Thursday, December 22, 2011

It's About Time: Caltrans to Study Cost of Palm Springs area train service

It's long overdue, but Caltrans is to study the cost of Palm Springs local area rail service.

Caltrans to Study Cost of Palm Springs local rail service

It has been my hope that Metrolink commuter rail would eventually get extended to Palm Springs & the Coachella Valley.  Please read my previous blog post about what this would entail.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

How do we bring light-rail to the San Fernando Valley?

On my previous blog post, Please combine the Sepulveda and Van Nuys transit projects into one rail project between Sylmar and LAX, Thomas Piland asked a very important question, "How do we get onboard and get this approved?"

I'd like to expand this discussion to not just have a north-south light rail line between Sylmar and LAX, but an east-west light-rail line between Warner Center or CSUN and Pasadena as well.  So how do we encourage Metro to not just dump lesser busways on the San Fernando Valley while the rest of the county gets Metrorail extensions?

Anyone, such as me, can post on their blog a suggested rail alignment for Metro.  However, that is not as effective as collection.   What needs to happen is organized action.  The San Fernando Valley transit advocates who want (at least) two light-rail lines of their own need to not just lobby Metro themselves, but lobby the San Fernando Valley powers that be to lobby Metro themselves.

Let's take these one by one:

First, you want to contact Metro regarding the Sepulveda Pass transit corridor and the Van Nuys transit corridor and state your comment that you want these to be a joined together as light rail project.  You may do that here:

Sepulveda Pass corridor  -  (Renee Berlin, Executive Officer, TDI)
Van Nuys corridor -  (Walter Davis, Project Manager)

You may also contact the Metro Board of Directors and let them know you want Metrorail for the San Fernando Valley.   (Metro Board of Directors)

If you want not just a north-south light-rail between Sylmar and LAX, but an east-west light-rail to, the most obvious candidate is upgrading the Orange Line busway to light-rail, which I discuss in this this blog post, What about upgrading the Orange Line to light-rail?.  The idea is catching on elsewhere too:  Orange Line Conversion to Light Rail: It Can Happen and Orange Line Bridges: Are they strong enough for light rail?

Even if the Alternative Analysis finds there is an even better east-west alignment, we still want the OPTION of upgrading the Orange Line.  For that to happen the Robbins Bill needs to be repealed.  The misguided actions of a corrupt State Senator and a bunch of NIMBYs twenty years ago shouldn't stand forever.  There is an election coming up next year.  So ask every candidate for the State Senate and State Assembly in the Valley to pledge to seek repeal of the Robbins bill that bans light-rail on the Orange Line corridor.  Also contact your state legislators currently in office, which may be found here:

California State Assembly
California State Senate

Let the currently serving legislators and candidates for election know that you consider expanding Metrorail into the San Fernando Valley is a priority.

Then get involved with your Neighborhood Council and encourage them to support a resolution calling for expanding Metrorail in the San Fernando Valley.  The San Fernando Valley Neighborhood Councils may be found here:

empowerLA Roster of Neighborhood Councils

Write your Los Angeles City Councilmember behind this as well as your Los Angeles County Supervisor, all of whom sit on Metro's Authority.

Write our U.S. Senators and Congressmembers to support Mayor Villaraigosa's 30-10 Plan.  The sooner Measure R projects are underway, the sooner we can plan beyond Measure R.

Get the business community behind this idea too.  Contact the Valley Industry and Commerce Association (VICA) and ask them to use their influence to support an expansion of Metrorail, which can only help their businesses with the new economic activity this expansion would bring.

Please consider joining a transit advocacy group.  Southern California Transit Advocates and The Transit Coalition are groups that both support expanding light-rail into the San Fernando Valley.

Just because the San Fernando Valley is late to the game, doesn't mean it is too late for Metrorail.

NOTE:  While I live in West Hollywood now, I lived in North Hollywood for six years and still care about the transit welfare of the San Fernando Valley.  And, as I believe these two light-rail lines would benefit the entire region, I think it is important for ALL of us in Los Angeles County to support this effort.  A rising transit tide lifts ALL boats because it increases connectivity.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Please combine the Sepulveda and Van Nuys Transit Projects into one rail project between Sylmar and LAX

Metro is currently studying two different transit corridors, the Sepulveda Pass and Van Nuys Blvd. as separate projects:

Sepulveda Pass Corridor                          Van Nuys Boulevard Corridor

Huh?  Two separate transit projects?  The Rapid 761 bus currently travels through both of these corridors.  The people suffering on the 405 Freeway don't see themselves as traveling through two separate corridors.

These two separate studies should be combined into one regional corridor study that looks into a light-rail project connecting Sylmar to LAX through the Valley, via the Sepulveda Pass, through the Westside.  One only needs to look at the always clogged 405 Freeway to see the potential ridership of this project.

Here are some maps of what that project might look like, as suggested by the Transit Coalition:

Beyond the simple regional benefit of this project, there is another reason for transit advocates, politicians and the business community in the San Fernando Valley to enthusiastically get behind combining these two transit corridors to study a Valley-Westside rail project.  The San Fernando Valley just isn't getting its fair share of Metrorail.  The San Gabriel Valley will be getting at least two Gold Line light-rail extensions.

Gold Line Foothill Extension                     Gold Line Eastside Extension

Why this disparity?  Because the San Gabriel Valley communities, its politicians, business leaders and transit advocates are enthusiastically lined up to get these extensions.  Unfortunately, the San Fernando Valley political structure is not as organized or lined up the same manner.

The real danger here for the San Fernando Valley and the region is that Metro will "go cheap" and build two separate discordant bus projects, one on Van Nuys Blvd. and one through the Sepulveda Pass,  leaving and countless people commuting between the Valley and Westside with no viable rail alternative.

