Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Volume 3, Issue 31

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.

Governor Gridlock: State legislators axed almost all of the $1.3 billion from the Spillover that would have gone towards public transportation operations, succumbing to the desires of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. After lengthy negotiations, the State Assembly voted to move the $1.3 billion towards unrelated programs, after previously setting aside $550 million for transit. Also, the new budget cut funding for high speed rail from a previously negotiated $55 million to a useless $15 million. The budget continues to be debated in the state Senate, where the day of fiscal reckoning looms over legislators.

As a result, many transportation projects would be put on hold, now that the California Transportation Commission considered putting off $800 million in projects. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has been unable to lobby for the funds in Sacramento , which some suspect eroded support for the Spillover even further. An opinion piece written by Transit Coalition President Kenneth S. Alpern was published by the Los Angeles Daily News. The piece asked state legislators to spread the cuts evenly across all state programs, an idea that was also hailed in a Los Angeles Times editorial.

How You Can Help: You can still call your state Senator and express your desire to see all of the Spillover directed to public transit operations. The following members are important to contact: Don Perata 916-651-4009 Sac. District 510-286-1333; Speaker Fabian Núñez 916-319-2046, District 213-620-4646; Alex Padilla 916-651-4020, District  818-901-5588; Bob Margett 916-651-4029, District 626-914-5046; Alan Lowenthal 916-651-4027, District 562-495-4766; Jeff Denham 916-651-4012, District 209-726-5495; Bob Dutton 916-651-4031; Dave Cogdill 916-651-4014, District 209-599-8540; Gil Cedillo 916-651-4022, District 213-612-9566.

Gridlock was indeed the subject of a Los Angeles Daily News article, where over 100 readers responded with ideas to fix mobility in the region. Generally, wider freeways and more public transportation were among the most popular suggestions. However, transit opponent Robert Poole believes "that most people want other people to use transit and not themselves," which could erode its efficacy. Increased highway capacity is also falling out of favor, now that there is a greater push to reduce greenhouse gases emitted by vehicles. Monorails, double-decking freeways, more FlyAway service and congestion charging were also mentioned.

Things are looking up for East Los Angeles. The Eastside Gold Line will open in 2009, and business is already booming for the community. Developers are already lining up to build transit-friendly housing along Third St. , where the Gold Line will run, to the point where a special "transit-oriented district" may be created. Now, after previous failed attempts, East L.A. is pushing to become an incorporated city.

The high-volume, low fare Megabus is rolling into California, after a successful launch in the Midwest last year. The new intercity bus service will inaugurate nonstop bus trips from Los Angeles to San Francisco , Sacramento , Oakland , San Jose , Las Vegas , and Phoenix . Transit Coalition Executive Director Bart Reed welcomes the promising new service, which intends to directly compete with Greyhound.

Whittier will switch its Dial-A-Ride provider to MV Transportation, after 30 years of service by Western Transit, starting Wednesday, August 1. The Santa Monica Big Blue Bus is now offering a day pass that allows unlimited travel on its buses for $2.50. In mid-August, Pacific Adventures Cruises will launch high-speed catamaran service between Marina Del Rey and Catalina Island. Pasadena will receive two Toyota Priuses while also consider building a compressed natural gas station as part of its efforts to green its fleet.

Meanwhile, a recently uncovered 2000 study of the Las Vegas monorail revealed ridership projections that were substantially lower than expected but in line with current ridership trends. The study was prepared by no other than transit obstructionist Wendell Cox.

The Los Angeles City Planning Department released a list of sweeping zoning changes that the City Council will vote on during the week. The ordinance would remove restrictions as to how many units can be placed in a single building. The ordinance would also encourage the construction of smaller apartment spaces, a concept that abounds in New York and San Francisco .

he Los Angeles Times published a favorable editorial that welcomed the new regulations as a means to make downtown a true city center while preserving more suburban settings elsewhere. LA City Councilmember Jan Perry expressed her support in an op-ed that also responded to detractors of the plan. Additionally, architecture writer Chris Hawthorne gave his opinion as to how a more urban and dense Los Angeles could lead to architectural coherence.

