Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Tuesday, May 1, 2007
Volume 3, Issue 18

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.

Spillover Still Threatened: Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger continues to press for a shift of "spillover" funds from excess gas tax revenues to the state general fund. (As if that wasn't enough, he also plans to slash funds to complete environmental studies for high speed rail and indefinitely postpone a bond vote for its construction.) 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.

Lively discussion of fare hikes on Metro continues. CEO Roger Snoble presented his case in a Los Angeles Times op-ed, arguing that rising operating costs and increased and dangerous reliance on public subsidies are the main reason why Metro must move forward with steep and sudden fare increases. However, many are not buying it and say that Metro should reduce fares instead or eliminate them outright. Two letters to the Times came out against the proposal. (The MetroRiderLA blog expressed opposition to the plan as presented but also suggested an alternative proposal that would gradually replace Metro passes with EZ passes.) Meanwhile, the San Jose VTA is going the other direction by proposing a reduction in fares to increase patronage.

Other agencies are taking various measures to offset costs. Omnitrans will cut weekend service on curb-to-curb OmniLink in Redlands . The Montebello City Council mulled about hiring a private contractor to operate its dial-a-ride service. In Chicago , buses are being equipped with GPS technology that can inform passengers on where their buses are through their portable devices.

One columnist in the Santa Barbara Independent calls for prompt establishment of commuter rail service between Santa Barbara and Ventura as a way to increase capacity on the busy coast corridor. The Orange County Transportation Authority last week approved up to $87.9 million for Metrolink improvements between the Fullerton and Laguna Niguel/Mission Viejo stations. Also, efforts to grade-separate a major railroad crossing in Colton hit a snag when costs to study the improvement came at a higher level than estimated. Meanwhile, the San Bernardino Associated Governments voted on a five-year plan that calls for massive improvements in Metrolink service in the region.

An assembly bill aimed to combat sprawl is garnering opposition from an unlikely
foe. The bill would require transportation agencies to draft plans that would reduce vehicle miles traveled by 10%. The Bay Area's Metropolitan Transportation Commission believed that the legislation would force commuters to change their habits too quickly and offers few tools to bring about such a change. Companion legislation is moving through the state Senate.

Will transportation and land use planning finally come together in Riverside County ? Rick Bishop , executive director of the Western Riverside Council of Governments, seems to think so. In a recent interview by Metro Investment Report, Bishop revealed that the funding situation for transportation projects has changed dramatically over the last two decades, where the state and federal governments were a major source of cash. Bishop believes mitigation fees from developers would be a good way to replenish funds for transportation projects.

The Planning Report printed an interview with Bill Gilchrist of the Urban Land Institute that describes a competition where students design an urban landscape for First Street in Los Angeles , where the Gold Line will run two years from now. Christopher Lollini and his team of UC Berkeley students won the competition. TPR also interviewed Emily Gabel Luddy, chief of the newly created Urban Design Studio from the L.A. City Planning Department. The team aims to bring aesthetic pleasantness and "human dimension" that often is left wanting in Los Angeles urban design. The Department recently proposed a list of 14 principles that would greatly alter urban planning in Los Angeles .

Donate and Join The Transit Coalition : Want to improve transportation in Southern California? Would you like to keep informed on what is happening in the transportation scene? Then please donate and join The Transit Coalition. A monthly subscription to Moving Southern California comes with your membership. Visit our Donations page to explore other options. Your contribution is greatly appreciated.

Onto port issues, residents in west Long Beach are protesting plans to increase rail capacity. Residents fear that additional freight trains could worsen air pollution and increase the prevalence of asthma. Both Union Pacific and Burlington Northern Santa Fe have prepared separate plans to expand rail yards while offering assurances that they will use the cleanest vehicles possible. The Port of Los Angeles is reviewing the plans.

While a study on a 710 tunnel underneath South Pasadena continues, the City of Los Angeles revives talk of a temporary connector to the freeway. The heretofore unknown study commissioned by L.A. City took Alhambra officials by surprise. The connector would extend the freeway for a short distance to Mission Ave. in Alhambra , thus skipping the congested intersection of Valley Blvd. and Fremont Ave. Some worry that talks of a connector would hinder momentum for the 710 tunnel, which Alhambra supports.

