Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Weekly Transit eNewsletter, July 17, 2012

Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Tuesday, July 17, 2012
Volume 8, Issue 28

Welcome to  The Transit Coalition weekly newsletter! Our organization participates in meetings with key decision makers and community leaders. Our goal is to keep you informed on the latest developments in the transportation scene across Southern California.

New Meeting Location: We are now in Metro Gateway Headquarters. Also, you must prepay for food by noon on the day of the event. Please register.

Click and Register
Please Join Us: The Transit Coalition will host its monthly Dinner Meeting next Tuesday, July 24, 2012, at Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza, Los Angeles in the 3rd Floor Union Station Conference Room, where we will feature Bruce Shelburne, Interim Executive Director of Rail Operations for Metro. Also, the July, June, and May issues of Moving Southern California are now available online with new features and news, as is our archive of past issues and video coverage of our meetings. See Upcoming Events below for details.

Please Support our Efforts: The Transit Coalition is in need of $3,000 to print our August Moving Southern California newsletter. We need your help so that we can complete our work and continue our transportation education efforts through print materials.

Metro is planning the Sepulveda Pass/I-405 project as stipulated in Measure R. From what we understand, the planning staff is developing a Bus Rapid Transit project to fit the available funding. The Transit Coalition has a superior solution that includes a rail tunnel underneath the Santa Monica Mountains rather than climbing over them. The Transportation Tiger Team is developing a comprehensive plan to garner overwhelming public support to back our position of a rail tunnel that will get you from the San Fernando Valley to West LA in 10 minutes. Please support our efforts to make the JEM Line a reality with a generous contribution.

Several weeks after the passage of the MAP-21 federal transportation bill, groups are continuing to pore through the 600 page legislation and what it means for states and communities. Overall, the bill is a clear step backwards and will require California to be very proactive so that the state can invest in a comprehensive transportation system. Thanks to an outpouring of support from across the country dedicated funding for transit will be maintained and states and regions will, for the first time, be required to document the conditions that their transit systems are being maintained. Outside of this positive step forward, bicycle and pedestrian funding was cut by a third, environmental review was weakened, funding for repair of bridges was eliminated, and flexibility for states to invest in cleaner freight rail and invest in expanding the frequency of trains and buses was restricted. Read more about the top 10 policy and funding changes in the bill.

The Blue/Expo Lines junction.
Ever wondered how strong the unmet need for a San Fernando Valley to Westside rail transit connection is? Just a few weeks after the opening of the Expo Line, the Los Angeles Daily News found Valley commuters on almost every Expo train, having gone east on the Red Line to go west on the Expo Line. However, the Expo and Blue Line junction in Downtown Los Angeles is still posing problems for Metro. The junction has been continually inspected and re-welded as officials search for a permanent solution. Metro previously claimed to have stopped the abnormal wear and tear that was causing damage to the train's wheel assemblies, but a report by the California Public Utilities Commission contradicted Metro's claims. The CPUC says that Metro's re-welding efforts failed when the weld broke once in May and again in July. Metro does not believe the problem poses a safety risk, but experts unnamed by the Los Angeles Times say that there is a risk of derailment if the problem is not resolved.

The Big News: You've asked for it and now you're getting it. Metro will be running trains (and the Orange Line) until at least 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Trains will operate every 20 minutes between midnight and 2 a.m., and the Green and Orange Line will operate until 2:40 a.m. to allow for Red and Blue Line connections. Also, Metro is looking at the feasibility of extending Silver Line service hours, as well as working with Metrolink to offer late-night trains. The new service hours will begin on July 27. Aside from offering more alternative transportation options, proponents of late-night service believe it will cut down on drunk driving. Want a recap of Metro's recent successes? Our friends at Move LA have put together a nice summary. Two separate columns in the Los Angeles Times note that while critics argue that Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa might not have fully achieved all of his political goals, he has delivered a tremendous amount by aiming high, a noteworthy accomplishment even at an international level.

