Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
Volume 3, Issue 11

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.

Final Call: RailPAC, The Transit Coalition and the National Association of Railroad Passengers will hold a joint conference this 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 its final Scoping Meeting for Phase 2 of the Expo Line from Culver City to Santa Monica . See Upcoming Events below for details.

Gas prices in California shot well past the $3-a-gallon mark last week. Not surprisingly, profits from oil refineries are on the upswing. Critics believe that the oil industry is driving up prices by creating excuses for supposed refinery problems. Some even go as far as comparing them to electricity companies that used an invented "energy crisis" to drive up prices six years ago. Even so, an editorial in the Whittier Daily News reminds us that, when it comes to gas prices, we have it a lot better than other folks around the world.

Westside elected officials reaffirmed their commitment to transportation solutions for their area. Orange County residents at a recent public meeting expressed their antipathy at proposals to bring transit connecting Disneyland with Huntington Beach . The North County Times editorialized their support for a forthcoming Independent Taxpayer Oversight Committee, which would monitor funds collected in San Diego County through a sales tax approved by voters in 2004. Arcadia will hold public hearings on a proposed transit village for the future Foothill Gold Line in April.

It's one thing when your employer provides you with a no-cost monthly pass to board local transit systems. It's quite another when your employer provides you with its own transit system. Mountain View-based web business Google gives employees the chance to ride their commuter-tailored buses to and from work. On top of that, the company maintains a staff of transportation specialists that adjust new routes when new employees are hired and traffic patterns change.

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, who is running for reelection this year, launched a push for no-cost bus service in the City by the Bay. Muni currently charges $1.50 for a regular adult fare and $45 for a standard monthly Fast Pass , and offers discounts for seniors, children and the disabled. Fareless systems tend to produce mixed results, according to a San Francisco Chronicle report. Vandalism and operations costs often increase with ridership.

At the other end of the spectrum, Pennsylvania SEPTA will spectacularly increase fares by 31% (to a base fare of $2.50) and cut service by 20%. Locally, Omnitrans will hike its base fare to $1.35 and day passes to $3.50. BART is having its own problems at catching increasingly imaginative fare cheaters.

Despite living in the most transit-intense area of Los Angeles , residents of Downtown L.A. take little advantage of their transit options according to a recent study. This revelation produced two letters to the Los Angeles Downtown News, with one chastising residents for not taking advantage of its transit system. To boost service to Downtown even further, Foothill Transit will launch Silver Streak service on Sunday, March 29. This will provide Rapid Bus-like service with articulated buses between Downtown and the San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys .

Privatization continues to take hold of the mind of transportation planners. In Denver , officials want to pursue a design-build-operate-maintain arrangement for rail projects. They believe it would stave off a $2.5 billion shortfall in financing the voter-approved FasTracks rail plan. Washington Post columnist George Will believes that privatization schemes for roadways must be pursued to keep up with maintenance costs and control traffic. New York MTA will ignore these schemes when they sign a contract on March 29 that will finally launch construction of the Second Avenue Subway.

Inland Empire officials are regrouping after failing to secure funds for certain road projects. Staff from the California Transportation Commission initially suggested awarding $153 million to the San Bernardino Associated Governments for projects that included revamped bridges along the I-10. The CTC later approved $175.8 million that among other things will fund a major widening of I-215 through San Bernardino but not the I-10 bridges. However, officials are not deterred, since they believe billions of dollars more from the bonds can be made available. Just across the mountains, officials in the Antelope Valley are also regrouping after failing to secure bond funds for an upgrade of State Highway Route 138.

The Orange County Register published an interview with California Transportation Commission member Marian Bergeson, the latter revealing that lobbying from urban areas was often intense and even "threatening". Nevertheless, Bergeson believes her home county of Orange benefited greatly by having its projects in the final list selected by the CTC.

Lack of synchronized traffic signals in Las Vegas , Nevada , will tax the patience of motorists for the foreseeable future, according to Mayor Oscar Goodman. Drivers often must encounter numerous red lights that eat up commuting time even when traveling for a few blocks. Motorists must also wait through bizarre signal cycles at intersections. Southern Nevada commuters voted twice to provide funds for signal synchronization, but nothing has come out of them. (Goodman also expressed his belief that a subway system of some sort under the Strip would give meaningful benefits. When asked about the Las Vegas Monorail, Goodman replied: "I think the monorail stinks. I really do.") This is a sharp contrast to Los Angeles , where signal synchronization was recently completed in Exposition Park , leaving only two areas in the city where traffic signals are not timed.

