Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Volume 3, Issue 29

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.

Come and Join Us: Next Tuesday is our Transit Coalition monthly meeting. See Upcoming Events below for details.

Action Alert: Advocates for the preservation of public transportation funds are stepping up the call. Columnist George Skelton wants state leaders to reach an agreement on the budget as soon as possible. Assemblymember Mike Feuer warned against shifting already wanting funds to other purposes, noting that public transportation will play an important role in the growth of the state from now on.

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.)

The weeklong strike by Orange County bus drivers has come to an end. The county Transportation Authority (OCTA) and representatives from labor unions reached a tentative settlement. The deal would give raises of 10.8% to entry-level drivers and 11.7% to drivers with five or more years of experience over the next three years. Both the OCTA Board and the 1,100 bus drivers voted in favor of the new contract. Many of the bus drivers have already returned to work today, much to the relief of the system's 225,000 daily riders.

Santa Monica Councilmember Pam O'Connor has replaced Gloria Molina as the chair of the Metro Board. Whereas Molina focused on controlling costs, O'Connor will focus on making operations more environmentally friendly. Transit Coalition President Ken Alpern believes O'Connor will help improve the Expo Line by focusing on "green" elements that would be built along the light rail corridor.

In the meantime, Angelenos look for inspiration on the other side of the country. New York City is in the midst of a six-year, $6 billion project that will connect Long Island Railroad commuter trains with its fabled Grand Central Station. However, the Second Avenue Subway may run into hurdles thanks largely because of its $16 billion price tag and other logistical problems. One place not to look for inspiration is Las Vegas , where its privately-built monorail spirals into financial disaster, now that Fitch has again reduced its bond rating to junk status.

In other transit developments, the Los Angeles City Council voted in support of legislation that would create a Green Line construction authority. Introduced by city Councilmember Bill Rosendahl, the resolution specifically calls for Metro to add the LAX Green Line extension to its list of Long Range Transportation Plan. Up north, BART users will be rewarded with points if they use credit cards to purchase train tickets.

A Metrolink committee recently voted to bring additional weekend service to the Antelope Valley line. Two additional Saturday and three new Sunday trains will launch after the Labor Day weekend. Also, additional Orange County line service will start once the second track is completed in Santa Ana .

One major Metrolink improvement will be delayed: The Buena Park station will not open until September. Another Metrolink improvement may not happen at all: A new line from Temecula to Corona may cost $569 million, while a line from Temecula to San Diego would cost $1.6 billion, according to a report. In response, local leaders said they would ask the Riverside County Transportation Commission to at least consider a Metrolink extension from Corona to Lake Elsinore .

Should Downtown Los Angeles bring back the streetcar? An op-ed in the Los Angeles Downtown News answers that with an emphatic "yes".   Invoking memories of the Red and Yellow Cars that once traversed the central city, contributors Homer Williams and Dike Dames believe a streetcar can further increase development and connect neighborhoods. However, both acknowledged that political leadership will be required in order to bring the streetcar to the streets of L.A.

On the Amtrak front, President Alex Kummant warned federal legislators against infusing billions to upgrade the Northeast Corridor to high speed rail. Much of the problem stems from aging infrastructure. A full overhaul, including several new tunnels and bridges, would cost $7 billion, but even that would only reduce travel time between Washington , D.C. , and New York City to 2 hours and 20 minutes, with an average speed of 97 mph. A new and entirely separate right-of-way would be required in order to build a true HSR line, according to Kummant. Locally, the Orange County Register reported on the annual mooning ritual directed at Pacific Surfliner riders, but don't expect to see much.

Thank you for your donations!
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.

Population growth threatens to tax California roads. What's the solution? Build more roads, of course! Many would like to think that stacked highways, road tunnels and tolls will solve our woes. How much would it cost? About $140 billion. Many others believe this is unrealistic, especially in Los Angeles , where property for right-of-way is either nonexistent or impossibly pricey. It doesn't help when opponents want to hand the fight against new highways to the younger generation, as is the case with the aging opponents of the 710 Freeway. The idea received an icy response from Los Angeles Times readers.

Still others believe that smart growth can help control the growth. Dense urban areas like those in Europe and Japan may become the norm, even in communities like Riverside and San Bernardino . A Los Angeles Times editorial expressed hope for dense living around transit, even as disappointment grows around existing manifestations of the concept.

Rialto residents can't wait until the final portion of the 210 Freeway opens up. Officials are now saying that the new road will be open within the next few weeks. Meanwhile, Rialto considers upgrading its portion of an abandoned Pacific Electric line into a trail. Upland already converted its portion of the right-of-way into a trail, while Rancho Cucamonga is finalizing construction on its portion.

Indeed, San Bernardino County is placing a unified front in attaining funds for its transportation projects. The San Bernardino Associated Governments will release a list of priority projects that it hopes to present to state legislators for Proposition 1B funds. Just recently, Victor Valley transportation projects will receive $3 million in federal funds that would, among other things, build a critical railroad grade separation in Hesperia.

A flurry of letters regarding the California Incline in Santa Monica was the subject of a Santa Monica Mirror report. The Incline climbs along the cliffs of Santa Monica and is the only connection between Pacific Coast Highway (State Highway Route 1) and the city proper. Leaders from the City of Los Angeles and Los Angeles County expressed concern that outright replacement of the Incline would worsen traffic elsewhere.