Metro is talking farebox recovery in a recent posting in the blog The Source. For the current fiscal year, Metro's farebox recovery ratio, the proportion of operating costs covered by fares, will be 27%. According to Metro's long-range transportation plan, the farebox recovery figure must be increased to 33% in the long run. They plan to accomplish that through cost savings and fare adjustments; transit advocates call on Metro to focus on increasing ridership as another revenue source, rather than simply slashing service further. If Metro can reach that level of farebox recovery, the agency will not see an operating deficit in the long run. One fear about Measure R is that fare increases will be required to operate all of the measure's anticipated projects once completed, but Metro stresses that even without Measure R projects fares will have to be raised over time in order to balance its budget as required by law. No, the fare will not be $1.50 forever. It is better to raise fares on a consistent and predictable schedule than to put it off for years, necessitating one big fare hike in the future that just makes everybody angry.

Following the success of the "More Trains, More Often" marketing program, Metro should identify corridors with high choice ridership potential to attract more riders through a coordinated marketing and service program. Consistent with Metro Board Chair Mike Antonovich's request for a regional approach, these could include Ventura Boulevard in the San Fernando Valley, Colorado Boulevard in Glendale/Pasadena, and Pacific Coast Highway in the South Bay, in addition to corridors in the heart of the service territory. By contrast, transit planning professionals have shown how some of the lines created by the Bus Riders Union's consent decree not only had low ridership but also provided little advantage over connecting bus lines.

A vision of high-speed rail in America.
With the approval of the initial funds required to start construction on California's high-speed rail system, it may be productive to take a breather and look at the status of high-speed rail in the United States. Luckily, Next American City has done all the hard work. In the Northeast Corridor, where the bank-vault-on-wheels Acela Express already hits speeds of 150 mph, Amtrak is planning for the next generation of high-speed rail lines at an estimated cost of $151 billion. In Pennsylvania, a $70 million improvement project would allow trains to reach 125 mph, but construction has not started yet. In Texas and Florida, high-speed rail is either on life support or completely dead. All other projects tend to be in the planning process but will not yield true high-speed rail lines. California continues to have the only true high-speed rail project in the nation that is within months of construction, if the lawsuits don't stop it first, that is.

Assessing the state of California high-speed rail, California Majority Report, The Transport Politic, and Patt Morrison of the Los Angeles Times all look at the big picture. Southern California Public Radio reports that the project will now fund run-through tracks at Union Station, which would provide tremendous capacity and time savings. While a study from UCLA does not find a significant boost in economic activity between two Japanese regions when one opened Shinkansen (bullet train) service, critics note that even the existing rail service is faster than Amtrak Acela Express, let alone the Coast Starlight or the Thruway bus over the Grapevine, making comparisons to California inaccurate. Moreover, the study did not look at the economic impact of construction.

The East Japan Railway has publicly reiterated its interest in California's project, while the Central Japan Railway appears to be looking at Maglev for the northeast. The Atlantic Cities reviews studies that compare California to European HSR corridors, concluding that not only will the project draw a large portion of air and car travelers, but that it will generate new trips that would not otherwise be made. The Urbanist echoes these findings by noting how the enhanced connectivity will be a boon to business in Hollywood and Silicon Valley, whose industries are increasingly converging. Former CHSRA Chair Quentin Kopp, who opposed the blended plan that provides improvements for commuter rail, is now alleging that the blended plan is illegal. You can also share your opinion of the Frenso-Bakersfield Revised EIR/EIS, which demonstrates that the segment will reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions in the San Joaquin Valley, even as a stand-alone project.

Help us out. Please donate!
Could Internet sales taxes fund transportation infrastructure improvements? An editorial in The Boston Globe urges that Massachusetts tax purchases made over the Internet from retailers like Amazon and earmark the funds for transportation infrastructure spending. If such a move is implemented successfully, there is no doubt that other states will seriously consider similar proposals. California has also wrestled with the question of whether to require Internet retailers to collect sales tax. Technically, both states already require individuals to report Internet purchases on their annual tax returns but few shoppers actually do. In California it is estimated that over $1 billion in sales tax revenue is lost annually when consumers purchase goods online. For counties with transportation sales tax measures, like Los Angeles County, this means transportation infrastructure misses out on badly needed funds when purchases are made online.

