Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Tuesday, August 7, 2007
Volume 3, Issue 32

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 and also cut high speed rail funding to $15 million. Now it has been revealed that $150 million in state bond money to synchronize traffic signals in Los Angeles have become a major reason for the budget impasse in Sacramento .

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 Nez 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.

A major interstate bridge in Minneapolis collapsed into the Mississippi River on Wednesday, August 1, killing 5. As a result, Caltrans is on a warpath to inspect 69 of its most vulnerable bridges. The disaster revived national discussion on the need to do something about aging infrastructure. Funding remains an issue for many critical repairs. Some experts even cited the use of transportation funds for mass transit projects as a culprit.

Officials throughout California have been assuring the denizens that, although many bridges in the state are "structurally deficient", all of them are otherwise safe for traffic. Some of the deemed bridges are among the busiest in the nation. Caltrans Director Will Kempton noted that any small problems, from decaying road surface to a deteriorating paint job, could make a bridge "deficient" according to federal standards. Nevertheless, some 1,600 bridges in the state (more than a dozen in Los Angeles County ) are in need of major repairs.

Traffic congestion on the Westside was the subject of a RAND forum held in Santa Monica . Most believe that small answers, such as staggered work hours and adopting new traffic management technologies, are the best solution. However, most agreed that changing driver behavior could significantly reduce traffic but would be grossly unpopular with drivers. Small solutions were the bread-and-butter of a piece by columnist Bill Bauer, who made scathing comments on Santa Monica 's "smart growth" efforts. According to Bauer, transit- and pedestrian-friendly innovations have worsened traffic on the Westside.

Would Los Angeles benefit by emulating efforts in Denver, Colorado , to fast-track new mass transit infrastructure? In 2004, Denver voters approved a tax that would fund a major expansion of public transportation in their city. Should things pan out, Denver expects to have 119 miles of light rail and commuter rail by 2016 through FasTracks. Of note, voter approval came despite opposition from key politicians, newspapers and various organizations. It should be noted, however, that Los Angeles County voters twice approved "build-it-all-at-once" methods similar to FasTracks.

Metro considers launching an express service on the Orange Line busway, which would shave 5 minutes in end-to-end travel times. Three Metro Service Sectors will discuss changes in bus service at several public hearings listed in our Upcoming Events section. Curiously, a recent study revealed that "recall rates" (the ability to remember particular advertisements) exceed 59% for TransiTV, more than double than that of television.

The Redondo Beach City Council tonight will vote on spending federal funds for a new transit hub near South Bay Galleria. Some envision the transit center, which would be located on the Harbor Subdivision railway, as a possible stop for future passenger rail service in the area. Those interested in improving public transportation in the South Bay are invited to this important meeting. Please see Upcoming Events below for more information.

"Quiet Zones", where trains are exempt from tooting their horns through certain communities, will soon launch to the relief of certain residents. Pomona expects to have its quiet zone completed within weeks, but only after years of planning and searching for funds. Del Mar is pushing for a nighttime quiet zone at one intersection. The city abandoned plans for a longer quiet zone, believing it would cost too much without assuring an actual reduction in horns. In Placentia , home of the first quiet zone in the region, the Orange County Transportation Authority warned that a study on grade separations on Orangethorpe Ave. is still a year away at the earliest.

The recent boom in condo and apartment construction is fast reshaping housing patterns in Southern California. In Orange County , for example, condo construction has outpaced single-family homes for the last two years. San Fernando Valley , once the poster child of post-World War II suburban living, is now inundated with a flourish of new condos. While most established residents resent the erosion of their neighborhoods' suburban character, others are concerned with the traffic they would cause, seeing that public transportation is not extensive enough for it to be a good alternative to taking their cars.

Seaports across the nation will see a record volume of cargo shipments this year. While our local ports take a slice of the trade boom, expansion of the Panama Canal threatens to send plans for a megaport at Punta Colonet into oblivion. Upgrading the Canal to handle a new generation of megaships would allow Asian shippers to send products directly to the East and Gulf Coasts , instead of contending with intermodal transfers at the new port. Meanwhile, port clerks are voting in favor of a new contract with terminal operators.

San Francisco Chronicle auto editor Michael Taylor provided readers with a review of a plug-in version of the hybrid Toyota Prius. His verdict? "The future [] will see a lot more of these cars," Taylor concluded. The Prius in question was retrofitted by Energy CS of Monrovia so that it could run on more efficient lithium-ion batteries. More information can be found at www.calcars.org. Meanwhile, the Whittier Daily News praised the vote by the state Air Resources Board to reduce pollution from construction equipment that runs on diesel.

Riverside County officials are trying to enact a three-year pilot program to allow solo drivers into carpool lanes on the 60 Freeway during off-peak hours. However, the Federal Highway Administration has shown animosity over the program. Using "sticks and carrots", the Administration threatens to vote down the idea because of air quality concerns, which could result in a hold on federal funds for the area. Peak-hour carpool lanes already exist on the 14 Freeway.

Long Beach lucks out as it receives $3 million in federal funding for a transit center at Cal State Long Beach, while, oddly enough, $50,000 will go towards the National Mule and Packer Museum in Bishop (well, it is transportation). Even as Colton moves forward with a new bike path, a fight is brewing over a piece of former railroad property owned by a resident and is needed to complete the path.

In our human interest section, the Santa Monica Daily Press turns to Stephanie Negriff, director of the Santa Monica Big Blue Bus system. Negriff held transit positions in Oklahoma City , Austin and St. Louis before returning to her hometown of Santa Monica in 1986. Negriff is particularly proud of the new "Mini Blue" service that shuttles residents around the town. Indeed, the agency will launch a new Mini Blue route in the Sunset Park neighborhood of Santa Monica on Monday, August 27.

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:

August 1 : A Los Angeles city committee forwarded a $1.1 million request to rehabilitate the Lankershim Depot next to the North Hollywood Orange Line to the Los Angeles City Council. The Metro Board approved a $3.6 million budget for the project last October, contingent upon the city approving its share. The Lankershim Depot would become a Metro Customer Center when rehabilitation is completed.

August 6
: The Transportation Committee of the Los Angeles Council District 11 Neighborhood Empowerment Congress approved two motions regarding future Westside rail. The first asked that all forms of rail transit, including monorail and MagLev technologies, be studied for the Wilshire corridor. The second asked Metro to prioritize a Green Line extension towards LAX and the Downtown Regional Connector in its constrained version of the Long Range Transportation Plan. Committee Co-Chair and Transit Coalition President Kenneth S. Alpern proved essential in attaining consensus on the two motions. Executive Director Bart Reed also took part in the event.

Upcoming Events : Redondo Beach City Council: Tuesday, August 7, 6:30 p.m., Redondo Beach City Council Chambers, 415 Diamond St. , Redondo Beach . Councilmembers are expected to vote on federal funds for a new transportation center near the South Bay Galleria.

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 .

Metro Special Board Meeting Long Range Plan Workshop, Thursday, August 16, 9 a.m. Board Room, Metro Gateway Headquarters.

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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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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