Down on the I-15, residents and commuters alike are concerned about the future of this once free-flowing highway. With job and housing exploding in both Riverside and San Diego Counties , few are exactly sure on how to tackle ensuing traffic. Indeed, motorists today rely on arterial streets and winding canyon roads instead of freeways to reach employment centers.

Letters to the Los Angeles Times condemn the recently funded I-405 northbound carpool lane project. A shorted traffic signal along the Pacific Coast Highway (State Highway Route 1) caused massive disruptions and inflamed the tempers of motorists. Across the pond, an expanded congestion charge zone continues to help decrease traffic in London , though critics contend that it is too early to tell whether the expansion would place a meaningful dent on traffic.

Meanwhile, the Federal Aviation Administration conceded that Los Angeles International Airport lacks an adequate number of air-traffic controllers. An ongoing campaign to recruit and train them would help the FAA fill as many as 15,000 positions in the next decade. An op-ed in the Times suggested that LAX should look into smaller fixes and regionalization as a way to avoid " Mulhollandism." Also, a recent legal study suggests that Santa Monica may be able to regulate pollution at the Santa Monica Airport if the Federal Aviation Administration fails to do so.

Turning our attention to MagLev, not everyone is pleased with the proposed Orangeline between Orange County and Antelope Valley . The City of La Palma , which is located on the proposed alignment, expressed concern that the MagLev would produce excessive noise and construction troubles. Meanwhile, Santa Clarita officials received an update on the Orangeline, which as proposed would include a stop at Via Princessa exit of the Antelope Valley Freeway.

Regarding Amtrak, the national passenger railroad is poised to receive $19 billion over six years, including $1.4 billion for capital grants to be matched by the states, under a bill moving through the U.S. Senate. USA Today provided readers with a summary of developments. In the meantime, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch gives suggestions on how to prepare for a long-distance train trip.

Action Alert: Precious transit operations funds from the state continue to be threatened by proposals to shift "spillover" funds from excess gas tax revenues to the state general fund. This could severely undermine transit growth even as transit usage continues to outpace travel by other modes. Join us in fighting these cuts by contacting key elected officials and voicing your concerns. For those unfamiliar with the fight, you can read an explanation and benefits of the Spillover account courtesy of Cal-PIRG.

Here is a list of other recent developments:

March 5 : Santa Monica Municipal Bus Lines held a public meeting to discuss improvements for the Big Blue Bus system. Upcoming improvements include introducing a system of shuttles called the "Mini Blue Bus" and opening a transit store simply called "Blue".

March 8 : The San Diego Daily Transcript published an article comparing property developments along two ongoing transportation projects in the region: The Sprinter DMU between Oceanside and Escondido , and the Route 125 toll road between Otay Mesa and Spring Valley. Those around the toll road incorporate some mixed-use elements while those surrounding the Sprinter focus on higher density. Both transportation projects must handle a sharp increase in residents, which is reflected in the increased interest for home purchases in their respective areas.

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission, which oversees transportation matters in the San Francisco Bay Area, voted to provide funding for an environmental study of the Central Subway under Downtown San Francisco. The $1.2 billion project could start construction as early as 2010.

Officials from the Port of Long Beach took a tour of the Victorville-based Southern California Logistics Airport. The city of Victorville is currently building a rail spur into the airport and hopes that it will serve as a major intermodal freight facility in the future.

March 9 : The Expo Line Construction Authority held the third public scoping meeting for the second phase of the Expo Line, which would run from Culver City to Santa Monica . According to a timeline provided, a draft environmental document would be completed by winter 2008, with a Locally Preferred Alternative adopted in spring 2008. Supporters, opponents, and curious denizens came to learn about the project and discuss concerns that could be studied.

LAPortWatch unveiled its new website ( www.laportwatch.com) during the Faster Freight-Cleaner Air 2007 conference at the Long Beach Convention Center . According to founder and CEO Gene Kininmonth, "Our goal at LAPortWatch is to relay the critical issues to the community in a clear and articulate forum without bias."

Announcement : If you wish to make a contribution to The Transit Coalition by check, please be aware that as of this week we can only accept checks made payable to "SEE" (Social & Environmental Entrepreneurs). Please write "The Transit Coalition" in the Memo section of the check.

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

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

Expo Line Phase 2 Scoping Meeting #4: Thursday, March 15, 6:30 p.m., Vista Del Mar Child and Family Services, 3200 Motor Avenue , Gymnasium, Los Angeles .

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.

Metro San Gabriel Valley Governance Council : Monday, March 19, 5 p.m., >San Gabriel Valley Sector Office, 3369 Santa Anita Ave. , El Monte .

SCAG Goods Movement Task Force : Wednesday, March 21, 9 a.m., SCAG Offices, 818 W. Seventh St. , 12th floor, Los Angeles .

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

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!

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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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