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PTP Digest – October 2003

PTP Digest 2003/10/30-A = CONTENTS

* Seattle: Huge Road Warrior victory as court zaps transit tax
   KOMO-TV News - Seattle October 30, 2003

* Honolulu ed: Gov's transit projects are 'good start'
   Honolulu Star-Bulletin Wednesday, October 29, 2003

* Honolulu: GOP creates 'gridlock' on transit tax plan
   Honolulu Star-Bulletin  2003/10/29

* Houston: Anti-rail group sued for refusing to name contributors
   Houston Chronicle Oct. 29, 2003

* Houston letters:  Admire, despise anti-rail pols
   Houston Chronicle Oct. 30, 2003

* Sacramento: LRT, BRT, traffic lanes & a neighborhood
   Sacramento Bee  Tuesday, October 28, 2003

* Orange County businesses in path of CenterLine LRT
   Costa Mesa Daily Pilot Wednesday, October 29, 2003


KOMO-TV News - Seattle
October 30, 2003

Eyman Wins: $30 License Tab Measure Upheld

By KOMO Staff & News Services

OLYMPIA - The Washington Supreme Court on Thursday upheld Tim Eyman's
initiative 776, last year's measure that abolished local taxes and fees on vehicle
registration, stripping Sound Transit of one of its largest sources of money.

in a 6-3 decision, the court overturned a King County Superior Court judge who
had ruled that I-776 violated the constitution by addressing more than one
subject and impairing Sound Transit's ability to pay off its bondholders.

The decision is a rare victory in the courts for Eyman, the anti-tax activist who
has seen two of his most popular initiatives struck down by the high court.

"Two things happened that made the difference," Eyman said. "We hired better
lawyers and the majority of the court moved closer to the voters."

The court's majority rejected the notion that the initiative's requirement that
voters approve changes to transportation plans and programs was a second
subject. In her opinion, Justice Susan Owens noted that the single-subject rule
was intended to prevent the practice of "logrolling," or passing two unpopular
laws by creating an impromptu coalition of their supporters.

"The constitutional prohibition against legislative vote swapping plainly applies to
the passage of two or more 'unrelated laws' - not to the passage of one law that
contains policy expressions indisputably devoid of any legal effect," Owens

i-776 passed last November with 51 percent of the vote. In a bid to guarantee
everyone in the state $30 car tabs, it eliminated a $15 road improvement fee in
four counties - King, Pierce, Snohomish and Douglas - and killed Sound Transit's
motor vehicle tax, which is collected in parts of King, Snohomish and Pierce

After the court's ruling, tabs fell to nearly $30 everywhere in the state except
Seattle, where new taxes for the proposed monorail system, approved by voters
at the same election as I-776, drive the price up.

Sound Transit, which Eyman attacked for changing the light-rail projects voters
approved when they created the agency, stands to take a $699 million hit, the
agency estimated last year. The tax levied $60 on a car worth $20,000.

Losing the $15 fee will cost King County and its cities an estimated $218 million
over 10 years. Pierce and Snohomish County would each lose about $80 million,
and Douglas County would lose $4.4 million, according to estimates by the state
Office of Financial Management.

Sound Transit had no immediate comment on the ruling, but scheduled an
afternoon news conference to discuss it.

Joining Owens in the majority were Chief Justice Gerry Alexander and Justices
Barbara Madsen, Charles Johnson, Richard Sanders, and Mary Fairhurst.
Justices Faith ireland, Bobbe Bridge and Tom Chambers dissented, agreeing
with Sound Transit and the other local government agencies that battled the

"First, it limits the amount state and local governments may charge for motor
vehicle licensing," Chambers wrote. "Second, it calls for ... counties to halt
development of a voter-approved light rail transit system until the funding
mechanisms are revisited and reapproved. These subjects are not rationally
related, and therefore the initiative violates our constitution."

Of the four Eyman-sponsored anti-tax ballot measures voters approved in the
last four years, two - 1999's initiative 695 and initiative 722 in 2000 - were struck
down by the courts, although the I-695's abolition of the statewide car-tab tax
was quickly adopted by the Legislature.

But for 2001's initiative 747, which limited the growth of property taxes, he
sought the help of Jim Johnson, a prominent appellate attorney, and the initiative
drew no challenge. Johnson also worked on I-776.

The case is Pierce County et al v State of Washington et all, No. 73607-3.


Honolulu Star-Bulletin --
Wednesday, October 29, 2003


Gov's transit projects are a good start on a long road


The governor is proposing to build a light-rail system and an elevated highway to
ease Oahu's traffic congestion.

IT APPEARS that Governor Lingle has cleared a major hurdle in solving Oahu's
snarling traffic problems by getting key federal, state and city officials to sign on
to her plans to build a light-rail transit system and an elevated highway. She will
need all her political skills to keep them on track and for the more difficult task of
winning the public's approval for the tax increases she says will be necessary to
pay for the projects.

Although the federal government typically foots as much as 80 percent of the bill
for such transportation ventures -- and there are no assurances it will do so for
this project -- the balance will have to come from residents' pockets. With the
total cost for both proposals estimated at $2.8 billion, Hawaii's portion still
represents a sizable chunk of money.

Whatever the case, the rail and road plans have a long way to travel. The
governor can anticipate resistance from legislators, who may be reluctant to
raise taxes, and from neighbor island residents, who may not see tangible
benefits of a transit system on Oahu.

Lingle and her task force unveiled their plan for an elevated light-rail system that
eventually would span 22 miles from Kapolei to Iwilei along Oahu's southern
coastline, following Farrington, Kamehameha and Nimitz highways. An elevated,
two-lane highway above Nimitz would be used initially to funnel traffic east
toward downtown in the mornings and west in the afternoons. The structure,
running from the Keehi interchange to Pacific Street, would be incorporated later
as part of the rail line. Officials hope construction of the Nimitz project will be
complete in six years and the rail system in 15 years.

Lingle properly recognizes that her rail proposal doesn't negate the need for the
city's bus system and Mayor Harris' Bus Rapid Transit project, which is poised
for start-up next year. Rail transit will not reach valleys and ridges or
communities beyond Iwilei and Kapolei, where drivers face traffic jams as vexing
as those in West and Central Oahu.

What may be the most challenging obstacle the governor will face is convincing
taxpayers in other counties that what may appear to be costly projects to help
Oahu residents will benefit them as well.

To raise money, Lingle's task force is considering increases in a variety of taxes,
some administered by the counties and others by the state. It may be difficult to
persuade Kauai or Maui residents that paying a higher state excise tax will
benefit them somehow. The governor will need to find a way to show how better
traffic movement in Honolulu will bolster the economic well-being of the whole
state and why neighbor island taxpayers have just as much of a stake in Oahu's
transit future as city residents.


Honolulu Star-Bulletin

Lingle's tax hike idea hits gridlock

Senate Republicans do not want to raise taxes to pay for
a mass transit system

By Richard Borreca and Crystal Kua

Gov. Linda Lingle's call for a tax increase to pay for an ambitious new mass
transit system has failed to generate support.

On Monday, Lingle and city and state officials announced proposed solutions to
Oahu's traffic congestion that include a $2.6 billion rail transit system and a $200
million elevated road above Nimitz Highway. The preliminary plan won
immediate bipartisan praise, but legislative and other leaders were not
embracing Lingle's call for higher taxes.

Senate Republicans voted yesterday to take a caucus position against the

"I support the concept and I applaud the governor for bringing people together,
but I can not support a tax increase," said Sen. Fred Hemmings, GOP Senate

Hemmings said he had told Lingle on Monday that he could not support a tax

Hawaii Kai Republican Sen. Sam Slom went further, saying he didn't like either
the plan or the tax increase.

"I am absolutely opposed to tax increases and opposed to the fixed rail concept.
... I am disappointed that the governor is going to abridge her most vaunted no-
tax pledge," Slom said.

The Republican House leader, Rep. Galen Fox, said he also had taken a pledge
not to vote for a tax increase, so he was considering various aspects of this tax

if the tax was imposed only for the construction of the rail line, Fox said, it could
be considered a user fee, which wasn't part of the no-new-taxes pledge. "But it is
quite possible that the tax proposal would be too high for me to support," he

Democrats also hailed the plan, which is scheduled to be completed by 2018,
but backed away from support of a tax increase.

House Speaker Calvin Say, a Democrat, said the transit line is needed and 10
years ago the Legislature approved a plan to permit the Honolulu City Council to
raise the excise tax in Honolulu by half a percent to fund a transit line. While that
plan passed the Legislature, it failed by one vote in the Council.

Say added that while he "would be open" to a tax increase, it would depend upon
Lingle asking for the increase and then the position of his fellow Democrats.

"If she doesn't come up with a proposal, we would have nothing to support," Say

Two key critics of the original plan, Hawaii Tax Foundation Director Lowell
Kalapa and Cliff Slater, a leader of the Alliance for Traffic improvement, said the
new transit plan would not work.

"She needs a reality check," Kalapa said of Lingle. "The people who voted her
into office were the most disgruntled about paying so much for government."

The transit plan would be fine, Kalapa added, if the state and county would pay
for it by limiting spending and reallocating other resources.

Slater, who favors building a reversible two-lane highway from Waikele to
downtown, said the logic of building any transit system is flawed.

"People use roads. You have to convince people to use mass transit," Slater

A new mayor will be at the helm of the city's transit decisions after next year.

Mayoral candidate Duke Bainum, the former City Council transportation
chairman, said the light rail system tied into the city bus system is similar to what
he has been supporting.

But Bainum said that talk about raising taxes is premature. He said it is better to
wait for the overall cost of the project and learn how much federal funding can be
obtained before deciding on taxes.

"I'd be concerned about any tax increase. With that said, I am aware that federal
dollars will be difficult to obtain," Bainum said. "If a tax increase were required, i
would certainly closely scrutinize any tax increase proposal and make absolutely
sure the increase would result in a meaningful improvement in Oahu's traffic

Opponent Mufi Hannemann said whether the state raises taxes or floats bonds
to pay for a rail system, the taxpayer is going to get hit in the pocketbook.

"Our options are very limited given the dire financial straits the next mayor is
going to inherit. Therefore this may be our only option but I've always said that
tax increases should be looked upon as a last option," Hannemann said.

City Councilman Charles Djou, a Republican, said he doesn't like raising taxes
either but sees a difference with the rail system being proposed.

"The taxpayers will see a tangible product at the very end. It's a little bit different.
It doesn't mean though, however, that I'm enthusiastic about raising taxes."

Djou said that voters should be asked for their opinion. "Perhaps what needs to
happen is send this to the voters and have the voters actually decide it on a
ballot as to whether or not they like the idea of raising taxes," he said.

Councilman Donovan Dela Cruz, who is expected to become the new Council
chairman tomorrow, said even though he represents parts of Central Oahu, the
North Shore and Windward Oahu -- areas not served by the rail line -- the project
will be good for his constituents as well.

"The less people we have on the road coming from Kapolei and Ewa, that means
less congestion for people coming from the North Shore and Central Oahu."

But Dela Cruz said more information is needed before deciding on a tax hike.


Houston Chronicle
Oct. 29, 2003

Anti-rail group sued for refusing to name contributors


Joined by former Houston Mayor Fred Hofheinz, a group of political activists who
favor Metro's light rail expansion plan sued an anti-rail group Wednesday for
refusing to reveal its campaign contributors.

The group, Pro-Rail Houston, is seeking damages of twice the amount of the
money collected and spent by Texans for True Mobility.

TTM, which is criticizing Metro's plan in ads funded by its nonprofit corporation
designed to guarantee anonymity for its donors, called the lawsuit a groundless
and misguided political stunt.

Metro's transit plan is on the ballot in Tuesday's election.

TTM's refusal to disclose its contributors is also the subject of a complaint by the
public advocacy group Common Cause Texas to the Texas Ethics Commission
and a criminal investigation by Harris County prosecutors in response to a
Houston Chronicle complaint.

But Wednesday's lawsuit and the other actions apparently can't force TTM to
reveal anything before the election.

Admitting as much, Pro-Rail Houston said it went to court Wednesday instead to
promote the rail plan and put TTM and its contributors on notice that eventually
they may have to pay damages for breaking state election law. Pro-Rail Houston
alleged at a news conference that TTM has formed a "secret society" that
undermines the political process by hiding the identity of its backers.

"That loophole is really having an effect on this election," Hofheinz said at the
downtown Civil Courthouse, as one block away Metro showed off the rail cars
scheduled to run on Main Street starting Jan. 1.

As he has argued for weeks, TTM lawyer Andy Taylor said a few hours later that
the corporation is exempt from state election laws that require candidates and
political committees to disclose the names of their contributors and the amount
of money they have donated.

TTM is protecting the First Amendment, which guarantees free speech, by not
voluntarily disclosing donors, Taylor said. Even disclosing the number of donors
and the total amount given, without making public the names, would erode
TTM's constitutional stand, he added.

Pro-Rail Houston is "trying to undermine the true (anti-Metro) message of our
fine organization," Taylor said.

He pointed out that the NAACP and other groups have used carefully structured
campaign organizations to run political ads without revealing their donors.

Pro-Rail Houston includes Harris County Democratic Party Chairman Gerald
Birnberg, former Democratic judicial candidate Terry O'Rourke and former
Republican judicial candidate Rod Gorman.

The Common Cause Texas complaint alleges that TTM at least had to disclose
its campaign expenses under state election law. The state ethics commission
usually takes months or years to investigate complaints and can fine violators.

Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal said the results of his staff's
investigation won't be revealed until after the election because he doesn't want to
affect the election. Criminal violation of state election law carries a maximum fine
of $500.

Pro-Rail Houston said that under the law that controls this kind of case it cannot
ask a judge to immediately order TTM to publicly name its donors.


Houston Chronicle
Oct. 30, 2003


A fine public servant

Two Democratic congressmen from the Houston area have seized on this
dispute over cost estimates to impugn Rep. Culberson's effectiveness and
integrity. Houstonians should see this exactly for what it is: an ill-informed,
partisan attack on a respected member of Congress.

As a member of the Transportation, Treasury and independent Agencies
Appropriations Subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives, Culberson
has worked diligently to ensure that Metro reports its financial status accurately
and completely, that its estimates for future grants are thorough and that the
Houston area gets its money's worth from Metro. Culberson has asked the
questions that others would not and conducted the research that others left

His hard work on my subcommittee and, in particular, his meticulous oversight of
Houston's federal transit dollars, has been admirable. He should be commended
as a fine public servant who is looking out for the best interests of his

Rep. Ernest Istook, R- Okla., chairman, Subcommittee on Transportation,
Treasury and independent Agencies Appropriations

Plan lacking public input

[U.S. Rep. John] Culberson, R-Houston, and [Harris County Judge Robert]
Eckels claim that the Houston Galveston Area Council's "100 percent Solution"
(that they worked on) is better than the "Metro Solutions" plan and called it
"hastily approved" (see Culberson's Oct. 22 Outlook article, "Choose the '100%
Solution' over Metro's").

However, the Metropolitan Transit Authority has been working on this program
and aiming toward this vote for six or seven years.

During that time (at the behest of [U.S. Rep. Tom] DeLay, R-Sugar Land) Metro
hired the best traffic consultants to study the alternatives for the Houston region,
held countless public meetings seeking input from the public, formed a plan and
revised it to reflect the suggestions offered in additional meetings with the public
and finally asked the public to vote.

That does not sound like it was "hastily approved" to me.

Where were these two during the last several years while these public meetings
were being held?

Where was the HGAC during this time?

Why weren't these ideas brought up for discussion and consideration by the
public then?

Now they would have us believe that they have the best plan -- which they trot
out within days of the election so that Metro has no time to respond.

Their plan has not been through the rigorous public hearing process for

Their plan for a commuter rail along existing rail corridors was studied during the
[Mayor Bob] Lanier administration and rejected as "too expensive."

Their plan was created by politicians, not professional traffic-engineering

Now tell me: Which of these plans was "hastily" thrown together?

D.J. Marsh, Houston


Sacramento Bee
Tuesday, October 28, 2003

RT rejects proposal to raze homes

Residents air complaints about the Truxel Road blueprint that would need space
for light rail.

By Tony Bizjak -- Bee Staff Writer

With pleas and angry complaints from South Natomas residents ringing in their
ears, Sacramento Regional Transit board members agreed Monday that they will
no longer consider a plan for light rail that would have required knocking down 81
residences on Truxel Road.

But several other less obtrusive alignments along Truxel Road remain in play --
and remain the agency's most likely route for a light rail or "bus rapid transit"
service in the coming decade from downtown to Sacramento international

The board dropped the option that would have widened Truxel Road to give light
rail two exclusive tracks, separated from vehicle traffic. That plan would have
forced the purchase and razing of all structures on the street's east flank from
Garden Highway to San Juan Road.

RT officials continue to consider Truxel Road routes in which one or two light-rail
tracks would run in vehicle traffic lanes, as is the case on 12th Street in
downtown. RT's project manager David Melko said that leaves open the
possibility that RT could take some land at some spots, potentially up to 12 feet,
next to Truxel Road.

The decision did not soothe at least one resident whose house could be torn

"They aren't going to change their minds?" asked a skeptical Dea Karnegas.

She was among a group arguing that the line should run along interstate 5, away
from their neighborhood.

RT officials have been studying an I-5 alignment, but those officials released
data Monday they say show they probably can't get necessary federal funding for
the project unless light rail goes on Truxel Road, where costs would be lower and
ridership higher.

The data also show that "bus rapid transit," essentially a modern version of an
express bus, would be cheaper than light rail on either alignment.

RT's Melko is scheduled to provide an analysis at the Nov. 10 board meeting
about the merits of light rail versus bus rapid transit.

RT officials then will have an afternoon workshop and an evening public
workshop Nov. 20 in the downtown convention center about project alternatives.

The RT board has scheduled a final public hearing about the options at a Dec. 8
meeting, and then is expected to vote Dec. 15 on which direction to go.

Truxel Road area residents have asked in recent weeks for RT to postpone that
decision, saying they didn't hear about the project until recently. But board
members declined to grant a postponement after staff recited a list of the public
meetings about the project going back two years.


About the Writer

The Bee's Tony Bizjak can be reached at (916) 321-1059 or


Costa Mesa businesses in path of CenterLine LRT


Costa Mesa Daily Pilot
Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Businesses unhappy with proposed route

Owners of stores in the path of potential CenterLine rail say they
are shocked to find themselves under the gun.

By Deirdre Newman
Daily Pilot

COSTA MESA -- Avo Kilicarslan invested his lifetime savings in his
restaurant, Avo's Bistro.

Like a classic Mediterranean restaurant, the bistro's ambience is
enhanced by the soft gurgling of water nearby -- in this case, a
lake with a fountain in the back of the center at 580 Anton Blvd.

So Kilicarslan said he was shocked to find out that his idyllic
environment could disappear if the county chooses Costa Mesa's
preferred route for the CenterLine light rail system.

it would be in the way.

The county is considering four different routes for the light rail
to get from the Santa Ana Regional Transportation Center to John
Wayne Airport. It will decide on one in early December.

The city prefers a route with a small underground portion, running
along Avenue of the Arts. If this route is approved, the only
property in the right-of-way is the Lakes Pavilion, where Avo's
Bistro sits. Three other businesses would also be affected.

Kilicarslan's shock soon turned to skepticism as he contemplated his
life's work being forced out.

"I don't believe it will happen," Kilicarslan said, motioning toward
the lake and the palm trees surrounding it. "I don't understand what
they're doing. I don't think they would destroy this beauty."

The owner of the property could not be reached for comment.

in July, the county approved a shortened CenterLine project at a
cost of less than $1 billion. In early October, city officials
finally persuaded the county to consider putting a portion of the
light-rail system underground where it runs near South Coast Plaza.
The major Costa Mesa players in the project -- C.J. Segerstrom &
Sons, the Orange County Performing Arts Center and the major
landowners in the north Costa Mesa area -- pressed for an
underground route so the light-rail system won't interfere with
existing developments.

The compromise worked out among the business owners, city leaders
and the county involves about 1,100 feet of the line to go under
Avenue of the Arts at a cost of about $50 million with no
underground stations.

The property at 580 Anton is in the only one in the right-of-way in
Costa Mesa because the county chose the option that had the least
effect on private property, said Orange County Transportation
Authority spokesman Michael Litschi.

in addition to Avo's Bistro, the L-shaped center houses Ocean Park
Cleaners, Digital Hearing Technology, the Corner Office and two
vacant storefronts.

On Oct. 14, the authority started the process of hiring a right-of-
way consulting firm that would eventually acquire property once the
final route has been chosen. The authority chose to act at that time
because it wanted to keep the entire project on schedule, Litschi

The authority's board of directors can't vote on the final route
until December because the environmental report is still going
through a public comment period. There will be a public hearing on
Nov. 24 for property owners, business owners and others to comment
on the project.

After the board chooses a preferred route in December, the
environmental report will be studied again, with public comment, and
has to be approved by the federal government.

Acquiring property couldn't start until the federal government signs
off on the project and the earliest acquisition would begin is
August, 2004, Litschi said. It will be decided down the line whether
the county or individual cities will be responsible for acquiring
right-of-way property. If property owners don't voluntarily sell
their property, the county could take the land at a price it deems
worthy through eminent domain.

Owners and regulars of the Corner Office -- a sports bar especially
popular with the NFL crowd -- also expressed shock at the prospect
of being sacrificed for CenterLine.

Scott Hodge, one of three owners of the bar, said he first was
excited when he heard the light rail would come down Anton Boulevard
because it would have been great exposure for the bar.

Upon learning of the new underground route and its repercussions,
Hodge questioned the need for the light-rail system.

"Do we even really need it?" Hodge asked. "Does anyone take the
train? it would be nice if [they did]. It would relieve congestion.
But I don't see thousands of people getting on the train."

Patrons of the bar gearing up for Monday Night Football expressed
indignation at the prospect of their favorite watering hole drying

"I think it would be very disappointing," said Jim Flanagan, a local
business owner who has been meeting friends at the bar for the past
eight years. "I think these guys provide a great place for business
people like me to meet. It's very high-class."

The authority is holding off on conducting a major outreach campaign
with potentially affected property owners until the final route is
chosen, Litschi said.

Deirdre Newman covers Costa Mesa and may be reached at (949) 574-
4221 or by e-mail at