Parking lots.
The Brookings Institute has taken a look at the relation of US jobs to public transit and has found some good news and bad news. The good news is that over 75% of jobs in the 100 metropolitan areas studied have access to public transportation. Western regions such as Los Angeles have among the highest coverage rates. The bad news is that only 27% of the metropolitan workforce in America can get to work via transit in 90 minutes or less. Brookings blames this on the suburbanization of jobs, with the majority of metropolitan jobs now located in the suburbs. Unsurprisingly, city jobs are more accessible than suburban jobs. Providing good transit to sprawled out office parks with limited resources is a difficult economic challenge that usually cannot pay for itself, requiring subsidies.

The Brookings Institute report emphasized the importance of multi-modal mobility options in relation to getting people to/from work on time. The northern Inland Empire regions, namely San Bernardino, Riverside, and Ontario, were ranked 98 out of 100 urban areas studied. LA ranked 42nd. On a related note, a new report documents how traffic studies systematically overstate the potential benefits of proposed road projects by underestimating the impact of induced demand, otherwise known as "build it and they will come."

Smarter growth along old US Route 395.
While transit projects are in the works for the Inland Empire, better balancing the area's job-to-housing ratio is a key solution according to the study. The Transit Coalition's Smarter Growth for US-395 Project aims to achieve this solution through business-friendly pubic policies for the private sector.

Also envisioned for the future are rail links through Southwest Riverside County which includes the heavily traveled I-15 freeway corridor. Getting a rail line to connect between LA and San Diego through inland cities remains a costly challenge for public agencies due to steep grades and local demographics. Officials would need to clear the way for private sector investments according to previous feasibility studies.

Behind the Orange Curtain, Costa Mesa has banned the parking of bikes on public property anywhere other than the handful of spaces located in the entire city. While claiming that this action was to deter the homeless from using local parks, the current Tea Party-dominated city council ignored the pleas of families and kids using local parks and employees working service jobs to be able to use their bikes. Perhaps the council members think that bikes are part of an Agenda 21 attempt to undermine Americans' freedom—never mind that not being able to park a bike is a significant limit on personal freedom. Meanwhile, the state legislature has blocked cities from issuing tickets for parking a car at broken meters, creating a potential incentive for scofflaws to jam meters. LA Streetsblog Editor Damien Newton reviews the new Orange Line Extension bike path, noting how it's actually slower than riding on the street because LADOT forces cyclists and pedestrians to press a button to cross the car drivers have to press a button to cross an intersection, too?

Iron fencing along a sidewalk.
It could be said that there are two South LA's. The first one was pre-Riots. The second is post-Riots. Since the riots in 1992, what was rebuilt was locked away from pedestrians in this transit-rich area of Los Angeles, so would-be rioters would be deterred by concrete and wrought iron fences encircling their premises like a green zone in a war-torn desert city, which South Los Angeles is not. Often times transit brings pedestrians very close to a destination, but these paying customers are sent hiking to the shopping destination and leaving with their selected wares on circuitous routes around the protective wall, if there is a sidewalk, through a lagoon of parking to somewhere to shop which is already short in supply in this area. As a regular dabbler with shopping while on transit I say it is tall order for businesses to rethink how they connect with pedestrians (generally, transit-borne) by asking them to, "tear this wall down!" (from Steveland Harris, Editor-In-Chief

While NBCUniversal has removed housing from its proposed development, it has not updated its transit mitigation measures. The Transit Coalition calls on NBCUniversal to remove the unnecessary, wasteful requirement that Metro build a pedestrian bridge over the intersection of Lankershim and Campo de Cahuenga, part of a legal settlement for constructing the Red Line. By implementing diagonal crosswalks on a dedicated, all-direction pedestrian-only signal, both pedestrian access and traffic flow could be improved at a fraction of the cost. The savings could then be allocated to building an additional elevator for the recently proposed Orange Line-Red Line underground connection at North Hollywood, as well as increased bus service on Ventura Boulevard. Also, NBCUniversal should allow Metro to reallocate the funds for buying articulated buses on Ventura Boulevard, as described in the EIR, for service enhancement instead.