The issue of financing a rail project always comes up, as it should.  Measure R provides limited money for these two studies.  However, Measure R as wonderful as it is should not be considered the end of transit expansion in Los Angeles County.  We need to plan beyond Measure R too, and think it terms of financing beyond Measure R.

The east-west Orange Line busway was thwarted in the attempts to create a light-rail project initially because of the actions of a corrupt State Senator and a bunch of NIMBYs.  (Note: The Orange Line bridges are safe enough for light-rail should this corridor be converted to light-rail as it should have been built in the first place.)  

However, those actions from twenty years ago shouldn't condemn the San Fernando Valley and its stakeholders for having to settle for measly and inadequate bus projects while the rest of Los Angeles County gets the option of possibly expanding and hooking into Metrorail.

So if you commute in, through, to, from the Valley and/or Westside, and want to ride Metrorail somewhere  between Sylmar and LAX, now is the time to get busy before you have two separate bus projects dumped on you while Metro gets busy expanding rail elsewhere.


Let Metro know that you want the Sepulved and Van Nuys corridor connected between Sylmar and LAX via RAIL.      Renee Berlin, Executive Officer, TDI    Walter Davis, Project Manager   Metro Board of Directors

Monday, December 5, 2011

Why the Occupy Movement Deserves the Full Support of the LGBT Community

This past Saturday I went to a LGBT rally and march in West Hollywood where we marched down Santa Monica Blvd. and chanted "We are the 99%!", "What Do We Want?  Equal Rights!  When do we want them?  Now!".

Why should this matter to the LGBT Community?  Because we are just as affected by broader social-economic trends as everyone else.

One of the lies that anti-gay bigots repeatedly say about the LGBT community is that we are spoiled, pampered hedonists with more than enough disposable income to influence politicians with campaign money that "hard working 'Christian' families" cannot afford to give.

The truth is that the LGBT is just as likely to be poor as anyone else.

LGBT youths who have been cut off from their families are less likely to receive financial support to pay for college and get a higher education than their straight counterparts.

HIV positive men can tell you what negotiating our for-profit health care non-system has done to their finances.

Because of DOMA, we do not receive any of the federal benefits of marriage, meaning gay and lesbian couples are poorer than their straight counterparts.  

Anti-gay bigots want to pretend we do not raise children and want no government recognition of our families, and our children are poorer for it -- and not just theoretically.

LGBT around the world depend upon an American government that believes that our human rights are important all over the world, at home and abroad.

Also, the Koch Brothers and other far right-wingers buy and sell politicians to implement economic policies to not only to create a "rigged market" that transfers ever-increasing wealth to the top 1% and their decendants, but also helps to elect anti-gay politicians who will use their time in office to pursue anti-LGBT legislation.  Getting special interest money out of politics matters, especially from the bottomless pockets of corporations and the superwealthy who give money to anti-gay politicians, if the LGBT community is to see its inalienable right to legal equality become manifest in America.

While it is true that there are some gay activists who seem to care more about their "access" to the top 1% than actual "progress" for our community and believe we should ONLY focus on overtly "gay issues" like marriage equality.  In my opinion, this is a very myopic look at the world.  The countries with the greatest social justice (and marriage equality) for the LGBT community (Scandinavia, Canada, Netherlands, etc.) also have the greatest economic justice for ALL their citizens.  Martin Luther King, Jr. knew this all too well.  Social justice and economic justice go hand in hand -- which is why the success of the Occupy movement should matter to all of us, LGBT and our allies, and deserves our full support.

As the Occupy movement moves from having stationary camps to more organized activism, I implore you to get involved with a progressive movement in rescuing American politics from Fox "News" and the corporate-financed "tea party".   The coalition building this encourages will make LGBT equality MORE likely in the future.

Local #7 Big Blue Bus Service worse than ever

After the shiny new Rapid 7 bus service debuted, the Big Blue Bus cut its popular Local 7 bus service.  They said that this would not affect rush hour service, but that has proven to be nonsense.

Local 7 buses are stuffed like sardines during rush hour in a manner far worse than before, when they actually come, and when they actually stop.  This morning 20 people were left standing at Pico/Fairfax because a nearly full Local 7 bus decided not to stop and pick anybody up.  The last two weeks, the Local 7 eastbound service that used to arrive around 5:20-5:25 pm at Pico/Roxbury didn't show up at all.  The next buses that finally showed up 15-20 mintues later were stuffed beyond capacity.

Calls for the Big Blue Bus to DO something about this have clearly gone unheard as the Big Blue Bus probably just hopes that those pesky Local 7 bus riders simply wear themselves out and accept their fate.

This is not to say that the Rapid 7 service isn't a success.  It clearly is.  The shiny new articulated Rapid 7 buses carrying passengers from Santa Monica to the Wilshire/Western Purple Line station are full.   Like a shiny new toy, this service is getting attention from Big Blue Bus, while the boring, sad, old, lonely toy of the Local 7 gets ignored.  

I'm not suggesting cutting the new Rapid 7 service.  In fact, I support it fully.  I wish the buses went to Vermont/Wilshire to allow a one-seat transfer to from the Red Line too.  However, what would be helpful is if Big Blue Bus just admitted the truth about the Local 7.  They've clearly cut rush hour Local 7 service in favor of the Rapid 7 service and are hoping Local 7 riders either keep quiet or go away.

Cutting Local 7 service during rush hour if the local ridership had declined would make sense.  That ridership has not declined.  Therefore, I call upon the Big Blue Bus to please, please, please, restore the obviously cut rush hour service on this corridor or at least run articulated Local 7s so that local service passengers can at least get on the bus when it finally arrives.