Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Volume 3, Issue 24

Welcome to an 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.

Global warming threatens to alter the California landscape in more ways than one, and in no way for the better. Already, state legislators are crafting at least 60 bills to tackle the problem. Less precipitation and the resulting reduction in snowpack would lead to strained water sources. New housing developments would have to provide water, traffic and pollution mitigation and reduce the "carbon footprint" of its residents. Should they fail to address these problems, such planned communities would be subject to litigation or abandoned outright.

And just how does public transportation figure into all of this? Proponents are relying on increased public concerns about global warming to champion funds for mass transit. Some hope that the subject, higher gas prices and increased demand for buses and trains can fire up a backlash against plans by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to raid Spillover funds for transit operations.

Global warming is also pitting lawmakers against car makers. One particular bill would make buyers of gas-guzzling vehicles pay up to an additional $2,500 in fees while rewarding buyers of more efficient vehicles with a rebate of up to the same amount. Automobile makers charge that it would penalize families who need larger vehicles. Also, a growth plan for the Inland Empire is attacked because it did not take global warming effects in mind. The situation has become a test case of how cities will tackle growth in population and greenhouse gases.

Several opponents of California high speed rail are already claiming that the project is dead. San Diego and Riverside Counties stand to lose either way, since most of the talk has focused on the Los Angeles-San Francisco segment. This means that planners will have to rely on expanded bus systems and Metrolink to provide regional transportation in the foreseeable future. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger recommended only $5 million for the state HSR Authority, out of more than $100 million requested. However, a letter by Evan Carter states otherwise, saying that the state should pursue an initial segment between Bakersfield and Palmdale.

Meanwhile, San Diego City Beat speculates why Schwarzenegger is trying to kill the project despite his desire to see California go "green". The San Jose Mercury News reprimanded the governor for giving only mild support for HSR while also trying to destroy it.

College graduates are growing more conscious of the transportation choices they must make upon leaving school, according to a recent Daily Bruin article. Seeing car ownership as an unaffordable expense, graduates look for places near public transit to save money. Indeed, one Washington Post columnist suggests that graduates must think not only where they will work, but how will they get there on a daily basis.

Meanwhile, a tug of war is brewing in San Francisco for what is called an "architect's dream": A contract to design bus shelters—er, " street furniture". BART continues to test Wi-Fi at its downtown San Francisco stations, with plans to install it systemwide. Similar Wi-Fi service was installed at the Sacramento Valley depot as part of a major rehabilitation. An op-ed in the North County Times decries the San Diego Association of Governments Regional Transportation Plan, which, according to the author, emphasis on mass transit at the expense of roads and highways.

Once again, Amtrak leads the way in transporting people in the most energy efficient manner, according to a recent study by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Amtrak uses less energy per passenger mile than cars, airlines or even subways and commuter rail systems. The report revealed that airlines and cars consume more than one-fifth more energy per passenger mile than Amtrak's trains. In more good news, the San Jose-Sacramento Capitol Corridor service logged 141,789 passengers, the highest monthly ridership total in the history of the service.

Donate and Join The Transit Coalition: We have a tough fight, as the Mayor and some media want to kill or damage rail transit. Your financial help is needed to build opposition to these ill informed actions. Do you want to save and 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, as well as this weekly eNewsletter. Visit our Donations page to explore other options. Your contribution is greatly appreciated.

Four of the twelve worst bottlenecks in the nation are found in the Los Angeles area, according to an article in Forbes.com. In terms of hours of delay, the U.S. 101/I-405 interchange rates among the worst, at 27 million hours lost. The three others include the I-10/I-405, I-405/I-605 and I-10/I-5 interchanges. Some relief might be in sight: The U.S. Department of Transportation selected nine cities with the worst traffic congestion as semi-finalists for $1.1 billion that would be awarded towards proposals to fix traffic hotspots. Unfortunately, Los Angeles will not be one of them.

And just what kind of fixes do people have in mind? Some believe small improvements will have a big impact, while others advocate for car tunnels under the Santa Monica Mountains or monorails in place of subways. (Goodness galoshes, what is up with this undying fascination with monorails, monorails and monorails!? Oh, we'll just send you here and here, where you can learn what's wrong with them, courtesy of Light Rail Now.)

Meanwhile, the California Transportation Commission holds Ventura County drivers in suspense when it comes to widening the 118 Freeway, and the Ventura County Star editorialized their discontent. The City of San Jacinto comes closer to owning and maintaining a portion of State Highway Route 79, with the intent of encouraging residential and business developments. The City of Santa Monica will present its initial plans to replace the 100-year-old California Incline, which connects downtown Santa Monica with the Pacific Coast Highway (State Highway Route 1), on June 20. High expectations abound for the future completion of the 210 Freeway through Fontana and Rialto .

Don't count on gas prices dropping significantly any time soon. Demand for fuel is growing faster than expected, and countries are putting pressure on oil exporters to increase their output. In the meantime, here are a few ideas that can help you save some gas in these times.

Ventura County is becoming an increasingly dangerous place for bicyclists. To that effect, Assemblymember Pedro Nava (D-Santa Barbara) continues to push legislation that would require vehicles to maintain a minimum 3-foot distance from bicycles when passing them on the road. Perception of bicycling is a major impediment to progress. Policy makers and the public see the form of transportation as secondary and trite, leading to apathy towards safety legislation and antipathy towards bicyclists involved in collisions with cars.

