Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Tuesday, April 3, 2007
Volume 3, Issue 14

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.

Once again, gas prices are rising at an incredible pace. Compared to last Monday, prices per gallon were up by an average of 7.6 cents in California , while prices rose by an average of 9.7 cents across the country. San Francisco is getting the worst, with prices creeping towards $4 in some areas. Huge refinery profit margins, falling gasoline production, tensions with Iran and increased consumption are to blame.

Plenty of anger abounds after Metro proposed raising fares. The elderly would be especially affected by the steep hikes, since most live on a fixed income. Student passes would explode from $20 to $72 under the current proposal.

The Orange County Transportation Authority agreed to partly fund a study for a new Metrolink station in Placentia . The OCTA also gave an ultimatum to Veolia Transportation by stating the private company will lose its contract unless it operates the county dial-a-ride system satisfactorily. Stations for the Sprinter project are taking shape, sadly without drinking fountains.

Are you in a need of a little culture in your life? Then hop on the Metro Rail system, just like Chris Lee of the Los Angeles Times did. Lee learned to his astonishment that many who come to take tours of the artwork have never used the rail system before.

The cancellation of Foothill Transit Line 283 has lengthened the commute times for bus riders, despite replacement service. Riding a bus in Thousand Oaks can be a real challenge if one is not prepared. In the high desert city of Tehachapi , officials discussed whether their dial-a-ride service is meeting local transit needs.

Onto road matters (and this week there seems to be quite a bit of them), officials are frothing at the latest sensational cure for Westside traffic: Turning Olympic and Pico Blvds. into one-way streets. A Los Angeles Times editorial expressed elation at the concept, while letters in response expressed lukewarm concern. Meanwhile, Los Angeles County is exploring methods that would encourage County employees to buy environmentally friendly vehicles.

Are cul-de-sacs a planning pariah? Planners today believe that most cul-de-sac designs do more harm than good by limiting mobility options. Letters responding decried such assertions by stating that they enjoy the peace and tranquility that these closed-off streets offer.

Having had enough of getting the shabby treatment, Caltrans plans to sue cities and developers to provide cash for upgrading their highways. Caltrans argues that developers should pay in accordance with the traffic their developments bring. Developers dismiss the challenge as "extortion," while cities counter that such lawsuits would take away money from local street maintenance. Lawsuits against the state agency effectively hamstrung many of their projects in the past.

Transportation officials in Orange County are greatly encouraged by the success of the new in-and-out carpool lanes on the Garden Grove Freeway, to the point where they want to expand the program elsewhere. A recent OCTA committee meeting suggested that the Riverside , Orange and San Diego Freeways should be the next to offer carpool lanes where drivers can enter at any point. Meanwhile, state Senator Abel Maldonado (R-Santa Maria) introduced Senate Bill 889 (not to be confused with Assembly Bill 889; see below), which would use shame and guilt tactics to discourage solo drivers from illegally using carpool lanes.

The Whitter Daily News editorially expressed their appreciation that new carpool lanes on the 10 Freeway in the San Gabriel Valley will move ahead after all, thanks to the efforts of the Metro Board. The addition of three county supervisors to the San Gabriel Council of Governments promises to add more clout to the region. Caltrans shut down a portion of State Highway Route 138, a bypass of Los Angeles through the Antelope Valley known fondly as "Blood Alley", because violent drivers have injured three construction workers on a segment.

Parking issues take center stage in this Donald Shoup op-ed. The UCLA professor of urban planning argues that pricing precious parking spaces according to supply and demand would reduce time driving around to find a spot, infuse cash to local beautification, and even reduce pollution. Shoup noted that some cities adjust their meter rates to achieve an 85% occupancy rate. Something similar would in turn offer parking for those who actually need it instead of those who are lucky to find it, according to Shoup.