PTP Digest 2003/10/29-A = CONTENTS * Charlotte: US Senate OKs LRT funding Charlotte Business Journal October 27, 2003 * Honolulu: Rail back in play 'because it makes sense' Honolulu Star-Bulletin October 26, 2003 * China's maglev may be world's 1st, but perhaps its last Baltimore Sun Monday, October 27, 2003 * Houston op-ed: Metro rail needed because freeways fall short Houston Chronicle Oct. 29, 2003 * Amtrak op-ed: US needs 'healthy' rail system Los Angeles Times Sunday, October 26, 2003 * Amtrak: Modest funding bill passes Senate, faces House struggle New York Times October 27, 2003 =PTP============================================== Charlotte Business Journal October 27, 2003 U.S. Senate OKs light-rail funding The U.S. Senate has approved $950 million for transportation projects in North Carolina, including $18 million for construction of Charlotte's south corridor light- rail project. Expected to become operational in 2006, the 10-mile rail line will connect uptown and interstate 485 north of Pineville. The city will also receive $5 million for a Charlotte Area Transit System bus- maintenance and operations center. Of the $950 million in federal funds, $850 million is earmarked for N.C. highway projects. The appropriations, announced by the office of U.S. Sen. John Edwards, are part of a $45 billion funding bill that will now go to conference commitee. =PTP=========================================== Honolulu Star-Bulletin October 26, 2003 Fixed-rail transit revives because it makes sense Editorial THE ISSUE The City Council's Transportation Committee has approved a resolution calling for fixed-rail mass transit between downtown and Kapolei. FIXED-RAIL mass transit, rejected in 1982 and again a decade later, appears to be back on track, with the city and state administrations and the City Council unified in support of the idea. The Council's Transportation Committee has unanimously supported a resolution backing a "work plan" for a rail line reaching from Kapolei to downtown. All levels of government should get fully on board and go forward with the plan. The City Council rejected then-Mayor Frank Fasi's proposal for a rapid-transit plan 21 years ago and a scaled-down light-rail version stretching from Leeward Community College to downtown in 1992. That plan was halted by a 5-4 vote on a tax increase to finance its construction. While Mayor Harris' Bus Rapid Transit plan, using high-capacity buses, is likely to be an improvement over the current traffic crawl, Honolulu is particularly suited for such a rail system because of its linear coastal configuration. State Transportation Director Rodney Haraga told the Council he will present the governor's task force on transportation a mass transit plan that includes rail, a bus system and road improvements. Haraga said city and state cooperation is needed to ensure federal funding, which could account for half or more of the cost. Cheryl Soon, the city transportation services director, warily endorsed the Council resolution with the admonition, "If you really don't intend to go all the way through with it, don't appropriate a penny; just stop right now." Council Chairman Gary Okino, who introduced the resolution, said it would authorize a "work plan" consisting of "a quick, brief, preliminary assessment that will pull together all our previous studies, update all the information, give us different financing options as to how we're going to do this." As Okino appreciates, no more studies are needed. Okino says the key to his proposal is putting the rail line at a different level from vehicle traffic to avoid snarls. Lingle has proposed an elevated highway between downtown and Kapolei, and Haraga says that will be included in a plan he was to present to the task force. Those two visions don't mesh. Other refinements will be needed to develop a plan that satisfies both the Harris and Lingle administrations, along with the City Council. Because of all the previous studies conducted during the past three decades, that process will not take as long as one might expect. Taking Soon's warning to heart, Council members should make sure their commitment is strong and then approve the resolution. Cooperation is needed at all levels to make a rapid-transit system a reality in Honolulu. =PTP=========================================== [BATN] Baltimore Sun Monday, October 27, 2003 China's commercial maglev train to be world's 1st, perhaps its last $1.2 billion project offers lessons for Md. proposal By Gady A. Epstein Sun Foreign Staff SHANGHAi, China -- Every weekend, an unusual train glides out from a nondescript station, carrying its passengers at remarkable speeds along tracks high above the farms and factories east of downtown Shanghai. With a cruising speed of nearly 270 miles per hour, it is the fastest passenger train in the world, but what makes the train truly extraordinary is what it lacks underneath its alloy chassis: wheels. At a cost exceeding $1.2 billion, the Shanghai Transrapid line might be the most expensive 19-mile train route on the planet. By early next year it is due to become the world's first high-speed magnetic levitation or "maglev" train in full commercial operation. The big question now is if it will also be the last -- for the foreseeable future, at least. A maglev train linking Baltimore and Washington, a concept pushed by Baltimore for more than 11 years, is one of three leading candidates for the first maglev line in the United States. But the project's future depends on $950 million in federal funds, on the support of the state, which would also have to provide money, and on whether private financiers believe the train can operate profitably. The only working example anyone can consider when making decisions is the Shanghai Transrapid, which carried then-Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder on its maiden voyage Dec. 31, less than two years after construction began. So far, the train is a popular tourist attraction, but the signals about its future are mixed. The maglev's German designers had hoped to win a contract to build a line from Beijing to Shanghai, turning a 14-hour trip into a commute of three to four hours. But the China Railway Ministry appears inclined to consider proposals only from manufacturers of slower, wheeled trains, as critics question the economic and practical wisdom of entrusting a critical rail corridor to what they view as an unproven, expensive technology. "The Australians considered the maglev between Sydney and Kampala. [BATN: That would be quite a line, linking Australia with Uganda. In contrast, Canberra lies only 280 km from Sydney.] They gave it up," said Shen Zhijie, who retired in April as director of the High-Speed Track Office of the China Railway Ministry. "The Koreans also considered the maglev between Seoul and Pusan, and they also gave it up. "The Beijing-Shanghai railway has to be for serious transportation. It's not for exhibition or tourism, and you cannot just argue theoretically." China has a passion for railways and an appetite for grandiose public projects. The government is paying for the world's highest-altitude railroad (to Tibet), the world's largest dam and the world's third manned space program. With the Shanghai Transrapid, the country has the fastest passenger train. During daylight hours on weekends, the Shanghai Transrapid shuttles passengers between Shanghai's suburban airport and the city's urban outskirts, where Shanghai mass transit carries passengers the rest of the way into town. An experiment But for now the 19-mile, eight-minute trip remains mostly an experiment -- for the technology, the engineers who built it and the enthusiasts watching from far away, including Baltimore and Washington. Above all, it is an experiment for Beijing's decision-makers, who appear to be leaning toward more conventional high-speed trains, like ones already in use in Japan and Europe, for the new Beijing-Shanghai line. That has to be troubling for the maglev's passionate adherents: if the maglev train can't succeed here, where the government can spend whatever it wants, and where more than a billion passengers a year take trains, then where can it succeed? The Shanghai Transrapid begins each trip smoothly, gliding on an elevated track. On this particular weekday test run, a group of electrical workers is being rewarded with a ride. As the train accelerates, the speed and time are displayed on digital screens at the front of each passenger car. The train reaches 100 mph in little more than a minute, and about 175 mph after two minutes. An air suspension system, backed up by a secondary system of springs, keeps the train floating along without the bumps typical in wheeled trains. But in the third minute, as the train approaches 250 mph, the passenger cars begin to wobble. At the 3:21 mark, the train reaches the top cruising speed of almost 268 mph -- maglevs can go faster but not on this short route. The train moves through the air at such high speed that it creates a low whistling that could become unnerving on a longer trip. The engineers behind the maglev may have figured out how to get rid of friction with the tracks below, but there's no way to eliminate friction with the air. The safety issue The train's rates of acceleration and deceleration are carefully controlled, which means that people can stand and walk in the aisle at any point during the trip. Still, at these speeds, some passengers may become conscious of the lack of safety belts in a way they never would on typical trains. The lack of safety belts was intentional -- the idea was that the train should look and feel as safe as any other. "It doesn't need safety belts. There won't be a car crash, there won't be sudden braking and it will not turn upside down," said a high-ranking official with Shanghai Maglev Transportation Development Co. Ltd, who spoke on condition his name not be used. "it's not like the airplane or the car." That theory may be tested on the maglev, which travels at speeds faster than some airplanes. At the trip's midpoint, a second maglev train rushed by on a parallel track at the same speed, producing a roar of air friction. On this day, the engineers were making sure that two maglevs could pass by each other safely at top speed. Passengers have to adjust to the fact that the vehicle has no wheels and is not touching anything but air. They must remain confident the train won't suddenly spin out of control as it tilts and turns at 225 mph. The train's German builders -- a consortium of Siemens AG and ThyssenKrupp AG called Transrapid international -- have been working to solve a series of safety and comfort issues. China's state news media have given few details about the technical problems, but they include concerns about rubber insulation overheating along the electrically charged track. The Shanghai maglev official said the glitches were of no concern: "The damage caused by heat is no threat to safety. It's just like the clothing is old, but you can still wear it," he said. "There are also a lot of other problems, but none of them is a problem for the safety of operation. "it's just like you buy a new television for your family and the channels are not tuned in perfectly. You make some adjustments, and it will be fine." How it works The maglev works thanks to a combination of magnets and electrical charges. Holding the train aloft is interaction between magnetic coils in the track and electromagnets on the underside of the train. Electrical current flows through the track's coils, creating a magnetic field that pulls the train along as it floats less than a half-inch above the track. When the train is at rest, it may kneel down on the "guideway" to unload passengers. in theory, the train can reach high speeds without requiring costly track maintenance. The friction created by wheels rolling on tracks has been eliminated. Drawbacks Unfortunately, the train's drawbacks are equally obvious: cost of construction and uncertainty about new technology. China expects to spend close to $16 billion to build a conventional high-speed Beijing- Shanghai line. The price for maglev construction might be substantially higher. Also, the maglev can operate only on its own tracks, unable to switch to the tens of thousands of miles of conventional tracks. Another fundamental issue is the maglev's cost for passengers, though that may be a problem for other high-speed options as well. Per- capita income in China is less than $700 a year, but a round-trip ticket on the 19-mile Shanghai maglev costs $28. That is more than migrant workers and students pay for a one-way ticket for the 1,270- mile train trip between Beijing and Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province. "The maglev train is certainly not for migrant workers," said the Shanghai maglev official. "it's for businessmen and tourists." That would be an issue in Maryland, despite Americans' vastly higher incomes. Maglev detractors in Maryland question a consultant's estimates that more than 30,000 people a day would pay a significant premium for the Baltimore-to-Washington trip. A one-way ticket could cost as much as $26, far more than the $7 charged by the much slower MARC train. 'Better investment' Supporters argue that the maglev is a better bet than other high- speed options because it would have substantially lower operating costs. "They might spend less money building [conventional] high-speed rail, but they will have a long-term higher cost because they will have a higher operations and maintenance cost," said Phyllis Wilkins, executive director of Maglev Maryland, which is funded through the city's economic development arm, the Baltimore Development Corp. "Maglev is a much better investment in the long run, and it's not just me saying that. It's people who have done studies who are saying that." The potential appeal for China's well-to-do urban travelers may yet be enough to persuade Beijing to build another short track, in time for the 2008 Olympic Games, connecting Beijing's international airport with the city center at a cost of $700 million. But it should be worrisome to America's maglev advocates that for longer routes, China remains hesitant to pursue the world's fastest passenger train. =PTP================================================== Houston Chronicle Oct. 29, 2003 Viewpoints Why Metro plan? Because freeways won't do By J. SAM LOTT FACT: The weekday traffic activity in Houston will essentially double over the next 30 years, according to the Houston Galveston Area Council. Most of the debate over the Metro Solutions plan has focused on the comparisons of costs and forecasts of Metropolitan Transit Authority sales tax receipts, federal grants and other revenues over the next 20 years. However, the discussion of cost must go beyond the details of the Metro financial plan and consider what price the entire metropolitan region will pay over the long term if we delay again the start of a regional rail system. The real future of transportation in Houston is best understood when we consider the limitations of our freeways. Houston has an excellent freeway and tollway system design of spokes radiating out from the central business district with several loop expressways connecting the spokes in concentric rings. However, the freeway system is ultimately limited by the capacity constraints where freeways intersect other freeways. It is at these critical points of the freeway interchanges that the system breaks down, and massive congestion spreads through the network. Despite the improvement plans and current construction projects for many freeways within the network, the points of capacity constraint at each freeway interchange cannot be eliminated. The engineering fact is that the physical constraints imposed by the superstructure result in the greatest limitations to the number of lanes that can pass through the interchange. Once our freeway system's capacity is built out over the next 10 years, there is no more significant capacity for roadway vehicles that we can add through the critical points of constraint at the interchanges. The combination of the freeway system, tollway/HOV lanes (often called managed lanes) and the highway/arterial street system alone cannot fully address the capacity needs of a thriving metropolis such as Houston without a comprehensive rail system also being included. in fact, even the Houston Galveston Area Council's "100 Percent Solution" plan, which is frequently referred to as a better alternative by outspoken rail opponents, acknowledges this limitation, and actually calls for more transit systems and facilities than Metro has put in its 2025 plan. High-capacity mass transit is an essential component to a comprehensive transportation system. The planned addition of a narrow-width transit right of way for high-capacity throughput (i.e., the Metro system plan) along our current transportation system of rings and spokes is essential to meeting the capacity demands of the not-so- distant future. Understanding that the freeway system is limited by the interchanges, what stance should we take on the Metro Solutions plan? We must start now. It takes 20 years of planning, design and construction before a comprehensive mass transit system can be fully incorporated as an integral part of the overall transportation network. We cannot afford to wait. We must first build the core system in the center of the city. A central circulation system at the heart of the transit network is the right foundation to build on. The ultimate system will include radial high-capacity transit lines to the airports and suburbs. However, we must establish the inner-circulation system first. The proposed inner-city light-rail and bus components interconnect four major urban business districts (i.e., downtown, the Texas Medical Center, Galleria/Post Oak and Greenway Plaza). Metro's intent to build 22 miles of light rail as the next phase of expansion creates an extremely effective core system by connecting these major business centers, three of which are individually of a size and density to rank with the top 15 downtown business districts in the country. Twice before during the past 20 years Houston has come to the threshold of starting this process to build a regional high-capacity mass transit system, and both times the initiative has been knocked down by those espousing the philosophy that we need to concentrate on the streets and freeways only, not transit. Houston's congestion problems cannot be solved by any one element alone. Only with a combination of transportation components such as freeways, arterials and transit alternatives can Houston move forward to tackle congestion. Lott is U.S. representative to the international Electrotechnical Commission and is part of its working group that's writing the safety standards for automated urban guideway transit. He also is senior vice president of Kimley-Horn and Associates Inc. In Houston. =PTP=============================================== [BATN] Comment: Demand plan for healthy US rail system Los Angeles Times Sunday, October 26, 2003 Comment Arthur Frommer: On a Budget Railing against the system it was 2 a.m. when my train pulled out of Fargo, N.D., to begin the 36-hour trip to New York City. I was angry and dejected because a minor medical emergency had prevented me from making the trip home in three hours by air. But the journey taught me an important lesson about U.S. rail travel. I had arrived in Fargo the previous morning to give a speech. As the plane landed, I felt sharp pains in my right ear, then pressure and a reduced ability to hear. Scared, I rushed to the local emergency room and was told that an infection had caused a buildup of fluid behind the middle ear that would take several days of medication to dispel. Meanwhile, I could not take the next day's 2 p.m. flight home, because the air pressure of takeoff and landing might burst the weakened eardrum and cause permanent hearing loss. My alternatives? Returning to the East Coast by bus would take three days of stop-and-go travel, something I would not do. Nor did I wish to endure days of solitary driving in a rental car, with overnights in motels. So no big deal, I thought; I'd return by Amtrak. The saga began. I quickly found that across the entire northern swath of the United States -- from Seattle to Fargo to Minneapolis to Chicago -- there is only one daily train, the Empire Builder, in each direction. One slow choo-choo that departs the Pacific Northwest to cross the prairie states and arrive in Fargo at 2 a.m before proceeding for 14 more hours to Minneapolis and Chicago. After my morning speech, I had to wait 14 hours before starting out on a 36-hour marathon. I crossed half the United States at speeds averaging 60 mph, compared with the 150 mph that a great many long-distance trains in Europe, Japan and China routinely travel. I had no choice in scheduling the trip. I waited for a middle-of-the-night departure, then spent two nights on the train. I'm still seething. Our congressional representatives routinely appropriate billions each year for federal highway construction and maintenance, but dig in their heels against funding Amtrak realistically. Some members of Congress favor terminating our national rail system in all areas of the country other than along the Washington, D.C.-New York-Boston corridor. Funded in a grudging, last-minute, stopgap manner, Amtrak stumbles along, unable to properly keep up its facilities and services, let alone bring them to the state-of-the-art levels of speed and efficiency achieved in other prosperous industrial countries. it is time to make this a major political issue. If you agree, write to your congressional representative and demand an adequate, long- range plan for a healthy U.S. rail system. =PTP================================================ New York Times October 27, 2003 Senate Passes Amtrak Subsidy, but a More Frugal House Awaits By MATTHEW L. WALD WASHINGTON, Oct. 26 — The Senate has approved a $1.34 billion subsidy for Amtrak for the fiscal year that began on Oct. 1, setting up a conflict with the House, which approved a $900 million bill and has been eager for structural changes at the railroad. Amtrak had been seeking $1.8 billion, which it said it needed to return to a state of good repair. The railroad president, David L. Gunn, said in a letter to senators on Wednesday that the $1.34 billion "leaves us at great risk in terms of reliability" but that Amtrak could continue operating with an appropriation of that size "and hopefully not worsen the amount of deferred maintenance." The Senate acted late Thursday. The two versions will go to a conference committee, probably one that will consider several last-minute appropriations bills, Congressional staff members said. That left some Amtrak supporters in Congress in doubt over what level of influence they would have in the conference. The White House favors the $900 million subsidy, but Mr. Gunn insists that number would force a shutdown next year. The negotiators will also have to resolve some nonfinancial details in the bill. The House favors a provision that would let another federal agency, the Surface Transportation Board, step in to keep the Northeast Corridor open for commuter operations and freight traffic if Amtrak were to shut down. Amtrak owns the Northeast Corridor, the tracks from Washington through Penn Station in New York to Boston. The House negotiators may also push for a clause that would allow a single Amtrak long-distance route to be contracted out to a private operator as an experiment, a House aide said. The White House favored giving states the power to decide which Amtrak routes would continue, and after a transition period, giving them the financial liability as well. But neither house favored that approach.
PTP Digest 2003/10/28-A = CONTENTS * Houston op-ed: Dallas's rail success Houston Chronicle Oct. 27, 2003 * Houston Metro debunks rail foe's 'cheaper' alternative Houston Chronicle Oct. 27, 2003 * Houston: Confusion, battle rage over rail finance facts Houston Chronicle Oct. 28, 2003 * Houston: Questions grow over anti-rail 'foundation' Houston Chronicle Oct. 27, 2003 * Boston discovers highway widening attracts more cars Boston Globe Sunday, October 26, 2003 * Norfolk: After years & millions, maglev project can't get off ground The Virginian-Pilot Friday, October 24, 2003 * Detroit zaps trolleys, subs buses in $20 million road project Detroit News Friday, October 24, 2003 * Amtrak has more riders, but money problems remain MSNBC July 18 =PTP=================================================== HoustonChronicle Oct. 27, 2003 Viewpoints Real truth about Dallas rail and its success By MARVIN D. MONAGHAN PUBLIC transportation observers in Dallas are bemused at the array of criticisms, threats and dire predictions leveled at the light-rail construction project in Houston. It's déjà vu all over again to those who vocally supported the Dallas Area Rapid Transit, or DART, rail program and who beamed with satisfaction when the rail line was completed and judged a success in all quarters while the dissident factions faded into the woodwork never to be heard from again. The same phenomenon will occur in Houston upon completion of the starter line. Not only has light rail been a success in Dallas but in many cities in the United States and around the world. It is the ideal solution for a city that has grown too large for buses but cannot support heavy rail with fully dedicated subways and elevated guideways. Reports that it is a failure in Dallas and that a cash-flow crisis exists is simply not true. The one-cent sales tax has declined because of the recession that has gripped the country, however, reductions in service and temporary overall belt tightening are addressing the shortfall. The sales tax mainly pays for around-the-clock service, which the public demands outside of peak hours, when the fare box pays the costs of operation. Rail service has been reduced from 15-minute intervals to 20 minutes in off-peak hours. Peak-hour service remains at five- to 10-minute intervals. Little to no inconvenience has resulted. instead of referendums being defeated en mass as alleged, municipalities that were not included in the original DART rail plan are clamoring to be admitted, and arrangements are being made to accommodate them without detracting from the tax investment of the cities that voted into the system in the beginning. Denton County has already established a transportation authority of its own and will partner with DART for service into Dallas via Carrollton as is done with Fort Worth Transit. The only dissenting votes came from communities too small to matter or located too far from the proposed rail alignment. This will give convenient access to the two large universities in Denton for the thousands of Dallas County students who now have to fight frustrating congestion on interstate 35. Several communities between Plano and McKinney are anxious to acquire rail service and are investigating whether to establish a Collin County Authority or to join DART. The North Central Texas Council of Governments is actively promoting the activation of the DART-owned Cotton Belt line to provide commuter rail from Fort Worth into the north entrance to D/FW Airport. East Texans are looking to the east end of the Cotton Belt for future commuter rail service to extend as far as Greenville and perhaps beyond. Fort Worth has plans for commuter rail southwesterly to Granbury and north to Denton. Nowhere is there negativism remaining in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex of the character that clouds the issue in Houston, and this opposition will disappear once the sleek, new Metro light-rail trains are rolled out and the public can experience the smooth, comfortable, quiet ride that is in marked contrast to the bumpy, rattling, noisy buses with their cramped interiors and narrow single doorways. Each rail car has four double doors on each side eliminating a long queue of riders at stops and has access to ample electrical power from the overhead wire, which assures efficient air conditioning. False impressions have been voiced implying that rail systems disadvantage minorities and transit dependent riders. In Dallas, these people, most of whom live in the southern sector where there are few jobs, are delighted that the slow, plodding bus ride to the north side of the city where the jobs are has been replaced by the fast 65 mph trains. For example, the peak hour travel time from downtown Dallas to downtown Garland has been cut almost in half, and the trains stop at a station near the industrial job sites on the way in. Four other convenient stops are made. One detractor accuses light-rail trains of being products of foreign design and manufacture. Has he looked out the window to see where many of our automobiles and trucks and virtually all buses come from? Foreign light-rail train builders have assembly plants in the United States, the same as automobile manufacturers. Our country was a leader in this field in years past and is gradually regaining this position. DART's cars were built as shells in Japan and fitted out in Dallas and Elmira, N.Y. An alleged disadvantage of being "tethered to a sparking wire," mentioned by one critic, ignores the pollution-free operation this makes possible. That is better than being tethered to an Arab oil well! Transit train safety is unparalleled. In seven years of operation at DART, there have been fewer than a half-dozen fatalities, and these have been due to careless pedestrians or motorists who walked if front of trains or drove through lowered gates. Buses have far more accidents. A recent one involved two rogues who commandeered a bus and caused the driver to crash into a tree and a garage injuring several passengers. The trains are under master control of a dispatcher in a central office at all times, with radio communication and remote lineside signaling to prevent accidents. Not all of DART's road crossings are grade separated but are protected by gates and lights or traffic signals. A 3.5- mile tunnel speeds the trains through near North Dallas. Another false alarm is the rumor that the trains cannot operate in more than three inches of water. Competent design by the right of way engineers will ascertain that standing water will be eliminated by adequate drainage. Never has there been an instance of a DART train being stopped by high water. Metro has drawn criticism for owning its own headquarters building. So did DART when they bought and renovated the former Foley's Department Store Building -- until they showed a 27 percent saving over renting. A transit agency cannot afford to hire engineers and other staff full time just for periods when construction is under way. DART maintains most of an entire floor of offices, which is occupied by visiting engineers, eliminating much confusion and unnecessary travel while achieving better coordination of planning. Electrically propelled transportation is better positioned to cope with any petroleum shortage that might occur. In the Texas grid, there are five possible sources of electricity that may be called on for the purpose of powering the trains. it is irrelevant to discuss congestion and pollution in connection with public transit. To make a dent in either, thousands of cars and trucks would have to be removed from the roadways. What it will do is give commuters who live in the corridors served by rail a pollution- and congestion-free ride to work every day devoid of frustrating delays and accidents on the freeways. It is misleading to state that only 1, 2 or 3 percent of a population uses transit. The usage must be compared to the population in a specific corridor, which can run as high as 35 percent. With 70,000 riders a day using DART's light-rail and commuter trains, a corresponding number of automobiles are obviously off the road. Last but not least is the subject of image and the impression that a city leaves on its visitors. Not many are impressed by hordes or swarming buses, and they can seldom identify with where the buses go. When a bus is gone, it leaves no tracks. A world-class city can do better. Rail is both a permanent and identifiable fixture and an in-perpetuity investment for the community it serves. The ambience it creates on a city street is not to be ignored. The highest real estate values of their kind in the world are on a rail transit mall in Zurich, Switzerland! Monaghan, of Garland, is a retired optometrist and served on the board of directors of Dallas Area Rapid Transit from 1990-93 and 2002-02. He also served on the North Central Task Force, which assisted in the design of the road and rail alignments through North Dallas. =PTP=============================================== Houston Chronicle Oct. 27, 2003 Eckels touts alternate commuter rail plan Says system faster, cheaper than Metro's By LUCAS WALL Harris County can build a commuter rail system faster and cheaper than Metro's light rail plan, Judge Robert Eckels said Monday, releasing a draft of a study for the U.S. 290 and Texas 249 corridors. Eckels and numerous other Republican leaders are urging voters to reject next week's Metropolitan Transit Authority $7.5 billion expansion plan. It calls for building $5.8 billion of rail during the next 22 years: 65 miles of light rail as well as an eight-mile commuter line to Missouri City. Metro has no rail proposed to Hempstead or Tomball by 2025. "There is a lot of potential for commuter rail in this community," Eckels said at a news conference at Houston TranStar. "We believe it's a viable alternative to light rail." Commissioner Steve Radack, who initiated the commuter rail review, is also against Metro's plan. But he questioned the release of the study before its completion. "Waiting until something is done accurately is very prudent," said Radack, whose precinct includes most of the U.S. 290 corridor. "I'm optimistic. I think it has a tremendous amount of potential. But the study isn't complete yet, and I'm not one of those people who likes to deal with fantasy or dreams." Radack said it's unwise to present an unfinished study as an alternative to Metro's transit-expansion referendum, which includes new bus routes, HOV lanes and local roadwork. Commuter rail utilizes heavy trains, such as those run by Amtrak, and runs at high speeds on freight railroads with an exclusive right of way. Light rail utilizes smaller trains and runs at slower speeds, often on tracks embedded in the street. The final commuter rail report, which Commissioners Court requested July 29, is due at the court's next meeting Nov. 4 -- the same day voters decide Metro's transit-expansion plan. Eckels said he expects the court will authorize a more detailed study looking at other potential commuter rail corridors and moving ahead with plans on who would pay for and operate the first two proposed lines. "There are 165 miles or more of commuter line candidates in Harris County," Eckels said while standing behind a model of an East Coast commuter train. One coach was modified with a sticker reading, "Harris County Express." A countywide commuter rail network at $5 million per mile could cost less than $1 billion, Eckels said, far cheaper than the $80-million-per-mile light rail system Metro proposes. (Metro's cost-per-mile figure has been adjusted upward for inflation; the Main Street line under construction costs $43 million per mile). Metro supporters, however, questioned Eckels' numbers and dismissed the notion that commuter rail alone is a solution to the region's traffic problems. They point out a more detailed study of a commuter train to Fort Bend County puts the cost at $14 million to $19 million per mile. Paul Mabry, spokesman for Citizens for Public Transportation, called Eckels' pre- election maneuver "an 11th-hour Hail Mary." CPT is the political action committee campaigning for passage of the "Metro Solutions" plan. "We want a complete system that does something about the traffic mess we're into," Mabry said. "You start by addressing where the traffic is the greatest: down in the urban area. It is not up in Prairie View." Metro officials, while supporting the commuter rail concept, pointed out some flaws in the county's study, including basing construction costs on having only three stations per line, each with 150 parking spaces. John Sedlak, a Metro vice president, said the transit authority's Park & Ride lots along U.S. 290 accommodate about 5,000 commuter-bus riders daily. Sedlak noted the county study lacks ridership and fare revenue forecasts. "We would certainly see commuter rail as being complementary to the Metro Solutions plan but not as an alternative to it," Sedlak said. "The light rail is very specifically addressing the needs in congested corridors where there are high densities of transit ridership." Eckels has urged voters to turn down Metro Solutions and let the county come back next year with a better rail proposal. He said commuter rail could be operating by 2006, much more quickly than Metro's light rail expansion, the first piece of which wouldn't start running until 2008. Most important, Eckels said, is that the larger trains are a better solution to traffic woes. "Commuter rail is safer and faster, typically, than light rail because it runs in the existing rail corridors separated from traffic so you're not mixing with the cars on the road," Eckels said. "It runs where congestion is worse and can provide alternates for relief on congested freeways." =PTP=============================================== Houston Chronicle Oct. 28, 2003 Argument heats up on proposed Metro rail funding By LUCAS WALL Local members of Congress continued bickering Tuesday over whether Metro has the money to pay for its $7.5 billion transit expansion plan that voters will consider next week. Both sides called news conferences to restate points previously made in the battle over Metropolitan Transit Authority's federal grant projections. Rep. John Culberson reiterated his concern that Metro will run out of money and be unable to finish the projects it promises, while transit supporters said the plan is fiscally sound and accused Culberson of playing with numbers to mislead voters. Four weeks ago, Harris County Judge Robert Eckels, a light rail opponent, released numbers provided by Culberson, R-Houston, purporting to show that Metro overestimated how much federal grant money it can expect in the next six years by more than $100 million. After the Federal Transit Administration released a letter last week denying that it had generated the supposed shortfall figure, Culberson asked the agency for a clarification. Tuesday, he got a response from Jennifer Dorn, federal transit administrator, that states it's "essentially correct" to assume Metro has overestimated its future grant money based on a Bush administration proposal. That bill, pending in Congress, would slow the annual growth rate in transit funds to 2 percent. The transit authority has assumed an 8 percent future annual growth rate, arguing that Congress always increases the president's request. Culberson, however, said the growth rate will go up only with a federal gas-tax increase, which he and the president oppose. "A week before the election, we still don't know how short Metro is on federal revenue," Culberson said. "The letters I'm releasing today confirm that Metro has overstated its federal revenue by at least $53 million and perhaps as much as $124 million." Culberson also handed out copies of a letter to the editor of the Houston Chronicle sent by Rep. Ernest Istook, R-Okla., who chairs the House transportation appropriations subcommittee. Istook points out that his staff provided Culberson with the Metro projections, but his letter did not cite the $53 million or $124 million figures Culberson mentioned Tuesday. Those figures also weren't in Dorn's letter, which also states: "Until Congress completes its work on multiyear surface transportation authorization legislation, it is impossible to predict with certainty the future levels of formula or discretionary funding." Democrats and Metro executives pounced on that sentence at their afternoon gathering outside City Hall, reiterating that it's premature for Culberson to criticize Metro's projections when the transportation authorization is still before Congress. Metro wants approval to build 73 miles of rail and other transit projects. in other Metro campaign news Tuesday: · Common Cause of Texas filed a complaint with the state Ethics Commission alleging Texans for True Mobility, the prominent anti-rail group, has violated campaign finance laws by failing to disclose contributors. The Harris County district attorney's office is reviewing a Chronicle complaint alleging the same infraction. Texans for True Mobility says the allegations are groundless, contending ads sponsored by its foundation are not political advocacy and therefore not subject to disclosure. · Environmental groups held a news conference in Hermann Park to argue that light rail, powered by electricity, will help reduce auto emissions. =PTP================================================ Houston Chronicle Oct. 27, 2003 Foundation clouds comparison of rail donors By LUCAS WALL The political action committee supporting Metro's Nov. 4 transit-expansion referendum raised almost twice as much money in the past month as the committee opposing the plan, campaign finance reports filed Monday show. Anti-rail campaigners appear to have raised more money overall, however. But it's difficult to truly compare the dollars being spent for and against the Metropolitan Transit Authority proposition because Texans for True Mobility also maintains a nonprofit education foundation that is not disclosing its donors and expenditures. TTM contends its advertising merely informs voters that Metro's plan is a bad idea but does not advocate for voters to cast a "no" ballot. Numerous groups have complained about the secrecy, and the Harris County district attorney's office is reviewing a Houston Chronicle complaint alleging TTM is violating state ethics laws. Citizens for Public Transportation, the pro-rail committee, reported raising $321,012 for the monthlong period ending Monday. Its total collections since forming in December are $1.1 million. TTM's political action committee reported raising $175,000 in the last month, its first in existence. In an e-mail last week to prospective donors, TTM stated its foundation arm had raised $1.4 million. That would put both TTM entities almost a half-million dollars ahead of the pro-rail side. CPT's contributions, ranging from $100 to $25,000, came from 70 businesses and individuals. TTM's committee contributions, on the other hand, came from only two of the group's members. Chairman Michael Stevens donated $155,000, and treasurer Edd Hendee gave $20,000. The pro-rail committee reported spending $722,838 in the past month. Almost half of those expenditures, $311,794, went to Houston's three major television stations for advertising. The anti-rail committee reported spending $170,283. The bulk of its expenditures, $77,165, went for purchasing radio ads. TTM's report reveals its political action committee borrowed $151,000 from the foundation arm -- dollars donated anonymously -- to start purchasing advertising earlier this month. Stevens then stepped in with the $155,000 donation Monday to repay the loans. The committee's balance is listed as $4,717. Chris Begala, TTM spokesman, declined again Monday to reveal who has donated money to the foundation. He also refused to provide the number of donors or confirm the total amount raised and spent. CPT reported $248,469 in the bank. Its leader, Ed Wulfe, had harsh words for TTM's continued secrecy. "I am amazed, absolutely shocked," Wulfe said at finding out one person donated almost 90 percent of the committee's money. "They don't want anybody to know what's going on. This is an affront to the people of the city." Begala said rail supporters are trying to distract voters from the real issue: Metro's plan is "horrendous" and the authority is in "abysmal" financial shape, including spending millions of taxpayer dollars to promote rail. "Their comments are likewise as ridiculous as their plan is," Begala said. "it's shocking that that's what they want to talk about when their own contributors are special interests who would benefit from the plan." in other Metro campaign activity Monday: · U.S. Rep. Gene Green, D-Houston, endorsed Metro's referendum at the Magnolia Transit Center. He touted the plan for improving air quality and reducing the noise level from buses. · The Business Committee Against Rail held a news conference to raise questions about Metro's light rail cost estimates, pointing out that planners are considering that an east/west line through downtown might be built in a subway - - at least doubling the cost for that segment. Metro Vice President John Sedlak responded that the east/west line has been designed at street level but could be buried if future engineering deems it affordable and desirable. Chronicle reporter Salatheia Bryant contributed to this story. =PTP=========================================== [BATN] Boston Globe Sunday, October 26, 2003 Highway projects get new scrutiny By Anthony Flint WESTWOOD, MASSACHUSETTS -- The long-awaited widening of Route 128 finally began this fall, with bulldozers and backhoes rumbling around the median at the Route 1 bridge. The project, creating a fourth lane in each direction between Wellesley and Randolph, at a cost of $150 million to $200 million, has a role model of sorts: the $375 million widening of the once-scenic Route 3 from Burlington to the New Hampshire line, set to open to drivers next month. But while these highway-widening projects are cheered by commuters and most town and business leaders, they may be the last of their kind. State transportation planners are questioning whether expanding lanes solves congestion in the long term. They are also fretting about costs and worry that better highways will encourage more spread-out development. The backtrack on highway-widening comes just as the proposed $180 million widening of Route 3 from Weymouth to Duxbury, in a stretch notoriously clogged with South Shore commuters and Cape-bound drivers, moves toward the next stages of the planning process. State Transportation Secretary Daniel Grabauskas said in an interview that the project -- which would make that stretch of road three lanes in each direction -- is getting intense scrutiny. "Adding a lane on Route 3 south is clearly a project that's early enough in the process that we can apply some new principles and make an informed judgment," he said. "We're going to look at a host of things, from environmental impacts, economic development impacts, smart growth, increases in housing, a whole host of issues." Governor Mitt Romney has ordered that existing transportation infrastructure be repaired before new projects are undertaken, an initiative called "Fix it First." He also wants to see a new set of standards developed for judging all future transportation projects. The Route 3 north project has prompted deep skepticism about highway widening. Drivers and residents say they hate the fact that so many trees were bulldozed to make way for new lanes in the median, which made the highway three lanes in each direction. Protesters are clamoring for new barriers against noise, opposition is swelling over development proposals linked to the 21-mile expansion, and word surfaced last week that the arduous project had fallen behind schedule. Even some daily users of the highway system in Eastern Massachusetts say that expanding roads won't solve congestion and indeed may only induce more people to use their cars -- a prevailing theory among transportation planners in recent years. "History shows, widening a road doesn't really solve the problem, long-term. It just adds more traffic -- or funnels it along to the next chokepoint," said Adam Gaffin, an editor at Network World, a trade publication based in Southborough, who uses Route 128 to get home to Roslindale. Any future highway-widening projects will be judged in the context of what other means of travel are available, said Jonathan Carlisle, spokesman for the Executive Office of Transportation and Construction. That will be the case with Route 3 south, he said. "There has been a lot of development on the South Shore, a lot of people live there who need to get into Boston. But in light of the water transportation there, the two legs of the Old Colony [commuter rail] line, and, by 2006, the Greenbush line, we really have to look at this in the context of existing transit opportunities that are or will be available," Carlisle said. State Senator Robert L. Hedlund, a Republican from Weymouth, said that "there is going to be a lot of angry legislators" if the Romney administration takes away funding for roadway projects that have been stuck in long queues behind the Big Dig. "We've had tremendous growth and the road is over-capacity," he said. "Adding a lane will help." Duxbury Selectman Andre M. Martecchini, however, said that if Route 3 is widened, "people will fill it. If it's seen as easier, people will hop into their cars and go -- until it starts to fill up again." Another unanswered question, he said, is whether the widening could be done in an aesthetically sensitive manner. "The current Route 3 is a beautiful road," he said. "Making it an extension of the expressway -- what's that going to do for the character of the surrounding communities?" The experience with the Route 3 expansion from Burlington to Tyngsborough has led some residents to become activists, in a suburban version of the anti-highway protesters of the 1970s who stopped the inner Belt and Southwest Expressway in Boston. "There's a limit to the problems we can solve with that approach," said Dennis Frenchman, director of the City Design and Development group at MIT, who lives in Lexington where the widened Route 3 is being built close to homes. "In the past, access was the only way we could grow economically. In the future, quality of life, landscape, and place will be more important. We have to find a way to be efficient and maintain a sense of place, or we'll end up like New Jersey or Florida." Protesters have clamored for more extensive noise barriers and decried plans for a service plaza in Chelmsford. The contractor on the project, Modern Continental, is rewarded for promoting what is called "ancillary development" along the widened roadway. More bad news for Route 3 north came last week, when the state warned Modern Continental it was falling behind schedule. The schedule and the price of the project is supposed to be fixed under the fast-track construction process known as "design-build," which some lawmakers would like to see used in the Route 128 expansion. Backers of the Route 128 widening remain upbeat, although they acknowledge that the expansion won't solve congestion problems for very long. "it's a disturbing highway that doesn't function properly, with huge safety issues because of the use of the breakdown lane at rush hour," said Sherri Walker, director of regional economic development at the Neponset Valley Chamber of Commerce, part of the Route 128 Add-a-Lane Business Coalition. Adding the lane, which could cost up to $200 million and take six years, according to state estimates, "won't make Route 128 a totally functioning highway, though it will be much better," Walker said. Commuter rail will still need to be encouraged, she said, and a proposal to extend the Orange Line to Route 128 should be revisited. "The big-picture solution." she said, "is getting cars off the road." Anthony Flint can be reached at =PTP============================================== [CAHSR] The Virginian-Pilot Friday, October 24, 2003 Years later, ODU project just can't get off ground By Dave Addis "Birthing new technology," said Bob Fenning, "is not for the faint of heart." Fenning is the Old Dominion University vice president who is stuck with the thankless task of explaining to the world -- a world full of nagging, cost-conscious pragmatists -- why ODU's maglev train experiment should be allowed to press forward. in a lengthy conversation Wednesday, Fenning sounded at times like a rational and forward-thinking visionary, a man excited about playing a role in bringing a dynamic, affordable new mass-transit system to a nation that really needs one. At other times, he sounded like a human being who is trying to give birth to a train, without the benefit of anesthetics. If I were in his stirrups, I'd be screaming for Darvon. Here's why, in capsule form: After three years, $14 million and nearly as many blown promises, the train won't move, the stations aren't finished and the system is nowhere near ready to ferry students across the campus. The project has become a joke among students and a sore subject of debate among administrators. And, in recent days, lawsuits totaling $700,000 have been filed by local contractors who claim they've been stiffed by the company that's building the system. Another $2 million has been pumped into the kitty by the federal government, but project officials say $5 million more will have to be found -- somewhere -- to get the train up and running. That would bring the total to $21 million -- most of it from the pockets of taxpayers, and 50 percent over budget -- to magnetically levitate a tram car and move it a little better than half a mile at 40 mph. Roughly speaking, that's about double the cost-per-mile that was promised by American Maglev Technology, the Georgia company that sold the project to ODU, in partnership with Lockheed Martin Corp. and Dominion Virginia Power. AMT's president, Tony Morris, has been flogging his version of a magnetic-levitation train for years. He was not available to comment this week, reportedly because he is traveling in the Far East on business. Fenning acknowledged that nobody at ODU had spoken with Morris since the lawsuits were filed by the unpaid local contractors. Here's another reason for ODU and its partners to be nervous: if you call AMT's phone number in Georgia, as I did, you are connected instead to an automated telephone-answering system for a company called Neotonus. Neotonus is another of Tony Morris' companies. Its focus is a magnetic device that is said to help control female urinary incontinence. Judging from the effort put into the companies' phones and internet sites , one could infer that Morris is betting that magnets will be more successful in controlling a runaway bladder than a runaway train. That might seem a harsh judgment, but it's tempered by a study of Morris' promises over the years, in community after community across the South, that their economic viability could be greatly enhanced if only they'd invest in his magnetic-levitation transportation system. Thus far, little has been levitated other than some taxpayers' wallets. And money, not science, is at the heart of this tale. There's no doubt that maglev trains can work; the only advantage the American Maglev system offers is a promise -- as yet unrealized -- that it can be widely installed at a far lower cost than other systems that are farther ahead in development around the globe. So, where does this leave ODU? Fenning said the fresh $2 million from the feds will be used to execute a discrete set of work orders aimed at accomplishing two feats: move the train, first, between two guide beams that are about 180 feet apart, and then move it between two stations that are about 1,700 feet apart. After that, the federal money will have been fully levitated and ODU officials will have to decide if the maglev system has the technical and economic promise to seek more funds to plow forward, or whether they should pull the plug. That decision likely will come in March, Fenning said. He remains confident, and graciously promised to invite me to a trial run. in return, I graciously promised to stop by in March and lie down across the tracks. Mark your calendars. Contact Dave at 757-446-2726, or =PTP============================================== Detroit News Friday, October 24, 2003 Historic trolleys are history By R.J. King / The Detroit News [PHOTO] Eight century-old rail cars that have run on tracks along Washington since 1975, like this one seen in 1976, will be replaced with motorized trolleys as part of a $20 million road project that will include Woodward and Broadway. DETROIT -- The historic downtown trolley cars that cost passengers 50 cents to ride but the city about $100 per rider will be mothballed next month as Washington Boulevard and two other streets are rebuilt. The $20 million road project that will include Woodward and Broadway is to be completed in time for the 2006 Super Bowl at Ford Field. The eight, century-old rail cars that have run on tracks along Washington since 1975 will be replaced with so-called "rubber trolleys", or modern buses that mimic the look and feel of a historic street car. The city will expand the routes of its 14 rubber trolleys, bought in 2000. Downtown business owners support the change. About 3,000 passengers ride the rail trolleys each year, but track and rail car problems have plagued the system. The rubber trolleys offer more dependable service because they aren't affected by snow and ice and greater flexibility for special events. But preservationists say the city's decision is shortsighted because the historic cars are irreplaceable, though they admit the quarter-mile track that stretches along Washington from Grand Circus Park to Hart Plaza is in disrepair. "I'm not happy the rail cars are going, but I would hope the city would look to move the system to the east riverfront," said Alexander Pollock, a preservationist and senior associate architect for Detroit. "Cities such as Seattle, San Diego, Tampa and New Orleans have vintage rail cars operating on their waterfronts." Last year, the city began a $500-million, four-year plan to improve the east riverfront from Hart Plaza to Belle isle that will include a riverfront walk, parks and marina. George W. Jackson Jr., president and chief executive of Detroit Economic Growth Corp., a quasi-public development agency in Detroit, said it is too costly to relocate the rail service as part of the Washington Boulevard makeover. Pollock said the rail trolley system has an annual budget of around $300,000. "We do not want to lose the historic trolleys, so we will look at every possibility to continue their service somewhere else," Jackson said. You can reach R.J. King at (313) 222-2504 or rjking =PTP================================================ MSNBC July 18 Riders up, Amtrak still falls short Tight budgets keep railroad from exploiting airline industry's hard times A northbound Amtrak high speed Acela train rolls past commuters at the Amtrak station in Wilmington, Delaware last year. By Lynne Shallcross ABOARD AMTRAK'S METROLINER, July 18 — Barbara Tedesco is relaxing, listening to a CD player while her 11-year-old son, Tommy, contentedly flips through some books and looks out the window. It's not the image conjured up by a long trip to a relative's house — in her case, from Connecticut to Virginia. But for Tedesco and millions of others who ride Amtrak's intercity trains, this is the pleasant reality. TEDESCO SAYS making the six-hour trip by train to her sister's house in Virginia is less of a hassle than flying and more convenient than driving — no traffic and no weather slow-downs to worry about. And, she adds, it's a lot more child-friendly than a car or plane. "It allows (Tommy) a lot of movement," she says. "He doesn't say ‘Are we there yet?' as often." "I get to walk around and there's food here," Tommy adds in agreement, before running off to the dining car. "It keeps me busy." RECORD NUMBERS Amtrak's been busy, too. With many people still shying away from airplane travel since the 9/11 attacks, this should be a golden opportunity for Amtrak to win customers away from the industry that has been its nemesis: the airlines. indeed, April, May and June of this year brought the highest ridership numbers for those months in Amtrak's 32-year history. A particular bright spot is the "Acela Express," a high-speed service running in the Boston-New York- Washington, D.C. corridor. But Amtrak officials caution that the railroad is a long way from making a profit. While Amtrak is projecting that it will break even this year, officials say, but the goal set by Congress for the railroad to stop relying on federal funding is described by Amtrak's spokesman Dan Stessel as "fantasy." Stessel and other Amtrak officials cite the huge subsidies the airline industry receive in the form of the federal air traffic system and now the creation of the Transportation Security Administration, which handles airport security. Highways, similarly, they argue, receive billions of dollars a year for construction and maintenance. And yet, Stessel says, "we have to kind of justify our existence every year." At a time when transportation analyst suggest that Amtrak should be thriving and investing in the many high-speed rail corridors being proposed around the country, the railroad's budget — appropriated each year by Congress — barely keeps the trains running on time. That leaves dreams of high-speed rail to the states, which are facing their own budget crises at the moment. [SIDEBAR] fact file All aboard the money train The numbers (in $millions) behind several popular Amtrak routes. Name Route Revenue Cost Profit / (Loss) California Zephyr Chicago - San Francisco $50.0 $96.5 ($46.5) Lake Shore Limitied Chicago - Boston.NY $31.2 $69.6 ($38.4) Texas Eagle Chicago - San Antonio $20.6 $47.8 ($27.2) Sunset Limited Orlando - Los Angeles $18.9 $51.6 ($32.7) Acela Express/ Metroliner Boston - Washington, D.C. $370.1 $292.5 $77.6 Southwest Chief Chicago-Kansas City $69.8 $126.1 ($56.3) Empire Builder Chicago-Seattle/ Portland $51.9 $94.2 ($42.3) Heartland Flyer Oklahoma City - Fort Worth $5.9 $4.8 $1.1 Source: Amtrak A POLITICAL FOOTBALL The annual debate on Amtrak's budget, once a major ideological target for cuts by fiscal conservatives, has calmed somewhat in recent years. Yet as Congress gets ready to reauthorize the railroad's funding, there are wide disagreements on Capitol Hill about how much it should get. Amtrak requested $1.8 billion for 2004, a figure that covers current operations and a five year maintenance program meant to put the railroad's fleet in good order. in a reflection of the disagreements that swirl around Amtrak, House and Senate panels that oversee transportation issues approved multi-year funding packages that would see Amtrak get $2 billion annually for at least three years. But Amtrak enjoys far less support on the powerful appropriations committees, which ultimately determine the amount of money available for individual programs. Last Friday, the House appropriations panel put forth its own figure for Amtrak: $580 million for 2004. Stessel says that although he knows the discussion is far from over, $580 million is not a sufficient amount of money. "If there is to be an Amtrak in fiscal year 2004, there would have to be more than $580 million," he says. But Ernest Istook, Jr. (R-Okla.), a key figure on the House Appropriations subcommittee, says there is not a lot of money to go and what does exist should go primarily to the highway system. "We put the priority where people are paying the taxes," Istook says. "Highway users pay their own way and they pay a tax on it. That's where the greatest need is, and that's where people are paying their way." High-speed rail remains a dream AN IMAGE PROBLEM Istook also said the committee had some reservations about Amtrak's credibility. He said that for years, Amtrak has been promising self-sufficiency but they return every year asking for more money. "That's been about as reliable as Enron's bookkeeping," Istook says. [SIDEBAR] Dream trains High-speed rail proposals in the United States -- The Chicago hub -- California's plan -- Florida's vision -- Northwest corridor Warren Flatau, spokesman for the Federal Railroad Administration, agrees that increased funding isn't the only answer to Amtrak's problems. He says that while its accountability has been improving as of late, Amtrak needs to do some major restructuring. "Amtrak in its current form may not be the best answer," Flatau says. in spite of all the complaints about Amtrak's structural and monetary problems, frequent train travelers say it's an essential public service that government needs to maintain. Maryam and Joseph Donnelly, riding the train to Washington, D.C., say that although they are grateful for the train as a travel option, it's important that Amtrak concentrate on the routes that are in demand. "A lot of what's causing Amtrak to be non-financially productive are the longer routes that no one's taking that they're still running," Maryam Donnelly said. "They tend to be everything to everybody." Amtrak figures bear her out, showing that trains in the densely populated northeast corridor are successful, while most long distance trains are money guzzlers. Railroad officials estimate that the loss on Amtrak's long distance routes ranges from $131 to $551 per passenger.
PTP Digest 2003/10/27-B = CONTENTS * Portland: Westside LRT ridership grows with more service TriMet News Room October 27, 2003 * Houston: Rail foes covet rail funds for highways Houston Chronicle Oct. 26, 2003 * Houston: Dem hits deception of 'anti-rail zealots' Houston Chronicle Oct. 25, 2003 * Houston: Rail foes' hanky-panky, political intrigues Houston Chronicle Oct. 26, 2003 * Seattle LRT: 'Feds make full funding of transit grant official' Seattle Times Saturday, October 25, 2003 * Seattle LRT: 'Victory day for fans of light rail' SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER Saturday, October 25, 2003 * Seattle LRT: More on Fed grant breakthrough SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER Thursday, October 23, 2003 * Seattle op-ed: 'Monorail seems to be off track' Seattle Times Sunday, October 26, 2003 * Seattle ed: 'A shrunken Monorail is a dead Monorail' Seattle Times Sunday, October 26, 2003 =PTP==================================================== TriMet News Room October 27, 2003 Westside ridership grows as more service added Airport MAX extension to Beaverton adds trains & capacity September's Airport MAX Red Line extension from downtown Portland to Beaverton boosted Westside MAX ridership and eased crowding. Daily ridership along the Westside MAX corridor jumped to 28,100, boosted by about 3,000 new Red Line riders there. "Extending Airport MAX to Beaverton provides more frequent service and greater capacity where Westside MAX ridership is heaviest," said TriMet General Manager Fred Hansen. "It also adds direct airport service for many more riders." The Red Line extension to Beaverton Transit Center added four trains per hour, meaning MAX runs every 7 minutes during rush hours. More trains during busy commute times also means fewer people face standing room only. The number of people standing dropped 38 percent in September. The Airport MAX line, which was extended from downtown to Beaverton August 31, added direct airport service to six more stations, including: PGE Park, Kings Hill/SW Salmon, Goose Hollow/SW Jefferson, Washington Park, Sunset Transit Center and Beaverton Transit Center. =PTP=============================================== Houston Chronicle Oct. 26, 2003 Opponents eye Metro rail funds for highway work By LUCAS WALL Opponents of light rail expansion covet the $5.8 billion that Metro is seeking for new tracks and trains, eager to redirect that money toward increasing the number of highway lanes 53 percent by 2025. Rail foes are urging voters to reject the transit-expansion plan on Nov. 4 so they can shift Metro's proposed light rail spending into new roads. They are touting something called the 100 Percent Plan being drafted by the Houston-Galveston Area Council, the region's transportation planning agency. The goal is to cut current traffic congestion levels in half by 2025 while keeping up with the region's exploding population. "If we took that money that's being spent on the rail plan by Metro today and used it for building out the freeways, the tollways, the major thoroughfares in the regional plan, we would relieve congestion," Harris County Judge Robert Eckels said. "As you add more people, you have to add more roadways. We need to make that money work smarter." The 100 Percent Plan has mapped out how many highways will be required in the eight-county region if bigger and more roads are the chief answer to reducing gridlock. A preliminary estimate from the HGAC indicates that 10,703 lane miles are needed to achieve significant congestion reduction. "it's important the public understand there are very good alternatives," said U.S. Rep. John Culberson, R-Houston. "We will never have a chance to solve our traffic problems if Metro's rail plan is approved." Finding the money for the extra asphalt and concrete is a tough task, however. The HGAC estimates the construction cost at $21.1 billion, but the region will have only $11.5 billion available for highway building in the next 22 years, if current funding sources remain constant. With a $9.6 billion gap to close, highway advocates see the Metropolitan Transit Authority as one of their best potential cash cows. Since 1988, Metro has spent 25 percent of its penny sales-tax collections on "general mobility" distributions to Houston, Harris County and 14 small-city members. It proposes extending the mobility contracts, used for road construction and maintenance, from 2009 to 2014 as part of next month's referendum. That would add $774 million in road work, in addition to the $5.8 billion for 73 miles of rail and $979 million in new bus service. Light rail critics say merely extending the mobility fund is not enough. They would like to see Metro's treasury raided for more highway projects, much as former Houston Mayor Bob Lanier snatched millions of dollars in transit funds last decade to pay for hiring new police officers. The foes contend that light rail, running at slow speeds and mostly in streets within Loop 610, is a waste of tax dollars. "Redirect those monies to things that do reduce congestion," said Michael Stevens, a developer leading the anti-rail Texans for True Mobility campaign. He contends that more than $5.8 billion could be diverted from Metro because there would be no need to pay for operating and maintaining the proposed trains if voters kill the transit plan. The transit authority counters that, that money would have to be spent running buses instead. "They will generate $8 billion in cash to the bottom line," Stevens said of Metro if voters refuse to accept more light rail. "That $8 billion is available in reality to commit to whatever makes sense." That comes close to the $9.6 billion highway shortfall, he pointed out, and other revenue could be created. Stevens and others say that a nickel-per-gallon gas tax in the eight-county metropolitan area, for example, would generate about $125 million per year. That's almost $3 billion over the next 22 years. Metro's opponents are counting on Orlando Sanchez, who opposes the authority's plan, being elected mayor. He could then appoint a majority of the Metro board and direct them to funnel money into roads. Sylvester Turner and Bill White, the other two major mayoral candidates, support rail expansion. This spring's Houston Area Survey found only 28 percent of those polled favored bigger highways as "the best long-term solution to traffic problems." More transit led with 47 percent, while 25 percent favored building urban communities closer to downtown. Rail supporters scoff at HGAC's idea of spending almost $1 billion per year widening highways, about double the current expenditure in the region. It's fantasy to think Metro would give up its transit tax revenue to pay for more roads, train boosters say. Metro Chairman Arthur Schechter is among those questioning the wisdom of trying to solve the traffic problem with new roads, calling the 100 Percent Plan nothing more than a "catchy phrase." Massive roads will only create more sprawl, air pollution and additional congestion as people try to drive farther and farther, he said. The $21.1 billion highway figure calculated by the HGAC does not include costs for buying additional right of way. Those expenses have skyrocketed in recent years because widening a road now often requires purchasing hundreds of homes, stores, office buildings, restaurants and so on. Costs on the Katy Freeway widening that began earlier this year have ballooned almost $250 million over initial estimates, partly because of right of way acquisition. Alan Clark, the HGAC's chief transportation planner, has acknowledged that at least one-fifth of the proposed new lane miles would be almost impossible to build because of limited right of way. But, he said, other capacity improvements can be made. Converting major thoroughfares into "super streets" -- expressways similar to Allen Parkway and Memorial Drive near downtown -- would help ease traffic tie- ups on major roads, such as Texas 6 and FM 1960, Clark said. He said it is critical to note that the 100 Percent Plan, which will be finished in the spring, includes mass transit. Metro's proposed light rail lines are actually part of the working analysis. Rail critics are campaigning for voters to reject those lines Nov. 4, which would remove them from the HGAC plan. But even if that occurs, Clark said, other transit options, such as new bus routes and commuter rail lines, will be studied. "There's no question about the fact that transit has to be part of the answer," he said. The Texas Transportation institute at Texas A&M University released its annual Urban Mobility Report last month. It concludes that a diverse set of transportation options are needed to address congestion. More road construction is needed but, by itself, won't solve the problem, and public transit provides many benefits. "Both sides are a little bit right," said Tim Lomax, a research engineer who co- authored the report. "The thing that is pretty clear is that there is not a single set of solutions." Eckels, who chairs the HGAC Transportation Policy Council, and his allies all say they support mass transit, but only initiatives that are cheaper than Metro's light rail plan. The county will soon release a commuter rail feasibility study for the U.S. 290 and Texas 249 corridors showing such a system could be built for $2.5 million per mile -- trains included -- and be up and running within three years. Those trains could run up to 80 mph on upgraded freight railroad tracks, according to a study draft. Metro's light rail plan, Eckels points out, would cost almost $80 million per mile, take 21 years to build, and likely run no faster than 40 mph. The transit authority notes that its Nov. 4 referendum includes a commuter line to Missouri City. Schechter said he would welcome Harris County funding extra lines. But, he said, light rail must be built so commuters arriving in the city will have a way to reach their destination. A commuter train arriving downtown does a Tomball resident no good if he works in the East End or Greenway Plaza, light rail proponents point out. =PTP=================================================== Houston Chronicle Oct. 25, 2003 Viewpoints Congressman owes the voters of Houston By U.S. REP. CHRIS BELL U.S. Rep. John Culberson has crossed the line and owes the voters of Houston an apology. Two weeks ago, Culberson deliberately misled the people when he launched a sneak attack on Metro's fiscal health. He manipulated the Federal Transit Administration by feeding them false figures and asking whether they matched Metro's projected federal grants. Then he tried to confuse voters by flaunting the FTA's bewildered response as proof of financial mismanagement at Metro. Well, in the end, the FTA wouldn't play along with Culberson's false accusations, noting that they didn't come up with the numbers Culberson attributed to the agency. Clearly, this was an attempt by Culberson, R-Houston, to play Washington-style "bait and switch" power politics at the expense of the truth and the voters of Houston. The fact is that Metro is in excellent fiscal health. The truth is that the agency's projections are on target and that Metro is more than capable of delivering on the transit plan it is proposing. All that is left now are questions about Culberson's actions. As a fellow member of Congress, I feel compelled to remind my colleague that we were elected to go to Washington to advocate for the interests of the Houston community. Instead, Culberson is on a crusade to keep critical federal funds -- funds raised in Houston by gas taxes -- from coming back to Houston to help us address our transportation woes. Why does Culberson oppose returning hard- earned tax dollars to our own community? isn't that what we should be fighting for in Washington? Apparently, he only wants to deny Houstonians those options. He has sent tens of millions of dollars in federal transit funds to other cities around the nation: He is willing to fund rail transit in Salt Lake City, Dallas and San Juan, Puerto Rico. But he cannot abide a dollar for rail transit in Houston, where his own constituents steam in traffic for want of a transit system. Well, over the past couple of years, Culberson has proven himself to be an anti- rail zealot, and he is fighting tooth and nail to defeat Metro's referendum on the Nov. 4 ballot, without regard for the truth, or for the long-term costs to Houston. It is not that he doesn't want this rail plan. He doesn't really want any rail plan for Houston. As an alternative to the Metro plan, Culberson claims to support the "100 Percent Solution" plan. What he doesn't tell our fellow Houstonians, is that the "100 Percent Solution" plan is a wish list of highways and commuter rail that would cost tens of billions and require both state and federal gasoline tax hikes, something his voting record suggests he would be very unlikely to support were it on the ballot instead. The other important detail my colleague neglects to tell voters about his alternative, is that the Metro Solutions transit plan is included in the so-called "100 Percent Solution" plan. In fact, it is the only element of that plan that actually includes a source of funding without raising taxes. If Culberson were serious about the "100 Percent Plan," then he would be naturally supportive of the current Metro proposal. Contrary to the false claims of Culberson and his fellow anti-rail zealots, the Metro plan provides a vast increase in bus service for those in the inner city who need it most, and a comparable expansion of Park and Ride service for those commuting to Houston from the suburbs. This is a plan that helps everyone from Sugar Land to Kingwood, and throughout the city of Houston. Houston has had more than enough of Culberson's Washington-style politics and gross distortions of the truth. The people deserve better than demagoguery. As a member of Congress, I am deeply distressed when one of my colleagues uses his office to mislead the very voters who chose us to fight for them in Washington. He owes the Houston community an apology. Bell, a Democrat, represents Texas' 25th U.S. Congressional District. =PTP=============================================== Houston Chronicle Oct. 26, 2003 Cash disclosure not part of plan By JOHN WILLIAMS A QUICK CRUISE around the political finance seas with only eight days left before the Nov. 4 elections: · if ideas are the motors that drive politics, money is the fuel. Local conventional wisdom holds that supporters of an issue must spend three times as much on advertising as opponents do. Essentially, it is cheaper in politics to build doubt and suspicion than support. So important was it to the Metropolitan Transit Authority that it not face a high- dollar campaign against its transit referendum, including expanded light rail, that Metro officials reduced their rail proposal with hopes of appeasing opponents. The gambit failed. Close to the vest Suburban apartment developer Michael Stevens, who took part in negotiations that resulted in a smaller rail plan, has joined hands with other rail opponents to create Texans for True Mobility. The 501(c)(6) corporation is raising money to help defeat the referendum. it's hard to discern how much money Stevens has raised because he has taken the position that money given to Texans for True Mobility is not a form of campaign contribution. Based on that assertion, the group is not filing campaign finance reports disclosing contributions and expenses. The 501(c)(6), named for the section of the internal Revenue Code that defines it, was originally created to help business leagues such as chambers of commerce. But in recent years, groups advocating political positions have former 501(c)(6) organizations to mount campaigns to influence policy and legislation. Pending investigation in Austin, Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle is investigating the $3 million in contributions that another 501(c)(6) -- the Texas Association of Business -- spent on legislative races. TAB contends it did not have to disclose its donors because it did not advocate votes for specific candidacies, although it has acknowledged that its efforts helped elect Republicans. Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal has promised to look into the question as it relates to Texans for True Mobility. He won't disclose his findings, though, until after the Nov. 4 election, saying he doesn't want to influence the election results. According to an e-mail sent to prospective donors last week, the Stevens-backed group anticipates a budget of $1.9 million. Citizens for Public Transportation, the pro-rail political action committee headed by businessman Ed Wulfe, has a budget of $1.4 million. · Because of the unique corporate status of Texans for True Mobility, contributors could deduct their donations as business expenses for federal income tax purposes. Bernie Phillips, tax manager of the National Association of Accountants, said money that businesses give to 501(c)(6) corporations is deductible. if Texans for True Mobility raises $1.9 million, that would mean $665,000 in deductions, based on a 35 percent tax rate. But Stevens said he has advised contributors not to count their contributions to Texans for True Mobility as a business expense. · Homebuilder Bob Perry and his wife, Doylene, have been the biggest contributors to the Harris County GOP during the period in which the party has been running its "Liberal Bill White" promotion aimed at discrediting the mayoral campaign of businessman Bill White. According to state campaign finance records, the local party collected $212,100 between June 30 and Sept. 30. Of that, Bob Perry gave $75,000 and Doylene Perry gave $25,000. The party spent $147,400, with a large chunk of that going to radio and advertising aimed at helping mayoral candidate Orlando Sanchez, a conservative Republican, by branding White a liberal. White served as chairman of the state Democratic Party, generally linked to the party's moderate factions. · House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land, a longtime rail critic, has been silent about the Metro rail, bus and road referendum. in the last couple of years, DeLay has taken a lower public profile on rail, even though there is no indication he has any less disdain for it than in the past. in his place, DeLay confidants Stevens and U.S. Rep. John Culberson, R- Houston, have become the public faces of rail opposition, with DeLay staying out of the limelight. "We're not divulging strategy, but people know and share his concerns about this expensive gamble," said DeLay spokesman Jonathan Grella. "Pro-rail forces want this to be a referendum on personalities rather than policy." But that doesn't mean DeLay's presence isn't being felt around Houston. Two longtime political contributors to various causes and candidates say DeLay has expressed his preference that they not contribute money to the pro-rail side if they can't support the anti-rail group. Neither wanted to make a public statement because their companies do business in Washington, where DeLay is among the nation's GOP power elite. Grella responded that "pro-rail elites" continually demonstrate "a willingness to say or do anything to further their agenda, including aggressively trying to discredit and destroy those who disagree with them. "We're not going to help them invent irrelevant stories right before Election Day by responding to accusations from anonymous sources." · Sanchez has solicited the help of social conservative activist Dr. Steven Hotze for his mayoral campaign. On Sept. 25, Sanchez's campaign gave Hotze's Conservative Republicans of Harris County $20,000 for a direct mail advertisement. Hotze, a local physician, advocates that government should abide by biblical law. John Williams' e-mail address is =PTP================================================= Seattle Times Saturday, October 25, 2003 Feds make full funding of transit grant official By Mike Lindblom Seattle Times staff reporter More than 30 years after Seattle first considered a modern rail-transit system, the region has a federal grant to build it. The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) yesterday signed a "full funding grant agreement" to provide $500 million over the next few years for the $2.44 billion project. The 14-mile line from Tukwila to Westlake Center is scheduled to open by mid-2009. The document allows construction to begin in two weeks on the first mile, extending from the downtown transit tunnel south through Sodo. Kiewit Pacific will sign a pair of contracts worth $95 million this morning to lay those tracks and build a maintenance base near the old Rainier Brewery. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., announced the FTA signing in a packed room of Sound Transit employees and boosters at its Union Station headquarters, calling light rail "The Little Engine That Could." "We have reached the end of the tunnel. Light rail means less congestion and more jobs for Puget Sound," she said. "For a region that has faced some tough times over the last year or two, this is good news." The project will create 4,200 construction and design jobs, but "Central Link" is anticipated to provide only a 1 percent reduction in commuter traffic into downtown. Murray and Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Bremerton, congratulated local transit officials for their perseverance under pressure. Three years ago, cost overruns forced the agency to reorganize itself, shorten the line and undergo federal reviews. Murray said she never doubted Sound Transit would prevail because of its unity. Seattle voters turned down rapid-transit measures in 1968 and 1970, forfeiting the city's opportunity for federal rail-transit aid until the current plan passed in 1996. Mike Lindblom: 206-515-5631 or =PTP============================================ SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER Saturday, October 25, 2003 Victory day for fans of light rail Signing of deal for $500 million grant sets off celebration By JANE HADLEY SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER REPORTER it's official. The deal is done. "Touchdown! We win!" said King County Executive Ron Sims, chairman of Sound Transit's board. Construction on the 14-mile light rail line from Westlake Center to South 154th Street near Sea-Tac Airport starts in two weeks at the Metro Busway and South Royal Brougham Way. All of the emotion pent up in the two and a half years spent seeking a $500 million federal grant agreement poured out at a news conference at Sound Transit headquarters yesterday, called to announce that the agreement had been signed in Washington, D.C. The agreement had been held up by an influential Oklahoma congressman, who dropped his objections to the project this week. Hundreds of Sound Transit staff members who jammed the room in their Friday casual clothes whooped and cheered and gave a standing ovation as Sen. Patty Murray, D--Wash., Sims and Chief Executive Officer Joni Earl entered the room. "The moment we have been waiting for has arrived," said Murray, adding the project would improve transportation and give jobs to 4,000 people designing, engineering and building the $2.4 billion project. Perhaps the loudest cheer and longest standing ovation of all went to Earl. She thanked the Sound Transit board, Murray and Democratic Reps. Norm Dicks and Adam Smith, but when she talked about her staff, she could not hold back the tears. "You guys are terrific," she said. The staff took "a lot of hits," Earl said, but prevailed with talent and dedication. "We're going to build a quality project, a safe project." Earl invited the public to watch the signing of the first construction contracts this morning at the site of the new light rail maintenance and operations base at Airport Way South and South Hanford Street. it was a day to hand out credit -- even to the opposite party. Sims praised Murray as an "incredible champion" of the project. Murray in turn praised Dicks as well as the Bush administration, U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta and Federal Transit Administrator Jennifer Dorn. Murray said that without Earl and her staff, "we wouldn't be standing here today." She also thanked Sims, Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels, and other local leaders for their "tireless advocacy" of the agency, which had been brought low by a light rail project more than a billion dollars over budget. in early 2001, federal officials cancelled the $500 million grant agreement and the agency was swallowed in a sea of controversy from which it only recently emerged. The rail line was slashed from 21 miles to its current 14 miles and the completion date pushed from 2006 to 2009. Sims said Murray told him: "If you are willing to be an excellent organization, I will fight for you." Dicks, speaking over a speakerphone from Washington, D.C., where he was boarding a plane to attend a Huskies game today, said, "I congratulate everyone at Sound Transit for the fantastic job you've done turning this operation around." He thanked Earl, Sims, Snohomish County Executive Bob Drewel and Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg. King County Councilman Dwight Pelz and Seattle City Councilman Richard Mciver called the staff "unsung heroes." "The people who work at Sound Transit are just fabulous," said Pelz. "This is your day." P-I reporter Jane Hadley can be reached at 206-448-8362 or =PTP=========================================== SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER Thursday, October 23, 2003 Sound Transit clears hurdle Congressman blocking $500 million grant relents -- with conditions By JANE HADLEY AND CHARLES POPE SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER REPORTERS The Seattle area's long-awaited light rail line broke most of the way through the one remaining roadblock to the start of construction yesterday, as the Oklahoma congressman who has blocked a key federal grant for the project stepped aside - - conditionally. The breakthrough came just two days before favorable bids for the project are set to expire. Rep. Ernest Istook Jr., the Republican chairman of the House subcommittee that hands out federal transportation dollars, released a letter late in the day saying he will withdraw his objections to the $500 million full-funding grant agreement on three conditions. "We're very encouraged, but we're still digesting" Istook's letter, said Ric ilgenfritz, Sound Transit's chief of communications. "Nobody's popping any corks yet." Istook's conditions are: That the entire 18-member Sound Transit board must pass a resolution incorporating the statements and commitments made in an Oct. 2 letter, including promises not to siphon away money from the Eastside or other areas for the light rail project. The letter was signed by King County Executive Ron Sims, chairman of the Sound Transit board, and three other board members. The commitments must be included in language of the federal grant. The board must agree that it will not ask for more than $500 million. The grant agreement had been written, Istook said, to suggest that Sound Transit would get at least $500 million and might ask for more. The grant language must make $500 million a ceiling rather than a floor. Land on the "critical path" right-of-way along the Tukwila freeway section of the 14-mile line must be acquired by October of next year. The decision by Istook came one day after he and two Washington state Republican members of Congress, Jennifer Dunn and George Nethercutt, failed in their effort to persuade the White House to kill the project. President Bush has promised $75 million for Sound Transit next year, and his aides turned aside a request to withdraw that funding. The $500 million federal grant, which would still have to be appropriated by Congress in annual dollops, makes up 20 percent of the $2.4 billion project to build a light rail line from Westlake Center in downtown Seattle to South 154th Street near Sea-Tac Airport. Congressional Democrats who support the light rail project said the first two conditions would be easily met. The third, involving property acquisition in Tukwila, is a question mark, ilgenfritz said, and needs to be further investigated. Sound Transit's 18-member board holds a regular board meeting today and is expected to discuss and act on Istook's letter. in addition, the Federal Transit Administration, which notified Istook in July that it intended to sign the grant agreement, must decide whether to alter the grant agreement to satisfy Istook's conditions and then sign the agreement. FTA officials could not be reached yesterday. Sound Transit will not get a "green light" for construction until it has the signed agreement in hand, ilgenfritz said. But two of the project's most stalwart supporters, Rep. Norm Dicks and Sen. Patty Murray, treated Istook's letter as close to a green light. The two Washington Democrats said they expect FTA Administrator Jennifer Dorn to move quickly to issue the full-funding grant agreement. "I would think it would be done immediately," Dicks said. The inclusion of the third condition involving Tukwila property came as a surprise to ilgenfritz and to a prominent light rail opponent, King County Councilman Rob McKenna, who said he didn't know what to make of it. The U.S. Transportation Department's inspector general mentioned it in one paragraph of his 42-page report in July as one of several issues that could affect the schedule or cost of the project. ilgenfritz said the issue had not arisen in discussions with federal officials, and he knew of no particular problems looming with regard to property acquisition in the Tukwila section of the line. "We're confident in our schedule, and we think we've got the budget and resources to stick to it," he said. Steve Lancaster, director of Tukwila's Department of Community Development, said he was not aware of any problems or controversies involving land acquisition in that segment of the line. One potential concern of such a condition might be that it could give maximum leverage to property owners in their negotiations with Sound Transit, potentially threatening the schedule. Construction bids of close to $100 million, which came in 15 percent below engineer's estimates, expired two weeks ago and were extended until tomorrow. It's possible the grant agreement would not be signed by then, but Dan Howell, project manager for Kiewit Pacific, the contractor who submitted the successful bid, said he needs to check with higher-ups in his company. It is likely that Kiewit would extend its bid for a few more days until the federal agreement could be assigned. Sound Transit has been waiting anxiously for a state Supreme Court decision on the validity of initiative 776, which sought to eliminate the motor vehicle tax revenues that Sound Transit collects. Istook has expressed concern about the effect of the initiative on Sound Transit's finances if it is upheld. But in the end, apparently with an eye on the expiring bids, Istook stepped aside without waiting for the court to issue its decision. Despite the i's still to be dotted and t's to be crossed, Sound Transit's allies cheered Istook's announcement. "This has been one of the toughest fights that I can remember in my 27 years on the Appropriations Committee," Dicks said. "But the merits prevailed, and I'm pleased." Added Murray: "Sound transit has had everything thrown at it in the last two years, and there have been many days when people wondered whether we'd get to where we are now. "Despite all those tough days, at the end of the day we can say that Sound Transit has a project that has passed every hurdle. So that inherently means it will be a better project." Istook's decision to retreat marked a significant setback for Dunn, who has been among the most vocal opponents of the project, arguing that it would divert scarce resources from transportation projects in her Eastside congressional district and across the state. She also insisted that Sound Transit's light rail system would not cure the region's notorious congestion. State Transportation Secretary Doug MacDonald has written Congress that the project would provide significant congestion relief. Under Sound Transit board policy, the transit district is divided into five subareas: East King, North King, South King, Pierce County and Snohomish County. The 14-mile light rail project is being paid for mostly by the North King subarea, which is made up mostly of Seattle, and partly by the South King subarea. The other three subareas are contributing no money to the project, but County Councilman McKenna and Dunn have expressed fear that if there were cost overruns, the board would be forced to change its policy and dip into funds from other areas, particularly East King, which has a huge surplus of unspent money. McKenna claimed victory yesterday, maintaining that Istook's conditions would mean that the federal grant would now have to explicitly bar Sound Transit from raiding funds from other areas in the event of cost overruns. "This is huge," McKenna said. Dunn was not available for comment, but in a statement, she said Istook's approach would protect people in her district as well as money for transportation projects across the state. "I applaud his decision and am encouraged by this new decision that will keep local funds within the regions where they are collected in order to pay for projects that indeed reduce congestion," she said. Nethercutt, who represents the 5th District in Eastern Washington, came to a similar conclusion. "All along my concerns with Sound Transit have been about protecting commuters' interests," he said in a statement. "The conditions outlined by Chairman Istook keep Sound Transit from pitting commuter against commuter in the Puget Sound region." But the larger question beyond Sound Transit's future is how much damage the fight did to Washington's congressional delegation. "I've been in Congress a long time, and I've never seen the delegation, frankly, go at each other as it did on this particular project," said Dicks, who represents Tacoma and the Olympic Peninsula. "The project was ranked at the top in almost every single area" by federal transportation officials. "What they were doing was holding up some Holy Grail project, some perfect project, and when you compare it to other projects that were getting funded, we were ranked higher and had better capability than all of them," he said. Dicks and Murray, ardent Democrats both, showered praise on the Republican White House for standing fast against the request by Istook and Dunn to deny funding. "I was pleased the administration stayed with the president's budget," Dicks said, noting that Bush had included $75 million for Sound Transit in his fiscal 2004 budget. As for a meeting that Istook, Dunn and Nethercutt had with Bush's senior political adviser, Karl Rove, Dicks said, "I think it was an effort to try and get the administration to change its position." Dicks also stressed that once he had heard about the meeting, he made sure to contact the White House as well. Still, given Sound Transit's difficult history, Murray said she would not fully celebrate until the funding agreement was delivered. "I'm not doing my dance yet. I'm waiting until I see that signature on that little piece of paper," she said. P-I reporter Jane Hadley can be reached at 206-448-8362 or =PTP================================================== Seattle Times Sunday, October 26, 2003 Monorail seems to be off track Nicole Brodeur / Times staff columnist We taxpayers sure do appreciate being updated on the progress of the monorail. it's just that it always seems to be bad news. in August, we learned that the monorail's tax revenues had come in at one-third below projections. In other words, the monorail board thought it had more money than it did. Not a single inch of rail has been laid down for this thing, and already, the guys in charge are losing money. Worse, they're shirking their responsibility for the mess. Monorail leaders blamed the shortfall on the lack of reliable data from other agencies. But really, it was they who didn't take the time to investigate how much money could be raised from a car tax in Seattle. And it was they who cut corners by basing their numbers on those collected by Sound Transit. That's like taking child-care advice from Courtney Love. You're just asking for trouble. Former monorail board member Dick Falkenbury admitted as much the other day: "We had such an extremely short timeline," he said, "And there was real pressure not to question things. ... 'On time and on budget.' That was the mantra." That's great to hear, when you're talking about a $1.7 billion project. Details be damned, let's get this on the ballot and figure out the numbers later. If they had known more, maybe Seattle voters wouldn't have passed the thing last year. But they did, approving a 14-mile Green Line from Crown Hill to West Seattle, to be paid for by an annual tax on vehicle tabs in the city. The tax rate starts at $85 for every $10,000 of vehicle value and goes up to $140 per $10,000 next year. They voted out of frustration with longtime traffic problems; with hope that a home-grown project would be easier to fund and manage; and with no small measure of nostalgia, seeking to preserve a bit of the ever-changing city's past. But there were some who didn't play fair, and registered their cars outside of Seattle to avoid the monorail tax. it all forced the monorail board to — say it with me, people — spend more money. Another $52,000 for an independent investigation of their own practices. Not an inch of rail, and the monorail board had to pay to have itself investigated. Lordy. Other things make you wonder: Stations proposed and scrapped, ridership numbers that change so often, the board must have given up on pens. And there is that sick feeling I get when someone mentions the monorail, and everyone else snickers or sighs. The monorail has turned into public transportation's answer to MTV's newlywed, Jessica Simpson: Pricey, exasperating and not the brightest thing. We can't stop watching. But we can draw some hope from Sound Transit, another Ghost Train that may come back to life, now that it got the $500 million in federal funds it needs to break ground. There's a chance things could work for the monorail, but right now, there's just suspicion, sighs and snickers. Not an inch of rail, and already, we feel like we're being taken for a ride. Reach Nicole Brodeur at 206-464-2334 or More columns at =PTP================================================ Seattle Times Sunday, October 26, 2003 Editorial A shrunken Monorail is a dead Monorail The Seattle Monorail Project promised to be different. "We are operating in the shadow of Sound Transit," said Monorail Chairman Tom Weeks on Oct. 3, 2002. "By going second, we have the opportunity to learn from their successes and their mistakes." That was right. Monorail is not going to get the same slack. A drastically shrunken or changed monorail route, either because of faulty financial planning or a failure to meet engineering expectations, is a dead monorail. Too many promises were made too solemnly for them to be forgotten. in a presentation to The Seattle Times, Weeks said, "We commit to the full 14 miles of the route, and if we can't do that, we go back to the voters." Monorail also committed to borrow no more than $1.5 billion. It is still committing to those things. But the system is beginning to shrink in other ways: • A station at Safeco Field has been unfortunately dropped. That conflicts with one of the presumed advantages of monorail — stepping off the Monorail directly to a game. • The debate over whether the Monorail goes through, or around, Seattle Center is far from over. That disagreement between Monorail authorities and influential members of City Council undoubtedly precedes other disagreements to be discovered as the route plows through downtown and city neighborhoods. • There is additional talk of saving money by leaving out escalators at stations, and there is talk of having sections of single track. This shrinkage is because revenues are one-third short. There is a long story about how this happened, but essentially, Monorail directors and management weren't focused on revenues. Sound Transit had no problem with revenues; it had a problem with costs. Monorail put out a 25-page report in July 2002 to think of all the things that might raise costs — everything from not getting city permits to acts of terrorism. It wasn't thinking enough about revenues. The other problem was that Monorail executives were focused on the November 2002 election. This was the election that would put them into business. They chose a tax rate lower than their financial officer recommended because they wanted to win the election — which they did, by 877 votes in a city of more than half a million residents. The good news is that Seattle voters do not have to take the agency's word. Monorail's commitment to design and build should make the difference. Two bidding teams are being asked to accept a contract to design, build and operate Seattle Monorail at a fixed price. These teams are still both in the game, saying that it is still doable. When their bids come in, we will know whether we can afford this system or not.
