Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Tuesday, May 8, 2007
Volume 3, Issue 19

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 and High Speed Rail on the Chopping Block: Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger continues to press for a shift of "spillover" funds from excess gas tax revenues to the state general fund. 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. Also, take a look at this letter in support of HSR, courtesy of Bay Rail Alliance, so that you can inform yourself on the importance of this project and write your letters to elected officials.

Mumbling and grumbling continues towards the Metro fare increase proposals. The Metro Board will hold the final hearing to listen to public comments on Thursday, May 24. The Board will then vote on the fare adjustments. Individual service sectors will hold their own hearings throughout May. See Upcoming Events below for dates and locations.

BRU owner Eric Mann and organizer Manuel Criollo blasted Metro for even thinking about the idea, while at the same time accusing it (again) of subsidizing "contractor-friendly rail projects that were racially discriminatory". Rand Corp. transportation specialist Martin Wachs believes Metro should pursue variable pricing, where fares change according to distance and the time of day. Letters to the Los Angeles Times offered mixed opinions on the increases. A letter to the Pasadena Star News asked that future increases should be "clear and predictable". After mulling the fate of turtles in Echo Lake , columnist Steve Hymon crunched some numbers and realized that you would need 2,700 buses to offer the same capacity as the Metro Red Line.

Metro is not the only one mulling a fare increase. A Glendale city committee voted to increase fares and reshuffle service on Beeline buses. Across the country WMATA chief and former Metro executive John Catoe pulled back a proposal released last November to increase fares, but admitted that the matter will be brought back in light of increasing operations costs.

Support continues to grow for a Green Line construction authority. A second state Assembly committee passed AB 889 in late April. The authority would be responsible for extending the Green Line towards LAX. More and more officials are joining the Green Line Coalition to support and promote the project. Thinking otherwise, the Los Angeles Daily News scolded Metro for purportedly " sinking all of its resources" on a Wilshire Blvd. subway (despite the fact that Metro is at the moment preparing a major investment study for the project and nothing else).

Federal officials and the Gold Line Construction Authority estimated that 9,500 passengers would ride the future Pasadena-Azusa Gold Line. Construction of the Metrolink Buena Park station will finish in July, months behind schedule. The Santa Monica City Council approved $57 million to build a new maintenance facility for Big Blue Buses. Also, Sprinter has chosen to use onboard roving patrols to bring security on trains, breaking away from Coaster practice where guards are placed at stations.

Now that the dust has settled, the march is on to rebuild the fallen Macarthur Maze ramp in Oakland . Schwarzenegger promised the lower ramp leading to I-880 would be fixed within 10 days. Caltrans later added that the contractor rebuilding the top ramp for I-580 would face hefty fines if not finished by June 29. The collapse reawakened fears of a mass failure in the transportation system that would stem from a major earthquake. In light of that, state legislators are crafting a bill that would provide expanded ferry transportation in case of said disaster. Others are pointing fingers and searching for scapegoats (mostly towards licensing practices for truck drivers), while scientists look at engineering improvements that would prevent such disasters in the future.

Los Angeles City Councilmember Tom LaBonge stated that he opposed turning Olympic and Pico Blvds. into one-way streets.

This week, a federal judge ruled that the South Coast Air Quality Management District cannot regulate pollution stemming from diesel locomotives. AQMD criticized that the recent and voluntary agreements between the railroads and the state were too weak, hence prompting action against the railroads.

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.

The Fresno Bee poured hot water over Governor Schwarzenegger for trying to raid the Spillover funds. The editorial noted how the governor was quick to distribute Proposition 1B funds for roads but failed to act as promptly for intercity rail and public transit. The Bee also chastised the governor for attempting to scuttle high-speed rail in California . Schwarzenegger wants to slash funds that would be used to complete environmental studies for high speed rail, and also wants to indefinitely postpone a bond vote for its construction. Schwarzenegger shot back by replying that he is in favor of HSR, but complained that "there is still no comprehensive and credible plan for financing the system so we can get construction under way."

