Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
Volume 3, Issue 34

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.

It's Coming Up, It's Coming Up: Next Tuesday is our Transit Coalition monthly meeting. See Upcoming Events below for details.

Governor Gridlock: The State Senate finally compromised on a budget that would give $15.5 million to high speed rail development. The 7-week-late budget now awaits signature by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who may make even further cuts. (The impasse is also affecting a bill that would set a container fee that would fund pollution mitigation projects at the ports.)

How You Can Help: Tell Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to keep high speed rail funds in the budget. The message should be clear: "Don't blue-pencil high speed rail!"

Even as the Exposition light rail line moves into heavy construction, the California Transportation Commission is waiting until September to dole out transit funds. Couple that with the ongoing state budget crisis and it all makes for a political game that no one enjoys. One letter to the Los Angeles Times does not forget the political silliness that enveloped the Expo Line during its development.

With the safety of bridges in the nation still in question, U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer looks to change the language describing the structural strength of bridges. Boxer claims that words such as "structurally deficient" confuse the public. Boxer also demanded more information on which

California bridges need a fix, so that she can request federal aid. Local officials see the Sixth Street Viaduct in Los Angeles as one bridge that could use either a major overhaul or outright replacement. Indeed, even as state legislators celebrated the completion of bridge rebuilding on the 101 Freeway over the Santa Clara River , some lamented the lack of funds to rebuild highways en masse. Many of these legislators are also asking questions about bridge safety.

Metrolink unveiled its plan to greatly improve grade crossings along its system. The "sealed corridor" program aims to reduce accidents and defuse various foolish acts of drivers at grade crossings. Improvements include adding concrete medians, longer gate arms and "four-quadrant gates" that lower across all lanes of traffic. Crossings in San Fernando Valley will be among the first to get improvements.

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.

Much further north, Seattle residents manage to cope with construction on the I-5 by taking public or non-motorized transportation. Thanks to thorough publicity, many took advantage of the alternatives available. As a result, the much dreaded fear of a traffic nightmare has not materialized. It also helps that Snohomish County 's Community Transit is using MySpace to promote public transportation to younger generations. This is a far cry from Los Angeles , where, thanks to traffic, people are doing things closer to home.

Still, some improvements are coming up. Caltrans will finance work on a new roundabout for State Highway Route 138 in Palmdale. Another Route 138 project in Littlerock was modified so as to not affect a local elementary school. San Jacinto moves forward with various improvements on a former stretch of State Highway Route 79 within its city limits, after Caltrans relinquished the streets on which it traversed to the city government in July.

Tribal leaders are working to protect an ancient village named Panhe, which stands in the way of the San Onofre Toll Road . Last year, the state attorney filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Heritage Commission, in hopes that it would stop the road. The Transportation Corridor Agencies, which seeks to build the highway, countered that many routing alternatives have been sought to minimize the road's impact on burial grounds and other sites.

A computer glitch made a mess at LAX last week has sent officials into a panic. Some interpret the meltdown as a testament to inadequate airport infrastructure. The Los Angeles Times attributes the collapse to sheer neglect, noting that such problems are rare at other airports. As if that wasn't enough, a near collision prompted airport officials to commission yet another study on the northern runways of LAX. This time, NASA will conduct the study.

Meanwhile, a project to improve the aesthetics of Century Blvd. near the airport broke ground. LA City Councilmember Bill Rosendahl requested a study on the feasibility of tolls on cars entering LAX. Expanded FlyAway service and a Green Line extension towards LAX could be funded from the tolls. Also, Ontario residents grapple with the double whammy of both airport noise and freight rail vibrations.

Onto port news, truckers are gearing up for a fight to improve their lot once the Clean Trucks Program takes effect. Truckers, who often work long hours for near-minimum-wage salaries and no benefits, are leery of the program, which aims to reduce pollution by replacing aging diesel trucks with more environmentally friendly models. Not satisfied with this, however, the Port of Los Angeles is also aiming for "green" buildings that are
"environmentally responsible".