[PTP NOTE TO RECIPIENTS: We've had a major Email software failure (i.e., crash), and now seem to be recovering. Consequently, some important items have backlogged. So there may be a couple of extra PTP mailings imminently to catch up.] PTP Digest 2003/10/27-A = CONTENTS * Honolulu: BRT out, rail transit in? Honolulu Star-Bulletin Thursday, October 23, 2003 * Houston Metro: Rail foes should reveal backers Houston Chronicle Oct. 24, 2003 * Houston: Anticipating LRT, 'Main Event' previews urbane CBD Houston Chronicle Oct. 23, 2003 * Houston op-ed: Hypocrisy abounds in Metro Solutions campaign Houston Chronicle Oct. 24, 2003 * Portland: Art+history features in interstate line LRT stations The Tribune - Portland Fri, Oct 17, 2003 * Denver: LRT Lakewood-Golden line planning moves ahead Rocky Mountain News October 23, 2003 * Charlotte: LRT station ads eyed as big revenue source Charlotte Observer Thursday, Oct 23, 2003 =PTP=========================================== Honolulu Star-Bulletin Thursday, October 23, 2003 State, city prepare new plans for transit Harris' proposal for bus rapid transit draws bipartisan criticism By Crystal Kua The state will unveil on Monday a combination of light rail, a bus system and road changes, including an elevated highway, to combat Oahu traffic congestion. "There is no silver bullet," state Transportation Director Rodney Haraga said. "One transportation mode is not going to solve our problem." Haraga said details will be released after the plan is presented to Gov. Linda Lingle and members of a city and state task force looking for solutions to the island's traffic woes. Haraga's comments came on the same day a bipartisan group of state and city lawmakers and community members called on Mayor Jeremy Harris to dump his bus rapid transit system, or BRT. The debate over the system also comes as the City Council's transportation committee takes up a resolution today calling for the development of a fixed-rail transit plan, more than 10 years after a Council vote killed the last rail plan. "I think now is the apt time that we put the brakes on the bus rapid transit program and get the city and state government to work together on a common solution to our mass transit programs," said Councilman Charles Djou. But the mayor said he will not stop the first phase of his plan that will take hybrid gas-and-electric express buses from downtown through Kakaako and end in Waikiki. "It seems that every time we get ready to do something constructive, a number of politicians in this town get afraid, and they want to stop things to study them longer," Harris said. "I'm here to tell you 35 years of study is enough. It's time we took some action, and that's exactly what we intend to do." Controversial aspects of the bus plan -- taking away lanes on Kapiolani and Dillingham boulevards for exclusive use -- are not part of a $50 million first phase that is scheduled to begin construction later this year. Harris said the first phase will include sidewalk improvements, landscaping, underground utilities, bus stop upgrades and the addition of extra lanes on Ala Moana and Kalia Road for semiexclusive use by buses. Haraga, meanwhile, said an in-town bus system is part of the plan he will present to the task force. "We have to go into a multimodal system, which would include mass transit of some form, which would be the light rail. It will include some type of highway improvements or modifications, and it will include a bus system," Haraga said. "We know that whether you call it BRT, whether you call it transit, whether you call it whatever, we still know that you need that because even if ... everybody agrees that light rail is one of the viable solutions or modes, you still need to distribute folks downtown or in town, and the most viable alternative then would be buses." A rail proponent, Harris also said his BRT plan does not preclude a rail system, but it would take six to 10 years to come to fruition, while the BRT can be implemented now. He said the City Council has already given the green light for the first phase, and final federal approval is pending. Lingle said she has not yet been briefed by Haraga. "I'm interested to see how he puts the pieces together," Lingle said. "One thing the (task force) is unanimous about ... we don't need any more studies, we just need some decisions to be made, take those decisions to the public to determine their level of interest or opposition and move forward." The state is trying to estimate what a system would cost, Haraga said. "We're trying to get a better handle on what it is, that if we were to go with light rail, if we were to go with a Nimitz (Highway) flyover or whatever it is, we need to get a handle on the cost because my question is, How are we going to pay for it?" Haraga said. Djou was among several state and city legislators, both Republicans and Democrats, who represent the areas affected by the BRT and who signed a petition opposing it. "Should we keep putting money into BRT if it's not going to solve our problems? And we're saying, 'Stop, let's take a look, let's find the correct solution.'" said Council Chairwoman Ann Kobayashi, who along with Djou and Councilman Rod Tam have introduced a resolution calling for the city administration to delay the project. =PTP=============================================== Houston Chronicle Oct. 24, 2003 Metro demands anti-rail identities Texans for True Mobility spokesman says backers 'scared' of retaliation By TONY FREEMANTLE Supporters of Metro's $7.5 billion, 22-year transit plan demanded Friday that its opponents reveal who is backing their anti-rail "educational foundation" and stop running advertisements based on incorrect financial data. The plan's opponents countered that the law does not require them to reveal their backers and that the radio and television ads don't mention the disputed numbers. The dueling press conferences held Friday were prompted by a letter released the day before from the Federal Transit Administration stating it did not vet funding figures used by rail opponents to claim Metro was overestimating by $116 million the federal funds it would have for rail expansion. Last month, rail opponents, including U.S. Rep. John Culberson, R-Houston, and Harris County Judge Robert Eckels, released a chart prepared by the House Appropriations Committee which they said compared Metro's budget numbers with projections by the FTA of how much money the transit agency would in fact receive from the federal government. in a letter to U.S. Rep. Nick Lampson, D-Beaumont, FTA Administrator Jennifer Dorn said her agency "did not produce the chart or the figures included therein." Metro's supporters pounced on the letter Friday to denounce the opposition for "misleading" voters and said Texans for True Mobility, the group leading the opposition, should pull ads based on those numbers. "We need honest and fair facts," said Ed Wulfe, the Houston developer who heads Citizens for Public Transportation, the pro-rail political action committee. "The arrogance that they (opponents) continue to show is divisive to our community." Chris Begala, spokesman for Texans for True Mobility, would not concede that Culberson erred by saying emphatically, as he did on local television, that the FTA had provided the data showing a $116 million shortfall. "Ernest Istook (the chairman of the appropriations subcommittee for transportation) says those numbers are correct and they were put together based on numbers provided by the FTA," Begala said. "The committee is a higher authority than the FTA's numbers. Istook's office oversees the FTA's numbers." Metro admits to a difference of $43 million between its projections and the Bush administration's six-year transit funding proposal. The authority contends the rest of the supposed $116 million discrepancy is caused by the failure of the appropriations committee to include $66 million in federal grants already received by Metro and a $7 million clean-air grant from the state. Regardless of how much the budget shortfall is, Begala said Texans for True Mobility believes Metro lacks money to complete a plan that includes 73 new miles of rail, 44 new bus routes, a doubling of HOV lanes and $774 million in roadwork. "Let's give them their argument," Begala said. "They're right. We're $50 million off and we're 11 days out from the election. If they don't have those dollars, they are not sufficiently solvent to go out and undertake a project of that magnitude." Wulfe said Texans for True Mobility's refusal to reveal its backers demonstrated the organization's "contempt for voters." Wulfe further said the organization is running ads based on the "misleading information conjured up by Mr. Culberson" and should pull them off the air. Begala said the campaign had no plans to do so and called Wulfe's demands "absolutely ludicrous." The backers of Texans for True Mobility did not wish to reveal themselves to the public, Begala said, because "they are scared of (retaliation from) very powerful entities affecting their ability to live and work in this community." The Harris County district attorney's office is looking into whether the group's refusal to disclose its backers is unlawful. in another development Friday, the Houston Association of Realtors' board of directors voted to endorse the Metro plan. "it's the price of admission to be a world-class city," said HAR Director Rob Cook of Robert D. Cook Properties. "I've lived in Houston since 1975, and millions of dollars have been spent on transportation studies. Metro's plan might not be perfect, but it's a start. It's time to quit talking and get moving." =PTP============================================ Houston Chronicle Oct. 23, 2003 Rush-hour break a Main attraction Four blocks closed to traffic for weekend sidewalk cafes By DAVID KAPLAN and MIKE SNYDER Downtown is joining outdoor cafe society. Starting Oct. 31, Main Street between Capitol and Congress will be closed to auto traffic Friday and Saturday nights. Main Street restaurateurs will put out tables and chairs almost as far as the curb, and the street will become a sidewalk. The four-block strip will feature a mix of entertainment -- called "The Main Event" -- including live music, dancers and laser light shows. Business and civic leaders are targeting downtown workers who they believe will prefer spending late Friday afternoons drinking wine alfresco over fighting freeway traffic. "And once Houstonians use it, word gets out, and it becomes a tourist attraction," said Jordy Tollett, president of the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau. The Main Event will run Fridays from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. and Saturdays from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. Cross streets within the sidewalk cafe district will remain open to cars. if it's a hit on Fridays and Saturdays, it will be rolled out on Sundays in six months or so, and could eventually run seven days a week -- "but only if it makes sense," said Susan Elmore, chairwoman of the nonprofit group Houston Downtown Alliance. There is also talk of making the area a Sunday brunch destination with live gospel and jazz. The Main Event will not be a street festival, noted Bob Eury, executive director of the Downtown District. Its purpose is to create an "attractive, vibrant environment" to complement downtown businesses. The atmosphere of the Main Event will change as the night progresses, said Libby Weathers, director of the Downtown Entertainment District Alliance, a group comprised mostly of downtown business owners. During happy hour, she said, there will be a cultural mix of high-energy bands, from cover to Texas to salsa. At the dining hour, the music will be softer and more romantic and may feature a classical quintet. Roving performers will include dancers, contortionists and magicians. Organizers hope the Main Event will lure a new demographic to the downtown restaurant, nightclub and bar scene. "We want to take advantage of people who work here," said Barry Mandel, president of the Houston Downtown Alliance. Mandel noted that downtown is already packed with young revelers on Saturdays around midnight. With the soon-to-arrive strip of festive sidewalk cafes, Mandel said, downtown businesses can go after the "low-hanging fruit" -- the almost 200,000 downtown workers. Light rail will be an integral component of the Main Event. "After work on Friday you won't have to get in your car and find a parking spot downtown," said Tollett. "If you work downtown or in the Medical Center, you can hop on light rail and ride to lower Main, and after drinking, dining and listening to music, you can get back on the rail and go back to your car." Tollett had a strong role in conceptualizing the Main Event, as did members of DEDA's steering committee, including Joe Martin, the owner of M Bar. For downtown restaurant and bar owners, who have endured a very rough two years, these are heady times. After all the construction work, which severely cut into their businesses, downtown is turning around: A variety of aesthetic improvements are almost complete and light rail arrives in a little more than two months. John Zotos, owner of St. Pete's Dancing Marlin bar and restaurant, said all he has been hearing the past two years is, "How long can you hold out?" David Edwards, owner of the Mercury Room, Zula and Boaka Bar, said many downtown businesses did go under, and among the survivors is a feeling that finally the good times are returning. Edwards and Zotos are board members of DEDA. The group helped plan the Main Event. City Councilwoman Carol Alvarado, whose district includes downtown, was instrumental in developing the street closing plan. Last week, the council changed a city ordinance to reduce the cost and time required to establish sidewalk cafes. The change eliminates the need to hire engineers or surveyors to draw up site plans, instead allowing businesses to draft simpler plans themselves. Tollett said Mayor Lee Brown had instructed city department heads to cooperate in an effort to anticipate and deal with such regulatory issues. Also on Oct. 31, downtown will see the debut of bicycle rickshaws, also known as bike cabs. The 20 bike cabs will be operated by Lone Star BikeCAB. A person can flag a bike or phone the company's owner who will radio one of his riders. Tollett hopes a number of boutiques will eventually spring up along Main Street to heighten what he describes as the "walking entertainment mall" atmosphere that is developing. =PTP=============================================== Houston Chronicle Oct. 24, 2003 Light rail game: rank hypocrisy By RICK CASEY IF DANTE'S hell has varying levels for degrees of hypocrisy, where will the following players spend eternity? · Texans for True Mobility: This group is bellowing in TV and radio ads and direct mail pieces that the Metro light rail plan "costs too much, does too little." The group appears to be spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to oppose Metro's light rail plan. On its Web site, TTM offers a list of "news clippings," the first of which is from a publication called the Houston Review. The article, "The Metro Money Train," luridly lists some of the major contributors to Citizens for Public Transportation, the political action committee advertising in favor of light rail. The article notes that contributors tend to be companies that expect to profit from light rail. Siemens Transportation Systems, for example, gave "a staggering" $50,000. Siemens is selling the cars to Metro. Other contributors are architects, engineers and landholders and developers who stand to benefit from the project. Crescent Real Estate Equities, for example, owner of Greenway Plaza and downtown real estate, both of which will be served by rail, gave $25,000. So did Fulbright & Jaworski, the mega-law firm that does bond work. This information is known because Citizens for Public Transportation filed the required disclosure forms -- something Texans for True Mobility refuses to do. So TTM is happy to tell you who is funding the other side of the debate. They just won't say who's funding their side. TTM officials take this hypocrisy to a higher level by saying they don't have to disclose their finances because they are a nonprofit engaged in education, not telling people how to vote. This is so patently untrue that even their announcers have a hard time swallowing it. One of their radio ads concludes with this line: "Paid for by Texans for True Mobility." But another concludes: "Political ad paid for by Texans for True Mobility." · The Metropolitan Transit Authority: For more than a month, Metro has been running slick newspaper and television ads touting the virtues of its light rail plan. idealized artists' renderings of sleek trains pulling into tree-shaded stations turn hard steel into warm fuzzies. Metro officials say it's acceptable to use taxpayer and bus rider money to pay for this advertising blitz because they are simply informing voters of the program, not seeking their vote. They say this with the same straight face that TTM officials use in saying their efforts are simply educational. Metro officials estimate that from the time they called the election through Election Day, the cost of the, um, educational campaign will be $3 million. This includes creative and production costs as well as air time and print space. (The agency, it should be noted, ran ads before calling the election.) if you're a taxpayer who disagrees with the plan, you've got a good gripe about your taxes going to promote the other side. · Tax Assessor-Collector Paul Bettencourt: His Web site ( features in its most prominent position five "featured items." Three of them attack Metro's funding plans for its light rail proposal. One, for example, is titled: "What METROs (sic) Not Telling Us About Their Revenue Forecast: Bettencourt To inform The Public." Bettencourt is, of course, (all together now) simply educating the public. He certainly isn't using his official taxpayer-funded Web site to oppose the Metro proposal. He also links to copies of several negative articles about Dallas' light rail system, but not to any readily available positive articles. (Bettencourt's guilt is mitigated by technical incompetence. The copies are illegible.) You can write to Rick Casey at P.O. Box 4260, Houston, TX 77210, or e-mail him at =PTP======================================== The Tribune - Portland Fri, Oct 17, 2003 Art to the MAX Portland's new interstate light-rail line is a trip in itself By DON HAMILTON [PHOTO] At the interstate/Rose Quarter station, "The Silicon Forest," by Brian Borrello, is a metaphor for displacement and change. The glass trees generate electricity through solar panels. if art tells stories, you'll find tales of change, hardship and optimism all along TriMet's new interstate MAX line. it's all right there in the 10 stations and their 10 art projects. Each is designed to reflect the history and the culture of the people who have lived nearby. The $350 million extension of light rail -- to be called the Yellow Line -- won't open until May 1. But the 10 art projects are being installed this fall; by November, the project will be 90 percent complete. "Artists are storytellers," said Mary Priester, TriMet's public art manager. "They tell their stories with visual elements, but they approach the stations in similar ways, telling their own version of that neighborhood's story." Public art along the 5.8-mile line cost $1.4 million, a figure based on the agency policy of spending 1.5 percent on art. The figure, reached through a formula that excluded land acquisition and the cost of cars, is less than the $2 million spent on art installed along the 20-station west-side line. in 2000, TriMet created its interstate MAX Art Committee, which then set out in search of neighborhood voices to help set an artistic theme for each station. The interviews conducted not only set themes but also formed the basis of a book called "intersections," an oral history with voices from Vanport, Albina, the Expo Center and other stops along the line. The new line works its way north from the Rose Quarter to the Expo Center, right through the heart of what have been, at various times, Portland's poorest and most turbulent neighborhoods. Consider drugs, gangs, riots and poverty. Consider shipyards, stockyards, Japanese relocation camps and the neighborhoods lost to make way for a hospital, an interstate and Memorial Coliseum. And consider the Vanport flood and the lively night life that once drew Sammy Davis Jr., Count Basie and Duke Ellington. Columns, benches, railings, sculpture, platforms and elements at stations all along the line reflect these stories. "No true progress," TriMet General Manager Fred Hansen wrote in the introduction to the oral history, "can be made without sharing and honoring our collective history." =PTP================================================,1299,DRMN_15_23698 00,00.html Rocky Mountain News October 23, 2003 RTD presents report on proposed rail line By Kevin Flynn, Rocky Mountain News LAKEWOOD - Whether the proposed light-rail line through Lakewood to Golden can be built is expected to be decided by the federal government by the end of this year. But voters won't decide on the light-rail line for at least another year. Regional Transportation District officials presented the final version of the required environmental-impact statement on the line to the public Wednesday night at the Sheraton Hotel here. The session drew about 45 people. It was the last viewing of the report before it goes to the Federal Transit Administration for review. A decision could come before the new year. But funding for the estimated $492 million project is highly dependent on voter approval of a proposed hike of 0.4 percent in RTD's sales tax, to a full penny per dollar. The plan, called FasTracks, would build six new rail corridors, extend three existing ones and expand bus service. The earliest RTD plans to ask for voter approval is November 2004. With the tax hike, the Lakewood-Golden line could be completed in 2010. Relying on current funding, though, it wouldn't be built until after 2025. The 13-mile line requires RTD to purchase a dozen single-family homes and remove 179 multifamily residences from along the right of way. In addition, 34 businesses would be displaced. Since the draft of the report was released in March, RTD received 1,180 comments on it from residents, businesses, agencies and local governments. As a result, some changes were made. The most noticeable was RTD's decision to beef up measures aimed at reducing noise from the trains. Light rail is generally considered so quiet it has to run with horns and bells to be heard when approaching from behind. But concerns about track noise led RTD to pledge a noise barrier, 3 feet high, on both sides of the track from Harlan to Oak streets. The report results showed RTD would be required to build those walls for only a small portion of that distance. in addition, RTD Project Manager Dave Hollis said, RTD agreed to blare the trains' horns when they cross streets at grade level. =PTP============================================= Charlotte Observer Thursday, Oct 23, 2003 Big ads considered for light rail stations Officials say displays could earn as much as $32,000 per site yearly DIANNE WHITACRE Staff Writer Charlotte's 15 light-rail stations may have six large display ads when they open three years from now -- a move that transit officials are considering to raise money. The Metropolitan Transit Commission on Wednesday asked its staff to start drafting an ordinance that would allow the advertisements. The ads could raise $25,000 to $32,000 annually at each station, marketing manager Olaf Kinard said. He based that estimate on ad prices at rapid-transit stations in other cities, including Atlanta, Denver and Dallas. Currently, ads are not allowed in the public right of way, where the stations will be located near South Boulevard and the Norfolk Southern rail line. So the city's zoning ordinance would have to be changed. That may happen next year, after a public hearing. The proposal comes three years after the Charlotte Area Transit System eliminated ads from the exterior of its bus fleet in an attempt to improve their appearance. Mayor Pat McCrory noted the city's long fight against billboards and said the transit station ads should not face the street. They should be inside the stations, where transit passengers would see them. Ads would not be allowed at bus stops or bus shelters, Kinard said. The proposal affects only Charlotte because the planned light-rail line runs only within the city. Later, the same policy would be considered for the four other transit lines, which will run through the city as well as Cornelius, Huntersville, Davidson and Matthews. Those towns will discuss allowing the shelter ads in their jurisdictions later. in other action, the transit commission set a $1 fare for the historic Charlotte Trolley, which starts daily service in February between uptown and the South End. That's the current fare, but the CATS staff proposed setting it at $1.10, the same as local bus fare. The trolley fare will increase to $1.20 in 2006, the same fare planned for the light-rail line, said Keith Parker, deputy director. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Dianne Whitacre: (704) 358-5099; PTP Digest 2003/10/24-A = CONTENTS * Austin: GOP pol vets regional rail plan sans vote Austin American-Statesman Friday, October 24, 2003 * LA: Transit strike sparks painful congestion jump Los Angeles Times October 23, 2003 * Houston-area Dem says: Vote Yes on Metro rail plan Houston Chronicle Oct. 23, 2003 * Houston: Rail foes using bogus 'FTA' numbers? Houston Chronicle Oct. 23, 2003 * Houston: Rail foes hit Metro 'info' insert as 'ethics' breach Houston Chronicle Oct. 23, 2003 * Seattle: 'Big victory for light rail' News Tribune - Tacoma October 23rd, 2003 * Seattle: $500 million coming for LRT (with strings attached) Seattle Times Thursday, October 23, 2003 * Seattle monorail planners hit for 'cutting corners' with 1-track plan KIRO 7 Eyewitness News 2003/10/23 * Seattle: How monorail promoters bollixed revenue estimates Seattle Times Thursday, October 23, 2003 * Seattle: Another Councilman opposes monorail through Seattle Center SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER Thursday, October 23, 2003 =PTP================================================== state_f389fc0123bd424a00d7.html Austin American-Statesman Friday, October 24, 2003 Krusee pushes commuter rail plans Suggestion that rail election might not be necessary in certain circumstances draws chilly reaction By Ben Wear Rep. Mike Krusee, of late an enthusiastic flag bearer for bringing toll roads and passenger rail to Central Texas, has raised the possibility of carrying legislation to clear the way for a rail system without a public vote. That suggestion, made in a private meeting of civic and transportation leaders Monday at the Headliners Club, was radioactive in a community that has fought about putting people on rail cars for more than a decade. it moved Capital Metro Chairman Lee Walker to immediately assure participants that he was not lobbying for such a thing. Walker went on to tell the approximately 25 mayors, city managers, transportation officials, developers and environmentalists that his guess is that an election on passenger rail is likely in November 2004. Although he clearly favors passenger rail, Walker had not previously gone on the record pinpointing next November for such an election. And Krusee, not so long ago a legislative thorn in Capital Metro's much-pierced side, had never raised the possibility of easing off on the election requirement. On Thursday, Krusee, R-Round Rock, backed up, saying he could see introducing such legislation in a possible special session next year only if there were overwhelming public consensus for a system. What Krusee is talking about, along with Walker and a growing number of community leaders across the political spectrum, is so-called commuter rail, a system that would use existing freight railroads and railroad right of way. "We're not going to obviate the need for an election on light rail, I can tell you that," said Krusee. in the 2001 legislative session, Krusee successfully carried a bill requiring Capital Metro to hold elections on rail only in Novembers of even-numbered years. The point was to prevent the transit agency from holding an election when voter turnout would be lower and thus easier to manipulate. The previous November, voters narrowly rejected the creation of a 52-mile system of light rail, trolley-like cars that in some cases would have run on tracks embedded in existing city streets. Krusee said haggling over whether or not to hold an election is exactly the sort of divisive issue he's trying to outflank. He convened the Monday meeting in downtown Austin to gather consensus. Krusee outlined a possible passenger rail system of more than 100 miles that would use an existing Capital Metro freight rail line from Leander to downtown Austin, a freight line that runs from beyond Georgetown to points south of San Marcos, and a possible third line that would have to be built from scratch on an existing rail right of way east of Round Rock and Austin. Such a system would be cheaper to build on a per-mile basis than light rail. Krusee has suggested the tab might be in the hundreds of millions for the 100- plus mile system he has in mind; the 52 miles of light rail would have cost $1.9 billion. But light-rail advocates say commuter rail would serve suburbanites, primarily, rather than the urbanites they say are most drawn to alternative forms of transportation. And those generally opposed to spending big sums on rail won't necessarily be mollified. "There are a couple of questions I would want answered first," said Travis County Commissioner Gerald Daugherty, who has fought for years to lower Capital Metro's 1-cent sales tax. "One, would Capital Metro operate all of it? And two, would it necessitate Capital Metro needing the entire penny sales tax? And if those two things were true, I would fight it just as hard as I fought the light rail." Daugherty was particularly disturbed to hear about the possibility of having no public vote, and said he planned to "get into it" with Krusee on that subject. Light-rail opponent Jim Skaggs, who worked closely with Daugherty on the 2000 election and was at the Monday meeting, is withholding judgment. "I'm not about to throw rocks until I understand it," Skaggs said. "My initial reaction is that there's some good in this, and some concerns." Skaggs said he likely will join the elaborate field trip to the Washington, D.C., area that Krusee is organizing for November to look at the sort of developments that might grow up around rail stations. Mike Polikov, a former Capital Metro board member and a transportation consultant with Prime Strategies, said that about 30 people have committed to make the trip. His company, along with Capital Metro and other governments and private interests will finance the outing's $15,000 to $20,000 cost. And then? "We'll take the trip, and then we'll get together again," Krusee said. "If everyone is excited about what they see, then we'll probably expand the scope, including some county judges and maybe more legislators." Austin Mayor Will Wynn, who attended Krusee's soiree, is already on board, even without the field trip. "I will be a big supporter of a growing commuter rail system for Austin and Central Texas," Wynn said in an e-mail. "And I'm not scared of an election. The cost/benefit analysis will be obvious. The bumper sticker will probably read: Does too much, costs too little."; 445-3698 =PTP============================================== [PTP NOTE: So, transit ridership is such an insignificant percentage of total travel, it doesn't have any impact on traffic flow and congestion?] traffic23oct23,1,6354904,print.story?coll=la-home-todays-times Los Angeles Times October 23, 2003 Strike Clogs Traffic Even More Studies find more cars on the roads and an increase in rush-hour delays on major L.A. freeways. By Caitlin Liu and Joel Rubin Times Staff Writers Traffic on Los Angeles streets and freeways has increased since the transit strike began 10 days ago, according to transportation records, significantly worsening congestion and delays throughout the city. A report by the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, which sampled 11 major intersections and freeway ramps for three days last week, found a 4.4% jump in traffic volume overall, clogging roads from Westwood to Hollywood to Woodland Hills. Experts said even such a modest jump in traffic volume can cause major problems on already congested streets. "Just a 5% increase during our peak hours can send us into a tizzy," said Wayne Tanda, general manager for the Transportation Department. "A few more cars getting into a freeway can send it into total gridlock." Motorists said the commute is getting worse by the day. "it's absolutely terrible," said Brent Phillips, whose 45-minute morning drive from Encino to downtown Los Angeles has doubled since MTA workers went on strike. "From the moment I get onto the freeway until I get to work, it's like a parking lot." The 101 Freeway, which Phillips drives every day, appears to be especially hard hit. The Hollywood Freeway portion of the 101 runs above the Red Line subway, and the Ventura Freeway segment runs parallel to the Metro Rapid bus line. Before the strike, the Red Line and Ventura Boulevard Metro Rapid buses accounted for 70,000 daily trips. Since the transit shutdown, the Hollywood Freeway's Highland Avenue exit in the Cahuenga Pass registered a 4.5% increase in traffic volume, according to the city report. "Traffic is very easily disturbed. If you're near capacity ... a very small disturbance is all you need to create a very serious traffic jam," said Asha Weinstein, assistant professor of urban and regional planning at San Jose State University. "If you add a small percentage of vehicles ... It can be just enough to push you over the edge." There are also signs that traffic is worsening as more transit users turn to alternatives. Last Wednesday, the day after the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's mechanics went on strike, citywide traffic grew by 3.7% compared with the previous Wednesday. By Friday, traffic volumes were up by 5.9%, according to the report. A separate analysis of traffic data by the UC Berkeley institute of Transportation found that commuters on major Los Angeles freeway corridors saw a 37.5% increase in rush-hour delays since the start of the strike. The analysis, performed for The Times, compared several weeks of Tuesday-to- Thursday traffic patterns from freeways feeding into downtown, including interstates 5, 10 and 110 as well as California 60 and U.S. 101. It measured increases in commuter delays. A delay was defined as the extra time congestion added to a normal drive when traffic is clear, said researcher Chao Chen, who examined data from the institute's Freeway Performance Measurement System, a project sponsored by the California Department of Transportation. The study found that motorists on these routes suffered a total of 12,600 hours of delays on an average day before the strike. But after the transit shutdown, the cumulative delays grew to 17,300 hours a day. The southbound 101 recorded the biggest increase in delays — 70%, according to the Berkeley analysis. Before the strike, transit trips accounted for at least 5% of all travel within Los Angeles County, according to MTA's latest estimates. On an average weekday, Angelenos took 580,000 trips by bus and 100,000 trips by rail. By removing those riders from freeways and roads, the region's bus and train network was saving the average resident 9.8 hours a year by reducing delays, according to a 2003 study by the Texas Transportation institute. Now, many riders are either driving again or paying someone to ferry them around. Since the strike began, ridership in franchised taxicabs has jumped 30%, according to the Transportation Department report. Bandit taxis — or illegal car or van service — also have been proliferating. Even when people carpool, drivers typically travel extra miles to pick up and drop off passengers. "The last strike [in 2000], it didn't appear this bad," said Jimmy Price, chief of LADOT's parking enforcement and traffic control unit, after it took him 30 minutes to drive two blocks through the downtown's fashion district. Holding up her white-gloved hands at the intersection of Figueroa and 6th streets Wednesday afternoon, Traffic Officer April McCarthy said she senses growing frustration among motorists. "Just two seconds ago, a guy drove by and flipped me off!" she said. "But that's just part of the job." "it's TMC — too many cars," added Rod Bernsen, a reporter for Fox 11 News . Bernsen, who has surveyed the region's freeways from a helicopter in the sky before and after the strike began, said the stop-and-go conditions and miles of backups reminded him of traffic snarls on rainy days. "There's a lot more congestion. It's noticeable," Bernsen said. Motorists aren't the only ones unnerved by the increased traffic. "it's gone pretty crazy, man," said Carlos Garcia, a bike messenger from East Los Angeles. "When the strike started I was happy because the buses would be gone, but then [the streets] were just packed with cars. It gets worse and worse every day." =PTP================================================== Houston Chronicle Oct. 23, 2003 Viewpoints Derailing Metro transit plan isn't an alternative By U.S. REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE JUST over one century ago, in 1880, Houston, the powerhouse of Texas business, had a population of only approximately 16,000 people, according to a federal census. Since then, the metropolis has seen unprecedented growth to become one of America's most populous cities. That's why we need a public transportation system that is funded by the public and will be used by the public. The greater Houston area is subdivided into six counties: Chambers, Fort Bend, Harris, Liberty, Montgomery and Waller. Harris County proudly hosts the city of Houston, and that is where the largest part of the population is concentrated. In 2000, approximately 3.5 million people lived in Harris County alone. Over the next 20 years, the population of the Houston region will continue to grow. In fact, the influx of more than 2 million additional people in Harris County and another million in the surrounding counties is expected. With respect to transportation, Houston and Harris County already experience serious problems. The imminent increase in population will only exacerbate the problems and will have a negative impact on the overall quality of life in the region. All forms of infrastructure improvements must provide the solution. Road and freeway improvements, as well as the construction of an enhanced public transportation system, will alleviate the problems while generating significant tax dollars. Statistically, Houstonians travel more miles per day than there are miles between the Earth and the sun. The distance between the Earth and the sun is about 93 million miles. Houstonians drive about 156 million miles per day! The Metropolitan Transit Authority has worked over the past two years to create a long-range plan for mass transit in the Houston area called Metro Solutions. Texas has a Transportation Code, and it is authorized to act in this field of local government through Metro. Given the need for the service to be provided by Metro's plan and the state's jurisdiction to implement a plan that has been accepted by the public, why does the federal government and a member of the House Appropriations Committee need to interfere with its progress? This member has worked to hinder this highly beneficial transportation project for quite some time. In fact, his amendment to the Transportation, Treasury, and independent Agencies Appropriations Act for fiscal year 2004, also known as H.R. 2989 and incorporated as Section 163, aimed directly at this project with proposed restrictions that are both redundant and unnecessary. This member introduced Section 163 under the guise of ensuring that the citizens in the transit authority service area had an opportunity to voice their desires with respect to the light-rail proposal. He took these measures despite his knowledge that the Metro board has been diligently working with the community to establish development plans that do not violate Texas law and despite the fact that Chapter 451 of the Texas Transportation Code requires the referendum process that will take place on Nov. 4. Furthermore, his actions likely precipitated the issuance of an opinion by the Federal Transit Administration's chief counsel as to the denial of funds for the Advanced Transit Plan largely due to the redundant prohibitions of Section 163. Although Metro has called for a referendum pursuant to Chapter 451 of the Texas Transportation Code, in addition to having held several public hearings on the matter, the FTA, by way of this opinion, had summarily deemed the process insufficient for purposes of the Section 163 prohibitions. Because neither H.R. 2989 nor Section 163 is law, the FTA opinion effectively disrupted and interfered with the local administration of a transportation project that has been fully accepted and supported by members of the community. in addition to the fact that the basis for this opinion was premature, i.e., the fact that both Section 163 and H.R. 2989 are not law as yet, the Metro board held a meeting to change the language of its referendum ballot for Nov. 4 to further conform to these prohibitions that are not yet law. This ballot was then accepted by the Department of Transportation for compliance with federal regulations. Metro held 178 public and stakeholder meetings during its development of the Metro Solutions plan between December 2001 and July 2003. The alternative plan backed by Metro Solutions opponents and formulated by the Houston-Galveston Area Council, the "100 Percent Solution" plan, is still in draft form and has not yet had specific public involvement for the additional 5,000 lane-miles on top of the already planned 5,600 lane-miles. In terms of economic benefits projected for Metro Solutions, between $130 million and $200 million per year in regulatory costs will be saved to reduce pollution emissions. The opponents of Metro Solutions offer the 100 Percent plan as an alternative. However, it is not an alternative. First, unlike the Metro Solutions plan, the 100 Percent plan is an unfinished study and not a plan at all. Secondly, Metro Solutions covers only a portion of the eight-county region, while the 100 Percent plan contemplates the incorporation of the Regional Transportation Plan, or RTP, which is a multimodal plan that covers the entire eight-county region. The RTP is not an alternative to Metro Solutions -- it includes Metro Solutions. Also, unlike Metro Solutions, the 100 Percent plan is based on a wish list of regional road and transit projects that have no identified funding and would require significant amounts of right of way. The claim by Metro Solutions opponents that the 100 Percent Solution plan can reduce congestion depends upon the sudden appearance of this wish list of projects that the federal government currently prohibits local officials from planning and programming, as they have no existing revenue streams to fund such projects. in conclusion, there is no need to impede or to derail the Metro Solutions plan. Houston is the only city in the United States that was affected by funding restrictions of H.R. 2989. As a result, the city has been singled out and excluded from the 25 slices of a funding pie worth $1.2 billion federal dollars. Dallas is slated to receive $30 million under the act. The referendum vote on Nov. 4 will translate to more needed rail, more buses and more roads with no new taxes. Metro Solutions is a public transportation plan that will serve the public -- therefore, the will of the community should supersede any federal special interests. I strongly urge a yes vote on the Metro referendum. Jackson Lee, a Democrat, represents Houston's 18th Congressional District. She is a member of the House Select Committee on Homeland Security and ranking member of the House Subcommittee on immigration and Border Security of the Judiciary Committee. =PTP============================================= Houston Chronicle Oct. 23, 2003 FTA denies it produced Metro shortfall figures Budget criticism is key to anti-rail effort By LUCAS WALL The federal agency that distributes grants to Metro has denied ever confirming numbers that purport to show the transit authority overestimated its future funds by more than $100 million. Republican officials including U.S. Rep. John Culberson of Houston and Harris County Judge Robert Eckels released a chart last month prepared by the House Appropriations Committee that compared the Metropolitan Transit Authority's grants budget through 2009 to data marked "FTA Projections." The difference between the two came to $116 million. But in a Wednesday letter to U.S. Rep. Nick Lampson, D-Beaumont, the administrator of the Federal Transit Administration wrote: "FTA did not produce the chart or the figures included therein." Although $116 million is a small fraction of the $7.5 billion Metro proposes to spend in the next 22 years to expand the region's transit system, rail opponents used the figure to denounce the authority's budgeting. For example, a mailer this week from the anti-rail group Texans for True Mobility states, "U.S. Department of Transportation Notifies Metro -- Your Numbers Are Off By Tens of Millions." FTA Administrator Jennifer Dorn, whose agency is part of the Department of Transportation, also stated in the letter Lampson released Thursday: "The chart and its figures were never reviewed and confirmed by the FTA." Metro and its supporters said they were ecstatic about the letter. Culberson and other rail foes were baffled but said it doesn't change their view that the transit authority lacks the money to complete the "Metro Solutions" plan it wants voters to endorse in a Nov. 4 referendum. The plan includes 73 miles of rail, 44 new bus routes, doubling HOV lanes, and $774 million of roadwork. "There was never any confusion at Metro about the veracity of these numbers," said Metro Chairman Arthur Schechter. "I would hope this letter would end the discussion with an apology to the agency. We knew it was just a bunch of hogwash." Schechter accused Culberson and his allies of "deliberately misleading the public by ignoring the facts." Culberson, stepping off a plane from Washington, said he was outraged by Dorn's letter. He pointed to a Sept. 25 letter from Rep. Ernest Istook, R-Okla., indicating the House Appropriations Committee staff consulted with the FTA when it prepared the chart of Metro's budget figures. Istook chairs the appropriations subcommittee for transportation, which decides federal transit funding. "The chairman, I think, would be honest and accurate in telling me that the numbers on that chart were confirmed by the FTA," said Culberson, who serves on the subcommitee. "Chairman Istook has a reputation for impeccable honesty, and it is a very bad idea for an agency under his jurisdiction to question his honesty." Istook, reached at his Oklahoma City residence Thursday evening, said he relied on committee staff to answer Culberson's inquiry. "If they say they consulted with FTA, you can believe they did," Istook said. "The fact that the consultation might have happened without the FTA administrator's personally being aware of it is not out of the order." Istook said because he was not personally involved in drafting the chart, "I don't know if the FTA was ever presented with the same material staff had or if they were looking at two different sets of material. ... The fact that people might reach different conclusions from the same set of data is nothing new under the sun." Lampson wrote Dorn on Oct. 9, asking her to clarify the origin of the numbers in the chart. He and other Democratic members of Congress who support Metro's referendum have criticized Culberson, alleging the figures were way off. "Hopefully this will put that to bed," Lampson said Thursday. "it's my hope that we can get everybody, including Mr. Culberson, to back down from coming up with projections that don't make any sense." The transit authority has acknowledged there is a difference of $43 million between its projections and the Bush administration's six-year transit funding proposal, saying it's because of different rates used to calculate annual increases in federal formula funds. This money is disbursed annually to transit agencies based on factors such as population and ridership. Metro used 8 percent based on historic trends; the president's bill suggests 2 percent. Metro said the rest of the discrepancy on the chart is due to the Appropriations Committee failing to include $66 million in federal grants the transit authority already has received plus a $7 million state clean-air grant. The FTA has yet to verify whether Metro has the $66 million in unspent grants, despite numerous requests in the past three weeks from Culberson and the Houston Chronicle. FTA spokeswoman Kristi Clemens did not return calls Thursday. Culberson expressed frustration that the agency responded to Lampson, a minority party member, before it addressed the questions he and the newspaper have asked since Oct. 6 -- three days before Lampson sent his letter. "We have agencies responsible for overseeing monumental public works projects like transit who can't give me simple answers to simple questions within three weeks," Culberson said. "The taxpayers deserve accuracy and honesty in the fundamental revenue numbers that determine whether the transit authority can pay back the bondholders and build all the things it promises." Eckels said it remains clear there is some shortfall in Metro's federal revenue projections. Metro's referendum asks voters to authorize $640 million in bonds to accelerate construction of the next 22 rail miles. The transit authority needs matching funds from the federal government to afford its new rail lines. Lampson said Thursday's development makes it clear Metro can afford its plan, which he called reasonable and essential for the city's future. =PTP============================================== Houston Chronicle Oct. 23, 2003 Anti-rail group cries foul on flier Metro advertisement inserted in water bill called improper By LUCAS WALL An anti-rail group under criminal investigation for failing to disclose its contributors threw a punch back Thursday, claiming a Metro flier distributed with city water bills improperly influences voters to support the Nov. 4 transit plan. "The city of Houston has no business doing political mail-outs," said Edd Hendee, treasurer for Texans for True Mobility. "They are in the business of putting water bills out, not to take sides on an issue such as this." The Metro insert announces 19 public meetings on the agency's transit plan, informs water customers about the Nov. 4 referendum on the plan, and lists details of the "Metro Solutions" package. The proposal offers "options," "accountability" and "affordability," the flier states. Hendee suggested the one-page paper, with English on one side and Spanish on the other, violates state ethics laws prohibiting a government agency from campaigning for its referendum. The Metropolitan Transit Authority wants voters to approve a $7.5 billion expansion plan for rail, buses and roads. To even the score, Hendee said, Houston should permit TTM to hang an anti- Metro banner atop City Hall. "If we couldn't put that on City Hall, perhaps we could put our message on trash trucks for the Solid Waste Division: 'Trash Metro's Plan on Nov. 4,' " he said. Metro dismissed the criticism as ludicrous. "This saved public money," said Metro Chairman Arthur Schechter. "We were simply announcing meetings and inviting the public to find out the truth. ... "Metro has an obligation to be sure the public is educated as to the plan because it is important to the future of the community." During a news conference Thursday, reporters pressed Hendee to reveal who has donated money to fund TTM's attack ads, including a mail-out comparing Metro's finances to bankrupt Enron and a TV ad stating the authority will "slash bus service, hike fares, cut Park & Ride and cancel road projects" when it runs out of money. TTM has designated those ads as "educational," not political, and therefore not subject to disclosure requirements. "People concerned with mobility in Houston" was the only description Hendee would give of his donors. The Harris County district attorney's office, responding to a complaint by the Houston Chronicle, is investigating TTM's failure to file campaign finance reports. Regarding the water bills, the transit authority asked the city if it could include information as part of its "public education effort about its long-term mobility plan," said Corey Ray, spokesman for Mayor Lee Brown. "We believe this is very much a city issue, and citizens of Houston deserve to be well informed on such issues," Ray said. "The insert does not advise anyone on how to vote." Metro printed the ads and paid the city $1,458 to insert them in water bill envelopes. Hendee said it would cost his group $105,000 to mail out a similar flier. This isn't the first time Metro has paid the city to get out its message through water bills -- there have been inserts promoting its commuter bus service, vans for the disabled and summer activities for children. The city limits bill advertisements to governmental agencies and nonprofit institutions, Ray said. Other inserts have advertised the county's new electronic voting system, encouraged blood donations and promoted CPR classes. Chronicle reporter Kristen Mack contributed to this story. =PTP=============================================== News Tribune - Tacoma October 23rd, 2003 Big victory for light rail MATTHEW DALY; The Associated Press WASHINGTON - Sound Transit's proposed light-rail line from Seattle to Tukwila surged forward Wednesday as a key congressman withdrew his opposition. Rep. Ernest Istook (R-Okla.) gave conditional approval to an agreement authorizing $500 million in federal funding for the long-delayed rail line. Istook, chairman of a House Appropriations subcommittee that has jurisdiction over transportation projects, had objected to the proposed rail line for months. Among other concerns, Istook worried about its reliance on what he called uncertain local funding. But in a letter to the Federal Transit Administration, released late Wednesday, Istook said he would approve the project on several conditions, including a pledge by the Sound Transit board that it will not seek additional federal funding beyond the $500 million authorized by the FTA this summer. Istook's support was crucial, because transit officials have said they can't build light rail without the promise of federal dollars. Construction on the $2.5 billion line from downtown Seattle to a site north of Sea-Tac Airport is expected to begin in the next few months. in his letter, Istook also sought reassurances from Sound Transit that potential cost overruns on the project would not hurt other transit projects run by the three- county agency. Istook's concerns mirrored those of Rep. Jennifer Dunn (R- Bellevue), a friend and political ally who has publicly fretted that cost overruns on the rail project could hurt other transportation projects in her eastern King County district. Sound Transit's board planned to take up the issues in Istook's letter at a meeting today. "We're encouraged," said agency spokesman Geoff Patrick. Dunn, Istook and Rep. George Nethercutt (R-Spokane) visited the White House on Tuesday - hours before Dunn left on a five-day trip to iraq - to talk about light rail with Karl Rove, Bush's top political adviser. Danielle Holland, Dunn's spokeswoman, said the meeting focused on the need for projects to relieve congestion in Puget Sound metro areas. Sound Transit was discussed, Holland said, but Dunn did not lobby against the funding agreement announced this summer, as some Democrats have speculated. Holland denied that Dunn opposes Sound Transit, saying she merely wants to ensure that taxpayers get the most value for their money and that other transportation projects do not suffer because of the light-rail line. On Wednesday, Dunn's office issued a statement praising Istook's action as "a victory for taxpayers across Puget Sound." Dunn said she was encouraged by the decision, which she said "will keep local funds within the regions where they are collected in order to pay for projects that indeed reduce congestion." Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Belfair), a Sound Transit supporter, also hailed the decision, calling it "a victory of the merits over politics." Dicks praised the Bush administration for sticking with the project despite opposition from fellow Republicans, and said Istook kept his word. "He said if we could answer his questions, he'd approve this," Dicks said. "All the things he asked us to do, we can do." =PTP============================================= Seattle Times Thursday, October 23, 2003 Sound Transit's $500 million to come - with strings attached By Alex Fryer Seattle Times Washington bureau WASHINGTON — The Oklahoma congressman holding up a $500 million federal grant needed to launch construction of Sound Transit's light-rail project yesterday dropped his objection, pending three conditions. Rep. Ernest Istook's move all but clears the way for work to begin on the state's largest public-works project, and was greeted with cautious optimism by Sound Transit officials. "We're not popping any corks around here, but it's a significant development and we're excited," said Sound Transit Communication Director Ric ilgenfritz. "it's a breakthrough." The Sound Transit board will meet today to consider the latest developments. But even light rail's staunchest opponents concede the agency has crossed a critical threshold. Without the federal grant, Sound Transit officials said they would be unable to build light rail. Istook's decision capped a frenzied couple of days in Washington, D.C., where — in an unusual display of disharmony — the state's delegation lobbied for and against the mass-transit project. As chairman of a House Appropriations subcommittee, Istook, Republican, has jurisdiction over transportation projects including Sound Transit, and his role has been critical to the project. in his letter yesterday to federal transportation officials, he outlined several conditions: a commitment that Sound Transit will not tap into Eastside transit funds to pay for cost overruns on the $2.44 billion project; a commitment that Sound Transit will not ask for more than $500 million for the Seattle-to-Tukwila route; and a requirement that Sound Transit make the necessary right-of-way acquisitions in Tukwila before next October. Last July, federal auditors noted the difficulty of building a bridge across the Duwamish River. The proposed light-rail line would also cross over two railroad lines and interstate 5 near the Boeing Access Road. Istook said he also was concerned the proposed light-rail route costs too much and does little to relieve congestion. And he wondered whether the project could survive financially if the Washington state Supreme Court upholds initiative 776, which would limit vehicle taxes and cut $703 million from Sound Transit's budget. But it was too late to consider those issues now, Istook wrote. Sound Transit has $94 million of pending construction bids that expire tomorrow. It could not execute the bids without the federal grant agreement. Agency officials estimated that taxpayers would be forced to pay tens of millions of dollars in added costs if Sound Transit were forced to rebid the contracts. However, Istook noted that Congress must approve all annual federal transit spending, and Sound Transit shouldn't count on receiving its money without a fight in the coming years. "Nothing in this letter should be construed as guaranteeing that the pace of annual appropriations for this project will match the pace currently desired," he wrote. The grant agreement lays out a schedule of annual payments to Sound Transit that will total $500 million by 2009. if it's signed, the president's budget will likely include $80 million for Seattle light rail in each of the next three years, with the remainder coming in the following years. Rep. Jennifer Dunn, R-Bellevue, a critic of the project, is traveling in iraq, but her office released a statement applauding Istook's decision to approve the agreement — with the conditions. Tim Eyman, who authored I-776, conceded that Istook's letter signaled a blow to light-rail opponents. "Sound Transit has shown a complete disregard for plummeting public support for the light-rail boondoggle and will likely proceed no matter what." Former Metropolitan King County Councilwoman Maggie Fimia of Citizens for Effective Transportation Alternatives (CETA), a light-rail opposition group, called Istook's letter "very premature," and said she was surprised he hadn't waited until after the state Supreme Court rules on I-776. On Capitol Hill this week, supporters and opponents of Sound Transit, including Istook, sparred behind closed doors. On Tuesday, Dunn and Istook met at the White House with President Bush's political adviser, Karl Rove. Rep. George Nethercutt, R-Spokane, also attended the meeting. Although Dunn's office said Sound Transit was not discussed, Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Bremerton, said he believed Dunn was trying to persuade the Bush administration to drop its support for Sound Transit. The federal Department of Transportation has rated Sound Transit "highly recommended." A light-rail booster, Dicks said he called officials at the White House and the Department of Transportation to lobby on Sound Transit's behalf. "I made sure they knew there was a difference of opinion in the delegation. i talked to everybody in town," he said. Dicks said he never anticipated Sound Transit would have such a difficult time in Congress, or that the issue would pit members of the delegation against each other. "This was unprecedented in my 35 years here, this kind of fight in the delegation. I never expected this in a million years," he said. Another Sound Transit supporter, Sen. Patty Murray, said she was "really pleased. I think this is good news for taxpayers and commuters in Washington state." She said she was not worried that Sound Transit will go through the wringer every time its annual appropriation comes through Congress. "At the end of the day, they will get the $500 million," she said. Alex Fryer: 206-464-8124 or Reporter Eric Pryne contributed to this report. =PTP=============================================== KIRO 7 Eyewitness News 2003/10/23 Monorail Project Leaders Consider Significant Change ESSEX PORTER SEATTLE -- Looking to cut costs, the leaders of Seattle's Monorail project are considering a dramatic change. But critics accuse them of looking to cut corners in a way that will affect the safety and reliability of the changes. One monorail track or two? That is the question. With money tight, one track is less expensive. But will the voters get what they agreed to pay for? Artist conceptions of the new monorail show trains running on two tracks, side by side. But that was before monorail tax collections began running 30 percent less than expected. Now monorail engineers are pursuing a single track solution. "There's potential financial savings if we can get it to work across the West Seattle Bridge," said Tom Weeks, Monorail Project Chair. Using single tracks means the columns can be smaller and less expensive, taking up less space and saving lots of money. But critics question whether a single track system would be safe. "The last thing you want to have is a single track monorail stuck on the West Seattle Bridge," said Richard Borkowski of People for Modern Transit. There would be double tracks at each station so oncoming trains could pass each other. Still, monorail critic Richard Borkowski sees a project getting away from its promises to voters. "This is kind of just I think maybe the beginning of the end for the monorail," Borkowski said. "The single track idea, like I said, I don't think this it's something the voters would say that they voted for." But at the Monorail Project, single-tracking much of the route is viewed as a good solution to some sticky problems. "We've said to our engineers we have a revenue problem, we have a design problem, come back to us with creative solutions to both of these challenges and it's really wonderful to see the great work that they are doing," said Weeks. As the monorail moves to cut costs, another city council member has just moved to increase them. Richard Conlin says he'll oppose a route that cuts through the Seattle Center. Project leaders say it will cost $16 million to go around. =PTP=============================================== Seattle Times Thursday, October 23, 2003 Monorail errors led to shortfall By Mike Lindblom and Justin Mayo Seattle Times staff reporters When tax revenues for the Seattle monorail came in one-third below projections this summer, Seattle Monorail Project leaders blamed the problem on a lack of reliable data from other agencies — namely, the state Department of Licensing and Sound Transit. But, despite the remarks by Executive Director Joel Horn and others, the monorail officials also contributed to their own predicament by not thoroughly investigating last year how much money could be raised by taxing cars in Seattle. Working on a fast track to reach the November ballot, a monorail-planning agency called the "Elevated Transportation Co." overstated the potential revenue for the $1.75 billion plan. "I would say we didn't spend much time on this at all. We were relying on experts," acknowledges Dick Falkenbury, who was on the monorail board at the time. "We had such an extremely short timeline and there was real pressure not to question things, and pressure to get things done 'on time and on budget.' That became a mantra." What went on the ballot was a plan for the 14-mile Green Line from Crown Hill to West Seattle to be paid for by a tax on vehicles in the city. The tax rate would be $140 for every $10,000 of vehicle value. The plan passed by 877 votes. The classic explanation for megaprojects that get in trouble is that proponents have overstated the benefits and understated the costs. The monorail saga adds a new twist. "Normally, there are tax experts who can analyze the tax," said Harvard professor Alan Altshuler, one of several scholars who has written about the topic. "It sounds like a unique way of getting into fiscal trouble." Errors in estimating the revenue account for most of the monorail shortfall, while unforeseen tax evasion — people registering their vehicles outside the city — also plays a role. Once the crisis came to light, the agency began dissecting state vehicle data, recruited four of the state's top economists to review future predictions and approved a $52,000 independent investigation. There should have been a more serious effort before the election, said project critic Geof Logan. The public "should demand that the hard questions be asked in the first place," he said. "The monorail had no detailed plan on the ballot before the voters. They still don't." But Tom Weeks, monorail board chairman, defends the planning work. "I think we did a good and thorough job," he said, noting that two different consultants studied the tax last year. At a meeting this morning, a monorail committee is expected to release the results of the independent inquiry, by Cambridge Systematics of Oakland. Monorail officials have been forthcoming about the details, said Christopher Wornum of Cambridge. Those officials include Daniel Malarkey, now monorail finance director. Last year he estimated the value of Seattle's taxable vehicles — the so-called "tax base" — at $4.5 billion to $4.7 billion, but revenues are coming in as if the base were around $3.2 billion. Here is a Seattle Times look at what contributed to the shortfall. Limited study for big decision On May 29, 2002, the all-volunteer monorail board voted for the annual tax rate of 1.4 percent. The agency based the decision on a three-page paper issued in April by Berk & Associates, a local consulting firm. It compared a flat $100 fee on car tabs with a 1 percent tax rate. A Berk economist, Michael Hodgins, recalled that the paper was meant to be just one piece of planning with the understanding that more work would be needed. Stuart Rolfe, a former monorail board member, recalls being focused on scrutinizing the cost to build the monorail, while assuming that the staff would produce solid tax information. "I spent most of my time trying to be sure we were as conservative as possible in those (cost) estimates. On the revenue side, there was not the opportunity to do that. ... " Would it be enough? "There is some possibility that the 1.4 percent may not be enough to cover the full project implementation," Horn said in a June 28, 2002, message. Ed Stone, monorail-outreach coordinator last year, recalls a meeting where Harold Robertson, then executive director of Elevated Transportation Co., wondered if the rate needed to be increased to 1.5 percent. Stone needed to know because he was about to publish a citywide mailing stating the 1.4 percent rate. Horn reported that commercial vehicles weren't counted in earlier estimates but would be lucrative enough for the 1.4 percent rate to work, recalls Stone. "Had we understood the tax base fully, we would have gone for a higher percentage rate to make sure the plan was fully funded," former board member Craig Norsen said yesterday. A team from the financial firm of Goldman Sachs believed the car-tab tax was a strong revenue source, less subject to downturns than sales taxes. But the team cautioned in a July memo that no other huge bond issue relied entirely on a vehicle-excise tax. To keep the financing more flexible, the Goldman team suggested in an e-mail to monorail officials that there be no sunset clause on the tax. The plan reached the ballot without a 25- or 30-year expiration date on the tax. Would new cars be taxed? The monorail board tried to tax new cars, but late in the 2002 legislative session an amendment supported by auto dealers said taxes would be collected "at relicensing." That meant no tax at the time of purchase. Berk, the consulting firm, listed the potential tax base in April at $5.3 billion with new cars, $4.3 billion without. Monorail staff members cited $5.3 billion in spreadsheets produced in May and June. Malarkey told the Licensing Department on June 27: "This issue is extremely important as it affects the tax rate needed to support the proposed project." The state Department of Licensing determined new cars were exempt until they were a year old. Rolfe said he and several board members weren't aware of the new-car exemption in May but knew about it by the time they passed a monorail plan for the public on Aug. 5. The plan did not say that new cars would not be taxed. Malarkey published a tax-base estimate of $4.7 billion. He said he added 5 percent to Berk's number to include commercial vehicles, updated the numbers to account for recent growth, then subtracted 12 percent for the new-car exclusion. Mike Evans, a state economist with the Licensing Department, said recently that new cars are actually a bigger factor, because they are so much more valuable than used cars. Malarkey and Berk both relied on historic Sound Transit revenue totals that wrongly counted some suburban cars as in the city of Seattle. The mistake was discovered by Sound Transit in late 2001 and fixed by the Licensing Department in June 2002, but nobody alerted Malarkey. Weeks, the chairman, said the internal questioning shows monorail leaders took the tax-rate concerns seriously. He said that his belief by August was that the 1.4 percent rate would cover costs even without the new cars. Potential bond marketers accepted the numbers — one firm assumed a $5 billion tax base as a starting point in its proposal to sell $1 billion in bonds by January 2003 — but might have found the flaws had they proceeded to a pre- sale investigation. Raw vehicle data not studied Malarkey received a database of vehicle values from the state, which was not examined in detail. The Seattle Times, using July 2002 data obtained through a public-records request to the Licensing Department, found that a tally of nearly all vehicles in Seattle ZIP codes, including new cars, derived a tax base of $3.5 billion. Berk's Hodgins and Malarkey both said that at the time it seemed more reliable to derive the projections from Sound Transit's published collections. "That's a real base, rather than making up something from scratch," Hodgins said. But Sound Transit's tax calculation turned out to be wrong — for five years it mistakenly included some vehicles from the south-end suburbs as Seattle cars, causing a minor problem for that agency, which relies mainly on other taxes. A look at the raw data would have displayed the ZIP codes of the car owners — and might have alerted the monorail agency to a problem that today looms as an obstacle to building the Green Line. Mike Lindblom: 206-515-5631 or =PTP========================================== SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER Thursday, October 23, 2003 Conlin: Send monorail around Seattle Center SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER STAFF The chairman of the City Council's transportation committee, Richard Conlin, yesterday threw his support for running the planned monorail line around the Seattle Center instead of through it. Conlin also pressed the council to take the stance before monorail officials make a preliminary recommendation next month. Such a stance would be significant because the council must give the Seattle Monorail Project permission to go through the center. Conlin joins council President Peter Steinbrueck, who also opposes going through the center and wants the council to say so. However, several council members are sitting on the fence, and Steinbrueck apparently does not have enough votes yet to call for a vote. Proponents of going through the campus say the thousands of people passing overhead would be good advertising for the center. in addition, going around the center on Mercer Street would leave a whole in the Experience Music Project, which was built around the current Monorail. But Conlin sided with those who say the monorail would destroy the parklike feel of the center, and busy Mercer Street is a more appropriate place for the line.
PTP Digest 2003/10/23-A = CONTENTS * Houston Metro: 73 miles of rail doable by 2024 with more bonds Houston Chronicle Oct. 22, 2003 * Houston: Rail foes may be lawbreakers, but wait till vote's over Houston Chronicle Oct. 23, 2003 * Houston: HOV ramp closure means bus detour for years Houston Chronicle Oct. 23, 2003 * Seattle: Istook OKs $500 million for LRT, with conditions KING 5 News Wednesday, October 22, 2003 * Seattle op-ed: 'is monorail ripe for recall?' Daily Journal of Commerce 10/20/2003 * Seattle: More on new hybrid bus fleet KING 5 News Tuesday, October 21, 2003 * Memphis ed: Light rail plan OK, but needs work Commercial Appeal (Memphis) Sunday October 19, 2003 * Sacramento: NIMBYs oppose, others back LRT airport extension Sacramento Bee Sunday, October 19, 2003 * SF-Bay Area: BART SFO ridership 'dismally low' - free parking eyed San Francisco Examiner Tuesday, October 21, 2003 * San Jose: Planned BART extension in trouble, hotly debated Morgan Hill Times Tuesday, October 21, 2003 =PTP============================================ Houston Chronicle Oct. 22, 2003 Metro: 73 miles of rail is doable Plan hinges on bigger bond vote in 2009 or later By LUCAS WALL Metro released a budget this week showing it could complete its proposed 73- mile rail expansion by 2024 if voters endorse a larger second bond issue later in the decade. For almost two months, debate has focused on funding for a more modest rail initiative -- a $640 million bond issue that will be on the Nov. 4 ballot. Critics have attacked that proposal because it will pay for only 22 miles inside Loop 610. With less than two weeks before the election, Metropolitan Transit Authority officials now are promising that their entire rail system, including many miles outside the Loop, can be built in the next 21 years. "We're doing everything we can to tell voters it's a 73-mile plan," said Metro Chief Financial Officer Francis Britton, armed with a proposal dated Aug. 25 showing construction costs for the complete transit-expansion plan would top $7.5 billion, including $5.8 billion for all 73 miles of rail -- 65 miles of light rail and an 8-mile commuter spur to Fort Bend County. Also included is $979 million for new bus routes and $774 million for additional roadwork. Metro had previously floated a projection of $2.8 billion to construct 40 miles of rail by 2019. That projection included asking voters for $340 million in bonds around 2009. The Aug. 25 document would almost triple that future bond proposal to complete the rail system by the plan's 2025 expiration. Rail opponents, who have criticized Metro numerous times for what they believe are faulty financial projections, said this development only proves their point. Chris Begala, a spokesman for Texans for True Mobility, said he suspects this week's clarification was issued because of criticism that the 40 miles of rail in the construction phase now before voters barely extend beyond the Loop. TTM, formed to oppose Metro's plan, contends the inner Loop rail lines won't reduce traffic congestion. Begala said the transit authority is making promises it can't afford. "Metro has been like daddy at Christmas time, trying to give everybody everything they want," Begala said. "But in reality, you can't." Metro says its numbers aren't wishful thinking: if the Nov. 4 referendum is passed and voters endorse $910 million in additional bonds toward the end of this decade, the transit authority contends it could complete the system blueprint laid out in its 2025 "Metro Solutions" plan. Proposals for light rail lines to Bush intercontinental and Hobby airports, plus the planned commuter train to Missouri City -- removed by the Metro board Aug. 12 to fund roads for five more years -- could be constructed by 2025 if a future board decides to seek the greater second bond issue, Britton said. This week's revelation follows months of wrangling over Metro's budget numbers, which have changed dozens of times since the plan's first draft came out in April. Metro's board added to the perplexity, voting five times on the Metro Solutions proposition. On July 31, it approved a blueprint for 73 miles of rail. Aug. 12, it added the road money and reduced the next phase of rail construction to 40 miles. Aug. 18, it approved ballot language for the Nov. 4 referendum that included only $640 million in bonds, enough to fund 22 miles of rail. The ballot language was then tweaked in votes Aug. 28 and Sept. 22. Arthur Schechter, chairman of the board, said he understands how some people could become confused over how much rail can be built by 2025. Metro's vision remains that all 73 rail miles can be finished by 2025 if a future transit board seeks to accelerate completion of the system, he said. After the Aug. 18 vote to ask for a $640 million bond issue, Schechter said the smaller bond amount only delayed the larger plan. Now he and other Metro officials are trying to assure voters rail can extend well beyond the Loop by 2025. Rail foes remain skeptical. "To come out with this type of rhetoric two weeks before the election, it's just another example of the confusion that Metro has been inducing and the disingenuous way they've gone about this," Begala said. "It calls into question once again their ability to fund this proposal." Metro officials strongly disputed claims that they changed the financing plan right before the election to try to placate rail supporters, some who believe the plan is too small, or rail opponents such as Begala, who point out the next 40-mile rail phase only serves the inner city. Metro President and CEO Shirley DeLibero said her agency sent the 73-mile financing plan to the Houston-Galveston Area Council last month. The HGAC is the region's transportation planning agency. And Britton said the ballot language and all documents Metro has issued explaining the plan clearly state it includes 73 miles. Anyone who thought all of those could not be built by 2025 have misinterpreted the information, he said. "This document that was approved has the 73 miles funded in it," Britton said. "it always has." in addition to $910 million more in bonds, voters would also have to approve elimination of Metro's "general mobility" fund after 2014 if all proposed rail lines are to be complete by 2025. The fund distributes 25 percent of the transit authority's penny sales tax to Houston, Harris County, and 14 small cities for road construction and maintenance. The more spent on roads, the less rail that can be built. Past proposals to eliminate general mobility -- including one made earlier this year in a Metro Solutions draft -- met stiff political resistance from local officials who fear they'd have to raise property taxes to make up for the lost cash. Paul Mabry, spokesman for the pro-rail group Citizens for Public Transportation, said one of the great parts of Metro Solutions is the ability for voters to decide after the first six years whether rail construction should continue beyond the next 22 miles. "The voters are the ultimate authority," Mabry said. "We are voting next month on $640 million in bonds. What we vote on in the future is to be determined." This article is: =PTP================================================= Houston Chronicle Oct. 23, 2003 DA to probe opponents of rail plan By ALAN BERNSTEIN Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal says his staff will investigate whether a group against Metro's light rail expansion plan is breaking the law by refusing to disclose its campaign contributors. But the public won't know the results of the probe until after the Nov. 4 referendum on a $640 million bond issue for the Metropolitan Transit Authority to add light rail routes and expand other projects such as bus service. "While an investigation will be conducted ... It has been my long-standing policy to take no action that may influence an election before the election is held," Rosenthal said in a letter to Houston Chronicle lawyer Joel R. White. The Chronicle two weeks ago asked Rosenthal to investigate after Texans for True Mobility used TV commercials and mail to slam Metro's plan as ineffective and too costly. Under Texas election law, candidates and political committees must file forms showing which individuals gave them money, and how much. The Chronicle contended that the law covers Texans for True Mobility. Violation of the law, a misdemeanor, carries maximum punishment of a $500 fine. The Metro critics say they created a nonprofit corporation to educate the public about transportation issues and the organization is not subject to the disclosure rule. "We are absolutely compliant with every letter and spirit of the law," group spokesman Chris Begala said Wednesday. Begala said the organization is not voluntarily identifying its contributors because the donors want to preserve their right of free expression as a group rather than as individuals who could be vulnerable to criticism from powerful institutions. He listed Metro, the city and the Chronicle as examples of such institutions. The contributors can include corporations and individuals. Spokesmen for public interest groups such as Common Cause have called on the group to disclose its contributors so the public will know who is behind the campaign, and Chronicle editors said they asked for the criminal investigation essentially for the same reason. Rosenthal said he has assigned the case to his Public integrity Division. He said he and his staff will not comment on the progress of the investigation. in a similar case, the Travis County district attorney's office is investigating whether the Texas Association of Business violated state law by using corporate donations in a $2 million campaign for legislative candidates last year. The group says its ads are protected by constitutional free speech rights, while Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle says some corporate donations to political campaigns are illegal to avoid a situation where "a corporation can secretly buy an election." Texans for True Mobility and the Texas Association of Business use the same lawyer, former First Assistant State Attorney General Andy Taylor. =PTP=================================================== Houston Chronicle Oct. 23, 2003 Closure of HOV ramp expected to last years The Texas Department of Transportation has closed the entrance ramp to the westbound U.S. 290 HOV lane from interstate 10. Metro buses and carpools that use the lane face a detour of several years while the interchange at I-10 and the West Loop is being rebuilt. Traffic heading for the HOV lane must exit I-10 at Washington, turn right and access the Northwest Transit Center from Old Katy Road. Signs direct vehicles to the U.S. 290 HOV lane from the transit center. Ken Connaughton, Metropolitan Transit Authority spokesman, said the shutdown is not delaying bus schedules. =PTP================================================= d5.html KING 5 News Wednesday, October 22, 2003 $500 million Sound Transit grant released SEATTLE - An Oklahoma congressman who had held up a $500 million federal grant for Sound Transit indicated Wednesday that he would release the money, but not before Sound Transit officials agreed to some conditions. Rep. Ernest Istook outlined the three conditions in a letter sent to Rep. Jennifer Dunn, a Republican representing the suburbs east of Seattle. - Sound Transit must agree that the agency will not go back to the federal government asking for more money. - Sound transit must acquire a critical piece of land in Tukwila by next year. - And the agency must guarantee that if it spends money on light rail, it will not shortchange other areas in the Sound Transit taxing district. A spokesman for Sound Transit said the agency would not immediately comment. The agency's board will meet Thursday to take up the issue. King County Councilman and Sound Transit Critic Rob McKenna, however, predicted the agency would agree because it really had no choice. [PHOTO] Sound Transit A Sound Transit Link light rail train is bathed in confetti at it's launch in August of 2003. Sound Transit has said favorable contracts for work on the light rail system would expire if it did not get the money soon. Some of those contracts expire at the end of this week. "These conditions mean that they have to stay within budget and they cannot cover cost overruns by raiding money from the Eastside or Snohomish County or by trying to get more money from the federal government," said King County Councilman Rob McKenna, a Sound Transit critic. McKenna, Dunn and others have long been concerned that if the light rail project in Seattle costs more than anticipated, the agency will just take that money from the communities that won't be served by light rail, but do pay the taxes. The development is also just the latest in what has become a kind of political gamesmanship between Sound Transit, Seattle political leaders and Dunn and othe Sound Transit critics. Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels this month threatened to hold up a project to squeeze more lanes onto the interstate 90 bridge, which would benefit Eastside residents. U.S. Sen. Patty Murray said Istook's release of the money was great news and would allow the agency to have a full grant agreement signed by the end of the week. "This is great news for the taxpayers and travelers in Puget Sound," Murray said. =PTP=========================================== Daily Journal of Commerce 10/20/2003 is monorail ripe for recall? Tim Wulf Seattle Given the massive overestimation of monorail tax revenue, dissolution of the monorail will become a strong possibility in the coming year. According to state law in the authority statute (RCW 35.95A.120) "The city transportation (monorail) authority may be dissolved by a vote of the people residing within the boundaries of the authority if the authority is faced with significant financial problems." This error in estimated revenue certainly appears to constitute a "significant financial problem." Jeff Doyle, staff coordinator/senior legal counsel for the House Transportation Committee, Washington State Legislature, offered the following: "One can argue that the drop in forecasted revenues for the monorail represents a "significant financial problem." The issue is whether such a petition is found to be valid by the city prosecutor, Tom Carr. Affecting this finding is whether revenue projections for the monorail are sufficient to complete the plan approved by voters. The monorail argues that attractive interest rates, built-in contingencies in the budget, value engineering and future revenue growth will allow the planned system to go forward. These arguments can be countered in that such a revenue shortfall will mean a truncated system or one not built to the standards set forth or implied in the voter-approved plan. The city prosecutor may choose to decide that question or defer an answer until the environmental impact statement is completed and bids are received for the design, build, operate and maintain (DBOM) contract. If projected revenues are not sufficient to meet the DBOM bid price, that will provide strong, if not conclusive evidence of serious financial problems. Another tactic by the monorail "authority" may be to stretch the tax duration from 25 years to 40 years. This should also sink the agency under an interpretation of "significant financial problems." Derailing the monorail will be a proper end to the manipulative strategies of the agency. Withholding this error of tax revenue is only one of many issues now being exposed. Even in the voting booth, the monorail agency strategically did not include on the ballot the anticipated number of years we will pay the tax. Don't kid yourself. Exercising only half the tax this first critical year was not because they are such nice people. It was a clever ploy to lessen the impact of this tax during this critical time when we can still say no. Seattle never really had a chance to vote on alternative routes. The current route was set in place by special interest groups. Yes, there were opportunities for public opinion, but that is a long shot from a vote on alternatives. Building an elevated train in front of personal and commercial property is bound to have an endless string of lawsuits. Parking has also been ignored. Businesses close to terminals will find regular customers may go elsewhere due to a lack of parking. Seattle deserves better. We need to pursue this dissolution. We are in the process of gathering e-mail addresses of those interested in signing a recall petition. We may even do the entire process online. Please send your e-mail address to: =PTP================================================= undJM.24ed52aa.html KING 5 News Tuesday, October 21, 2003 Hybrid buses to roll out in metro Seattle area Associated Press SEATTLE - Less thick, black exhaust will spew from a new fleet of more than 200 diesel-electric hybrid buses the Puget Sound region's two biggest mass transit agencies plan to roll out next year. When the 60-foot articulated buses lurch into motion, they don't chug through fuel. At low speeds, they run on a hybrid electric drive, which King County Metro Transit expects will save 750,000 gallons of fuel and at least a half million dollars a year. "The reason you save so much fuel is that the bulk of what a bus does is starting and stopping," said Matthew Kester, a spokesman for General Motors Corp., which manufactures the hybrid electric drive at a transmission plant in indianapolis. [PHOTO] TriMet A hybrid bus used by TriMet in Portland, Oregon. As the bus speeds up, it uses a mix of electricity and diesel fuel. The diesel engine, made by Caterpillar Inc., takes over once the bus reaches 20 or 25 mph, Kester said Monday. "Because you're not dumping all the fuel through this diesel engine to get this bus moving, you're getting a 90 percent improvement on emissions (of soot, hydrocarbon and carbon monoxide)," Kester said. "Plus you've improved fuel economy by about 50 to 60 percent." New Flyer, a Canadian bus manufacturer based in Winnepeg, Manitoba, makes the buses. King County signed orders for 213 buses last Friday, and Sound Transit, which runs regional express buses in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties, bought 22 -- a combined investment of more than $150 million. "Obviously it's a technology we're excited about because of the cleaner air, the fuel savings and the maintenance savings," Sound Transit spokesman Lee Somerstein said. The first new hybrid buses are expected to hit the streets by next spring. On Tuesday in Seattle, General Motors planned to show off the 60-foot model King County Metro Transit tested out before its recent purchase. Hybrid buses cost more up front -- about $645,000 apiece compared to $445,000 for a standard diesel-powered bus, Metro Transit spokeswoman Linda Thielke said. But because they use less fuel, don't need their oil changed as often and are easier to maintain, General Motors estimates that the county will recoup its costs within about seven years. Metro Transit bought its test model last year and put more than 40,000 miles on it before deciding to buy the new fleet. "It performed remarkably well," Thielke said, noting it had plenty of power motoring up hills, ran quietly and required very little maintenance. Sound Transit bought a 40-foot test model. "Our operations people just love it," Somerstein said. "They've had virtually no problems." The hybrids will replace an aging fleet of dual-mode buses that run on overhead electric wires while they pass through the downtown bus tunnel, then switch to diesel outside the tunnel. Because the new buses will have their own electricity supply, they'll no longer rely on those overhead wires while inside the tunnel, making them easier to maneuver. Transit agencies in nine other cities are running pilot studies to test the new hybrid bus technology. They are: Austin, Texas; Hartford, Conn.; Houston; Minneapolis; Newark, N.J.; Orange County, Calif; Philadelphia; Portland, Ore. and Salt Lake City. =PTP============================================== Commercial Appeal (Memphis) Sunday October 19, 2003 Should Memphis get on board light rail? Editorial FINISHING THE Madison rail line $19 million under budget might be just the thing to give trolley and light-rail transportation a boost in Memphis. The Memphis Area Transit Authority (MATA), which says its part of the job will come in at $55 million, instead of the $74 million originally expected, should be congratulated for its success. The imminent completion of the project should stimulate a discussion of the future of trolley service and light rail in Memphis. Consensus is needed on what that future should be. Expanding the city's modest system of antique trolleys into an extensive, modern light-rail network would be hard to justify on economic grounds alone. The operating subsidy for a proposed extension of the Memphis rail system from Midtown to Memphis international Airport has been estimated at $8.9 million to $9.3 million annually. A decision to expand this community's rail system would depend on factors that relate to the economic picture only indirectly. Some proponents favor light rail for esthetic reasons. It has the potential, if people use it, to improve the city's air quality and reduce traffic congestion. MATA projections, based on a demand-forecasting model that includes land use and transportation network information, predict 10,847 to 11,675 riders would use the airport line daily by 2023. Tentatively scheduled for completion by 2008, two alternative routes have been proposed for the project, with a couple of variations. Extending the Madison rail line through Overton Square and the Cooper-Young neighborhood and then south to the airport would make better sense in the long term. Both Overton Square and Cooper-Young are popular destinations for entertainment, dining and shopping - perhaps not living up to their full potential but both holding great promise. Because of the lengthy construction time required for rail lines and the utilities that accompany them, the Overton Square-Cooper-Young route has drawn strong opposition, however, particularly among commercial interests in those areas. A variation would address that concern partially by bypassing the heart of Cooper-Young. There is less opposition to an alternative that would extend the rail line south from Madison in the Medical Center to Lamar, follow Lamar southeast to Airways, then continue south to the airport along Airways and Plough. That route would take the line through blighted areas that could use economic stimulus. It also has the advantage of being a mile shorter. But it would be premature to make that choice now, or perhaps even early next year, as William Hudson, MATA's president and general manager, has suggested. The community must first assess the value of extending rail service that's now available only downtown but will be expanded to Midtown next March. The process must involve a heavy dose of community involvement. A proposal to expand light-rail service in Houston has turned into what the Houston Chronicle calls a bitter partisan fight, with most Republican officials against it and most Democratic officials favoring it. An African-American ministers group also is fighting the proposal because of fears it will lead to cutbacks in bus service that will adversely affect minority riders. Moreover, the cost of building light-rail systems is going up for local communities. Although federal subsidies still can pay as much as 80 percent of the cost of building such systems, belt tightening in Washington has lowered expectations for most communities to the 50-percent range. In some cases, local taxpayers must provide the rest. Light rail has much to offer Memphis; it could produce significant benefits in the form of economic development, improved air quality and reduced traffic congestion. A careful analysis of those potential benefits against the costs would help Memphians decide whether to join the light-rail brigade. =PTP============================================== [BATN] Sacramento Bee Sunday, October 19, 2003 Light-rail worry in Natomas Some fear a line to the airport would bring crime and change area's 'mood.' By Tony Bizjak Bee Staff Writer Looming over more than a few residents' heads in South Natomas these days is this clouded question: if a light-rail line is built through the heart of the neighborhood, will it bring strangers and crime to residents' doorsteps? Steve Grant, who lives a few doors from one possible route for a light-rail line, says that is among his concerns. He sees light rail as an "impersonal" conveyance that doesn't have a place in the neighborhood. "It will bring crime and change the whole mood of the neighborhood," he said. Sacramento Regional Transit officials are expected to decide in the coming months the route for a planned light-rail line from downtown to Sacramento international Airport. Several officials have said they are leaning toward building the line along Truxel Road, the main thoroughfare through Grant's neighborhood, so that it's situated close to residents who might use it. Another proposal would locate the line along interstate 5. Truxel-area resident Sean South, who works downtown, says he would like to see the line in his neighborhood. "I don't have the fears that some people have about some sort of bad element coming to the community via light rail," South said. "I guess it's possible. But if you want light rail to work, you have to make it convenient to where people live." in response to complaints that there has not been enough community discussion about light rail, RT officials have scheduled a public meeting for 6:30 p.m. Monday at the community center on Truxel Road. One thing residents will not hear, however, is a definitive statement on what light rail might mean for crime, safety, and property values in the area. There is "no simple answer," said Sacramento Police Lt. Mark Sakauye, who heads RT's security force. He and others at RT argue light rail and bus lines tend to reflect problems inherent in a neighborhood rather than to bring new problems in, and that those problems can be managed with good law enforcement. Light rail, Sakauye noted, is not a good getaway vehicle. "(A criminal is) not going to break into your house, take your TV, then go wait at the station for a train." However, RT officials acknowledge they have not formally studied the effect of the light-rail system, now 16 years old, on crime or property values. RT board member Dave Jones suggests the district should commission such an analysis. "People have concerns," Jones said. "Let's take a look at it." A Bee review of national research, and interviews with public officials, police and residents of Sacramento neighborhoods with light-rail lines, offers a mixed picture. Generally, public transit is associated with nuisance issues, such as noise and vandalism, rather than major crime. A 2002 study of Los Angeles' "Green Line," conducted by the UCLA Urban Planning Department, concluded that "the transit line has not had significant impacts on crime trends or crime dislocation in the station neighborhoods, and has not transported crime from the inner city to the suburbs." An earlier UCLA study determined that "If there was crime in the neighborhood, there was crime at the station," said statistician Robin Liggett. "The biggest thing we found in terms of crime at the station was in the park-and-ride lots -- where they should think about design -- where most of it was auto thefts or thefts from autos." if RT builds the line on Truxel, it has plans for small park-and-ride lots in South Natomas at West El Camino Avenue, Pebblestone Way and San Juan Road, said the agency's Jo Noble. Sacramento residents near existing light-rail lines offer varying opinions about the impact on crime. Heath Charamuga of the Rosemont Homeowners Association, called light rail "a positive for Rosemont." "I don't see that we have any crime issues with it whatsoever," Charamuga said. "The people who use it are from Rosemont. In fact, our crime has decreased in the last five years, and property values have increased." RT officials, however, are building a soundwall in Rosemont because the rail line runs behind back yards and has generated complaints about noise. Nearby, in College Greens, some residents say they believe the combination of light rail, a probation office, a Social Security office, liquor shops and a flea market has caused problems ranging from panhandling to petty theft to home break-ins, most near the shopping area along Folsom Boulevard. "incidents are fairly close to Folsom, not deep into the neighborhood," said neighborhood activist Annette Deglow. "People will tell you light rail is part of the problem." in east Sacramento, near 48th Street, some residents suspected a string of residential break-ins might be related to light rail, but Councilman Steve Cohn said RT police have not been able to make that connection. "We took some steps to better light the station, but there was nothing traceable to someone using light rail," Cohn said. Police and RT officials acknowledge they have had drug problems and other crime issues at some stations, notably the 12th Street light- rail station downtown. in 1992, a college student was shot to death while sitting after dark at the 23rd Street station; a 14-year-old who lived two blocks away was convicted of the crime. But RT police say they have had no complaints of crime on the new south line, which opened last month between Meadowview and downtown. RT officials say they soon will be enforcing a new ordinance that prohibits anyone from loitering at a light-rail station without a train ticket. They also say they will improve computer tracking of crimes committed at light-rail stations. The limited data RT has kept show most RT police arrests and citations are for disorderly conduct and fare evasion. Studies elsewhere also offer mixed results about how property values are affected by light rail. John Landis of the Department of City and Regional Planning at the University of California, Berkeley, studied the issue in the 1990s and says he thinks light rail doesn't really affect property values "one way or the other." However, a California State University, Fullerton, team this year analyzed 41 studies of 15 light-rail systems nationwide, and found both positive and negative effects on property values, although not statistically significant in either direction. Fullerton researcher Lee Cockerill said residences right next to stations may see property values decline, while residences slightly farther away but within walking distance could see increases. Commercial properties adjacent to stations tend to see the largest increases in value, he said. Cockerill is among the researchers who say a lot depends on the design of stations and how useful the light-rail system is overall. The Bee's Tony Bizjak can be reached at (916) 321-1059 or =PTP========================================= [PTP NOTE: Comments from the Bay Area Transportation News editor have been retained for informational purposes.] [BATN] BART considers paring down Peninsula parking SFO extension refuses to take off. San Francisco Examiner Tuesday, October 21, 2003 By Sara Zaske Of The Examiner Staff The holidays may bring the gift of discounted and free parking at BART's Peninsula stations. After waiting in vain for the economy to recover, transit officials are searching for ways to boost patronage of the 8.7-mile line. Ticket sales have remained dismally low despite hopes that the start of the school year would bring new passengers -- and new revenue -- to the extension. Samtrans, which agreed to underwrite the extension's operations in exchange for ticket and parking revenue, is close to surpassing a previously agreed upon spending limit of $6 million. Officials said it was unclear how exceeding that amount will impact Samtrans' other bus and train services. "It depends on how far above the $6 million we go," said spokesperson Jaime Maltbie Kunz. Total usage on the new BART line was at approximately 40 percent off expectations throughout the summer, and September was no better. The line logged 24,687 trips through Oct. 3, roughly 47 percent below the predicted 46,646 riders. The low ridership numbers spell big cash problems for Samtrans, and the Peninsula agency is still negotiating with BART over the amount of operations funding it must shoulder. BART had previously told the Peninsula transit agency that $6 million was the most it would need to spend this year. Since the extension line opened on June 22, Samtrans has paid out $5.8 million. Supervisor Mike Nevin, who sits on the board, said the $6 million figure was not set in stone. "I think there is some wiggle room there," he said. "it's not the end of the world or the end of line. It was a conservative estimate of what we were looking at. Not a concrete number that can't be looked at." [BATN: "Conservative" in such a context would customarily mean a prudent upper limit.] in the meantime, the two transit agencies have been discussing ways to promote the line, and a radical change to the parking system is due before the BART board of directors on Thursday. The BART staff has proposed cutting parking fees in half, starting December 1. If approved, daily parking would drop from $2 to $1. Monthly unreserved parking would fall from $42 to $20 and reserved parking would be pared down to $30 from $63. The discounts would only apply to the newest stations on the line: South San Francisco, San Bruno and Millbrae. [BATN: Even if the parking lots on the extension filled as a result of this proposal, this could attract perhaps 3,000 or so new riders per day and maybe $2 million in additional annual revenue. Where will the other 16,000 trips and the other millions of dollars missing from the apparently unrealistic projections be found?] There is also another proposal to possibly suspend all weekend parking fees as of Nov. 15. BART board president Pete Snyder said that the agency is willing to work with Samtrans to do whatever is necessary to boost ridership. However, neither Nevin nor Snyder want to touch ticket prices or service levels, yet. "We believe only way gain any success is maintain basic level of service necessary operation," Snyder said. [BATN: Reducing the level of service on this grossly underperforming extension is the ONLY rational move. SamTrans is being billed by BART to operate over 400 trains per day on the extension, meaning that the average train is carrying fewer than 60 passengers, meaning that the trains, which cost nearly $1,000 per hour to operate, are running 90% empty. Each SamTrans-subsidized near-empty BART train burns operating cash which could fund more productive bus or Caltrain services.] Of the four new Peninsula stations, the airport stop is apparently the only station that is doing well. The Millbrae station is the most behind its expectations, with only roughly 5,000 riders passing through its BART's electronic turnstiles every month [BATN: presumably "every weekday" -- not "every month"]. BART had predicted three times that number. =PTP================================================ [BATN] Morgan Hill Times Tuesday, October 21, 2003 BART bills put more trains in limbo By Peter Crowley is the planned Bay Area Rapid Transit line to San Jose realistic anymore? That's the hard question Valley Transportation Authority Board members are asking themselves in light of new revenue projections that VTA staff say might break BART's back financially. Without a new revenue source or a massive economic recovery, staff said the VTA can't borrow enough to finish the project. South Valley Supervisor Don Gage is pushing to freeze $170 million earmarked for engineering the BART extension south from Fremont, through San Jose to Santa Clara. He'd rather cut BART short at Milpitas and see the money spent on other promised rail routes, like light rail to eastern San Jose and improved Caltrain service to the South Valley area. Others, like San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzales, said Gage is overreacting based on pessimistic, recession-based sales-tax revenue estimates and warned that delaying the engineering would make the project unprepared when future funds become available. Gilroy Mayor and VTA Board member Tom Springer said the South Bay has to build BART if it doesn't want jobs to flee. California is expected to add 13 million people in the next 20 to 25 years, he said, and if commuting to work in the Bay Area becomes a problem, industry may well move these jobs to the Central Valley. "If you kill BART, you practically guarantee that jobs go over to the Central Valley," Springer said. Springer is on the VTA Board until December, in a seat that rotates between Gilroy, Milpitas and Morgan Hill. On Aug. 7, VTA Board members voted 7-5 to include the BART engineering fees in a $550 million bond. REVENUE PROJECTIONS Within the last few weeks, however, VTA staff have revised their revenue projections. When voters overwhelmingly approved the sales tax hike in 2000, it was at the peak of an unprecedented boom for the Bay Area. Now, in the middle of a lengthy recession, the expectation of nearly $6 billion from Measure A has dropped. The VTA is now using an admittedly conservative estimate of less than $4 billion. Building the BART extension -- let alone operating it -- is projected to cost $4.6 billion to $6.5 billion, depending on how long it has to be delayed. A quicker timetable would be cheaper, but the VTA then runs into the cash-flow problem of not being able to borrow enough money. Based on these forecasts, the VTA says it couldn't do what's expected of it without more money. And where would more money come from? There's been talk of another half-cent sales tax hike for BART on the 2004 ballot, or extending the current one farther. Taxing the problem into submission may be problematic with voters, however, partly because the recession might not have lifted in time for a 2004 vote and partly because there's also talk of yet another half-cent sales tax to save existing VTA bus and light-rail operations, which are running under a $100 million annual deficit. Part of the board's August bond was to save the VTA from a 20 percent service cut, the biggest in its history. The voters' mandate in favor of BART, however, is still fresh in the memory of Gonzales, a VTA Board member who gave the BART link its initial push. According to spokesman David Vossbrink, "The mayor remains firmly committed to the project" and believes recent, gloomy sales-tax-revenue projections won't come to pass. "it's not reasonable to expect that the current economic situation is going to be the norm," Vossbrink said last week. "The voters have always said that BART is a very important project." Vossbrink said the mayor's staff still hopes to begin construction in four years. in an Oct. 1 memo, VTA Chief Financial Officer Scott Buhrer told board members that "in the absence of a new revenue source or a substantial improvement in the local economy, the board will need to prioritize which projects to pursue because we simply cannot build both BART and Downtown East Valley (light rail extension, which voters approved along with BART in 2000) by 2013." This prioritizing will probably take place when the VTA Board meets in November, Gage said. BART, as proposed, is low on his priority list. Gage would prefer to cut the BART extension short -- perhaps at Milpitas, he said, with a light-rail extension link to San Jose. This would likely cut BART costs in half, he said, since the project's most expensive aspect is tunneling under downtown San Jose. CUTTING BART The VTA's Policy Advisory Board, however, decided on Oct. 6 that it wanted the BART line through San Jose, even if it had to eliminate several stations. Cost-cutting measures have been ordered by Washington for those requesting federal funds, but the PAB decided not to cut that deeply. It is, however, submitting the possibility of cutting two of the seven proposed San Jose stations. Higher than BART on Gage's priority list, and much less expensive, are an extension of light rail to eastern San Jose and several voter-approved Caltrain projects: * double-track and triple-track the San Jose-to-Gilroy Caltrain line, allowing 20 round-trip trains a day to Morgan Hill, San Martin and Gilroy on weekdays instead of the current four. * convert Caltrain to electric power, expected to make trains quieter, cleaner and perhaps more efficient. VTA staff estimated in 2001 that these Caltrain upgrades would cost $325 million. OPPOSITION The BayRail Alliance, a grass-roots riders' advocacy group, has opposed the BART plan from the beginning and still said it won't justify its high price tag. "is it all going to go to benefit commuters coming into the county from other counties -- at the expense of the real transportation needs we have here?" Alliance spokeswoman Margaret Okuzumi asked. "Are (VTA Board members) still going to say, 'BART to San Jose is our top priority,' or are they going to say, 'Wait a minute; the emperor has no clothes?'" Okuzumi asked. "Even if they put every single penny of Measure A toward building BART, ... even if they borrowed to the gills and even with their somewhat optimistic assumptions (of state and federal grants), they've shown through their own spreadsheets that they can't do it. They need another revenue source. ... They can't borrow enough to build BART within a reasonable time frame." [BATN: See also a October 2, 2003, memo from the VTA CFO ("The end result of this was that the BART project would be completed in FY 2026 and we were still unable to maintain a positive cash flow"), a 4 September VTA spreadsheet ("2013 Ending Balance, Revenues less Expenditures, Negative $2,916,495,000") and a graphical illustration of that spreadsheet ]
PTP Digest 2003/10/22-B = CONTENTS * SF-BA: 78% of Caltrain riders have access to car Caltrain press release Friday, October 17, 2003 * Tucson op-ed: LRT plan is best way to shape city's future Tucson Citizen Tuesday, October 21, 2003 * Tucson op-ed: Chamber has problems with LRT plan Tucson Citizen Wednesday, October 22, 2003 * Tucson: Pro-rail group responds to issues raised by Chamber CFASTS Website October 2003 * Seattle's Dunn pulls Istook, Bush, Rove into anti-transit huddle Seattle Times Wednesday, October 22, 2003 * Seattle ed: Monorail agency must stop 'creepy' intimidation Seattle Times Monday, October 20, 2003 * Seattle monorail: Cash-strapped agency eyes 1-track design SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER Wednesday, October 22, 2003 * Spokane: Rail could be 'catalyst for growth and development' Spokane Spokesman Review Tuesday, October 21, 2003 * Cincinnati letter assails appointment of 'idelologues' to SORTA board CINCINNATI POST October 21, 2003 =PTP=============================================== [PTP NOTE: Caltrain is a regional rail service in the San Francisco-San Jose- Bay Area.] [BATN] Caltrain press release Friday, October 17, 2003 Caltrain Riders are "Return Customers," Survey Shows Caltrain riders are a railroad version of "frequent flyers," according to the results of the latest passenger survey: nearly a third have been riding for four-plus years, and more than half ride the train five days a week. Some 5,700 passengers completed Caltrain's annual survey earlier this year. In a departure from past surveys which were used to gauge the quality of Caltrain service, the 2003 survey was designed to give Caltrain a better picture of who rides the train and what Caltrain can do to make the service more attractive to existing and potential riders. More than 79 percent of riders are commuters, and the primary reasons cited for taking the train were avoidance of traffic (20 percent of all responses), better use of time and stress reduction (both 15 percent). The most popular morning northbound boarding stations were San Jose Diridon and Mountain View, both at 11 percent, and the most popular "on" station for southbound riders was the San Francisco terminal, at 47 percent, followed by the 22nd Street station in San Francisco, at 13 percent. Although 78 percent of all riders have access to cars, only 64 percent of midday riders do. Nine percent of passengers bring a bike on board, and another three percent use a bike for one leg of their trip. Fifty-nine percent of riders are male and 47 percent are married. More than half are between the ages of 25 and 44, and 38 percent have college degrees, while 30 percent have post-graduate degrees. One in five Caltrain passengers has a household income of $100,000 to $149,999 per year. The vast majority (72 percent) do not have children at home, 12 percent have only one child and 10 percent have two children. Many passengers added individual comments, which have been catalogued and will help Caltrain to make adjustments as needed. The most frequently requested improvement was express service, mentioned on 10 percent of surveys returned with comments, and seven percent of the comments were about the lack of weekend service, which has been suspended until next spring because of track construction. Thirty-two percent of passengers get their news from newspapers, 26 percent from television and 20 percent each from the radio and from the internet. Sixty-nine percent of passengers speak only English at home, while 31 percent speak another language instead of or in addition to English. The highest percentage was Spanish (13 percent). =PTP================================================= railyes Tucson Citizen Tuesday, October 21, 2003 Guest Opinion: Props. 200, 201 best way to shape city's future STEPHEN FARLEY Editor's note: This is the first of two Guest Opnion columns on Propositions 200 and 201, which will appear on the Nov. 4 city ballot. Tomorrow, John Dougherty, director of governmental affairs at the Tucson Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, will explain why the group opposes the propositions. Thanks to the work of hundreds of citizen volunteers and the signatures of 18,000 Tucson voters, we will finally have a transportation plan on the November ballot that we can vote for. We have the power to choose the kind of future we want for our community - a future where the transportation system works for all of us, whether we drive, ride, walk, bike or use a wheelchair. Propositions 200 and 201 will restore balance to our unbalanced transportation system throughout all areas of the city by: Building and operating a bus system for the entire city (40 percent of the plan) that will take us where we want to go, when we want to go there, with minimal waiting times Rebuilding our crumbling neighborhood streets (20 percent of the plan) to make potholes a thing of the past Dedicating significant funds for new sidewalks and bikeways (10 percent of the plan) to connect the gaps in our current patchy pedestrian and bike network Building and operating a 13-mile light rail system (22 percent of the plan) along Broadway and South Sixth Avenue to connect major regional malls, the University of Arizona, downtown, the South Side and East Side commuters while providing a stress-free and dependable commute to ease congestion and boost the economy Building and operating a 47-mile bus rapid transit system to bring people to and from all corners of the city efficiently and quickly Building and operating the Old Pueblo Trolley extension, along with three other downtown shuttles, to boost downtown revitalization efforts and enable Rio Nuevo to fulfill its potential as an economic generator Hiring new traffic enforcement police officers to crack down on dangerous drivers and make the streets safe for everyone Boosting VanTran paratransit service by nearly 40 percent and extending that service to the Southeast Side for the first time. All of these projects together will cost the average Tucson family less than $30 per year. In exchange, families will be able to save thousands of dollars each year by not having to use our automobiles everywhere we go. We will also gain improved access to jobs, medical care and shopping and we will prosper from an economy boosted by a transportation system that works on many different levels. Jobs by the thousands will be created in the construction, operation and maintenance of the system as well as the new development that will be encouraged in proximity to the transit corridors. This is a visionary but practical plan for investment in our transportation infrastructure. There's nothing radical or untested about any element of Propositions 200 and 201. All projects are already called for in previously adopted regional transportation plans and there is nothing in the initiative that precludes future road work paid for from other funding sources. Propositions 200 and 201 have been developed by grassroots citizen activists in conjunction with local and national transportation experts through a nine-month public outreach effort. The final plan was shaped by input from our neighborhoods, businesses and government and was put on the ballot by the signatures of more than 18,000 Tucson voters. Many car-oriented Western cities, including Phoenix, have enacted similar plans (including a light rail component) that had strong bipartisan support and big boosters in the business community and the Chamber of Commerce. We are the only major Western city that is not already aggressively pursuing a multimodal transportation system that includes light rail. Cities such as Albuquerque and El Paso that compete with us for attracting high- wage businesses are already designing light rail systems and bragging about them to prospective companies. Why should Tucson's economy be left in the dust? Some people have expressed concern that light rail construction would somehow be more disruptive than a typical road widening. This is most assuredly not the case, as construction will not require the takings of private property (unlike most road widenings) and most work will happen in the road median with minimal lane closures and no interference with right turns into businesses or homes. Recent advances in construction techniques in Portland allowed crews to be in and out of a three-block area in less than three weeks. And once the rails are in the ground, we will never have to undergo construction again to add capacity as we grow; we will simply add more trains. With road widenings, the disruption is more widespread and hazardous to businesses and when you need to add capacity, there's no choice but to widen the road again, taking more property along the edges. Some opponents say that they are against Propositions 200 and 201 because they want to have a regional transportation agency with a new tax and a new plan, not a city-based plan. This opposition seems insincere, given that these same people enthusiastically supported last year's distinctly non-regional failed city road tax. But even so, any regional plan would need to have - at its heart in the City of Tucson - a multimodal transportation system very much like Propositions 200 and 201. Officials from Marana, Oro Valley and other communities have expressed their hope that these propositions pass so that they can link their transit systems to ours. in fact, the passage of Propositions 200 and 201 is the key to the future achievement of a regional transportation system for Pima County. Why should we wait until we have a new bureaucracy in place before we enact a system we already know we need? We have needs that Propositions 200 and 201 will take care of right now. Propositions 200 and 201 won't solve all of our transportation problems. But it will set us on a better path that will allow us to improve our quality of life as we grow. Rather than becoming passive victims of car-based sprawl and its unpleasant side-effects, we finally have the opportunity to join together to act and take our future into our own hands. Please, for ourselves, our children, and our grandchildren, vote yes on Propositions 200 and 201. Stephen Farley is creator of the Broadway Underpass historic murals and co- chair of Citizens for a Sensible Transportation Solution. For more information, see =PTP================================================= railno Tucson Citizen Wednesday, October 22, 2003 Guest Opinion: Chamber notes problems with Props. 200, 201 JOHN DOUGHERTY Editor's note: This is the second of two Guest Opinion columns on Propositions 200 and 201, which will appear on the Nov. 4 city ballot. Yesterday, Stephen Farley, co-chair of Citizens for a Sensible Transportation Solution, explained why his group supports the propositions. The Tucson Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce opposes the ill-conceived transportation plan and corresponding light rail tax initiative that will be on the Nov. 4 general election ballot as Propositions 200 and 201. The chamber opposes the proposed transportation plan for five major reasons: Few benefit: A full 68 percent of the proposed expenditures would be used for mass transit, which would benefit less than 4 percent of our population. Currently just 2.5 percent of our citizens use public transportation. Only 20 percent of these new taxes would be spent on road maintenance. No voice, no choice: The proposed plan turns over complete control and responsibility for the administration of the initiative to the Tucson Department of Transportation. This fundamental change in the Tucson City Charter would effectively exclude the mayor and City Council, and by extension, all city voters, from any decision-making process. Tucson only: The proposed plan is too narrowly focused on urban Tucson and does not address the dynamics in transportation patterns throughout the greater metropolitan area. The chamber advocates instead for a comprehensive regional transportation solution, which may include light rail, to meet the needs of all citizens in the Tucson metropolitan area. Skyrocketing subsidies: Expanding Tucson's public transit system according to the proposed plan would result in skyrocketing subsidies required to keep it running. In San Diego, for example, the light rail system is subsidized at a cost of more than $7.50 per passenger trip. The chamber is concerned that the proposed transportation plan would require Tucson to substantially increase its current bus subsidy of $3.50 per passenger trip. Unsecured funding: Tax increases would pay for only a fraction of the proposed plan. The bulk of the funding would have to come from the federal government - but without a comprehensive feasibility study and the necessary political clout in Washington, those critical dollars are not guaranteed. In fact, federal funding for similar projects has been reduced across the country. Additionally, the Tucson Chamber Board of Directors raised the following specific objections to the proposed plan: Other local governments and transportation organizations were not consulted. Proposed light rail route would leave county citizens unserviced. Utility relocation concerns are not adequately funded. Language contained in the City Charter change would preclude road expansion: [Comprehensive Transportation initiative, Section 2 (b) (3)]. Cost and construction time estimates are woefully underestimated. No alternative analysis report is in place to comply with federal funding rules. Federal matching fund estimates are unknown. Rail construction will impede traffic and business access on Broadway and Sixth Avenue and will reduce overall street capacity. Neighborhoods around proposed rail stations would be impacted (changes in zoning, parking, etc.) There are no "sunset" provisions to the tax increases. John Dougherty is director of Governmental Affairs at the Tucson metropolitan Chamber of Commerce. For more information about the chamber's opposition to Propositions 200 and 201, contact Dougherty at 792-2250, ext. 127 or by e-mail at =PTP=============================================== [PTP NOTE: The following material from the Citizens for a Sensible Transportation Solution website responds to most of the issues raised in the preceding op-ed from the Tucson Chamber of Commerce.] CFASTS Website October 2003 CFASTS Response to the Press Release from the Tucson Chamber of Commerce Opposing Propositions 200 and 201: Pardon the somewhat atypical press release format (and atypical length) to follow, but we believe it is most helpful to directly respond to the allegations contained in the 9/10/03 press release from the Tucson Chamber regarding Propositions 200 and 201. Unfortunately, the Tucson Chamber seems to have decided to make itself irrelevant in the world of economic development by opposing the Comprehensive Transportation initiative for stated reasons that can be easily refuted. Apparently, the Tucson Chamber has decided to ignore the lead offered by scores of Chambers around the country, including Phoenix, Albuquerque, El Paso, Dallas, Denver, Salt Lake City, Louisville, Charlotte and countless other communities with whom we compete for the attraction of high-wage businesses. These communities have endorsed and aggressively pursued true multi-modal systems featuring buses, sidewalks, neighborhood street maintenance, bikeways, bus rapid transit, light rail transit, and trolley lines. These communities recognize that providing a full range of choices to citizens allows a community to continue to grow without sacrificing their quality of life or their economy. The Tucson Chamber, in opposing the visionary and practical Propositions 200 and 201, is not offering any alternative vision in return. In fact, they infer that businesses in Tucson should not support any future transportation plan in this cynical statement from President Jack Camper: "Businesses in Tucson have heard too many transportation promises about how their lives will be made better. They have been promised better but have received worse." This may have in fact described Propositions 100 and 400, the City's road sales tax which was defeated last May with 70% of the citizens voting no despite enthusiastic endorsement by the Tucson Chamber. Propositions 200 and 201 are nothing like that failed City plan. The Comprehensive Transportation initiative was put together by local and national experts in transportation, in response to the stated needs of the Tucson public, and was placed on the ballot by the signatures of more than 18,000 registered voters. The proposition is funded by: * a 3/10 of a cent increase in the City sales tax (30 cents on a $100 purchase, it will cost the average household an extra $29 a year) * a 4 cent increase in the City construction contracting sales tax (modeled on a successful tax in place in Marana that offsets a loophole that deducts 35% from the sales price of construction contracting before tax is assessed) * increased revenues from increased ridership on the improved system (no increase in fares is necessary) The proposition spends: * 40% of its funds on a vastly better bus system with hours extended from 5am- midnight, an improvement named as the number-one transportation priority by 66% of voters who voted in the May 2002 election, according to a July 2002 survey by the Arizona Daily Star; * 20% of its funds on neighborhood street maintenance, rebuilding 136 miles of crumbling neighborhood streets in the first two years alone; * 22% of its funds on a 13-mile Light Rail system, which has been a proven success in 27 North American cities at attracting former car commuters and boosting economic activity in the transit corridor; * 10% of its funds on sidewalks and bikeways to connect the gaps in our multimodal system; * 6% of its funds on extending the Old Pueblo Trolley all the way to the Rio Nuevo urban revitalization project west of I-10, plus 3 other downtown shuttle lines, all operating every 10 minutes, seven days a week; * 2% of its funds to hire 11 uniformed Tucson Police Officers to crack down on dangerous drivers and improve safety. As is obvious, this is not simply a "light rail initiative" as it is called by the Chamber, which doesn't mention any other aspect of the plan except the light rail. In fact, the light rail opening was intentionally pushed back to 2012 so that we can immediately enact urgent needs like street maintenance and more buses right up front, and allow us more time to obtain the 60% federal matching funds to build the light rail system. it is also important to point out that all costs (outside of those federal matching funds for the capital costs of light rail)--capital, operating, financing and maintenance--are completely paid for by this plan, without the need for additional funds. There is even a 20% contingency built into the plan to account for unforeseen circumstances. Finally, enacting Propositions 200 and 201 is only a piece of our total transportation picture. The props will not preclude additional road projects (billions of dollars of which are already funded in Tucson over the next 20 years), and will not preclude a future regional transportation authority, should the citizens want that. Indeed, any future regional plan will necessarily include elements similar to this plan within the City of Tucson as its regional heart. Why should we wait until another bureaucratic structure is in place before we act? Bearing in mind that Light Rail is only 22% of our total plan, below are the claims made by the Tucson Chamber about light rail in their press release, followed by our response: CHAMBER: "It will cripple businesses along the proposed route... The Tucson Chamber has 200 members along the Broadway portion of the train route alone. Construction and reduced traffic capacity along Broadway could prove to be fatal to them and their employees" CFASTS: Road capacity will not be reduced along Broadway. Along most of Broadway, there is a diamond lane for buses as the outside lane. Those lanes will be moved to the center, next to the median, and dedicated to rail instead of buses. Construction will take place in the center of the road, not at the edges, and will thus not affect access to businesses. New rail construction techniques get crews into and out of a three block area in three weeks, and will not tie up more than two lanes in that small area for much time. Furthermore, once you have the rails laid, you will never have to undergo construction again to add passenger capacity-you simply run more trains. When you need to add capacity to a road, you have no choice but to widen, and that involves much longer and more disruptive construction schedules than rail projects, as we have seen all over Tucson in recent years. If the Chamber is concerned about the effects of transportation construction on businesses, they should look more closely at the more widespread road widening projects. And when you look at the increased property values, increased retail activity, increased commercial occupancies, and increased jobs that spring up along rail routes all over the country, the only real impact on businesses along the route will be strongly positive. In fact, in other communities, businesses have taxed themselves to help build the rail system in anticipation of the economic growth created by rail. CHAMBER: "The proposed construction tax hike to six percent will do nothing but make it prohibitive for working families to buy their first home, or remodel a kitchen, fix a leaky roof, or do any sort of home improvement. This plan adds thousands of dollars to the cost of housing in Tucson." CFASTS: We have an entire fact sheet dedicated to the debunking of this myth, you can find a PDF file on our website at In fact, this tax is modeled on one that has been in place in Marana for the past two years, and which has had no complaints from homebuilders, contractors, or homebuyers, and is one of the reasons Marana has been able to continue to invest in its infrastructure without encountering budget deficits. This tax offsets a loophole only available to construction contracting in which the sales price is discounted by 35% before tax is assessed-that means the tax on a new house or addition is only 4.94%. This tax increase raises that to an effective 7.54%-about the same sales tax we pay on everything else. It does not apply to the sales of existing homes, which make up the largest percentage of home sales. Even with Propositions 200 and 201 in place, and even assuming it is passed through to the buyer (which it may not), the same house would still be cheaper in Tucson than in Marana or any other location in Pima County. According to SAHBA, the buyer of a median-price home ($175,000--hardly in range of most working families) would pay an additional $3,500 in taxes, mortgaged out over 30 years, and deductible from federal taxes. That amounts to a miniscule amount per month to receive a vastly improved transit system that could save working families thousands of dollars per year in transportation costs. CHAMBER: "Other local governments and transportation organizations were not consulted" CFASTS: All projects in Propositions 200 and 201 are included in the PAG Long- Range Regional Transportation Plan for 2025. We spoke extensively with officials from City of Tucson, PAG, Pima County, and even officials in Marana and Oro Valley who are excited to plug into this catalytic Tucson transit system with their own routes. CHAMBER: "Proposed light rail route would leave County citizens unserved" CFASTS: That assumes that no one from the County ever comes into the city to work, shop, or play. The system includes 12 shaded & secure Park-N-Ride lots at the edges to encourage people to drive to the lots and take comfortable, efficient, high-speed transit to go the rest of the way. These will attract thousands of County residents, and for those who would make the counter argument that County resident should pay, they will be paying through the plan's reasonable 3/10 of a cent sales tax increase when they shop. CHAMBER: "Utility relocation concerns are misrepresented by CFASTS and not adequately funded." CFASTS: Our cost estimates include the projected cost of relocating utilities that are under the rails. This is a standard budget item in every Light Rail project. Along most of South Sixth Avenue, the City of Tucson had the foresight to move the utilities out of the way during the recent reconstruction of the street, in anticipation of future light rail, as called for in the Broadway Corridor Study of the late 1980s. CHAMBER: "Language contained in the City Charter change would exclude road expansion Section 2(b)(3)" CFASTS: The language they refer to is actually in the ordinance, not the charter amendment. The full language in question actually reads: "(B) ROADS: THE DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION SHALL BE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE MAINTENANCE, IMPROVEMENT AND CONSTRUCTION OF ALL CITY ROADS. IN CARRYING OUT ITS DUTIES WITH RESPECT TO CITY ROADS, AT ALL TIMES, THE DEPARTMENT SHALL: (1) ENSURE THAT ALL ROADS ADEQUATELY SUPPORT A VARIETY OF MODES OF TRANSPORTATION, INCLUDING AUTOMOBILES, MASS TRANSIT, BICYCLES, AND PEDESTRIANS. (2) PRESERVE THE CHARACTER AND INTEGRITY OF EXISTING NEIGHBORHOODS. (3) FULLY EXPLORE AND EMPLOY STRATEGIES OTHER THAN ROAD WIDENING TO ADDRESS TRAFFIC CONGESTION. (4) ENSURE THAT EACH ROAD PROJECT ADEQUATELY ACCOMMODATES PEDESTRIAN AND CYCLIST NEEDS. (5) ENSURE THAT EACH ROAD PROJECT ADEQUATELY ACCOMMODATES TRANSIT NEEDS." Section 2(b)(3) was added to avoid boondoggles like the arbitrary, destructive, and expensive widening of Campbell Avenue between Grant and Elm, which cost $10 million to add two lanes for a half mile and did nothing to improve the traffic flow along Campbell. Had the Department of Transportation explored transit alternatives, they could have added extra capacity without widening and without endangering the businesses north of Grant along Campbell. CHAMBER: "CFASTS cost and construction time estimates are woefully underestimated" CFASTS: This plan was vetted by national experts, including the former Western Region director of the Federal Transit Administration, which doles out the federal funds, and was pegged based on best estimates in Tucson at $37 million per mile. And according to the US Government Accounting Office Report on Transit, the standard cost estimate for Light Rail systems in the US is $34.8 million per mile. CHAMBER: "No alternatives analysis is in place to comply with FTA funding rules" CFASTS: The Alternatives Analysis (AA) was ordered by Mayor and Council in December 2001. Its Request For Proposals will be sent out in October of this year, according to Gary Oaks of the City DOT. The FTA does require an AA, but it also requires a dedicated funding source in place to fund the future system before you can apply for the funds. Propositions 200 and 201 will satisfy the requirement, and once we have finished the AA, we will be able to submit our request immediately. Alternatively, we will not be able to request funds, even if we have the AA in hand, until we have the funding source in place. CHAMBER: "CFASTS federal matching fund estimates are unknown" CFASTS: We're not sure what they mean by this. We estimate that 60% of our capital costs for Light Rail will come from the federal government. And while we cannot be sure that we will obtain full funding, we can be certain of NOT obtaining ANY funding if we do not apply. CHAMBER: "Neighborhoods around proposed rail stations will be impacted (changes in zoning, parking, crime, etc.)" CFASTS: Neighborhoods will be impacted--positively! The federal funding requires that we involve neighborhoods at every step of the way, and that their input be pivotal in the final design. While one of the benefits of Light Rail is that is can encourage more compact smart growth, neighborhoods can choose not to change zoning in their area at all. Light rail is flexible enough to include small, low-key neighborhood stations without parking or adjacent development where appropriate, and larger, mixed-use developments where appropriate. This is the first time we have heard the crime issue raised, and we hope it is not an indicator of the Chamber's opinion of the type of people who ride transit. There is absolutely no correlation between higher crime rates and light rail. CHAMBER: "Proposed light rail route is within South Tucson city limits, which would not be subjected to increased tax" CFASTS: One mile out of the 13-mile route, and one station out of the 16 stations are in South Tucson. While the City of South Tucson will not collect the taxes to fund the system, the residents of South Tucson do most of their shopping in the surrounding City of Tucson, and thus will be paying the tax. It would in fact cost more to route the system around South Tucson, costing us all more in the end. CHAMBER: "There are no "sunset" provisions to tax increases" CFASTS: Because there is no "sunset" provision to our transportation needs. Once we have built the system over the first twenty years of the plan, we will continue to have the funding source in place to continue to operate the system and build new projects to supplement the system based on our changing needs in the year 2023. This is part of why we say that we all need to vote YES on Propositions 200 and 201 for ourselves, our children, and our grandchildren it's about time we invested in our future, instead of simply short-term fixes. if we have left anything out, forgive us, if you have read the whole thing, thank you. If you need more information, don't hesitate, to email, call, or visit our website. =PTP=============================================== Seattle Times Wednesday, October 22, 2003 in key week for light rail, a meeting at White House By Alex Fryer Seattle Times Washington bureau WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Jennifer Dunn, an Eastside Republican and longtime critic of Sound Transit, traveled to the White House yesterday to speak with President Bush's top political adviser, Karl Rove. Dunn, R-Bellevue, brought along Rep. Ernest Istook, R-Okla., an influential subcommittee chairman who is holding up a $500 million federal grant Sound Transit needs to begin construction of its light-rail system. Also attending the half-hour meeting was Rep. George Nethercutt, a Spokane Republican running for U.S. Senate. The four talked about the need to consider congestion relief in funding future light-rail projects, said Dunn's spokeswoman Danielle Holland. Sound Transit's stalled grant never came up, she said. But the meeting's timing struck some observers as curious, and Sound Transit supporters doubt the agency and its grant weren't discussed. "That's like saying you read Playboy but don't look at the pictures. It's just not believable," said a Democratic source. Others suggested Rove may have been asked to reconsider the Bush administration's support of funding for Sound Transit. Dunn was on her way to iraq and could not be reached directly, and Nethercutt declined to comment. The White House meeting took place during a week when Congress may decide the fate of the $2.44 billion light-rail project. Istook formally disapproved the $500 million grant last month. Sound Transit stands to lose favorable construction bids Friday unless he reverses his position. Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Bremerton, a light-rail supporter, said Istook told him on the House floor Monday night that a final decision on the grant would be made within 48 hours. Istook did not tell Dicks how he would rule, and his spokesperson did not elaborate. Sound Transit officials say the federal money is crucial to breaking ground on the Seattle-to-Tukwila route. Without it, they say, the project will die. Although Sound Transit faced a tough time in Congress, the Bush administration has been one of its biggest supporters. Bush included $75 million for light rail in his proposed 2004 budget, and the federal Department of Transportation rated Sound Transit "highly recommended." Last May, Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, a Bush appointee, said he had no reservations about the project. Mineta's department agreed to award the $500 million grant to Sound Transit in July, but the deal had to pass through House and Senate transportation subcommittees. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., ensured the grant moved smoothly through the Senate, but it ran aground in Istook's House subcommittee. Istook has a history of opposing light-rail projects, contending they don't pay for themselves and don't relieve congestion. On Sept. 10, he formally refused to sign off on Sound Transit's funding proposal, and the grant has been in limbo ever since. Among his concerns is the possible effect of initiative 776, the Tim Eyman- sponsored measure that would cut about $703 million from Sound Transit's budget. i-776, which would cap vehicle tabs at $30, was ruled unconstitutional by a King County Superior Court judge. It is on appeal at the state Supreme Court. Meanwhile, Sound Transit says two construction bids worth $94 million will terminate Friday. The bids originally expired Oct. 10, but Sound Transit won a two-week extension. if the contracts are voided, the agency must rebid the work, at a possible cost of tens of millions of dollars and monthslong delays, according to Sound Transit. "it's an important week, and we hope we can move forward. We're in a holding pattern and keeping our fingers crossed," said Sound Transit Communications Director Ric ilgenfritz. Opponents, too, wish for a swift resolution to the Sound Transit saga. Metropolitan King County Councilman Rob McKenna said light rail would provide minimal benefits for the price, and he joins Dunn in her concern that Eastside transit revenue could be tapped to pay for cost overruns. "I would rather have congressional leaders make a decision this week," he said. "Let's hear it one way or the other." [SIDEBAR] Report card The report, one of six state reports being released today, is available online: Alex Fryer: 206-464-8124 or =PTP=============================================== html Seattle Times Monday, October 20, 2003 Fix monorail in Olympia, not at license counter Editorial Seattle monorail officials are trying to achieve through intimidation a change in law that could not be accomplished by legislation. Monorail officials have urged car-licensing agents to report to the Department of Licensing suspected monorail tax evaders. The department then would give the information to the Seattle Monorail Project, which claims it is merely collecting information. Targeting people who change licensing addresses to locations outside the city limits - or those who admit they are licensing elsewhere to avoid the tax - is creepy. Monorail officials insist it is illegal for Seattle residents to register cars outside the city to dodge the tax, but there is no specific penalty for doing so. The monorail ought to clarify rules regarding licensing in a straightforward manner, via legislation that requires the Department of Licensing to do so. Monorail execs wanted the Legislature to close the loophole last session. The bill passed the House, not the Senate. The monorail now should do what every other group must do: Go back and try again. Enlisting licensing agents is a bluff, a bet people will be so spooked by list- keeping they won't evade the tax. Monorail tax revenues are coming in at two-thirds the amount anticipated. People licensing cars at recreational and business addresses outside city limits are part of the shortfall. Evasion hurts the monorail project, and monorail officials have an interest in the information. But using licensing sub-agents who work in neighborhoods to collect information about their customers is lousy public relations. Licensing agents do not have to rat on people. Monorail execs would do better to return to Olympia to shore up the rules. =PTP=============================================== SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER Wednesday, October 22, 2003 Monorail planners may have 1-track mind By KERY MURAKAMi SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER REPORTER Monorail planners have for months been trying to figure out how to gracefully fit a structure with two shadow-casting tracks on top of sequoia-sized columns into Seattle's neighborhoods. Now they're considering having just one track. Yesterday, Seattle's monorail authority unveiled the idea of building one track in some areas, carrying trains running both north and south. The trains would pass each other at stations, where there would still be separate tracks. Joel Horn, executive director of the Seattle Monorail Project, said the one-track idea would save money, but how much is not yet known. The project has to come up with savings because it's on a collision course with trouble; the project's car-tab tax is raising about 30 percent less than expected. One concern about the 14-mile line from Ballard to West Seattle is what the monorail might do to neighborhoods Rick Sundberg, an architect who serves on the monorail board, said a single-track "would be a little more delicate coming into the city." Rather than two tracks spanning about 17 feet above streets, a single track and an emergency walkway would be only about 4 or 5 feet across. Having to bear less weight, the 3- to 4-foot-wide columns would be roughly the same size as, or thinner than those holding up the current Seattle Center Monorail. The idea is more complicated downtown. With trains having to wait for oncoming trains to pass, and crowds of people getting on and off, Horn said the authority is unsure if the trains could run every four or five minutes downtown, as currently planned, on a single track. Horn acknowledged the single-track idea could have other problems. The authority is trying to figure out how much more the additional wear and tear on a single track might cost throughout the years. And having only one track might cause problems should a train break down. P-I reporter Kery Murakami can be reached at 206-448-8131 or =PTP============================================= Spokane Spokesman Review Tuesday, October 21, 2003 Spokane Transit backers plan for growth Amy Cannata - Staff writer Rapid transit stations could be a catalyst for growth and development in the Spokane Valley. Spokane Regional Light Rail is holding a series of meetings this week to plan how transit stations could influence economic development in Spokane Valley and Liberty Lake. Transit stations are proposed in both cities' cores. A station proposed at the University City mall could help revitalize older Spokane Valley commercial properties that have suffered as development has moved east toward the Spokane Valley Mall. Spokane Valley officials have been considering the area as a location for city offices. "it's very important that the development they propose not be dependent on transit being there," light rail project manager Kim Traver said. The light rail committee is studying the possibility of bus rapid transit. A study this year showed there aren't enough potential riders to win federal financing of a proposed 16-mile light rail line between downtown Spokane and Liberty Lake. With bus rapid transit, buses would be given priority at intersections, stop less frequently and hold more passengers. Another possibility is a shorter light rail line. Bus or rail rapid transit could benefit University City, but current development plans don't count on it, said Orville Barnes, the shopping mall's property manager. "We're looking at the fact that it will become a mixed-use type of area. We're trying to position ourselves to do that sort of thing," Barnes said. A portion of the mall is being torn down to make way for more surface parking. The automobile still is king in the Spokane Valley, but transit could have a bigger impact in future years, Barnes said. "We're developing it in a manner that it could take advantage of that but also work now," he said. •Spokane Regional Light Rail will hold two public meetings this week to plan development around proposed transit stations at the University City mall and in Liberty Lake. The first meeting will be from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday at Decades at University City, 10502 E. Sprague. The Liberty Lake meeting will be from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday at Telect, 2111 N. Molter Road. =PTP============================================ [PTP NOTE: Dr. Haynes Goddard, Professor of Economics at the University of Cincinnati. Dr. Goddard led the panel of economists and financial experts that oversaw the economic analysis of transport investments at OKI over the past three years.] CINCINNATI POST October 21, 2003 [Letter to the Editor] Poor Choices for SORTA Board To the editor of The Post: The decision by the Hamilton County Commissioners on October 8 to appoint two anti-transit ideologues to the SORTA board, with virtually no public discussion, represents a significant abuse of governmental authority. One of the new Board members, medical supply salesman Stephan Louis, is the leader against regional efforts to bring balance to our regional transportation infrastructure. He was recently found guilty by the Ohio Elections Commission of attempting to affect the outcome of last November's transit levy by falsely claiming that the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) had termed the region's transit plan among the worst in the nation, when the FTA had made no such statement. The other new SORTA board member is Daniel Peters, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Buckeye institute, a self-styled libertarian "think" tank based in Columbus. A reading of this institute's publications on transportation shows clearly that there is very little real thinking going on there. In fact, the same week the editor of the Columbus Dispatch very publicly banished the Buckeye institute from appearing in op-ed pieces because they submitted plagiarized material as their own. This intellectual dishonesty is not new at Buckeye, Ohio's very own purveyor of junk science, the head of which the Commissioners have named to guide the County's transit authority. These ideologues were nominated by Hamilton County Commissioner John Dowlin, who has very clearly demonstrated in many public meetings, both at OKI and elsewhere, that he does not understand the investment analyses of transport alternatives for our region conducted at OKI, and prefers to refer to his "own set of facts", finding OKI's valid analyses to be inconvenient--not supporting his preconceived conclusions. Even though OKI has obtained the services of some of the best transport and economic consultants in nation, Dowlin recommended to the OKI I-75 Committee at its vote two weeks ago that the committee use Louis' unfounded and amateur conclusions in place of the work of the consultants, even though Louis has no expertise nor training in the area. Thanks to the efforts of several professional economists and financial executives in the region, OKI has been able to elevate the quality of the economic appraisal of transport projects to among the best in the nation, all to no consequence, as local politicians like Dowlin routinely ignore the findings. The citizens of the region are paying the costs of this ideological blindness as our mobility in the region continues to deteriorate. We have been very poorly served by the Hamilton County Commissioners on these appointments. Those concerned about the economic future of the region need to tell them to get educated.
PTP Digest 2003/10/22-A = CONTENTS * Houston: Under-40-somethings rally for rail plan Houston Chronicle Oct. 22, 2003 * Houston-area US rep: Vote No on Metro plan, back alternative Houston Chronicle Oct. 21, 2003 * Houston op-ed: Metro plan's a 'winning combination' of roads, rail, buses Houston Chronicle Oct. 21, 2003 * Calcutta eyes light metro TIMES OF INDIA [Calcutta] TUESDAY, OCTOBER 21, 2003 * Portsmouth UK: Leaders urge govt. OK of LRT tram plan Hampshire County Council 17/10/2003 * Seattle: Diesel-electric buses may replace trolleys in tunnel Seattle Post-Intelligencer Tuesday, October 21, 2003 * Seattle: 235 new hybrid buses may lower op. costs New York Times October 21, 2003 * Newark Airport train/monorail connection gets mixed reviews News 12 New Jersey (10/20/03) * New Orleans may suffer if Amtrak zapped New Orleans Times-Picayune Monday October 20, 2003 * Kuala Lumpur: Monorail builder touts progress KL Monorail [News Release] Dateline: 3/10/03 * Radio 'shock jocks' urge assaults on cyclists Chicago Tribune October 14, 2003 =PTP=========================================== Houston Chronicle Oct. 22, 2003 Under-40 set drawn to rail, leaders say By LUCAS WALL A group of young professionals rallied Tuesday at City Hall, warning voters that Houston will have trouble retaining and attracting talented workers if voters refuse to authorize rail expansion Nov. 4. Jason Presley, vice chairman of a young leaders group sponsored by the Houston Downtown Alliance, said the city's traffic congestion, air pollution and lack of a vibrant center make it an unappealing choice for many workers younger than 40. The alliance is a nonprofit organization formed to promote a "vital and vibrant" downtown. "Houstonians are not fundamentally tied to our cars as others would have you believe," Presley said to an audience of about 100 gathered on the east steps. "The number of young Houstonians moving to cities like New York, Chicago and San Francisco is proof of that. Houstonians drive because there is a lack of viable alternate options." Some gathered around the podium held signs with slogans including "Don't Make Me Move to Dallas" and "Don't Make Me Move to Denver." Both of those cities have light rail systems similar to the one the Metropolitan Transit Authority has placed on next month's ballot. Matt Harris, chair of the 700-member Emerging Leaders coalition, said young people would see the most benefits from the long-term transit expansion that Metro has mapped out. The Nov. 4 vote would authorize $640 million in bonds to accelerate construction of the next 22 miles of light rail. "This referendum is more than just a bond issue; it is a vote for the future," Harris said. Catherine Pernot of Houston Solutions, a group of young professionals that educates others about quality-of-life issues, said Metro's plan offers choices for those who don't want to live in the suburbs with two cars in the garage. "If we want a healthy, long-term city, we need healthy, long-term transportation options," she said. "It is time to diversify our transportation supply." Three members of the Business Committee Against Rail held a protest at the rally, holding up signs promoting more road construction. David Hutzelman, the committee's 63-year-old director, said other cities such as Austin that do not have light rail do just fine attracting young workers. "Why would yuppies want to take twice as long to commute on a 15 mph trolley while likely standing for rush-hour trips?" Hutzelman asked. "The answer is they wouldn't." Metro did not have statistics available Tuesday on how many 20- and 30- somethings ride its buses. The American Public Transportation Association's demographics of national transit riders are broken down only by minors, adults and senior citizens. =PTP=========================================== [PTP NOTE: in the following op-ed, Houston-area US Rep. John Culberson promotes the "100 Percent Solutions Plan" being developed by the Houston- Galveston Area Council as a preferable alternative to the Metro Solutions plan up for a vote next month. However, the 'Houston Transportation Bulletin 3' of 13 October 2003 (previously posted to this list) had these observations on the "100% Plan": "The METRO Solutions opposition cites the '100 Percent Solutions Plan' being developed by the Houston-Galveston Area Council as an alternative to METRO Solutions. However, the 100 Percent Solutions Plan not only includes METRO Solutions, but includes an expanded version of METRO Solutions with more rail and bus than in METRO¹s plan. The METRO Solutions transit plan is a part of the 100 Percent Solution Plan that already has identified funding sources...."] Houston Chronicle Oct. 21, 2003 Viewpoints Choose the '100% Solution' over Metro's By JOHN CULBERSON METRO is asking voters to approve the single largest construction project in Houston's history on Nov. 4, and every day raises new questions about its ability to pay for it. As the only Texan on the U.S. House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, my job requires me to be involved whenever the Metropolitan Transit Authority calls an election to build rail, or whenever the Texas Department of Transportation or Harris County proposes a highway project, because I am responsible for helping them obtain federal funding. As a taxpayer, I am opposed to the rail plan. However, I have repeatedly pledged to Metro and to the Chronicle that I will support federal funding for the plan if it is approved. My personal position is that Houstonians can do far better than this massive 73-mile rail plan that was hastily approved and, by Metro's own admission, "might not reduce congestion." I am working with County Judge Robert Eckels and the Houston-Galveston Area Council to develop a "100 Percent Solution" for all of our traffic problems. The 100 Percent Solution will include many elements: commuter rail lines out to the suburbs where our population growth is highest; more toll roads such as the new Katy Toll Road to take the strain off of our highways, opening up more lanes on key thoroughfares in the area, adding new roads to the system, as well as diverting truck traffic from the Port of Houston around the city and shifting their freight loads onto trains. Every element of the 100 Percent Solution will be judged against the basic criteria: Does it reduce congestion; and does it improve travel time? The 100 Percent Solution is almost ready, and we have the right leadership in Harris County, Austin and Washington, D.C., to develop and implement as much of it as we can afford. But first, we must oppose Metro's plan because Metro will consume nearly half of all transportation dollars in Harris County to carry only 1 percent of the traffic. We won't have enough money left over for the 100 Percent Solution. in any referendum election, the first place we need absolute honesty is the ballot language. The ballot is the contract between the voters and the government. i know from my experience in Austin that there are no state or federal minimum guidelines for ballot language. The only restriction under Texas law is that the ballot language cannot "mislead" the voters. So I worked with Metro in June and July to develop acceptable guidelines for its November ballot language. Metro actually wrote the first draft of my new minimum federal ballot requirements on June 26. They watched these new requirements pass the subcommittee, the full committee, survive an amendment to strike them and eventually pass the House. The Metro board consciously decided to ignore these requirements and approve vague ballot language that did not even spell out how many miles of rail it was proposing to build. It knowingly created its "last-minute" ballot problem. On Aug. 19, the Chronicle reported that the final rail plan for the Nov. 4 ballot was "cut" by "almost half" to "22 miles" in order to "appease foes." The impression given to voters was that the referendum would be on 22 miles of rail at a cost of $640 million in bonds, when in fact, Metro was really asking voters to give their blessing to a 73-mile rail system that will ultimately cost $7.8 billion. Metro finally agreed to abide by these requirements and list the 73 miles on the ballot. I was recently asked by Eckels to verify Metro's federal formula projections over the life of the next transportation reauthorization bill (six years). I took Metro's estimates to the Federal Transit Administration and asked it to figure out exactly how much formula money Metro should expect to receive. FTA ran the numbers, and I discovered that Metro was overestimating their projections by $116 million. The numbers FTA used were based on President Bush's reauthorization proposal, which assumes a 2 percent growth rate every year. Since the only conceivable way to arrive at Metro's estimates would be to assume a massive federal gas tax increase, and Bush has threatened to veto any bill with a gas tax increase, Metro's numbers are obviously unrealistic. Even more troubling is the fact that Metro has not even asked the loan officer at the bank, the FTA, what level of funding to expect from the bank. FTA's revenue estimates mean that Metro would not be able to build the rail it is asking us to approve, would not be able to maintain its existing bus service without dramatic cuts, would not be able to pay back the $640 million in bonds or would not be able to protect the 25 percent of the penny sales tax that goes to the cities without a tax increase. Metro's only sources of revenue to pay for this rail plan are their one-cent sales tax, federal funding, fare box money and whatever modest interest it earns on its investments. Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector Paul Bettencourt and University of Houston economist Barton Smith have already concluded that Metro's sales tax revenue projections are too high. Now with its federal formula funding projections being called into question, I encourage every voter to take a long, hard look at what Metro is selling and ask whether or not we can really afford it. The more closely I examine Metro's proposal, the clearer it becomes that my duty to protect the integrity of the public treasury requires me to oppose this particular rail plan. I know from my experience in the Texas Legislature and in Congress that there is often a direct relationship between how bad a law is and how big a hurry the authors are in to get it passed. Usually, the faster the law is being rushed into effect, and the less you get to read in advance, and the harder it is to get information from the authors, the worse the law will be on closer inspection. The same is true of Metro's 73-mile rail plan. Culberson, a Houston Republican, represents Texas' 7th U.S. Congressional District, which is west Houston. =PTP================================================= Houston Chronicle Oct. 21, 2003 Viewpoints A winning combination: highways, rail, buses By U.S. REP. GENE GREEN ON Nov. 4, Harris County voters will consider the Metro Solutions plan, which includes 73 miles of light rail and a 50 percent expansion of the Metropolitan Transit Authority's bus service. With traffic congestion the top local issue in our area, I support approval of Metro Solutions. It will serve our district with light rail by including East End and Northside. Harris County residents will waste an average of 37 hours and 60 gallons of gas each year in congested traffic, according to the Texas Transportation institute's 2003 Urban Mobility Report. Together, we lose $2.1 billion, every year, in productivity and fuel. And congestion has been getting worse. In contrast, Metro Solutions has $2.8 billion for light rail over six years. Congestion impacts our air quality, and our Clean Air Act deadline is 2007. Failure means lost jobs and lost federal highway funding. I am a co-sponsor of legislation with Rep. Kevin Brady, R-The Woodlands, to protect area projects already approved by the Environmental Protection Agency from cancellation, but that is a Band-Aid, not a solution. Success means increasing highway and road capacity, adding light rail and expanding bus service. The nonpartisan Urban Mobility Report is clear: We cannot prevent congestion from worsening by just building more highways. I certainly support highway construction in our area, even in areas where it does not directly benefit my constituents. Like U.S. Rep. John Culberson, R-Houston, I support I-10 expansion, which is already $240 million over budget at $1.7 billion. But those of us who represent areas served by light rail cannot continue to support suburban projects such as I-10 West or the Grand Parkway without reciprocal help for our communities. We cannot bet the ranch on rail. Metro Solutions recognizes this and does not raise taxes or take money from roads; it uses bonds backed by fares and federal funding. Metro Solutions also increases bus service by 50 percent and 44 new routes. Light rail is not opposed to highways or buses, and our congestion is becoming so severe we need all available solutions. As each year passes without action, congestion will continue to increase. Folks who do not often use public transportation wonder: What is in it for me? But transportation is a regional problem, with congestion in one area quickly backing up and spreading to others. We should not ask what will we ride tomorrow, but what will the thousands of new Houstonians ride in 2007? Using all means to reduce congestion in Harris County is the only way that all will benefit. If we limit ourselves, congestion will increase for all. Some respected local leaders, such as Culberson and Harris County Judge Robert Eckels say Metro will go broke with Metro Solutions. But in fact, their projections are based on a transportation bill, proposed by President Bush, which they oppose, has not even been considered in Congress and no one believes will pass Congress. In addition, Metro has reserve funds to cover much of this phony discrepancy. We can afford Metro Solutions, and get the best plan for expanding light rail and bus service. But Metro doesn't build highways. For new and expanded area highways, we must take two actions in Congress. First, we must return more of the gas tax that Texans pay to Texas. I am a co- sponsor of legislation with Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land, to return 95 percent instead of the current 88 percent. Passage of this legislation is basic fairness that will increase Texas share of the federal highway pie. However, the federal gas tax does not keep pace with inflation. To allow for more, faster highway construction the federal gas tax can be indexed to inflation, as in the proposal by Republican Transportation Committee Chairman Don Young. Federal gas tax revenues are not controlled by Congress and automatically pay for transportation infrastructure. Although we might like to, it will be nearly impossible to increase Texas' share of the highway pie in Congress, without allowing the pie to grow with inflation. if voters approve Metro Solutions and Congress acts sensibly, highways, light rail and buses will be a win, win, win combination for Harris County. Green, a Houston Democrat, represents Texas' 29th U.S. Congressional District. =PTP============================================= 1 TIMES OF INDIA [Calcutta] TUESDAY, OCTOBER 21, 2003 Barasat to Joka in 90 minutes flat SOUMYADIPTA BANERJEE The one rupee that the state government is taking from you for every litre of fuel that you buy, is all set to fund one of the most ambitious projects of the state transport department. According to sources in the department, at least nine private companies have shown interest in this: a Rs 1,400-crore light railway transit project. It will be a sophisticated version of Kolkata's trams that will link Joka and Barasat passing through Kamalgazi in Garia, EM Bypass, Sector IV in Salt Lake and Dum Dum— a distance of 50 kilometres which it is claimed will not take more than 90 minutes to cover. No deadline, however, has yet been set for the completion of the project. "At least nine foreign companies have collected the project report from us. There are some indian companies too. The project will be jointly funded by the government and a private company on a Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT) basis," said a senior official of the transport department. Since the government has decided to regulate the fares for the new service, it is thinking if offering some carrots will help the company recover its costs more easily. "No company will be able to recover the cost quickly as we will not let them charge an astronomical transit fare. We might offer the company things like land at a subsidised rate and infrastructural support at nominal costs to help them out," the senior official added. The state government had a round of talks with senior officials of the transport planning directorate and the Calcutta Tram Company recently and the final blueprint will soon be ready. Senior officials confirmed that the project is in its last leg of planning. A confirmed report is expected by 2004. "The tram is supposed to run on electricity. It will have six coaches and will run at the speed of the Metro. It will not have overhead hi-tension wires and might draw electricity from a third rail. The train tracks will be laid on a higher level than the surface to make it safer," said B.K. Sadhu, chief engineer, Transportation, Planning and Traffic Engineering Directorate. =PTP================================================ Hampshire County Council 17/10/2003 HURRY UP AND MAKE DECISION URGE TRAM PROMOTERS Hampshire County Council and Portsmouth City Council, promoters of the tram scheme aimed at tackling severe congestion in the South's most heavily populated area outside London want the Government to make a decision as quickly as possible to end their anxious wait. it's now three months since the two councils met transport ministers to leave the Government in no doubt about the widespread commitment to South Hampshire Rapid Transit, that it represented good value for money, it underpinned the transport strategy for the whole of South Hampshire and its benefits would far outstrip the costs. The Government first approved the scheme aimed at taking three million car journeys off local roads more than two years ago as part of a Local Transport Plan the Government said was one of the best it had ever seen. The local authorities followed the Government's preferred procurement route to the letter. Since then the cost estimates increased due to a number of factors outside the local authorities' control. These included greater insurance premiums, high construction inflation, an increase in public utility diversion work and the fact that the tunnel under Portsmouth harbour has to be deeper to accommodate the Royal Navy's new ships. The light rail market had also been affected by tram schemes elsewhere in the country where money was lost due to over estimating the amount of revenue available for fares, despite high passenger numbers. Transport Secretary Alistair Darling asked the promoters to examine how the costs could be reduced and to submit a revised proposal and that proposal is now with Ministers awaiting a decision. County Council Leader Councillor Ken Thornber said: "We've made the case that SHRT1 underpins the entire transport strategy for south Hampshire. It's about agencies working together to deliver on the social, economic and leisure agendas in an area which has pockets of deprivation among the highest in the country. Without light rapid transit a key piece of that strategy is removed. "Less than a year ago Hampshire County Council was awarded a maximum 4 stars for its environment services and the Cabinet has made transportation one of its key priorities because people told us that's what their priority was. This scheme is a good one, it's badly needed and will deliver value for money. We're really keen to work with the Government to deliver this vital scheme for the people of south Hampshire." The Leader of Portsmouth City Council, Councillor Phil Shaddock, said: "This scheme is important for the economy, not just for Portsmouth but for south-east Hampshire too. It is an important first core of a public transport strategy. It's essential the Government grants the funding we have requested to bring further prosperity to the area." For further information please contact: Kate Ball on 01962 845626 =PTP================================================ Seattle Post-Intelligencer Tuesday, October 21, 2003 Diesel-electric buses hit streets next year Hybrids will save money in long run, transit officials say THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Less thick, black exhaust will spew from a new fleet of more than 200 diesel- electric hybrid buses the region's two biggest mass-transit agencies plan to roll out next year. When the 60-foot articulated buses lurch into motion, they don't chug through fuel. At low speeds, they run on a hybrid electric drive, which King County Metro Transit expects will save 750,000 gallons of fuel and at least a half-million dollars a year. "The reason you save so much fuel is that the bulk of what a bus does is starting and stopping," said Matthew Kester, a spokesman for General Motors Corp., which manufactures the hybrid electric drive at a transmission plant in indianapolis. As the bus speeds up, it uses a mix of electricity and diesel fuel. The diesel engine, made by Caterpillar Inc., takes over once the bus reaches 20 or 25 mph, Kester said yesterday. "Because you're not dumping all the fuel through this diesel engine to get this bus moving, you're getting a 90 percent improvement on emissions (of soot, hydrocarbon and carbon monoxide)," Kester said. "Plus you've improved fuel economy by about 50 to 60 percent." New Flyer, a Canadian bus manufacturer based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, makes the buses. King County signed orders for 213 buses Friday, and Sound Transit, which runs regional express buses in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties, bought 22 -- a combined investment of more than $150 million. "Obviously, it's a technology we're excited about because of the cleaner air, the fuel savings and the maintenance savings," Sound Transit spokesman Lee Somerstein said. The first new hybrids are expected to hit the streets by next spring. Today in Seattle, General Motors Corp. plans to show off the 60-foot model that King County Metro Transit tested out before its recent purchase. Hybrid buses cost more up front -- about $645,000 apiece, compared with $445,000 for a standard diesel-powered bus, Metro Transit spokeswoman Linda Thielke said. But because they use less fuel, hybrid buses don't need their oil changed as often and are easier to maintain, General Motors estimates that the county will recoup its costs within about seven years. Metro Transit bought its test model last year and put more than 40,000 miles on it before deciding to buy the new fleet. "It performed remarkably well," Thielke said, noting it had plenty of power motoring up hills, ran quietly and required very little maintenance. Sound Transit bought a 40-foot test model. "Our operations people just love it," Somerstein said. "They've had virtually no problems." The hybrids will replace an aging fleet of dual-mode buses that run on overhead electric wires while they pass through the downtown bus tunnel, then switch to diesel outside the tunnel. Because the new buses will have their own electricity supply, they'll no longer rely on those overhead wires while inside the tunnel, making them easier to maneuver. =PTP================================================= position= New York Times October 21, 2003 Seattle's Transit District Buys 235 Hybrid Buses By DANNY HAKIM DETROIT, Oct. 20 — King County, Wash., which includes Seattle, plans to buy 235 diesel hybrid buses for its transit system, one of the largest orders for city buses with hybrid technology. The King County Metropolitan Transit Authority plans to spend about $47 million more for the hybrids than it would have for conventional diesel buses. County managers say they think they will save $27 million over 12 years by using less fuel and oil and reducing maintenance costs, though savings from new technologies can be hard to predict. The buses will be on Seattle streets by May. The hybrid engine systems, which supplement internal combustion with electric power, will be made by General Motors for buses built by New Flyer. "If we replace 13,000 buses in the nine largest cities, we would save 40 million gallons of fuel annually," said Thomas G. Stephens, group vice president of G.M. Powertrain, which is building the hybrid engine system. "That's the equivalent of selling 500,000 small passenger car hybrids." The 235 Seattle buses will generate fuel savings equivalent to replacing 8,000 conventional cars with hybrids, Mr. Stephens said. New York City has also been a supporter of diesel hybrid buses, with 10 on the road and plans for 125 more starting in December and an additional 200 by 2005. The New York buses are made by Orion Bus industries, a branch of DaimlerChrysler, with hybrid technology from BAE Systems of Britain. Toyota and Honda have dominated hybrid technology in cars, with sales numbering in the tens of thousands each year. Toyota plans to sell hundreds of thousands within a couple of years. G.M. and the Ford Motor Company have said they will eventually sell hybrids. G.M.'s most ambitious hybrid will be a version of the Saturn Vue sport utility vehicle, but it will not be sold until 2005. Building hybrid systems for buses will help G.M. develop the technology, Mr. Stephens said, and a pilot project is under way with 10 cities using 36 of the buses. "The experience G.M. is gaining here is very viable beyond mass transit applications," Mr. Stephens said. "Read that to be cars and trucks." Buses running on compressed natural gas have been a much more common environmentally friendly technology in the past. Seattle, however, considered using natural gas buses but the range was too short, said Jim Boon, the county's procurement manager. In addition, buses spend much of their time in a 1.3-mile tunnel, where the fire department prohibits the use of natural gas, he said. "The fire department won't allow you to take it underground," Mr. Boon said, because of the risk of a leak. Mr. Boon said diesel hybrids, with a combination of low sulfur fuel and emissions filters, would burn as cleanly as natural gas. The county expects to save 800,000 gallons of fuel and 39,000 quarts of engine oil each year. Mr. Stephens said the hybrid system would reduce emissions of smog-forming pollutants by 60 percent to 90 percent. Mr. Boon said he thought maintenance costs would be cut by far fewer brake repairs for the new electromagnetic brake system on the buses and fewer oil changes. "We typically change oil every 6,000 miles," he said. "On these, we'll change it every 24,000 miles." =PTP================================================= [PTP NOTE: AirTrain refers to the regional rail connection to Newark Liberty international Airport, not just the monorail internal peoplemover system] News 12 New Jersey (10/20/03) Mixed reviews for the Air Train to and from Newark Liberty NEWARK - For the past two years, the Port Authority's "Air Train" has connected Newark Liberty Airport with New Jersey Transit and Amtrak rail lines. The monorail service gives passengers the opportunity to travel in and out of Newark Airport without having to park their cars or pick up a bus or taxi. Two years after the Air Train made its debut, passengers are giving the service mostly positive reviews. Many riders say the Air Train is quick, convenient and a good way to connect to destinations in New Jersey and New York City. Critics, however, think the service is too expensive. At the high end, a one-way trip on the Air Train costs riders about $12. According to the Tri-state Transportation Campaign, a non-profit agency that tracks commuter travel, the Air Train fares are too high, especially for a family of four. Others believe the fares are reasonably priced when considering the gridlock traffic and parking nightmares associated with Newark Liberty Airport. The Port Authority estimates about 3,200 passengers use the Air Train each day. Officials say ridership is up four percent, and they estimate the number of daily passengers will triple during the holiday travel season. =PTP============================================= New Orleans Times-Picayune Monday October 20, 2003 Amtrak proposal threatens city, says activist Passenger train lines are at risk, he says By Susan Finch Staff writer Long-distance passenger train lines such as the City of New Orleans are the "glue" that holds the nation's rail transportation system together, but they would likely disappear if the Bush administration persuades Congress to restructure Amtrak to let private companies run the trains, the head of a rail passenger advocacy group said Sunday. Moreover, the administration's plan would spell the end of New Orleans' status as a major rail passenger terminal, said Ross Capon, executive director of the National Association of Railroad Passengers. That's because the only service Amtrak, officially known as the National Railroad Passenger Corp., offers out of Union Passenger Terminal is the long-distance kind, Capon said at a meeting of his group's board of directors at the Royal St. Charles Hotel. The Amtrak trains that stop here are the City of New Orleans, which runs to Chicago; the Sunset Limited, which links Orlando, Fla., and the West Coast; and the Crescent, which operates between New York and New Orleans with stops in Washington, D.C., and Atlanta. All three of those lines showed an uptick in passenger numbers in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, Capon said. In September alone, he said, the City of New Orleans line saw a 23 percent increase; the Sunset, 34.1 percent; and the Crescent, 20.6 percent. Another danger of the Bush plan for Amtrak, Capon said, is that if passenger train service disappears from New Orleans, pressure likely will build for the railroads to sell the land across which the long-distance trains run. "Just the right to use the tracks is something that would die if Amtrak dies," he said. Preserving such tracks would keep in place the foundation needed to develop commuter rail service, Capon said. The Bush administration says it is committed to continuing passenger rail service as a vital part of the country's transportation system. But it says the best way to do so is not to continue subsidizing Amtrak, which has been plagued by annual financial crises, decaying assets and sometimes unreliable service. Under the Bush plan, all Amtrak lines except the heavily used Northeast routes would be put up for bid to companies the administration think could run the trains with smaller taxpayer subsidies. The cost of the federal subsidies, would gradually shift from the federal government to the states served by Amtrak's trains. The White House plan has drawn fire not only from groups such as Capon's but also from several members of Congress, including Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., whose state is traversed by all three Amtrak long-distance trains that stop in New Orleans. Lott has joined with other lawmakers to propose a six-year plan that would give Amtrak $2 billion a year, some of the largest federal subsidies for rail ever, and set up a program to upgrade the rail system using $48 billion in government- backed bonds. Since Amtrak went into operation in the spring of 1971, federal subsidies for its operations have totaled nearly $27 billion. . . . . . . . Susan Finch can be reached at or (504) 826-3340. =PTP============================================ KL Monorail [News Release] Dateline: 3/10/03 KL INFRASTRUCTURE GROUP 6th ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING KL infrastructure Group Berhad had its 6th Annual General Meeting today, its first after public listing on the KLSE main board. Meeting was held at Sheraton imperial Hotel Kuala Lumpur. The Company had in its annual report, registered a net profit of RM192,000 and earning per share of RM0.01 in its last financial year ending 30 April 2003. Profit was wholly contributed by its media marketing company Monorail Multimedia Sdn Bhd which holds the right to all advertising space in the KL Monorail corridor. KL Monorail System Sdn Bhd, the main subsidiary of KL infrastructure Group holds the concession for the construction, operation and maintenance of the RM1.18billion, 8.6km monorail system in the city centre. The company had on 31 August 2003, launched its revenue operation and is not expected to contribute to the group earnings until the next financial year. in September, the KL Monorail carried some 350,000 passengers during its introductory service running 5 hours a day with a train interval of 10 minutes. Since October, it extended its operation hours to run from 7am to 8pm and on 8 October, 40 days after it launched its operation, it received its 500,000th passenger. Currently 6 trains are in operation and eventually by the early next year, 12 trains will operate from 6am to 12 midnight with a train frequency ranging from 3 minutes to 15 minutes. Revenues for KL infrastructure come from 3 main streams, namely, fare collection from the monorail operation, advertisement space rental, and leasing of retail space in the monorail stations and in "Jalan-Jalan Xintiandi", a riverside food and leisure development which is part of the KL Monorail project in Brickfields. =PTP============================================ 0310140066oct14,1,6358088.story?coll=chi-leisuretempo-hed Chicago Tribune October 14, 2003 AT RANDOM RADIO Cyclists fail to see the humor in deejays' calls for assaults Advertisement By J. Michael Kennedy Tribune Newspapers: Los Angeles Times Kevin Bray was, well, shocked, when he heard that shock jocks were urging their listeners to run bicyclists off the road. He was horrified when he found out it had happened at least three times since July, in each case at stations owned by radio behemoth Clear Channel -- first in Cleveland, then Houston and finally at a station in Raleigh, N.C. To Bray, an avid cyclist and veteran North Carolina highway patrolman, there seemed to be an ominous pattern developing. "All I can say is, 'Who's next?'" said Bray, who has filed a complaint against the Raleigh station with the Federal Communications Commission. "What these people are doing is some sort of sick marketing ploy." That thought has also occurred to Patrick McCormick, director of communications for the 40,000-member League of American Bicyclists, an organization dedicated to preserving cyclists' rights. He said his group has been deluged with complaints now that three major radio markets have been beset by the same anti-cyclist comments. "We're still contemplating what we're going to do as a national organization," McCormick said. The incidents have stirred rage in the cycling world. In each incident, disc jockeys derided cyclists and encouraged listeners to run them down. In the latest example, at Raleigh station WDCG-FM, disc jockeys Bob Dumas and Madison Lane began their rant against cyclists Sept. 22. In the course of the program, listeners flooded their telephone lines to vent about cyclists, including one woman who boasted that her father intentionally hit one while they were on the way to church. One of the disc jockeys promoted the joys of hitting cyclists with Yoo-hoo bottles. Warning to shock jocks When patrolman Bray heard about the program, he wrote an e-mail to the shock jocks, warning them they were instructing the motoring public in how to commit assault with a deadly weapon -- their cars. Bray also informed them that he was reporting them to the FCC. "I don't know much about radio broadcasting," he wrote. "But I have enough sense to know that these acts are either illegal or contrary to the code of ethics you should be bound by when the FCC allows you to go on the air." The station's initial response came from station manager Kenneth Spitzer, who referred to the show as "animated banter." But after a demonstration outside the station and the threat by advertisers to pull out, Spitzer issued a public apology on the air Thursday. The first of the anti-cyclist diatribe occurred in July in Cleveland, when WMJi-FM disc jockeys suggested cyclists be rammed off the road. One of those who got on the phone to defend cyclists was Lois Cowan, who co-owns four bike shops in the Cleveland area. "I was repeatedly called a buffoon, an idiot and a PMS sufferer who couldn't take a joke," she said. "Then there were three hours of calls from people saying, 'Yeah, you guys are right.'" The session left Cowan in tears, but she immediately swung into action, helping engineer a bombardment of calls and e-mails to the station. In the end, the station called a truce and agreed to, among other things, hundreds of public- service announcements about the need to share the road. Timing angers cyclists The Houston incident also took place in September, and the timing of the show infuriated the city's cycling community. On Aug. 30, a woman driving a pickup truck had lost control and slammed into a 20-bike pace line, killing two riders and injuring eight others. Three days later, the disc jockeys at station KLOL-FM went on their anti-biking rampage, setting off another round of protests. "When you incite people to violence, you've crossed the line," said Houston cyclist Frank Karbarz, who helped organize against the station. "They did it almost like a tutorial. It wasn't humorous. It was how to hurt someone." Cowan doesn't believe that Clear Channel, which owns more than 1,200 radio stations in the United States, is encouraging the anti-cycling venom. She said it's more probable that word spread among disc jockeys that knocking cyclists is sure to push emotional buttons with their listeners. A Clear Channel representative said each station was "operated and produced independently" and "each station is working to correct the problem in their city." But noted cycling writer Ed Pavelka said he felt the three incidents have at least the makings of a trend. "First it was Cleveland, then Houston and Raleigh," he said. "Either someone's not getting the message, or someone's doing it with intent." in 2001, 728 cyclists were killed in accidents involving motor vehicles in the United States. And an additional 45,000 cyclists were injured. Legally, cyclists are afforded the same rights as motorists. Lawyer Gary Brustin, who specializes in cycling cases, noted that some motorists just don't like sharing the road with bikes. "They just don't like them."
