Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Monday, August 27, 2007
Volume 3, Issue 35

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.

Feels Like You Were There Yourself: This Tuesday is our Transit Coalition monthly meeting. See Upcoming Events below for details.

Thank You! Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a budget that gave $20 million for continued study of statewide high-speed rail. State Senator Dean Florez (D-Shafter) and Assemblymember Fiona Ma (D-San Francisco) previously expressed fear that the governor would "blue-pencil" the funds. Your phone calls and emails made the difference in protecting these vital funds.

However, with that budget came a complete annihilation of public transportation funds. $1.3 billion of the Spillover will be entirely diverted to other uses. Although gubernatorial advisers say that the budget will give $1.9 billion to transit, Los Angeles County will lose $336 million, which threatens completion of the Expo Line to Culver City . Even small but rewarding freeway projects like ramp improvements on the 10 Freeway in West Covina may never happen. The San Francisco Bay Area was also hard hit, with agencies losing a combined total of $75 million this year. Oh yes, as this Los Angeles Daily News editorial put it, the voting and tax-paying public has been soundly fleeced.

Even so, Orange County Transportation Authority director Jerry Amante seems rabidly ecstatic with the development. In his Orange County Register op-ed, Amante claims that the focus on transit has created a traffic problem in Los Angeles , whereas Orange County focused on highway expansion that yielded results. Amante uses this point to support construction of the San Onofre Toll Road , which many groups are fighting for one reason or another.

However, one group of motorized travel enthusiasts will get a break with the budget: Yachts, planes and RVs can once again avoid paying sales tax if owners keep the vehicles out of the state for just 90 days after purchase. State lawmakers closed the loophole in 2004 by requiring state residents to keep the vehicles out of the state for a year to receive a sales tax exemption. This resulted in a revenue boost of $45 million to the state each year since 2004.

This week, Metro will introduce a 65-foot-long articulated bus on the Orange Line busway as a pilot project. The buses are so large, Metro had to get an exemption from Caltrans to operate them, since state law limits bus length to 60 feet. The current fleet of artics, now totaling 10% of the Metro fleet, can each hold 84 people, while the larger bus can hold as many as 100.

The long fight for commuter rail service between Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties continues. Advocates are grappling with daunting challenges, including political indifference, insufficient funds and a hostile attitude from Union Pacific, which owns the coast railway. Nevertheless, the Santa Barbara City Council outlined a plan that would urge improvements on existing passenger rail service on the Amtrak Coast Starlight and Pacific Surfliner, while also adjusting their schedules to better suit commuting needs.

Even as Los Angeles wallows through transit inertia, Shanghai is building what could very well be the largest subway system in the world. The city is on a mad dash to build as much subway as possible, particularly before the arrival of the World Expo in 2010. Thanks largely to a rigid, top-down government and a booming economy, Shanghai faces none of the financial and political obstacles that most projects in the U.S. must contend with.

Hawaii recently launched inter-island ferry service. The Superferry can carry as many as 500 passengers and 150 vehicles. However, the service did not go through an environmental study, and environmentalists are concerned that the ferry could injure marine wildlife and induce animal migration to sensitive areas. Three groups have filed a lawsuit that may bar the ferry while proper environmental studies are conducted. Even surfers jumped in on the action by blocking access to a harbor during the ferry's maiden voyage.

Meanwhile, columnist Steve Hymon compares population densities between Los Angeles and New York City , using the data to dismiss assertions that the City of Angels is being "Manhattanized". Hymon also noted that while 10% of workers in L.A. took mass transit to their jobs and 66% drove alone, 53% of New York workers took mass transit and 25% drove alone.

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.

Those using hybrid decals to use the carpool lanes should rightly panic when these are stolen from their cars. According to anecdotes in the San Jose Mercury News, the Department of Motor Vehicles now requires a copy of the police report and the return of all remaining carpool stickers before they provide replacements. However, the rule punishes drivers doing mere body work on a car that would obviate new decals.

