Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
Volume 3, Issue 28

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.

Action Alert: The state Budget Conference Committee allotted $40 million from the $1.1 billion Spillover towards high speed rail. Add $15.5 million from Proposition 116 funds, and HSR received a total of $55 million. $710 million was allotted for transit, while the remaining $551 million will go to transportation for the disabled, Proposition 42 and debt repayment. However, the budget must now go to the desk of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, where a line-item veto remains a threat. A recent editorial in the San Francisco Chronicle believes this project would give a major shine to the governor's legacy.

Please email the governor's office and express your support for full funding of this critically important project and the transit dollars needed to keep buses and trains moving.

Better yet, do any of the following:

(1) Call Governor Schwarzenegger at 916-445-2841;

(2) Fax the Governor at 916-327-1009;

(3) Call Senator Don Perata at 510-286-1333 or 916-651-4009;

(4) Contact Assembly Speaker Fabian Nez at 916-319-2046 or Speaker.Nunez@assembly.ca.gov;

(5) Contact Senate Republican Leader Dick Ackerman at 916-651-4033 or http://republican.sen.ca.gov /web/33/feed.asp; and/or

(6) Get your friends and family who live in the Central Valley/Fresno area to contact Assembly Republican Leader Michael Villines at 916-319-2029.

When calling, please refer to these talking points so that you can be prepared in providing an appropriate comment or responding to a questionable statement.

(Contact information provided by BayRail Alliance. Talking points provided by TRAC. Additional tools are provided by Odyssey.)

Orange County bus drivers are on strike. A total of $700,000 in salary increases, on top of the $18 million offered by OCTA, continues to be a major point of contention. Talks continued well into late Monday night, but no agreement has been reached. (Already, a similar battle is brewing between Omintrans bus drivers and management.) As a consequence, bus drivers shut down 50 OCTA lines, signaling their first strike in 21 years.

The strike is affecting the 225,000 riders of OCTA buses in enormous ways, with many of them left stranded, in more ways than one. The working poor of Orange County, for example, are turning to bicycling or walking, while others are soliciting rides from illegal taxi cab services, which see a boon in business as a result of the strike. As a result, sympathy for the striking bus drivers runs thin in the impoverished community. Newport Beach is not immune to the repercussions, either. Yes, this promises to be a " long, hot July" if an agreement between labor and management is not reached soon.

If you are an Orange County transit user, you can visit the Transit Advocates of Orange County message board, get updates from OCTA, or call OCTA at (714) 636-7433. For carpool info, call (800) 266-6883 or visit http://www.commutesmart.info. For cab companies, call (949) 654-8294 or visit http://www.octap.net.

Also in Orange County , a "quiet zone" will make its debut in Placentia . Eight grade crossings along the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railway were rebuilt to increase safety. This in turn allows freight trains to cross the town without blowing their horns at intersections. The project comes even as the city reels from the failed On-Trac project. In any case, residents are just relieved that peace and quiet will come to their community soon.

Meanwhile, Metro riders express more resignation at increased fares. While commuter rail service from Temecula to Corona was ruled out as financially impractical, service from Temecula to Riverside would still be considered. The San Bernardino Associated Governments considered moving forward with initial designs of a grade separation between two major freight routes that intersect at Colton .

Oh! Don't forget that Friends4Expo, a grassroots organization dedicated to bringing light rail to Santa Monica , will have its annual general meeting this Thursday, July 12. See Upcoming Events below for details. Also, take a look at this article that appeared on The Oil Drum, which gives a comprehensive refresher course on the many types of electric rail systems in use throughout the world.

Further north, San Francisco MUNI proves to be more popular with tourists than with locals. Next year, BART will introduce television monitors on trains and stations that will feature advertisements and "infotainment," in the same vein as TransiTV monitors on Metro buses.

