Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
Volume 2, Issue 7

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.

The drive to sell the three infrastructure bond proposals to the voting public kicked off with a tour by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to promote his $222 billion Strategic Growth Plan. The governor recently came to the University of Southern California to address more than 250 business leaders on the importance of rebuilding California to stay competitive in the global market. He feared that if the state does not rebuild the ports infrastructure promptly, other ports along the Pacific Rim will take the traffic and economic stagnation would result. Schwarzenegger will also investigate a pay-as-you-go method proposed by Republican lawmakers that would fund critical projects from the General Fund. The governor also hopes to entice private entities to build and operate toll roads across the state. The talk of bond money has encouraged local entities to sprout any ideas on how to be part of the package, as this improvised proposal to build a freight railway around San Diego shows. Meanwhile, the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments rejected a proposal to give completion of the 710 Freeway to Pasadena "top priority", largely because no funds have been secured for it.

State Senator Don Perata on his part is using a television advertising campaign to sell his own $13 billion proposal, Senate Bill 1024, to GOP voters. Democrats such as Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez (who is writing a third bond measure, Assembly Bill 1783) vowed to continue working with the governor to fine-tune all three measures and bring it to voters.

Caltrans is seeking legislation that would allow the department to rebuild six seismically unsafe bridges. One of these is the Ten Mile River Bridge in Fort Bragg. Caltrans plans to build a new and wider bridge to replace it, but Friends of the Ten Mile, a local advocacy group fighting the project, feels it would obstruct views and encourage speeding onto the narrow State Highway Route 1. Bridges in Southern California that failed to make the cut include one in Santa Barbara and another in the Port of Long Beach. Meanwhile, the state has finalized plans to build carpool lanes on the Pomona Freeway (State Highway Route 60), scheduled to open in 2009.

Speaking of Long Beach, this past week has been filled with port activity. Ports across North America are reporting record growth, though officials fear this growth will create gridlock if expansion does not proceed. The Port of Long Beach has prepared "Plan 2020", which would rebuild much of the port infrastructure to handle larger ships and increased traffic. With all this activity, George Cummings, director of homeland security for the Port of Los Angeles, urged the completion of a new identification card system for port workers and a credential program to award said cards.

As this happens, state legislation to curb seaport, airport and rail yard pollution moves forward. Assembly Bill 1101, which would treat these facilities as stationary sources of air pollution, was authored by Jenny Oropeza (D-Carson) and has passed the State Assembly 42-31. Local port officials are already moving forward with their own plans to curb pollution. The LA City Harbor Department reported improvements in cutting down emissions. Officials were pleased to report that rail now transports 24.5% of all port cargo. In a recent "State of the Port" address, Port of Long Beach Executive Director Richard Steinke praised efforts by companies for following the Green Port Policy, which aims to reduce pollution even further, although challenges remain.

As State Senator Richard Alarcon continues his push to regionalize Southern California airports, officials at Bob Hope Airport revealed record increases in passengers and flights, largely attributed to new non-stop flights that serve the airport. The Los Angeles Daily News took these results as vindication of public desire to use airports other than LAX. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa released criteria to evaluate Airport General Manager Lydia Kennard. The mayor hopes that his request will reveal how the manager handles questions of ethics, relationships with surrounding neighborhoods, and environmental issues.

With regards to alternative fuels, the Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) was given five new hydrogen fuel-cell cars from DaimlerChrysler to transport airport officials. A refueling station for the prototype zero-emissions vehicles was also provided. Hybrid vehicles are all the rage in Sacramento, as nearly a quarter of state lawmakers now drive them. In San Diego, country singer Willie Nelson introduced the world to "BioWillie", a soybean-based biodiesel.

At the national level, U.S. President George W. Bush will give financial assistance for Amtrak in the budget for FY 07. The Bush Administration proposes $500 million for "capital needs and maintenance." No money is slated for operations; instead, the remaining $400 million will be handed out as "Efficiency Incentive Grants" in the belief that it will "encourage reform" as said by US DOT Secretary Norman Mineta. Last year, Bush proposed no subsidies for the rail service, but Congress balked at the notion and instead funded Amtrak with $1.3 billion. The National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP) welcomed the boost in contrast to last year, but expressed its concern that the proposed amount is nevertheless " unrealistic."

The American Public Transportation Association released a statement concerning the decreased funding for new transportation projects as proposed in the Administration budget proposal and the possible imposition of fees on Northeast Corridor commuter trains.