Los Angeles City Beat published a summary of the fight to reduce pollution and jet use of the small Santa Monica Airport . Meanwhile, cargo screening at airports could be fast-tracked should a pilot program at San Francisco International Airport prove successful. The federal General Accountability Office fears that the recently introduced Airbus could slow ground traffic and lengthen landing and takeoff waits at airports.

Los Angeles residents are expressing their traffic frustrations through the power of video. Also, the Press Enterprise editorialized their interest in seeing more design-build projects in California . A bill to prohibit construction of the San Onofre Toll Road was pulled out after it received fierce opposition from construction, labor and business firms. The Los Angeles Times interviewed famed oil magnate T. Boone Pickens Jr. to see what the future holds for oil economics.

In this week's odd bit of news, officers from a regional auto-theft task force arrested a man who would steal cars in the South Bay , not for financial benefit, but to see his would-be lover in Santa Barbara . The relationship in question was already a dead end, according to the girlfriend.

A March update on Eastside Gold Line construction is now available.

Here is a list of other recent developments:

April 25 : The Los Angeles City Council Transportation Committee voted to launch a more comprehensive study for one-way traffic on Olympic and Pico Blvds.   The Committee also urged for the creation of bus lanes on Wilshire Blvd. The former proposal has already generated opposition from the community. Both proposals run through Beverly Hills , which would require its cooperation.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger believed that the state may have to sue the federal government if the latter does not allow California to implement its mammoth plan to reduce greenhouse gases. Under the federal Clean Air Act, California can pass its own air pollution laws but must first obtain a waiver from the federal Environmental Protection Agency. However, the EPA has delayed granting a waiver to the state and plans to do so again after the Supreme Court ruled that carbon dioxide was a greenhouse gas subject to EPA regulation.

April 27 : The Southern California Regional Rail Authority (Metrolink) Board postponed a vote on fare increases. The agency plans to increase fares overall by 3.5 percent per year during the next three years. The agency held a public hearing on the proposed increase and is scheduled to vote on the proposal May 11. The Board also reviewed email comments about the fare increases and voted to upgrade train scheduling software that otherwise will not be compatible with the upcoming upgrades to electronic signage.

April 29 : A ramp connecting the I-80 west to I-580 east in Oakland collapsed after a tanker truck on a ramp below it careened onto the supports. The flames from the gasoline-filled truck were hot enough to melt the structure. Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency, which would expedite the design and reconstruction of the collapsed ramp. Meanwhile, motorists are scrambling to find alternatives. The 80/580/880 interchange, known as the Macarthur Maze, sits in front of the approach to the Bay Bridge. The emergency declaration also allowed a free day of transit on BART and elsewhere the following Monday, April 30. As of this moment, the traffic snarls are not as bad as expected. Caltrans has set up a special website where you can see videos, photographs and detour information.

Upcoming Events : Metro San Fernando Valley Governance Council: Wednesday, May 2, 6:30 p.m., Marvin Braude Constituent Center , 6262 Van Nuys Blvd. , Van Nuys.

Exposition Metro Line Construction Authority : Thursday, May 3, 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, May 3, 7:30 p.m. Angeles Chapter office, 3435 Wilshire Blvd, Suite 320 , Los Angeles .

Metro Westside/Central Governance Council : Wednesday, May 9, 5 p.m., La Cienega Tennis Center , Sunset Room, 325 S. La Cienega Blvd. , Beverly Hills .

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

Metro Gateway Cities Governance Council : Thursday, May 10, 2 p.m., Gas Company ERC, 9240 Firestone Blvd. , Downey .

Metro South Bay Governance Council: Friday, May 11, 9.30 a.m., Carson Community Center , 801 E. Carson St. , Carson .

SCRRA (Metrolink) Committee Meetings: Friday, May 11, 10 a.m., SCRRA Offices, 700 S. Flower St. , 26th floor, Los Angeles .

Southern California Transit Advocates: Saturday, May 12, 1 p.m., Angelus Plaza , Rm. 422, 255 S. Hill St. , Los Angeles .

Orange County Transportation Authority Board Meeting: Monday, May 14, 9 a.m., Board Hearing Room, 600 Main St. , Orange .

Consider attending our monthly Transit Coalition Dinner Meeting on
Tuesday, May 22
- 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Philippe The Original, 1001 N. Alameda St. Los Angeles CA 90012 . Expo Line Metro Construction Authority CEO Rick Thorpe will be the speaker. ( 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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