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We would like to express our gratitude for your donations, which help us prepare materials and educate elected officials, community activists and business leaders on transportation issues. If you have not done so yet, you can still donate and join The Transit Coalition. A monthly subscription to Moving Southern California comes with your membership. Visit our new and improved Donations page to explore other options. Your contribution is greatly appreciated.

Onto planning issues, the population of California is expected to reach 60 million by 2050, according to recent statistics. Many figure that "smart growth" will play a major role in accommodating the influx of new residents while bringing them closer to transit. The Palmdale City Council recently approved one of such projects near its local transportation center. El Monte is also inching closer to having its own transit-oriented development. By contrast, a proposed seaside development in Long Beach is garnering opposition because it threatens to bring traffic to an already congested area.

Los Angeles County is crafting a new General Plan after 27 years of inactivity, which promises to focus on preserving open space and maximizing the potential of existing infrastructure. A draft of the plan is now available online.

AB 1358, currently at a state Senate committee, aims to promote " complete streets," a concept where roads are designed to accommodate multiple uses, including bicycling, transit, while making roads safer and more attractive to pedestrians. In similar news, a housing development in Redding moves forward without a proposed trail, which was axed because of concerns it would attract transients.

Manhattan Institute fellow Heather Mac Donald provided a diatribe stating that 80% of vehicles in carpool lanes carry families who would have technically been carpooling anyway. Dismissing the lanes as a failure, Mac Donald proposes converting them to HOT (high-occupancy toll) lanes where employers subsidize the carpoolers while others, including families, pay for their direct use. The op-ed comes on the heels of a decision by Metro to study toll lanes, after losing out on a major federal grant, while New York City may actually lose theirs if their state legislature does not sign off on their proposal. Subsequent letters to the editor faulted Mac Donald on various points.

South Pasadena residents and elected officials tonight will hear an update on bringing the 710 Freeway under their community via a tunnel. The Pasadena Star News applauded grassroots efforts to educate drivers on safe road practices. Nationally, roads are in a major state of disrepair, and states are trying to find ways to fund improvements in light of increased materials costs.

Regarding airports, Orange County supervisors were taken aback when the price to upgrade their John Wayne Airport ballooned to $570 million, an increase of $135 million from original estimates. To the south, San Diego airport officials put a cap on perks for incoming executives, though state Senator Christine Kehoe (D-San Diego) would rather see an independent oversight committee that would monitor expenses. To the north, Redding officials want to entice air passengers to use their airport instead driving 70 miles to Chico , which offers cheaper flights.

The Los Angeles City Council may vote for an amendment of a bill by state Senator Alan Lowenthal that would charge a container fee at the ports to fund environmental mitigation if enacted. Under the amendment, funds from the fee would be used to replace the Gerald Desmond Bridge in Long Beach and provide various pollution loopholes for the ports should they fail to comply with environmental standards. This did not sit well with the LB Report, which editorialized their discontent. An op-ed discussing the matter suggests that the bill be stopped quickly.

Meanwhile, container traffic at the ports is expected to reach all-time highs this summer. Ready to take the challenge is port short-line railroad Pacific Harbor Line, which recently introduced a new locomotive that employs ultra-low sulfur diesel, burns 30% less fuel and significantly cuts emissions. Also, Los Angeles City Councilmember Janice Hahn is spearheading efforts to remove restrictions on port funds and property to preserve open space while providing community enhancements.

Considerable Congressional action on Amtrak funding will take place this week. The National Association of Railroad Passengers asks you to contact your Representatives and express your support for full funding of Amtrak. The third in a series of four Amtrak hearings by the Railroads Subcommittee of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will be Wednesday at 10:00 a.m., titled "Amtrak's Capital Funding Needs." ( Webcast.) The entire House Appropriations Committee will meet Wednesday at 10:00 a.m. to discuss the Amtrak appropriation. ( Webcast.) Previously, the House subcommittee approved $1.45 billion on June 11). Then, the entire Senate Appropriations committee will meet Thursday at 2:00 p.m.

In the meantime, Amtrak California Zephyr passengers are trying to cope with delays as a result of track work performed by host railroad Union Pacific.