The Center for Transportation Excellence has set up a page that lists transportation ballot measures across the country and provides regular updates on their progress. The center also published a response to an op-ed by transit critic Randal O'Toole.

Here is a list of other recent developments:

February 7: The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved plans to renovate 6.5 miles of the 37-mile San Gabriel River bicycle trail. The trail runs from the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains to the ocean. The $380,000 to $450,000 project will be released for bids on February 28, with renovations to be completed this July.

Transit Coalition Executive Director Bart Reed participated in the bi-monthly City of Los Angeles Bicycle Advisory Committee. Michelle Mowery, Bicycle Program Manager, updated participants on various activities regarding bicycle travel, including participating in the development of the State Highway Safety Plan, the Metro bicycle plans to be approved by the Metro Board, and a Request for Proposals to create a new bicycle map covering Los Angeles. Michael May, transportation engineer for bikeways, presented board members with an update on bikeway projects across Los Angeles.

February 9: Mayor Villaraigosa and other public officials rode a preview of the new Gold Line Express service (which made its debut on Monday, February 13). Metro officials said the new service will cut five minutes off end-to-end travel time by stopping at five of the 13 Metro Gold Line stations: Union Station, Highland Park, Mission, Del Mar and Sierra Madre Villa. Trains are marked with a "limited stop" sign on the front of cars. However, passengers, transit advocates and some of Metro staff have shown concern about the service, as The Transit Coalition reported.

February 10: Mobility 21 held a Special Coalition Meeting at the new Caltrans District 7 Administration Building in Downtown Los Angeles to discuss the three state bond proposals. Speakers included Wendy Gruel, LA City Councilmember; Earl Blumenauer, U.S. Congressmember from Oregon; Roger Snoble, Metro CEO; Ron Gastelum, LA Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice President; Dan Beal, Automobile Club of Southern California Manager of Public Policy; Richard Alarcón, State Senator; and Douglas R. Failing, Caltrans District 7 Director. After reviewing and comparing the three bond proposals, members worked on a resolution that called for support of a "comprehensive infrastructure bond initiative that proportionately funds transportation projects in Southern California" and the use of General Obligation bonds to fund these projects.

Transit Coalition Executive Director Bart Reed participated in an event exposing students to transportation issues. The UCLA School Public Policy Affairs Day event was part of a class taught by Michael Dukakis. Reed was interviewed by students in the class on the Wilshire Boulevard bus lanes.

February 11: Four letters regarding two op-ed pieces in the Sunday, February 5 edition of the Los Angeles Times were published. Two responded to the monorail idea written by author Ray Bradbury. The other two responded to a Dan Turner op-ed regarding his journey to LAX by transit.

February 13: The LA Times published a Q&A on transporation improvements that would be funded under the Strategic Growth Plan from Governor Schwarzenegger. The Caitlin Liu article listed several projects that would be funded under the Plan, summarizes the different challenges that come about in building a transportation project, and notes how those challenges will be deciding factors as to what will be funded under the Plan.

Acknowledgments: An op-ed piece by Peter Gordon, Jim Moore II and Tom Rubin titled " Rail Wrong Way", regarding perceived flaws in bringing rail to Los Angeles, is now available.

Upcoming Events: Metro Committee Meetings: Wednesday, February 15 and Thursday, February 16, Board Room, Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles.

·  Planning and Programming Committee, Wednesday, February 15, 1 p.m.

·  Finance and Budget Committee, Wednesday, February 15, 2:30 p.m.

·  Executive Management & Audit Committee, Thursday, February 16, 9 a.m. ( Supplemental agenda.)

·  Operations Committee, Thursday, February 16, 12 noon.

Valley VOTE meeting: Monday, February 20. RailPAC President Paul Dyson and Transit Coalition Executive Director Bart Reed will make a presentation on extending the Orange Line to Bob Hope Airport Metrolink / Amtrak station.

SFV Economic Alliance Livable Communities Council: Tuesday, February 21, 8 a.m., Economic Alliance Office, Boeckmann-Fleming-Gelb Board Room, 5121 Van Nuys Blvd., Sherman Oaks, CA 91403.

Metro Board Meeting: Thursday, February 23, 9:30 a.m., Board Room, Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles.

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

National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP) Region 12 Annual Meeting: Saturday, February 25, 2006, California State Railroad Museum, Sacramento. Guest speaker : Congressman Jim Costa.

Consider attending our monthly Transit Coalition Dinner Meeting on Tuesday, February 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!

Missed last week's newsletter? Read it here!

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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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bart.reed@thetransitcoalition.us • The Transit Coalition