San Clemente opened a new pedestrian trail paralleling the ocean last winter to great success. The new trail, which hopes to discourage trespassers from walking on nearby rail tracks, is the culmination of efforts between the city and the community to build a safe alternative to illegally crossing the tracks. However, activists fear that the California Public Utilities Commission, which regulates rail crossings, may yet force changes to the trail.

It is not getting any better at the airlines. Recent results of an annual study concluded that airline service is decidedly worse than last year. On-time performance worsened last year, and more checked baggage was lost in the same time. One bit of good news did emerge: Customer complaints "stabilized" at a rate of 0.88 per 100,000 passengers! Perhaps because of these problems, more and more passengers are choosing " luggage shipping services" as an alternative to checked baggage.

Port officials, environmentalists and labor groups are coming together in finding ways to reform the existing system of hiring truck drivers. Activists compare the current method of moving goods out of the ports by hiring "independent contractors" to the sharecropping system of yore. A separate report from retailers, shippers and terminal operators suggested that private industry should charge fees to fund an overhaul of diesel trucks. Meanwhile, a major reconfiguration of highways on Terminal Island was completed and opened to traffic last weekend.

Los Angeles City Councilmember Ed Reyes recently rebuffed efforts by a major rail car manufacture to install a facility at Taylor Yard, which would bring 200 jobs to the area. Reyes countered that community members are working to turn the property into a park. The Daily News printed some of the responses.

Interest in passenger rail continues to grow in the Midwest, with Wisconsin officials contemplating an expansion of Amtrak and commuter rail. In the South, a lifestyle columnist laments the truncation of the Sunset Limited, which connected New Orleans with Florida before Hurricane Katrina. Back home, a recent news video reveals that monorails are not as futuristic as often believed.

Internationally, Chile President Michelle Bachelet suffered a major collapse of voter confidence when transit users protested a large-scale adjustment of bus routes in Santiago that either left them stranded or forced them to take slower routes with more transfers.

More Shameless Plugs : Founded in 2002, CityLites is a non-profit organization aimed at promoting exercise, good nutrition and physical fitness in inner-city communities. On Saturday, May 19, CityLites will host the 4th Annual Inner City 21 and 5-Mile Bike Tour Festival and Carnival in Jesse Owens Park at Century Blvd. and Western Av. Proceeds from the event will go to local middle and high schools to foster after-school sports- and physical-education-related activities. Call (323) 280-0288 or see this flyer for more information.

Here is a list of other recent developments:

March 23 : The Los Angeles City Council voted to support state Assembly Bill 889, which would create a construction authority for the Green Line with the intent of extending it to LAX. "Establishing a construction authority would jump-start funding and building the Green Line extension," according to Los Angeles City Councilmember Bill Rosendahl.

Caltrans Director Will Kempton discussed transportation funding strategies at the annual San Bernardino County City-County conference. Kempton heard first-hand disappointment from officials who fought for bond funds that would catalyze local projects. Kempton replied that many jurisdictions up and down the state were disappointed and that other funding schemes, such as public-private partnerships, must be explored.

March 27 : Los Angeles officials spoke to leading Congressmembers in Washington and lobbied for transportation funds, among other things. The group led by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce gave particular focus to rail, transit and goods movement projects that are in need of federal funds. The Los Angeles Daily News took an impatient approach at the effort in an editorial.

March 28 : Los Angeles officials and transit advocates took their fight for "Spillover" funds to the state capitol. The Legislature held its first budget subcommittee hearing on the public transit budget, where more than a dozen advocates and representatives of local agencies, including Metro, urged the committee to restore the funds. Representatives from Metro argued that their recent fare proposals are partially due to an anticipated loss of revenue caused by the diversion.

(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.)

The High Desert Corridor Joint Powers Authority, which would work to realize an east-west highway connecting the Antelope and Victor Valleys , met for the first time. Though not in attendance, Palmdale Mayor Jim Ledford decried plans to build the highway as a toll road, an idea championed by state Senator George Runner. Participants, including several supervisors from Los Angeles and San Bernardino Counties , discussed several actions the Authority could perform that could move the project forward. The Authority will seek $23 million this year to fund the project.