PTP 2003/10/20-A - CONTENTS * Houston ed: Vote for transit solutions, reject highway myths Houston Chronicle Sept. 26, 2003 * Houston: Former anti-rail mayor backs rail plan Houston Chronicle Oct. 18, 2003 * Houston op-ed: Metro transit plan can help cure congestion Houston Chronicle Oct. 18, 2003 * Houston op-ed: Ride bus, support rail plan Houston Chronicle Oct. 19, 2003 * Seattle Mariners fight move to drop monorail station Seattle Times Sunday, October 19, 2003 * Sacramento rail yard to become TOD, multi-modal center Sacramento Business Journal September 15, 2003 =PTP=============================================== Houston Chronicle Oct. 18, 2003 Editorial FOR METRO'S PLAN Approve transit solutions; reject highway myths The steamboat, the locomotive, the automobile, the Wright brothers' first powered airplane -- all were ridiculed in their day before they proved to be engines of progress that increased the quality and bounds of human life. Voters should view the Metropolitan Transit Authority's transit proposal on the Nov. 4 ballot in the same light. The plan, dubbed Metro Solutions, proposes to expand local and express bus routes and Park & Ride facilities. It would increase the frequency and hours of bus operations and expand the fledgling light-rail line that will open in the Main Street corridor on Jan. 1. Many critics of the plan shamelessly swear they are not opposed to light rail, they are only opposed to every light-rail route Metro has ever proposed. Do they really think light rail should avoid downtown, the city's principal colleges and universities, the Texas Medical Center, and the three new sports stadiums? Should light-rail not serve the airports, the Galleria and other employment and commercial centers? Houston's been arguing rail transit for more than 20 years. Where are the rail proposals from Metro's opponents, who claim superior planning ability? As they consider the merits of Metro Solutions, voters should take care to separate the facts from the myths and check the claims and numbers of those who say we can build enough roads and freeways to reduce congestion. According to Texas A&M University's Texas Transportation institute, respected by both sides of the argument, congestion in the Houston region rose 97 percent during the 1990s, when the region spent nothing on rail and more on roads than any state but California. The limits of freeway expansion are plainly exhibited in the stretch of businesses and houses in Spring Valley that must be scraped to make way for new concrete on the Katy Freeway -- at a cost twice that of the 22 rail miles voters are asked to approve Nov. 4. Rail critics say it relies upon 19th-century technology, but the internal combustion engine used by cars and trucks long predates clean, electric-powered rail transit. Critics say mass transit doesn't reduce congestion, but ignore the fact that congestion is growing faster in cities without multimodal mass transit. They say transit money would be better invested to help people who don't use mass transit, but forget that federal transit aid would go to other cities' transit, not to our roads. While the fight seems to be over light rail, Metro Solutions is more bus and HOV lane than rail. Metro will also spend another $800 million to subsidize municipal and county street repairs, freeing other local tax dollars to be spent on other vital community needs. Viewed in any light, the facts support the value of Metro Solutions. The myths offered by rail opponents are, put less charitably, falsehoods. The Chronicle urges voters to vote "For" the detailed transit referendum on Nov. 4, giving Houston-area residents an alternative to long and frustrating periods spent stalled in traffic. =PTP=============================================== [PTP NOTE: As mayor, Bob Lanier (a former head of the Texas Highway Commission) engineered the scuttling of Houston Metro's effort to launch an elevated rail transit or monorail project in the early 1990s. instead, he strong- armed Metro into redirecting some of its funds into subsidizing roadways. His endorsement of the current Metro Solutions plan, calling for expansion of light rail, is a breakthrough.] Houston Chronicle Oct. 18, 2003 Viewpoints Why I will be voting for the Metro plan By BOB LANIER it's important that Houston come together on transportation, come together on transit and rail, come together on highways and on city and county roads. The Metro Solutions Plan, which includes rail, buses, roads and no tax increase, is a good consensus plan. I support it and will vote for it. The consensus plan has three fundamental elements that will be addressed by voters in the November referendum. First, the city charter requires that the overall rail plan be voted on before the Metropolitan Transit Authority uses city right of way. Second, the plan commits 25 percent of Metro's sales tax to general mobility (roads) for the next 10 years. Third, the plan authorizes $640 million in bonds to be used, along with substantial federal funding, to implement the consensus plan. With respect to rail, the Main Street line is near completion, and I think it has a good chance of success. It's logical to build extensions from where we are, Main Street line, into neighborhoods, moving residents to work downtown or in the Medical Center and to other activities. The biggest mobility gain we can make in a low-density city such as Houston is to shorten the distance between residences and the workplace. There is, over time, room for a good half-million new residents inside Loop 610. If these new residents shorten their work trips, we will have 2 million to 3 million trips, maybe 10 to 15 passenger miles, a day that will be shortened. Metro's initial light-rail system is designed to link close-in neighborhoods and Houston's major employment and activity centers -- the Medical Center, downtown, Greenway and the Galleria, as well as our major universities, the University of Houston, UH- Downtown, Texas Southern University, Houston Community College and Rice University. Now do I know this will work? No, I really don't. But I think it has a good chance. Rail will cost some more, but the public will get a somewhat nicer ride and, as a result, some additional ridership. The big benefit of this plan will be that it really supports this movement that is happening in Houston -- to some extent around the nation -- of people moving closer to the workplace. Light rail makes sense inside Loop 610, serving close-in neighborhoods, employment centers and universities, athletic arenas, restaurants, etc. It's not a heavy carrier of people, but it can be of great service within 610. And it won't hurt to have this upscale transportation going to some of these inner-city neighborhoods. After this initial light-rail system is created, the community should consider development of long-haul rail transit on Metro's own grade-separated right of way. This kind of rail service is really the heavy carrier of people within the rail family. Long-haul service to the airport or to the suburbs, such as the proposed line to Fort Bend communities, should be grade separated. Metro's rail car technology is adaptable for this kind of service, but this development should not be considered until the initial light-rail connector system is in place, and is successful. We have to build from the inside out. The community needs to realize that the bus is the workhorse of any transit system, and it will be the workhorse of this plan. If we built all 73 miles of proposed rail, buses will still carry roughly 75 percent of the total transit traffic. Buses carry about 75 percent of total transit traffic in Dallas, which already has 40 miles of light rail in operation. So the bus is the workhorse of Houston's transit operation, and we must consider all the people who ride the bus, and who may have concerns that the bus operation will be neglected as we include light rail in our system. In fact, the consensus plan calls for expanding the bus system -- more buses, more express and cross-town routes, and improved and expanded Park & Ride service. Metro has a solid record of providing excellent bus service and the consensus plan builds on that record. Some 12 years ago, Metro started its better bus program. Dallas added 40 miles of rail. Today, Houston buses carry more than 50 percent more passengers than does Dallas rail and bus combined. Houston's bus operation is No. 1 in the state in terms of ridership, market share and passenger miles carried. The rail will be additive and popular, I believe. With regard to Metro's proposal to continue investing in roads, it is important to note that for 25 years, 1978 to 2003, Metro has spent 25 percent of its sales tax dollars on roads. During that time, Metro, without debt, built a billion-dollar better bus program for which we received $500 million in federal funding. Further, Metro helped build the 100-mile transitway system that facilitates moving buses and carpools for long-haul trips. Metro also is paying more than $300 million for the Main Street rail line. And during this time Metro achieved No. 1 transit status in Texas. The rail will be additive to this base. The continuance of the Metro road money, which is provided for in the proposition, is therefore feasible. It is also essential. This money has been used in our neighborhoods-to-standards program, where neighborhoods have been completely redone -- newly surfaced city streets and major thoroughfares and new sidewalks. These neighborhoods must be attractive places where new residents will move. The consensus plan provides an overall package -- you can't let the rail lines run into neighborhoods where the maintenance has been neglected. This has been a difficult decision for me. I've had a long history with transportation, including transit. But I really believe that what we are about to do is in the best interest of our community. I believe in my heart that approving Metro's consensus plan is in the best interest of Houston. It's not about partisan politics. It's not about winning a point of view. Its about doing what, in your hearts, you really feel like is best for the community. I think we are better off approving this plan. Lanier was mayor of Houston from 1991 to 1997. In the 1980s he served as chairman of the Metropolitan Transit Authority. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- =PTP================================================ Houston Chronicle Oct. 18, 2003 Viewpoints Curing congestion Accidents, disabled vehicles and road debris cause congestion, some say as much as 50 percent By DAVID HITCHCOCK A friend informed me several years ago that no one goes to Ninfa's anymore because it's too crowded. Yogi Berra couldn't have said it any better. I remember this when I hear discussions about congestion, like those in Houston's mayoral race and current light-rail debates. U.S. cities faced with population loss or dismal economies aren't worried about congestion. It's thriving, growing communities like Houston where too much traffic hits the road. To effectively address congestion, we need to be clear about what causes it and what doesn't. Accidents, disabled vehicles and road debris cause congestion, some say as much as 50 percent. Add rubbernecking to this as well. We also cause congestion by building service roads adjacent to every freeway. The development that occurs next to the freeways adds to congestion and other traffic problems. There are better ways to do this. The lack of a good arterial street system and minimal control over street access also contribute to congestion. None of these causes will be addressed by roadway expansion. Another cause is roadway construction itself. Some roadway projects today experience so much delay that the time lost by current travelers is greater than any future time-saving, a negative return for taxpayers and travelers alike. This is particularly troublesome, since time-saving for drivers is a principal justification for roadway projects. Furthermore, most of today's projects are for maintenance, not expansion. Maintenance is absolutely essential, and transportation officials should be encouraged to invest heavily in this area, but maintenance also causes congestion. Paradoxically, congestion is driven more by changes in our travel behavior than growth. In Houston, while our population increased by 29 percent from 1982 to 1997, our driving increased by 72 percent. We are driving more, driving farther and driving by ourselves more often. We've switched from transit and other travel modes to driving. In the United States these changes have accounted for a whopping 87 percent of increased vehicle travel. The causes of congestion are not about work trips either, which now account for less than 20 percent of all trips. Look around you -- many of those sitting in traffic with you are not headed to work. The changes in the ways we travel and the ways we build our transportation system have taken us to the physical limits of some key segments of our roadway system, and adding capacity will only address part of the problem. The usual thinking about the cause of congestion is too many vehicles in too little space. Expanding roadways addresses the space issue, but not the vehicle issue. Since we now believe that we have no other choice but driving, expanding roadways is the only solution we are willing to consider. Our public policies often support this belief and this single solution. However, many transportation experts and officials have stated bluntly that we cannot build our way out of congestion. The leading U.S. report on congestion by the Texas Transportation institute makes this point clearly. The solution (to congestion) is really a diverse set of options that require funding commitments, as well as a variety of changes in the ways that transportation systems are used. Of the five major options described in the report, only one is expansion -- but this includes expansion of roadways and transit. The fifth part of the report's solutions to congestion is get used to it (I'm paraphrasing). For most things in our lives (except transportation), we expect and demand choices. Many of us can choose to drive, walk, bike or share rides. Some of us have transit available. But unfortunately, most of us consider every option but driving to be inadequate or unsatisfactory to meet our travel needs. At the same time, there are literally hundreds of ways to reduce or change travel that also reduce congestion. Examples include: trip chaining, changes in employee transportation benefits, congestion pricing, mileage-based insurance, transportation-efficient mortgages, walk-to-school programs, programs to encourage ride-sharing, smart-growth development practices, mixed-use development, auto-free zones, peripheral parking areas, car sharing, health incentives for nonmotorized travel, telecommuting, internet shopping, etc. Most of these are probably unknown to the reader, and the complexity is part of why we don't use them. We prefer single, straightforward solutions (like build more roads), not complexities. We prefer silver bullets and sound bites. For several reasons these have not been priorities for Houston: · History: Our experience is in building roads, and that's where our expertise lies. We have little experience in anything else. · Car ownership: We have invested heavily in two or more vehicles in each household, and are willing to spend more on our personal transportation system than other major cities. · infatuation: We love our vehicles, and they are an important part of our lives. · Funding: We have large, dedicated sources of funds which are used mostly for highways. · Decision-making: Road-building interests have more influence on policy-makers and community leaders. Fortunately, some road-building interests are now beginning to see that, like air quality, we must have a different strategy if we are to solve the congestion problem. Solving Houston's traffic congestion will require smarter, more resilient strategies than we've seen to date. Congestion is not about transit versus highways, as the opponents of light rail would have it. It is about having a full menu of transportation options. ironically, the single-option solution of building more highways will continue to be unsatisfactory to most people. They take too long to build or expand. The benefits are often marginal. The process of building them is painful. And, after all that, there is still congestion. if we pursue a more diverse, dynamic transportation system with more choices, people in the future may say that Houston's a great place, with so many easy ways to get around. Or we may hear that people just don't go to Houston anymore. It's too crowded. Hitchcock is an urban and regional planner who has lived in Houston for almost 20 years. He currently lives in The Woodlands, close to work, and his wife works from home. Hitchcock can be e-mailed at -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- =PTP================================================ Houston Chronicle Oct. 19, 2003 SOUNDING BOARD View of light rail from the seat of a bus By VERONICA BUCIO Did you see what bus that was that just passed?" a blur of a man asked as he quickly walked by. I didn't have to think about it. "A Number 2," I said. The digital sign on the front of the bus was broken, and I had to squint to see the handwritten number on a sheet of paper taped to the windshield. "Oh, I'm glad it wasn't a 15. I hope I haven't missed it." I didn't tell him he had. There was no point in disappointing him. I'd seen a No. 15 speed by the empty bus stop before I crossed the street toward it a couple of minutes before. The Metro schedule in my purse said there'd be another one in a little more than 10 minutes. He paced a bit, looked down the street for the next bus and then took a seat on the other steel bench a few feet from mine, where I got my first good look at the man. As he rushed to light a cigarette, his clothes continued to speak for him: faded and dusty blue work pants, an old black T-shirt, cement-splattered work boots and a fatigue tote bag. it was almost twilight downtown, and he was off the job at any one of the construction sites not far from the corner of San Jacinto and Prairie. The bus was almost full as I boarded it around 8:35 a.m., so I took the seat nearest the door. "These seats must be vacated for seniors and the disabled," signs beside the rows on both aisles advised. I slid over one at the next stop to allow a slightly stooped old man to sit down. Smiling, he thanked me in Spanish and said he moved slowly because of his age. As soon as he was settled, he picked up a large black bobby pin from a ledge next to him and asked if it were mine. I smiled and said no. "In Mexico, they used to open ... " he said, stopping to find a word. "Doors?" i offered. "Yes," he continued, amused, "they used to open doors with these." I let a crack about the old TV show MacGyver go by; even if my Spanish had been quick enough (and it wasn't), I wouldn't have been able to make the cultural translation it might have needed. He'd moved on to "It seems as if it's going to be a beautiful day today" before I'd barely finished the thought. Smiling and mumbling in agreement, I looked over my shoulder out the window, just in time to catch a favorite sight along the four-mile trip through the city's northside to downtown: Luis Jimenez's wildly fantastic fiberglass sculpture, Vaquero, in Moody Park. The experience of riding the bus to and from work a few days last week was mostly as I remembered it being 20 years ago. While a freshman at the University of Houston, during the months before I bought my first car, i commuted between the central campus, a duplex in Montrose and a job near the Astrodome. The memories and sensations about those days that I'd carried around in my mind since then replayed themselves in real time: The slightly awkward wait at bus stops, where it seems as if you're on pause while the rest of the planet -- the world of drivers in the cars passing by -- fast-forwards. The feel of a moving bus as it makes long arcs around corners and softly jarring bounces over potholes. The unintended but inevitable social interaction with other passengers, strangers with whom you inadvertently rub shoulders or thighs in tight squeezes. The small dramas that play out all around if you're curious enough to notice them. The experience was exactly the same but for one difference: This time, I rode a bus because I wanted to, not because I had to. And what a difference that makes. it was an experiment. I wanted to explore a contradiction I seem to share with many Houstonians about public transportation. Most of us believe strongly in the community need for it, and most are willing to spend taxes to fund it. But relatively few of us actually use it. Most of us believe public transportation -- buses for now, and light rail, beyond the Main line, perhaps in the future -- is good for other people. People who don't have a choice. The rest of us drive. As a believer, I acknowledge the weak spot that contradiction creates in arguments for supporting public transportation and, more specifically, the Metro Solution referendum up for vote two weeks from now. So, I left my car in the driveway, walked to the closest bus stop, paid the dollar fare -- and put my support to a test. I was surprised by the outcome. Unlike 20 years ago, when I viewed riding a bus as drudgery, I enjoyed the experience overall: the walk, one block from home, three blocks to work; the mingling with humanity; leaving the driving to someone else. The bus drivers were polite, the interiors were clean and the buses arrived mostly on time. it was eye-opening and mind-changing. And because of it, buses will become part of my commute. I'm going to walk the walk and ride the ride. if Houston truly plans to become a multimodal transportation city, more of us will have to leave cars in our driveways. That plan has my vote. Bucio, assistant Outlook editor, is a member of the Chronicle Editorial Board. ( =PTP============================================= Seattle Times Sunday, October 19, 2003 Mariners decry proposal to drop monorail station SEATTLE — The Mariners issued a strongly worded letter last week opposing the possible cancellation of a proposed monorail station near the right-field stands of Safeco Field. Clyde Maciver, Mariners executive vice president, emphasized that the ballpark station was integral to last year's voter-approved monorail plan, and losing it would hurt the monorail's ridership and revenues. Recently, Seattle Monorail Project officials have considered whether to cut the Safeco station and build a larger "superstation" at King Street. Monorail board chairman Tom Weeks says that could prevent overcrowding on stadium concourses near the trains. Another issue is the state Department of Transportation, which owns land the monorail needs to build the Safeco station but has been unwilling to sell. Maciver's letter said monorail officials should be trying harder to get the DOT site. =PTP========================================= [BATN] * Sacramento downtown UP rail yard redevelopment Sacramento Business Journal September 15, 2003 Downtown railyard sale almost final Buyer may add 65% to city's retail plan By Mike McCarthy Staff Writer Developer-architect Jon Jerde and Union Pacific Railroad Co. have worked out most of a deal for Jerde to buy the downtown Sacramento railyard by year-end. The only remaining issue is securing insurance to protect both parties from any future problems rising from the 240-acre site's environmental cleanup, said Mike Casey, director of special properties for Union Pacific of Omaha, Neb. Jerde's team is not disclosing details of its development plan yet. But knowledgeable sources say his development company, Millennia Associates of Los Angeles, has shaped a basic, tentative plan to show to various downtown groups and interests. It calls for: * A largely residential project with more than 3,000 houses and apartments -- enough to bring more than 6,000 new residents downtown. * 2.5 million square feet of offices. * About 800,000 square feet of retail and entertainment, including attractions intended to lure shoppers, diners and audiences from miles away. The attractions might include a subsidized new stadium for the Sacramento Kings, although that idea has stalled over a probable cost that has ballooned to well above $500 million. No one's discussing the sale price of the land, but industry yardsticks suggest it would be at least $100 million. The environmental cleanup of the railyard is expected to take several more years. The Amtrak depot at the site will eventually be part of a new train/bus/light-rail station. Enough new retail to trigger a fight? Compared to the existing redevelopment plan for the railyard, Jerde's plan proposes more housing and fewer offices because that seems to be what the market and city want. Jerde's version also calls for more shopping. The city's current plan sets aside 527,000 square feet for retail and entertainment. Jerde's plan calls for about 800,000, sources said, although the figure could not be confirmed. A regional mall typically has 1 million square feet. Jerde has worked on projects in the cores of other U.S. cities, including a railyard redevelopment in Salt Lake City, and the local project resembles those ventures. He usually includes a large section for stores, restaurants and entertainment. The big question here is how downtown Sacramento landlords, merchants and others would respond to the arrival of potential competitors. Eager to mesh: "Whatever is developed there needs linkages to the downtown business community and needs to complement it," said Michael Ault, executive director of the Downtown Sacramento Partnership, a powerful coalition of landlords and merchants. "There's still a lot that needs to be done on J, K and L streets." The partnership led the charge that defeated a proposal by Mills Corp. of Arlington, Va., in 1999 to build a large retail center on the mostly empty former railyard. The partnership's members include Westfield America Inc. of Los Angeles, which owns the 1.2 million- square-foot Westfield Shoppingtown Downtown Plaza and was worried about the possible competition. The city has been trying to boost foot traffic downtown for years, with mixed success. Jerde said he is taking pains to assure downtown interests, city officials and the rest of the community that the final plan for the site would depend on their input. "If we don't mesh with downtown, it would be a complete flop," he said. "If we can't enhance the existing setting, it just won't work." Jerde said he understands that merchants and landlords would worry about potential conflict with redevelopment projects, but added that his plans enhance downtown business. "We just have conceptual ideas now," said Suheil Totah, a land-use attorney and partner in the law firm of Morrison & Foerster LLP, who's working with the Jerde group in Sacramento. "There won't be anything definite until we talk with the community.
PTP Digest 2003/10/19-A = CONTENTS * Houston Metro unveils new LRT cars to public Houston Chronicle Oct. 18, 2003 * Houston: LRT experiences offer ammunition to fans, foes Houston Chronicle Oct. 18, 2003 * Houston rail vote faces uphill struggle Houston Chronicle Oct. 18, 2003 * Houston Chronicle's letters policy Houston Chronicle Sun. Oct. 19, 2003 * Phoenix: 'Light rail can be boon to retailers' Arizona Republic Oct. 17, 2003 * Salt Lake agency seeks deals to expedite rail development Salt Lake Tribune THURSDAY October 16, 2003 * Austin: 'Scenario D' LRT & bus plan has least cost, least sprawl News 8 Austin 10/15/2003 * San Jose forum debates Smart Growth, TOD, rail Silicon Valley Biz ink Friday, September 12, 2003 * Seattle: More on plan for Sounder regional rail to Everett SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER Friday, October 17, 2003 * Automatic RR crossing horns may cut train noise Toledo Blade Tuesday, October 14, 2003 =PTP=============================================== Houston Chronicle Oct. 18, 2003 [PHOTO] John Everett / Chronicle Workers ready Metro's new light rail cars in preparation for a public preview today. Public gets first look at Metro's rail cars By TODD ACKERMAN Houstonians got their first tour of Metro's new light rail cars today and most gave them a big thumbs up. Two and a half months before the first line becomes operational, two of the sleek, 95-foot-long, 12-feet-tall cars were placed on the track outside Reliant Stadium as part of a Metro event allowing the public to step aboard Metro vehicles. "I can't wait until they start running," said Anne Jasian, a Sugar Land homemaker. "They're so clean and beautiful. I'll definitely take the kids on it. They're excited about it right now, except that they wish they could ride it." Greg Smith, a Houston salesman, called the day "a good start." He said once light rail is established, "once Houston wakes up and smells the coffee," it will become quite popular. Light rail seemed popular with most of the steady flow that made it out to Metro's Discover Metro Day event. A smattering of people interviewed cited a variety of reasons for liking the cars -- from their look to their anticipated effect on pollution -- and said they planned to vote for Metro's $640 million light rail bond issue next month. The mood was decidedly different at the first of a series of town meetings scheduled by U.S. Rep. John Culberson, R-Houston, an opponent of Metro's light rail plan. No one from Metro showed up so Culberson and Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector Paul Bettencourt, a member of the anti-rail Texans for True Mobility group, spoke against Metro's plan. "This plan would spend too much money to move too few people," said Culberson. "It wouldn't be fiscally responsible to support it." Although the town hall meeting occasionally turned testy, a majority of the people in attendance seemed supportive of Culberson's and Bettencourt's arguments. it was much more festive at the balloon-draped Discover Metro Day. Besides touring the new rail cars, visitors saw Metro's new hybrid diesel-electric buses, Metro Police's drag racing car and a restored, open-air 12-passenger bus used in 1924. Metro's transportation of the future, the light rail car, was first unveiled and toured May 1, but that was only for invited guests, Mayor Lee Brown among them. The two cars outside Reliant Stadium will continue to be open to the general public Sunday until game time. This article is: =PTP============================================== Houston Chronicle Oct. 18, 2003 From coast to coast, rail tales offer contrasts By LUCAS WALL SALT LAKE CITY -- With a major sporting event just around the corner, work crews are everywhere patching torn-up streets, scrambling to complete new buildings and laying miles of tracks for sleek new trains to ferry the anticipated crowds. Sound familiar? Such was the scene in Utah's capital two years ago as it hurried to pretty itself in time for the 2002 Winter Olympics. The rush resembled the frenzy now occurring in Houston, which is hosting the 2004 Super Bowl and wants to show itself off. Salt Lake City is the most recent U.S. city to open a light rail system. The first TRAX trains began running in 1999 after an intense political debate that mirrors the fight in Houston. But after the games were over, the city seems to have reached a consensus that rail is an important part of its transportation network. We are on the cusp here in Salt Lake City of a very exciting advance in terms of public transportation, not only helping clean up the air and saving the destruction of our open spaces but providing the mobility freedom, said Mayor Rocky Anderson. We're providing this inspiration for people throughout the country. They are looking at Salt Lake City, marveling at the great public support we now have. Last month, the Utah Transit Authority opened the third segment of TRAX. Ridership on the first two segments has been much higher than projected, downtown development is picking up -- thanks in part to the Olympics boost -- and riders rave about the inexpensive, stress-free commute. But light rail's record in 18 U.S. cities is a mixed bag, making it difficult for Houston voters to predict what will happen if they approve Metro's Nov. 4 transit- expansion referendum. The centerpiece is a $640 million bond issue to accelerate construction of the next 22 miles of light rail, additions to the 7 1/2- mile line along the Main Street corridor that is scheduled to open a month before the Feb. 1 Super Bowl. The Metropolitan Transit Authority and its supporters tout numerous benefits that light rail can produce, including the potential to change the shape of future Houston development. They envision an inner Loop that sprouts "urban villages" -- New York-style, pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods along the tracks where residents can move around the city without a car. Rail opponents dismiss this as fantasy, arguing that Houstonians love their vehicles and that spreading people out keeps housing costs down. Metro's proposed trains cost too much and will not attract enough riders to reduce congestion or change the city, they say. So while proponents around the country label light rail a tremendous success, critics deride it as an utter failure. Deciding who is right might depend on where you look. When comparing light rail systems, seven, including Salt Lake City's, stand out as success stories. Five boast decent ridership and benefits to the community, but leave residents with a sense there should be more. In six cities, such as Buffalo, N.Y., the systems can be regarded as failures. But even the successes are born of strife, as in Los Angeles, where constant political wrangling, major cost overruns and slow trains make many continue to question whether rail transit is worth it. in 1992, Salt Lake City voters rejected a plan to double the Utah Transit Authority's one-fourth-cent sales tax to fund light rail. UTA proceeded to cobble together local money and get Utah's congressional delegation to obtain 80 percent federal funding. The first line, 15 miles between downtown and the suburb of Sandy, opened in 1999. "From that moment on, the entire community has embraced public transit," said John inglish, UTA's general manager. "We're now enjoying the most amazing renaissance in our community that I would not have imagined 10 years ago." Skeptics such as James Grisso, doubtful the city of 182,000 could support light rail, were surprised at its success. "People underestimated the value of this system," said Grisso, who voted against the 1992 referendum but now rides TRAX daily to the University of Utah. Euphoric at its sudden popularity, UTA went back to the voters in 2000 and secured the extra quarter-cent. Flush with new tax revenue, the authority scrambled to finish its second segment between downtown and the university in time for the Olympics. Residents saw hundreds of thousands ride the transit system during the 17-day games, sparking more interest. Last month, UTA opened the final piece of the Red Line to the university's medical center. Numerous local dignitaries joined some 300 spectators for the ribbon-cutting ceremony. Inglish noted that UTA carries more than 20 percent of trips to the university, which "is taking out thousands of parking spaces and converting them to buildings." The rail has helped attract some new investment, most notably The Gateway, which has reclaimed downtown's western industrial reaches. The outdoor shopping mall is next to the Delta Center, where both rail lines end. A seven- story, 330-unit apartment complex is attached to the mall, and a 12-story, 152- condominium tower is going up. UTA is examining several corridors for future expansion and is considering asking voters to double its tax again, to a full cent. Bill Millnar, president of the American Public Transportation Association, which held its annual meeting in Salt Lake City last month, said Houston voters could look at Metro's rail proposal as too small. But as Salt Lake City demonstrates, he said, you have to start somewhere. "These are networks and links," Millnar said. "You can't build the third link unless you built the second link unless you built the first link." Just about every rider interviewed onboard TRAX trains spoke proudly of their light rail. "You definitely want it," Connie Yates said to Houston voters as her Blue Line train carried her at 55 mph toward a Park & Ride lot, from which she would drive the last six miles to home. "The people who swore they would never ride it, that it was just the biggest waste of time, I have had personal comments from them saying that they have sold cars because they didn't need them anymore because they ride this faithfully." Light rail's story is not so cheery everywhere, though. In Buffalo, the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority ran out of money halfway through construction of its Main Street light rail line in 1985 and has never been able to come up with the cash or political support to extend the six-mile chunk it ended up with. Buffalo is the only U.S. city to build a modern light rail line and never expand it. But if Houston voters reject Metro's Nov. 4 referendum, the Bayou City could share that distinction. The city, on the shore of Lake Erie, had a 35-mile system plan when construction began in the 1970s. The first line was to travel 12 miles from the harbor through downtown to the State University of New York at Buffalo's main campus in suburban Amherst. When the NFTA ran out of money and federal grants dried up, the project was stopped at the university's smaller south campus just inside the city limits. "It could have been a catalyst to really change the face of downtown if they built the spurs to the outlying communities," said Mayor Anthony Masiello. "Without the spurs, this hasn't been successful. It hasn't generated the private-sector investment or the critical mass it was envisioned to do. "If we had known that that's all we would have gotten, the six-mile main trunk, then we would have never done this." Buffalo, current population 288,000, had an ambitious plan two decades ago. It closed the heart of Main Street to vehicle traffic and turned it into a mile-long pedestrian mall with trains running through the middle. But the expected revitalization -- thousands of apartments, new office towers, department stores -- never materialized, and the grand idea is about to be abandoned. "We lost the momentum that the initial opening had," Masiello said. "We are now looking at ways to restore vehicle traffic to Main Street." Some have called for ripping up the train tracks, labeling light rail a dismal failure. But Lawrence Meckler, NFTA executive director, said that would be going too far. He noted that the train carries 21,700 riders a day and would take a lot of buses to replace. And five miles of the tracks are in a subway, where the train travels at a greater speed. "I still think the Metro Rail is a positive," Meckler said. "We see it as successful, popular and safe. It moves people. ... For its length, it is one of the most heavily used systems in the country." But, he admitted, "It hasn't worked out the way the planners thought it would." Rail proponents point out that downtown Buffalo's woes cannot be solely blamed on the addition of train tracks. Buffalo's economy has been in a steep slide for decades as the steel mills that fueled employment shuttered one by one. The city has lost half its population since 1950, leading to declining property values and a diminished tax base. The mayor said it proved impossible to sell more rail in a city that has no traffic problem and is under the scrutiny of a financial control board. "If it's done right, it will work well for Houston," Masiello said. "If Houston is in a growth mode, then you're going to have to deal with these problems sooner or later. But will Houstonians give up their cars? I'm not sure they will." Buffalo-area residents said the short line is an embarrassing symbol of their city's decline, and they were split on whether NFTA should expand it. "This is a comfortable way to move people," Bruce Weikleenget of Amherst said while taking the train home after jury duty. "It should go farther." Weikleenget, a former Houston resident, said he would vote for Metro's plan if he still lived in Houston. "I know what it's like with all the freeways down there," he said. "They need a way to move people faster." The battle over rail has been waged for three decades in Houston. But if there's one place that can top the nasty transit politics, it's Los Angeles. The City of Angels is often compared to the Bayou City, sort of like a big brother of urban sprawl, gigantic freeways, traffic congestion, air pollution and automobile dependency. The key difference is that since 1990, California's largest city has opened 56 miles of light rail, a 16-mile subway and a six-county commuter rail system. The latest light rail segment, the Gold Line to Pasadena, opened in July. Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority trains carry nearly a quarter-million riders a day, and the Metrolink commuter lines ferry 35,000 passengers to and from distant suburbs. To stand in Union Station during the afternoon rush is to risk being knocked over by a horde of commuters scrambling out of the subway to catch one of the double-decker Metrolink trains. "For those of us who are coming in from the valleys, this is actually much faster and easier for us than sitting on the freeway," said Jerri Potras, en route home to the San Gabriel Valley. "Give it a try. It's wonderful." it's a sight many in Los Angeles still can't believe. "We used to hear, 'Nobody will ride rail in L.A.' That voice is silent," said Roger Christiansen, a transit activist who serves on the MTA's Citizens Advisory Council. "Rail has changed Los Angeles. It has made the city much more walkable, much more accessible." Still, the 72-mile local rail system covers only a piece of the nation's most populous county, and its impact on traffic is arguable. "We're not offering a cure for congestion," Christiansen said. "We're offering an alternative, a pleasant alternative." The path to rail in the city where traffic is the nation's worst has been anything but pleasant, however. Start-up in the 1990s was a disaster, with every line costing several times the initial budget and being completed years late. The MTA halted work on the Gold Line in 1998, and the state created a special authority to finish it. Roger Snoble, the CEO lured recently from Dallas, appears to have turned things around. But despite the progress, rail critics still abound. They argue, among other things, that the high cost of rail hurts the bus system. The MTA is under a 1996 court order to improve bus service. "The cost of one rail line absorbs the subsidy that could serve many, many bus lines," said Jim Moore, a professor of transportation engineering at the University of Southern California. "You invest in rail, you reduce total transit ridership. It happened in Miami, it happened here, and it will happen in Houston." John Catoe, MTA's deputy CEO, acknowledged that the bus system was neglected. But, he said, the authority has made major improvements, including the recent launch of six long-distance rapid bus lines that are "having a good impact on congestion and traffic movement." Tom Rubin, a former L.A. transit executive turned consultant, said the new buses are more efficient than the rail lines, but people are not about to give up their cars. "Keep spending the money on roads," he said. "That's what's carrying well over 95 percent of all person trips and 100 percent of the freight trips." Those riding the trains mostly favor transit expansion over more roads, but they question how well MTA has done to date. Tony Banash, who makes a two-hour commute between Long Beach and the San Fernando Valley on two trains and a bus, said Houston voters shouldn't support a bad plan. The Blue Line, taking an hour to cover its 22-mile route, resembles the system Metro is planning. The Green and Gold lines, on the other hand, mostly have an exclusive right of way and travel much faster. "The street running has been an endless nightmare," Banash said as his Blue Line train crawled through dilapidated neighborhoods south of downtown L.A. "Don't build it in the street." This article is: =PTP=============================================== Houston Chronicle Oct. 18, 2003 Transit plans often hard sell to voters By LUCAS WALL Convincing American voters to approve a transit-expansion referendum is no easy task. At least 28 governments held elections within the past year that involved extra funding for mass transit. Only 12 of those measures passed -- and one of those was later struck down by a court. While polls in Houston show support for the Metropolitan Transit Authority's Nov. 4 transit-expansion proposition, transit officials realize they have a tough sell. The "Metro Solutions" plan includes a $640 million bond issue to accelerate construction of the next 22 miles of light rail, a 73-mile rail system blueprint, 44 new bus routes, expanded HOV lanes and $774 million in new roadwork. Voters in Orange County, Fla., rejected a similar multimodal referendum Oct. 7. The proposed 1/2-cent sales-tax increase would have raised $2.6 billion over 20 years to start a light rail system, widen highways and build bike paths and sidewalks. Pre-Election Day polls had indicated the "Mobility 20/20" plan would pass. But many Orlando voters refused to swallow what they considered a poison pill -- Mobility 20/20 would have used some of the new sales-tax revenue to add four express toll lanes to interstate 4 next to the current eight free lanes. Many voters also expressed disapproval of light rail, which they had rejected in 1997. Nine transit referendums took place in North Texas last month. Voters in three Denton County cities approved a 1/2-cent sales tax to help fund light rail to Dallas. Five cities rejected the proposal, however, and voters in Lake Worth decided to pull out of the Fort Worth Transportation Authority. Metro has one big advantage over other entities: it is not asking voters to raise taxes. The authority already has a full penny sales tax, the envy of most transit agencies, which get by with a quarter- or half-cent. Metro says it can fund the proposed $4.6 billion expansion using bonds, federal grants and existing tax revenue. Nearly every other transit referendum during the past year has included a tax hike, a tough sell to voters in tough economic times. =PTP=============================================== Houston Chronicle Sun. Oct. 19, 2003 LETTERS POLICY: We welcome and encourage letters from readers. Letters can be mailed to Viewpoints, C/O Houston Chronicle, P.O. Box 4260, Houston, Texas 77210. Letters may also be sent by e-mail to or by fax to 713-220-3575. Letters must include the name, address and telephone numbers for verification purposes only. All letters are subject to editing. NEW OUTLOOK ADDRESS: Readers interested in expressing their opinions and views in Outlook may now send essays to our new e-mail address Op-ed pieces can still be submitted by fax at 713-220-3575 or by regular mail to the Houston Chronicle, P.O. Box 4260, 77210, attention Outlook Editor. =PTP============================================= ml Arizona Republic Oct. 17, 2003 Light rail can be boon to retailers Jonathan J. Higuera For businesses that survive the construction of the light-rail system, the final outcome could be lucrative. Studies of economic development opportunities near light-rail projects generally show rising property values for both residences and businesses near light-rail stations. Rail projects also tend to attract commercial and mixed-use development projects. "Light rail clearly signals to business and developers that the public sector is making a major investment in that community," said Robert Dunphy, a senior fellow at the Urban Land institute in Washington, D.C. "Developers like to see that kind of investment. That gives them confidence going forward." That said, commercial and mixed-use development is by no means a given. Some areas need incentives beyond the transit system to transform. Special tax districts, economic incentives and housing subsidies are among the strategies some cities have used, Dunphy said. "In some places, a transit system is all you need to turn it around. That may not be enough in some areas." Dunphy, who served on the Urban Land institute panel analyzing Phoenix's redevelopment opportunities along the light-rail line, said several Valley areas have strong potential for increased commercial development. It described Central Avenue and Camelback as a potential "crown jewel," while several stations along the Washington Street corridor also had strong redevelopment potential. Other stops may need help to spur the desired redevelopment. in Salt Lake City, which completed its line in 1999, anecdotal evidence shows downtown businesses near the light-rail stops have fared well, said Bill Knowles, a consultant who has worked with Salt Lake business owners. "You won't find anyone who will say it's been bad for business," he said. "Some will say they don't know if it's been good and others definitively say it's been good." A University of North Texas study of Dallas' light-rail system found rising property values and increased sales for businesses near stations. The potential has some speculators looking for spots to buy along the Valley line. "We keep hearing from people who are speculating along the line, both for residential and commercial," Valley Metro Rail spokeswoman Daina Mann said. "It's not surprising. You just have to look at the statistics from other cities." =PTP============================================ Salt Lake Tribune THURSDAY October 16, 2003 UTA looking to grease rights of way [PHOTO] Lona Mae Lauritzen watches I-15 traffic from her light-rail car in 2000. Expansion of commuter rail along the Wasatch Front could require state overrides of local planners, the UTA says. (Trent Nelson/Salt Lake Tribune file photo) By Joe Baird With the pressure on to complete the first leg of a commuter rail system and several light rail spurs in the next decade, Utah Transit Authority officials told state lawmakers Wednesday that they need to be able to work unimpeded to complete the projects in a timely manner. To that end, the UTA wants an interlocal agreement that will exempt the transit provider from local planning and zoning regulations in railway corridors. Failing that, the UTA will seek legislation that provides such an exemption. "We believe we already have an exemption; we believe we can build tracks in the corridors. We're just trying to strengthen that," said Mike Allegra, the UTA's director of rail operations. "What we don't want to happen is to get into building a line and have somebody say 'Hey, wait a minute,' and try to stop it." UTA counsel Katherine Pett says the exemption would apply only to rail corridors the UTA already owns or shares with Union Pacific Railroad. She told legislators the construction impact on cities and towns along the lines would be minimal. "These are areas that have been historically used by railroads. We're not changing that," Pett told members of the Political Subdivisions interim Committee. "In many cases, we're not even adding track. All we'd be doing is improving infrastructure." As has been the case in past light rail projects, she said, the UTA would continue to be guided by local regulations in the construction of train stations and park-and-ride lots. However, Jodi Hoffman, legislative lobbyist for the Utah League of Cities and Towns, cautioned against providing the UTA a blank right-of-way check. "While the rail corridors exist, they do not exist in the intensity that they will when light rail and commuter rail begin running," she said. "is it the city's burden to build something like sound walls? Or is it the burden of the Wasatch Front Regional Council? There are potential unintended consequences here that UTA might not see." Still, Hoffman says she is optimistic that the UTA and the cities and towns along the route will be able to work things out without resorting to legislation. So are state lawmakers. Commuter and light rail "are perceived as benefits to the communities; they're not being imposed on anybody," said Sen. Greg Bell, R-Fruit Heights. "To the degree that there is a disparate impact, it can be addressed." =PTP================================================= News 8 Austin 10/15/2003 Envision Central Texas: Scenario D By: Antonio Castelan and Web staff Central Texas' population is exploding. In the next 20 to 40 years, the population is expected to swell from 1.4 million to 2.5 million. Envision Central Texas (ECT) has spent the past two years working with communities across the five counties, gathering citizen input on how best the expected growth should be distributed and managed. They have come up with four scenarios that consider land use, transportation, and the environment. Scenario focuses on redevelopment within Austin's city limits. Scenario D is exact opposite of Scenario A; there's urban renewal instead of urban sprawl. Development would be concentrated within city of Austin limits, not rural areas and outlying counties. Only 85,000 acres of rural areas would be developed, so the small towns of Central Texas would remain so. Scenario D changes neighborhoods by replacing older properties with condominiums, apartments and lofts, much like the Warehouse District. More people would live in condos and apartments (52 percent) than single-family houses (48 percent). Dianna Lewis is executive director of the Neighborhood Housing Services of Austin, a nonprofit neighborhood housing service focusing on helping first time home buyers. [GRAPHIC] Austin development Scenario D focuses on building in Austin and rebuilding some city infrastructure. She believes in the idea of redeveloping old neighborhoods, as long as residents remain a part of the planning process. "Neighbors in the area continued to be a part of that process. That their views or desires were respected as part of that process," she said. Scenario D invests the most in transportation and the least in roads, as the suburbs won't be developed there won't be new roads of expansion projects of existing ones. Cars would be less depended on, and the average morning rush hour time would be 18 minutes. An extensive bus and light rail system would be in place, along with a $100 million biking and pedestrian system. East Austin activist Chris Johnson sees some pluses to this type of growth. "It brings jobs, economic development, but by the same token I just have to reiterate all the neighbors in the community have to come together," he said. Johnson is seeing his neighborhood change with the 11th Street Revitalization Project underway. "The property value goes up. The demand goes up, then so do their property values. I have mixed reviews about development," he said. The Edwards Aquifer would see 397 acres developed, a little more than the 53 acres under Scenario C, but much less than A's 36,000 and B's 19,000. Three billion would be spent to revamp infrastructure, the cheapest price tag out of the four scenarios. =PTP============================================ [BATN] Silicon Valley Biz ink Friday, September 12, 2003 Forum rekindles smart-growth discussion By Radhika Kaushik Renewed talks about the role of smart growth in urban planning aim to bring proponents and opponents together to build consensus on a topic viewed by some Bay Area planning organizations as critical to San Jose. The Commonwealth Club Silicon Valley and San Jose Downtown Association recently sponsored a forum about the proposed Tamien project -- a stalled urban development near the Tamien Light Rail station, just south of downtown San Jose. The San Jose City Council has been wrestling with a proposal to build two 11-story residential high-rises near the transit route. "There are a lot of different stakeholders [in the Tamien project] who do not have a shared idea of how to get there, which [prompted] the Commonwealth Club to host this forum," says councilwoman Cindy Chavez. The principles of smart growth -- a return to pre-World War II, compact communities and mixed-use projects that incorporate both retail and housing -- are gaining acceptance in many Bay Area cities. San Jose, for example, wants to create more opportunities for people to live downtown in mixed-use developments. The city aims to create a culturally vibrant downtown community and provide residents with different housing options. In addition, the city believes denser housing downtown would make the San Jose transit system more viable and decrease dependence on cars. The plans also include bicycle trails. This hunky-dory vision of a tightly knit urban community has some opponents bristling over what they believe is city planners' disregard for practicalities. They don't buy into smart-growth advocates' pretty picture of integrated neighborhoods. Instead, they say smart growth increases traffic congestion, air pollution and housing costs, and leaves less open space. Randal O'Toole, an economist with the Thoreau institute in Oregon, has been battling what he calls "smart-growth myths" for years. He believes much smart-growth planning is skewed by development interests and planners who decide for everyone "how they should live." "They hate anyone with quarter-acre plots. [Planners] will put transportation dollars into [expensive] rail transit. Bus transit is cheaper, but then they want to stop building highways," says O'Toole. However, Jessica Fitchen, South Bay field representative for the Greenbelt Alliance, a nonprofit urban-planning organization, holds up Morgan Hill as a shining example of smart planning in action. In that city, there is a move to add housing in the downtown core, which would create a safer and more active downtown area, Fitchen says. Similar trends in San Jose, Santa Clara, Palo Alto and other cities speak volumes about smart-growth momentum, she says. "[Opponents of smart growth] are running scared. They're seeing that the models of the post-war [era] have turned out to be a fraud. You can't have open lots and freeways forever," Fitchen says. However, San Jose is moving toward smart growth with several mixed- use projects completed downtown. Many of these projects are geared toward affluent residents. "In San Jose, the majority of housing is single-family lots. We're trying to create housing for other segments of our society, more in a cultural center and for people who are attracted to that kind of living," says Laurel Prevetti, deputy director of planning services for San Jose. "Downtown [San Jose] already has a lot of housing for lower income people and we need newer housing to attract high-income people to balance that." Walnut Creek is one Bay Area city that has incorporated mixed-use projects. Mayor Gwen Regalia says community dialogue is instrumental in the successful adoption of smart-growth principles. "There are some opposed to smart growth. But we created the Citizens institutes, which for the past three years have been explaining to the community [what] we are trying to accomplish," she says. The Citizens institutes are workshops that explain the city's urban- planning activities to interested citizens. Radhika Kaushik is a Biz ink reporter. You can reach her at . =PTP============================================== SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER Friday, October 17, 2003 Sound Transit makes $1 million bet on commuter train SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER STAFF Sound Transit's finance committee yesterday risked $1 million to try to keep alive its promise that a Sounder commuter rail train will be running between Seattle and Everett by the end of the year. Sound Transit and Burlington Northern Santa Fe agreed earlier this year on the general outlines and price for getting commuter trains running on Burlington Northern's tracks. But they said there would be two more months of negotiations to nail down the fine points. Those negotiations are running behind schedule. Sound Transit officials say there are no particular barriers to agreement, just lots of complex issues to work out. But repairs necessary to get the first train running will take about two months to finish and must be started soon if service is to start before the end of the year, Sounder Director Martin Minkoff said. The finance committee yesterday agreed to allow Burlington Northern to make improvements costing no more than $1 million even though the final agreement hasn't been signed. If negotiations fail, Sound Transit still must pay the railroad for the work. Minkoff said both sides are negotiating in good faith. Finance Committee Chair Kevin Phelps said Sound Transit has a lot of money invested in getting the line up and running. Both Sound Transit and Burlington Northern would have "a PR problem" if negotiations fell through, he said. =PTP=========================================== [BATN] Toledo Blade Tuesday, October 14, 2003 Lake Twp. to test alert horns at rail crossings Automatic system may lessen use of whistles By David Pathc Blade Staff Writer The sound of a locomotive horn wailing across the moonlit countryside may be a part of rural Americana, but it can be a noisy nuisance for people who live near main line tracks. A new technology that could alert motorists at railroad crossings while reducing the frequency of train horns is likely to get its first Ohio test sometime in the next year or so at three crossings in Lake Township, just west of Millbury. But during the testing period, the automated, pole-mounted horn system to be installed at Bradner, Ayers, and Matthews road crossings will mean more noise -- not less. That's because passing trains will continue to sound their horns at the same time the pole-mounted system is operating. The system sounds an electronic rendition of a train horn from speakers that are mounted toward road traffic. Motorists will hear a much louder warning than from a passing locomotive, while most homes and businesses in the area are expected to receive much less noise from the system. "Elimination of train whistling is an ultimate goal of the technology," said Kurt Anderson, a spokesman for Railroad Controls, L.P., the Benbrook, Texas, manufacturer. The roadside devices have indicator lamps pointed toward the tracks so that when they are substituted for train horns, engineers will know they are working properly. If the indicator does not illuminate, the engineer will blow the train's horn approaching the crossing. But Susan Kirkland, manager of safety programs for the Ohio Rail Development Commission, said that for for now, the roadside horns will be used as a supplemental safety device and not as a substitute for engineers sounding the trains' horns. "It will be a warning for the second train" that can be hidden from motorists by a train passing through on a parallel set of tracks, Ms. Kirkland said. That is why three crossings in Lake Township -- where the railroad has three parallel tracks -- were chosen for the test instead of communities with numerous crossings such as Perrysburg or Fostoria. Once the automated horns' reliability is proven, and federal regulations are changed to allow "quiet zones," then they might replace train whistles at horn-equipped crossings in Ohio, Ms. Kirkland said. "it's in the very early phases of testing nationwide," said Rudy Husband, spokesman for the Norfolk Southern railroad, whose tracks the three test-site roads cross. Cassi Krantz, who lives next to the tracks on Bradner Road, is less than enthusiastic about adding the roadside horns to the train horns during the test. "There's enough noise here as it is, anyway," she said, though she added that after eight years' at the residence, she's fairly accustomed to the trains. Two other Lake Township residents who live farther from the rails said they too are used to train whistles, and believe safety should be paramount. "My husband used to be an engineer, and he hit quite a few cars over the years," said Linda Gilley of Ayers Road. "He's all for anything they can do to make cars more aware, and so am i." "Whatever seems to be the safest" is what should be done, said Jim Ayers, who lives two doors down on the family farm across the tracks from the Gilleys. The Ayers crossing was the scene of a fatal crash Sept. 29, 2000, when a car driven by Joseph Abraham, 17, a Lake High student, failed to yield and was struck by a train. At the time of his death, the crossing had only crossbuck signs. Warning lights and gates were installed there and at Matthews Road in early 2002, and gates were added at Bradner Road. The rail commission has budgeted up to $200,000 for the three Lake Township devices. Railroad Controls estimates the cost for a typical crossing at $55,000 to $60,000. The first use of a roadside horn began nine years ago in Gearing, Neb., Mr. Anderson said. The devices have since been tested in California, Kansas, iowa, Texas, and illinois. The Northwestern University Center for Public Safety, which evaluated the system's use at two crossings in the Chicago suburb of Mundelein, ill., found that grade-crossing violations declined by 68 percent when the roadside horns were used, and that overall horn noise declined by 80 percent in the surrounding area. The crossings' circuitry is designed for the system to activate 25 seconds before a train gets to the road, no matter what its speed.
PTP 2003/10/18-A = CONTENTS * Amtrak reports record ridership for 2003 Metro October 17, 2003 * Austin: LRT vital to city's development, says Dallas developer AMERICAN-STATESMAN Thursday, October 16, 2003 * Austin: 'Scenario C' envisions regional rail, no LRT, more rural growth News 8 Austin 10/14/2003 * Tucson: Despite denials, sprawl builders' group funds anti-rail effort Tucson Citizen Saturday, October 11, 2003 * Seattle-Everett regional rail service may roll Seattle Times Friday, October 17, 2003 * Seattle: Suburban mayor vows to fight rail transit Daily Journal of Commerce October 16, 2003 * Seattle monorail: Budget woes threaten major station SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER Friday, October 17, 2003 * Seattle monorail: New survey shows support for finishing project SEATTLE MONORAIL PROJECT Date: 10/16/2003 * LA op-ed: Costly subway would imperil Gold Line LRT Los Angeles Times Monday, October 13, 2003 * San Jose mayor backs BART rail extension to city San Jose El Observador Friday, October 10, 2003 =PTP=============================================== Metro October 17, 2003 Amtrak reports record ridership for 2003 More than 24 million passengers traveled on Amtrak in 2003, 2.7% more than in 2002, the railroad said Wednesday. Amtrak attributed the overall positive results to lower fares, increased number of trains and upgraded service amenities. Despite the number of adverse conditions this year, including a lagging economy that has hurt the travel industry overall, the iraq war, the Northeast blackout and Hurricane isabel. Amtrak's ridership topped the previous record of the 23.5 million passengers set in 2001 and was 2.7% better than last year's result of 23.4 million. Long-distance trains showed substantial improvement over the last year, with those in the Eastern region of the country improving ridership by 3.8% and those in the Western region improving by 6.6%. =PTP================================================ usiness_fe6e332ad10b2.html;COXnetJSessionID=1Pon3Cf9wHWKgMtr2 9xnXetJyXDJwi6AFzdefjkMtKkvz8splb6V!- 1743610163?urac=n&urvf=10663958158030.8599724143424331# AMERICAN-STATESMAN Thursday, October 16, 2003 Light-rail system is vital to Austin's development, Dallas transit expert says By R. Michelle Breyer AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF An audience packed with builders, developers, and other business and civic leaders heard a tough message Wednesday: Austin is losing out by not having light rail. "You've got to get with this," said Kenneth Hughes, president of Kenneth Hughes Inc., a Dallas firm that specializes in transit-related developments. "Austin has more to offer a rail system -- and a rail system has more to offer Austin -- than any city in the United States today," he said at a luncheon sponsored by the Urban Land institute. Developers of major transit-related projects in Dallas said light rail there has been a major catalyst for development, despite the recent economic downturn. They said their projects would not have happened without light rail. The stations become nodes for development, attracting people who like the idea of being able to live, work and shop without needing a car. Hughes recently built Mockingbird Station atop a Dallas Area Rapid Transit light-rail station, where a former warehouse complex now includes apartments, stores, a theater and offices. In Plano, light rail drew Amicus Partners to develop an apartment, theater and retail project that has awakened the downtown. But major transit projects can be a tough sell. In 2000, Austin voters narrowly defeated a referendum on light rail. Some opponents argued that light rail wouldn't relieve enough congestion to merit the billions of dollars it would cost, while others feared it might bring unwanted development to their communities. But in Houston, a new 7.5-mile Main Line light-rail system between downtown and Reliant Park will open Jan. 1. Next month, voters will decide whether to add 22 miles to the system, an issue that has become the hottest topic in the city's mayoral race. Guy Hagstette, director of capital projects and planning for the Houston Downtown Management District, said city leaders see the Main Street system as a way to rejuvenate a major urban corridor. It has taken years to accomplish, but in the end, he says he thinks it will be worth it. "At the end of the day, the story isn't about light rail so much as creating a great urban corridor: re-creating an urban city in the heart of Houston," he said. Jim Skaggs, who ran the anti-rail campaign in Austin, questioned the feasibility of rail systems in light of what he said are a declining number of commuters. Hughes and other developers who spoke at the luncheon disputed that claim, arguing that light-rail projects in other cities have attracted a legion of commuters who never used the bus system. "I hear that statistic periodically, but if you test it against what's happening in the cities that have put in rail systems, you have seen an increase in transit usage in all those cities," Hughes said. Rather than fighting efforts to create a rail system, Austin should work for a rail system that meets the needs of the city and its residents, Hughes said. He urged city leaders to begin with a small starter system rather than do nothing. "The message here is to get yourself together and decide what you want your (transit) system to do," Hughes said. "But start it, because you won't be sorry." =PTP================================================ /?ArID=86435&SecID=381 Envision Central Texas: Scenario C News 8 Austin 10/14/2003 By: Antonio Castelan and Web staff Central Texas' population is exploding. In the next 20 to 40 years, the population is expected to swell from 1.4 million to 2.5 million. Envision Central Texas (ECT) has spent the past two years working with communities across the five counties, gathering citizen input on how best the expected growth should be distributed and managed. They have come up with four scenarios that consider land use, transportation, and the environment. Scenario C calls for growth to spread to more rural areas. Bastrop, Hays and Caldwell County would have major population booms, and new communities would develop near major roads. Towns such as Elgin, Hutto, Lockhart and Taylor would become more suburban, with populations reaching 100,000. The plan calls for more mixed-use developments, with fewer families in single-family houses and more in apartments and condominiums. That also means that more undeveloped land would be protected and remain and the new developments would be established near main roads. Scenario C doesn't include a light rail system, but it would have an extensive commuter rail line that runs from Georgetown to San Marcos and throughout the Austin area. it also calls for $100 million for walking and biking facilities and $4.9 billion for new sewer and water lines (less than Scenario A's $10.6 billion, but more than Scenario D's $3 billion). With mixed-use developments, transportation time would be cut because people wouldn't have to travel as far. Only 23 percent of land would be urbanized, a number worth welcoming for environmentalists. [GRAPHIC] Scenario C Elgin and other small towns would change under Scenario C. Fifty-three acres (0.1 square miles) of the Edwards Aquifer would be developed, the least of the four scenarios. Homebuilders find that hard to imagine. "There would only be 57 houses built on the aquifer, so that's 20 to 50 houses, and again that not realistic. We will do that in six months this year," Austin Homebuilders Association executive vice-president Harry Savio said. Scenario C is more of a middle ground. Scenario A continues growth without implementing change. Scenario B includes a light rail but only modifies ideas of land use. Scenario D focuses on redeveloping urban and suburban areas, not developing new areas. =PTP================================================= transplan Tucson Citizen Saturday, October 11, 2003 SAHBA puts bucks against transit plan New campaign finance reports show that the builders association is the largest contributor to a group opposing the Nov. 4 ballot proposal. GARRY DUFFY Although the Southern Arizona Home Builders Association said it isn't taking a position on a transportation initiative on the city's November ballot, new campaign finance reports show it is the largest contributor to an opposition group. The plan calls for upgrades to bus and other transit services, the maintenance of neighborhood streets and the installation of a 13-mile light-rail line through midtown. It would be funded by a three-tenths-of-a- cent sales tax increase and an increase in the city's construction sales tax to 6 percent from 2 percent. The increases would remain in place for 20 years. On Oct. 6, Carole Pawlak, president of the builders group, said in the Tucson Citizen that the association wasn't taking a position but had concerns about the funding mechanism. By an Aug. 31 campaign finance reporting deadline, the association had contributed $14,500 to the Committee for Real Regional Transportation, which opposes the transportation plan and its funding mechanism. As of Thursday's midway deadline for campaign finance disclosure, the builders group had given $22,500 to the transportation committee, campaign finance records showed. Officials from the builders group did not return phone calls yesterday. Opponents of the plan have raised $40,000, with the largest contributors being the builders. Supporters of the transportation plan by Citizens for a Sensible Transportation Solution said they expect to be outspent several times over by critics of their plan. The election will be Nov. 4. Spokesman Stephen Farley said Citizens for a Sensible Transportation Solution began collecting money in February 2002 from mostly individuals. it had raised $38,500 as of Thursday. Committee for Real Regional Transportation Chairman John Carlson Sr. said yesterday the group would continue to seek money to help fight the transportation plan and tax increases. "We would like to be able to raise more," Carlson said. Of the six contributors listed by plan opponents in Thursday's filings, one was an individual contributor, William A. Estes Jr., a home builder. He gave $5,000. The other five were the builders association, Chestnut Construction Corp., Arizona Builders Alliance, The Kemmerly Co. and T.L. Roof and Associates Construction Co. Both committees involved in the ballot issue are political action committees, so campaign contribution limits don't apply. Citizens for a Sensible Transportation Solution listed about 120 contributors. All but a few were individuals. Topping its list was the Sierra Club's Rincon Group at $1,500. Anthony Haswell, who listed himself as retired, gave the most to the group as an individual, $2,200. =PTP============================================= Seattle Times Friday, October 17, 2003 Offer may get Everett Sounder service rolling By Mike Lindblom Seattle Times staff reporter in an effort to keep its promise of commuter-rail service to Everett, Sound Transit has offered to front $1 million for track improvements in Snohomish County — even though there's no long-term contract yet for Sounder trains to use the regional freight corridor there. The deal would allow the first demonstration train to make one daily round trip between Everett and Seattle by Dec. 31, a pledge Sound Transit made last spring. "There is no more fundamental issue to Snohomish County residents' support of Sound Transit than getting Sounder going from Everett to Seattle on a daily basis," board member Mark Olson said after the Sound Transit finance committee approved the offer yesterday. Olson is an Everett city councilman. Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway owns the tracks. "We would like to work with Sound Transit to move a train by the end of the year if definitive long-term agreements are completed," railway spokesman Gus Melonas said late yesterday. "However, we will not discuss further details of negotiations." in May, more than six years after voters approved a regional transit plan that included commuter rail to Everett, the transit agency announced an agreement in principle with the railway. At a cost to taxpayers of $250 million for additional tracks, signals and other improvements, the railway would let Sounder make four daily round trips for 99 years. But talks since spring have yet to produce a final agreement. The sides are still discussing issues such as train timetables, construction deadlines and who would pay if environmental-protection costs soar, officials said. A 120-day bargaining deadline was extended to Dec. 1, which would be too late for inaugural train service this year. To get the trains moving sooner, Sound Transit wants Burlington Northern Santa Fe to perform limited track work ahead of time — such as constructing short rail segments that line up with the Everett and Edmonds station platforms, said Sounder director Marty Minkoff. if Sound Transit ultimately walks away from the broader $250 million deal, it would have to reimburse the railway up to $1 million. Finance chairman Kevin Phelps and others said that was a chance worth taking. The agency has already invested millions in design and stations. Mike Lindblom: 206-515-5631 or =PTP============================================= Daily Journal of Commerce October 16, 2003 Some see BNSF corridor as best chance for Eastside light rail line But Renton's mayor says he'll put up a fight By MARC STILES Journal Staff Reporter The Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway's interest in selling a rail corridor that traverses the Eastside is stoking passions from Renton to Redmond, but not everyone is on the same track. At one end of the argument are proponents of commuter and light rail who relish the thought of having an existing corridor. At the other is Jesse Tanner, the feisty mayor of Renton who curses the concept that could result in frequent trains running through the heart of his city. A BNSF spokesperson confirms the railroad is interested in selling the roughly 40 miles of single track that starts at the Black River just north of Auburn and runs through Renton, Kirkland and Woodinville before terminating in Snohomish. The railroad "is always studying the status of various lines of low profitability systemwide," said BNSF spokesman Gus Melonas. "One area under current review is the Woodinville line." According to Melonas, the line accommodates an average of two freight trains a day, as well as the Spirit of Washington Dinner Train. BNSF has asked the Washington State Department of Transportation about buying the line, but state officials are unsure how they'll respond. "We're just trying to formulate how we would even go into discussions with them or if we should," said DOT spokeswoman Linda Mullen. The Legislature would have to act since the state has no money earmarked for the purchase. "it's way too early for us to know if this is a yes or no proposition, if DOT should be involved or if it's a role for somebody else," Mullen said. The folks at Transportation Choices think someone should jump in. "The sale of this right of way is an incredible opportunity for the region to provide an alternative means in the congested interstate 405 corridor," said Kevin Shively, policy director of the group that is advocating what it calls low-cost commuter rail in the corridor. The group thinks the line eventually could be upgraded for light rail or monorail. "The key is buy the right of way now to keep costs low," Shively said. Transportation Choices is advocating what it calls Eastside Rail Express -- frequent, all-day transit service using self-powered, diesel rail passenger cars, with service to Tukwila, Renton, Port Quendall, Bellevue, South Kirkland, downtown Kirkland, Totem Lake and Woodinville. According to the group, the estimated capital cost, which excludes purchase of the right of way, is $250 million to $300 million. Redmond Mayor Rosemarie ives says she is definitely interested. Tanner, her counterpart in Renton, is not. "I think it's a lousy idea," Tanner said. "We let people know we don't want that damned railroad line used as a rapid transit line." The mayor said the line would cut downtown Renton in two and affect other city neighborhoods. in May 2001, the city passed a resolution outlining Renton's concerns, and remains opposed. "It may have hardened a bit in the interim," Tanner said. He added that if WSDOT starts negotiating with the railroad "to procure this damned right of way," Renton will withdraw its support for the recently approved $4.7 billion plan to increase capacity on I- 405. Tanner said the corridor could be used as a pedestrian and bicycle corridor but nothing else. "If they go beyond that, they lose us and they lose us in a hurry. We are not only opposed to it, we will fight it." Earlier this month, the I-405 Executive Committee, made up of elected representatives from the Eastside, endorsed a $4.7 billion plan to improve the freeway, one of the state's most congested roads. The plan calls for new lanes and park-and-ride lots. Sound Transit, the regional agency that operates commuter rail, regional express bus service and a light rail line in Tacoma, has looked at the Eastside rail proposal in the past. The corridor is not part of the agency's current 10-year program, Sound Move, but could be incorporated in a future ballot measure for voters to decide, said Sound Transit spokesman Geoff Patrick. =PTP============================================= SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER Friday, October 17, 2003 Mariners make strong pitch for Safeco rail stop By KERY MURAKAMi SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER REPORTER in terms as subtle as a chin-high fastball, the Mariners made it clear to monorail officials they want a station at Safeco Field. The Seattle Monorail Authority is considering postponing the construction of a station next to the ballpark, but yesterday, the Mariners wrote in a letter, "We are strongly opposed to deletion of the Safeco Field station." The team said monorail backers had advertised a station serving the stadium during last year's initiative campaign for the $1.75 billion Ballard- to-West Seattle line. "The deletion of a Safeco Field station is inconsistent with the voter- approved plan," the letter said. The letter from Clyde Maciver, Mariner executive vice president and general counsel, also questioned whether as many people going to Mariner games would take the monorail if they had to get on and off at the next closest station at King Street. "If the station is not perceived as close and convenient, fewer people will ride the Monorail. Based on the Monorail's own ridership estimates for baseball fans, any reduction in ridership casts serious doubts on the project's financial viability." Tax revenue for the monorail is coming in 30 percent below expectations. in the letter, Maciver continued: "The Monorail project is already under financial stress due to the loss of revenue from car licensing fees. The additional loss of fare box revenue due to the loss of ballpark ridership will only exacerbate the Monorail's financial problems." The Mariners made the letter public yesterday, even as the monorail authority released the results of a poll, claiming to show "tremendous" citywide support for the project that barely squeaked by in last year's elections. Critics questioned whether the poll was a $20,000 attempt by the agency to bolster its public image in light of vocal critics. And the dispute over Safeco Field illustrates how tenuous that support might be. Monorail Executive Director Joel Horn said the agency is not contemplating delaying a stadium station to save money. Rather, it is studying whether the line needs separate stations at King Street and at Safeco Field, because of the crowds that might pack the platforms after games. Having fans walk the nearly half-mile to King Street would mean crowds would not get to the platform at the same time, because people walk at different speeds, monorail officials have said. Horn, however, insisted, "We're still going to serve Safeco Field. The only question is where." Monorail strategic planning director Anne Levinson said whether the monorail would lose riders by postponing a stadium station "is exactly what we're studying." The agency's staff will make preliminary recommendations next month, before the authority's board makes a final decision in February or March. The Mariners, however, still contend the voters were promised both the King Street and Safeco Field stations. "The availability of these two stations has been used throughout the monorail project promotion to garner public support for the Green Line. ... We can never know if voters would have approved the Monorail Plan without a station at Safeco Field, as the prospect of deleting it surfaced 11 months after the vote," the letter said. Mariner spokeswoman Rebecca Hale stopped short of saying that the Mariners would call for the project to be sent back to the voters should the stadium station be deleted. "We don't want this to be seen as us not supporting the monorail. We're just trying to do what's best for the monorail and the entire community." Horn, meanwhile, said the dispute only proved the results of a poll, purporting strong citywide support for the project. "Everybody wants a monorail station, and they want one now," he said. "It's NIMBYism in reverse." The poll last week of 600 Seattle residents found, among other things, that 83 percent support for other governments helping the monorail authority build the planned 14-mile West Seattle-to-Ballard line on budget. The poll had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points. The poll comes as the project faces questions about its finances and concerns about its impact on neighborhoods. At the same time, the monorail authority is asking state licensing officials to crack down on Seattle vehicle owners who are evading the monorail tax by registering their cars outside of the city. The project is also facing increasing scrutiny from City Council members, who will decide early next year whether to allow the monorail to build on city property. Critics accused the agency of spending $20,000 on a poll to bolster its own image and put pressure on the state and the city. "it's outrageous that the agency, at a time the agency is facing financial difficulties, is spending our tax dollars on a poll that does nothing but elicit the responses they are seeking," said Geof Logan, one of the authority's most vocal critics. Among other things, the poll asked, "Do you think plans for the new Monorail are moving too slowly, too quickly, or are things on pace with your expectations?" Forty-seven percent of those sampled said the agency was moving too slowly, only 4 percent said it was moving too quickly and 38 percent said the speed was just right. A number of groups, including downtown business owners, urged the agency this week to slow down and do more studies. Horn said the agencies posed the question because the authority is thinking about actually speeding up the project to save money. But he said the poll also showed that if anything, most people want the project to move faster. "This is what I call a little children and puppies survey," Logan said. "Who doesn't like children and little puppies?" -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- P-I reporter Kery Murakami can be reached at 206-448-8131 or =PTP============================================ SEATTLE MONORAIL PROJECT Date: 10/16/2003 1904 3rd Avenue, Suite 105 Seattle, WA 98101 Phone: (206) 382-1220 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Media Contact: Anne Levinson , (206) 382-1220 Monorail Survey Results NEWS ADVISORY New survey shows Broad city-wide support for Monorail Residents want city and state leaders to get behind project and make it happen, speed up pace of project Seattle – A new survey conducted by Evergreen Research Group for the Seattle Monorail Project shows tremendous, widespread support for the Monorail among all city neighborhoods, with residents urging city and state leaders to ensure the project is built quickly and within budget. Even residents who voted against the Monorail want to see elected officials and city leaders get behind the Monorail and help get it built soon, according to the findings. Key findings of the survey include: 83 percent of respondents want government agencies and elected officials to help ensure that the Monorail is built quickly and within budget. Even of those respondents who voted "no" on the Monorail petition last fall, 66 percent now say that other government agencies and elected officials should help ensure the Monorail is built quickly and within budget. The election was a year ago, many respondents have received their car tax bills and there has been a great deal of media coverage about revenue issues. Yet 70 percent of those surveyed – half of whom did not vote for the Monorail last year – say it is important that the Monorail gets built now that voters have approved it. Despite the rapid pace of the Project, nearly half (47%) still feel the Project is moving too slowly, 38 percent say it is on pace with their expectations and only 4 percent say it is moving too quickly. "The continued very strong support for the Monorail across the city is pretty remarkable. The message is loud and clear. They want us – they expect us - and our government partners to deliver on what they have asked for, and to get it done soon" said Anne Levinson, Deputy Director of the Monorail Project. Levinson added, "We all knew a majority of voters had asked their government to support the Monorail three times, but for most projects, once tax bills arrive in the mail, support drops a bit. Monorail tax bills have arrived, but the support remains as strong as ever. Even two-thirds of those surveyed who voted against the Monorail last year are telling us it is also important to them that the Monorail gets built, quickly and on budget." Respondents Say What's important to Them 80% percent or more of respondents said it was important to them that the Monorail will provide a transit solution in Seattle provide 2,000 family wage jobs during construction improve the environment be completed within the budget approved by the voters connect with buses and light rail be designed so that operating costs will break even be above grade and not get stuck in traffic minimize construction impacts run every 4-5 minutes in rush hour open by 2007 start construction within 18 months Stopping Tax Evasion More than three-quarters of those surveyed said it was important to them that the State take steps to prevent car owners from evading the tax. While only 11 percent of respondents say they know of people evading the tax, 78 percent say they support requiring residents to register their cars at their home address, 70% support assessing financial penalties and nearly two-thirds support tightening up State laws. Performance and Accountability Despite current levels of public dissatisfaction with government and wariness about the economy, only 20 percent felt the Monorail Project is doing a poor or very poor job. 71 percent rated the agency as doing good, fair or excellent. About the Survey The survey was conducted by telephone Oct. 3 – 9 among 600 Seattle residents 16 years of age and older. The results have a margin of error of plus/minus four percent. The Seattle Monorail Project has made public involvement a hallmark of its approach to decision-making, from opening a street level design studio for the public to give input on station design as it is happening, to creating a hotline and an email comment site (, to holding scores of meeting on topics such as diversity, the environment, the route, jobs and design. As part of its public outreach, The Seattle Monorail Project (SMP) commissioned this city-wide survey to assess public priorities about the Seattle Monorail Project, identify the public's information needs about the Project and obtain input for upcoming decisions. "We want all of those who are paying taxes and who will be riding the Green Line to have a way to give us direct input," said Levinson. "We know that lots of folks cannot make it to evening meetings or are not comfortable using our website, so we are always looking for ways to get their views." =PTP=========================================== [BATN] Los Angeles Times Monday, October 13, 2003 Opinion Sales-tax increase measure threatens regional rail system By Michael D. Antonovich Our county's new Gold Line rail system is successfully playing a vital role in the realization of our county's regional transit plan. However, a ballot measure by Gov. Gray Davis to raise the sales tax by a half-cent for the budget-busting subway threatens this plan. The Gold Line can be expanded by utilizing existing freeway medians and abandoned railroad rights-of-way for a comprehensive at-grade and aboveground rail system. This would link Los Angeles County commuters throughout the region to the Ventura County and San Bernardino County lines. Combined with a multi-modal transportation system of buses, commuter rail and highway/street improvements, the Gold Line will improve productivity, reduce air pollution, and increase mobility for our citizens. Unlike the $5-billion, 17-mile, gold-plated subway, which took decades to build, the first phase of the nearly 14-mile Gold Line was built in a few years for approximately $725 million. At a cost of $1.2 billion, Phase II will connect the Gold Line to San Bernardino County and run an additional 24 miles from Pasadena to Arcadia, Monrovia, Duarte, irwindale, Azusa, Glendora, San Dimas, La Verne, Pomona and Claremont, and could be completed in five years, if funding was available. As planning continues on Phase II, we also need to aggressively work to extend the Gold Line west, with Phases III and IV, through the San Fernando Valley by connecting the Marengo station in Pasadena along the 210 and 134 freeways through Glendale to the Media Center in Burbank with a spur connecting to the Red Line station in North Hollywood. A Phase IV could be extended along the 101 freeway corridor to Ventura County. The construction for this project could be done with less disruption to neighboring residents and taxpayer pocketbooks. The vision for a regional rail system serving the entire county -- not just the city of Los Angeles -- is beginning to come into focus, with the Santa Clarita Valley and Antelope Valley in our sights. However, the proposed half-cent tax increase ballot measure is a deceptively attractive package wrapped with smaller transit projects, to con county taxpayers into paying for a nearly $1- billion, 3-mile subway extension in the Fairfax district. Vital resources would be siphoned away from cost-effective projects that give county commuters and taxpayers more bang for the buck. Proposed by tunnel-vision vested interests, this measure violates the law approved by Los Angeles County taxpayers, who overwhelmingly voted to prohibit further subway construction. This Sacramento ballot proposal needs to be defeated if Los Angeles County is to implement cost-effective transit strategies. Our efforts need to be focused on decreasing congestion, improving air quality, increasing mobility and enhancing the quality of life for our citizens with cost-effective transit. Michael D. Antonovich represents the 5th District, which includes Glendale, La Cañada Flintridge, La Crescenta and Montrose, on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. He can be reached at (213) 974-555 or at . =PTP========================================== [BATN] * SJ mayor Gonzales: keep SJ BART extension moving San Jose El Observador Friday, October 10, 2003 Keeping BART to San Jose moving Statement by Mayor Gonzales SAN JOSE -­ Given the state of the current economy and the prolonged recession in Silicon Valley, it is understandable that questions are raised about the outlook for major transit projects like the extension of BART to San Jose. However, more than 70 percent of Santa Clara County voters gave us a very clear mandate with the passage of Measure A in 2000: Bring BART here. Our focus, therefore, remains the same: we must continue to work hard to get the extension under construction and completed as soon as possible so that we can provide better transit for commuters, residents and businesses in San Jose and Silicon Valley. BART is a large project in the 30-year Measure A program. Which actually doesn't even start until 2006, when revenues from the sales tax extension stat to flow. We all want things to go smoothly, but we also know the economy will go up and down over that long period. Every new snapshot of the local economy will give you a different scenario and financial projections. That's why we cannot reduce our efforts or loose sight of the need to keep this project moving. We need to take the long view and stay focus on working with the state and the federal government to secure additional funding. We need to keep doing all we can to strengthen our local economy, which also will increase our local resources for transit. We're making every effort to begin construction as soon as possible. We're moving ahead with the environmental and engineering work to allow this to happen. Although we know there will always be ups and downs in the future we intend to keep pushing to get BART project under construction. And we are making progress to obtain the state and federal funding we need to complete the extension. Securing that funding is a multi-year effort, of course, and it will require sustained effort by VTA, our congressional delegation, and our community and business leadership to reach our goal. I'm encouraged by what we have already accomplished, and I'm confident we'll reach our destination sooner rather than later. Today's VTA projections respond only to one hypothetical scenario based on the state of the current Silicon Valley economy and very conservative revenue forecasts and borrowing assumptions. However, even a small positive change in our economy will have a significant impact on sales tax revenues and financial-projections, which are why we must stay focused on keeping the BART project moving. The biggest variable in the next couple of years is our local economy, which has slumped deeper and longer than anyone ever could have expected. Economic recovery will provide the most help in funding our projects, not only for VTA but also for transit agencies all over the state. That's another reason I have been pushing so hard in San Jose to make it easier for businesses and employers to grow and succeed in our city. We have already come a long way; the road in the years ahead will continue to be unpredictable. We have to keep our eyes on our destination as we have many more rivers to cross and mountains to climb before this project and others in Measure A are completed. With the continued support of the community and our elected leadership, i know we will get there