As the nation lags behind other countries in building HSR, a consortium of European rail operators introduced a new service that intends to directly compete with airlines. Mainly, existing but disparate HSR networks will introduce tighter and more convenient scheduling for easier transfers between services.   Better yet, those wishing to use the trains can purchase tickets at just one website, railteam.eu.

Meanwhile, efforts to bring high speed rail to the Midwest continue. Indiana is poised to receive funds to introduce higher-speed rail (with speeds reaching 110 mph) should the above-mentioned federal legislation move forward. One major candidate is a route connecting Chicago with Indianapolis and Cincinnati . However, even though it has more federally designated corridors for high-speed trains than any other state, the Hoosier State has not done an environmental impact study. Meanwhile, Gary , Indiana , advocates are asking the business community to fund a study outlining the benefits of high-speed rail in their area.

In Guatemala , a railroad entrepreneur decided to close its operations after nine years of service and improvements. According to owner Henry Posner III, the government of the Central American nation failed to contribute $3 million as promised for track improvement and did not keep profitable rail routes clear of squatters. Posner was the subject of a Los Angeles Times report that delved into the challenges of running a railroad in a developing country.

Shameless Plug : The Thunderhead Alliance is an organization dedicated to providing bicycle and pedestrian advocates the tools necessary to carry out and win campaigns. The Thunderhead Training seminar, an intense curriculum on how to effectively fight for improvements, is coming to Los Angeles on August 24-26. Here, you can learn from expert coaches and each other through Thunderhead's proven curriculum on choosing, directing, and winning campaigns and to promote complete streets, where walking and bicycling are safe and commonplace. You can view the schedule or register for the event (the latter form features registration fee information).

Here is a list of other recent developments:

July 3 : The Los Angeles City Council unanimously voted to endorse state legislation to create a Green Line Construction Authority. The bill, which was introduced by Assemblymember Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) and Senator Jenny Oropeza (D-Carson), will establish a new public agency to oversee the design and construction contracts to complete a new leg of the Metro Green Line. Transit Coalition President Kenneth S. Alpern was instrumental in educating officials on the merits of the project, including Councilmember Bill Rosendahl, who introduced the motion.

July 9 : Ford Motor Company and Southern California Edison announced a partnership that would test plug-in hybrids. These vehicles would be able to recharge overnight and run mostly on electricity, thus significantly reducing emissions and increasing gas mileage. Experts estimate that these vehicles probably won't come to the market until the end of the decade at the earliest.

Notice : Amtrak Guest Rewards and Chase Bank are now accepting pre-registrations for the new Amtrak Guest Rewards credit card. Go to the Amtrak Guest Rewards website http://www.amtrakguestrewards.com/ to register (click on the link on the left side). You will receive a notice once Chase bank is ready to begin taking applications. Once your application is approved and you activate the card, you will receive 5,000 bonus Guest Rewards points. Chase is planning to begin accepting and processing applications on September 10.

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

Metro Gateway Cities Governance Council : Thursday, July 12, 2 p.m., Gas Company ERC, 9240 Firestone Blvd. , Downey .

nnual General Meeting : Thursday, July 12 , 2007, 7 p.m., Hamilton High School cafeteria, 2955 S. Robertson Blvd. , Los Angeles .

Metro South Bay Governance Council: Friday, July 13, 9.30 a.m., Carson Community Center , 801 E. Carson St. , Carson .

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

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

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

Planning and Programming Committee, Wednesday, July 18, 1 p.m.

Finance and Budget Committee, Wednesday, July 18, 2:30 p.m.

Executive Management and Audit Committee, Thursday, July 19, 9 a.m.

Construction Committee, Thursday, July 19, 10:30 a.m.

Operations Committee, Thursday, July 19, 12 noon.

C onsider attending our monthly Transit Coalition Dinner Meeting on Tuesday, July 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!

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

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Bart Reed, Executive Director
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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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