The Los Angeles Times expressed their support for the project in an editorial acknowledging that, while HSR would be quite expensive, it would give immeasurable benefits to the state. Letters in response came out to give a good finger-wagging at the governor for attempting to derail the project. The Daily News also editorialized their support for the project. Meanwhile, DesertXpress promises that private firms will entirely finance proposed steel-on-steel high speed rail between Victorville and Las Vegas . Across the Pacific, China rolls out with higher-speed trains on conventional rail tracks.

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.

Warner Center in the west San Fernando Valley was envisioned to be a "downtown" of sorts, where mass transit and high-rise residential buildings would play an important role. Instead the area become home to a few office towers and mostly low-key enterprises. Now, developers are returning to Warner Center and mulling about projects that are aimed toward a more pedestrian lifestyle. Many credit the presence of the popular Orange Line as the catalyst for making such possible in an otherwise car-centric town.

Are we losing the war on traffic? A series of U.S. News & World Report will have you believe so. Cities are trying all sorts of tricks to keep people and goods moving, including investments in public transportation and toll roads. Nevertheless, it is estimated that by 2030, 9 urban areas in the country will have worse traffic than present-day Los Angeles . One example is Houston , which has built new highway infrastructure to an excessive degree. Instead of experiencing increased mobility, however, residents are now drowning in traffic and air pollution.

U.S. News consequently published two interviews that dealt with this question. New York City Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff explained why Mayor Michael Bloomberg had a change of heart and is now a proponent of congestion pricing. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa warned against applying small solutions, such as stopping construction during rush hour, in hopes that they would magically relieve congestion. Instead, he explained that mobility could only be reached through intense development of public transportation.

Here is a list of other recent developments:

May 1 : The Los Angeles Times published an article on conceptual transit maps and the folks that produce them. The articled featured Transit Coalition Communications Director Numan Parada, who supplied some of his own ideas on future transit lines. These and other maps are available for viewing online.

May 7 : Amtrak announced the launch of Amtrak.mobi for mobile device users. The site gives train status information and allows users to make or cancel reservations through their Internet service.

A Superior Court granted a 60-day injunction that would prevent Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) bus drivers from striking. Union representatives were dissatisfied that OCTA offered a 13% increase in salaries over three years, citing that it did not reflect increases in living standards. The injunction was granted at the request of Governor Schwarzenegger, who successfully delayed the strike last week to seek input on the impact of a walkout. A panel subsequently appointed by the governor released their findings last Sunday, stating that the strike would hurt the county.

Omnitrans Route 90 stopped operating via the Riverside and San Bernardino Metrolink Stations. Instead, it will operate between the downtown bus terminals at Riverside and San Bernardino . Express service west of San Bernardino to the Montclair Transit Center via Ontario Mills and local hospitals was also cancelled.

To Close : If you could build a ballpark in downtown L.A. , where would you put it? Cartifact, the makers of several snazzy downtown maps, recently launched an interactive website where you can "move" Dodger Stadium to any spot you wish. Would you like it closer to public transit? Would you like it near existing pedestrian hotbeds? You decide.

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

Metro Gateway Cities Fare Forum: Wednesday, May 9, 6 p.m., Non-Revenue Service Building , 7878 Telegraph Road , Downey .

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 and Fare Forum: 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, and Tuesday, May 29, 9 a.m., Board Hearing Room, 600 Main St. , Orange .

Metro San Gabriel Valley Governance Council and Fare Forum: Monday, May 14, 5 p.m., 3369 Santa Anita Ave. (near El Monte bus station), El Monte .

Downtown Regional Fare Forum: Saturday, May 19, 10 a.m., Board Room, Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles .

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!

Metro Special Board Meeting: Thursday, May 24, 9:30 a.m., Board Room, Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles .

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.

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.

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