April 2 : The U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-4 in declaring greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide are pollutants subject to federal regulation. The Bush Administration sided with automakers in arguing that federal officials had no power in setting emissions limits. The decision was favorable to California , whose state officials are asking for tougher emissions controls from vehicles by automakers. Even after the near victory, however, the state must still clear various hurdles before enacting what would be one of the toughest emissions standards in the nation.

April 3 : The French TGV broke the record for speed on a high-speed conventional rail train, clocking at 357 mph (574.8 km/h). The record fell just shy of the 581 km/h record held by a MagLev train in Japan . The previous record for a steel-on-steel train was 515 km/h, achieved 17 years ago. The test was performed on the TGV Paris-Strasbourg line, which will open this June.

To Close : The Light Rail for Cheviot website now includes several conceptual drawings of a green corridor for the Expo Line through West Los Angeles.

Upcoming Events : California High Speed Rail Authority Scoping Meetings:

  • Wednesday, April 4 , 6 p.m., Glendale Public Library, 222 E. Harvard St. , Glendale .
  • Thursday, April 5 , 6 p.m., Los Angeles County Metro Board Room, One Gateway Plaza , Los Angeles .
  • Tuesday, April 10 , 6 p.m., Sylmar Park Recreation Center ; 13109 Borden Ave. , Sylmar.
  • Wednesday, April 11 , 3 p.m. and 6 p.m., Gordon Hoyt Conference Room, City Hall West, 201 S. Anaheim Blvd. , Anaheim . (Changed from March 29.)
  • Thursday, April 12 , 6 p.m., Palmdale City Hall , 38300 Sierra Hwy. , Palmdale.
  • Thursday, April 12 , 3 p.m. and 6 p.m., Norwalk Transportation Center, Arts & Sports Complex Community Meeting Center (Sproul Room), 13200 Clarkdale Avenue, Norwalk. (Changed from March 28.)
  • Tuesday, April 17 , 6 p.m., Los Angeles River Center & Gardens, 570 W. Avenue 26, Los Angeles .

Metro San Fernando Valley Governance Council: Wednesday, April 4, 6:30 p.m., Marvin Braude Constituent Center , 6262 Van Nuys Blvd. , Van Nuys.

Exposition Metro Line Construction Authority : Thursday, April 5, 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, April 5, 7:30 p.m. Angeles Chapter office, 3435 Wilshire Blvd, Suite 320 , Los Angeles .

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

Independent Citizens' Advisory and Oversight Committee Public Hearing: Monday, April 9, Board Room, Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles .

Metro San Gabriel Valley Governance Council: Monday, April 9, 5 p.m., 3369 Santa Anita Ave. (near El Monte bus station), El Monte .

Metro Westside/Central Governance Council : Wednesday, April 11, 5 p.m., La Cienega Tennis Center , Sunset Room, 325 S. La Cienega Blvd. , Beverly Hills .

Metro Gateway Cities Governance Council : Thursday, April 12, 2 p.m., Gas Company ERC, 9240 Firestone Blvd., Downey Public Library (Cormack Room), 11121 Brookshire Ave., Downey.

SCRRA (Metrolink) Committee Meetings: Friday, April 13, 10 a.m., SCRRA Offices, 700 S. Flower St. , 26th floor, Los Angeles .

Southern California Transit Advocates: Saturday, April 14, 1 p.m., Angelus Plaza , Rm. 422, 255 S. Hill St. , Los Angeles .

Metro Committee Meetings: Wednesday, April 18 and Thursday, April 19, Board Room, Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles .

Consider attending our monthly Transit Coalition Dinner Meeting on
Tuesday, April 24 - 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!

Get the Print Edition of Moving Southern California, our monthly newsletter. Request a sample copy.

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.

Visit our Discussion Board for the latest dialogue on transit.