With another near collision taking place in LAX two weeks ago, the Federal Aviation Administration urged airport leaders to start work on widening the northern runways. FAA chief Marion Blakey bluntly stated that said runways must be moved farther apart before a similar event happens again. Community members see the complaint as an attempt to undermine and eventually unravel a compromise between the airport and local interests to cap expansion. In other news, a federal grant will help families in Lennox and Hawthorne soundproof their homes from the din of approaching aircraft.

Thanks to air travel woes, which are becoming the norm these days, Amtrak is experiencing a surge in passengers. Even as trains experience delays of their own, ridership increased 6% across the system this year, with ridership on the Acela service in the northeast surging 20% in the last 10 months. Ironically, some aviation executives see this as a reason to expand intercity rail so that trains can relieve passenger burden and runways at airports.

In other news, A VC Reporter editorial refrains from celebrating the new 101 Freeway bridge over the Santa Clara River , warning that far more bridges in California must be repaired. A recent report revealed that Portland residents drive fewer miles and, as a result, collectively save $2.6 billion a year.

Opportunity Knocks : Hillsborough Area Regional Transit, which serves the Tampa-St. Petersburg area, hired David Armijo as its new executive director. Armijo oversaw about 670 buses and 1,500 employees for Metro before becoming chief of toll operations in Orange County . The Transit Coalition wishes him the best in his new endeavor.

Here is a list of other recent developments:

August 22 : San Bernardino County reached a legal settlement with state Attorney General Jerry Brown that will force the county to measure how much it contributes to global warming and set targets to begin cutting its greenhouse gas emissions in the next 2 1/2 years. Counties across California are similarly adapting to the new planning requirements, which focus on how sprawl and building design contribute to climate change.

Transit Coalition Executive Director Bart Reed and Vice President Jerard Wright attended the public hearing on the Sepulveda Pass Project, which aims to install carpool lanes on the northbound 405 Freeway between Westwood and Sherman Oaks. Thunderhead Alliance "Complete Streets" Campaign Coach Dominic Liberatore also attended the event.

August 23 : Terminal operator TraPac announced that three of its shipping customers will move its operations from the west basin of the Port of Los Angeles to another terminal in the Port of Long Beach . Shippers cited a lack of progress in expanding the terminal as reason to move out. However, such expansion tends to take years due to pollution and traffic concerns that must be investigated. The Los Angeles port responded that it was moving as fast as possible with an expansion study, which could come before the Board of Harbor Commissioners by the end of the year.

The Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) Board voted to hire Dorothy Dugger as the new general manager of the transit agency. Dugger, 54, has worked at BART since September 1992 and served as deputy general manager since 1994. Former general manager Thomas Margro stepped down after nearly 11 years in the top post to head Orange County 's toll road system.

August 25 and 26 : Transit Coalition Communications Director Numan Parada took part in the Thunderhead Alliance training seminar, where attendees learn how to set up campaigns and use them as a tool to raise funds and advance your organization. Activities included determining which elected officials can directly change policy, noting organization strengths and weaknesses, setting up tactics to mobilize the citizenry, establishing a timeline that features milestones and goals, and preparing a budget that relies on income from member donors, grants and events.

Upcoming Events : 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!

Metro San Fernando Valley Governance Council: Wednesday, September 5, 6:30 p.m., Marvin Braude Constituent Center , 6262 Van Nuys Blvd. , Van Nuys.

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 .

Metro San Gabriel Valley Governance Council: Monday, September 10
, 5 p.m., 3369 Santa Anita Ave. (near El Monte bus station), El Monte .

Metro Westside/Central Governance Council : Wednesday, September 12, 5 p.m., La Cienega Tennis Center , Sunset Room, 325 S. La Cienega Blvd. , Beverly Hills .

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

Metro Gateway Cities Governance Council : Thursday, September 13, 2 p.m., Gas Company ERC, 9240 Firestone Blvd. , Downey .

Metro South Bay Governance Council: Friday, September 14, 9.30 a.m., Carson Community Center , 801 E. Carson St. , Carson .

SCRRA (Metrolink) Committee Meetings: Friday, September 14 , 10 a.m., SCRRA Offices, 700 S. Flower St. , 26th floor, Los Angeles .

Southern California Transit Advocates: Saturday, September 15, 1 p.m., Angelus Plaza , Rm. 422, 255 S. Hill St. , 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.

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.

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