PTP Digest 2003/10/17-A = CONTENTS * Houston: Metro rebuffs attacks, deception of rail foes Houston Chronicle Oct. 16, 2003 * Seattle: Monorail revenue still falling short Seattle Times Thursday, October 16, 2003 * Seattle: Drop in freeway, HOV traffic due to economic slump Seattle Times Thursday, October 16, 2003 * Newark: 'Plane to train' is a winner Newark Star-Ledger Thursday, October 16, 2003 =PTP============================================ Houston Chronicle Oct. 16, 2003 Battle over Metro rail full of sound and fury Opposition, allegations, debate court attention By LUCAS WALL The back and forth over Metro's transit plan continued at high speed Tuesday with three news conferences, a televised debate and allegations of lawbreaking and lying. A group of 40 black ministers announced their opposition to the Metropolitan Transit Authority expansion plan, saying Metro officials did not meet with them to discuss concerns that bus service will be slashed. That drew a perplexed response from Metro's president, who said she assured dozens of the ministers in a July meeting that the plan includes a 50 percent expansion in bus runs with 44 new routes. U.S. Rep. Chris Bell, D-Houston, accused Rep. John Culberson, R- Houston, and other rail opponents of lying to voters about Metro's plan, calling their actions "offensive and insulting." The verbal combat also included a campaign watchdog group's announcement that it will file a state ethics complaint against the largest coalition opposing the transit plan. And a major business group announced its support for the plan, which includes expansion of Metro's light rail system, the first line of which is set to open Jan. 1. "Metro wants to spend $8 billion on rail," said the Rev. J.J. Roberson, president of the Baptist Ministers Association, who hosted a news conference at his Mt. Hebron Baptist Church on Calhoun. "They will run out of money and then cut bus service, which will leave many in our community without transportation. We do not trust Metro." The actual construction cost of the 40 light rail miles Metro proposes to build by 2019 is $2.8 billion, the agency projects. Roberson complained that the proposed light rail spur to the heavily black Sunnyside neighborhood won't be built until 2018 and that nobody at Metro would meet with his group as the transit plan was being drafted. Metro officials denied the snub, showing the Houston Chronicle a program from a July 7 meeting where Metro Chairman Arthur Schechter and Shirley DeLibero, president and CEO, met with Roberson and others to seek their opinions on the "Metro Solutions" plan. DeLibero said there also have been several community meetings in Sunnyside. The six bus routes serving Sunnyside will continue, she said, and Metro will add two routes through that neighborhood. "To say the bus riders are going to lose at the expense of rail is not true," DeLibero said. Bob Stein, a Rice University political scientist, said it's smart strategy for rail opponents to diversify their coalition. But, he said, he still expects an overwhelming majority of blacks to vote for transit expansion. in other activity Tuesday, Bell held a morning news conference at Metro's railyard on West Bellfort to counter Republican attacks on the proposal. "Rail will relieve traffic congestion, raise the standard of living for all Houstonians and make urban living a true possibility," he said. Metro's plan to expand light rail has turned into a bitter partisan fight, with most Republican officials against it and most Democratic officials favoring it. At lunchtime, a downtown business organization, Central Houston, endorsed Metro's plan during its annual meeting at the Toyota Center. Central Houston Chairman Richard Everett said Metro Solutions is an essential element in extending the downtown renaissance into other neighborhoods. Tuesday afternoon, Common Cause Texas announced that it is filing a complaint with the Texas Ethics Commission, contending that the nonprofit Texans for True Mobility has violated campaign laws by not disclosing who has given it money for political ads assailing Metro's plan. The intense day on the campaign trail ended with a discussion among several key players Tuesday night on KUHT/Channel 8. Chronicle reporters Kristen Mack and Mike Snyder contributed to this story. =PTP================================================ ml Seattle Times Thursday, October 16, 2003 Car-tab taxes for monorail still run below estimates SEATTLE — Car-tab taxes to pay for Seattle's monorail netted $2.15 million in September, marking the fourth straight month that collections have run about one-third below original estimates. if the trend continues, monorail officials have speculated they might need to cut $224 million to $299 million from their $1.75 billion plan for a "Green Line" connecting Ballard, downtown and West Seattle. The shortfall was the result of flawed agency projections, evasion by some vehicle owners and possible glitches in implementing the new tax. =PTP========================================= m.html Seattle Times Thursday, October 16, 2003 Possible explanations for less HOV traffic As the recession has deepened, officials say traffic on many Seattle-area freeways has dropped. New research suggests that trend may be even more pronounced in the HOV lanes. Seven of the 14 major HOV corridors experienced declines in volume between 2000 and 2002, says Mark Hallenbeck of the Washington State Transportation Center at the University of Washington. In most cases, volumes appear to have dropped more than in the general-purpose lanes. He offers two possible explanations: • Car pools collapse when commuters lose or change jobs. "Car pools may be more sensitive to the economy," Hallenbeck says. In the late 1990s, he notes, "HOV usage was increasing faster than general-purpose usage." • As congestion in the general-purpose lanes has eased — even if only slightly — some erstwhile car poolers or bus riders have reverted to driving alone. — Eric Pryne, The Seattle Times =PTP=============================================== Newark Star-Ledger Thursday, October 16, 2003 'Plane to train' service in Newark earns praise Alternative to costly cabs and traffic jams marks 2nd year BY RON MARSICO Star-Ledger Staff Chris Bolan sat with his bags at the far end of Newark Liberty international Airport's rail platform, looking relaxed as he soaked up the sun one warm afternoon last week after a business trip to Grand Rapids, Mich. Normally, Bolan, who lives in Bridgeport, Conn., would be shelling out cash for a cab to Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan to catch the Metro- North Railroad or sitting in traffic on interstate 95 if his wife picked him up. Now, for the first time, he took an Amtrak train home from the airport. "It makes the commuting -- be it by train or plane -- so much more efficient," Bolan said. "it's convenient now." Newark airport's $417 million AirTrain service -- with connections to both Amtrak and NJ Transit lines -- marks its second anniversary this month, still the only "train to the plane" service among the region's three major airports. AirTrain is expected at John F. Kennedy international Airport later this year, at a cost of $1.9 billion. Bolan is one of 3,200 average daily users of AirTrain Newark's railroad connection, which generally wins plaudits for service even as ridership lags at only two-thirds of original predictions in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the economic downturn. Officials with the Tri-State Transportation Campaign say the price of using AirTrain Newark is too high, especially for families. For example, a one-way ticket anytime between Manhattan and the Newark airport station costs $11.55, even though a round-trip, off-peak NJ Transit ticket between Newark Penn Station and Manhattan costs $5. A one-way ticket anytime between New Brunswick and the airport station costs $10.80, whereas a round-trip, off-peak NJ Transit ticket between New Brunswick and Newark Penn Station costs just $13. "If they dropped the cost a little bit, maybe they can get their ridership up," said Kate Slevin, a Tri-State spokeswoman. "I think the service is good." The airport station -- a still gleaming but utilitarian mix of concrete, metal and glass -- connects Amtrak and NJ Transit riders to the monorail that stops at parking areas and terminals A, B and C. So far, rail passengers make up a little more than 10 percent of the 30,000 average daily riders on the monorail, which opened in 1996. "I think it has brought this airport a major step forward in providing access to our customers," said Susan Baer, the airport's general manager, of the rail connections. "It reduces vehicle traffic to and from the airport. ... It really complements all the work we have done on the roadways." Baer defended the relatively high ticket costs as necessary to offset the investment and operating costs by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. in 2002, the Port Authority spent $19.7 million to run AirTrain Newark, with approximately half that covering the contract with Bombardier Transportation of Canada, the system's operator. The agency pays $3.9 million, which comes from its share of the rail ticket revenues. The $15.8 million difference is paid from fees on airlines and rental car companies. Tickets for AirTrain Newark are slightly below typical bus fares, said Baer, noting use of the rails also eliminates parking costs for those who would otherwise drive and leave their cars in long-term lots. "And it's considerably less than a cab," said Baer, who said a fledgling discount program for frequent users may be expanded. "And you have the advantage of reliability." There is no fee to ride the monorail between terminals and parking lots. European travelers in particular have taken to the airport's rail link, Port Authority officials have found. Per Lundahl, visiting from Sweden, said he opted to use AirTrain Newark to get to Manhattan last week when he couldn't find a hotel shuttle. "Most (foreign) airports have got trains -- Amsterdam, Paris, Stockholm and London, of course," said Lundahl. While most comments about service are favorable, there are some minor gripes about poor directional signs and high-decibel announcements on the monorail cars. Then there are aesthetics. The sleek, space-age looking trains, offer quite a view. The monorail from the station to the airport curves past the huge Budweiser brewery, over Routes 1&9 and its spaghetti-like access roads and ramps, before approaching the airport with the new 325-foot air traffic control tower dominating the scene. Tourists kill time before flights on the monorail and some of the area's homeless spend time aboard as well, according to authorities. Eventually, Port Authority officials want to see baggage service resumed at the airport station when airline revenues improve. In the longer term, the agency hopes to connect PATH service to the station, which was built to accommodate it. Even with the present service levels, Richard Halpern, a Massachusetts resident, was impressed with his first use of the system. "It was very smooth," said Halpern. "I felt like the Jetsons or something." Ron Marsico covers Newark Liberty international Airport. He may be reached at or (973) 392-7860
PTP Digest 2003/10/16-A = CONTENTS * Memphis streetcar project costing $19 million under budget Memphis Commercial Appeal October 15, 2003 * Columbus light rail plan moves forward Business First - Columbus Wednesday [2003/10/15] * Toronto: Rail link to airport to be LRT or diesel? Toronto Star Oct. 16, 2003 * Houston: Metro refutes rail foes' claim that rains will flood light rail Houston Chronicle Oct. 15, 2003, 1:48PM * Houston: 'Bulletin 4' zaps more anti-transit myths with facts Houston Transportation Bulletin 4 October 15, 2003 * LA: Surface vs. tunnel debated for Expo LRT line through USC Daily Trojan Vol. 150, No. 35 (Wednesday, October 15, 2003) * Phoenix: Valley Metro refutes LRT foes on air pollution claims Arizona Republic Oct. 16, 2003 * Austin: 'Scenario B' envisions LRT & fast buses, moderate sprawl News 8 Austin 10/13/2003 =PTP================================================= [PTP NOTE: According to Light Rail Central (, the Memphis Medical Center streetcar project is 2.5 miles long.],1426,MCA_437_234 7514,00.html Memphis Commercial Appeal October 15, 2003 Madison trolley line costing $19 million less than expected By Lance Murphey [PHOTO] Willis Chisom (left) and Michael Watkins work on the tracks near Madison and Lauderdale. By Tom Bailey Jr. Construction of the Madison Rail Line is $19 million under budget, the head of Memphis Area Transit Authority said Tuesday. "Good contracts," William Hudson said in explaining the projected surplus. The agency budgeted $74 million. Now the cost is expected to be about $55 million, which includes the purchase of five trolleys and other equipment. "Good bridge contracts. Good rail contracts. Equipment contracts," said Hudson, president and general manager of MATA. Memphis Light Gas and Water Division came in under budget as well, he said. The two-mile line linking downtown to the Medical Center and Midtown is 90 percent complete. It extends from Main to just beyond Cleveland. All rail is in place. The authority will mark the final weld with a ceremony at 10 a.m. today on Madison at Dudley. Still to be completed are the train stations and overhead power lines. Once the project is finished, the authority will begin testing the system. The rail line is scheduled to open in March. "We had a good experience" with the contractors, Hudson said. ". . . A lot of good contract negotiations and good people to do business with." Hill Brothers Construction of Falkner, Miss., is building the line. The federal government is paying for 80 percent of the project. Any unused money would have to be returned to the Federal Transit Administration, or MATA could request to spend it on other rail projects, said Alison Burton, MATA's marketing director. MATA would not be allowed to use any extra money for its bus service, she said. MATA plans to build another 9 to 10 miles of rail line from some point along the Madison Rail Line to Memphis international Airport. The decision on where to route that $400 million line should be made early next year, Hudson said. =PTP=============================================== Business First - Columbus Wednesday [2003/10/15] COTA moves forward with light rail study The Central Ohio Transit Authority has signed memoranda of understanding with two freight rail companies to help in a light rail study. COTA will reimburse CSX Transportation Inc. and Norfolk Southern Corp. $155,200 for their cooperation in the study. The study will determine how to initiate COTA's North Corridor project, a proposed 13.2-mile light rail line from the Polaris area to downtown Columbus. COTA may have to alter freight service patterns and move a west side freight yard to complete the project. COTA hopes to have the study done by next summer, along with an environmental impact statement. The light rail line is part of COTA's Fast Trax plan. More information on the plan is available at Early engineering has been funded through state and federal grants. Voters turned down a proposed quarter-cent sales tax increase in 1999 that included funding for the line. =PTP=========================================== Toronto Star Oct. 16, 2003 Rail-link decision awaited Ottawa expected to rule in two months Line would connect Union with airport KEVIN MCGRAN TRANSPORTATION REPORTER Transport Minister David Collenette is expected to decide in the next two months on which group will win the contract to bring a high-speed connection between Union Station and Pearson airport. A private consortium that is one of three groups bidding to build the rail link between the downtown and airport also wants to build a light-rail transit network connecting Toronto to the 905 regions. The rail link, which would speed passengers between Pearson and downtown in 20 minutes, is expected to carry 77,000 passengers a day. "The evaluation is in progress and we anticipate an announcement could be made this fall," said department press secretary Amy Butcher. The light-rail consortium has been looking to get a foot in the door for at least two years. Aecon, a construction company, ALSTOM, which builds trains, and Borealis, which finances such things, together have been promoting a $2.5 billion project dubbed SmartRide LRT. it would use mostly hydro right-of-ways and existing rail corridors for a light-rail system that would augment local and GO transit. So far, no level of government has bought into the plan. Aecon and ALSTOM recently teamed up again, dusted off the LRT proposal and refined it to fit the Union-Pearson rail-link project. This time, it's called the GTA LRT Consortium. The proponents suggest that light rail is a better fit for the link in terms of easy connections with GO and the Toronto Transit Commission. "The technology you choose has an impact on what you can actually do with the corridor," said Stefan Parche, vice-president of development for Aecon infrastructure. Picking a single-purpose technology for the link — one that can't easily be expanded beyond the original line — means that "you basically destroy the corridor and prevent it from being used as part of a larger network," Parche said. "So that needs to be looked at from a GTA system-wide implication." The federal government invited four consortia to present proposals for the link. Two other contenders for the job are Macquarie North America Ltd. and Union Pearson Group Inc. Both groups advocate diesel technology for the engines — lighter trains than those used by GO Transit but heavier than what GTA LRT Consortium is proposing. A fourth group, Pearl Consortium, which included Bombardier Transportation, dropped out because the scope of the project changed, said spokesperson Helene Gagnon. The sticking point was a new requirement that the winning consortium take over the "ridership risk," so that if ridership fell below expectations or the line failed to make a profit, the company would shoulder the loss with no hope of federal cash. in industry and political circles, there are doubts that the airport link will ever get off the ground, especially with political changes in the offing. Prime-minister-in-waiting Paul Martin is not believed to be a big backer of it, while Ontario premier-elect Dalton McGuinty may discover more pressing needs. "In my view, it's certainly not the top transportation priority of the region," said Michael Roschlau, president of the Canadian Urban Transit Association. "To me it would be a shame if public money were used to give that project priority over other projects that are far more important, like the (TTC's) state of good repair, the ability to increase the capacity of our transit systems in the GTA." The rail link will be built with private money, although funding for upgrades in track capacity and bridge improvements needed for the new service will come out of the $435 million in federal funding for urban transportation in the GTA announced in March. =PTP================================================== Houston Chronicle Oct. 15, 2003, 1:48PM Group rails at Metro's planning Opponents say rains will leave cars useless By HEATHER SAUCIER Opponents of the Metropolitan Transit Authority's light rail, which is gearing up for its Jan. 1, 2004 start date, have found another reason to criticize the system other than claims it will not ease congestion. Pointing to Houston's history of flooding, opponents claim the light rail is the wrong choice for transportation because rail cars cannot operate in more than 3 inches of water. They are particularly concerned about the Texas Medical Center, which filled with water during Tropical Storm Allison. "it's an important point that someone ought to bring out," said David Hutzelman, director of the Business Committee Against Rail, commonly known as BusCAR. "Flooding has just been glossed over in the obsession to become a world-class city. If most people knew the light rail could run in no more than 3 inches of water, they would [ask], 'What is someone doing building a system like that in Houston, Texas?'" Hutzelman has debated several Metro officials on television, and speaks at various civic clubs encouraging voters to defeat the upcoming bond issue on Nov. 4. Having battled intense criticism of its 7.5 miles of light rail, which will run from Reliant Park through downtown, Metro has long been prepared to respond to flooding concerns. The trains will be the most reliable travel mode during a flood at the Texas Medical Center, said a Frequently Asked Questions brochure published last year for the public. Metro rails alignment is designed to be above the 100-year flood plain, where practical. However, in the Texas Medical Center, the streets are within the 100-year flood plain, and elevation is not practical. "Publicizing that the tracks are at or above the 100-year flood plain, is misleading," said Barry Klein, president of the Houston Property Rights Association, who actively opposes the light-rail system. "That classification is an unreliable construct that is exceeded every several years with frequent heavy rains," he said. Tom Bazan, a member of the Houston Property Rights Association who has filed a civil rights complaint against the transit authority, said Metro ignored Houston's vulnerability for flooding when it built its system at grade. "Metro refused to elevate its tracks because that is more expensive, requiring the public to approve bonds," he said. "Consequently, when streets gather more than 3 inches of water, the rail system will shut down," Bazan said. "That's certainly going to be embarrassing for Metro because they're going to have to use all our buses to rescue the passengers," he said. "Why spend $2.5 million for a rail car for it not to be able to travel through the typical flooding streets in Houston?" "Rail cars might not be able to travel through more than a few inches of water, but the tracks were built on the crests of streets, which are higher than areas near curbs," said Chip Lambert, spokesman for Metro. "If streets are inundated with flood water, Metro will employ a bus bridge and send buses to rescue stranded passengers and drive them to another rail car or their destinations. Buses can operate in 6 to 8 inches of water, Lambert said." "In addition, the transit authority and City of Houston have taken several precautions to minimize the risk of flooding along the light rail line," he said. "They have sealed and moved above ground the electric control panel that powers the water pump near the Holcomb Boulevard overpass at Fannin Street. They have expanded the drain line from Holcombe to Brays Bayou from 42 to 46 inches. And they have extended the Fannin Street bridge that crosses the channel by 60 feet to accommodate the widening of the bayou, a project of the Harris County Flood Control District that aims to reduce the risk of flooding in the area," Lambert said. "Once Brays Bayou is widened, the light-rail area near the Medical Center will be removed from the 100-year flood plain," Lambert said. "While the Flood Control District agrees that channel widening will reduce the areas risk of flooding, actual construction on the bayou will not begin until 2006, said Alisa Max," spokeswoman for the district. Channel widening near the Medical Center will not begin until 2010. "it's going to be a while," she said. "The majority of relief will be coming when channel modifications occur in 2010." in the meantime, the city is rebuilding storm sewers on Fannin, Kirby Drive, Hermann Drive and MacGregor Drive, said Gary Norman, public information officer for the city's Public Works and Engineering Department. "The projects will increase the carrying capacity of underground sewers and decrease the amount of storm water flowing to the Medical Center," he said. Regardless of the efforts taking place, light-rail opponents insist Metro is turning its back on flooding and cheating taxpayers and passengers. "We need to spend more money on roads," Hutzelman said, adding that less than 2 percent of daily trips in Harris County are made on Metro. "The rail will not ease traffic, as it carries so few commuters. In fact, by taking up lanes on the streets, it will cause more congestion along its path," he said. Bazan said he could support the rail if it were funded by private dollars and raised above the streets. "If they would have made it elevated, it would not tie up traffic and there would be no flooding issues," he said. They could have built skywalks that lead to elevated stations and have a space city appearance." 6 =PTP========================================== Houston Transportation Bulletin 4 October 15, 2003 _____________________________ The Metro Solutions plan to greatly improve transit in the Houston region will come to a vote on November 4. To help increase understanding of the proposal and of transit's place in the greater transportation picture, the Gulf Coast institute will publish a series of educational bulletins. ... Transit myths "Transit is heavily subsidized, cars are not." Fact: All transportation is subsidized. US transit expenditures total about $30 billion annually, of which two-thirds are subsidies, compared with $120 billion spent on roads of which $50 billion are subsidies (from general taxes), plus $30 billion in general taxes spent on traffic services, $270 billion in parking subsidies, and $600 billion spent on private motor vehicles(1). Transit Facts Across the nation, public transit rail revenue vehicle miles operated increased by nearly 20 percent between 1991 and 2000. Non-rail revenue vehicle miles (mostly bus) grew about 18 percent during the same period(2). Metro Solutions METRO held 178 public and stakeholder meetings during its development of the METRO Solutions plan between December 2001 and July 2003. The alternative "plan" backed by METRO Solutions opponents, the "100 Percent Solution Plan," is still in draft form and has not yet had specific public involvement for the additional 5,000 lane-miles on top of the already planned 5,600 lane-miles(3). Economic Benefits The reduced pollution emissions (from nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds) that result from public transportation use save between $130 million and $200 million a year in regulatory costs(4). Health During the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games, expanded public transportation services reduced morning peak auto use by 22.5 percent and reduced mobile source emissions. There was a 44.1 percent reduction in asthma- related medical visits among HMO enrollees(5). Metro Facts Metro's Main Street light rail line that will open January 1, 2004 will feature 16 light rail stations, each uniquely designed by local artists for the neighborhood it represents(6). Existing Rail Systems in 2000, Dallas's voters approved $2.9 billion in long-term bonds to accelerate future light rail line construction. Dallas currently has over 44 miles of light rail with plans to expand to 93 miles(7). Equity Transportation policies that encourage personal automobile travel have an inequitable effect on the finances of minority and low-income individuals with those in the lowest fifth of income earners spending 36 percent of their household budget on transportation compared with those in the highest fifth income spending 14 percent(5). Sources 1. Evaluating Criticism of Smart Growth (draft), Todd Litman, Victoria Transport Policy institute, September 16, 2003. 2. Fitch Ratings, "Running for the Train: the Path Ahead for US Transit," June 2003. 3. Metropolitan Transportation Authority of Harris County. 4. The Benefits of Public Transportation, American Public Transportation Association, September 2002. 5. Center for Transportation Excellence website, 6. Metropolitan Transportation Authority of Harris County 7. Dallas Area Rapid Transit, DART inmotion newsletter, summer 2003. 8. Metro Solutions Plan, Metropolitan Transportation Authority of Harris County. Houston Transportation Bulletin is a publication of the Gulf Coast institute. To support the institute, go to To join the institute's 1000 Friends of Houston, go to Email: _____________________________ David Crossley Gulf Coast institute 3015 Richmond Suite 250 Houston TX 77098 Ph 713-523-5757 Fx 713-523-3057 =PTP============================================== expo.35c.html&p=1 Daily Trojan Vol. 150, No. 35 (Wednesday, October 15, 2003) Pages 1 - 13. Exploring the Expo Line Local leaders weigh in on a proposal to build a light-rail line next to campus. [PHOTO] Katherine Beck | Daily Trojan Light rail. A Metro Blue Line train arrives at the Pico Boulevard station in downtown Los Angeles. The proposed Expo Line would also serve this station, as well as USC's University Park Campus. By JASON CARTER Staff Writer The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is planning to build a light-rail line connecting USC's University Park Campus with downtown Los Angeles and Culver City, but community leaders disagree about its design and cost-effectiveness. The Expo Line, an electric-powered train designed to travel down the middle of Exposition Boulevard on its way from Downtown's Seventh Street Metro Station to Culver City, could be completed by 2012, said Steve Brye, MTA project manager. The MTA's ultimate goal is to extend the line to Santa Monica, Brye added. in order to keep an open space between campus and the communities south of Exposition Boulevard, "the university's position all along has been that (the line) should be underground between USC and Exposition Park," said Curt Williams, vice president of USC's Capital Construction Development. The MTA board directed its staff not to study the possibility of tunneling the line because construction costs for an underground rail line are much higher than laying street-level track, Brye said. The university is concerned that the Expo Line will act as a barrier between campus and the community south of Exposition Boulevard, Williams said. Jon Gibby, general manager of Exposition Park, disagreed. The Expo Line would not be a greater obstruction than the Exposition Boulevard median and the street's 60 mile-per-hour traffic, Gibby said. The Expo Line would benefit Exposition Park by attracting visitors who could not come otherwise, Gibby added. Funding is the biggest obstacle facing the Expo Line project, Brye said. The MTA has enough funding for preliminary engineering for the Expo Line project, but will need additional funding to begin construction, Brye said. Preliminary engineering will be finished some time next year. Funding for the construction has become possible because outgoing Gov. Gray Davis signed SB 314, also known as the Murray Bill. The Murray Bill authorizes the MTA to put an additional half-cent sales tax on Los Angeles County's November ballot to raise the $925 million the Expo Line is estimated to cost, said Darrell Clarke, centerline outreach manager for the Orange County Transportation Authority. "If you build the whole thing economically, you could do it with the Murray Bill," Clarke said. The Bus Riders Union, a nonprofit community organization, said funds should be spent on expanding bus service throughout the city instead of constructing the new rail line. The MTA is ignoring the issue of overcrowded, inner-city buses by spending money on the Expo Line, said Manuel Criollo, lead organizer for the BRU. it is more cost-effective to invest in buses than in light-rail transit because the bus system can service a greater volume of passengers at a lower maintenance cost, Criollo added. Both the MTA and the BRU want to attract more riders to public transportation, he said. "Having a modern line like this close to the campus would be a benefit to students, faculty and staff," Williams said. The line will make the Westside and Downtown areas more accessible to students, he added. The Expo Line would provide an alternative to taking the USC Trams or the DASH for students and faculty commuting to Seventh Street Metro Station, said Stephan Lau, a senior majoring in accounting. Riding the Expo Line may save students time and money on gas, said Marco Shih, a freshman majoring in pre-business. Rail tracks were laid from Exposition Boulevard to Santa Monica in 1875. The line was then known as the Santa Monica Air Line, and was served by Pacific Electric's Red Car trolleys until the line was abandoned in 1953. After that, the tracks changed hands several times until the MTA bought them in 1990. Owning the land for the rail line makes the project more feasible because no houses or businesses need to be torn down to make room for the tracks, Brye said. =PTP================================================= l Arizona Republic Oct. 16, 2003 Light-rail foes cite air woes Valley planners say claims untrue Bob Golfen Opponents of the Valley's planned light-rail system claimed Wednesday that the transit line would worsen air pollution and traffic congestion and pointed at rail planners' own documents as evidence. in a press conference on the lawn of the Arizona Senate building, community activist Becky Fenger and economist John Semmens told of their "silver bullet" discoveries gained through researching Valley Metro Rail documents. Fenger, speaking from behind a small table decorated with rubber rats and roaches, said Valley Metro officials in their Final Environmental impact Statement had reported to the Federal Transit Administration that air quality would worsen after the light-rail system was built. "To spend billions of dollars to worsen air pollution and traffic congestion, that's insane," Fenger said. Phoenix Public Transit Director Ed Zuercher said opponents were misrepresenting the information in the environmental statement. "I don't know where she gets her information, but it's not true," Zuercher said, characterizing Fenger as "a professional anti-transit activist." Voters go to the polls May 18 to decide on a 20-year half-cent sales tax that would fund light rail and other transit, freeway and street improvements Valley-wide. Fenger and Semmens pointed out portions of the Valley Metro's environmental statistics that showed projected air pollution increasing at eight out of 12 locations along the light-rail route. Semmens noted a section in the impact statement that showed traffic congestion increasing along the rail line. Zuercher, speaking on the lawn after the press conference, said light rail is projected to prevent 10 tons of various tailpipe pollutants daily. The estimate is supported by a model devised by the Maricopa Association of Governments, a Valley planning organization, he said. The opponents are "twisting the statistics" to suit their message, said Valley Metro spokeswoman Daina Mann, noting that the federal Environmental Protection Agency has praised Valley Metro's statistics and conclusions in support of light rail's effect on air quality and traffic congestion. She said the air-pollution gains cited by the opponents are miniscule and reflect gains caused by automobile traffic at the park-and-ride lots along the light-rail route. "This is common sense," Mann said. "At these particular sites, more people are there parking their cars." As for traffic congestion, the most recent projections show annual travel- time savings of 6.3 million hours, the amount of time people will save in travel time because of light rail, Mann said. =PTP============================================= /?SecID=381&ArID=86353 News 8 Austin 10/13/2003 Envision Central Texas: Scenario B By: Antonio Castelan and Web staff Central Texas' population is exploding. In the next 20 to 40 years, the population is expected to swell from 1.4 million to 2.5 million. Envision Central Texas (ECT) has spent the past two years working with communities across the five counties, gathering citizen input on how best the expected growth should be distributed and managed. They have come up with four scenarios that consider land use, transportation, and the environment. Scenario B's main area of change is transportation. Like the other three plans, it proposes a commuter rail train from Georgetown to San Marcos. The average morning rush hour trip time would be 19 minutes, which is along the same lines as the others. The highest (Scenario A) is 22 minutes and the lowest (Scenario D) is 18 minutes. Ninety percent of Central Texas drivers would still use their cars to get to work. Scenario B also calls for an extensive express bus system and a light rail from Williamson County to South Austin. Planners at Capital Metro are already thinking down the road. [GRAPHIC] Scenario B Th plan would feature an express bus system and a light rail from Williamson County to South Austin. "We are looking at multiple methods of transportation. We are looking down the road at the possibilities of using existing bus service, using light rail, using commuter rail, and other forms so that there will be a lot of solutions to help ease Central Texas congestion," Rick L'Amie of Capital Metro said. Scenario B also projects more people would work in Downtown Austin and use the commuter rail. it concentrates growth along I-35 and Texas Tollway 130, now under construction. There would be a 26 percent increase in urbanized land, and $5.5 billion allocated to build a new infrastructure. With 19,000 acres (30.2 square miles) to be developed over the Edwards Aquifer, environmentalists said that number is unaccpetable. "If Central Texas is going to preserve the Edwards Aquifer we are going to need to protect the land on top of the aquifer," Colin Clark of the Save Our Springs (S.O.S.) Alliance said. Scenario B's development of the Edwards Aquifer is the second highest of the four. If growth continues as it does now, in Scenario A, then 56.7 square miles would be developed. Scenarios C and D, however, each call for less than one square mile to be developed. The housing trend would remain like it is now. Sixty-three percent of people would live in single family houses and the remaining 37 percent would live in condominiums and apartments, the same as in Scenario A. Builders see the trends continuing. "The first choice for almost every consumer is to be able to have a traditional single family house with a traditional yard, and hopefully a reasonable commute to work," said Harry Savio, executive vice president of the Austin Homebuilders Association.
PTP Digest 2003/10/15-A = CONTENTS * Houston: Rail foes attacked for deception, non-disclosure Houston Chronicle Oct. 14, 2003 * Houston: More facts vs. muths, FAQs on Metro Solutions plan Houston Transportation Bulletin 3 October 13, 2003 * Detroit: Suburb calls for LRT Detroit Free Press October 14, 2003 * Amtrak op-ed: Amtrak gains justify federal help Austin American-Statesman Tuesday, October 14, 2003 * Amtrak: Major ridership gains in No. California Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority Monday, October 13, 2003 * Tampa: Bombardier shows off JetTrain locomotive Newstream October 2003 * Kuala Lumpur monorail continues ridership increase Star Publications (Malaysia) Tuesday October 14, 2003 * Milwaukee: Regional rail link planned, guided bus studied Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Oct. 15, 2003 * Orange County Ca: LRT property acquisition readied Los Angeles Times October 15, 2003 * Salt Lake suburbs: 'BRT' plan to go to voters Salt Lake Tribune TUESDAY October 14, 2003 * Phoenix: LRT planners mull saving historic trees Arizona Republic Oct. 14, 2003 * NJ: Regional rail's 'morbid lure' for suicides, aggressive drivers New York Times October 15, 2003 =PTP============================================= Houston Chronicle Oct. 14, 2003 Battle over Metro rail full of sound and fury Opposition, allegations, debate court attention By LUCAS WALL The back and forth over Metro's transit plan continued at high speed Tuesday with three news conferences, a televised debate and allegations of lawbreaking and lying. A group of 40 black ministers announced their opposition to the Metropolitan Transit Authority expansion plan, saying Metro officials did not meet with them to discuss concerns that bus service will be slashed. That drew a perplexed response from Metro's president, who said she assured dozens of the ministers in a July meeting that the plan includes a 50 percent expansion in bus runs with 44 new routes. U.S. Rep. Chris Bell, D-Houston, accused Rep. John Culberson, R- Houston, and other rail opponents of lying to voters about Metro's plan, calling their actions "offensive and insulting." The verbal combat also included a campaign watchdog group's announcement that it will file a state ethics complaint against the largest coalition opposing the transit plan. And a major business group announced its support for the plan, which includes expansion of Metro's light rail system, the first line of which is set to open Jan. 1. "Metro wants to spend $8 billion on rail," said the Rev. J.J. Roberson, president of the Baptist Ministers Association, who hosted a news conference at his Mt. Hebron Baptist Church on Calhoun. "They will run out of money and then cut bus service, which will leave many in our community without transportation. We do not trust Metro." The actual construction cost of the 40 light rail miles Metro proposes to build by 2019 is $2.8 billion, the agency projects. Roberson complained that the proposed light rail spur to the heavily black Sunnyside neighborhood won't be built until 2018 and that nobody at Metro would meet with his group as the transit plan was being drafted. Metro officials denied the snub, showing the Houston Chronicle a program from a July 7 meeting where Metro Chairman Arthur Schechter and Shirley DeLibero, president and CEO, met with Roberson and others to seek their opinions on the "Metro Solutions" plan. DeLibero said there also have been several community meetings in Sunnyside. The six bus routes serving Sunnyside will continue, she said, and Metro will add two routes through that neighborhood. "To say the bus riders are going to lose at the expense of rail is not true," DeLibero said. Bob Stein, a Rice University political scientist, said it's smart strategy for rail opponents to diversify their coalition. But, he said, he still expects an overwhelming majority of blacks to vote for transit expansion. in other activity Tuesday, Bell held a morning news conference at Metro's railyard on West Bellfort to counter Republican attacks on the proposal. "Rail will relieve traffic congestion, raise the standard of living for all Houstonians and make urban living a true possibility," he said. Metro's plan to expand light rail has turned into a bitter partisan fight, with most Republican officials against it and most Democratic officials favoring it. At lunchtime, a downtown business organization, Central Houston, endorsed Metro's plan during its annual meeting at the Toyota Center. Central Houston Chairman Richard Everett said Metro Solutions is an essential element in extending the downtown renaissance into other neighborhoods. Tuesday afternoon, Common Cause Texas announced that it is filing a complaint with the Texas Ethics Commission, contending that the nonprofit Texans for True Mobility has violated campaign laws by not disclosing who has given it money for political ads assailing Metro's plan. The intense day on the campaign trail ended with a discussion among several key players Tuesday night on KUHT/Channel 8. Chronicle reporters Kristen Mack and Mike Snyder contributed to this story. =PTP=============================================== Houston Transportation Bulletin 3 October 13, 2003 The Metro Solutions plan to greatly improve transit in the Houston region will come to a vote on November 4. To help increase understanding of the proposal and of transit¹s place in the greater transportation picture, the Gulf Coast institute will publish a series of educational bulletins. ... Mobility Myths "Building more roads is the solution to Houston¹s congestion." Fact: "it would be almost impossible to attempt to maintain constant congestion level with road construction only," states the recent Texas Transportation institute Urban Mobility Study. In fact, even though Houston added freeway and principal arterial street lane miles at a much higher rate (84 percent) than population (45 percent) during the past two decades, Houston¹s congestion has increased 175 percent over that same time period (measured by Annual Delay, or extra time spent traveling)(1). Houston Mobility Facts Houstonians travel more miles per day than there are miles between the earth and the sun. The distance between the earth and the sun is about 93 million miles. Houstonians drive about 156 million miles per day (1). Economic Benefits Dallas¹s light rail has resulted in $1.3 billion of private investment around its rail corridors (2). Light Rail Playing Field The FY2004 federal appropriations act passed by the US House of Representatives states, ³None of the funds in this Act shall be made available for the design, construction, or maintenance of any segment of a light rail system in Houston that has not been specifically approved by a majority of the participating voters in the Houston Metropolitan Transit Authority service area in a referendum.² Houston is the only city in the nation with such a funding restriction in the Act. Consequently, Houston is absent from the funding list that divides more than $1.2 billion federal dollars among 25 cities. Houston¹s smaller neighbor Dallas is slotted to receive $30 million next year (3). Since it began building light rail in 1988, Dallas is estimated to have received $493 million federal funds for light rail (4). 100 Percent Solution Plan The METRO Solutions opposition cites the ³100 Percent Solutions Plan² being developed by the Houston-Galveston Area Council as an alternative to METRO Solutions. However, the 100 Percent Solutions Plan not only includes METRO Solutions, but includes an expanded version of METRO Solutions with more rail and bus than in METRO¹s plan. The METRO Solutions transit plan is a part of the 100 Percent Solution Plan that already has identified funding sources (5). Metro Facts Transit serves 42 percent of all morning peak period, home based work trips to downtown, 31 percent to the Medical Center, 7 percent to the Galleria, and 6 percent to Greenway plaza. All areas would be served with the METRO Solutions light rail, helping transit market shares in each location to significantly increase by 2025 (6). Note: see attached pdf for chart. Correction: Transportation Bulletin 1 stated that METRO would complete 22 miles of rail and its entire bus expansion in the first ten years. It will actually complete 22 miles of rail and only 33 percent of its bus expansion in the first ten years. Sources 1. 2003 Urban Mobility Report, Texas Transportation institute. September 2003. 2. DART website, 3. US House Resolution 2989, ³Transportation, Treasury, and independent Agencies Appropriations Act,² 2004. 4. Dallas federal funding dollars from a discussion with Morgan Lyons, DART, 7 October 2003. 5. The 100 Percent Solution Plan (presentation to Transportation Policy Council) Houston-Galveston Area Council, September 2003. 6. Metropolitan Transportation Authority of Harris County. Based on Houston-Galveston Area Council data and travel forecasts for METRO Solutions with additional 72 Miles of rail. Based on transit linked trips. Houston Transportation Bulletin is a publication of the Gulf Coast institute. To support the institute, go to To join the institute¹s 1000 Friends of Houston, go to Email: _____________________________ Gulf Coast institute 3015 Richmond Suite 250 Houston TX 77098 Ph 713-523-5757 Fx 713-523-3057 =PTP========================================== Detroit Free Press October 14, 2003 LIGHT RAIL: Make it part of the debate with other transit options Editorial The Ferndale City Council jumped the gun in calling for a light-rail transit system along Woodward. Still, the action should spark a needed debate on rail service in the region. Ferndale is urging the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments and the new Detroit Area Regional Transportation Authority to start designing a light-rail line from downtown Detroit to 9 Mile or even all the way north to Pontiac. City Manager Thomas Barwin says Washington would pay up to 80 percent of the project's cost. Now, he said, the region is losing about $60 million a year to urban areas that are building rail systems. Heavily traveled corridors like Woodward need better service. But whether to use rail, rapid-transit buses or something else is up for debate. The federal government first requires an evaluation of those alternatives before providing money. Michigan's congressional delegation should make sure southeast Michigan gets the money to at least do that. Rail service could spur business development and provide drivers with an attractive alternative to congested commutes. But rail advocates must recognize that the region lacks a consensus on mass transit. The costs are high -- about $50 million a mile -- and the feds usually pay only 60 percent or less. The rest must come locally, and that could make the suburbs more skittish about a regional system. More important, high-cost rail lines must not take service from elsewhere in the system. Metro job centers are spread throughout the region. Getting low-income workers without cars to those jobs must remain the first priority of the new regional transportation authority. it's too soon to decide whether the benefits of rail in metro Detroit outweigh the costs. =PTP================================================= ditorial_f3b80a32b1e06052001c.html Austin American-Statesman Tuesday, October 14, 2003 Amtrak needs federal help, not hindrance John Young WACO TRIBUNE-HERALD if the U.S. economy were doing as well as the Texas Eagle, there would be little suspense about George W. Bush getting a second term. The Texas Eagle, the Amtrak route through Central Texas, increased ridership almost 20 percent this year. A 20 percent boost in ridership on the Texas Eagle? What a miserable failure. Pull the plug on that sucker. That appears to be the stance of the Bush administration. However, not every Republican in Washington is on board. U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison is fighting with extreme vigor not only to keep the Texas Eagle running but to pump up America's investment in Amtrak. Todd Gillman of The Dallas Morning News and the National Association of Rail Passengers share some figures that make Bush's designs for Amtrak indefensible, like the nearly 20 percent bump in ridership on the Texas Eagle. What Bush wants to do with Amtrak is comparable to what he proposes to do with other programs like Head Start and Medicaid: dump it in the laps of cash-starved states. in the case of Amtrak, he proposes ending federal subsidies after six years. On Medicaid and Head Start, he proposes ongoing funding to take the form of finite block grants virtually certain not to keep up with needs, thereby forcing states to make up the difference. Opponents of Amtrak will say that it loses money. Guilty as charged. The nation gets only 37 cents back for every dollar spent. Just curious: How many cents do taxpayers get back for every highway dollar spent? How many cents do taxpayers get back on tax subsidies to oil companies to fuel behemoth vehicles? Opponents of subsidizing Amtrak -- particularly our president -- are guilty of one the greatest double standards of the century. The rail passengers group points out that while Congress spent $26 billion on Amtrak, it spent $405 billion on highways and $150 billion on airlines. Hutchison thinks that instead of pulling back from Amtrak, the nation should get serious and bolstering Amtrak. She proposes with an additional $60 billion over six years -- $48 billion in loans -- to make Amtrak more efficient and to better probe the possibilities of higher-speed rail. if we are to have viable alternatives to our congested highways, policy makers and citizens need to start putting roads and rails on comparable planes. A few years ago Texas nosed up to the visionary idea of contracting to bring high-speed rail roughly along the interstate 35 corridor. The idea fell through basically because of one arbitrary and wholly unreasonable requirement: no direct state subsidies. Unreasonable, and ridiculous. As much money as taxpayers pour into highways, the thought of subsidizing passenger rail traffic shouldn't offend anyone. in this land of plenty, where our influence spans the globe and rebuilds nations, this nation can afford viable alternatives to automobiles. Unfortunately, our approach to rail is Third World all the way. Young is opinion page editor of the Waco Tribune-Herald. Contact him at =PTP============================================= Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority Monday, October 13, 2003 Summary of September ridership and ticket revenue results, as reported by Amtrak [northern California]: Capitol Corridor: * 90,304 passengers +7.5% vs FY02 and a record for the month * $ 913,710 ticket revenue +8.4% vs FY02 (EKS Editorial: This September record ridership was achieved even though on-time performance was still below the 90% standard- September was only 82.8% - however, since October 6, on-time performance has improved dramatically, especially on trains #527 and 538. Since October 6, only one day was at 83.3% (the lowest), and all the rest were between 87% and 100% on-time, including several 100% days, a most encouraging trend.) Pacific Surfliner: * 204,880 passengers +43.6% vs FY02 and a record for the month (Please note that this number includes the 24,741 Rail 2 Rail passengers from August that were not counted with the August results. Excluding the August Rail 2 Rail ridership would still have resulted in record ridership for September and a 26.3% increase vs FY02) * $ 2,689,138 ticket revenue +18.7% vs FY02 San Joaquins: * 56,132 passengers +8.2% vs FY02 and a record for the month * $ 1,673,678 ticket revenue +30.1% vs FY02 (Please note that a portion of the revenue reported in September is actually for buses from August that were not reported in time.) Eugene K. Skoropowski Managing Director Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority 1000 Broadway, Suite 604 Oakland, California 94607 e-mail: Telephone: 510.464.6990 Fax: 510.464.6901 =PTP================================================= Newstream October 2003 JetTrain High-Speed Rail Locomotive Rolls into Tampa Wednesday Morning, October 15, 10:00 A.M. Bombardier Transportation WHAT: The Bombardier¹ JetTrain¹ high-speed rail locomotive has arrived in Florida. After recent visits to Miami and Orlando, the next-generation locomotive will be at Tampa's Union Station, Track 3, Wednesday morning, October 15, at 10:00 a.m. With a jet engine placed in the heart of the JetTrain locomotive, it is the first non-electric high-speed rail solution designed for the American market. With top speeds exceeding 150 miles per hour, it offers passengers a new way to travel between cities every day in safety, comfort and speed. Bombardier is currently short listed with partner Fluor Corporation to design, build, operate and maintain Florida's first high-speed rail system that will link Tampa and Orlando and, ultimately, Orlando and Miami. The Fluor-Bombardier proposal features JetTrain technology - the only non- electric, FRA-compliant, high-speed rail technology in the world. Fluor Corporation and Bombardier Transportation are inviting members of the media for a technical briefing on the JetTrain technology, followed by a photo-op of the locomotive. WHO: Ms. Lecia Stewart, vice-president, High-Speed Rail, North America, Bombardier Transportation Mr. Jerry Holloway, director, Media Relations, Fluor Corporation WHEN & WHERE: Tampa - Wednesday, October 15, 2003 Media briefing: Tampa Union Station, 601 N. Nebraska Ave. Baggage Room 10:00 - 10:30 a.m. Photo-op: Tampa Union Station, 601 N. Nebraska Ave., Track #3 10:30 - 11:00 a.m. Public viewing: Tampa Union Station, 601 N. Nebraska Ave., Track #3 12:00 - 4:00 p.m. For more information on the Fluor-Bombardier proposal, visit For more information on the Bombardier JetTrain technology, visit ¹ Trademark of Bombardier Inc. and/or its subsidiaries --------------- Produced for Bombardier Contact: Stanton Communications Summer Stitz, 202-223-4933 202-270-6830 (Cell) =PTP================================================ 84&sec=business Star Publications (Malaysia) Tuesday October 14, 2003 KLIG confirms talks with govt BY K.P. LEE KL MONORAIL operator KL infrastructure Group Bhd (KLIG) has confirmed discussions were being held with the government that could eventually see the group or its holding company MTrans Holdings Sdn Bhd emerging as a key player in a consortium to manage an integrated public transport system for the federal capital. its managing director Patrick Wong Kim Fah however declined to reveal any details or the progress of the talks beyond saying that there was "still a lot of discussions but ongoing." Wong was responding to reporters' questions after the company's AGM in Kuala Lumpur yesterday on recent speculation that MTrans was part of a consortium with KUB Holdings Bhd and Datuk Mohd Nadzmi Salleh- controlled Nadicorp Holdings Sdn Bhd in talks with the government on managing the city's public transport assets. [PHOTO] A monorail station in Kuala Lumpur. - File Picture it has been reported that this group would likely integrate the Klang Valley's two light rail transit operations (Putra and STAR), the KL monorail, as well as bus operations previously owned by Park May Bhd and DRB-HICOM Bhd. But it is understood that the talks have not been proceeding as smoothly as expected. A source told StarBiz that MTrans' talks with the government to buy Projek Usahasama Transit Ringan Automatik Sdn Bhd and Sistem Transit Aliran Ringan, operators of the Putra and STAR light rail transit lines respectively, could have hit a sticky point: that of the huge debts of some RM6bil the two companies carry in their books. "Certainly no one wants to take on the massive assets and debts (of those companies)," said the source. When contacted later, KLIG executive director Lai Ying Choy declined to comment, but said "any proposals that are ongoing will be in the best interest of our shareholders." On the performance of KL Monorail, the company said the current daily users of the line, which started operations on Aug 31, was between 20,000 and 25,000 passengers on weekdays and exceeded 30,000 during the weekends. Lai said an operational break-even point would be reached with ridership of around 40,000 to 50,000 passengers, which should be achieved within a year. "We expect to have between 60,000 and 80,000 (passengers per day) about one year from now," Lai said, adding that the group had forecast revenue of RM50mil in the financial year ending April 2005, the first full year of KL Monorail's operations. However, the group would not be posting a profit until 2007 due to the high financing costs that would be charged to the accounts. =PTP============================================== Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Oct. 15, 2003 Officials advance electric bus study Review to proceed amid bid to shift funds to Metra train extension By LARRY SANDLER Local leaders voted Tuesday to keep a proposed $300 million Milwaukee electric bus system alive - despite a move to use its main funding source to extend Chicago's Metra commuter trains from Kenosha to Racine and Milwaukee. "The goal is to keep both of those projects moving forward, not to pit them against each other," said Jim Rowen, policy chief for Mayor John O. Norquist. The guided electric bus system has replaced light rail as the leading option in the Wisconsin Center District's Milwaukee Connector study of how to link downtown attractions and nearby neighborhoods with public transit. It could extend to Miller Park, the University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee area and the near north side. With preliminary study concluded, the project's four-member steering committee decided to move the project into a more detailed phase of study, Chairman Pete Beitzel said. The federal government would pay most of the estimated $3 million cost of the environmental review phase, and developer Gary Grunau has raised $400,000 in private money to cover the local share. Further study is needed to understand fully what the project would cost, how it could be done and how it could be financed, Beitzel said. Beitzel, a Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce vice president, said city Public Works Commissioner Mariano Schifalacqua and district President Dick Geyer joined him in a 3-0 vote to advance the connector study. County Executive Scott Walker has opposed guided electric buses, just as he opposed light rail. But Walker's representative on the connector committee, Milwaukee County Transit System Managing Director Tom Kujawa, skipped the meeting Tuesday to discuss his agency's 2004 budget at a County Board committee meeting, bus system spokesman Joe Caruso said. A 1999 agreement among Norquist, then-County Executive F. Thomas Ament and then-Gov. Tommy G. Thompson set aside $91.5 million in federal money to implement the results of the connector study. But with Walker's opposition stalling progress on the connector, Norquist and Walker agreed last month to seek state and federal approval to move the $91.5 million into the $152 million plan to extend Metra service. The state and federal governments have not yet acted on that request. Rowen said the connector project should move forward with the understanding that if it is not completed, the funding should go to the Metra extension. Beitzel said the connector study would consider that option. The one-year environmental review of the connector would be finished before the two years of preliminary engineering now starting on the Metra extension. This connector study phase also will look at whether the connector could be operated separately from the bus system if Walker refuses to participate, and at whether the project could be built in stages if money is not available for the full plan, Beitzel said. The Metra extension would run seven round trips daily, with three on weekends and holidays, to stations in downtown Milwaukee, Cudahy, South Milwaukee, Oak Creek, the Town of Caledonia, Racine, the Town of Somers and Kenosha. Planners expect most passengers to use the trains for short commuting or shopping trips rather than Milwaukee-to- Chicago service. =PTP=============================================== octa15oct15,1,4439125.story?coll=la-headlines-california Los Angeles Times October 15, 2003 ORANGE COUNTY OCTA Ready to Buy Land for CenterLine Agency will hire expert to help acquire right of way for the light-rail line from Santa Ana to airport. Norby says the move is premature. By David Reyes Times Staff Writer Orange County transportation leaders Tuesday approved spending $5.5 million to hire a right-of-way consultant to acquire property along the proposed 8.2-mile CenterLine light-rail route in Santa Ana. The agency has no specific contractor in mind but will put the job out to bid, an action that one transit board member, Orange County Supervisor Chris Norby, criticized as premature. Norby, who sits on the Orange County Transportation Authority board and is a CenterLine critic, argued that bids should be done after a decision is reached on whether Santa Ana or OCTA is responsible for acquiring property for the light-rail project. The key issues, Norby said, are time, organization and who will manage the land acquisition. "What happens when people don't want to sell their houses and appeal?" Norby said. "Aren't we putting the cart before the horse here?" At least 480 private properties lie along CenterLine's route, which roughly follows Bristol Street from the Santa Ana Regional Transportation Center to John Wayne Airport. The line is scheduled to open by the end of 2009. Those properties will be acquired, either through voluntary sales or eminent domain, after a consultant is hired by early next year. The consultant would handle title searches, appraisals, relocation plans and right-of-way management. The transportation authority has projected that all properties will be acquired and ready for construction by the end of 2007. Revenue to pay for the consultant will come from local gas taxes and Measure M, the sales tax approved by Orange County voters to fund transportation projects. Transit board member Cassie DeYoung initially challenged the agency's plan to hire the consultant because of the uncertainty of federal support for the project, estimated to cost $900 million. The federal government is supposed to provide 15% of the funding, but the transportation authority has yet to receive any word from Washington. The authority is competing for funds with transportation projects from across the country. DeYoung later voted for hiring a consultant. Norby said he was concerned about potential appeals from homeowners and other property owners. If only 5% of the estimated property owners appealed eminent domain action, 24 hearings would have to be held by either Santa Ana or the authority, he said. "I just hope those who support CenterLine really know what you are getting into here," Norby said. The vote was 8 to 2 to hire a consultant, with Norby and Supervisor Bill Campbell dissenting. A recent poll conducted by the Orange County Business Council showed that 55% of county residents who had an opinion on the CenterLine project support the light-rail project, even though it has been shortened repeatedly because of a lack of political support. =PTP================================================ Salt Lake Tribune TUESDAY October 14, 2003 S. Davis mayors OK transit master plan By Lori Buttars Mayors in six South Davis cities are fighting for their piece of the mass- transit pie. Leaders from Farmington, Centerville, Bountiful, West Bountiful, Woods Cross and North Salt Lake and county officials have signed off on an aggressive new master plan calling for a 1/2-cent tax hike in Weber, Davis and Salt Lake counties to fast-track $9.8 billion in Wasatch Front transit projects. The proposal includes bus rapid transit as an alternative mode of travel between Salt Lake City and south Davis County. Such a system -- with express buses traveling along dedicated street lanes and getting priority at traffic lights -- is part of the first phase of the new long-range plan that would be in place by 2012, according to Sam Klemm, spokesman for transportation planners at the Wasatch Front Regional Council. "Before that, we didn't have [south Davis County on the plan for widespread transit improvements] for about 20 years," Klemm said. Klemm says the plan, which also proposes light-rail extensions to Sugar House in Salt Lake City, Draper, the Salt Lake Valley's west side and Salt Lake City international Airport, is open for public comment until Nov. 4. The updated master plan is welcome news in south Davis County, where six mayors last year petitioned the WFRC for their own TRAX light- rail extension. Light rail to the north of Salt Lake City did not make the list for the next three decades. While bus rapid transit isn't TRAX, Bountiful Mayor Joe Johnson is warming to the idea. "Hey, it's a start," he says. "And there are a lot of benefits to it. It's more cost effective, and those buses can pull off main line and head up the street if they need to. That gives us an east-west option that won't be there with TRAX for years to come." Johnson's biggest concern is that voters will be turned off by the idea of raising taxes to pay for what they might perceive as only a "bus system." He says he remembers that crisp day in the fall 2001 when he went into the polling booth and voted in favor of increasing sales taxes a quarter- cent to pay for improved transit options in Davis County. "They might have said 'commuter rail' [on the ballot], but I -- and a lot of other people I know -- were thinking TRAX," he said. Commuter rail, a high-speed train system between Salt Lake City and Ogden with two Davis County stops, is planned to begin service by 2007. Officials from the six south Davis cities are chipping in $35,000 to help pay for a $100,000 feasibility study designed to gauge their citizens' support and which transportation modes fit with the county's needs. The study would also examine potential ridership and routes. The Utah Transit Authority is putting in $45,000, Salt Lake City is contributing $10,000 and Davis County is paying $10,000. South Davis County has nearly 250,000 residents. Projections show that number swelling to 500,000 by 2030. WFRC planners already know that half of the county's daily commuters travel into Salt Lake County for jobs. Traffic clogs interstate 15 for nearly five hours of rush-hour gridlock each weekday. With few alternatives for motorists along that narrow stretch between the Great Salt Lake and the Wasatch mountains, commutes can be completely shut down because of jackknifed semis, automobile fender- benders and construction. "Any time anything happens out here, you're done," says Layton resident Russell Kuck, who travels to downtown Salt Lake City each workday. "it's not safe to not have an alternative route when things like that come up, and they happen more often than you think." The study would show whether south Davis County could sustain its own intracity transit system in conjunction with I-15 and, eventually, the Legacy Highway -- a four-lane road planned for south Davis County -- and the new commuter-rail line. South Davis officials contend commuter rail and Legacy Highway are necessary, but an intracity rapid transit system is the missing piece to solving gridlock. "We are doing this assuming Legacy Highway gets built [and] assuming commuter rail gets going," said Centerville Mayor Michael Deamer. "This will be an assessment of our citizens' needs 20 to 30 years down the road with the idea that we will get TRAX one day." The mayors expect most residents are receptive to the idea. Bountiful's Johnson notes that TRAX didn't catch on with Salt Lake commuters until after it was built and people saw it in action. "If [TRAX] were here, I think people would already be using it," Johnson says. "Commuter rail is going to be great, but we are so close to Salt Lake City, and if you have to cross the freeway entrance to get on commuter rail, most of our residents are going to say 'to heck with it, I'll just drive.' " The biggest roadblock for residents might be other proposed county projects. Davis taxpayers are still in shock after last year when Davis County Commissioners proposed raising property taxes by 138 percent. Commissioners ended up raising taxes by 24 percent, but they made no secret that they will soon be back with plans to raise taxes again to pay for a bigger jail. "These are both services that people depend on government to provide," said Farmington Mayor David Connors. "Of the two, the transportation tax is probably a little more optional, but any forward- thinking individual knows that waiting on this will mean we are in such gridlock that we won't be able to react." =PTP=============================================== Arizona Republic Oct. 14, 2003 Saving trees a tall task for light-rail planners [PHOTO] Tom Tingle/The Arizona Republic Skyscrapers now tower over those old palms, which will be removed to make way for light rail. Planners want to return them to the same Central Avenue stretch. Historic palms on Central Angela Cara Pancrazio We have the native paloverde, saguaro and the ocotillo. So who would expect that the icon of Central Avenue would be an import? The palm trees that have guarded Central Avenue from McDowell Road to Encanto Boulevard in Phoenix for 101 years are California palms. And they now pose a costly challenge to city officials, who must move them twice because of the impending light-rail project. Dwight and Maie Heard, who established the Heard Museum on Central Avenue, brought them here. After building their home northeast of Central Avenue and Monte Vista Road in 1902, the Heards planted hundreds of palm trees along streets in the Los Olivos subdivision, including a double row along the east side of Central Avenue. The Heards believed the palms would lure buyers to the upscale neighborhood. As competition edged in, developers on the west side of Central Avenue copied the Heards' ploy. Now, the street must be widened to accommodate the two light-rail stations north of Encanto and south of McDowell and left turns for motor vehicles at McDowell, Palm Lane and Encanto. The city must preserve the stately palms because they are eligible for historic designation. Before construction begins next summer, light-rail officials must work with city and state historic preservation offices to decide how to deal with the trees. Back to Central The plan is to remove the 110 palm trees during construction, then return them to the same stretch on Central Avenue. The cost of removal, nursery storage and replanting is $3,000 per tree. "Historic properties are not just buildings," said Barbara Stocklin, the city's historic preservation officer. "Sites, objects and streetscapes can be historic." if this were the halcyon days of urban renewal in the 1960s, the trees would simply be knocked down in the name of progress. "With urban renewal and growth of the interstate highways, many historic resources were being bowled over," said Carl Wolf of the National Trust for Historic Preservation in Washington, D.C. Not anymore. By 1966, the National Transportation Act and National Historic Preservation Act were passed to stop haphazard demolition. Now the federal Transit Administration and the National Trust for Historic Preservation collaborate to blend progress while maintaining a sense of place. "If you relocate the trees do you destroy the historic fabric of Central?" asked Terry Phemister of Valley Metro. "It was our contention that, no, it does not. When the project is done, we will end up with a palm-tree lined streetscape." That suits Phoenix native Scott Leyva, 41. "They're stately and very Phoenix," Leyva said. "And if I were king for a day I would take Seventh Street, Seventh Avenue, McDowell Road and Thomas and give it back to the neighborhoods and make them tree-lined streets." Worries of damage Leyva is worried that moving the trees could damage them. "Being that old and tall, I would think a lot of them will expire if they are moved," he said. But Bill Benson, an 82-year-old Mesa resident and a date palm grower since 1949, said the trees would survive. "There are people equipped to do this correctly," Benson said. "I've grown palms from all over the world, in all that time I never sprayed one for disease, they're well adapted in this area, they can take a lot of drought." The effort is worth it, he said. "it's very unique, I mean to have a main street with tall palms like that. It reminds you of the tropics." Reach the reporter at or (602) 444-8126. =PTP============================================== 54987ba5db22a&ex=1067211046&pagewanted=print&position= New York Times October 15, 2003 Spate of Suicides illustrates the Railroads' Morbid Lure By RONALD SMOTHERS NEWARK, Oct. 14 — in Manville, N.J., last Friday a killer apparently tried to disguise his crime by placing the victim's body on the freight rail tracks, where it might be viewed simply as another suicide under the wheels of the 6:20 train. On Sunday in Morristown, Bruce DeHart, a construction worker putting in some overtime hours refurbishing the train station, noticed the hubbub around the station where a 37-year-old man had committed suicide by stepping into the path of an oncoming train. He thought for a moment that it was just another death of one of the homeless alcoholics who live in makeshift camps around the railroad tracks and occasionally meet their end there. Two weeks ago, when the blare of an express train horn sounded, only to have the train stopped screechingly at the Short Hills station, Jim Cook, the attendant at the Citgo Gas Station about 50 yards away, knew immediately what had happened. And on Tuesday, a motorcyclist who sped around a railroad crossing bar in Hazlet, in an apparent effort to beat the oncoming train, lost the race and was killed when the train struck him. There have been three suicides and one accidental death on the 975 miles of New Jersey Transit railroad tracks in the last two weeks. It began with an unemployed Short Hills banker who killed himself Sept. 29, and continued on Sunday with the suicide of James Thomas Kelly, 37, who was instrumental in organizing New Jersey residents who had been abused by priests. On the same day in Millington, a woman crouched down on the tracks in front of an oncoming train, a railroad spokeswoman said. The deaths continued further with the motorcyclist on Tuesday. But rather than an unexpected spike in such incidents, they are a reflection of a morbid fact of life in New Jersey. Death on the tracks — at the rate of about 25 a year — is common enough that residents near the tracks can sense the cues and New Jersey Transit officials have a regular counseling program in place for engineers and other crew members whose trains are involved in what they euphemistically call "critical incidents," whether they be accidents or suicides. "I've had three myself in 35 years of service, and I can still picture each one of them," said Bob Vallochi, general chairman of the union representing the commuter line's engineers. "I remember how I was treated then, when there was a more callous attitude of getting right back in the saddle. Now you don't have to just shut it out." Engineers like Mr. Vallochi and Wayne Pierson, who has been at the controls of locomotives for 38 years, insist that the incidents are not increasing. It is just the reporting of them that is increasing, they say, now that the rail lines are larger and publicly owned and touch on more and more commuter lives in the state's sprawling suburbs. And because the rail lines are so extensive, such "suicides by locomotive" or accidents are almost impossible to prevent, said Penny Bassett Hackett, a spokeswoman for New Jersey Transit. "You cannot fence in a railroad," she said. "Plus a fence is not a deterrent to anything because if a person wants to access the railroad tracks, they can." There were 27 deaths on New Jersey Transit tracks last year, and with the accident involving the motorcyclist today the number this year stands at 19, said Ms. Bassett Hackett. And lore among engineers nationwide is that the numbers increase rapidly during holiday periods. John Tolman, the assistant to the president of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, the national union for the train operators, said that the problem of death on the tracks is a national one. He said the union, the Federal Railway Agency and the railroads are currently two years into a study of how to best minister to the train crews who suffer this trauma. "And the commuter rail line is the primary place for people to commit suicide, largely because there are more frequent trains traveling at high speeds to populated areas," he said. Each incident leaves its own sad residue. in Morristown, where Mr. Kelly walked onto the tracks to be struck by a train early Sunday morning, Mohamed Ramadan, owner of Bagel Brothers, said that he didn't know the reasons behind the suicide, but offered his own curbside sense of a pervasive depression among his customers because of the economy. A group that once seemed more focused, hurried and directed seemed now more aimless and tentative. "I have noticed a lot of my customers that used to come in and grab a quick bite to eat are now staying for longer periods of time because they just don't have jobs to rush off to," he said. A way down the tracks of the Morris and Essex line in Short Hills, when Richard Josephs, an unemployed banker, stepped in front of a train near the Short Hills station Sept. 29 after strangling his 7-year-old son, people assumed the stresses of the economy were to blame. Mr. Cook, the gas station attendant, was still mystified by such a tragedy "in this day and age when all you need to do is throw up your hands and say, 'Help,' " in order to get counseling and assistance. The train station in Millington on the Somerset-Morris County border is the Millington Station Cafe, a coffee shop in a small, gray stone building whose eight windows are decorated with flower boxes sporting fuschia and white blooms. It was near the station on Sunday morning that Veronica Henderson, 53, a Basking Ridge resident, crouched down on the tracks in front of a New Jersey Transit train, according to Ms. Bassett Hackett. Melissa Ferrera, 19, a waitress at the station cafe for the last three years, was visibly troubled by the incident and found herself wondering if Ms. Henderson had been among the so many anonymous faces she waited on. Everyone was shocked and concerned, she said, adding that even the train horns had a different sound that day. "They seemed more melancholy," she said.
PTP Digest 2003/10/14-A = CONTENTS * Houston: 'Metro rail supporters strike back' Houston Chronicle Oct. 13, 2003 * Houston: Rail foe tries, fails to block election Houston Chronicle Oct. 13, 2003 * Cincinnati: intrigues of regional road/LRT decision CINCINNATI POST 10-13-2003 * Orlando plan loss shows US voters balking at new transport taxes USA Today Oct. 12, 2003 =PTP============================================= Houston Chronicle Oct. 13, 2003 Metro rail supporters strike back with own ads By LUCAS WALL After two weeks of fending off blows from opponents of Metro's transit plan, light rail supporters took the offensive Monday, unveiling a logo and television advertising campaign urging "Vote YES! Rail/Buses/Roads/No New Taxes." Their call was backed Monday by the endorsement of a black ministers' coalition. Rail foes, including U.S. Rep. John Culberson, R-Houston, have battered proponents of Metro's Nov. 4 transit-expansion referendum in recent weeks, accusing the transit authority of inflating its sales-tax and federal- funding estimates. Texans for True Mobility, an organization formed last month by developer Michael Stevens, is sponsoring ads urging voters to defeat the proposition. At a news conference turned pep rally Monday afternoon at Mount Sinai Baptist Church in The Heights, leaders of the black community extolled the value of extending Houston's first light rail line, set to open Jan. 1. "If you don't want to ride in your car, you ought to have an alternative kind of transportation," said Samuel Gilbert, president of the Houston Metropolitan Baptist Ministers Conference and a member of the Metropolitan Transit Authority's board of directors. "We are still bickering and dividing the community over something that should have been done at least 30 years ago." Mayor Lee Brown, unable to seek re-election due to term limits, used the rally to make his first public endorsement of the referendum. "We must work now to prevent future gridlock," Brown said. "Without taking care of the transportation needs of our city, Houston goes backward." Brown said people will not want to visit or relocate to Houston if it remains "a city of creeping traffic and air quality that is heavy with emissions." The transit-expansion plan voters weigh next month, which includes a $640 million bond issue to accelerate construction of the next 22 miles of light rail, will be a huge benefit to the black community, Gilbert said. His said his conference represents 225 pastors and more than 100,000 churchgoers, mostly inner-city minorities whose votes are considered crucial for passage of Metro's plan. The organized opponents of rail expansion are mostly white conservatives who reside outside Loop 610. Gilbert said the majority of Metro's bus riders today are minorities who deserve better transit service. "Most people in our community don't drive these high-powered cars. They are the ones who really need the transportation," Gilbert said after the rally. "We're trying to put the first piece [of rail] in the inner-city." Another group of black ministers plans a news conference today to announce its opposition to the Metro plan. Bobby Mills, an associate pastor at Pleasant Grove Missionary Baptist Church, said the Baptist Ministers Association is afraid Metro will divert funds to light rail and shortchange bus service. At Monday's announcement, State Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, said residents who live beyond the Loop should support the transit plan as well because trains will never reach the suburbs if the Main Street line is not expanded. "This is the first installment on a major transportation system," said Turner, who Gilbert's conference has endorsed for mayor. "You can't get there until you vote 'yes' on Nov. 4." Several speakers pointed out Houston is the only large American city without rail transit and its future is at stake if voters decline to expand the first line. "Once we have done this, I think we will be on our road to creating the sort of city that can be more than competitive," Turner said. Bill White, another mayoral candidate supports the Metro plan, while Orlando Sanchez opposes it. After the event, Citizens for Public Transportation showed its first television commercial. The political action committee, led by developer Ed Wulfe, touts the benefits of light rail over traffic-clogged freeways in the ads. They began broadcasting Monday. "This gets the message out there that the train is sleek, it's modern, it helps reduce pollution, and obviously it relieves congestion," Wulfe said, "in spite of what Stevens says." =PTP=============================================== Houston Chronicle Oct. 13, 2003, 10:34PM Rail opponent's complaint is dismissed Metro board member's residency was questioned By LUCAS WALL The Harris County clerk on Monday dismissed a complaint by a rail opponent seeking to keep Metro's transit-expansion referendum off the Nov. 4 ballot because one of its Houston-appointed board members does not live in the city. Al Hartman, in an Oct. 1 letter to Clerk Beverly Kaufman, questioned whether Don Wang's residence violates a Houston city ordinance requiring that mayoral appointments reside in the city. Wang lives in Piney Point, one of six villages surrounded by the west side of Houston. Kaufman responded to Hartman's complaint Monday, saying that legal opinions by Houston and the Metropolitan Transit Authority both find that Wang's appointment is valid because the city ordinance applies only to city boards and commissions. Metro is a regional authority. Also, the opinions state, Metro is governed by a state law that requires only that its board members reside in the transit service area. Piney Point is one of the 15 cities, plus parts of unincorporated Harris County, that belong to Metro. "Based on this information and the fact that as a contracting officer for the conduct of elections on behalf of Metro," Kaufman wrote Hartman, "my office has no official jurisdiction to prevent the printing/development of ballots for the Nov. 4, 2003, joint election, we will continue to move forward with our election preparations." Hartman said he understands Kaufman's opinion and does not plan to appeal. However, he said, it is outrageous that Mayor Lee Brown would appoint a resident of another city to one of Houston's five Metro board seats. Piney Point and 13 other small cities have two representatives on Metro's board, and Harris County also has two. Wang was in the majority two months ago when Metro's board voted 5-4 to place the transit-expansion plan on the ballot. Hartman contended that if Wang was in violation of the law, his vote must be invalidated. That would have resulted in a 4-4 tie causing the "Metro Solutions" proposal to fail. "Even though technically it's legal, it doesn't make any common sense" to have a city board member who doesn't live in Houston, Hartman said. Hartman lives in Houston and runs a management company that owns and operates commercial properties. Hartman said he has given money to Texans for True Mobility, an organization fighting Metro's plan but declined to say how much. Brown defended his appointment of Wang, describing him as "a good businessman who cares about our city and gives his time to the Metro board." Wang is chairman of MetroBank, which has nine area branches and is unaffiliated with the transit authority. "He does not have to live in the city," Brown said. "it's a metropolitan board." The mayor called Hartman's complaint "another desperate grasp at trying to defeat something that is good for the city." Wang could not be reached for comment. =PTP=========================================== CINCINNATI POST 10-13-2003 EDITORIAL A curious approach The decision-making process for highway projects has long been shrouded in fog, even for those who keep up with local government. It's never quite clear who really decides what will happen, or when, or how it all is paid for. in this respect the deliberations over rebuilding I-75 between the Ohio River and Dayton has been unusually transparent. The broad-picture options have been developed, reviewed and voted on by a committee of the Ohio-Kentucky-indiana Regional Council of Governments that included representatives of the communities within the I-75 right of way. The option picked by the committee -- widening the highway to at least four through lanes, along with a light rail line in the I-75 corridor -- was then sent to the full OKI board, which last week endorsed the proposal. Still, there are aspects of the decision, and the process, that are, well, peculiar. Consider: * The vote on what will be the single largest public works project in recent memory -- the official cost estimate is $1.8 billion, but the actual cost will likely be much higher -- comes at a time when OKI has no executive director. Former director Jim Duane's retirement took effect last month, and OKI's search committee has yet to name a successor. * With only three dissenting votes, OKI's governing board (those who showed up, anyway) gave its blessing to the widening/light rail plan. But the three "No'' votes came from people who represent the largest political subdivisions along I-75 within Hamilton County: Cincinnati, Norwood and the Hamilton County Commissioners. John Cranley, a member of Cincinnati City Council, voted no because the plan doesn't widen the highway through the city enough to suit him; he's concerned that with traffic moving more freely in the suburbs, bottlenecks will develop on the portion of I-75 within the city. (Then again, even though he represents Cincinnati on the OKI board he really didn't, because Cincinnati City Council voted to endorse the expansion/light rail plan.) Hamilton County Commissioner John Dowlin (accurately reflecting the majority position at his shop) voted "No,'' mainly because he thinks light rail would be a waste of money and do little to relieve congestion. He also wants OKI to promote short-term measures (including an I-75 truck ban) to reduced congestion. Norwood City Council member MaryAnn Burwinkel cited concerns about property that might be taken for a light rail line. * OKI endorsed the lane expansion-light rail combination even though the prospects for funding the $1 billion light rail project are, to put it mildly, uncertain. Put it this way: transit systems here and across the country are having an increasingly difficult time paying even for bus service; Washington is already inundated with light rail funding requests; Ohio has a constitutional prohibition against the use of state gasoline tax revenues for non-highway purposes; and Hamilton County voters last year overwhelmingly rejected a sales tax for a light rail/expanded bus system. * Even though the near-term prospects for light rail are slim, and even though the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority isn't trying to revive the rail plan, Hamilton County commissioners have just named two overt light rail opponents to SORTA's seven-member governing board. Dowlin says the new appointees, Stephan Louis (who led opposition to the rail plan last year) and Daniel Peters (president of the Buckeye institute, a conservative think tank), while they oppose rail, support bus-based transit. That assertion has been greeted with deep suspicion by transit advocates; frankly, it's hard to imagine Louis or Peters hitting the stump to promote, say, a countywide or regional tax to expand the bus system (something that should have happened three decades ago.) Now here's the most mysterious aspect of all. Even though OKI is leaderless and is saddled with an over-large, unwieldy governing board, even though there is deep dissention over the I-75 "preferred alternative'' that OKI just adopted, even though prospects for light rail are dim, even though the region's largest transit board is being salted with appointees whose affinity for transit is questionable, the sky is not falling. indeed, for I-75, the essential pieces of the rebuilding project are going forward in a fairly rational way. The first contracts will soon be let for preliminary design work to upgrade the most dangerous interchanges. The road-widening plan that OKI approved is as restrained as one could hope -- we're not going to widen I-75 monstrously -- and should indeed move cars and trucks more quickly, safely and efficiently. A study has been ordered to investigate ways to encourage the movement of freight off trucks and onto railroad cars. But that outcome, it would appear, comes in spite of, not because of, the governing processes of the institutions responsible for transportation in Greater Cincinnati. =PTP=============================================== USA Today Oct. 12, 2003 Nation's voters put brakes on taxes for transportation Dennis Cauchon The defeat of a proposal to raise taxes for road construction in Orlando had none of the drama of Arnold Schwarzenegger's campaign to become governor of California. But what happened Tuesday may be even more telling about the recent anti-tax drift of voters in state and local politics. By 54 to 46 percent, Orlando voters rejected a half-cent sales tax increase that would have raised $2.6 billion over 20 years to expand highways, build sidewalks and bike paths and start a light-rail system. The defeat surprised political and business leaders who had spent about $2 million to support the proposal, referred to as the Mobility 20/20 plan. Polls had predicted the tax would win easy approval. Also on Tuesday, California voters rejected, 64 to 36 percent, a proposition that would have required the Legislature to dedicate more money to infrastructure projects such as roads. "There's an undercurrent of mistrust of government out there, and we rode it all the way to the beach," said Doug Guetzloe, chairman of Ax the Tax, which opposed the Orlando proposal. He said the California recall helped defeat the Orlando transportation proposal by focusing attention on how government mismanages money. The transportation issue was the only item on the ballot in Orlando, but the 23 percent voter turnout was higher than voting officials had expected. The Orlando vote was one of a string of failed tax efforts in the past month. • in Alabama, voters rejected a $1.2 billion overhaul of the state's tax system that was proposed by Republican Gov. Bob Riley and supported by many business leaders. • in Seattle, voters rejected, 68 to 32 percent, a proposal to tax espresso coffee to fund day care for the poor. As in Orlando, polls had predicted the espresso tax would pass easily. Transportation projects might be most affected by the anti-tax sentiment. The average American spends 51 minutes a day commuting, the Census Bureau says. Cash-strapped state and local governments have increasingly asked voters to approve special taxes for transportation projects. Last year, there were 42 state and local transportation initiatives; half passed. On Nov. 4, citizens from Maine to Washington state will vote on transportation proposals. State and local spending on roads fell 7.7 percent in the first eight months of 2003 vs. 2002, the American Road and Transportation Builders Association says. Advocates for more spending on roads complain that states have raided funds dedicated for roads and used the money to balance budgets. "We're destroying the trust of the voters when we don't do what we promise on transportation projects," said Doug Callaway, president of Floridians for Better Transportation, a business and local government group that advocates more highway spending. Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and the Legislature took $200 million from that state's transportation fund this year and spent it elsewhere, Callaway said. The Orlando proposal would have expanded interstate 4, which runs through Orlando and near Disney World, by adding four toll lanes next to the eight free ones. Critics called these "Lexus" lanes because affluent people would be the drivers most likely to pay tolls for uncrowded highways. U.S. Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., a member of the House Transportation Committee, said the toll lanes, more than anti-tax sentiment, doomed the Orlando transportation proposal. "it's hard to pass even a small tax increase in down economic times, but it would have passed if it hadn't been for the toll roads," said Mica, whose district includes Orlando suburbs. He said the country is facing a serious road problem because of inadequate federal funding and an unwillingness of local voters to pay for improvements. Republican leaders in Congress want to raise the 18.4-cent-per-gallon federal gas tax by 5 to 12 cents. President Bush opposes a gas tax increase. Federal highway spending, which is approved every six years, was supposed to be determined last month. Dispute over the gas tax forced Congress to extend the old program by five months while it negotiates with the White House. For drivers, the results may be a trade-off: lower taxes, but more time in cars.