Onto bicycle and pedestrian news, the City of Montclair and a property owner are at odds over a half-acre property that would be purchased for a grade separation at Union Pacific tracks. A ceremony for several rebuilt facilities at Will Rogers State Beach doubled as a dedication of a beach bikeway to the late councilmember Marvin Braude.

Oy Vey : As Long Beach explores building a streetcar, a Long Beach Press Telegram editorial blasted the idea by pointing towards Portland , Oregon , as a model of how not to plan. The piece cited research from the Cato Institute that claimed a streetcar would invariably lead to higher density, greater traffic congestion, and expensive housing. What does it suggest? Detach transportation from housing in planning and undo "counterproductive zoning." (The piece also took a cheap shot at former Portland mayor Neil Goldschmidt, who pushed for the streetcar and said planning policies during his tenure).

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.

Los Angeles and Orange Counties have gone their separate ways when it comes to taming traffic congestion. Whereas the former has placed emphasis on rail and public transportation, Orange County has been widening freeways at a hurried pace. Nowhere is this dichotomy more pronounced than at the county line, where several freeways will be widened at the behest of Orange County . The point comes at the heels of a study commissioned by the Orange County Transportation Authority, with respondents favoring carpool lanes where drivers can enter and exit the lanes whenever they want; Los Angeles County Metro is considering the idea.

Do you like litter on roadways? No? Well, neither does Caltrans, which is coping with a surge in roadside trash. In Los Angeles and Ventura Counties , trash collected rose nearly 30 percent, to about 50,000 cubic yards. Picking it up is hurting Caltrans in the pocketbook: Last year, the agency spent $60 million on cleanup, $20 million more than in previous years. Worse yet, citations for littering have been on a decline.

The City of Los Angeles seeks a better way to count cars on streets, especially with new mixed-use projects that could adversely affect traffic. Los Angeles is also on the verge of widening Sepulveda Blvd. near LAX. The Los Angeles Daily News takes a look the ultimate photo-op of politicians: Fixing potholes. Also, will " slugging", where drivers pick up passengers just to use the carpool lanes, become fashionable in Los Angeles ?

Elsewhere, San Juan Capistrano officials are asking Caltrans to perform an environmental study, against the latter's wishes, for a widening of Ortega Highway (State Highway Route 74), which has become an unlikely commuter route between Orange and Riverside Counties. In Barstow , officials are unsure of what to do with a money-losing alternative fuel station. The complete closure of State Highway Route 138 in San Bernardino County is adversely affecting businesses along the highway portion in Los Angeles County . San Diego officials agreed on asking the state for $511 million from Proposition 1B for highway improvements.

Port truckers will soon face an onslaught of new regulations that may financially cripple them. Already, many truckers must live on declining income, after expenses. A good number of truckers are not unionized and thus powerless to ask for better wages and conditions, an indirect result of deregulation in 1980. The Clean Trucks Program brought about by the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles will fund replacement of older and sootier tractors so that truckers may gain access to the ports. However, many truckers are themselves confused about how this program may help or hurt them.

Meanwhile, the Whittier Daily News takes a jab against lax truck regulation at the federal level. The state Air Resources Board mandated that construction vehicles, which account for 20% of California 's diesel pollution according to estimates, be retrofitted or replaced within 13 years. Health advocates pushed for the changes, which will start in 2010, while industry representatives lobbied hard against them.

A strike by seaport clerks has been avoided. The Long Beach Press Telegram praised the decision by shippers and terminal operators to share the wealth of its booming harbors with its workers, with modest wage increases and better health benefits. Port clerks had various opinions about the negotiations. Meanwhile, c olumnist Steve Westly expresses his support for SB 974, which would charge container fees to fund port pollution mitigation. The idea is strongly favored by those residing near the ports.

A consortium of Westside and South Bay politicos recently sent a letter to Villaraigosa on a proposal to shift the northernmost runway of LAX further north. The letter expressed opposition for the city's "single-minded resolve to move runways north into the Westchester and Playa del Rey neighborhoods." Leaders articulated disappointment that Los Angeles is not prioritizing regionalization as outlined in the LAX Master Plan.

The state pension system known as CalPERS will launch a new investment program that puts money into infrastructure improvements. The state Teacher's Retirement System already took a step in this direction last month. The concept of using pension funds to fund infrastructure improvements is common in Canada , Australia and Europe, but is relatively new in the United States . Such investments can yield returns as high as 14%.