Action Alert: The Transit Coalition is working diligently to advocate for higher-capacity bike racks on local buses. What's stopping transit agencies from increasing bike capacity on buses? For starters, it's illegal: Racks that hold three bikes instead of two protrude too far from the front of the bus. The Transit Coalition has written letters to two California legislators asking them to support calls to change the law to allow a 50% increase in bus bike rack capacity. This will make it less likely that cyclists are left waiting at the bus stop with nowhere to put their bikes. As cycling becomes a more important facet of Los Angeles commuting culture, higher capacity bike racks will allow Metro to meet future demand and help achieve clean air goals. However, Assemblymembers Bonnie Lowenthal and Bob Blumenfield are rejecting the requests of cyclists to allow Metro to install higher-capacity bike racks throughout its fleet because some transit unions want to use this issue as leverage over contract negotiations.

Thanks to your support, our campaign for more hours and increased span of service on Metro Rail was a success (see our print newsletter). However, we continue to advocate for three other important transportation initiatives: The GRID Project, the Metro JEM Line, and connections to the Orange Line. However, to keep you informed on progress and to help with our public outreach, we need funding to keep our momentum. Can you help through a donation or a subscription? You may donate via our webpage, where you will have the option to use PayPal, a credit card or a check by printing out our donation form to mail in your contribution. You may also subscribeto our newsletter. Thank you to those who have donated.

Donate to The Transit Coalition!Donate and Join! If you have not done so yet, we invite you to donate and join The Transit Coalition. A monthly subscription to Moving Southern California comes with your membership. You can donate now via PayPal or through check or money order via our Donations page. Please include The Transit Coalition in your will, trust or estate. Your contribution is greatly appreciated.

Upcoming Events: Consider attending our monthly Transit Coalition Dinner Meeting on Tuesday, July 24, 2012, 6:45 p.m. to 8:45 p.m. at Metro Gateway Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles. We hope to see you there!

Metro Committee Meetings: Wednesday and Thursday, July 18 and 19, Board Room, Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles.

  • Ad Hoc Sustainability Committee: Wednesday, July 18, 10 a.m.
  • Finance, Budget & Audit Committee: Wednesday, July 18, 1 p.m.
  • Planning & Programming Committee: Wednesday, July 18, 2:30 p.m.
  • Ad Hoc Congestion Pricing Committee Meeting: Wednesday, July 18, 3:30 p.m.
  • Construction Committee: Thursday, July 19, 9 a.m.
  • Executive Management Committee: Thursday, July 19, 10:30 a.m.
  • System Safety and Operations Committee: Thursday, July 19, 12 noon.
Expo Line Phase 2 Community Update Meeting: Wednesday, July 18, 6:30 p.m., Santa Monica Civic Auditorium East Wing Meeting Room, 1855 Main St., Santa Monica.

Antelope Valley Transit Authority Hearing on the North County TRANSporter: Thursday, July 19, 7:30 p.m., AVTA Boardroom, 42210 6th Street West, Lancaster.

OCTA Board Meeting: Monday, July 23, 9 a.m., OCTA Headquarters, 600 S. Main St., Orange.

Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority Board Meeting: Wednesday, July 25, 7 p.m., Arcadia City Hall, Council Chambers, 240 W. Huntington Drive, Arcadia.

Metro Board Meeting: Thursday, July 26, 9 a.m., Board Room, Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles.

Riverside Transit Agency: Thursday, July 26, 2 p.m., Board of Supervisors Conference Room, County Administrative Center, 4080 Lemon Street, 1st floor, Riverside.

