Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Monday, May 21, 2007
Volume 3, Issue 21

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.

Succumb to Temptation: This Tuesday is The Transit Coalition Dinner Meeting. Join us and listen to our guest speaker, Expo Line Construction Authority CEO Rick Thorpe. See Upcoming Events below for details.

Spillover and High Speed Rail Must Be Saved: Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger unveiled his revised budget proposal, which includes a further slash of transit funds, cutting $1.3 billion statewide. Metro stands to lose $230 million under the proposed budget, which could trigger steep fare hikes and hit the most vulnerable transit users. (A chart comparing the proposed budgets released in January and May is available.) Please read an explanation and benefits of the Spillover account courtesy of Cal-PIRG, and learn how you can help!

The governor also plans to hamstring the budget for the California High Speed Rail Authority. Though the development threatens further development of HSR, Anaheim Mayor Curt Pringle expressed hope in the project even as his city looks to build a major transportation center that would accommodate it. 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.

Transit agencies across the state are bracing for a major cash crunch. Sacramento RT is already thinking about raising fares and cutting bus service should funds prove unavailable. Some deem his transit-slashing actions as an act of hypocrisy, given his otherwise friendly stance towards the environment and his intentions to reduce greenhouse emissions in the state. The cuts threaten construction of much-needed carpool lanes on the 10 Freeway between the 605 and 57 Freeways. The chief budged analyst for the state Legislature concluded that many of the short-term fixes proposed in his budget may actually worsen future deficits.

In turn, Los Angeles officials took part of the annual lobbying trip to the Capitol, with the sole goal of attaining needed funds for transit, among other priorities. Los Angeles City Councilmember and Transportation Committee Chair Wendy Greuel expressed her discontent and promised to fight the cuts. Columnist George Skelton scolded the governor for spinning these numbers in various ways, among them transferring Spillover funds to school buses that his budget considers "public transportation".

Do not forget that this Thursday, May 24, is the Metro Board public meeting, where Board members will vote whether to increase bus fares as proposed. The Southern California Transit Advocates released their official position on the increases.

In response to the massively popular but unfortunately crowded Orange Line, Metro will roll out with a 65-foot articulated bus in June. With the extra five feet in comparison with the current 60-footers, the prototype bus can hold an additional 14 passengers. Should the trial succeed in relieving the crowds, Metro will phase in these longer buses.

Transportation consultant Richard Stanger released an evaluation of the Orange Line. While the report praised the busway for easier boarding, environmental mitigation and state-of-the-art buses, the report also faulted the line for its lack of signal preemption and slow end-to-end trip times. The evaluation concluded that light rail would have provided more capacity while traveling at an average of 29 miles per hour (including stops) versus 20 miles per hour for Orange Line buses.

As Congress becomes increasingly reluctant to raise the federal gas tax, states are scrambling to find new sources of revenue for transportation projects and maintenance. Most will aim for new sales taxes, while others are looking into toll roads as a source of revenue. Some states have opted to peg their gas taxes to inflation. In particular, Georgia has a gas tax that rises according to the price of gasoline. When the Highway Trust Fund was set up in the 1950s, gas was at 30 cents a gallon and the excise tax was 3 cents per gallon. Had such a rate continued, current federal gas tax would be about 34 cents, instead of 18.4 cents frozen since 1993.

With construction winding down on the 22 Freeway, focus now turns to landscaping. 15,000 shrubs and 1,500 trees will be planted to beautify the freeway while providing a noise barrier for neighbors. A bill in the state Legislature would devolve highway-naming back to Caltrans. The federal Environmental Protection Agency released new criteria that would allow only the most fuel-efficient hybrids to use HOV lanes.

Cities in Ventura County are trying to cope with gas price increases. Thousand Oaks will wind up paying as much as $460,000 just to fuel their fleet of maintenance vehicles. Even as cities usually receive discounts on fuel, the point becomes moot when prices rise with or without discount. The increases are particularly painful for smaller cities like Santa Paula , which buy their fuel from local gas stations using a business account, instead of buying in bulk like other cities.