PTP Digest 2003/10/13-A = CONTENTS * Houston: Great Debate over rail plan Houston Chronicle Oct. 12, 2003 * Houston eyes Dallas's LRT success, while foes decry 'failure' Houston Chronicle Oct. 12, 2003 * Houston: Myths, facts on Metro Solutions rail/transit plan Houston Transportation Bulletin October 7, 2003 * Austin pol touts 'commuter' rail, disses LRT Austin Business Journal October 6, 2003 * Boston Silver Line BRT: New artic's wheel falls off Boston Herald Tuesday, October 7, 2003 * Boston Silver Line BRT: New artic buses have noise, vibration Boston Globe 10/12/2003 * Phoenix: Transit agency preps community for LRT construction The Arizona Republic Oct. 12, 2003 =PTP========================================= Houston Chronicle Oct. 12, 2003 Fight over rail goes head-to-head Local congressmen, others state their cases in TV debate By LUCAS WALL Two local members of Congress and leaders of the major groups supporting and opposing Metro's Nov. 4 transit-expansion referendum squared off face-to-face for the first time in a televised debate Sunday morning. The discussion, broadcast on KPRC-TV Channel 2's half-hour Newsmakers program, allowed the parties to sit down and confront each other after a couple weeks of trading barbs through oft-heated letters and news conferences. Rep. Nick Lampson, D-Beaumont, said that over time Metro's plan to add 22 miles of light rail by 2012 will reduce traffic congestion. But that's not the most important issue voters need to weigh, he said. "It is more about choices and making sure we compete with the rest of the communities in the country, to make sure people have the choices to be able to travel in a manner in which they want," Lampson said. "They need to have options to avoid getting into an automobile." Rep. John Culberson, R-Houston, continued his attack of the Metropolitan Transit Authority proposition, which includes a $640 million bond issue to accelerate construction of those 22 rail miles. "Every dollar we spend is so precious that it must be directed at projects that will reduce congestion and improve travel time," Culberson said. "My principal concern and objection to Metro's plan is that they admit themselves it will not reduce congestion. It deals with only 1 percent of people using our roads yet will cost up to $9 billion. So we simply can't afford it. We need to solve 100 percent of our traffic problems, not just 1 percent." Metro takes issue with several of Culberson's contentions. The transit authority has said that adding light rail might not reduce current traffic congestion because of the phenomenal population growth projected for Harris County. However, Metro consultant Steve Beard has said the problem will only get worse if some form of rapid transit is not built. The transit authority's projections indicate 1.1 percent of Harris County residents will ride light rail in 2025. But, Metro points out, it's unfair to measure light rail's success by the entire county's population since many residents are schoolchildren, homemakers or retirees who do not make typical work commutes. Light rail will have a great impact in certain corridors, Metro argues, pointing out its bus system today carries about one-fourth of work trips into downtown. Ed Wulfe, a developer who chairs Citizens for Public Transportation, said light rail absolutely will have an impact on traffic. "Every time you take one car off the road and put [the driver] on a public transportation system, light rail or bus, it reduces congestion one at a time," Wulfe said. "The fact is you've got to get people off the roads." Edd Hendee, treasurer of the Texans for True Mobility political action committee, pushed the group's message of more highway investment. "You can't spend all your transit money on a plan that takes one car off the road. We need something that allows us room to drive our cars," said Hendee, a westside businessman and part-time host on conservative talk radio. Hendee cited statistics showing the number of vehicles in Harris County since 1990 has exceeded new highway lane miles by four times. "If you've got 43 percent more cars and only 11 percent more roads, you've got a road problem, you don't have a train problem," Hendee said. Rail opponents contend there's not enough money available for Metro's plan. Lampson responded that adding trains will reduce the need for more highway construction, something he said the region definitely can't afford. The Houston-Galveston Area Council has estimated the metropolitan area will need more than $11 billion in additional money beyond current funding sources if it is to reduce traffic congestion by 2025 with more asphalt and concrete. And that estimate does not include buying right of way, which would add several billion more dollars to the pricetag and destroy numerous homes and businesses. "If the money is short for this project, it is certainly going to be short three times more to go for the 100 percent [highway] solution," Lampson said. "We are taking a positive step right now to give people a choice." This article is: =PTP============================================= Houston Chronicle Oct. 12, 2003 Dallas' light rail going full steam Transit debaters here look to city's successes, problems By LUCAS WALL DALLAS -- Those fighting for more light rail in Houston look here with envy at crowded trains, full Park & Ride lots at rail stations and an estimated $1.3 billion in economic development along the tracks. Opponents of expanding Metro's Main Street line, which is set to open Jan. 1, cast a different eye north to the only Texas city with light rail operating. They view it as a failure and are citing the budget woes of Dallas Area Rapid Transit as an example of why Houston voters must reject the Nov. 4 transit-expansion referendum. "Dallas has invested billions in light rail, and it did not work," said Michael Stevens, chairman of the coalition opposing the Metropolitan Transit Authority's $4.6 billion expansion proposition. "They are broke. They have cut back bus service, they are cutting light rail service back, and they haven't relieved congestion." Though Metro's plan includes 44 extra bus routes, additional HOV lanes and $774 million in new road work, the debate is squarely focused on whether light rail will improve mobility and spur dense, pedestrian-friendly development. The proposal includes a $640 million bond issue to accelerate construction of the next 22 miles of light rail by 2012. Stevens' group, Texans for True Mobility, is blasting DART, including in a four-page color ad mailed to thousands of Houston-area voters last week as Dallas-area commuters saw cuts in their bus and train service. "Dallas already tried this experiment, and it has failed," the ad states. "Dallas has 44 miles of light rail, but their mass transit system is actually losing ridership and cutting routes. Also, they are facing a $37 million shortfall and have had to ask for federal assistance." DART executives acknowledge these are tough times because of a slump in sales-tax collections but say it is erroneous to blame the troubles on their $1.9 billion light rail system. "We're not going broke," said DART President and Executive Director Gary Thomas, dismissing the notion with a laugh. Thomas and his colleagues brag about the success of their rail system. They point to increased ridership as the lines have been extended and tout their economic benefits, taking a reporter to numerous apartments, stores, restaurants, offices and hotels that have sprouted along the rail line since its 1996 opening. "Sales tax revenue throughout the country is not doing as well as it had throughout the 1990s," Thomas said. "That's nothing associated with light rail. That's just part of the economy." DART last week eliminated 16 bus routes, modified 39 routes and increased the time between midday trains from 15 to 20 minutes. Earlier this year, it pushed back completion of the next light rail line from 2007 to 2010, laid off dozens of employees and requested $18 million in maintenance funds from the federal government. Thomas described the request as routine, noting that Metro uses federal funds to extend the life of its buses. But rail opponents in Houston have pounced on DART's shortfall, arguing such a fate awaits Metro if voters give the green light, because light rail is too expensive. Thomas said such claims are "disconcerting." Sue Bauman, DART vice president for marketing and communications, said Houston rail critics are so obsessed with budget numbers, they are missing the real story: Light rail "has changed the urban face of Dallas" and is tremendously popular. "The people up here like this project," Bauman said. "Our problem is we can't build it fast enough. It's liked in all parts of the city. More parts of the city want it; they are supportive. The suburban areas want it. Cities that are not even in DART want it, and we can't provide it." interviews with DART passengers during a recent Friday afternoon rush hour found heaps of praise for rail. Glynnis Slater, gazing out the window of a Red Line train zooming to Plano, said her drive to work downtown was horrendous, in terms of time and money, after she and her husband moved to the northern suburb. "When we bought the house out here, I was slowly going crazy because of the bumper-to-bumper traffic," Slater said. "For me, it's great because it's not just saving money -- obviously there's the economics of it -- but for me DART's done a good job of keeping it clean, keeping it safe. "The fact is, I'm not coming home ready to scream." DART officials also speak proudly of the development spawned by the rail lines. Thomas said real estate agents have told him that "a large percentage of their market wants to live near a rail station. They want to be close to what's going on and want to be close to transportation alternatives." At Mockingbird station in north Dallas, an urban village has emerged with 211 luxury lofts, a movie theater, restaurants, offices and shops. Across the tracks, there are another 500 new apartments. Between two downtown rail stops, a 1,900-room Adam's Mark has opened -- the largest hotel in Texas. The city center now contains the revamped West End entertainment district, a new basketball arena, renovated office towers and more residences. DART trains run through downtown along streets turned into a European-style pedestrian mall. To the south, the old, industrial Cedars area has recently become home to Dallas police headquarters and projects such as the conversion of an old Sears warehouse into South Side on Lamar, a 455-loft residential complex near the DART station. The building includes a coffee shop, minimart, video store, flower shop, dry cleaners and other services. "What you've got going here is this development community overcoming two big stereotypes," said Peter Coughlin, who manages South Side. "One is that rail won't work in a Sunbelt city. But Dallas is responding to light rail and mass transit. Another thing is that you can't come into an urban area and turn it around. We're doing that." Even the suburbs are benefiting, with 450 new apartments built adjacent to the downtown Plano station. Rail supporters in Houston salivate over the thought of dense development along proposed lines inside Loop 610. They hope light rail will help end the perception of Houston as one of the nation's ugliest, most spread out, car-dependent, congested and polluted cities. "Their success with the projects that have occurred along the transit stops has been phenomenal," said Ed Wulfe, the developer leading the Houston committee campaigning for more trains. Critics dispute that light rail brings development, however. "Those projects were planned long before the rail line," Stevens said. "The reality is that if you are looking for results, a renovation or two is far from the revitalization of a community." But nearly every light rail passenger interviewed in Dallas advised Houstonians to vote for the mass transit referendum. Becky Zukosky of Sachse, standing in a packed Blue Line train as it zipped along at 65 mph in a subway tunnel heading out of downtown, said the light rail has helped relieve the traffic flow for those still driving cars. "I've been to Houston many, many times, and they should have started this years ago," she said. "They've come to the point now where they have to do something, and mass transit like this would definitely solve a lot of their problems." [SIDEBAR] DALLAS AREA RAPID TRANSIT ·FY 2004 operating budget: $288 million ·Shortfall from original projection: $37 million ·Federal maintenance funds requested: $18 million ·Cuts to bus service: $10 million ·Bus routes deleted last week: 16 ·Bus routes modified: 39 ·Minutes between midday trains: Was 15; now 20 ·Estimated riders lost due to last week's cuts: 3,000 ·Last year's fare increase: Was $1; now $1.25 DART subsidies per passenger by mode: ·Light rail: $2.65 ·Bus: $4.06 ·Commuter rail: $6.23 This article is: =PTP================================================= Houston Transportation Bulletin October 7, 2003 _____________________________ The Metro Solutions plan to greatly improve transit in the Houston region will come to a vote on November 4. To help increase understanding of the proposal and of transit's place in the greater transportation picture, the Gulf Coast institute will publish a series of educational bulletins. ... Transit myths "Transit doesn't reduce congestion" Fact: transit plays a significant role in reducing congestion growth. The existing Houston transit system reduced travel delay in 2001 by 19,795,000 hours(1). Transit Facts in the past six years, public transportation ridership in the US has grown by more than 24 percent, faster than highway or air travel. The equivalent of almost a million new trips on public transportation were added each day in 2001(2). Economic Benefits Businesses realize a $15 million increase in sales for each $10 million in transit operations spending, or a return 1.5 times investment over the long term. Additionally, businesses realize a $17 million increase in sales for each $10 million in transit capital investment, for a return of 1.7 times investment(3). Energy For every mile traveled, public transportation uses about one half of the fuel consumed by automobiles, and about a third of that used by sport utility vehicles(4). Existing Light Rail in the first quarter of 2003, light rail ridership in Dallas was up 46.27 percent over the same period in 2002. Total transit ridership was up 5.4 percent over that same period(5). Metro Solutions The November 4 vote will fund the beginning of the 22-year Metro Solutions plan. Metro estimates it will complete full bus system expansion and 22 miles of rail during the first ten years. This vote will authorize the sale of just $640,000,000 in bonds for this purpose. In 2009, voters will return to the polls to authorize financing for the remaining portions of the plan. No new taxes are proposed(6). Metro Facts Rail opponents often say that Metro only serves one percent of the trips in the region. But the Metro service area only covers a small percent of the region. It serves 4 percent of all the trips in the service area at morning peak hour, and 26 percent of all trips to the Central Business District at that time. That number is projected to rise to 43 percent by 2025(7). Historical Trends After World War II, transit ridership experienced a decline due to inexpensive fuel and government policies favoring suburban development and financing the interstate highway system. By 1972, ridership had dropped to a low of 6.5 billion trips. Ridership rose gradually to 9.7 billion trips in 2002. Reasons for the increase include a strong economy, improved customer service, and higher levels of investment in public transportation resulting from 1991 federal legislation and succeeding funding bills(8). "100 Percent Solution Plan" Rail opponents say that, instead of the Metro plan, the Houston region should adopt something called the "100 Percent Solution Plan," which is being prepared by the Houston-Galveston Area Council (H-GAC). But the 100 Percent Solution Plan is not a plan. It's more of a study, according to H-GAC's transportation manager Alan Clark. Federal law prohibits the agency from planning and programming projects for which they have no identified funding. The 100 Percent Solution Plan currently includes projects that have no identified revenue sources as well as those that do have identified sources. For example, the 100 Percent Solution Plan says the region needs to add 10,703 new lane-miles at a cost of $21 billion to help reduce congestion. Currently, the agency has not identified to the public funding for about half that amount(9). Sources: 1. 2003 Urban Mobility Report, Exhibit A-6, published by the Texas Transportation institute. September 2003. 2. 2003 Public Transportation Fact Book, American Public Transportation Association, page v. 3. Public Transportation and the Nation's Economy, Cambridge =PTP============================================= [PTP NOTE: While a local legislator's enthusiasm for rail transit for the Austin area is welcome, some caveats and "reality checks" are in order regarding the following article. First, the most likely immediate candidate route for regional rail ("commuter" rail) is the Leander-Austin line, which is owned by Capital Metro, the transit agency. Bare-bones rail transit could be implemented on this (assuming voter approval, or a waiver of state legislation) at relatively low cost. However, for such a service, ridership is projected in the 2,000-4,000/day range, vs. approximately 32,000/day for the central light rail transit (LRT) route proposed in 2000. (Note that the 11,000/day figure cited in the article corresponds to the entire 110-mile railroad corridor between suburbs north of Austin and south to San Antonio) The statement that the Leander-Austin route "runs next to the old Robert Mueller Municipal Airport" is inaccurate. The railway is approximately a quarter mile (0.4 km) west of the periphery of the airport, separated by an intervening neighborhood, business establishments, and a major arterial (Airport Blvd.). Second, the other two alignments suggested present major obstacles to rail transit use which must be addressed and overcome if there is any hope for implementing rail transit in these corridors. The Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR) right-of-way, through Austin's west side, is the UPRR's north-south main line, and the principle railway route for NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) traffic, handling at least 20 trains a day, as the article notes. Much of this is single-tracked with constricted ROW width, including a single-track bridge over the Colorado River. Clearly, use of this line for frequent regional passenger rail service faces serious challenges, and the prospect of inducing the UPRR to "move" or otherwise "stop" its freight operations is daunting. The third route mentioned, "a section of rail line that the Texas Department of Transportation owns ... east of I-35 along the planned State Highway 130", apparently refers to the remains of the abandoned Missouri-Kansas Texas (MKT, or "Katy") Railroad on the far east side of the city, unused for nearly 3 decades. The conversion of portions of this route to transit use is a plausible possibility. Another possibility is its conversion to an alternate route, or bypass, for relocating the UPRR, freeing up the UP's current alignment through the western portion of central Austin. However, some of the Katy ROW is no longer intact, and southern extension of this line (e.g., as a bypass for the UPRR) faces the need to bridge the Colorado River. Adaptation of this route would require substantial civil works and financial investment. While the Leander-Austin line might be a project within reach, the prospect of renovating all three of these proposed routes for regional rail transit service within a budget of $100 million and a 3-year timeframe invites considerable skepticism.] Austin Business Journal October 6, 2003 EXCLUSIVE REPORTS Local commuter rail on track Rep. Krusee promotes system as cheaper alternative to light rail Giselle Greenwood and Mary Alice Kaspar Austin Business Journal Staff Aiming to curb traffic congestion in Central Texas, a state lawmaker is pushing for three commuter rail routes in the region at a projected cost of less than $100 million. One Central Texas businessman says the commuter rail system would drive economic development to areas that typically have been overlooked. Rep. Mike Krusee, R-Taylor, who is chairman of the House Transportation Committee and an opponent of the long-discussed light rail system for Austin, says: "Commuter rail is cheaper, faster and less disruptive to create. We have the opportunity to do something at a fraction of the price." Under Krusee's plan, rail routes that would be converted for commuter traffic are: The Union Pacific Corp. freight rail line. It runs parallel to MoPac Expressway between San Marcos and Taylor. The Austin-to-Leander line owned by the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority. It runs next to the old Robert Mueller Municipal Airport. A section of rail line that the Texas Department of Transportation owns. It is east of I-35 along the planned State Highway 130. Krusee says the commuter rail system could be completed in less than three years and cost less than $100 million. Austin voters narrowly defeated Cap Metro's referendum on light rail in November 2000. The estimated price tag for the 20-mile initial phase of Austin's light rail system was $919 million. State legislation or an election would be required before Cap Metro could put passenger traffic on any rail lines, Krusee says. That's because previous legislation driven by Krusee requires Cap Metro to hold an election before transporting people on fixed routes. Krusee says that law was meant to ensure Cap Metro seeks voter approval for light rail. Krusee says he will consider amending the law during the Texas Legislature's 2005 session so Cap Metro could operate commuter rail without voter approval. The next step is to get Cap Metro, TxDOT and Union Pacific on board with the plan. The biggest hurdle is stopping Union Pacific from using the freight line. "UP is cooperating," Krusee says. "They see the value in it." Union Pacific spokesman Mark Davis says: "it's something we've been working with state and various agencies over the years, and we're studying their proposals." The railroad has about 20 trains a day traveling between San Marcos and Round Rock. Part of the equation includes Amtrak, which is under contract agreement with Union Pacific to put passenger trains on the railroad's line. Amtrak would be involved with negotiations with the commuter rail group if it is formed, Davis says. Krusee's proposal calls for installing sound barriers in neighborhoods that border MoPac, which is adjacent to the Union Pacific line. Mike Weaver, principal of Austin transportation planning firm Prime Strategies Inc., says Krusee's plan is reasonable. "Right now, the most important thing is to convince UP to move," Weaver says. "If UP moves, then it opens up a lot of opportunities." Cap Metro's line would be the easiest to convert and sits near the Austin Convention Center, an area that likely would generate a fair amount of commuter rail traffic. Cap Metro spokesman Rick Lamie says the agency supports commuter rail. "Commuter rail is important to Capital Metro because it will be a vital part of transportation for the region," Lamie says. "it'll cost less and give you more." TxDOT also seems to support Krusee's plan. The state agency has drafted preliminary recommendations that call for creation of an umbrella group to launch commuter rail in Austin. A draft document from TxDOT states that having a centralized group -- comprising representatives of Cap Metro, TxDOT and the Austin-San Antonio inter-Municipal Commuter Rail District -- coordinate commuter rail plans will "facilitate a more efficient process, provide seamless connectivity, prevent duplication of effort, and terminate the fragmentation of authority." The draft document from TxDOT also reinforces the idea of relocating Union Pacific's freight rail lines. Bob Tesch, chairman of the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority, owns and operates the Oakmont Business Park in Cedar Park. He says commuter rail would boost businesses in areas that have been given short shrift. "This is really a quality-of-life issue. It's also about businesses having greater opportunities," Tesch says. "Commuter rail will not only increase the standard of living but will also affect economic development." "Commuter rail utilizes resources that are already in place," Tesch says. "For a small amount of capital outlay, a large amount of mobility can occur." A 1999 study from TxDOT predicted a commuter rail corridor between the Austin and San Antonio areas would carry nearly 11,000 passengers a day in 2020. The study found a new 110-mile system between San Antonio and Georgetown, a suburb 30 miles north of Austin, would cost $250 million to $475 million. But there's also an economic development cost associated with the continually clogged traffic in the Austin area. The region's transportation system was listed as a key stumbling block for the area's growth in a recent report prepared by Atlanta-based Market Street Services Inc. Austin commuters spent 30 extra hours idling in traffic in 2001, wasting travel time at a higher pace than their counterparts in other Texas cities, according to an annual study released Sept. 30 by the Texas Transportation institute at Texas A&M University. Email GISELLE GREENWOOD at ( Email MARY ALICE KASPAR at ( =PTP=============================================== Boston Herald Tuesday, October 7, 2003 Rear wheels fall off bus on Silver Line by Thomas Caywood An MBTA Silver Line bus loaded with passengers ground to an unexpected halt on its belly yesterday morning when the rear dual wheels on one side fell off. ''initial evidence indicates the wheel lug nuts loosened and caused the lugs to fail,'' MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo said. ''We are in the process now of determining why the wheel lug nuts loosened.'' None of the passengers was injured in the incident, which happened near the intersection of Washington and West Dedham streets just before 7 a.m., he said. The left rear side of the bus dragged on the street for about 10 feet before the bus came to a stop. T officials pulled all of the 60-foot Silver Line buses out of service and inspected the lug nuts on each yesterday. Silver Line service continued uninterrupted on 40-foot buses, Pesaturo said. =PTP============================================= Boston Globe 10/12/2003 Buzz on Washington Street drives T to changes By Mac Daniel, Globe Staff An uncomfortable vibration has been rumbling through portions of the South End, a not-so-subtle shake that sometimes makes dinnerware dance and gets on the nerves of even veteran urban dwellers. The culprit is not local roadwork or errant takeoffs from Logan Airport, but a hum coming from the MBTA's new, 60-foot-long accordion buses on the year-old Silver Line. The low-floor buses that run on compressed natural gas are creating a very physical buzz while making their North American debut. "it's just in your feet and through your body," said Jeffrey Gates, managing partner at the new Union Bar and Grille in the Waltham-Union Park block of Washington Street, on the route of the Silver Line. Thus far, though, Gates said most of his patrons haven't noticed. "Along Washington Street," he said, "it's just our little secret." Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority officials and the city's Office of Neighborhood Services have received only a handful of complaints, but they were enough for the T to hire an acoustic analyst using sound recorders and vibration-measuring accelerometers to help solve the mystery. "I have to go away weekends to get relief, because it's in my house and it's in my studio," said artist and resident Jane Brayton. "It was even in a restaurant where we went to eat the other night. "There's just no escape," she said. "I wake up to it in the morning. I go to bed with it at night. And there's nothing I can do about it. You can't go into another room and shut the door." Jeff Perk, a 41-year-old travel writer who lives in Jamaica Plain, experienced a tremor from the buses during a recent dinner at Penang Malaysian Cuisine on Washington Street near a Silver Line stop. When one of the Silver Line's 60-footers idled nearby, Perk said, the restaurant rattled. "Metal pans in the kitchen, plates on some of the tables, even the front windows, it seemed, all started clattering away as if the Jolly Green Giant's clothes dryer was in its high-spin cycle right below the floor," he wrote in an e-mail to the Globe. "The rumble really gets into your teeth, too. All in all, a very unpleasant sensation." initially, the source of this strange disturbance was a mystery. The new 40-foot buses that run the same route didn't create the same vibrations, according to residents, who said the rattling is worse when a 60-foot bus sits idle or accelerates from a dead stop. Residents who live or work near bus stops have felt it. But when a 60- footer passes quickly by, some South Enders said, they have felt nothing but the gritty passing breeze. "it's nothing major," said Kam Patel, who works at Sid's Smoke Shop at the corner of East Berkeley and Washington streets near two adjacent bus stops. The reverberations at that location should be at their worst, but are not. "It doesn't bother me," Patel said. Some residents believe that roadwork done on Washington Street prior to the Silver Line's debut is adding to the problem, while others wonder whether the vibrations are caused by the engine's closer proximity to the street on the low-floor buses. MBTA officials have patiently sat in local living rooms, waiting silently for any disturbance as the buses pass by. In the end, they were left scratching their heads. Until last week. The conclusion: the idle of the bus engine, a noisy bus muffler, and the canyonlike architecture along Washington Street all appear to contribute to the phenomenon, according to a report issued by the T's sound analysts. Each new bus, manufactured by Neoplan USA, is powered by a 6- cylinder, 4-cycle engine that idles at 700 revolutions per minute, which analysts found generated a tone that excites vibration in a few of the South End's older buildings. Two homes were tested, though the analysts said the results could apply elsewhere. Two solutions were offered: redesign the mufflers or increase the bus engine's idling speed, which would shift the exhaust noise to a higher frequency with less potential to cause vibration and annoyance. T spokesman Joe Pesaturo said the authority plans to work on both suggestions, with all the costs borne by the manufacturer, not the MBTA. The modifications are already under way, Pesaturo said, with the T planning to test the new muffled mufflers and higher revving engines on Washington Street next month. At Penang, manager Chin Seng Toh said he had felt the vibrations, but never gave them a second thought. Truck, car, or Silver Line bus, he said, it's all part of the urban cacophony that rumbles close by his front door every day. "We are so near the street, you can't do anything about it," he said. "it's a busy city. Be reasonable. It's a city." =PTP=============================================== The Arizona Republic Oct. 12, 2003 Light rail folks ready E. Valley for disruptions Pre-construction meetings planned Adam Klawonn Light rail officials are gearing up for the start of preliminary construction by trying to ensure that the rail's image remains spotless in the East Valley. in the next few weeks, planners will: • Hold open houses for businesses along the rail line to pitch the plans to them. Included: business owners from other cities where rail has been built. America West Airlines is flying the guests in for free, and Holiday inn is putting them up, also for free. They'll do a three-day tour in Phoenix, Tempe and Mesa starting Oct. 21. • A community advisory board is being created for each of the five segments of the 20.3-mile rail line in Phoenix, Tempe and Mesa. Officials say it's a way for residents to hold the contractor accountable on things such as construction signs and dust control. • Results of a $148,000 market study commissioned for the rail corridor is due out in about two weeks, said Mike James, a Valley Metro Rail planner. All will directly affect what occurs along the route in neighborhood sentiment and redevelopment sites like the former Tri-City Mall near Dobson Road and Main Street, the end of the line in Mesa. "I think that's a smart way to go because if you are someone in the vicinity, you've got a lot of questions," said Jos Anshell, chief executive of Moses Anshell, a prominent creative marketing firm in Phoenix. "I can't imagine they'd bring anybody in who would say bad things about it," he added. Mesa Vice Mayor Dennis Kavanaugh says it shows the rail's regional governing board is allowing little room for a public relations slip-up. "There should be no surprises to the public on this," he said. "The input from residential and business communities has to be on the highest scale possible. From other cities that we learned from, you can't have enough." Light rail staff members, for example, met with Mesa school officials and then neighborhood Block Watch captains two weeks before their publicized Oct. 8 open house at Webster Elementary, effectively allowing them to polish their Tri-City Mall presentation. "This shows the lengths we are willing to go to get the public involved," said Daina Mann, a Valley Metro Rail spokeswoman. She says the advisory groups can control 7 percent of the contractor's revenue, a lot of coin on multimillion-dollar contracts. Forming the group is a tactic rail officials picked up from a staff member who came over from Houston, where accountability was an issue, Mann said. "it's a huge incentive for them to do what makes the community happy," she said. Grant Sperry, owner of a Salt Lake City internet firm who is one of the businessmen coming to the Valley later this month for the rail, said his experience was positive. "It was dusty, but it's been great." He said he'll talk about dust issues after he tried to get light rail insurers to cover a dust-encrusted $600 bi-metric lock and failed. The others who have accepted are a nail salon owner from Portland and the owner of a drive-through burger joint in Salt Lake City.
PTP Digest 2003/10/12-A = CONTENTS * Houston ed: LRT supported even by opponents' statistics Houston Chronicle Oct. 11, 2003 * Houston op-ed: 'Rail foes' funny math a costly joke' Houston Chronicle Oct. 11, 2003 * Houston letters: Pro & con on rail plan Houston Chronicle Oct. 10, 2003 * Seattle: Builder agrees to extend LRT bid deadline SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER Saturday, October 11, 2003 * San Jose: Benefit assessment districts near LRT stations OKd San Jose Mercury News Sat, Oct. 11, 2003 * Phoenix suburb's chamber head: 'Lawmakers must aid light rail' Arizona Republic Oct. 11, 2003 * So NJ: Light DMU line will slow down through small towns Philadelphia inquirer Fri, Oct. 10, 2003 * Dallas: Massive program to upgrade rail crossing safety Dallas Morning News Saturday, October 11, 2003 =PTP================================================ Houston Chronicle Oct. 11, 2003 Editorial ALTERNATE ROUTE Even its opponents' statistics argue for light rail in last summer's edition of Cite magazine, a Houston review of architecture and design, professional engineer Christof Spieler observes that light rail is not an experiment in this country. It is a 22-year-old, 22-city success story. Far from regretting a mistake, residents in all but one of those cities have clamored for and received expansions. Houstonians won't be able to experience light rail here until January, but the preponderance of the evidence argues that multimodal mass transit, including light rail, is essential to Houstonians' future mobility. Strangely enough, some of the most convincing evidence is offered by Michael S. Stevens, a principal opponent of light rail in Houston. in a Powerpoint presentation to the Houston business community and the Chronicle, Stevens noted that between 1990 and 2000, the Houston area was able to increase its lane miles by 11 percent. At the same time, the population grew by 24 percent and motorists collectively increased the number of miles they drove by 43 percent. Result: increased congestion. In 2000, Houston area motorists took 41 minutes to make each trip that would have taken 30 minutes without congestion. These figures are drawn from a decade in which Metro gave away 25 percent of its sales tax revenues for roadwork and spent relatively little on planning and developing light rail. The irrefutable conclusion to be drawn from this data is that a policy of spending every nickel on highways and buses will result in more and more congestion, just as it has in the past. Light-rail opponents advertise that light rail costs as much as it would to give every new transit rider a Ferrari sports car. But transit serves Houstonians who cannot afford to own, operate, insure and replace the most affordable car -- about $9,000 per year per household. Furthermore, rail transit serves current riders as well as new riders, reducing the per- rider cost to something closer to a Ford. Rail opponents state that Metro's proposed long-range mobility plan on the November ballot won't reduce congestion. But spending more and more on roads hasn't reduced congestion, either. At least Metro's plan won't destroy as many acres of homes and businesses as endless freeway expansion will, and failure to adopt Metro's plan will definitely increase congestion. For every four Metro riders, three cars are taken off the road. Metro opponents dwell on the statistic that transit accounts for only 3.2 percent of the work trips in the eight-county Houston region. But transit is only offered in part of one county in that region. Metro buses account for 42 percent of the all-important rush-hour work trips in the central business district, 32 percent in the Texas Medical Center and 9 percent in its entire service area. Even if Metro's market share grows slowly, the number of transit riders will explode along with the population, reducing the number of vehicles on the road proportionately. in insisting that Metro spend no money on expanding light rail, critics argue, in effect, that transit service should never be faster or smoother than it is now. In the final analysis, opponents object to any transit agency that squanders its resources on transit patrons when it could be catering to single motorists on clogged freeways and thoroughfares. This is an appealing argument to some area residents who don't ride transit and care nothing about those who do. The element of selfishness this argument unavoidably entails may be the reason contributors to the anti-rail Texans for True Mobility do not wish their names made public. Some rail opponents say they would support a better rail plan, but they have no rail plan to offer and never will. If they're so knowledgeable about rail corridors, why didn't they produce a blueprint when Metro was asking the public for advice? As Houstonians will discover in January, light-rail lines offer a clean, nonpolluting, relatively quiet, smooth-riding alternative to cars and buses on congested, potholed roadways. The stately, 25 mph progress of a light- rail car might seem slow, but it will seem swift when measured against those caught in the increased highway congestion that will inevitably come, with or without rail. =PTP============================================== Houston Chronicle Oct. 11, 2003 Viewpoints Rail foes' funny math a costly joke By HANK DITTMAR Wtih Houston facing a referendum on investment in transit next month, voters are sure to be besieged with a blizzard of statistics from both sides. It is worth taking a closer look at the numbers. Opponents of transit investment are fond of citing the National Household Travel Survey to argue that public transit accounts for less than 2 percent of all trips. In fact, the 2 percent figure dramatically understates transit usage in metropolitan areas and overstates auto use. If one looks further, one learns that transit plays a much bigger role, and that transit investment can provide the armature for economic development and growth. The 2 percent figure comes from a national survey which also discloses that passenger transportation is only available to about one-half of all Americans. In areas where transit is reasonably available, for instance, in the city of Los Angeles, the share of transit trips is much higher than 2 percent, about 12 percent. Another survey by the Federal Transit Administration found that for every daily user of transit there are three more users on a monthly basis. The NHTS survey counts as a separate trip every stop that a driver makes. If, for instance, one stops on the way to work to drop the kids at preschool, then stops to get a cup of coffee, that's counted as two trips. When one gets back in the car with one's latte and continues to work, that makes three trips out of one journey to work. If, on the way home from work, the commuter stops to pick up milk and then stops down the block to get the dry cleaning, the statisticians count it as three more trips. They call this way of inflating automobile use "trip-chaining," and they use it to argue that transit use is insignificant. in fact, trip chaining, which is merely the sensible practice of accomplishing multiple errands with one trip, accounts for much of the supposed growth in travel, when measured in terms of trips. It also accounts for the claimed trend toward work trips being a smaller share of travel, another shibboleth used to argue that transit is irrelevant. Work trips are counted as the trip from home to work, and if the commuter stops off for coffee, dry-cleaning, groceries or pizza on the way home, then the trip from home to work no longer exists in the planner's statistics. Of course, this is silly, as everyone knows that Americans are working more than ever and that morning and evening commutes grow worse each year. In fact, where, speedy and convenient transit options are available for the journey to work, transit competes well. In the Washington, D.C., region, for example, 37 percent of peak hour trips into the metropolitan core are carried by public transit. The fact that federally funded surveys systematically exaggerate auto use is compounded by the fact that they also undercount other ways of getting around, partly by focusing on the usual means of getting to work and ignoring all other trips. People who drive three days a week and ride transit two days a week are counted as drivers. Transit users often walk to the bus stop or rail station, and that walk to the stop is often used for errands. But most government travel surveys don't count the walk to transit as a trip, and that undercounts walking, obscuring the fact that good transit choices also encourage walking. if accomplishing personal errands is such an important part of people's lives, shouldn't we try to make those errands easy to accomplish for transit riders, too? There is an increasing trend in this direction, with transit agencies and city officials putting rider-serving amenities close to transit stops. Putting groceries, dry cleaners, coffee shops and restaurants in walkable neighborhoods allows transit "trip-chaining" too, increasing convenience. This type of transit-oriented development is springing up all over, in revitalizing urban neighborhoods in Chicago and Washington and around newer systems in San Jose, Calif., Dallas and Salt Lake City. A University of North Texas study found that Dallas' DART light-rail system had generated more than $800 million in development, while Portland, Ore.'s MAX light-rail line was found to have generated $2.4 billion in economic development. Arlington County, Va., which focuses growth around its MetroRail stations, generates more than one-third of its tax revenues from the 7 percent of the county's land area within walking distance of the stations, and that helps Arlington have the lowest tax rate of any northern Virginia county. Transit ridership grows as development clusters around transit, and this gives more and more people the chance to avoid congestion by using transit. Studies consistently show that ridership grows as the number of people living in walking distance of the station goes up. With almost half of American households moving every five years, according to census estimates, and with population demographics increasingly favoring more compact neighborhoods due to the aging baby boomers, the preference of "echo-boomers" for urban living and the impact of immigration, building walkable, convenient neighborhoods close to transit is increasingly viable. The automobile will likely be the dominant way of getting around for a long time, but everybody benefits from viable options being available, even drivers. In fact, given the recent defeat of transportation funding proposals at the ballot box in Virginia and Missouri, even the road lobby ought to think about the impact these kinds of spurious statistics have in undermining the public's confidence in transportation investments. it's time to stop manipulating the numbers in ways that undervalue alternatives, and time to start looking at ways to increase the convenience and flexibility of those alternatives in ways that respond to our increasingly busy and complex lives. That's where integrating transit and communities comes in. Dittmar is president and chief executive officer of Reconnecting America, a national nonprofit organization which seeks to improve the relationship between transportation, communities and the economy. =PTP=============================================== Houston Chronicle Oct. 10, 2003 VIEWPOINTS Eyeing anti-rail ads and dreaming of high-speed trains Unfair comparisons made I was pleased the Chronicle investigated the accuracy of the figures used in the anti-rail advertising alleging that the Metropolitan Transit Authority could buy an expensive sports car for every new rail rider for the cost of the proposed rail system. But the analysis did not present a complete picture. Most of the rail system's assets will last for 30 years or more. Used in a daily commute, how long would one new sports car last? We'd need four or five new sports cars for each new rail rider over that 30-year period. The costs included operating and maintenance costs for rail, too. Those sports cars won't be operated for free. What about interest expense, maintenance, insurance, licenses and gasoline costs (just to name a few)? The rail costs included track and, in some cases, rights-of-way costs. Where are we going to drive all those fancy sports cars? Our highways are full. So we'll have to add in costs for new roads and highway capacity to really be fair. I could go on and on, adding the cost of additional parking lots, air pollution and other intangibles to the discussion. These commercials present a biased "apples to oranges" comparison. Voters must beware of those who play fast and loose with the facts. Nancy Edmonson, Shoreacres Rider capacity in rail vs. bus Since the Chronicle is now checking out the advertisements on the Metropolitan Transit Authority's Solutions Plan, I went back to review a promotional flyer distributed by Metro several months ago. Metro showed a graph comparing different options for moving 200 people during rush hour, and implied that rail would reduce traffic congestion. It compared: · The maximum standing-room capacity of a rail vehicle (200). · What appears to be the average seated capacity of a Metro fleet bus (47). · The average seated capacity of a van (12). · The average occupancy in an automobile (1.2). Most of Metro's rail passengers will be traveling less than a mile between the new Texas Medical Center peripheral parking lot on Greenbriar into the TMC. Standing up is an option for these passengers, but standing for a 20-minute ride downtown would be the "commute from hell," and doesn't sound like the comfortable and attractive service that Metro has been promising. A Metro rail vehicle actually takes up more space than buses of the same useful capacity, which increases rather than decreases traffic congestion. Paul R. Johnson, Houston Disregard smear campaign The Texans for True Mobility seem to be running a covert and unethical, yet apparently legal, smear campaign against the rail referendum. [This group's] refusal to "pull the covers back" and reveal the source of its funding reeks of slimy, self-serving, special-interest politics. Any public discussion or campaign where the parties will not reveal donors should clearly indicate that they have a hidden agenda. The public interests this group is attempting to sway will not be the true beneficiaries of its campaign. Houston's "rail or not to rail" argument has been active for decades. Our Sun Belt sprawl makes the full implementation of a rail system to serve all of the region a very difficult, costly and time-consuming project. However, if a rail system is not implemented, the mere existence of Houston as we know it [will be] in limbo. Future generations, if not the current one, will choke themselves. Houston cannot afford to lose any more drainage capacity [by] the pouring of thousands of miles of additional concrete. As a parent of young children, I question the wisdom of raising another generation of Houstonians in a city possessing the potential for serious health consequences. I hope that Houstonians will take note of the behavior and inaction of the TTM when they make their educated decision on the future of the city. Kevin McCarthy, Houston Sell rail to Houston's Anglos it's time for us to have rail, but we need to overcome some barriers that don't get addressed. As a 38-year-old native Houstonian, I always thought of public transportation as something you needed when you didn't have a car. The majority of bus ridership is [made up of] blacks and Hispanics who already know the benefits of the public transportation system. Rail is a need that educated persons with vision know we must have in Houston. Mobility to the dense suburbs of Katy, Rosenberg and The Woodlands -- with promises to expand -- has to be sold to Anglo Houstonians. How many cars can fit on the Katy Freeway? How much concrete will we pour? Beltway 8 was a great idea, but now the west side of Beltway 8 (after only a few years) is completely maxed out. And our population is projected to increase to what? Taking cars off the streets should be a top priority, which we have heard for years. We need to get Anglo Houston on the rail ticket. It is simple math. There will be too many cars in the near future to continue this way of life. The wider the freeway, the wider the traffic jams. Rail will happen sooner or later. But how much are we going to suffer in the meantime? Rail plans should be expanded, not watered down. Richard Klase Jr., Houston Riding on his dream train How long are we Americans going to talk about solutions to our traffic problems? When are we going to get high-speed rail connecting Houston, San Antonio and Dallas-Fort Worth? Not chug-chug car/trains, but single- car, 100-passenger trains traveling 150 miles an hour or faster, leaving several times a day. They would get us there faster than planes, considering time getting to airports, waiting time, getting back into the cities from airports, etc. The best part is that they would be nonpolluting and put us into the heart of our destinations. They would be electric-driven, using nonpolluting energy from nuclear power plants which we have yet to build (and should be doing so). We could put so many people to work doing these things that unemployment would be zilch. Our continued dependence on fossil fuels will give us a rude awaking some day soon. This train may be a dream, perhaps, but I still have that right and look forward to riding my dream train. Bill Groff, Orange =PTP=========================================== SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER Saturday, October 11, 2003 Kiewit agrees to extend light rail bid deadline SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER STAFF AND NEWS SERVICES Kiewit Pacific Co., the contractor that submitted a bid on the initial part of Seattle's light rail line that was 15 percent below engineers' estimates, agreed yesterday to extend its guarantee of the bid price for another two weeks. The bid, which was submitted June 12, was set to expire yesterday. Sound Transit had requested the bid extension in hopes a $500 million federal grant hung up in Congress could be freed, allowing construction on the 14-mile line to begin. it's unknown whether the grant agreement will be approved within two weeks. If the bid expires, Sound Transit must put the work out for bid again, which could take up to three months and possibly result in a higher price and delay in completion of the line. =PTP================================================ San Jose Mercury News Sat, Oct. 11, 2003 Davis gives VTA green light to charge a fee to owners of properties near stations By Gary Richards Gov. Gray Davis signed legislation Friday giving the Valley Transportation Authority the right to assess fees on property owners within a half-mile of a light rail or BART station. With the concurrence of property owners and the city where a stop is located, the VTA can create a benefit assessment district. Money raised would pay for the cost of building, maintaining and operating a station. A majority of property owners would need to support a proposal to charge fees. Their votes would be weighted according to the value of their property. Transit districts across the country often charge fees; the building of a station often raises the value of property adjacent to a stop. The VTA has not determined how much money could be raised by such fees. The agency, which depends on volatile sales-tax revenues to cover 80 percent of its operating budget, wants to find more stable forms of income. =PTP================================================= miller1011.html Arizona Republic Oct. 11, 2003 Lawmakers must aid light rail Mary Ann Miller is president and CEO of the Tempe Chamber of Commerce. The views expressed are those of the author. The recent gasoline pipeline rupture in Tucson that sent prices soaring as much as $4 a gallon in some stations and hour-long waits in line for fuel underscores just how dependent on auto transportation are Arizona and, particularly, metropolitan Phoenix. Yet, an alternative, the Central Phoenix/East Valley Light Rail Transit Project that would provide relief for our auto-reliant state, surprisingly is not speeding through the approval process. Rep. Ed Pastor, who serves on the Transportation Appropriations Committee, and Rep. J.D. Hayworth have been crucial allies in securing funding. Their support helped persuade the full House to approve fiscal year 2004 transportation funding that includes $12 million for the light rail project. But now the measure moves to the Senate, where John McCain's position has been decidedly lukewarm. Indeed, McCain's recent pledge to filibuster any transportation projects that don't return a dollar in funding for every dollar Arizona sends to Washington, may, in fact, do more harm than good, despite whatever good intentions he may have for his home state. Arizona, in fact, receives only 87 cents in transportation funding for every gas-tax dollar sent to Washington, but we should not sacrifice progress on the light rail project to hold it hostage to the larger principle. The truth is that metropolitan Phoenix needs light rail. The August pipeline rupture that frustrated drivers and prompted many of them to cope with unfamiliar bus routes simply emphasized the extent of that need. Voters in Phoenix, Tempe and Mesa long ago demonstrated their support for the project by agreeing to tax themselves to pay for a full 50 percent of project costs. In addition, 75 percent of the business community supports the light rail project, according to a poll by O'Neil & Associates. An Urban Land institute study says the light rail route suits perfectly the demographic of those who would ride and is a proactive step to relieve congestion expected by future population growth in the Valley of the Sun. This high estimation of the light rail project is not restricted to Arizonans. The project is one of only two rail projects in the country to receive the federal government's "highly recommended" designation. Plus, the light rail project has received approval of final design and of its environmental impact report. "Previously, McCain withheld support to see if we met certain requirements and was taking a wait-and-see attitude," said Daina Mann, communications manager for Valley Metro Rail. "But now we're at the point that there's no more to see. We have met every test and every task. "We're at the point where he needs to step up to the plate and start lobbying and advocating to preserve that funding in the Senate and through the conference committee." in years past, the House typically awarded money to the light rail project, the Senate gave zero and the difference was worked out in a conference committee. But with the precarious state this year of the federal budget and all the demands on money, support will be needed throughout the entire process. That's why, more than ever, we need transportation advocates in the Senate to stand up for the light rail project. We urge our congressional delegation to get on board light rail. The $1.1 billion, 20.3-mile project will improve the Valley's quality of life. It will also boost development along Tempe's Apache Corridor and the entire route, bring in new tax revenues from commercial development, spur rehabilitation of existing buildings and new construction, and provide a transportation alternative to our increasingly choked freeways and streets. For all these reasons, the Tempe Chamber of Commerce has long supported the project and believes light rail has demonstrated that it deserves full and committed backing from all our representatives. =PTP================================================ [PTP NOTE: The Southern New Jersey Light Rail Line is a diesel-electric- propelled light regional rail line which does not conform to the definition of light rail transit (LRT) specified by the Transportation Research Board. PTP does not regard this system as LRT, but as light regional rail, often called light DMU. it could ultrimately prove to be a precursor to LRT in this corridor, although station platform heights are higher than the standard (14-in) for lowfloor LRT, and other infrastructure modifications might be necessary.] Philadelphia inquirer Posted on Fri, Oct. 10, 2003 Light-Rail Speed Limits NJ Transit says a full 34-mile trip on the Southern New Jersey Light Rail Line between Camden and Trenton will take just more than an hour. No start date for the line has been announced. The train, which will reach a top speed of 60 m.p.h., will slow as it passes through communities. Here is how fast it will go at major crossings: Trenton: South Broad Street, 20 m.p.h. northbound, 17 m.p.h. southbound. Lalor Street, 35 m.p.h. both directions. Bordentown City: Farnsworth Avenue, 25 m.p.h. northbound, 50 m.p.h. southbound. Florence: Hornberger Avenue, 30 m.p.h. northbound, 17 m.p.h. southbound. Delaware Avenue, 37 m.p.h. northbound, 45 m.p.h. southbound. Northern Burlington Township: Dulty's Lane, 45 m.p.h. both directions. Neck Road, 45 m.p.h. both directions. Burlington City: Jones Street, 40 m.p.h. northbound, 55 m.p.h. southbound. The speed will be 25 m.p.h. through most of the rest of the city, with the exception of 50 m.p.h. northbound at Commerce Square. Southern Burlington Township: Devlin Avenue, 50 m.p.h. northbound, 40 m.p.h. southbound. Park Avenue and Woodlane Road, 45 m.p.h. both directions. Beverly/Edgewater Park: Cooper Street, 45 m.p.h. northbound, 30 m.p.h. southbound. Broad Street, 45 m.p.h. northbound, 43 m.p.h. southbound. Manor Road, 40 m.p.h. northbound, 47 m.p.h. southbound. Perkins Lane, 45 m.p.h. both directions. Delanco: Cooper Street, 27 m.p.h. northbound, 45 m.p.h. southbound. Riverside: Pavilion Avenue, 35 m.p.h. northbound, 20 m.p.h. southbound. Fairview Street, 40 m.p.h. northbound, 35 southbound. Chester Avenue, 45 m.p.h. both directions. Delran: Main Street, 45 m.p.h. both directions. Cinnaminson: Taylors Lane, 45 m.p.h. both directions. Union Landing Road, 35 m.p.h. northbound, 45 m.p.h. southbound. North Read Avenue, 35 m.p.h. both directions. Riverton: Cedar Avenue, 20 m.p.h. northbound, 35 m.p.h. southbound. Main Street, 25 m.p.h. northbound, 17 m.p.h. southbound. Elm Street, 25 m.p.h. both directions. Palmyra: Morgan Avenue, 22 m.p.h. northbound, 25 m.p.h. southbound. Cinnaminson Avenue, 30 m.p.h. northbound, 17 m.p.h. southbound. Chestnut Street, 30 m.p.h. both directions. Park Avenue, 30 m.p.h. both directions. Market Street, 30 m.p.h. both directions. Pennsauken: Griffith Morgan Lane, 45 m.p.h. both directions. Derousse Avenue, 40 m.p.h. northbound, 50 m.p.h. southbound. Cove Road, 45 m.p.h. both directions. Camden: NJ Transit has not set specific speed limits for Camden, but said the train would go only as fast as local traffic, usually about 25 m.p.h. =PTP================================================== nmetroadrunner.70413.html Dallas Morning News Saturday, October 11, 2003 Engineering a solution at crossings By TONY HARTZEL / The Dallas Morning News Motorists and trains cross paths in more than 2,000 locations in North Texas. With a little effort – and $9.4 million – some of those could be made safer starting in about a year. This spring, the North Central Texas Council of Governments made a list of 150 dangerous crossings or crossings that need improvement. The list grew to almost 500 after the regional planning agency asked for more suggestions from officials in nine counties. The need for safer crossings is expected to rise as the region's traffic congestion grows. in 2002, the Federal Railroad Administration recorded 35 train-vehicle crashes in Dallas, Tarrant, Collin and Denton counties. Those crashes resulted in five deaths and eight injuries. The previous year, the same area had 39 crashes with six fatalities and 11 injuries. Texas ranked first in the nation, with 325 collisions in 2002. Indiana was second, with 175 crashes. Local officials are lining up for federal grants to offset the sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars needed to make crossings safer. That could be smoothing rough crossings to adding gates or median barriers to prevent motorists from going around crossing arms. "Nothing is out of the question," said Rachel Harshman, a transportation planner for the council of governments who is overseeing the project requests. "it's a variety of applications, and it's pretty much anybody's game." The deadline for applications is Oct. 24. Businesses with an interest in improving certain crossings also can apply for the federal funds, which will pay for 80 percent of a project's cost. Regional planners like Ms. Harshman will grade each funding request on criteria including the number of trains that use the tracks, the number of cars that use the crossing and other site-specific benefits like emergency vehicle access or frequent blockage by stopped trains. Dallas Area Rapid Transit will seek funds for up to four crossings – two on the commuter rail line it operates with the Fort Worth Transportation Authority, and one or two on freight rail lines it owns. "They're all safe crossings, assuming people follow the rules," said Kathy Waters, DART's vice president for commuter rail. "What we're looking at doing is improving safety." With a pair of crossing gates costing at least $120,000, can add up quickly, Ms. Harshman said. While safety is the most important issue, some cities are expected to ask for funds to establish "quiet zones." Federal rail authorities are considering ways to allow trains to pass through an intersection without having to blow their whistles. While no regulations have been passed yet, it is expected that those rules would require cities to add safety equipment at intersections. That could include warning systems at crossings or a median barrier or crossing arms on both sides of the railroad tracks. The arms or barrier would prevent vehicles from going around gates. Tony Hartzel can be reached at and at P.O. Box 655237, Dallas, TX 75265.
PTP Digest 2003/10/11-A = CONTENTS * D-FW: Regional panel eyes airport rail links Ft. Worth Star-Telegram Fri, Oct. 10, 2003 * Denver: More on Union Station intermodal plan Rocky Mountain News October 10, 2003 * Houston: Paper probes anti-rail money sources Houston Chronicle Oct. 10, 2003 * Vegas: Buses set to 'function like a light-rail commuter system' LAS VEGAS SUN October 10, 2003 * Virginia Beach: LRT gets new attention Norfolk Virginian-Pilot October 7, 2003 * Portland: Options pondered for new downtown LRT line Portland Oregonian 10/10/03 * Phoenix suburb seeks input on LRT station Arizona Republic Oct. 8, 2003 * NJ: State adds 6 more 'Transit Villages' Associated Press 10/10/2003 * Ca: Arnold's Florida auditor may axe high-speed rail San Jose Mercury News October 10, 2003 =PTP=============================================== Ft. Worth Star-Telegram Fri, Oct. 10, 2003 Panel pitches airports' rail links By Bryon Okada Star-Telegram Staff Writer ARLINGTON - Marking a major shift in the way the Metroplex moves, light-rail links between Dallas/Fort Worth Airport and Love Field will accompany the construction of lanes -- possibly tollways -- on Airport Freeway. The Regional Transportation Council will seek $100 million in state mobility funds to create links between D/FW and Love Field, and to other convention and recreation stops beyond. The links could create a "wayport" configuration in Dallas where a passenger could land at one airport and connect to a flight at the other airport via a single rail connection. "We need to do anything we can do today to have a seamless connection for passengers at the airport going to their hotels," said Pedro Aguirre, a member of the D/FW Airport Board and the RTC. "It seems to me we don't have an option but to do this." The proposals are part of a larger package of projects being recommended to the state as the area's top priorities by the Regional Transportation Council. To advance the rail concept, the RTC is moving forward with buying a two-mile section of the Union Pacific rail line in downtown Fort Worth near the intermodal Transportation Center station. The purchase, the cost of which was not released, would make future commuter service possible on the Cotton Belt rail line from Fort Worth through Northeast Tarrant County to D/FW Airport, and perhaps to Collin County. Dallas Area Rapid Transit is seeking $775 million in federal grant money to build light-rail connections. If the pieces fall in place, the concentration on airport-related rail could mean a vast expansion of service by the end of the decade, officials said. D/FW officials, who have been working for months with the North Central Texas Council of Governments, DART and the Fort Worth Transportation Authority on airport-rail connections, praised the series of moves Thursday afternoon. "We're very pleased that we're making some progress, and we stand ready to accommodate transit when off-airport systems can deliver the transportation," D/FW Chief Executive Officer Jeff Fegan said. All of this fits into the RTC's more general goal of promoting a regional transit system to accommodate the 8.4 million people expected to live in the Metroplex in 2030. The RTC also earmarked more than $100 million in federal highway money for toll lanes on Airport Freeway, interstate 635 and the future Southwest Parkway. The airport rail and toll-road projects are deemed by the RTC to be the most crucial projects for the area. In selecting those projects, the RTC acts on the state's desire to delegate more power to the regions, but it also means that the RTC, not the state, is responsible for deciding the projects' importance. "The RTC's action today is not just the commitment of the funds, but to tell the Texas Transportation Commission that we will take the heat if these are not the highest priority projects," said Michael Morris, transportation director for the council of governments, which acts as staff for the RTC. Some critics argue that state mobility funds should not be sought for nonhighway uses, but rail options are allowed, Morris said. The RTC's recommendation to the state is actually a couple of weeks late. Staff members sent a draft letter to the Texas Department of Transportation on Sept. 30 as a placeholder for the letter approved Thursday. Member Mark Burroughs insisted that the RTC reiterate its stance that the council does not support the conversion of existing free main lanes on highways like Airport Freeway to toll lanes, a point of some controversy earlier this year. The RTC's regional transit priorities Rail transit • Dallas/Fort Worth Airport. Pursue $60 million in state mobility funds to link airport terminals to the Cotton Belt line. • Love Field Connection. Increase federal air-quality money earmarked from $6.9 million to $20 million. Pursue $40 million in additional state mobility funds. • Cotton Belt Corridor. Purchase a two-mile section of Union Pacific Rail in downtown Fort Worth, allowing future commuter rail between Fort Worth and Dallas/Fort Worth Airport. Cost not disclosed. Highways • Texas 121/183 Airport Freeway from Northeast Loop 820 to Texas 161. Reconstruct and widen roads, add main lanes and managed lanes -- which could include toll lanes -- $22 million. • Texas 121 Southwest Parkway from interstate 30 to Altavista Boulevard. Construct a toll facility, $29.5 million. • interstate 635 from interstate 35E to U.S. 75. Construct managed facilities and interchange, $50 million. Dallas Area Rapid Transit and Dallas are also allocating funds. Park-and-ride • Southwest Park-N-Ride (Sycamore School Road and Camelot Road), 200 spaces. • Far West Park-N-Ride (Parker County-Tarrant County), 200 spaces. Air quality • Regional programs. High-occupancy vehicle facilities (to be done by 2007) • interstate 30 from Grand Prairie to downtown Dallas. • interstate 30 from Jim Miller Road to interstate 635. • interstate 635 from Luna Road to Texas 161. • interstate 635 from U.S. 75 to interstate 30. Alternative fuel (to be done by 2007) • Thirty-two compressed natural gas fuel systems for Fort Worth Transportation Authority buses. intelligent transportation (to be done by 2007) • Real-time system monitoring and traffic management with closed-circuit TV and dynamic message signs. • Regional communication system. • interstate 35, NAFTA corridor technology, including sensor stations, closed-circuit TV, dynamic message signs and weather/ice prediction stations. intersections, traffic signals (to be done by 2007) • interstate 30/University Drive pavement. • Traffic signal sequencing at 300 intersections. • improve 175 intersections and 485 signals in Dallas County (program is 47 percent complete). -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Bryon Okada, (817) 685-3853 =PTP===============================================,1299,DRMN_15_2336772,00.html Rocky Mountain News October 10, 2003 Union Station proposal would make it hub, bub $560 million would turn train depot into transportation center By Mike Patty, Rocky Mountain News Consultants on Thursday unveiled their vision for transforming Denver's Union Station into a regional transportation hub for the next 50 to 100 years. The $560 million proposal calls for three major transportation components - light rail, regional and express buses, and passenger rail - to go underground. Pedestrians, taxis, shuttles and automobiles would be at street level. Commercial buses would enter on an elevated level. Also planned are a $24 million renovation of the historic Union Station, retail and office development, and parking and public areas. The design is flexible enough to meet future demand and a variety of funding schemes, said Gwen Anderson, Union Station project manager for Denver. "This could all be built in the next 12 years, or it could take 40 years," she said. "If FasTracks is approved, it would provide funds for the transit components of the Union Station plan. But if FasTracks doesn't happen, we would have to find other funding mechanisms." FasTracks is a proposed Regional Transportation District sales-tax increase expected to go before voters next year that would provide $4.2 billion for the expansion of the district's rail and bus systems. John Valsecchi, project manager for Parsons Brinkerhoff, one of the consulting firms, said locating major fixed-transportation modes underground would create more flexibility at street level. in addition, the underground-rail element would make Union Station a "through station" rather than a "stub station," where trains pull in and back out on the same tracks. The 18-month, $5.3 million-dollar study was paid for by RTD, the city and county of Denver, the Colorado Department of Transportation and the Denver Regional Council of Governments. A total of 44 alternative designs, including nine submitted by the public, were looked at before the recommended plan was chosen. it will now undergo a federal environmental analysis and a draft master plan will be made public later this year. Rezoning the site to transit-mixed use and a designation as a Denver landmark is expected to go before the City Council next spring. The final step would be approval by the Federal Transit Administration, which is scheduled for December 2004. Construction could begin as early as 2005. "If FasTracks is approved, it will happen more quickly," said Eric Anderson, project manager for Civitas, another consulting firm. "But it will eventually happen for the region because it has to happen." =PTP=============================================== Houston Chronicle Oct. 10, 2003 Chronicle seeking list of anti-rail contributors By ALAN BERNSTEIN The Houston Chronicle asked the Harris County district attorney on Friday to investigate whether a group opposing the proposed expansion of the Metro rail system is breaking the law by refusing to publicly disclose contributors to its campaign. District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal said he would consider the request. Texans for True Mobility, led by developer Michael Stevens, formed a nonprofit corporation that paid for an advertising blitz against the proposal, which is subject to a Nov. 4 public vote. The group's lawyer, former first assistant state attorney general Andy Taylor, said Friday that Texas election law does not require disclosure of the contributors' names because corporations are not treated like candidates or political advocacy groups. "TTM has an absolute right under the First Amendment to criticize Metro's light rail proposal whether Metro likes it or not," Taylor said. Chronicle lawyer Joel R. White said in a letter delivered to Rosenthal's office Friday that the newspaper believes the group must make the names public because it is making paid political moves that are regulated by state election law. The Chronicle lawyer enclosed a copy of a brochure mailed to voters this week in which Texans for True Mobility says, "Metro's Rail Plan Costs Too Much ... Does Too Little" and "Metro's Plan Won't Work Here." TTM is also running TV and radio ads. Failure to disclose regulated contributions is a Class C misdemeanor, White said. A violation carries maximum punishment of a $500 fine. Chronicle interim Managing Editor John Wilburn said the newspaper has pursued the disclosure of public and campaign records in several unrelated cases over the years, "and we will continue our effort to provide as much information to our readers as possible about this important election issue." Citizens for Public Transportation, the committee urging approval of Metro's plan, has filed campaign finance statements. Monday was the deadline to file reports covering the period up to Sept. 25. Taylor, the TTM lawyer, said the Chronicle is making allegations that are reckless, false and defamatory. "If anyone had bothered to study the election code and the way that the organization is set up, they would realize that we are in full compliance with the spirit and the letter of all of the campaign laws," he said. Rosenthal said he will look into the issue. if he decides to launch an investigation, prosecutors would not announce any conclusions or results until after the election, Rosenthal said. "I don't want my office to influence anyone's vote," he said. Rosenthal said he talked recently to Stevens, the TTM leader, about the group's campaign against Metro. TTM has created a political action committee that is expected to pay for ads calling for a "no" vote on the referendum. Because it is a registered political group, it must disclose its contributors. Taylor said the nonprofit corporation could directly oppose the referendum and still not come under the disclosure laws. But the nonprofit is intended to be an educational group only, according to TTM. Taylor would not say whether he is one of the contributors. Doing so might waive the group's legal right to keep the names confidential, he said. Metro's expansion plan features a $640 million bond issue to add 22 miles of light rail by 2012 to the first phase, which is scheduled for completion in January. =PTP================================================= LAS VEGAS SUN October 10, 2003 ATC selected to run new high-tech MAX bus system By Launce Rake ATC, the Chicago-based company that operates the public bus system under a Regional Transportation Commission contract, has been pegged to run another form of the region's mass transit system. The RTC board on Thursday picked ATC to drive and maintain the MAX system buses, a high-tech system scheduled to begin operation early next year. The $19.4 million system is 80 percent funded by Federal Transit Administration dollars as a "demonstration project" to test the feasibility of the European-built Civis buses. The buses are about 60 feet long and can accommodate 120 people, but what makes them unique is that they will function like a light-rail commuter system. The bus will stop at dedicated stations on its way from downtown Las Vegas to Nellis Air Force Base. The system was dubbed the Metropolitan Area Express, or MAX. The first of 10 of the buses arrived at the bus system's maintenance yard in North Las Vegas in August. ATC has had the contract, worth about $40 million a year, to operate the local bus system for the public RTC. Valerie Michael, ATC spokeswoman, said her company and the RTC have made a good partnership and that will continue with the MAX system. She said that while ATC has been driving and maintaining buses in the United States for 75 years, and 10 years in Las Vegas, the MAX vehicles are a new technology. "These are the first Civis buses in the country, so we're excited to be a part of that," Michael said. ingrid Reisman, RTC spokesman, said the cost of the contract is still under negotiation but is expected to cost about $2 million yearly. June Devoll, RTC transit operations manager, said ATC was the best of the three companies that submitted proposals to run the new system. "Being a demonstration project, there are a lot of unknowns," Devoll said. "Based on all of the proposals we received, ATC had both the most realistic costs and greatest flexibility to accommodate any challenges we may face in the demonstration period." California-based MV Transportation and illinois-based Laidlaw Transit, which operates the RTC's bus service for people with disabilities, lost the bid to operate the MAX system. =PTP=============================================== Norfolk Virginian-Pilot October 7, 2003 Light rail gets new attention from Beach City Council By JASON SKOG VIRGINIA BEACH -- Four years ago, the City Council was so miffed over the prospect of light rail that it put its anger in writing. One week after voters rejected a proposed light-rail train line in a referendum, the council withdrew its funding for the project and forbid regional officials from even studying the idea. That was then. At a goal-setting retreat in August, council members -- six of them new -- rekindled the idea of a light-rail link between downtown Norfolk and the Oceanfront. They made it a top priority to buy a stretch of roughly 11 miles of Norfolk Southern Railway right-of-way within the city limits -- the eastern segment of the same line Norfolk leaders want for a light-rail system. Today, the council is expected to approve a process for purchasing the laser-straight section from Newtown Road to Lake Holly, just west of the resort strip. ''Whether you make a bike trail out of it or continue with light rail, it seems to me that it's prudent to secure it while it's there,'' said Richard A. Maddox, Beach district councilman and chairman of Hampton Road Transit. HRT is brokering the right-of-way purchase from Norfolk Southern along with the city of Norfolk and Norfolk State University. The railroad company is seeking to abandon the unused section of the line and sell it to a buyer or group of buyers in a single transaction. While most council members are careful to say the purchase isn't a green light for light rail, it is a clear departure from the city's previous stance. it's also a significant switch for Maddox, who lobbied intensely against the light-rail line coming into Virginia Beach while serving as president of the Resort Leadership Committee. Why the change of heart? For Maddox, new developments helped to reshape his thoughts. ''Nothing short of a miracle has taken place in downtown Norfolk,'' he said, ''and Town Center was nothing more than a concept five years ago. Things have changed dramatically.'' Norfolk has continued its own pursuit of light rail since the Beach backed out. And now, Maddox said, there's more appeal, both as a boost to mass transit and economic development. ''Does it make sense to take it from Newtown Road to Town Center and connect the two financial centers of Virginia Beach and Norfolk?'' he asked. ''I think that makes a lot of sense.'' Maddox said he isn't worried about reconsidering light rail against voters' wishes. The proposal lost in the 1999 advisory referendum, with 6,026 (56 percent) opposed and 4,698 (44 percent) in favor. ''it's worth looking into,'' he said. ''To summarily dismiss it and say the people have spoken, well, that's just silly.'' Not all council members are as quick to express such interest. ''I haven't seen any information at this point that would cause me to change my previous position on light rail, which was opposition to it,'' said Vice Mayor Louis R. Jones. Jones said he thinks the city should quickly acquire the land but should move cautiously on the question of light rail. ''I'm not opposed to using it for mass transit,'' he said, ''but I thought the light-rail system was fiscally irresponsible.'' He said he could support a bus rapid transit system, a cheaper alternative that involves paving the right-of-way and using it for an express bus line. ''But in light of the referendum, I am going to be very cautious about approving a light-rail system.'' For Councilman Peter W. Schmidt, getting the land is critical, even if there's no consensus about what to do with it. ''We absolutely have to have that, if it's affordable,'' he said. Councilwoman Reba S. McClanan said she supports the purchase of the railroad property but would want the question of light rail put back before voters. ''The people need to have input,'' she said, ''but I think it has tremendous potential.'' Reach Jason Skog at 222-5113 or =PTP=============================================== Portland Oregonian 10/10/03 No perfect fit for downtown rail line Planners will choose one of three plans for adding tracks on the transit mall along Fifth and Sixth avenues FRED LEESON Designers looking at three options for light-rail tracks through the heart of downtown Portland are finding that no single solution provides all the right answers. "None is a silver bullet for every situation," said Brian McCarter, an associate partner in the Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Partnership that is working with TriMet, Metro and the city of Portland on the light-rail plan. Local and regional officials hope to select a preferred alternative next month for adding light-rail tracks on the transit mall along Fifth and Sixth avenues between Union Station and Portland State University. Planners started with two options earlier this year, then added a third. Factors being weighed include bus, light-rail and auto traffic, pedestrian access and safety, and impacts on retailing in the central business core. "There are issues with all of them," said Alan Lehto, TriMet's transit corridor planning manager. "No decisions have been made. These three are still the pure options." if a money formula can be found, TriMet wants to add tracks on the transit mall as part of the proposed MAX extension that would run in the interstate 205 corridor between Clackamas Town Center and Gateway. Those trains would then join the Banfield light-rail tracks and enter downtown through the Steel Bridge. Planners say adding light-rail tracks on the transit mall would reinforce Fifth and Sixth avenues as the spine for high-density development as recognized in plans dating back to the early 1970s. Extending the tracks to PSU would add the city's largest single-trip generator, estimated at 30,000 potential riders per day, to the light-rail system. Retailers also want to open more mall blocks to automobile access, even though no parking is envisioned on Fifth or Sixth. "Allowing through traffic makes visibility and access more comfortable for shoppers, even if they can't park right in front," Lehto said. McCarter said planners hope to add a continuous traffic lane where possible, even if it cannot run the transit mall's entire length. He said data suggests that a traffic lane could handle in the range of 200 cars an hour without interfering with bus or rail traffic. "It can't compromise regional transit," McCarter said of auto-lane expansion. "This is a transit spine." in brief, here are the pluses and minuses of three possible options for adding light-rail tracks: Center-island stops for light rail: This option allows more room for an automobile lane but would force pedestrians to cross one lane of car or bus traffic to enter light-rail boarding platforms in the middle of the street. Planners are concerned about pedestrian safety and whether the platforms would provide an enticement for pedestrians to cross traffic lanes in the middle of blocks. Light-rail stops on the street's left side: This option appears best for ease of loading and unloading light-rail passengers quickly and safely. But it reduces opportunities of opening more blocks to auto traffic. Light-rail stops on the street's right side: This option would require buses and light-rail trains to leapfrog around each other to reach the right-side curbs. It would open more left lanes for auto traffic but could create confusing traffic patterns, especially for visitors or motorists unfamiliar with the unusual traffic flow. McCarter, who showed numerous maps at a public workshop Wednesday, said left-side platforms appear to make sense on the mall north of Burnside Street. He said the right-side option could work in the vicinity of PSU, but he did not offer a preferred option for the retail core. Drawings presented at public workshops identify seven light-rail platforms along a route running between Northwest irving Street and Southwest Jackson Street. However, a smaller version shows four stops between irving and Southwest Main Street if regional officials can't cobble together enough money for the longer line. Cost estimates are $150 million for the long version and $100 million for the shorter one. McCarter said the longer route's benefits include adding PSU as a destination and linking to a proposed second Southeast Portland rail line that would run along the Southeast McLoughlin Boulevard corridor between Portland and Milwaukie. "Someday we might have as many rail riders entering the transit mall from the south as we do from the north," McCarter said. Some transit advocates have said that building a subway makes more sense than putting light-rail trains on the mall. Planners working on the project have issued a one-page document stating a subway might make sense after 20 years or more, but that a subway now with an estimated $1 billion price tag is not necessary and too expensive. Fred Leeson: 503- 294-5946; =PTP================================================ Arizona Republic Oct. 8, 2003 Mesa seeks input on light-rail stop Adam Klawonn The first truly public glimpse of west Mesa's light rail segment comes tonight after more than one year of negotiations involving the controversial project. Among early revelations: Mesa's stop at the end of the line currently has no plans for public restrooms or paloverde trees. Neighbors recently opposed the low-water-use trees, rail officials said, because of yellow blossoms and pollen they create. But tonight's open house is a meet-and-greet for residents near the proposed transit center just east of Dobson Road and Main Street at the site of the former Tri-City Mall. The open house will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. at Webster Elementary School, 202 N. Sycamore. It includes a brief overview of the project's latest happenings, a small Q&A session and a mixer where residents can meet rail engineers and designers and give input. "it's like a cocktail party without the cocktails," said Sue Lewin, Valley Metro Rail's public involvement manager for the area. Mesa's piece of the billion-dollar project is a 1.1-mile segment connecting it to a Valley-wide rail line ending near 19th Avenue and Bethany Home Road in west Phoenix. The open house was delayed while city and rail officials settled on a site for the rail stop. It was a contest between the former mall site and the East Valley institute of Technology, whose board effectively tabled the issue and drove it back toward Philadelphia-based Amerimar's Tri-City Pavilion site this year. So far, developers agreed to contribute about $200,000 to help design a rail stop that officials hope 2,000 people will use daily. The city, Valley Metro Rail and developers are now about three months away from a final lease agreement at the former mall site, said Jeff Martin, Mesa's assistant Development Services manager. Amerimar would keep 4 acres for development and the city would lease 11 acres for a Park-N-Ride and quick drop-off lot called a "Kiss-N-Ride." "We as a city did not want to get into the redevelopment business in this area," Martin said. "We thought that was best left to the private sector." =PTP=========================================== Associated Press 10/10/2003 State adds 6 more 'Transit Villages' COLLINGSWOOD, N.J. (AP) — The state tabbed six additional communities as "transit villages" on Friday and allocated $1.2 million to fund projects there aimed at getting people out of cars and onto mass transit. At a ceremony near the Collingswood PATCO station, Transportation Commissioner Jack Lettiere announced six new transit villages and a $200,000 grant for each community. They included: Collingswood, Bound Brook, Belmar, Bloomfield, Matawan and Cranford. The money will be used for a range of improvements including streetscaping, road improvements, bicycle paths and station renovations. "If we want to take cars off our highways, we must make mass transit a viable option, not a last resort," said Lettiere. The transit village program is designed to spur economic development, urban revitalization and private-sector investment around public transportation. A designated transit village is a community with a bus, train, light rail or ferry station that has developed a plan to encourage transit-oriented development. =PTP=============================================== * Arnold's Florida auditor may ax CA high-speed rail [BATN] San Jose Mercury News October 10, 2003 'Tough' expert to assess state's fiscal problems Schwarzenegger recruits Florida's budget director for transition team By Barry Witt and Mary Anne Ostrom Mercury News Working for Republican governors in three states, Donna Arduin has played the role of Scrooge for a dozen years with Oscar-caliber performances. Thursday, California's governor-elect charged her with looking under every rock in Sacramento to help him find cuts that will let him make good on his pledge to roll back the car tax and balance the state budget without raising taxes. "She will cure what ails you," said Johnnie Byrd, the Republican speaker of the House of Representatives in Florida, where Arduin has been Gov. Jeb Bush's budget director since 1999. "She's a tough fiscal conservative, and you can underline tough." Arduin -- who is taking a leave from her Florida job but plans to return by January -- will oversee the outside audit of state government that Arnold Schwarzenegger promised would form the core of his budget plan. Her first task is to get a grip on just how big a financial problem the state faces. "As somebody coming from another state, I haven't seen a clear answer to the question the governor has been asking, so the first thing we need to do is give him the answers," Arduin said. "I'm going to get down to Sacramento this afternoon and get to work." Before joining Bush, the 40-year-old Duke University graduate served in the budget offices of New York Gov. George Pataki and Michigan Gov. John Engler. "She has helped three governors in three significant-sized states bring structure to their budgets, bring reform and bring crises under control. That's her track record," said Schwarzenegger spokesman Rob Stutzman. Schwarzenegger called her "a great talent." in Florida, Arduin oversees a $53 billion state budget -- slightly more than half the size of California's -- and has instituted a "performance-based" system that measures what government departments produce rather than just how much they spend. in Bush's first year in office, she helped him find more than $300 million in what were described as legislators' "pet projects" to veto from the budget. This year, Bush killed early funding for a high- speed rail system that Florida voters already had approved, a subject that could have significance in California because voters next year are scheduled to consider a similar system that would add to the state's deficit. Arduin "has been very successful at having us live within our means without raising taxes," said Byrd, the conservative Florida speaker. "She knows how to go through a budget with a fine-toothed comb and find every dollar." Byrd said Schwarzenegger's decision to bring her in "is probably one of the best moves he could ever make." Contact Barry Witt at or (408) 920-5703.