Palos Verdes Peninsula Transit Authority Meeting: Thursday, July 26, 4 p.m., Rolling Hills Estates City Hall, 4050 Palos Verdes Drive North, Rolling Hills Estates.

Foothill Transit Executive Board Meeting: Friday, July 27, 8 a.m., 100 S. Vincent Ave., 2nd floor, West Covina.

SCRRA (Metrolink) Committee Meetings: Friday, July 27, 9 a.m., Board Room, Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles.

Metro San Fernando Valley Service Council Meeting: Wednesday, August 1, 6:30 p.m., Marvin Braude Constituent Center, 6262 Van Nuys Blvd., Van Nuys.

Exposition Metro Line Construction Authority Board Meeting: Thursday, August 2, 2:30 p.m., Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration, 500 W. Temple, 3rd floor, Board of Supervisors Hearing Room 381B, Los Angeles.

Angeles Chapter Sierra Club Transportation Committee: Thursday, August 2, 7 p.m., Angeles Chapter Office, 3435 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 320, Los Angeles.

Metro Westside/Central Service Council Meeting: Wednesday, August 8, 5 p.m., Beverly Hills Tennis Center, 325 S. La Cienega Blvd., Beverly Hills.

Orangeline Development Authority Board of Directors Meeting: Wednesday, August 8, 6 p.m., Huntington Park.

LOSSAN Technical Advisory Committee Meeting: Thursday, August 9, 10 a.m., SANDAG Headquarters, 401 B Street, Suite 800, San Diego Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles.

Metro Gateway Cities Service Council Meeting: Thursday, August 9, 2 p.m., Salt Lake Park Community Center, Lounge Room, 3401 E. Florence Ave., Huntington Park.

SCRRA (Metrolink) Legislative & Communications Committee Meeting: Friday, August 10, 9 a.m., Board Room, Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles.

Metro South Bay Service Council Meeting: Friday, August 10, 9:30 a.m., Inglewood City Hall, One Manchester Blvd., City Hall Conference Room A, Inglewood.

SCRRA (Metrolink) Board Meeting: Friday, August 10, 10 a.m., Board Room, Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles.

Southern California Transit Advocates: Saturday, August 11, 1 p.m.

Metro San Gabriel Valley Service Council Meeting: Monday, August 13, 5 p.m., City Hall East, 11333 Valley Blvd., El Monte.

Los Angeles City Bicycle Advisory Committee: Tuesday, August 14, 7 p.m., Hollywood Neighborhood City Hall Community Room, 6501 Fountain Ave., Los Angeles.

5th National Bus Rapid Transit Conference: August 20 through 22, Paris Las Vegas, 3655 Las Vegas Blvd. South, Las Vegas, NV. Register here.

LOSSAN Board of Directors Meeting: Thursday, August 30, 12:45 p.m., San Luis Obispo.

Ventura County Transportation Commission: Friday, September 7, 9 a.m., Camarillo City Hall, 601 Carmen Dr., Camarillo.

Pro Walk/Pro Bike/Pro Place 2012 Conference: September 10 through 13, Long Beach Convention Center, 300 East Ocean Blvd., Long Beach. Register now to receive a discount rate.

Missed last week's newsletter? Read it here!

Get the Print Edition of Moving Southern California, our monthly newsletter. Request a sample copy.

Contact Us:
We welcome your thoughts and comments on our new electronic newsletter. Please write us:
Bart Reed, Executive Director

Faramarz Nabavi, Legislative Director

Mina Nichols, Consultant

Numan Parada, Communications Director

Zach Gutierrez, Communications

Donna Gooley, Calendar Editor / Circulation Manager

Carlos Velasquez, Planning Director

Damien Newton, Editor LA Streetsblog

About The Transit Coalition:
The Transit Coalition is a non-profit public charity exempt from federal income tax under Section 501[c](3) of the Internal Revenue Service. Our 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.

Visit our Discussion Board for the latest dialogue on transit. * The Transit Coalition

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