Meanwhile, columnist Bill Lascher expressed his appreciation for public transportation and alternative forms of commuting in Ventura County . Of note is the VISTA bus system, which connects Ventura County cities with one another. Also, the county Transportation Commission announced that it is working with Union Pacific Railroad to build a pedestrian crossing at the Metrolink Camarillo station that is friendly to people using walkers.

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.

Bike To Work Day : Bicyclists celebrated the occasion on Thursday, May 17, with a rally at Hollywood & Western that featured a Bike Ride to City Hall to "Bang the Drum!" Roughly 60 cyclists took part in this event. Pictures of the event are provided at blogdowntown and LAist, the latter also featuring a video of the event. Caltrans Director Doug Failing and Los Angeles Deputy Mayor Larry Frank awaited folks at City Hall and expressed the importance of variety in transportation options. The event was coordinated by Illuminate L.A.

Our PowerPoint presentation regarding one-way streets is now available.

Here is a list of other recent developments:

May 8 : The Placentia City Council and its Planning Commission approved an environmental report for a Placentia Metrolink station in a joint meeting. The vote paves the way for the city to bid on the $30 million project, $16.5 of which will be covered by the Orange County Transportation Authority. The OCTA Board may release $2.1 million for the project this June.

May 14 : Santa Barbara health officials and local politicos held a meeting of the newly formed "Coalition for Community Wellness," a task force that intends to receive input on the health effects of urban sprawl. Officials agreed that poor planning that is centered on automobile use can increase obesity and diabetes cases. Some called for increased dense development in downtown Santa Barbara as one way to solve the problem. Dates for future meetings are available at www.youplansb.org.

May 15 : A federal judge ruled in favor of low-cost and international airlines using LAX, saying that fees imposed by the Los Angeles World Airports on these carriers was " unreasonable and discriminatory". The airlines in question contended that the fees at Terminals 1 and 3 were unfair since airlines that were leasing terminals kept their lower rents, thus placing them at a competitive disadvantage. LAWA argued that the fees were necessary to reduce what they believed were subsidies to the airlines. LAWA intended to use the fees for airport improvements and security enhancements.

The American Automobile Association called on the U.S. Senate to investigate why oil companies are reaping in massive profits while gas prices climb due to refinery glitches. Oil companies contend that increased demand for gasoline, especially in California , and the lack of capacity to refine oil are driving prices up. Some noted that the gas refining business is unique in that production troubles actually increase profits.

May 17 : Representatives from dockworkers unions and shipping companies reached an agreement for early labor talks. This is a change of pace from 2002, where a major impasse led to an 11-day lockout for port workers. Current contracts expire in 2008.

The state Assembly approved a bill that would make it easier to install electronic advertising billboards next to highways. Assemblymember and bill author Fiona Ma believes it is time to promote new advertising technologies that can also inform motorists on emergencies when necessary. Officials, however, claim that electronic billboards are a major distraction for motorists, citing a notorious billboard at the Oakland Bay Bridge that has been the source of numerous driver complaints.

Upcoming Events : 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!

SO.CA.TA Wilshire Subway Community Outreach Meeting:
Tuesday, May 22, 6 to 8 p.m., Westwood Presbyterian Church, 10822 Wilshire Boulevard , Westwood.

Metro Special Board Meeting: Thursday, May 24, 9:30 a.m., Board Room, Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles . This is your opportunity to express your concerns about the proposed fare increases.

Orange County Transportation Authority Board Meeting
: Tuesday, May 29, 9 a.m., Board Hearing Room, 600 Main St. , Orange .

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

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

Metro South Bay Governance Council: Friday, June 8, 9.30 a.m., Carson Community Center , 801 E. Carson St. , Carson .

Southern California Transit Advocates: Saturday, June 9, 1 p.m., Angelus Plaza , Rm. 422, 255 S. Hill St. , Los Angeles .

Metro San Gabriel Valley Governance Council
: Monday, June 11, 5 p.m., 3369 Santa Anita Ave. (near El Monte bus station), El Monte .

Metro Westside/Central Governance Council : Wednesday, June 13, 5 p.m., La Cienega Tennis Center , Sunset Room, 325 S. La Cienega Blvd. , Beverly Hills .

Metro Gateway Cities Governance Council : Thursday, June 14, 2 p.m., Gas Company ERC, 9240 Firestone Blvd. , Downey .

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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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