Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
Volume 3, Issue 33

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. One Sacramento Bee editorial suggests that legislators take a trip on transit and see the benefits of properly funding public transportation. Thanks to the impasse, roads in the Bay Area and elsewhere are deferring critical maintenance.

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 milestone was reached last week when heavy construction began for the Expo light rail line connecting Downtown L.A. with Culver City . Specifically, construction crews started work on a below-ground trench that would run southeast of the University of Southern California . Officials expect the first phase of the Expo Line will see 43,000 passenger boardings every weekday by 2025, with some believing it would jump to 72,000 if extended to Santa Monica .

Onto high speed rail news, an environmental document concluded that a route through the Altamont Pass and Union City would be the cheapest and most environmentally friendly. Union City officials are elated, since this would boost efforts to turn their BART station into a major transportation hub. However, others believe there is little political support for the route. Closer to home, Palmdale officials considered supporting a request to fund an environmental study for a proposed MagLev train connecting the Antelope Valley with Orange County .

After rain closed down the New York subway system to its embarrassment, Los Angeles transit officials assured that weather-related shutdowns of its subway are nonexistent. Big Blue Bus will modify bus lines at Santa Monica College to serve a new parking lot. Orange County is ready to expand Metrolink service in its jurisdiction and will spend $1 billion over several decades in doing so. Also, a third track is under construction in the Cajon Pass , while software problems and increased costs threaten to stop implementation of a universal fare system in the Bay Area.

A week after the fatal collapse of a highway bridge in Minneapolis , officials are placating concerns about reportedly deficient bridges in the state. Caltrans has already inspected 69 bridges of
similar construction (11 of them located in Southern California ), with no bridge needing closure according to officials. To be on the safe side, a previous proposal to increase ferry service in the Bay Area to supplant failed infrastructure resurfaced. Upstate, legislators will hold a hearing on the often confusing safety designations of bridges. Caltrans also revealed that 228 bridges in the state are deemed "structurally deficient" and in need of repair, 17 of which are located in Los Angeles County .

Much more concerning is the problem of funding upgrades to highways. U.S. President George W. Bush dismissed increasing the federal gas tax, which hasn't increased since 1993, to fund road repairs. Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty twice axed plans to increase the state gas tax. Some advocate a switch to public-private financing as an alternative to higher gas taxes. In one peculiar form of such financing, states would lease highways to private firms who would maintain them.

To distance itself from the ever popular L.A. Auto Show, organizers of the second Alternative Energy and Transportation Expo will hold their event in October this year, a month before the Auto Show. The event will feature panels on climate change and energy efficiency and will showcase emerging technologies. Over 10,000 people attended the event last year.

For those unfamiliar, Critical Mass is a chance event where hundreds of bicyclists ride down the street as an act of solidarity. However, recent incidents have placed Critical Mass in a negative light. Bicyclists often clash with drivers on the streets. Observers note an air of arrogance on the part of cyclists. Nevertheless, the monthly event attracts attention to bicycle transportation and improvements in bicycle infrastructure, as it has done in San Francisco , where Critical Mass first started in 1992.

Elsewhere, Glendale will start construction of a river walk that will connect pedestrians in northwest Glendale with Los Angeles and Griffith Park . Oceanside voted to revamp its Bicycle Master Plan with the intent of becoming a " bicycle friendly community". Sacramento is also warming to bicycles, with one health writer claiming that the increase in female cyclists comes in proportion to a perceived increase in safety.

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.

For those looking to vent their driving frustrations, look no further than L.A. Can't Drive, a blog dedicated to decrying idiotic acts often seen on the road. The site was the subject of a piece by former newspaper editor Robert Rector, who warned that, in actuality, there are even worse drivers in other parts of the country. In light of this sad reality, please heed to this advice from a San Bernardino Sun editorial and pay attention to the road.

Meanwhile, traffic ranked high on concerns in a public meeting regarding a proposed megamall at Warner Center . Arrests of bandit taxi drivers are on the increase in Los Angeles . Traffic fees paid for by developers to fund improvements on Ventura Blvd. go unused, to which the Los Angeles Daily News provided a finger-wagging denouncement.

Onto more positive notes, Cal State San Bernardino received a major federal grant to study innovative traffic solutions. A study suggests that allowing carpools to enter and exit at any point along a carpool lane would be safer than current practice of doing so only at designated points. Orange County transportation officials voted to jumpstart freeway improvements with a $20 million infusion of cash. The Pasadena City Council voted to upgrade its traffic signal system.