Robert Bruegmann of the University of Illinois came out in defense of sprawl, comparing the current situation t o that of 19th Century London . There, middle-class families were moving into cookie-cutter brick homes that gobbled up country lands at a quick pace. Despite denunciations by artists and intellects of the age, sprawl did not stop, not even when London instituted a plan after World War II that featured a greenbelt to contain it. Bruegmann argues that, in future city growth, " densities will be high enough to provide urban amenities but low enough to allow widespread automobile ownership and use."

However, this is not stopping development along train lines. In fact, transit-oriented development is growing at a rapid pace across the country. Locally, however, rumors are flying around that famed architect Frank Gehry will not take part in Phases II and III of the Grand Ave. project, which uses several elements of TOD planning, in Downtown L.A.

Plans to clean up the ports received support from (surprise, surprise!) port truckers. Tractors using the facilities produce 30% to 40% of pollution from the ports, which has been linked to higher risks of cancer, bronchitis and other respiratory ailments. Truckers attended a recent meeting to share their stories on ailments stemming from pollution from the very tractors they drive. Some criticize the port plan to prohibit older tractors to enter the docks, fearing it would drive out small enterprise.

However, this expression of good will does not dissipate skepticism that the accompanying expansion plans will worsen pollution problems.

Aviation experts and proponents ponder how to entice the federal government to upgrade the massive and aging flight control system. Passenger traffic will rise by 78% to nearly 1.3 billion annually by 2025. Updating the system with GPS technology and an information sharing system, among other things, would cost $40-billion. Advocates say the proposed modernization is expected to improve efficiency and increase safety.

A Detour
: In flagrant violation of the Brown Act, security officers at the DWP building in Los Angeles , site of the monthly city Bicycle Advisory Committee like the one in question, asked persons entering the public meeting to show their IDs. Matters only got worse when supervising personnel came to further demand IDs from entrants. How did it end? In a bizarre yet fitting fashion, like this.

Here is a list of other recent developments:

June 7 : The Transportation Security Administration charged $219 million in security fees, covering two years, to 22 airlines. Southwest owes the most, at $54 million. The 22 carriers appealed the fees in January 2006 as unfair and excessive, but the TSA denied these appeals.

United Airlines began service from Palmdale Airport to San Francisco . Service is composed of twice daily flights, seven days a week, using 50-seat jet planes. Officials believe several factors will make the service attractive, including short lines at ticket counters and security checkpoints, free parking and lot s of connecting flights at SFO. Santa Clarita Valley residents will receive much of the marketing focus for the service. A local bus stop is not available at this time, although the Antelope Valley Transit Authority will discuss the possibility of placing one at the terminal. The Los Angeles Daily News expressed support in an editorial.

June 11 : Presidential candidate Bill Richardson visited Los Angeles to discuss the importance of building public transportation across the nation. If elected, Richardson assured that he would create a partnership that would expedite light rail construction in Los Angeles . Richardson also reprimanded the Bush Administration for being "absent" in promoting cleaner forms of transportation, in particular higher-speed trains.

The Orange County Transportation Authority Board voted to spend $133 million to bring bus rapid transit to the county, in the same vein as Metro Rapid Buses. The first route will run from Fullerton to Costa Mesa along Harbor Boulevard and debut in December 2008. A second line will run on Westminster Boulevard and 17th Street starting in late 2009. A third line will run from Brea to Irvine along State College Boulevard , Bristol Street and Barranca Parkway in late 2010. Some saw it as a fitting alternative to the cancelled and controversial CenterLine.

Some 300 people showed up at a meeting to discuss and criticize the I-405 northbound carpool lane project through the Sepulveda Pass at the Skirball Cultural Center . Local leaders and residents took part in the event. Some expressed concern that particular properties would stand in the way the project, including a church in Brentwood. NBC 4 provides a video report on the subject.

The   House Appropriations subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development voted to give Amtrak $1.4 billion, rejecting a proposal by the president to fund the intercity passenger railroad at $800 million. The FY 2008 spending bill also contains $3.6 billion for the airport improvement program for upgrades at airports across the country, $850 million more than the president's request; and $40.2 billion for highways, $600 million for than requested.

June 12 : OCTA and representatives from bus driver unions resumed contract talks. An Orange County Register editorial used the crisis as a soapbox for privatization of public transit. A letter in reply countered that privatization would lead to reduced quality of service.

Upcoming Events
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 Special Board Meeting on FY 08 Proposed Budget: Wednesday, June 13, 9:30 a.m., Board Room, Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles .

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

Metro Committee Meetings: Wednesday, June 20 and Thursday, June 21, Board Room, Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles .

·  Planning and Programming Committee, Wednesday, June 20, 12 noon.

·  Finance and Budget Committee and Public Hearing on FY 08 Proposed Budget, Wednesday, June 20, 2:30 p.m.

·  Executive Management and Audit Committee, Thursday, June 21, 9 a.m.

·  Construction Committee, Thursday, June 21, 10:30 a.m.

·  Operations Committee, Thursday, June 21, 12 noon.

Metro Special Board Meeting on Call for Projects: Wednesday, June 20, 1 p.m., Board Room, Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles.

Orange County Transportation Authority Board Meeting: Monday, June 25 and July 9, 9 a.m., Board Hearing Room, 600 Main St. , Orange .

Consider attending our monthly Transit Coalition Dinner Meeting on Tuesday, June 26 - 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!

Metro Board Meeting: Monday, June 28, 9:30 a.m., Board Room, Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles .

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

SCAG MagLev Task Force: Thursday, August 9, 10:00 a.m. SCAG Offices, 818 W. Seventh St. , 12th floor, Los Angeles. June and July meetings cancelled.

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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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