can. Railroads are required to pay only as much as 5% of grade separation costs. Also affected is the Amtrak Coast Starlight, which is habitually late at its Seattle terminus due to congestion on Union Pacific-owned track. (Fortunately for Washingtonians, a deal was announced that would bring a second round trip of Cascades service between Seattle and Vancouver , British Columbia .)

Also, federal regulators unveiled proposals that aim to reduce diesel locomotive pollution by as much as 90% by 2030, a plan that the South Coast Air Quality Management District soundly rebuked for leaving out the region. If that irks your patience, you can take action right now by reporting polluting cars to 1-800-CUT-SMOG.

In response to revelations that international airlines are taking their business elsewhere, Los Angeles officials promised to resurrect a plan to install new gates at the Tom Bradley International Terminal of LAX. The project would move separately from the ongoing renovation of the terminal. The idea was championed in a Los Angeles Times editorial. Also, airport commissioners voted to charge $10 per car rental at LAX to fund designs for a consolidated rental car facility. Commissioners believe such a facility would reduce traffic and pollution by removing thousands of shuttles from the terminal access road. Meanwhile, LA/Palmdale Regional Airport is getting ready for new flights to be launched by United Airlines in June.

Several letters to the Times came out to support and object to a previously published op-ed extolling no fares on Metro. Meanwhile, San Francisco MUNI officials report that fare cheats and broken fare boxes are placing a damper on their farebox recovery. The folks who run the Las Vegas Monorail will start reporting ridership figures with less frequency. San Antonio will soon investigate whether "bus rapid transit" would suit the city since there are no plans to bring light rail in the near future.

In our humor section, Ken Layne of the satirical blog Wonkette wrote a column decrying the lack of access to parking regulations in the City of Los Angeles and essentially equates parking with murder. (On the other end of the Gold Line, Pasadenans are fuming over funky overnight parking rules on the streets.) Columnist Dana Parsons tries to figure out how two toll lane users with expired transponders did not receive timely mailings about past due toll fares and rake up over $90,000 in fines. Also, Santa Monica Big Blue Bus opted to stop posting racy ads for the television reality show America's Next Top Model on the sides of their buses, after passengers and employees alike objected to the depiction of scantily-clad would-be models. (This Variety article on the subject had to be included; how can one resist a tagline like " Blue Buses ban bikini blurbs"?)

Opportunity Knocks : Sector General Manager Gerald C. Francis has left Metro Rail and will follow former Metro Deputy CEO John Catoe to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. Francis will join WMATA CEO Catoe as Deputy CEO. The Transit Coalition wishes him the best in his new endeavors.

Here is a list of other recent developments:

February 26 : The Orange County Transportation Authority Board voted to fund a $250,000 study on a shuttle service between Disneyland and Huntington Beach. The study will also evaluate what to do with a Union Pacific railway that connects Huntington Beach with Anaheim .

February 27 : Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa met with U.S. Department
of Transportation Secretary Mary Peters and urged her to prioritize a subway under Wilshire Blvd. Peters assured Villaraigosa that the subway would be one of several public transportation projects that the Bush Administration could favor.

The Irvine City Council held a study session to discuss transit for the Orange County "Great Park". "Personal Rapid Transit" was dropped from further consideration, though trolleys and monorails will still be studied. The park will use a shuttle bus in the meantime once its first phase opens in 2009.

February 28 : Transportation Corridor Agencies planners revised a timeline for construction of a toll road that would pass through San Onofre State Beach. The agency now says it will take two more years to get the permits and funding. Two letters to the Los Angeles Times expressed jubilation at the development.

March 2 : The California High Speed Rail Authority released ridership figures suggesting that as many as 2.5 million trips would be made on the proposed HSR system when completely built. The Authority also unveiled a 3D simulation of the rail service.

Don't Forget! Daylight saving time starts at 2 a.m. on Sunday, March 11. Please "spring forward" your clocks by adding an hour before going to bed on Saturday, lest you want to miss that ever-so-infrequent weekend bus to work or some such.

Upcoming Events:  Expo Line Phase 2 Scoping Meeting #3: Tuesday, March 6, 6:30 p.m., Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, 1855 Main St., East Wing Meeting Room, Santa Monica .

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 . CANCELLED.

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., Metro Division 18 450 W. Griffith St., Carson.

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

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 .

Consider attending our monthly Transit Coalition Dinner Meeting on Tuesday, March 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!

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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