A U.S. Senate committee is expected to approve a $104 billion transportation and housing measure this week. Among other things, $1 million would be allotted to Metrolink to fund the "sealed corridors" project in the San Fernando Valley , while $250,000 would be used for soundwalls along the 210 Freeway in La Cañada Flintridge. U.S. Representative Howard "Buck" McKeon secured $500,000 in federal funds for a cross-valley highway in Santa Clarita. Not included in the bill were funds for a Gold Line Extension and the Alameda Corridor East, both through the San Gabriel Valley .

Don't Forget : Space is still available for the Thunderhead Training seminar on August 24-26. The intense curriculum offered by the Thunderhead Alliance will teach you how to effectively fight for improvements. L earn 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 24 : The Long Beach City Council unanimously approved a plan to identify new bicycle routes that would connect the Los Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers . New bikeways would connect Cal State Long Beach with the San Gabriel River and downtown Long Beach with the southeast area, offering connections to Orange County bike routes. Signage would be installed to identify the new bikeways.

The North County Times of San Diego printed an editorial that gave a thumbs-down to a mixed-use project in San Marcos . The San Marcos City Council previously voted 4-1 to build a transit-oriented development at Palomar Station, a future stop of the Sprinter DMU between Escondido and Oceanside . The proposal stirred up controversy from residents during the 11th hour session. Many deemed the idea "immoral" because the development would be built next to industrial businesses, thus exposing its occupiers to cancer-causing chemicals.

July 26 : The final segment of the 210 Freeway in Rialto opened to traffic. Drivers waited throughout the morning and made lines to be the first to drive on it. The segment was dedicated to the late San Bernardino Congressman George Brown, Jr. Though most spoke favorably of the completion, Highland and Redlands residents expressed concern that their portions of the 210 will be swamped with traffic. San Gabriel Valley residents complain that much of the traffic from a previous segment of the 210 has spilled onto its local streets.

July 30 : The Los Angeles City Board of Public Works approved an environmental report for a rush-hour reversible lane and bike lanes for the Mulholland Tunnel on Sepulveda Blvd. through the Sepulveda Pass. The $11.3 million project met stern opposition from a homeowners group in Bel Air and the Encino Neighborhood Council. Consideration of the project now moves to the Los Angeles City Council.

Departures and Arrivals : Metro appointed Mike Cannell as the new rail general manager, starting Monday, August 6. Cannell has 27 years of experience in transit industry who most recently worked with the Gold Line Construction Authority. Cannell replaces Gerald Francis, who left to become assistant CEO at the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority last April.

Upcoming Events : Metro San Fernando Valley Governance Council: Wednesday, August 1, 6:30 p.m., Marvin Braude Constituent Center , 6262 Van Nuys Blvd. , Van Nuys. CANCELLED.

Exposition Metro Line Construction Authority : Thursday, August 2, 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, August 2, 7:30 p.m. Angeles Chapter office, 3435 Wilshire Blvd, Suite 320 , Los Angeles .

Metro Gateway Cities Sector Public Hearing: Tuesday, August 7, 7 p.m., Norwalk Arts & Sports Center, 13200 Clarkdale Ave. , Norwalk .

Metro Westside/Central Governance Council Meeting and Public Hearing: Wednesday, August 8, 5 p.m., La Cienega Tennis Center , Sunset Room, 325 S. La Cienega Blvd. , Beverly Hills .

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

Metro Gateway Cities Governance Council Meeting and Public Hearing : Thursday, August 9, 2 p.m., Gas Company ERC, 9240 Firestone Blvd. , Downey .

Metro South Bay Governance Council: Friday, August 10, 9.30 a.m., Carson Community Center , 801 E. Carson St. , Carson .

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

Southern California Transit Advocates: Saturday, August 11, 1 p.m., Angelus Plaza , Rm. 422, 255 S. Hill St. , Los Angeles .

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

Metro San Gabriel Valley Governance Council Meeting and Public Hearing: Monday, August 13, 5 p.m., 3369 Santa Anita Ave. (near El Monte bus station), El Monte .

C onsider attending our monthly Transit Coalition Dinner Meeting on Tuesday, August 28 - 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!

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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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