Oy Gavalt : The fight to build (or stop, depending on your take) Las Lomas took a weird turn, as representatives of developer Dan Palmer unveiled a proposal to build a station inside a tunnel betwee n Sylmar and Newhall currently used by Metrolink trains. Residents of the proposed Las Lomas community would be directed 30 stories below to platforms. Transit Coalition Executive Director Bart Reed was featured in a KTLA 5 news clip regarding the proposal on August 13.

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 6 : The Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority approved purchasing new technology that will cut diesel emissions from buses using the Bob Hope Airport . The airport will use $171,556 to retrofit 11 diesel buses that are used to shuttle passengers to and from parking lots.

The Los Angeles Board of Airport Commissioners unanimously adopted "Sustainability Vision and Principles" that would encourage environmentally-sound operations at Los Angeles World Airports. The adopted principles come after the Board directed staff to develop a comprehensive sustainability program that addresses all environmental aspects of operations at its four airports last January.

August 7 : The Los Angeles City Council approved an ordinance allowing denser housing in Downtown L.A. Residential developers looking to build in downtown will be offered incentives to allot affordable housing units in their projects. New rules would allow high-rises to reduce the size of lobbies, let them build closer to sidewalks and make it legal to build extremely small units. The rules were promptly signed by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Questions remain on whether the new rules would supply much-needed housing and deter automobile use. One author even questioned the sudden rush to " Manhattanize" Los Angeles .

South Korea-based Rotem Co. announced it would abandon plans to build a manufacturing facility at a site near Taylor Yard. L.A. City Councilmember Ed Reyes objected to the proposal, claiming that a community park would better suit the site. Rotem will instead manufacture the new Metrolink cars at a leased site in Philadelphia .

Santa Clarita Transit unveiled two new articulated buses that would serve to shuttle students across town. The agency expects to save fuel with the 60-foot CNG buses. The new buses will also sport a new paint scheme, which will be placed on all buses in honor of the 20th anniversary of the city's incorporation.

The Redondo Beach City Council voted to commission designs for a new transit center near the South Bay Galleria. Early renderings show the space could offer room for 14 bus bays, six more than the Galleria terminal, as well as a drop-off lot, bicycle amenities and extra parking, among other options.

August 8 : Transit Coalition Executive Director Bart Reed attended the LOSSAN Board meeting held in Santa Barbara . Attendees discussed a recently completed strategic plan for the northern portion of the corridor. Reed also spoke to Caltrans Chief of Rail Bill Bronte and Orange County Transportation Authority Chair Art Brown on local developments while aboard the Pacific Surfliner.

August 9 : Two local Congressmembers clashed with a Federal Railroad Administration representative over freight rail safety regulations during a House committee hearing held in Norwalk . Representatives Grace Napolitano (D-Santa Fe Springs) and Linda Sanchez (D-Lakewood) believed federal law should be changed to give states more power in regulating railroad activities. FRA deputy administrator Clifford Eby, however, argued that current federal regulations work fine and warned against its "balkanization".

U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer accused federal air regulators of stalling on rules for highly polluting ocean vessels and said Congress must act instead. Boxer and Senator Dianne Feinstein are working on legislation that would expedite improvements aimed at reducing port pollution. Shipping industry representatives and federal air officials countered that international regulations are in the works and could be implemented just as quickly to a greater global effect. The matter was the subject of a Pasadena Star News editorial.

The Burbank City Traffic and Transportation Committee approved a $2.50 surcharge on taxicab fares at Bob Hope Airport . Committee members believe it will lessen the added costs to cab providers for providing transportation to the airport. Those costs include paying the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority to lease taxi-waiting areas, employing a person to coordinate customer pickups and queuing in the taxi waiting area, as well as covering the costs associated with dispatching individual cabs. A Glendale News Press editorial blasted the fee by claiming it would be burdensome to the consumer.

August 12 : Computer problems paralyzed international flights at LAX for more than ten hours. A glitch in computers used by U.S. Customs was responsible for stranding international passengers, which was followed by another glitch. It was only until Monday that many of the stranded passengers were able to leave on their flights. After things returned to normal, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa demanded a probe of the incident.

Rideshare! Metro is encouraging everyone to take up vanpooling. To this effect, the agency launched a five-year, $19-million program that would encourage commuters to ride together in vans. A vanpool could save solo drivers up to $615 a month in gas, car maintenance and insurance and cut at least 20 minutes off an average commute through use of carpool lanes, according to Metro. For more information or to sign up, visit www.metro.net/vanpool, or call 1.800.COMMUTE.

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

SCRRA (Metrolink) Board Meeting: Friday, August 24, 10 a.m., San Bernardino Conference Room, SCAG Building , 12th Floor, 818 W. Seventh St. , Los Angeles .

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!

Orange County Transportation Authority Board Meeting
: Monday, September 10 and 24, 9 a.m., Board Hearing Room, 600 Main St. , Orange .

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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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