Nearby, a meeting was held to gauge the response of Santa Monica residents regarding turning Olympic and Pico Blvds. into one-way streets, complete with diagrams. Columnist Frank Gruber is not too keen on supporting or opposing the idea yet, citing that many more points should be investigated.

Would you pay $225,000 for one parking space? Manhattan residents must grapple with said reality, as parking spots are treated as real estate. Spaces in New York can fetch in as much worth per square foot as actual living space. It is a far cry from Los Angeles practice, where parking spaces are included in the price of a home or condo. Don't you laugh at it, though: Riverside County transportation officials are considering charging parking lot users at Metrolink stations in order to fund, well, more parking lots.

The new United Airlines service to Palmdale Airport is growing popular. However, to address the need for better connections with evening flights to the east, the airline will offer earlier departure and later return flights. Though ridership numbers are not disclosed for competitive reasons, anecdotal evidence suggests that the two daily flights are gaining more and more passengers. Also, is LAX vulnerable to a terrorist attack?

On the waterfront, terminal operators and port clerks continue to negotiate new contracts. A work stoppage could prove disastrous, especially with pre-holiday cargo now entering the ports. In 2002, longshore workers across the West Coast were locked out for 10 days, which cost the nation's economy an estimated $1 billion to $2 billion a day. The Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles barely averted a strike on Saturday. Meanwhile, eco-friendly locomotives made their debut at the ports. Further south, San Diego musters up its own plans for port expansion.

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 : ACR 26, which would direct Caltrans to identify former portions of U.S. Route 6 at the request of local jurisdictions, was chaptered into state law. U.S. 6 currently runs from Bishop, CA, to Provincetown , MA , at a length of 3,205 miles. Until 1964, U.S. 6 continued south of Bishop to Long Beach via what is now U.S. 395, State Highway Route 14 through the Antelope Valley, I-5, I-110 and State Highway Route 1. Communities hope that the designation will promote economic vitality and historical preservation along the former highway.

July 9 : The Assembly Transportation Committee approved SB 974, which would collect fees from containers coming into the ports. The fees would be used to pay for environmental mitigation projects at the ports. The bill now moves to the Assembly Appropriations Committee, before it sees time on the Assembly floor. The measure has already cleared the State Senate.

July 10 : The Irvine City Council approved a $280 million streetcar project that would connect the proposed Great Park to various Irvine locales. Specifically, a streetcar would run from the Park to the local train station, where users must the transfer to shuttle buses to reach the Irvine Spectrum shopping center. The city may be able to secure $121 million from the cancelled CenterLine project. Federal and Proposition 1B funds, as well as additional Measure M funds, could fund the rest, according to city staff.

July 11 : Los Angeles County officials unveiled a plan that would bring an " inland port" to the Antelope Valley . Under the plan, port cargo would be transferred by rail to an intermodal (air, road and rail) facility in the desert. There, trucks can pick up the containers and transport them to their final destinations. The project promises to ease traffic caused by big rigs entering and exiting the ports and, in turn, reduce air pollution. The Antelope Valley Inland Port Task Force will meet again in October.

July 13 : A U.S. Senate subcommittee voted to insert language into its annual transportation bill that would repeal a ban on federal funds for a Wilshire subway. Even with the news, however, plans are still adrift for the "Subway to the Sea". Funding is a major concern, as columnist Steve Hymon noted. Polls on the matter suggest that a countywide vote to increase the sales tax to pay for it would not pass the 2/3 threshold. For those interested in learning about the project, the Southern California Transit Advocates (SO.CA.TA) will hold a meeting tonight on the subject.

Announcement : The public comment period for the 405 Freeway northbound carpool lane project has been extended to September 10. You can send comments on the project to Caltrans District 7, Division of Environmental Planning, 100 Main St., MS -16A, Los Angeles , CA 90012 . Also, you are invited to two meetings concerning the extension of the Orange Line to the Chatsworth Metrolink station. See Upcoming Events.

Upcoming Events : SO.CA.TA Wilshire Subway Community Outreach Meeting: Tuesday, July 17, 6 to 8 p.m., Beverly Hills Library, 444 N. Rexford Dr., Beverly Hills.

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

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.

Orange County Transportation Authority Board Meeting: Monday, July 23 and August 13, 9 a.m., Board Hearing Room, 600 Main St. , Orange .

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!

Metro Orange Line Canoga Transportation Corridor Meetings:

Thursday, July 25, 7 p.m., Chatsworth High School , 10027 Lurline Ave. , Chatsworth.

Monday, July 30, 7 p.m., New Academy of Canoga Park , 21425 Cohasset St . , Canoga Park .

Metro Board Meeting : Thursday, July 26, 9:30 a.m., Board Room, Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles .

SCRRA (Metrolink) Board Meeting: Friday, July 27, 10 a.m., San Bernardino Conference Room, SCAG Building , 12th Floor, 818 W. Seventh St. , Los Angeles.

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

Missed last week's newsletter? Read it here!

Get the Print Edition of Moving Southern California, our monthly newsletter. Request a sample copy.

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.

Visit our Discussion Board for the latest dialogue on transit.