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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Transit Coalition e-Newsletter, Mon., June 25, 2007

Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Monday, June 25, 2007
Volume 3, Issue 26

Welcome to an 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.

Stop Requested: This Tuesday is our monthly Transit Coalition dinner meeting. See Upcoming Events below for details.

Action Alert: California high speed rail is still under the guillotine! Although the state Legislature restored some funding for the High Speed Rail Authority during the budget process, the budget is now in a conference committee where last-minute changes are possible. A line-item veto by the governor also remains a threat.

Please keep the pressure on the governor's office as well as your state Senator and Assemblymember, expressing your support for full funding of this critically important project. If possible, you can also come to a BayRail Alliance meeting in San Jose to learn about the project and what is necessary to keep it alive. See Upcoming Events below for details. Still not convinced on its merits? Check out this recently completed study on the Ohio Rail Hub, which features elements of high speed rail.

A peculiar video is making the rounds on YouTube. In it, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is asked by a student about the Exposition light rail line to Santa Monica. In answering the question, Villaraigosa revealed that the detour route on Venice and Sepulveda Blvds. would cost some $300 million more than if it stayed on the right-of-way.

The Pasadena Star News published an editorial promoting transit-oriented development. Pasadena ushered in a new era in planning when it encouraged mixed-use projects along the Gold Line. This has prompted other cities along the future Gold Line to Montclair to sprout TODs of their own. One major selling point is that many of these TODs are exempt from pricey parking regulations.

LA County Supervisor Don Knabe announced that paratransit services in Marina del Rey and elsewhere in his district will be funded through FY 08. The California Transportation Commission doled out $70 million for transportation projects in Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties , which includes $11 million to study and design a second track or siding north of Gaviota. Burbank Bus received $3 million to replace its fleet and launch a hybrid electric fuel cell bus. The Gateway Cities of southeast LA County will soon build various transportation improvements, including new bicycle lanes.

Transit agencies across the nation are implementing their own improvements. Atlanta MARTA takes final steps in implementing TAP technology at its train stations. Chicago police officers on patrol will soon be able to tap into video systems aboard buses instantly.

Carpool lanes in California are facing criticism from the federal government. Many of the lanes are clogged on a regular basis, which in turn slows the lanes down. Some say increased usage by hybrid vehicles is to blame, while Caltrans argues that population growth is the culprit. Some solutions might be in order, including upping the minimum amount of persons in a car to 3 at certain hours. The matter prompted an editorial from the Los Angeles Daily News.

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 Donations page to explore other options. Your contribution is greatly appreciated.

The California State Assembly approved three bills aimed at holding oil companies accountable for gas price hikes. Two of those bills ( AB 1610 and AB 1552) would require companies to hand over information on refinery shutdowns and supplies at the request of state regulators. A third bill would commission a study into how heat expansion by gasoline affects what the consumer buys. Also, a fourth bill, AB 118, would charge an estimated $130 million a year in additional vehicle fees for alternative-fuel research and other clean-air programs.

The bills come as a response to increasingly ineffective probes that get more attention than answers. Critics blasted the bills as exploitative of public antipathy towards gas companies. Perhaps because of said antipathy, Californians are buying less fuel for the second year in a row. Increase in purchases of hybrids, more carpooling, and less driving in general are cited as reasons for the decrease.

The Los Angeles Times is running an expose on safety issues regarding U-Haul trucks. Customers were more than happy to describe their horror stories when operating U-Haul equipment. "Trailer sway," as the company calls it, is the leading cause of accidents, and many shattered lives have resulted. The towing company regulates its own fleet, thanks to efforts in the '60s and '70s to fight federal safety controls. Last year, a California judge ruled in favor of customers that the company had engaged in " unlawful and fraudulent business practices" by rejecting reservations because equipment is unavailable.

Research by the Times revealed that many of the trucks have high mileage and need long-overdue safety checks. U-Haul argues that, statistically, drivers are less likely to get into an accident when using their trailers than by towing nothing at all. Chairman Edward J. "Joe" Shoen went so far as to drive Times reporters while using one of the ubiquitous trailers. If anything, Shoen claims, driver error is the cause of many trailer accidents. (Here is a brief summary about the company.)

Are self-controlling cars in our future? It's possible, according to the Stanford Racing Team. Their driverless Volkswagen Passat wagon named Junior will take part in the 2007 Urban Challenge. Whereas past competitions focused on speed, the total of 52 entrants will also employ technologies that would make the automobile a self-driving "robot". About $2 million in prize money will be given at the competition, which will occur this November.

Looks like the Punta Colonet megaport project is back on track. The Mexican federal government claims it will start searching for bids on its construction before this December. Federal, state and Ensenada city officials recently held a meeting discussing developments. Officials say they are also listening to property owners and community members around the area of the proposed port.

Back home, tractor dealers see new regulations on seaport trucks as a boon for sales. One dealer informs that truckers are increasingly on the lookout for models that meet new standards from the federal Environmental Protection Agency. 16,000 trucks would have to be replaced in the next five years, should the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles adopt the new regulations. Some truckers may be able to take advantage of credits towards cleaner tractors.