Elsewhere, the Mexican federal government cancelled a mineral concession that had otherwise stymied efforts to build a new seaport at Punta Colonet , Baja California .

Rumors are flying that many of the state-owned "green" vehicles are in fact being fueled by good ol' fossil fuels. To address said rumors, state Assemblymember Ted Lieu authored AB 236, which comes on the heels of a media investigation revealing that said vehicles used no alternative fuel in the two years that they have been in service. The governor shot down a similar bill two years ago, citing that the state and federal governments already document how much alternative fuel is being used by its green fleet.

In our human interest section, we turn to Eric Green, who operates a pedicab in Downtown L.A. dubbed the " Green Machine". The service is proving very popular with hotel concierges and bar managers. Green hopes to expand his business, which relies on tips ranging between $5 and $20 a ride, to where he can dispatch a fleet of pedicabs.

Balderdash! NewsHour with Jim Lehrer recently interviewed U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters, who said that instead of raising taxes on gasoline to renew the nation's sagging infrastructure, Congress should examine its spending priorities -- including investments in bike paths and trails, which, Peters said, " are not transportation." So she said.

Final Call : This is your last chance to register 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 14 : The Irvine City Council unanimously approved a financing plan for the $280 million streetcar-bus service, which would serve the proposed Great Park . Proposition 116: $121.3 million would come from Proposition 116 funds. The City of Irvine would contribute $25.6 million, while the Measure M sales tax would contribute $98.2 million. $40 million would come from the State Highway Account.

The Burbank City Council voted to purchase a hydrogen hybrid fuel-cell transit bus. Councilmembers believe the move will make Burbank a model city when it comes to environmental sustainability. The bus will be incorporated into the existing Burbank Bus shuttle system.

August 15 : Los Angeles City Council approved a series of projects to improve traffic flow on the Westside. The plan includes traffic signal upgrades, new software to better synchronize lights, and new left turn signals. The nearly $6 million in projects are funded in part by developers' fees that are paid to the city to mitigate traffic problems. (The Los Angeles Times printed two letters in response.) The City Council also voted to apply for $27.5 million towards bus lanes on Wilshire Blvd. Councilmembers Jack Weiss and Wendy Greuel asked that the city transportation department develop a strategic plan to address traffic problems.

Additionally, the City Council voted to build 10 new gates at a site west of the Tom Bradley terminal at LAX. A peoplemover would connect the new gates to existing terminals. The structure would be completed by 2012. Officials hope that the new gates would discourage airlines from choosing other cities in using the next generation of supersized aircraft. The Los Angeles Daily News, however, interpreted the move as a sneaky way to expand the airport.

The Palmdale City Council voted to support a MagLev project that would connect the Antelope Valley with Orange County . "What's different about this project - from Caltrans, from the MTA - is that it really is conceived and promoted and pursued by local cities," Orangeline Development Authority executive director Al Perdon said. Perdon estimates that the Orangeline High Speed Maglev would cost $19 billion.

August 16 : The Metro Board reviewed a report on the county Long Range Transportation Plan during a special workshop. The discussion provided a wish-list of projects Metro would like to see in the near future. To fund them, however, Metro would have to rely on entirely different sources of financing, such as tolls and higher transit fares. Current and future state budget woes would jeopardize as much as $30 billion worth of projects through 2030.

KCRW's Which Way, L.A. ? hosted a panel on Westside traffic that featured Transit Coalition Executive Director Bart Reed pitted against Reason Foundation Policy Analyst Ted Balaker. The radio interview is now available online.

Upcoming Events : 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!

Exposition Metro Line Construction Authority : Thursday, September 6, 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, September 6, 7:30 p.m. Angeles Chapter office, 3435 Wilshire Blvd, Suite 320 , Los Angeles .

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

SCAG MagLev Task Force: Thursday, September 13, 10:00 a.m. SCAG Offices, 818 W. Seventh St. , 12th floor, Los Angeles .

SCAG Goods Movement Task Force : Wednesday, September 19, 9 a.m., SCAG Offices, 818 W. Seventh St., 12th floor, Los Angeles .

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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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