In our human interest section, the former El Toro Marine Base is home to one of the largest RV parks in the nation. People come from across the country and around the world to experience the area, while locals take advantage of one of the few places where they can park their RVs. Rent fees are used to pay for the ongoing Orange County Great Park project. With construction progressing, the lease on the land used to house the RVs will expire this September, a matter that is troubling users who cannot find a space for their RVs in other towns.

Los Angeles Department of Transportation and Metro lost out on a share of $1.2 billion to implement "congestion charging" and tolling schemes on its roads. How could that happen? Times columnist Steve Hymon explores the situation.

Shameless Plug: The Thunderhead Alliance is an organization dedicated to providing bicycle and pedestrian advocates the tools necessary to carry out and win campaigns. The Thunderhead Training seminar, an intense curriculum on how to effectively fight for improvements, is coming to Los Angeles on August 24-26. Here, you canlearn 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:

June 20
: The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved H.R. 2701, the Transportation Energy Security and Climate Change Mitigation Act of 2007 (the "climate change bill"). The bill would provide $1.65 billion over two years for grants to transit agencies that reduce fares to encourage commuters to switch to mass transit, and $200 million over four years to encourage the use of "green" locomotives that emit less carbon dioxide.

In relation to said bill, Rep. John Boozman (R-AR) introduced, and summarily withdrew, an amendment that would have made Amtrak's right of access to railroad lines subject to route-by-route findings by the U.S. DOT secretary that Amtrak's right was not increasing highway congestion, fossil fuel use, air pollution or greenhouse gas emissions by delaying freight trains. Freight railroads and Amtrak opposed the amendment. The National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP) expressed their opposition in a letter. Amtrak President Alex Kummant sent a letter to the Committee saying that the amendment would have negative impacts on the entire Amtrak network outside of the Northeast Corridor.

June 22: The California Air Resources Board voted to implement "early action" measures to regulate greenhouse gases. A new low-carbon fuel standard, the control of do-it-yourself automotive refrigerants and use of more sophisticated trash dump technology were the three measures approved, out of a mandated 32 measures. ( Some of these initiatives were spelled out by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger at a recent meeting with U.S. mayors.) Also staff was ordered to come back in six months with an analysis of concerns raised during six hours of public hearings in Los Angeles .

The Los Angeles City Council unanimously voted to support the California high speed rail project. Transit Coalition Executive Director Bart Reed and Student Member Justin Walker testified before the Council on the importance of backing a nearly $10 billion bond to partly fund the project.

Afterwards, Reed and Walker presented transit briefings to the staff of Councilmember Wendy Greuel and Council President Eric Garcetti.

June 23: Rialto hosted a ribbon-cutting festival for the 210 Freeway. The family event featured go-karts, skateboarding, and plenty of food. The Rialto portion would be the last after a 40-year struggle to complete both the 210 and the 30 Freeways through Southern California . Officials were mum as to when exactly the freeway would open, though many hinted that the target date was in August.

Departures: Al Langer, founder of the world-famous Langer's Delicatessen-Restaurant, died on Sunday, June 24, at the age of 94. How is this related to transportation? As it so happens, the restaurant, which is famous for its hot pastrami, is located at 7th and Alvarado, near the Westlake/MacArthur Park Metro Red and Purple Lines station. While other businesses moved away, Langer's stayed behind and showed faith in its community. Langer's celebrated its 60th anniversary just two weeks before.

Upcoming Events
: Universal City Metro Red Line Station TOD Scoping Meeting: Monday, July 25, 6:30 p.m., Marvin Braude Constituent Center, 6262 Van Nuys Blvd. , Van Nuys. Hosted by Thomas Properties Group.

BayRail Alliance Meeting: Tuesday, June 26, 6:30 p.m., Poor House Bistro, 91 S. Autumn St., San Jose (two blocks from San Jose Diridon station).

Consider attending our monthly Transit Coalition Dinner Meeting on Tuesday, June 26 - 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!

California High Speed Rail Authority Meeting: Wednesday, June 27, 10 a.m., San Mateo County Transit District Board Room, 1250 San Carlos Ave. , San Carlos.

Metro Board Meeting: Monday, June 28, 9:30 a.m., Board Room, Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles .

Exposition Metro Line Construction Authority: Thursday, July 5, 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, July 5, 7:30 p.m. Angeles Chapter office, 3435 Wilshire Blvd, Suite 320 , Los Angeles .

Orange County Transportation Authority Board Meeting: Monday, July 9, 9 a.m., Board Hearing Room, 600 Main St. , Orange .

SCAG MagLev Task Force: Thursday, August 9, 10:00 a.m. SCAG Offices, 818 W. Seventh St. , 12th floor, Los Angeles. June and July meetings cancelled.

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
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.

Visit our Discussion Board for the latest dialogue on transit.


Anonymous Anonymous said:

So you're urging everyone to support the City Council resolution on the Cal High Speed Rail issue...finally.

June 26, 2007 10:04 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

this is a blog not a bulletin board

June 26, 2007 11:57 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

11:57, why act so cranky and clueless?

Billions of $$ are lost annually because of L.A.'s horrible congestion.

And there are plenty of places for you to blog about Paris Hilton, Rocky and AV.

June 26, 2007 12:21 PM  

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