PTP Digest 2003/10/10-A = CONTENTS * Ca's Arnold: Zap transit, zap HOV lanes, build freeway lanes Bay Area Transportation News October 10, 2003 * Denver: Plan pushed to restore LRT extensions Rocky Mountain News October 9, 2003 * Denver: Union Station planned as major transit hub Denver Post Friday, October 10, 2003 * Houston anti-rail group's funding under scrutiny Houston Chronicle Oct. 9, 2003 * Seattle monorail's staffing budget 'balloons' despite fiscal crisis Vol 13 No. 4, Oct 9 - Oct 15 2003 * Seattle: Cash-strapped monorail tops want tax crackdown KING-TV 5 News Thursday, October 9, 2003 * Seattle LRT agency asks contractor for bid extension SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER Friday, October 10, 2003 * Seattle: Road plans now hostage to LRT funding? King County Journal 2003-10-09 * Seattle suburbs: Railway could become LRT route King County Journal (Seattle) 2003-10-09 * Oakland: San Pablo Ave "Rapid Bus" finally gets official 'grand opening' Contra Costa Times October 10, 2003 * Cincinnati: LRT/road plan for I-75 corridor gets regional OK Cincinnati Enquirer Friday, October 10, 2003 * Cincinnati: More details on LRT/road plan for I-75 corridor CINCINNATI POST 10-10-2003 * Cincinnati: Area traffic up tenfold since 1982 Cincinnati Post 10-01-2003 * Cincinnati: Background to I-75 LRT/road planning Cincinnati Enquirer Tuesday, September 30, 2003 * LA: Major redevelopment planned for subway station area Los Angeles Times October 9, 2003 * No. Ca: 'indirect pollution' fees sought for San Joaquin Valley Sacramento Bee Tuesday, October 7, 2003 =PTP========================================== Bay Area Transportation News October 10, 2003 Arnold's Views on Transportation (source: Q: What measures would you take to reduce gridlock and improve the state's transportation system in these times of tight budgets? A: California has some of the worst roads in the nation. We need a world-class transportation system, including roads, rail, ports and airports, to maintain the quality of life for all Californians and to keep our economy strong. Texas has recently surpassed California as the nation's top exporter and that is merely a taste of what is to come. The current state budget includes another $856 million in loans of Proposition 42 funds to the state general fund. This brings to nearly $2.5 billion the amount the state government has borrowed from various transportation funds. As Governor, I will order a top to bottom review of California's transportation needs and create a multilevel plan to bring our system up to the qualifications Californians deserve. I will seek to implement innovative, market-based means of reducing congestion on California's highways. Q: The California Transportation Commission estimates that the state's roads and highways need $100 billion in repairs or expansion. How can the state pay for that? Anyone that has driven on our highways during rush hour knows that our highway system is in crisis. Californians pay the third highest per vehicle tax in the nation, but ranks 50th in per capita spending on roads. In the past decade, the time Californians spend stuck in traffic has more than doubled. Resolving the transportation crisis in California will mean ending the status quo in Sacramento. This will take leadership. * The first step is to commit to no more stealing of transportation revenues. Over the past three years, the Davis administration has stolen(*) more then $4.5 billion in transportation revenues to pay for his other spending programs. * The next piece of the solution is to redistribute transportation revenues away from costly transit programs to pay for more freeway lanes in the most congested areas. * Along those same lines, we have the capacity to create more highway capacity in just the areas where it is most needed without spending another penny. We must convert the High Occupancy Vehicle Lanes (HOV) to free flow lanes, so that all the taxpayers who paid for those lanes and are now sitting in traffic jams can use them. * Another important element of the solution is to take the sales tax revenues generated from the sale of new and used vehicles toward transportation programs. Between state and local taxes, this would amount to over $3 billion per year. * The final element of the solution would be the creation of a dedicated stream of revenue specific to transportation infrastructure. This would commit to 1% of the General Fund to be invested in construction and maintenance programs and would represent an additional $7.8 billion over the next decade. Between all the elements of this plan, California would be committing over $12 billion per year to pay for transportation infrastructure, achieving the CTC's goal of $100 billion in less than a decade. (*) [BATN: See related stories on the "stolen" transportation funds: "Borrowed" $2.2B transit cash may hit 800 projects Davis', CA's transportation funding schemes crash Caltrans broke; state transport funds "laundered" ] =PTP================================================,1299,DRMN_15_ 2333530,00.html Rocky Mountain News October 9, 2003 RTD rekindles original vision Agency pushes plan for more light rail cut in budget slump By Kevin Flynn, Rocky Mountain News The Regional Transportation District wants to restore rail lines that it cut from its FasTracks rapid transit proposal. The trade-off might be less service and parking systemwide. "We're rerunning our financial models to see what we can build and in what time frame," Cal Marsella, RTD general manager, said Wednesday. RTD plans to ask voters in November 2004 for a hike of 0.4 cents in its metro sales tax, raising it to a full penny on a $1 purchase, to pay for FasTracks, a system of new light rail, buses, park-n-rides and trains. in August, the agency said the slumping economy no longer would produce the amount of tax revenue RTD needs to pay for the $5.1 billion program, so it was cut to $4.2 billion. As a result, some parts of the plan were shifted to a proposed "Phase II" that would be built when the economy improves. Among the cuts were commuter rail from Boulder to Longmont; light rail from Olde Town Arvada to Ward Road; light rail from Denver Federal Center to Golden; light rail from 124th Avenue to Colorado 7 in Adams County; and extension of current southwest light rail into Highlands Ranch. The cuts drew criticism from suburban officials and the public. Marsella said that prompted the rethinking. "We heard from the Jefferson County commissioners, Longmont, Adams County and Highlands Ranch that they didn't want to do two phases," Marsella said. The biggest concern: Voters already served by rail in the first phase would be inclined to vote against expansion in the future for outlying areas. in Jefferson County, where the end-of-line station had been cut back from the county government center to the Federal Center in Lakewood, Commissioner Michelle Lawrence was glad to have the original concept reconsidered. "it's the logical ending place for the West Corridor line to come out to the government center," she said. "Face it, we're a transit hub here already with C-470, interstate 70 and Sixth Avenue coming together." Marsella said restoring the cuts looks "promising" but it hasn't yet been determined to be financially feasible. A revised plan will be presented to the RTD board in November. "There's very strong support on the board for the revised concept," Marsella said. But it carries a price: cuts in the number of parking spaces at stations and reductions in the number of trains and frequency of service. It also could extend the construction period beyond the 10 years outlined in the original plan. While welcomed, the new proposal has raised some concerns. "We're going to have to watch the parking issue very carefully to make sure it's adequate," said Debra Baskett, director of the U.S. 36 Transportation Mobility Organization, which works for improvements along the Boulder Turnpike. But overall, Baskett said she is pleased with the new direction. Adams County Commission Chairwoman Elaine Valente remained skeptical that RTD could make it work. She cited proposed cuts in service to help finance all the construction. "I'll try to be optimistic and hope they can pull it off. But you just can't have it all if the money isn't there." =PTP===============================================,1413,36~53~1688366,00.html# Denver Post Friday, October 10, 2003 Union Station transit-hub plan unveiled By Jeffrey Leib Denver Post Staff Writer Denver's historic Union Station would become a transportation hub with rail and regional bus stations located underground and commercial buildings reaching 15 stories above, under a plan announced Thursday. Full buildout of the Union Station "vision plan," as officials called it, would cost $560 million. Passage by metro voters of RTD's proposed FasTracks transit expansion plan would be a catalyst for redevelopment of the Union Station site, officials said. FasTracks carries a price tag of at least $4.3 billion. About $250 million of that total is earmarked for Union Station redevelopment, said Liz Rao, planning chief for the Regional Transportation District. The plans unveiled Thursday are part of a $5.3 million multi-year study. By burying the rail and bus stations, 18th Street would no longer have to dead end at the station but would go through to the Platte Valley. The Union Station study is a joint venture of RTD, the Colorado Department of Transportation, the Denver Regional Council of Governments and the city and county of Denver. The redevelopment plan estimates it would cost $230 million to construct an underground light- rail station and about $120 million each for a separate passenger-rail station and a regional bus station, both also underground. The passenger-rail station would handle Amtrak trains, the Ski Train and possible future commuter-rail trains to Denver international Airport, Boulder and Longmont. it also would be constructed for "through service" in a way that would allow a possible Front Range passenger train that would travel between Fort Collins and Colorado Springs with stops at Union Station. Currently, passenger trains that use Union Station come to a dead end there and must back out to exit the terminal. The Union Station plan also calls for private transportation services - including Greyhound and charter buses, taxicabs and rental car companies - to be located near the rail and RTD stations. One RTD light-rail line, the C Line that snakes through the Central Platte Valley past Invesco Field and the Pepsi Center, now uses Union Station. Downtown Denver's 16th Street Mall shuttle bus also terminates at the station, parts of which date to 1881. RTD, Denver and their partners bought the station for $50 million in 2001 from the Union Pacific Railroad and other property owners. With FasTracks, RTD plans to add at least five more light-rail and commuter-rail lines in the metro area that would feed into Union Station as a transit hub. To raise the $4.3 billion, RTD plans to ask voters in the seven-county metro area to approve a hike in the transit district's sales tax to 1 percent from the current 0.6 percent. That vote could come in November 2004. if the FasTracks tax plan is rejected, planners "would assess the revenue streams we do have and modify the buildout plan for Union Station based on available revenues," Rao said. The proposed new FasTracks rail lines that would serve Union Station include one to Lakewood and Golden and another that would parallel portions of interstate 70 to serve Arvada. A commuter-rail line would go from Union Station to Longmont, with intermediate stops in Westminster, Louisville and Boulder. One other line would roughly parallel interstate 25 to north Adams County, and a commuter line would link Union Station with DIA. =PTP============================================== Houston Chronicle Oct. 9, 2003 Anti-rail group's funding under scrutiny By LUCAS WALL and ALAN BERNSTEIN The refusal of an anti-rail organization to tell voters where its money comes from continued to draw scrutiny today, including from two of the group's own advisers. Since Monday, Texans for True Mobility has declined to release statements about the money it has collected and spent in its campaign to defeat the Metropolitan Transit Authority's Nov. 4 transit-expansion referendum. But Sen. Kyle Janek, R-Houston, a member of the group, questions the strategy. "It is always good when people disclose," said Janek, who, along with Harris County Republican Party Chairman Jared Woodfill, supported the records' release Thursday."When you get into these political issues I think disclosure is better than non-disclosure." Woodfill, also a TTM adviser, said he would have no problem disclosing the names of contributors who don't specifically ask to remain anonymous. Texans for True Mobility, led by developer Michael Stevens, has blitzed voters with advertisements this week trashing Metro's expansion plan, the centerpiece of which is a $640 million bond issue to add 22 miles of light rail by 2012. Metro itself has been criticized for using taxpayer money to tout the benefits of light rail in its advertising. Janek said it was galling that Metro's "informational" ads seem to encourage voting for the referendum. "I know who their contributors are, and I am one of them," he said, referring to the Metro sales tax he pays. "And I am not happy about it." Advocates for open political campaigns decried TTM's decision to form two separate entities bearing the same name: a nonprofit corporation to "educate" voters about the flaws in Metro's plan and a political action committee to "advocate" for the referendum's defeat. Donations to nonprofit corporations are not required to be disclosed under state election laws. Contributions to political action committees, on the other hand, must be disclosed. TTM's nonprofit arm funded the initial ad blitz, which is why the group said it did not file a campaign finance disclosure by Monday's deadline. But those ads cross the line from education into advocating against the Metro plan, several observers said Thursday. A four-page color mailer from TTM arriving in mailboxes this week, for example, has phrases such as, "Metro's Rail Plan: Costs Too Much ... Does Too Little," "What's Wrong With Metro's Plan? Just About Everything," and "We cannot afford to waste these precious public dollars." Tom Smith of Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy organization, is among several political campaign watchdogs in Austin who said they've received complaints about the ads. "it's absolutely critical that citizens know who is providing this money," Smith said. "Car dealers and tire companies and auto manufacturers could be dumping tens of thousands of dollars in cash into advertisements to defeat this because rail cuts into their market share." TTM responds it has a First Amendment right to speak out on a plan proposed by a government agency so long as does not advocate "vote no Nov. 4" or "kill this plan." Andy Taylor, the group's attorney, said it is carefully following the Texas Election Code. Though the code appears on its face to broadly require disclosure of any spending "in connection with an election on a measure," Taylor said, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled such a provision is unconstitutional unless interpreted to ban only spending advocating for passage or failure. Smith said his group is considering lodging a formal complaint against TTM with the Texas Ethics Commission, the state agency that enforces campaign finance rules. Karen Lundquist, the commission's director, said she could not comment on the legality of TTM campaign language. The commission or a judge would have to decide if the political communication fit the category that requires donor disclosure, she said. Citizens for Public Transportation, the committee urging approval of Metro's plan, has filed campaign finance statements and wants the other side to do so as well. "If these aren't political advertisements, I've never seen any," Ed Wulfe, the developer leading the pro side, said of the TTM campaign. "The public is entitled to know who's behind their aggressive negative approach." Bob Stein, a Rice University political scientist, said refusing to reveal campaign donors -- even if legal -- raises eyebrows. "What are they hiding?" he asked. "Why wouldn't you want to signal to people there are community leaders out there who are opposed to this?" Chris Begala, TTM spokesman, said his nonprofit group is free to discuss issues just as liberal groups American Civil Liberties Union and League of United Latin American Citizens. Both those civil-rights organizations supported a bid by the conservative Texas Association of Business to keep its 2002 political donations private, worried they might lose donors if they knew their gifts would be publicly disclosed. A Travis County grand jury is investigating whether the business coalition crossed the line in airing "issue ads" in support of Republican legislative candidates, and a judge has cited its executives for contempt of court. in a related issue, Metro said TTM has not filed a required form designating the treasurer of its political action committee. But Taylor disputed that Thursday, saying he sent the paperwork to the transit authority last month. =PTP========================================= Vol 13 No. 4, Oct 9 - Oct 15 2003 PAY CHECK Monorail Staffing Budget Balloons Erica Barnett if monorail revenues continue to come in, as they have for the past several months, about one-third under predictions, Seattle Monorail Project planners may find themselves looking for drastic cost-saving measures. One place they might consider cutting is the agency's payroll, which has ballooned since last December, when the monorail project adopted a $58.5 million first-year budget that included $5.5 million for salaries and benefits for 40 to 45 employees. That budget was amended upward by 47 percent this past April, to $86 million; simultaneously, the SMP's staffing level increased to nearly 70 full- and part-time employees. Monorail spokesperson Paul Bergman explains the agency's swelling payroll as an investment that will pay off in the future: By doing a lot of the initial design work itself, the SMP hopes to save money on its "design- build-operate-maintain" contract, to be awarded in 2004. Doing work now that would otherwise be done by contractors later, Bergman says, could "lower the amount of contingency [wiggle room for unexpected costs] the contractors will place in their bids." But that explanation doesn't answer another, more significant question: Why are average salaries at the SMP so much higher than those at similar public agencies, like Sound Transit? Of the monorail agency's full- timers, 18 make over $100,000 a year; nearly 50 make $50,000 or more. The salaries range from $29,000 to $172,000 (SMP director Joel Horn's salary); the average salary, at around $75,000, is nearly 20 percent higher than the $63,000 average made by Sound Transit's full-time employees. "We felt the salary ranges were reasonable [compared to] what other transit agencies were doing," Bergman says, noting that salaries are still less than one percent of the project's total estimated cost. in addition to its own 69 employees, the SMP also funds 10 positions at the city, at a total cost through 2004 of $3 million. Ethan Melone, the city's monorail program manager, says the city and the SMP will sign another $3 million agreement at the end of October, to fund another 10 positions through 2004. =PTP================================================ a0f307.html KING-TV 5 News Thursday, October 9, 2003 Monorail aims to crack down on tax evaders BY AUSTIN JENKINS / KING 5 News SEATTLE - The cash-strapped Seattle monorail project is preparing to crack down on people who evade the new monorail tax by registering outside the city. But it's unclear whether the monorail has any real authority to force residents to pay up The monorail project says it has anecdotal evidence that some residents are registering their cars out of the city to avoid the monorail tax. But now it wants hard evidence. So Monorail officials are asking the state to turn over names and addresses of suspected tax evaders. They also met Wednesday with car- licensing agents to make sure they report suspected evaders to the state Licensing Department. [PHOTO] KING The current monorail only runs a short distance - from Seattle Center to Westlake Center downtown. But with no authority to prosecute these people, the effort may have more bark than bite. At Ballard Auto Licensing, most customers are law-abiding citizens who just need to renew their car tabs. But once in a while someone comes in with a story that doesn't add up, such as "differences in addresses on their checks versus addresses on their drivers license versus what they're telling us in person," said June Neu, manager of Ballard Auto Licensing. The clerks are trained to watch out for fraud. But now the Seattle monorail project is asking them to help stop Seattle residents who register their cars to an out-of-city address in order to avoid paying the new monorail tax. "We need everyone to pay the taxes," said Joel Horn of the Seattle Monorail project. "Not only is it a law, it's fair and I think for all those people that are paying the tax they should be really angry that other people are cheating on the taxes." There are drivers on both sides of the issue. "Maybe that's a form of evading the tax, but on the other hand you can totally understand that people are trying to save money, especially in these times," said Yvonne Silva, a Seattle resident. "I think if they live in the city, then they accept the cost associated with the cost of living in the city," said Doug Pelt, another Seattle resident. Currently monorail revenues are running about 25 percent below projections. Project director Joel Horn said tax evaders are part of the problem. "If people are going to cheat on their taxes they've basically cheating on themselves, they're cheating on their neighbors, they're cheating on their kids," he said. At the Ballard License office, staff said they're willing to cooperate, but only to a certain point. "We're not to confront customers face-to-face and we're certainly not going to list every name of an address change," said Neu. =PTP============================================= SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER Friday, October 10, 2003 Sound Transit asks contractor for bid extension By JANE HADLEY SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER REPORTER Doubts about a $500 million federal grant have forced Sound Transit to ask a company to extend by two weeks its highly attractive bid for construction work on Seattle's light rail line in the hopes that the money being held up in Congress will come through by then. The bid expires today, but whether a two-week extension would be enough to free up the money in Washington, D.C., is unknown. "We are living in a world of a lot of uncertainty right now," Sound Transit Chief Executive Joni Earl said yesterday. "We are working through all the issues as fast as we can, because there's taxpayer's money involved." The Federal Transit Administration has approved the grant, but an Oklahoma congressman who is chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee that hands out federal transportation dollars has put a hold on it until his questions are answered. Sound Transit has said it will not begin construction on Seattle's long- awaited $2.44 billion, 14-mile light rail line until the federal government officially signs off on the grant agreement. The hold by Republican Rep. Ernest Istook Jr. puts at risk the $95 million bid by Kiewit Pacific Co., which came in about $16 million below engineers' estimates for the work. if the Kiewit bid expires, Sound Transit would have to rebid the package, a process that would take 2 1/2 to 3 months, possibly raise the price of the project and delay its completion, Sound Transit spokesman Geoff Patrick said. The contract involves building a maintenance base near the former Rainier Brewery, a light rail trackway from the south end of the downtown bus tunnel to the base and a station at South Lander Street. Dave Zemek, vice president of Kiewit Pacific, said in an interview yesterday that the company would respond today to Sound Transit's request for an extension. Earl made the formal request Wednesday night, although the company and the transit agency were in informal discussions before that. Zemek said the company was "polling" its subcontractors and suppliers to make sure they were willing to extend their bids to Kiewit. in an interview before a Sound Transit board meeting yesterday, King County Executive Ron Sims, chairman of the board, indicated he believed Kiewit would agree to the request, saying, "We obviously are very pleased." But two weeks was apparently about as long as Kiewit is able or willing to go. The bid was submitted June 12 and was to remain valid for 120 days, which is today. "I think they were very, very nervous about being able to go beyond two weeks," Sims said. Already some subcontractors and suppliers are experiencing some cost increases, Sims said. Sound Transit officials sent a seven-page letter to Istook last Friday that sought to answer his concerns as to how the agency would be able to pay its 80 percent share of the light rail line if the state Supreme Court's ruling on initiative 776 deprives the agency of revenues from a 0.3 percent motor vehicle excise tax. As of yesterday, Sound Transit had still not heard from Istook. Furthermore, his aide told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer last week that he had other questions besides those about the initiative. Rep. Jennifer Dunn, R-Wash., has also raised objections, saying she is concerned that the Seattle project might dip into revenues reserved for Eastside projects. Sound Transit formally asked the state high court to expedite its decision on initiative 776 in order to preserve the favorable bids. But last week the justices denied that request, a court spokeswoman said. =PTP============================================ King County Journal 2003-10-09 Light-rail may delay I-90 project by Jeff Switzer An effort to squeeze two new HOV lanes onto the interstate 90 floating bridges is on hold because of Seattle's quest for a half-billion in light rail money. Seattle officials -- who endorsed a cross-lake agreement for two-way HOV lanes on I-90 in July --say light-rail funding must come first. The I-90 agreement had been scheduled for a key vote of the Sound Transit executive board last week, but was delayed. ''That action is now on hold until the future of the full-funding grant agreement is clarified and we have it in hand,'' said Seattle Deputy Mayor Tim Ceis. ''Once we get it, the agreements are all back on track and ready to go ahead.'' The goal: Persuade U.S. Rep. Jennifer Dunn of Bellevue to suspend her opposition to $500 million in federal light-rail funds, key to building the $2.5-billion rail project from downtown Seattle to Tukwila. Dunn supports the proposed I-90 project, which would build the first all- day HOV lanes across Lake Washington connecting the Eastside and Seattle. i-90 now has reversible express lanes that head into Seattle in the morning and to the Eastside in the evening, leaving Seattle car-poolers to struggle through gridlock on the way to Eastside jobs. Buses also get stuck in the reverse traffic when crossing the lake, Sound Transit officials say. The $128 million project would solve those problems. ''it's very frustrating,'' Mercer island Deputy Mayor Bryan Cairns said. ''We've spent years -- Mercer island together with Seattle and the Eastside -- in arriving at the conclusion that (option) R8a is the best plan to service the area and decrease congestion.'' ''We need to move forward with this plan and delays -- should they occur, due to regional politics affecting other issues -- are extremely unfortunate,'' he said. ''We hope for an early resolution in favor of R8a.'' Option R8a is the plan that would restripe the current eight-lane freeway into 10 lanes by narrowing six lanes. The bridge deck would not be expanded. Seattle's delay on the I-90 agreement must mean they don't think it's important, said Dunn's spokeswoman Danielle Holland. ''That's their choice. That's their decision.'' Holland said. Dunn still wants a legal promise that Sound Transit won't raid Eastside tax dollars if Seattle light rail goes over budget, Holland said. The I-90 agreement allows two new HOV lanes to be built only if all sides also push for high-capacity transit in the reversible center lanes. For Seattle, ''high-capacity transit'' means light rail; Eastside officials want to also consider bus rapid transit. Light rail must be built in Seattle before it can cross I-90 to the Eastside, Ceis said, which shows the two projects are linked. Bellevue Mayor Connie Marshall, who helped forge the cross-lake bargain on I-90, disagreed. Many Seattle officials are chafed that Dunn, an Eastside Republican, would target federal light-rail funding. ''The city of Seattle is not trying to set transportation policy for the Eastside, and Bellevue is not trying to set transportation policy for Seattle,'' Ceis said. ''We work well together if we maintain that respect for each other. ''Unfortunately, Jennifer Dunn doesn't have that same viewpoint.'' County Executive Ron Sims, Sound Transit chairman, said it was his decision to pull I-90 from last week's board agenda. ''I wanted to avoid a collision of heated, intense political rhetoric that would not serve the region well at all,'' Sims said. Board members besides Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels are angry that Dunn is critical of light rail funding, Sims said. Sims wouldn't say who. it's a delicate and diplomatic time, he said. ''The reason why nothing ever happens around here is because these kinds of conflicts occur,'' Sims said. ''These are feelings best worked out in private, and a cooling-off period serves everybody's interest so that the bridges of discourse remain up and not burned down.'' U.S. Rep. Ernest Istook, R-Okla., chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, recently met with federal transit officials who have promised answers to his concerns about light-rail costs. Istook wants Sound Transit to show how it would cover light-rail costs if a pending Supreme Court decision eliminates the agency's ability to collect motor-vehicle excise taxes. =PTP============================================ King County Journal (Seattle) 2003-10-09 Railway may sell line; tracks from Woodinville to Renton could become home to light-rail route by Jeff Switzer Journal Reporter The railroad line from Renton to Woodinville -- home to the Spirit of Washington Dinner Train -- might be for sale. For more than a decade, that line has been eyed as a possible future light-rail corridor running parallel to interstate 405. State transportation officials were recently approached by representatives of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, said state Transportation Secretary Doug MacDonald. ''They came to us a week or two ago and said they'd like a sit-down to discuss their future plans'' for the Renton-Woodinville line, MacDonald told the Journal on Wednesday. ''it's premature to jump to any conclusion on what the outcome might be. It really just came on the horizon and a lot of people will be very interested.'' MacDonald said he wants to discuss the rail line property with the Senate and House transportation chairmen for advice on the next steps. ''it's not clear yet what all would be involved or what the options are,'' MacDonald said. ''The local governments have to get involved, and the Legislature. We wouldn't make this decision without a lot of thought.'' Details from the railroad were scarce. ''BNSF is always studying the status of various lines of low profitability, systemwide, and one area under current review is the Woodinville line,'' said spokesman Gus Melonas. ''We are looking into alternatives for this line, which is consistent practice in this type of situation.'' Melonas wouldn't give details. The line runs through downtown Renton, along the Lake Washington waterfront and parallel to interstate 405, then travels up the Sammamish River Valley to the Columbia Winery and Woodinville. The route was studied in 1987 as a possible Eastside light-rail route, to no end. The Dinner Train began operations on those tracks in Renton in 1992. Two years ago, debates over whether to expand I-405 included some discussions of a light-rail line on those tracks, or a possible $300 million expenditure to preserve the land for transportation. ''This thing been under discussion since time immemorial,'' MacDonald said. No action was taken because the line has actively carried the Dinner Train and an occasional Boeing shipment. ''it should be improved for a transportation corridor,'' said Jim Cusick, commuter rail advocate with Washington Association of Railroad Passengers, a pro-rail lobbying group. Cusick, a Bothell computer programmer and former member of the I-405 advisory committee, pushed to have some kind of commuter rail -- light rail or heavy rail -- along the BNSF line. Renton officials and Kennydale residents opposed the move and it went no farther. Until now. ''I'm in the minority: pro rail and pro high-capacity transit,'' Cusick said. ''i always thought the Eastside route was a cost-effective way to get rail on the Eastside.'' He sympathizes with neighbors who live near the tracks, but said commuter trains could be quieter than freight trains. Also, the Dinner Train might be able to share the tracks with commuter trains and freight trains, he said. ''if it's lost as a rail line, it would be an unfortunate event,'' Cusick said. Jeff Switzer can be reached at or 425- 453-4234. =PTP============================================ * AC Transit San Pablo Ave "Rapid Bus" grand opening [BATN] Contra Costa Times October 10, 2003 Rapid Bus gets official welcome celebration By Tom Lochner Contra Costa Times With a Dixieland band playing "San Pablo Avenue Blues," officials of seven cities, two counties, several state and regional agencies and a Belgian bus manufacturer hopped on an AC Transit 72R bus Thursday to a "smart" transit exhibit and ceremony in front of Oakland City Hall. The event was the official grand opening of AC Transit's "Rapid Bus" service along San Pablo Avenue from Oakland to El Cerrito, San Pablo and Richmond that began June 30. The roughly three month delay allowed officials to fine-tune the service, which features an infrared emitter on buses that can delay a green light from turning red; a Global Positioning System-based vehicle locator; and a three-door, low-floor bus with an ultra-quiet diesel engine. "People thought it was an electric bus," said AC Transit board member Chris Peeples. "You can stand back there next to the engine and have a conversation at a normal volume." in Oakland, medians were built to limit cross-traffic. Yet to be installed are electronic displays in bus shelters along the route announcing the amount of time until the next bus. The Rapid is part of a movement dubbed intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS). Among its more intelligent aspects, officials say, is the capital cost, which is anywhere from 5 to 50 times less than light rail, depending on whether you include such enhancements as separate bus-only lanes. "It gives you about the same speed advantage as light rail," Peeples said. "(The 72R) is about the least costly form of rapid bus transit." The 72R is the first Rapid Bus program in Northern California, AC Transit board president Pat Piras said. it also represents a breakthrough for Belgium-based Van Hool NV, whose AC Transit order for 191 buses is its first in North America, assistant sales manager Francis Stevens said. A Van Hool bus with an American-built Cummins engine costs about $300,000, roughly the same as other AC Transit buses manufactured by Gillig Corp. of Hayward, officials said. Piras also thanked Caltrans employee Roger Hoosin [BATN: Hooson] for coming up with the idea for the Rapid Bus in 1995 after he saw a similar system in Dublin, ireland. Officials hope the Rapid will spell the end of transit riders' blues on San Pablo Avenue and attract new riders, which they say is already happening. Ridership on the corridor, which also carries the local 72 and 72M buses, is up 22 percent to about 17,000 a day, Peeples said. The Rapid makes 26 stops spaced about half a mile apart on San Pablo Avenue from Contra Costa College in San Pablo to downtown Oakland, then on to Jack London Square via Broadway. Average end-to-end travel time is 57 minutes; the 72L, which the Rapid replaced, took 72 minutes with limited stops on the 15-mile corridor, with a detour to the El Cerrito Plaza BART station. "it's an enormous difference in how long it takes you to go to work," said Berkeley City Councilman Kriss Worthington, a daily 72R passenger whose partner lives in San Pablo. The one-way fare is $1.50, the same as on AC Transit's other non-premium fare buses. Reach Tom Lochner at 510-262-2760 or =PTP============================================= Cincinnati Enquirer Friday, October 10, 2003 i-75 plan with rail passes Total cost to be billions By James Pilcher QUEENSGATE - The region's main transportation planning agency Thursday overwhelmingly approved a mix of highway expansion and a new light-rail line as the best way to fix traffic on interstate 75. The 39-4 vote by the board of the Ohio-Kentucky-indiana Regional Council of Governments came almost a year after Hamilton County voters roundly defeated a proposed sales-tax increase that would have helped pay for a light-rail system. WHAT'S NEXT The I-75 plan will now formally be considered for the region's 30-year, long-range transportation plan, which is updated every three years. That updating process is expected to be complete by spring. Entities such as the Ohio Department of Transportation then can seek federal money for design and construction. In addition, local funding needs to be found for light rail.Preliminary estimates on how long full implementation would take range from 15 to 25 years. "It isn't going to solve the problem tomorrow, and it might not get built tomorrow, but we had to try and come up with alternatives so we do not leave our children and grandchildren insurmountable problems," said Ken Reed, the president of OKI's board and the agency's acting executive director. "We've got to start dealing with these issues now ... and this is a critical step toward that." The plan is the result of a three-year, $6 million study. It calls for: • Widening the freeway to four lanes continuously from the Ohio River through Hamilton, Butler and Warren counties. • A light-rail line with trains every three minutes during rush hour and five minutes in off-peak times, at a cost of $1.83 billion in current dollars. Those figures do not include an estimated $428 million in renovations and improvements already planned for the highway in Hamilton County. Nor do they include the estimated $750 million it will take to replace the I-71/i- 75 Brent Spence Bridge. "it's going to be a lot more expensive than that when all is said and done," said Hamilton County Commissioner John Dowlin, one of the four no votes. OKI's board consists of 105 business and community leaders from throughout the Tristate, including representatives from all major political jurisdictions - with fewer than half of the total members attending Thursday's meeting. E-mail =PTP============================================= CINCINNATI POST 10-10-2003 OKI gives OK to I-75 project By Bob Driehaus Post staff reporter Major interchanges in Cincinnati and nearby suburbs are first in line for improvements related to the sweeping $1.83 billion long-range plan for interstate 75 that was overwhelmingly approved by a regional transportation board on Thursday. The Ohio-Kentucky-indiana Regional Council of Governments gave final approval to a plan that, if funded and implemented, would widen the interstate to at least four lanes between the Ohio River and I-675 in Dayton and add a fifth lane at choke points. The plan also calls for a light rail train line to be built parallel to the highway with frequent stops to accommodate riders' transportation needs. A project so massive will unfold over decades, but the Ohio Department of Transportation is already pushing ahead on the first parts of it. Diana Martin, ODOT transportation planning program administrator, said her department will seek millions of dollars in the 2004 state budget to launch engineering and design studies for several parts of the project. Each study would be launched in the second half of 2004 if funded: • Brent Spence Bridge: The state wants to reconfigure entrance and exit ramps connecting the bridge to the highway to improve the flow of traffic and allow for integration of a future light rail train line and more highway lanes. Cost of design and engineering: $12 million. • interchanges at Hopple Street, Mitchell Avenue and interstate 74: in one fell swoop, three interchanges would be redesigned in a $7 million study. Details of improving Mitchell and Hopple interchanges have not been resolved, but the I-74 interchange is tentatively slated to undergo major changes, including separating local traffic from through traffic. The current design forces residents to use the highway briefly rather than remaining on secondary roads. Part of the plan would be to complete the Colerain Avenue interchange. • Lockland/Lincoln Heights interchanges: The partial interchange at Davis Street would be relocated and completed in a nearby location yet to be determined The Shepherd Lane interchange would be improved. The reworked interchange represents a reversal of earlier plans that called for the interchange to be closed. Community outcry helped sway planners' opinion. Cost for design and engineering: $5.5 million. ODOT plans to widen sections of I-75 as they come up for scheduled maintenance. The process will take more than a decade. in a position paper Martin read into the record, she said a recent study conducted by consultants showed the combination of a light rail line and more highway lanes was the best choice for keeping I-75 functional through 2030. "This is the region's window of opportunity. I-75 requires reconstruction. Once completed, we won't be back for another 50 years. With that caveat, I remain convinced that the combined solution is the correct decision given the level of information we have at this stage of study," she said. Engineers prefer the plan endorsed by OKI over a rejected alternative to widen the highway to six lanes in each direction. They say the new lanes and open road would lure drivers off secondary roads and onto the highway until congestion levels returned to current levels. Ralph B. Grieme, the Northern Kentucky Area Planning Commission's OKI representative, expressed skepticism that light rail would do any more to alleviate congestion than a sixth lane in each direction. He asked why a four-lane highway that is less congested thanks to light rail wouldn't draw motorists off secondary roads until it, too, became very congested. Cindy Minter, a traffic engineer who helped craft the highway study, said after the meeting that the difference was in who uses light rail. Light rail, she said, would draw motorists off both secondary roads and the highway. And others who rely on public transportation would also use the line, she said. Only three of dozens of OKI board voters rejected the I-75 plan: Hamilton County Commissioner John Dowlin, Cincinnati City Council Member John Cranley and Norwood City Council Member MaryAnn Burwinkel. Dowlin is a longtime light-rail skeptic who opposed the lack of short-term fixes for the highway, fearing congestion in the next few years will prompt residents and businesses to leave Hamilton County. Cranley is concerned Cincinnati's section of the highway would become a choke point if it remains largely four lanes while sections north of the city are widened from three lanes to four. Burwinkel read a statement drawing parallels between the widening/light rail plan to construction of I-71 and the Norwood Lateral, which she said damaged the city by razing homes and businesses. Judi Craig, who oversaw the I-75 project for OKI, said after Thursday's vote that the plan was less intrusive than other alternatives. "You don't want six lanes going through Norwood," Craig said. "I think it's difficult for people to understand the impacts of a system that doesn't exist in our area." While the highway widening portion of the plan will follow established federal funding procedures, finding the nearly $1 billion needed for light rail will be a novel enterprise for the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority, which operates Metro, and the Transit Authority of Northern Kentucky. Creating and funding the light rail segment will largely be in the hands of those two transit authorities, Craig said. Metro is in no hurry to dive back into light rail after voters rejected by a 2- to-1 margin a proposed Hamilton County sales tax hike in November 2002 that would have funded a countywide system. Sallie Hilvers, Metro spokeswoman, said the issue has not been on the SORTA board's agenda. "The voters spoke clearly. Our board hasn't discussed it in any detail, and there are no plans at this point," she said. SORTA's board will take on a new look with the appointment this week of two new members who have strong anti-rail credentials: Stephan Louis, head of Southwestern Ohio Regional Drivers Alliance, which provided the only organized opposition to the 2002 light-rail initiative, and Daniel Peters, president of the Buckeye institute, a conservative think tank. Both were appointed by Hamilton County and could take their seats on the board as soon as next month, Hilvers said.. TANK and its board have been supportive of light rail, said Gina Douthat, spokeswoman, but it faces the same mystery of how to fund any portion of the line, which would run to Twelfth Street in Covington. " We certainly are in support of the package. I think that funding is what stands in the way of moving forward with any futuristic transit," Douthat said. She said the logical place for the issue to be addressed is at the next joint committee meeting among the two transit authorities. But Hilvers said she was not aware that any such meeting between the two boards is scheduled. =PTP============================================= Cincinnati Post 10-01-2003 Traffic up tenfold since '82 By Bob Driehaus Post staff reporter Traffic congestion has grown far more rapidly than the population in Greater Cincinnati during the past two decades. Commuters now spend 10 times as long sitting in traffic as they did 20 years ago, and the cost of all that wasted gasoline and lost productivity has grown to $525 million a year, according to a new study released Tuesday by the Texas Transportation institute, an affiliate of Texas A&M University. Population for the metropolitan area grew by just 21 percent from 1980- 2000, from 1.62 million people to 1.96 million, while traffic increased tenfold from 1982-2001. Ranked 27th • Greater Cincinnati has the worst traffic congestion among the region's cities, ranking 27th nationally. • indianapolis ranked 28th, Columbus 36th, Louisville 38th and Cleveland 41st. in 1982, according to the study, local commuters spent two hours sitting in traffic, while in 2001 that figure had grown to 20 hours. The solution locally and for every other congested U.S. city, researchers concluded, is finding the right mix of traffic management alternatives among five categories: • Mass transit, such as buses or light rail. • Bus and carpool lanes. • Traffic signal coordination. • Efficient clearing of crashed and disabled vehicles from freeways. • Use of freeway entrance ramp signals to control traffic flow. "This year's study reinforces our belief that the best solution is actually a combination of solutions. Each city needs its own bag of tricks to address this growing problem," said Tim Lomax, one of the study's researchers. Traffic is worsening throughout the country, according to the Texas report. The average rush-hour driver wasted more than two full days -- about 51 hours -- sitting in traffic in 2001. That's an increase of four hours in the last five years. The total price tag: $69.5 billion in wasted time and gas, the study said. Researchers said congestion nationally would be far worse without existing public transportation and traffic management strategies like high- speed lanes. "The annual effect of eliminating public transportation service in all 75 cities, while hopefully not a realistic alternative, would have the effect of adding the equivalent of 1 billion hours of annual travel time," the study said. The study was released one day after an Ohio-Kentucky-indiana Regional Council of Governments committee voted overwhelmingly to recommend a mix of more lanes and the addition of light rail to keeping traffic moving on I-75 through 2030. The OKI panel said a combination of light-rail train service, to run parallel to interstate 75 between the Ohio River and I-675 in Dayton, and widening of the highway to four and five lanes offered the best hope for the heavily traveled highway. The plan for I-75 is estimated to cost $1.83 billion, not taking into account inflation, and would take 15 to 20 years to complete. it faces myriad hurdles, including a vote by the full OKI board, public hearings and financing challenges before it can become reality. Allen Freeman, OKI spokesman, said Tuesday Greater Cincinnati must turn to a variety of solutions to solve its growing congestion problem. "We do need to focus on the issue of public transportation to make sure commuters have options. If we had a good mix of transit and commuter options, then we'd be in great shape," he said. "I think we have to look at all of the options. A number of our major arteries are going to require additional lanes, but I think we need to look at all of the options, and not preclude any option to try to improve our system.'' Freeman cited continuing efforts to improve the system, including upgrading the ARTIMIS system that uses a series of cameras and electronic message signs to keep motorists apprised of accidents, traffic jams and other problems. Glen Brand, the Sierra Club's Midwest representative, touted the Texas study as further proof of the need for Greater Cincinnati to embrace light rail service and institute land-use planning that coordinates new development with access to bus lines and existing infrastructure. David Braun, who will become general manager of the Transit Authority of Northern Kentucky on Oct. 20, returns to Greater Cincinnati after a stint in Peoria, ill., as general manager of that area's transit authority. He agreed that a combination of solutions is necessary to reduce traffic congestion. "Reducing congestion requires more than just building roads. It's the combination of mass transit, better land use planning, trying to build facilities and homes accessible to mass transit, and convenient bike and pedestrian paths," he said. His impression of Greater Cincinnati's traffic? "it's not as awful as many of the larger cities are, but certainly I think it has the potential of becoming awful," Braun said. =PTP============================================= Cincinnati Enquirer Tuesday, September 30, 2003 $1.8 billion I-75 fix proposed Plan includes more lanes, light rail By James Pilcher The committee overseeing a study of what to do about interstate 75 Monday overwhelmingly approved a combination of widening the expressway in southwest Ohio and a new light-rail line from Covington to West Chester. The fix will cost an estimated $1.83 billion, but is supposed to eliminate major rush hour traffic tie-ups 30 years from now. Finishing up a three-year, $6 million study, the committee voted 27-1 for the mix, which calls for four lanes in each direction and some areas getting a fifth lane to reduce congestion. The light-rail system would offer trains every three minutes during rush hour. Four members, including the city of Cincinnati's two representatives, abstained. The lone dissenting vote was Hamilton County Commissioner John Dowlin. The recommendation now goes to the full board of the Ohio-Kentucky- indiana Regional Council of Governments, the area's regional transportation planning agency. That board must approve the proposal as part of the region's long-term transportation plan before any of the recommendations can get federal funding. The OKI board meets on Oct. 9 and could vote to adopt the recommendations. "This three years has been the hardest work I've ever done in one of these, and I've been on a lot of committees and studies," said committee chairman Sterling Uhler, a former Fairfield mayor and councilman. The I-75 fix, with estimated costs in 2003 dollars, would require 23 acres - much less than other wider highway options that were considered. An exact cost breakdown was not yet available, but the light-rail line would be just under $1 billion and the highway expansion would make up the rest. The highway portion of the proposal could take 10 to 15 years to design and build, if and when the funding is located. Officials said it would take another study to pinpoint which areas would get an additional fifth lane. A light-rail line would take as long or longer to fund and construct, given Hamilton County voters' strong rejection last fall of a sales tax hike that would have helped pay for a countywide system. The recommended option was the only one of two that would remove traffic jams at rush hour in 30 years, the study found. The other was widening the highway alone to six lanes in each direction in Hamilton County and five in Butler and Warren counties. But the highway- only option was estimated to cost $1.6 billion, and it would have created major disruptions. Officials estimated that they would have needed to acquire and clear 160 acres and 103 structures to make way for such an expansion. The costs do not include $482 million Ohio is already planning to spend on improving the design of I-75, which does not meet federal safety design standards in many sections. They also do not include a potential replacement of the Brent Spence Bridge, which could cost as much as $750 million. Cincinnati Councilman John Cranley said the city abstained because it did not want to be limited to four lanes or even five in areas that carry more traffic, especially the stretch of the interstate between the Ohio River and i-74, which is already four lanes. "I want to make sure that I discuss this with all of council and that we are not putting ourselves at a disadvantage," said Cranley. Some members of the committee complained that they did not get enough data to make a fair comparison, including the Sierra Club's Glen Brand, who also abstained. "But the good news is that OKI continues to see that any solution for the region's transportation problems must include passenger rail," Brand said. Dowlin raised several concerns about light rail, citing data released by anti-light rail proponent Stephan Louis Monday that questioned points in the study. Dowlin also said more consideration should have been given to a potential I-75 truck ban, adding that no short-term solutions were offered. Louis, whose release was strongly disputed by study consultants, said the decision to press for light rail was "disappointing." "They keep having this irrational pull toward the carrot that the federal government keeps holding out for these pork projects," said Louis, who led the campaign to defeat the light-rail tax. Uhler defended the study, but conceded that OKI now has a difficult task in fitting the proposal into the overall needs of the region. "I think this is the best solution to a very difficult problem," Uhler said. "Maybe this thing will hold up for 25 years." --- E-mail =PTP============================================ surround9oct09,1,285210.story?coll=la-headlines-california Los Angeles Times October 9, 2003 New Gateway Will Close the Door on Stadium, Gym A science and math building, the backbone of a planned entry linked to a subway station, will replace the historic facilities. By Bob Pool Times Staff Writer The old gal has faced more makeovers than a plastic surgeon. Now there's a new wrinkle for Los Angeles City College, the venerable East Hollywood campus that keeps trying to blend the old with the new. The school started out in 1914 as a teachers college mimicking the Eastern-school look with ivy-covered Italian-style buildings arranged around a formal plaza. in 1919 it morphed into a four-year, full-service university that was the forerunner of UCLA. It was converted into Los Angeles' first two-year junior college in 1929. During the next decade, it was dotted with boxy concrete classroom buildings constructed by Depression-era WPA work crews. During the 1950s and '60s, it took on a modern look as buildings were constructed in a sleek, international style. For a time, the junior college shared classrooms with a four-year college being organized there as the predecessor to what today is Cal State L.A. And now LACC is being reshaped again — this time to take advantage of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's subway system. College administrators plan to close the original athletic field and football stadium next month, turning that space into a temporary parking lot. Eventually, historic Snyder Field will be the site of a high-tech science and math building and will serve as the backbone of a new park-like gateway to the college itself. The landscaped entryway will directly link the center of the 48-acre campus to the subway station at Vermont Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard. As part of the $147-million redesign, a new track, athletic field and gymnasium will be built on the opposite side of campus. The new gym will replace a circa-1933 fieldhouse next to Snyder Field that is also targeted for demolition. School officials welcome the changes. They say the new entryway will improve public accessibility and make the campus more inviting. The gym and four other new buildings that are part of the redesign will also enhance the instructional program, according to administrators. But some LACC alumni who were involved in school sports during the college's heyday as a state and national powerhouse in football, baseball and basketball oppose the demolition. They contend that Snyder Field and the old gym should be preserved and used for community recreation in a crowded part of town that is in dire need of public sports space. "Using that field for parking is ridiculous. It's such a beautiful facility," said baseball great Don Buford, who played football at LACC before attending USC and beginning a big league career that led him to the World Series with the Baltimore Orioles in 1969, '70 and '71. Buford, of Sherman Oaks, is now involved with player development for the Orioles. Duke Russell, who signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers after playing baseball at LACC in 1946, blames the pending demise of Snyder Field and the gym on a controversial lease of the last vacant land on the campus for a private golf driving range. The nearly completed range, surrounded by a 160-foot-tall fence that towers over the rest of the campus, was approved by the Los Angeles Community College District before voters passed a $1.24-billion bond issue that is paying for the new classroom construction. At the time, officials said they needed the $120,000 a year in rent that the range owner is paying. "The land being used for the driving range is where the college should put new parking and new classrooms," said Russell, of Hollywood. He said the college should preserve its "historic athletic facilities" for use by the public. Former sports agent Dennis Gilbert agrees. He was an LACC student in the mid-1960s before becoming famous for negotiating Barry Bonds' $43.2-million contract with the San Francisco Giants. Gilbert, of Hidden Hills, said college officials didn't look for alternative funding sources before signing the golf range deal or before reducing LACC's athletics program as part of a budget cutback. Eight sports — half of last year's program — were eliminated this year. The football program was dropped earlier. "If they really cared, they'd try to put together a fund-raiser and try to find a way to keep sports," said Gilbert — a Chicago White Sox executive and member of a group exploring the purchase of the Los Angeles Dodgers. "The income they'll receive from this private developer could probably have been raised if they reached out to alumni like myself." Some college officials have said that, in retrospect, they wish the driving range deal had not been signed. But the 10-year lease, renewable for up to 35 years, was approved in 1999, before 2001's Proposition A bond issue was passed. Campus administrators said Snyder Field — named after William H. Snyder, the founding director of Los Angeles Junior College in 1929 — must be closed and used for parking now even though new replacement athletic facilities won't be built for several years. "This field is used constantly for physical education classes, soccer classes, the public. We're wondering what we're going to do for the training of athletes," said Glenn Johnson, an assistant track and field coach at LACC. Monica Navarro is a 20-year-old sophomore psychology student who was working out on the field this week. "I wish there was a way to keep it — at least until we have a new one," she said. LACC basketball coach Mike Miller said the gymnasium is believed to be the oldest community college gym in the state. Its gleaming oak hardboards are the original 1933 flooring. The building will be demolished when the new gym is finished in about 2006, said Miller, the college's athletic director. "it's a tremendous, very functional gym, a borderline historic building," he said. "We had a 50th-anniversary reunion for members of the 1949 and '50 national championship teams here in the gym. Those old men were teary-eyed when they saw this place." The only other major structure slated for demolition is a 1937 chemistry building. Often used as a movie backdrop, the WPA-built Streamline Moderne structure is filled with antique cabinets, doors and fixtures. Chemistry students and staff members have not been told where they will be relocated until a new classroom building is finished in about three years, said chemistry professor Bjorn Landberg and lab technician Al Germaine. The inconvenience that will come with the campus face lift will be worth it, predicted newly appointed LACC President Doris Pichon Givens. The new tree-shaded campus gateway at the subway station will be particularly welcome, she said. It will eliminate a two-block walk to the current entrance. "Beauty enhances. People will be more aware of where we are and that they can use the subway to come here," Givens said. "it's going to look nice and help the environment." =PTP=========================================== Sacramento Bee Tuesday, October 7, 2003 'indirect pollution' fees sought for valley By Mark Grossi The Fresno Bee in the San Joaquin Valley, the nation's second-dirtiest air basin, the time has arrived to face a subtle but growing pollution source -- vehicle emissions connected with sprawling city developments. Expect this some day soon: Home buyers will pay higher prices in new neighborhoods at the city's edge to compensate for pollution they generate when they drive to stores, jobs and other places. Far-flung suburbs are not the only targets. Trucking distribution centers, commercial buildings, industrial complexes and shopping malls also are considered "indirect pollution sources" because of vehicle traffic in and out of the areas. Vehicle pollution is the No. 1 contributor to bad air in the valley. Motorists drive more than 80 million miles daily, and the valley has one of the fastest-growing populations in the state. This week, air officials will begin making a new rule aimed at developments that create vehicle pollution. The rule would charge fees to raise millions, which could be used to pay for cleanup projects ranging from upgrades on farm diesel irrigation pumps to compressed-natural-gas bus fleets in cities. Environmentalists believe the rule is one of the most important steps for the valley's air cleanup. "Everybody has to pay for cleaner air," says Sierra Club member Arthur Unger of Bakersfield. But how much should people pay? How should the money be spent? Who would supervise this money? The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District hopes to have the answers to those questions by July 2004, when the governing board is expected to vote on the new rule. Meetings are planned this week in Modesto, Fresno and Bakersfield to unveil initial ideas and to hear opinions from the public, air district officials say. Twelve years ago, the building industry opposed such fees when an early proposal quoted more than $5,000 for a single-family home and more than $1 million for a 30,000-square-foot supermarket. The rule went no further. There is no wiggle room this time: Senate Bill 709, written by state Sen. Dean Florez, D-Shafter, requires the fees. The district's cleanup blueprint for particle pollution also contains a provision for the rule. The building industry is not raising objections. Jeff Harris, president of the Building industry Association of the San Joaquin Valley, says the industry wants to be sure the fees are equitable and fairly applied. "It will probably have the biggest impact on retail services," he says. "The impact would probably be minimal in larger cities like Fresno or Bakersfield. But in smaller, poorer rural communities, there might be a chilling effect on development. "The fee could make the difference between building a project and not building it in rural communities." The fees are not unprecedented. Stockton and Turlock require a payment in the $150 range for such fees, says district planning manager Dave Mitchell. He says he doesn't know yet what the district fee should be. "The idea is to have all cities on a level playing field," Mitchell says. The most influential fee precedent might have been set three months ago in Bakersfield. A developer agreed to settle a Sierra Club lawsuit by paying $1,200 per home as an air pollution fee for a subdivision with more than 300 houses. Though the settlement is private, the city of Bakersfield and the air district will be included in a committee to supervise the fee money. The developer, the Sierra Club and the Center for Race, Poverty and the Environment also will be on the committee. The money -- amounting to more than $375,000 when the development is complete -- would be used on pollution reduction projects, such as converting public fleets of older diesel vehicles to natural gas. The developer who agreed to the fee says it made good economic sense for him to settle the case. The air district's fees could be structured to encourage building in the core of cities, a concept known as infill. Air planning manager Mitchell says it might be possible to give credits to or eliminate the fee for developers who build in preferred areas. He says about 20,000 homes are built each year in the valley. if the air fee were $1,000 per house, a $20 million war chest would be built to fight air pollution. Mitchell emphasizes that the money could be spent on only the most efficient cleanup projects, meaning the ones that remove the most pollution for the least amount of money. Fees should go to the air district and come right back to the cities where the money was paid, says Sierra Club member Kevin Hall of Fresno.
PTP Digest 2003/10/09-A = CONTENTS * Houston: Rail opponents 'gaining momentum' Houston Chronicle Oct. 8, 2003 * Houston Metro guides LRT-area real estate development Houston Business Journal - October 6, 2003 * Trenton: Light DMU project needs start date, name The Times - Trenton Thursday, October 09, 2003 * Cincinnati: No easy fix for I-75 mess, LRT needed Cincinnati Enquirer Thursday, October 9, 2003 * Cincinnati: City regional rep may balk at Council on LRT Cincinnati Post 10-09-2003 * Cincinnati City Council 'iffy' on I-75 LRT plan Cincinnati Post 10-07-2003 * Denver: LRT plan for suburbs 'back on track' Denver Post Wednesday, October 08, 2003 * Denver: City eyes streetcar revival Denver Post Thursday, October 09, 2003 * Seattle monorail agency becoming Big Brother? Seattle Times Thursday, October 09, 2003 * Charlotte struggling for federal LRT funding Charlotte Observer Wednesday, Oct 08, 2003 =PTP=============================================== Houston Chronicle Oct. 8, 2003 Opponents of rail plan appear to be gaining momentum By LUCAS WALL With proponents of light rail falling short of their fund-raising goal and opponents bombarding voters with anti-Metro advertising, the campaign dynamic might be shifting toward those who favor more highways, observers of the ongoing shootout say. Voters will rule on a $4.6 billion Metropolitan Transit Authority expansion proposal next month that includes a $640 million bond issue to accelerate construction of the next 22 miles of light rail. Texans for True Mobility wants voters to kill Metro's plan, arguing in a four-page color ad arriving in mailboxes this week that "congestion is our real problem, and Metro's plan does not address congestion." Citizens for Public Transportation, the committee pushing for approval of the mass transit proposal, has yet to start its advertising. In campaign finance statements filed earlier this week and in prior months, it reported raising a total of $772,057 as of Sept. 25. That's about half of the goal its leader, developer Ed Wulfe, has set. Paul Mabry, the committee's spokesman, said fund raising has been difficult because of constant wrangling over what the plan should include and persistent attacks by rail foes such as U.S. Rep. John Culberson, R- Houston, and Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector Paul Bettencourt. But, Mabry said, now that the plan's details are settled and the election is nearing, he expects the pace of donations will pick up. "There's been extraordinary circumstances surrounding this campaign," he said. "For prudent reasons, people have wanted to wait to fulfill their pledges until they saw what the final plan was going to be." The plan voters will decide Nov. 4 includes money for 40 miles of light rail, 44 new bus routes, more HOV lanes and local street construction, all by 2025 and without a tax increase. Metro says it has spent $1.5 million in taxpayer money to "educate" voters about the referendum. It has run ads promoting the benefits of light rail and other elements of its plan, but is prohibited by law from advocating for approval. Texans for True Mobility has not filed campaign finance disclosures, contending that its political action committee had not raised or spent money by the Sept. 25 deadline. Instead, its nonprofit educational foundation has been collecting donations and paying for the first ad blitz. The organization refused Wednesday a request by the Houston Chronicle to voluntarily release its contributions and expenditures to date. "Clearly this is an educational, privately funded entity whose members are free to contribute and have like-minded opinions on the way government should be run and not be open to any vilification," said spokesman Chris Begala. "The First Amendment and the Supreme Court guarantee our right to have privacy." Groups that use so-called "soft money" -- funds not subject to public disclosure -- are controversial but permitted so long as they don't urge a vote for or against a candidate or ballot measure. Bob Stein, a Rice University political scientist, said that while academics and journalists decry the practice, most voters don't pay attention. "What matters in this election is who can deliver their message, get it out and be convincing," Stein said. Though last month's Chronicle/KHOU-Channel 11 poll showed 2-to-1 support among decided voters for Metro's plan, Stein said the intense opposition that's blooming probably will narrow that gap. Stein conducted the poll with Richard Murray, director of the University of Houston's Center for Public Policy. "This could be a close race, a very close race," Stein said. Murray concurred. "Studies of referendums show that all you have to do to get a 'no' vote is raise doubt about what's being proposed and so there's a higher burden or standard that the proponents generally have to meet," Murray said. "So the fact that there is a well-funded opposition would generally bode ill for passing this deal." But, he added, "almost everyone in the community is interested in traffic and mobility issues and most already have strong opinions about rail." =PTP============================================== Houston Business Journal - October 6, 2003 EXCLUSIVE REPORTS Metro rides into real estate development Nancy Sarnoff Houston Business Journal in a new initiative intended to spur economic development along the light rail line, the Metropolitan Transit Authority has been quietly acquiring tracts of real estate along the future transit corridor. in the next 60 to 90 days, Metro will issue a request for proposals to developers interested in partnering with the transit agency on the redevelopment of a site near the Midtown passenger rail station at Main Street and Wheeler. What sort of equity position Metro will take in the potential real estate development is still unclear. Steve Bonczek, who was hired by Metro last year to promote transit- oriented development, says the purpose of the new initiative is to generate additional funds for Metro and increase ridership. "Part of our focus and mission is to stimulate economic development," Bonczek says. "Metro will share in some of the net proceeds." But Metro's foray into speculative real estate investment is being questioned in some real estate quarters, and catching flak from at least one public official. Houston City Councilman and former mayoral candidate Michael Berry says Metro's main priority should be moving people and relieving congestion, not participating in economic development. "They would rather do development deals and build a rail line regardless of how many people ride it and how much it costs," Berry says. "With their pot of money, they're supposed to be moving people. These are transportation dollars, pure and simple." Bonczek responds by pointing out that Federal Transit Administration guidelines encourage joint development projects, and that these types of public/private partnerships are common in other cities around the country. The Wheeler Station is a key transit stop for Metro. in addition to occupying the center position on the 7.5-mile line now under construction, the site will also serve as a transitional hub for buses as well as rail. Bonczek says that none of the land was acquired by condemnation. It was all purchased in voluntary transactions. He says Metro paid between $20 and $30 per square foot for the dirt -- or an average of $7.3 million for the entire 6.7 acres acquired. Thinking inside the tank Metro is getting some assistance from the Houston chapter of the Urban Land institute, a Washington, D.C.-based real estate think tank. This week, Metro and the ULI hosted a one-day program that focused on the Wheeler station land as a site for a mixed-use, transit-oriented development. The "Technical Assistance Program" gave a panel of ULI members the opportunity to offer recommendations in the areas of design, development and community redevelopment. Participants included Kevin Batchelor of The Hanover Co., Neil Tofsky of Senterra Real Estate Group and irving Phillips, a prominent Houston architect. Bonczek says the panel's recommendations will help guide Metro in formulating the request for proposals for development of the site. The ULI panel was led by Zane Segal, the group's vice chair for advisory services. Segal says the Wheeler station is being studied because it has less surrounding development compared to many of the other rail stops. One of the biggest challenges for urban developers, Segal says, is amassing enough land for construction of a mixed-use real estate project. "The act of blocking up developable land is the one thing private developers can't do," Segal says. "it's one of the most important jobs of governmental entities." Plus, much of the land Metro acquired was necessary for development of the Wheeler transit station as a transition hub. "A lot of the land they bought, they had to buy," says Segal. "The question is: What do they do with it, and do they buy more land for the development of a successful mixed-use project?" While some critics argue that Metro should focus solely on transit issues, advocates of the new initiative say assisting in economic development along rail lines plays an important role in improving mobility. Says Segal: "The effect of a transit-oriented development is that it increases transit ridership, which reduces congestion, improves air quality and overall quality of life." • 713-960-5931 =PTP========================================== 8/106568867440311.xml The Times - Trenton Thursday, October 09, 2003 Mercer County Agency expects to set date for opening of light-rail line By TOM HESTER JR. NJ Transit officials yesterday said they hope to announce in November a starting date and new name for the Southern New Jersey Light Rail Transit System. The agency has said the Trenton-to-Camden system would begin running in the fall, but hasn't announced a starting date yet for the line that has been under construction since May 2000. NJ Transit spokeswoman Penny Bassett Hackett said the agency's executive director, George Warrington, said the contractor is expected to have finished 90 percent of the line's testing by NJ Transit's next board meeting, scheduled for Nov. 12. She said Warrington expects to announce a starting date and the line's new name during that meeting. Testing, Hackett said, is now about 60 percent complete. The Greater Mercer Transportation Management Association called the system the River Run in its fall 2003 newsletter, but Hackett said, "We will announce the name of the line when we announce the starting date." She said NJ Transit is waiting to announce both at the same time as part of "a comprehensive marketing plan and roll out." Sandra Brillhart, executive director of the Greater Mercer TMA, couldn't be reached for comment yesterday. initial predications called for work to be finished in 2002. The line will feature diesel-powered, trolley-like trains stopping at 20 stations from Camden to the Trenton Train Station. It will operate daily from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Once financing costs are included, the project is expected to cost more than $1 billion, or $73 million per year in debt and operating costs. While the project has been criticized as unnecessary and a waste of vital transit dollars, supporters say it will spark an economic development boom along its route and provide a much-needed service from South Jersey to New York City through the Trenton Train Station. NJ Transit plans to charge riders $1.10 for a one-way fare on the system. Projections have the line attracting about 6,000 riders per day, or 3,000 round-trip passengers. Trains on the line have derailed five times during testing. All the derailments occurred in rail yards. =PTP========================================== The Cincinnati Enquirer Thursday, October 9, 2003 i-75: No easy fix to woes Traffic options limited By James Pilcher You're sitting in your car in stalled interstate 75 traffic in the Lockland canyon. Adding a lane to the expressway and building a light-rail line, which the region's transportation planners could approve today, won't help you this morning. In fact, it won't help you until the middle of the next decade. And the fix will cost $1.83 billion in tax dollars. So you sit there. Thinking. "is that all there is? "Why don't they spend that money to build a new bypass of the region? Why don't they just double-deck the expressway, to add capacity without having to flatten neighborhoods such as Lockland? Can't they just ban truck traffic inside I-275? Why can't we have a high-occupancy vehicle lane, as they do in other cities?" in fact, those involved with the three-year, $6 million study that came up with the highway/light-rail option considered those strategies, which have been used with mixed success elsewhere. in the end, the study came up with widening the highway to four lanes throughout Hamilton, Warren and Butler counties, and to five lanes in some spots, as well as a new light-rail line. This plan is up for approval today by the board of the Ohio-Kentucky-indiana Regional Council of Governments. OKI approval - necessary for federal funding - will be the last major step of the study of the outdated, overcrowded expressway. Following are four of the more than 20 alternatives that were discussed and rejected. When the study began in the fall of 2000, a bypass around both Dayton and Greater Cincinnati to either the east or the west was one of the first ideas floated. It was also one of the first to be axed. While proponents of such a plan say it would be cheaper to build a new road through mostly uninhabited farmland than rebuilding and expanding an urban interstate, planners and engineers say that isn't the case. Building the new concrete and asphalt would be cheaper in such areas. But the land acquisition costs would be astronomical, however, even if it were farmland. A bypass wouldn't help much during rush hour, when I-75's problems are worst. Local commuters, not truckers and travelers passing through the region, make up the bulk of rush-hour drivers. Another recurring idea has been to build a double-deck highway above the existing throughway for at least part, if not all, the stretch of I-75 from the Ohio River to I-275. The thinking: No new land would need to be taken, yet it would at least double the capacity of the highway, because the bottom lanes could then be made reversible during rush hour. But this concept was ruled out early for one reason: cost. One estimate for what would essentially be a 12-mile bridge from the river to the bypass was $20 billion. And that didn't include redesigning all the interchanges or regrading the existing highway One of the most controversial proposals has been banning large trucks from the interstate inside the I-275 loop, at least during rush hour. The argument: Since one truck takes up the space of five cars, capacity would skyrocket. Yet such a ban would cause major problems for law enforcement. Shippers would suffer, a concern since Greater Cincinnati has become a major transportation hub. The idea of a ban has created a major debate at OKI, with rural representatives opposed because trucks would end up on I-275 in their areas. Planners also cautioned more trucks on I-275 and other roads means more damage to them. The last concept most frequently mentioned by commuters and members of the study committee has been high-occupancy vehicle lanes. HOV lanes are reserved for vehicles carrying two or more passengers. in theory, such lanes would encourage carpooling. But apart from a few cities, such as Washington, D.C., HOV lanes fail two ways. One example is Atlanta, where commuters are squeezed into the remaining lanes. In other cities, the new lane goes unused if traffic does not reach a critical mass, which can take years in smaller- to medium-sized cities. So after all that, and after deciding which exits needed to be reconfigured, the committee was left between widening the existing highway, a new light-rail system, or a combination of both . E-mail =PTP========================================= Cincinnati Post 10-09-2003 OKI rep may not vote wish of Council By Kevin Osborne Post staff reporter Despite pressure Wednesday from fellow City Council members, John Cranley remained determined to oppose a proposal to improve interstate 75 by adding more lanes and light rail train service. Cranley is one of two council members representing the city on the Ohio- Kentucky-indiana Regional Council of Government's board which votes today on incorporating the $1.83 billion proposal into the region's long- range transportation plan. Mayor Charlie Luken had pressed for a City Council vote on the issue before OKI's decision, and Council voted 6-3 in support Wednesday. Jim Tarbell, the other council member who sits on OKI's board, was part of the Council majority in support Wednesday. Cranley voted with Council Members Pat DeWine and Chris Monzel to oppose the plan. After Council made its decision, Tarbell asked Cranley if he would support the plan during OKI's vote. "When you have a two-thirds majority of Council supporting this, I think it's important to reflect that." Cranley disagreed, adding he would oppose the plan today. "We are appointed by this committee to vote our conscience," Cranley said. Luken, who had sought City Council's guidance and also opposes the I-75 proposal, defended Cranley's stance. "I don't think anybody's constrained by Council's vote." Some on Council, though, chided Cranley for inconsistency. In the past, he has criticized how the city's appointees to other boards -- notably the Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority -- haven't followed Council policy directives. in February, Cranley sent letters to Council's two appointees on the CMHA board, criticizing them for taking a stance on an issue contrary to Council's, and asked them to resign. "It seems you are representing the will of CMHA and not the city's," Cranley wrote in identical letters to the two women. "It is regrettable that you have refused to commit to vote with the unanimous will of council and the mayor -- the very people that appointed you to be the city's representatives." Despite his opposition, Cranley predicted OKI would approve the proposal. "My intelligence on this issue suggests to me that the vote (today) will be overwhelming for this," Cranley said. OKI's long-range transportation plan sets the region's priorities for the next 30 years, but inclusion in it doesn't necessarily mean the project will secure the necessary funding to get done. Several Council members said the city should endorse the proposal. "it's time for the city to go on record in support of light rail," said David Crowley. "We have to have a plan," said Minette Cooper. "Unless we vote and do what we need to do now, we cannot anticipate moving in this city 30 years from now." Luken, though, preferred to hedge support. "My own view is it's not hard and fast. It's exploratory and long-range. I don't think we're irrevocably committing to any plan involving light rail or any plan involving I-75." [SIDEBAR] Detailed studies up next for I-75 upgrade if the proposal to improve interstate 75 traffic flow by adding lanes and building a light rail system is approved today, next up will be more detailed engineering and environmental-impact studies. First segments built probably would be improvements to several current choke points, including the interchanges with Cincinnati's Hopple Street, Mitchell Avenue and interstate 74, and the Lockland interchange, said Diana Martin, Ohio Department of Transportation planning program administrator. No determination has been made on where a light rail system, or its stations, would be, although the most frequently mentioned route is along existing rail lines. Today's vote by the 105 members of the board of the Ohio-Kentucky- indiana Regional Council of Governments follows a 27-1 vote, with four abstentions, last month by an OKI oversight committee. The city of Cincinnati abstained then. The plan affects I-75 between the Ohio River and interstate 675 in Dayton. Most of the highway between the river and I-675 is three lanes, though large stretches are wider, including the entire segment between the river and I-74. Reservations to the plan have been expressed by some, including the city of St. Bernard, which stands to lose its current firehouse and post office, as well as numerous homes' back yards, should the highway be widened to the east. Hamilton County Commissioner John Dowlin opposed the plan, citing concern over its cost as well as a lack of short-term fixes for the highway. =PTP========================================== Cincinnati Post 10-07-2003 City Council iffy on I-75 plan By Kevin Osborne Post staff reporter Although a Cincinnati City Council majority appears to support a plan for improving interstate 75 by integrating light rail train service with more highway lanes, two city officials who get to vote on the regional plan likely will cancel each other out. City Council Member Jim Tarbell generally supports the $1.83 billion plan, while City Council Member John Cranley has serious reservations. Tarbell and Cranley are among the more than 70 area officials who comprise the Ohio-Kentucky-indiana Regional Council of Government's board of trustees. OKI's board will vote Thursday whether to include the I-75 proposal into the region's long-range transportation plan. The list sets the region's transportation priorities for the next 30 years, but inclusion on it doesn't necessarily mean the project will secure the necessary state and federal funding to become a reality. "There's no question we're going to do something," Tarbell said about expanding I-75. "We've got to make it possible for people to get here." But Cranley is worried that adding lanes to I-75 in Butler and Warren counties without adding lanes through Cincinnati will increase traffic congestion in the urban core. And he notes that there is not broad support for adding light rail. "This community is a long way from approving a local (funding) match to make light rail possible," Cranley said. "I don't think it's going to happen anytime soon." After a long debate, City Council's community development committee recommended Monday that OKI support the lane-widening-light rail combination endorsed last month by an OKI panel. "We're not talking about financing in here, we're talking about concept," said City Council Member David Crowley. "I have no problem saying we've got to move to light rail in the future," Crowley added. City Council's action doesn't bind how Cranley votes Thursday. in the past, however, Cranley has criticized how the city's appointees to other boards -- notably the Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority -- haven't followed Council's policy directives. Mayor Charlie Luken -- who is uneasy about the light rail component after Hamilton County voters overwhelmingly rejected a transit sales tax last fall -- wanted City Council to take a stance before OKI's Thursday vote. Luken is worried that the I-75 plan will drain limited federal transportation funding, jeopardizing projects like replacing the Waldvogel Viaduct, which connects the Sixth Street Expressway at River Road to Elberon and Warsaw avenues at the base of Price Hill.. "We're not going to do them all," Luken said. "There's not money to do them all." Perhaps more than the 197 other communities in the eight-county, three- state region covered by OKI, Cincinnati will be affected most by whatever solutions ultimately are chosen to reduce traffic congestion on I-75. Cincinnati is the only major urban area within the region, and I-75's major bottleneck occurs at the Brent Spence Bridge over the Ohio River, adjacent to the city's downtown. An OKI committee that examined alternatives for improving I-75 said the combination of adding lanes and using light rail was preferable because it's cheaper than widening the interstate to six lanes in each direction and involves less disruption to surrounding communities. And the proposal would increase capacity on I-75 more than by adding a lane designated for car-pooling or buses, or by restricting truck traffic during rush hours, said Fred Craig, an OKI consultant. "It doesn't get everybody off the interstate, but it gets a number of people off," Craig said. Under the proposal, I-75 would be widened to at least four lanes in each direction between the Ohio River and interstate 675 in Dayton. At choke points, a fifth lane in each direction would be added. if the option is incorporated into the 30-year plan, officials will decide where to put the five-lane sections after additional engineering and environmental-impact studies. Most of the highway between the river and I-675 near Dayton is three lanes, though large stretches are wider, including the entire segment between the river and I-74. No determination has been made on where a light rail system, or its stations, would be located, although the most frequently mentioned route is along existing rail lines. Responding to Cranley's criticisms, OKI officials said additional lanes through Cincinnati are an option being considered as they study how to replace the Brent Spence Bridge. "We have to act as a region," Craig said. "We have to look at it as a continuum of projects done over a long period of time." David Dawson, a local real estate agent who is part of a city-backed group trying to boost Cincinnati's homeownership rate, said neighborhoods along I-75 will suffer if only lane expansion is considered. By contrast, a light rail system would help boost property values in those neighborhoods, Dawson said. "Residential property values do not and will not increase with highway expansion," he said. "We have to do something with I-75, and it's going to have to be a combination of highway expansion and mass transit." [SIDEBAR] Timetable • After OKI's board of trustees endorses an I-75 proposal, it still must clear a variety of governmental regulatory and funding hurdles. • The quickest that the intertstate 75 project could be completed is about 15 to 20 years, OKI officials said. =PTP=============================================,1413,36~53~1683722,00.html# Denver Post Wednesday, October 08, 2003 FasTracks back on track to suburbs Scaled-back plan ditched; RTD will seek other cuts By Jeffrey Leib Denver Post Staff Writer Bowing to public pressure, RTD said it once again expects to include light- rail or commuter-rail service to Golden, Longmont and Highlands Ranch in the FasTracks transit expansion plan it will take to area voters (See map). But to pay for it, the tradeoff will be fewer rail cars, less frequency of service, fewer parking spaces at rail stops and a longer construction time. The Regional Transportation District board will consider the latest plan next month, and, if approved, it probably would go before voters in November 2004. in August, RTD cited sluggish sales-tax receipts as the reason for slashing nearly $1 billion from FasTracks' price tag by shortening the length of a number of planned rail lines. The reduction cut the cost of the 10-year transit expansion to about $4.2 billion. At the time, RTD said it hoped to build the slashed rail extensions at a later date under a second phase of FasTracks. But on Tuesday, RTD general manager Cal Marsella told the transit district's board of directors that public outcry about the rail-line reductions forced RTD to revisit the issue. When RTD took the two-phase FasTracks proposal to a series of public meetings recently, "It was poorly received," Marsella said. The two-phase plan would have required two votes by residents on a sales-tax increase - possibly separated by as much as 10 years. Now, "It does look like we will have the financial capacity to build out the whole system with one vote," Marsella told directors at Tuesday night's meeting. Some mass-transit advocates welcomed RTD's about-face. "At this point it's positive that they're looking at all the possibilities," said Lauren Martens, director of the pro-rail Transit Alliance. "They're responding to what they heard from the public." The issue that RTD hopes to put before voters in the seven-county Denver area next year would seek to increase RTD's sales tax to 1 percent from the current 0.6 percent. The 66 percent tax increase would add about 4 cents to every $10 purchase. The new cost of FasTracks that voters will be asked to approve will be "somewhat higher" than the $4.2 billion plan announced in August, "but not significantly higher," Marsella said Tuesday. To restore the original end-of- line stations to FasTracks' rail lines while keeping the price close to August's scaled-back proposal, RTD will reduce the number of rail cars it buys for the transit expansion, Marsella said. That, in turn, will reduce the frequency of service, he added. RTD also plans to save money by not building as many parking spaces at rail stops as originally planned. RTD also may save money by extending the FasTracks buildout beyond the planned 10 years, Marsella said. The latest plan calls for once again extending the west corridor rail line to the Jefferson County administration and courts center in Golden, extending a planned Arvada light-rail line to Ward Road and extending a Denver-to-Boulder commuter-rail line to Longmont. it also calls for extending the existing southwest corridor light-rail line from its current terminus at Mineral Avenue in Littleton to Highlands Ranch. Additionally, a proposed rail line to north Adams County would be extended to 160th Avenue from the earlier proposed terminus at 124th Avenue. in the cost-reduction plan announced in August, the west line was to terminate at the Federal Center near U.S. 6 and Union Boulevard in Lakewood, and the Arvada line was to end in the city's Olde Town area. The Boulder-to-Longmont rail extension was shelved under the August plan, as was the Highlands Ranch extension. Also on Tuesday, a coalition of local government leaders in the U.S. 36 corridor endorsed FasTracks and its plan to build bus rapid transit down the center of U.S. 36 from Boulder to interstate 25 as well as a parallel commuter-rail line from Denver's Union Station to Boulder and Longmont. The group included mayors from Boulder, Louisville, Westminster, Broomfield and Superior. Bus rapid transit calls for dedicated highway lanes used by buses and other high-occupancy vehicles. The U.S. 36 plan calls for bus stations in the median of the highway [SIDEBAR] PARKING LOST Beginning Saturday, RTD will no longer offer parking for about 170 cars at the Alameda light-rail station on an unpaved parking lot at the north end of the station. The Regional Transportation District said it lost its lease with a private owner for the dirt lot. But RTD said it will continue to provide parking at Alameda for 297 vehicles on the paved, RTD- owned lot at the rail station. The transit agency also has 200 parking spaces available for RTD riders in the nearby Broadway Marketplace shopping complex. =PTP==========================================,1413,36~53~1685788,00.html Denver Post Thursday, October 09, 2003 City eyes streetcar revival on Colfax Plan would be part of revitalization By Jeffrey Leib Denver Post Staff Writer Having grown up in south Denver in the 1940s, Jim Peiker remembers the pleasures of riding streetcars of the Denver Tramway Co. downtown or to Lakeside amusement park on the other side of the city. Now a businessman in Denver's East Colfax Avenue corridor, Peiker and other neighborhood activists have joined with Denver officials to promote the return of the streetcar to East Colfax. "I've been beating the drum on this for 15 years," said Peiker, owner with his wife and daughter of the Castle Marne bed and breakfast just north of Colfax on Race Street. Speaking of the revitalization of Colfax, Peiker said, "The trolley will tie it all together." Denver has pledged $50,000 and is seeking another $150,000 in federal funds from the Denver Regional Council of Governments to study the possible installation of a streetcar line on Colfax from the state Capitol at Lincoln Street to Yosemite Street, on Denver's eastern border with Aurora. Liz Rao, planning director for the Regional Transportation District, said her agency is monitoring the Colfax streetcar project, but RTD does not have money to contribute to it right now. The study will examine the feasibility of replacing RTD's high-volume Route 15 bus service with streetcars. It will also look into replacing existing 15 Limited express bus service in the corridor with a "bus rapid transit," or BRT, system, said Jason Longsdorf, city planner specialist in Denver's Public Works Department. in the city's thinking, BRT buses would have front and back doors for quicker loading and unloading of passengers, only stop at a limited number of "superstops" along the route, and get a jump on other traffic at stoplights, Longsdorf said. BRT buses could speed the trip for commuters in the East Colfax corridor while streetcars serve passengers taking shorter, more leisurely trips. Denver's model for bringing back the streetcar is Portland, Ore., said Katherine Cornwell, senior city planner in Denver's community planning and development agency. Portland installed a 5-mile streetcar line separate from the area's light-rail system. The trolley line has spurred significant economic development in the streetcar corridor, say Denver officials who have hosted counterparts from Portland to advise Denver on the potential for a return of trolleys to East Colfax. Denver planners aim to bring together "the right zoning tools, transit tools and economic development tools" to revitalize the Colfax corridor, Cornwell said. A streetcar line along East Colfax could help spur $800 million to $1 billion in residential and commercial development along the corridor, said Dave Walstrom, executive director of the Colfax Business improvement District, which has the mission of revitalizing the stretch of Colfax from Broadway to Colorado Boulevard. A streetcar line on Colfax, for example, could spur a $200 million redevelopment of the old Mercy Hospital site just north of Colfax on Fillmore Street, Walstrom said. Business owners along Colfax generally are in favor of a trolley line, and residents in the area "want to study what kind of impact it will have on residential streets," said Tom Knorr, executive director of Capitol Hill United Neighborhoods Inc. Knorr said he is sure a trolley line would be an asset. "I think it could enliven Colfax Avenue and turn it into a real destination for retail, restaurants and residential mixed-used development," he said. Streetcars and other vehicles would share the same lane, under the plan being considered by Denver. in Portland, it cost about $11 million a mile to install the city's trolley line and to acquire cars for the operation, Longsdorf said. Denver would expect similar costs. Funding for a Colfax streetcar line could come from a number of sources, including bond money, federal funds, private investment and possible tax- increment financing that relies on transit-spurred development to raise money for the project. =PTP=============================================== Seattle Times Thursday, October 09, 2003 Monorail wants names of people evading car tax By Susan Gilmore Seattle Times staff reporter Seattle motorists who try to evade the monorail tax by licensing cars outside the city, beware: The monorail may be keeping tabs on you. Monorail officials met privately with car-licensing agents yesterday to make sure they know they're supposed to report suspected tax evaders to the state Department of Licensing — which, in turn, is to give the information to the Seattle Monorail Project. The monorail hasn't received any names yet, said monorail spokesman Paul Bergman, "but we know evasion's happening. We've been trying to get a handle on what level of evasion is going on." While monorail officials insist that it's illegal for Seattle residents to register their cars outside the city to avoid the tax, there is no penalty in the law for doing so. But in a handout distributed to agents yesterday, the Monorail Project said "vehicle owners who are suspected of seeking to avoid the tax by registering their vehicle at a place other than their primary residence may be investigated for tax evasion." in another handout, the Department of Licensing said agents should contact the department "If you suspect a resident of Seattle is using a mailing address outside city limits to avoid paying the tax." it also advises agents not to confront the customer. Seattle voters last fall approved a city motor-vehicle excise tax to pay for the monorail's 14-mile "Green Line" from Ballard through downtown to West Seattle. The tax is $85 per $10,000 of calculated value this year, and rises to $140 per $10,000 next year. Tax revenues so far are coming in at only two-thirds the rate necessary to sustain the Green Line's long-term funding plan. Evasion is one of several possible reasons that have been cited. Fred Maxie, manager of the Ballard Auto Licensing Agency, said he hasn't tracked how many people are changing their addresses to avoid the tax, but he knows it's going on: Some motorists who come in to relicense their cars volunteer the information to agents. Maxie, who attended yesterday's meeting with about 30 other agents, said he didn't know before that he was supposed to turn over those drivers' names to the Department of Licensing. "It puts you in an uncomfortable position," he said. "I write your name on a pad and I'm going to turn you in to get busted." But Maxie said he makes it clear to customers that they're supposed to pay the tax, even if there is no penalty in the law. "There's nothing more unfair than to have your neighbor complying with the law, and those with chutzpah do something different and get out of paying the tab," he said. "Those people should not be able to do that." Brad Benfield, spokesman for the state Department of Licensing, said that "If there's blatant grounds they're trying to evade the tax, we'll turn them over to the monorail people." Generally, he said, people would have to publicly admit they're changing their registration address to avoid the tax. If someone changes the registration address for a $100,000 motor home to a post-office box outside the city limits and pays with a check with a Seattle address, that also would raise a red flag, Benfield said. But monorail officials have no power to do anything with the names the department provides, he added, except perhaps track the drivers. Benfield said agents have reported a couple drivers who changed addresses and relicensed expensive cars outside the city limits. But because there was no evidence it was done to avoid the monorail tax, Licensing did not turn them over to the Monorail Project. Benfield said he can understand why this may make agents uneasy: "From a business standpoint this would be a concern," he said. Bergman said the Monorail Project is poring through the Department of Licensing database to try to see how much evasion is going on. "it's very complicated," he said. "it's one of the areas we're putting energy into to see how big a problem it is." Meanwhile, some Seattle residents are complaining about their monorail bills, asserting that the state auto-depreciation formula exaggerates what newer cars are worth and causes tax bills to be higher. Nancy Mizrahi said she owns a 1998 infiniti, which was assessed a monorail tax of $276 based on an assessed value of about $32,000. However, she said, she purchased the car last year for $19,000 and it's worth only about $17,000 today. "This method of determining and applying assessed value is unjust," she said. "I just dread next year (when the monorail tax increases). It gets to the point you want to move out of the city." in a letter to Mizrahi, Nancy Kelly, assistant director of the Department of Licensing's vehicle services division, said the valuation method enacted by the 1990 state Legislature "does not reflect a market or sales value." The Legislature set a tax rate that "ensured all vehicles of the same year, make and model were taxed the same," Kelly wrote. Ky Huggins also owns an infiniti, a 1999 model, which he says has a market value of $13,000 to $16,000, but is valued on his renewal notice at $32,000. "I've been a voting supporter of rapid/mass transit solutions to Seattle's traffic problems over the years and have no issues paying my fair share of taxes ... to help solve traffic problems," said Huggins. "The operative words are 'fair share.' What makes no sense to me is the valuation basis the state uses for it has no basis in reality." The state depreciation schedule calculates a car's value on a sliding percentage scale, based on age. A car that is 1 year old is considered to retain 95 percent of its original value. By the fourth year, the tax is based on 74 percent of original value. At 12 years the formula bottoms out at 10 percent. Huggins said if voters had known about the size of their tax bills they probably wouldn't have voted for the monorail. "If they come back for more money, no way." Susan Gilmore: 206-464-2054 or =PTP============================================ Charlotte Observer Wednesday, Oct 08, 2003 CATS keeps watch on funding South Boulevard project relies on money from government RICHARD RUBIN Staff Writer The next few months feature several key hurdles for Charlotte's light-rail plans along South Boulevard, transit chief Ron Tober told the Charlotte City Council Tuesday night. The $371 million project relies partly on the half-cent sales tax that voters approved in 1998. But it also needs millions of dollars in federal funding, and that's what Tober is trying to secure this fall. Tober and other Charlotte Area Transit System officials are spending October revising their plans to fit requests from the Federal Transit Administration. CATS has hired a consultant to make sure its model for projecting ridership meets federal expectations. Tober said the new model is not complete yet, but could show even higher ridership in 2025. He also encouraged the council to adopt proposals for transit-oriented zoning along the corridors. Tober, who has been meeting with FTA officials, said he is "very confident" of the federal funding. The biggest sign, Tober said, will come in January, when President Bush sends his proposed budget to Congress. if Bush does not include the Charlotte plan in the budget, Tober said, "then we need ... to step back and take a look at where we're at" and delay the project by at least a year. By July 2004, CATS is scheduled to finish the final design of the south corridor and receive its funding contract with the federal government. The south corridor is the first of the five mass-transit spokes that are planned over the next 25 years. Barring any delays or lack of funding, service would start Oct. 1, 2006, according to the schedule Tober outlined. in other business • Council members discussed the proposed city takeover of 3.1 miles of South Boulevard, a plan that would help enable transit-friendly development. The state, which owns and maintains the road now, objects to a plan that would put the light-rail track in the median between Clanton and Scaleybark roads. Local officials say their plan would allow room for development and would let residents of nearby neighborhoods reach the transit station more easily. But council member John Tabor worried about wrecks or traffic back-ups as cars wait for trains to pass. "I just look at this and common sense tells me it's illogical," he said. Transit officials assured the council that each train passage would take about 30 seconds. Mayor Pat McCrory said the city takeover would improve what is now a dangerous road. The council is scheduled to vote on the takeover Oct. 27.
PTP Digest 2003/10/08-A = CONTENTS * Houston Metro funding is more than critics claim Houston Chronicle Oct. 7, 2003 * Houston: Wordy Metro ballot may please pol but cause eyestrain Houston Chronicle Oct. 8, 2003, 9:09PM * Newark: LRT subway getting 1-mile, $208M extension Asbury Park Press 10/08/03 * Seattle LRT: Court ruling will determine fate of bids SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER Wednesday, October 8, 2003 * Seattle monorail: Another impact fight shaping up West Seattle Herald/White Center News 2003/10/08 * Orange Co: Tunnel for CenterLine LRT? Los Angeles Times Tuesday, October 7, 2003 * LA: Sales tax vote in 2004 for more rail? Los Angeles Times Monday, October 6, 2003 * SF residents rally against higher densities San Francisco Examiner Monday, October 6, 2003 * DC suburbs: LRT popular, but state tops want "BRT" The Gazette (Montgomery County, Md) Oct. 8, 2003 * Cincinnati: LRT foe vying for seat on regional transit board Cincinnati Enquirer Wednesday, October 8, 2003 * Croydon UK: LRT loved despite government critics The Times (London) 08 Oct 2003 =PTP============================================== Houston Chronicle Oct. 7, 2003 Metro mystery possibly explained Funding reviewed by federal agency By LUCAS WALL The missing piece of the Metro budget puzzle might have been located Tuesday, but nobody can say for sure if the mystery has been solved. For the past week, the Metropolitan Transit Authority and its critics have been arguing over a discrepancy in the amount of federal formula funds the agency has included in the budget for its 22-year transit-expansion plan. Voters decide the plan's fate Nov. 4. Metro said Monday it has $71 million in unspent federal funds available, but the Federal Transit Administration -- Metro's bank for these grants -- stated in a Sept. 26 letter that the number is $13 million. Rail critics have jumped on the $58 million difference as an example of what they believe is "Enron-style accounting" that will bankrupt Metro. FTA spokeswoman Kristi Clemens said Tuesday the $13 million cited in the Sept. 26 letter to U.S. Rep. John Culberson, R-Houston, was Metro's "unobligated" balance of federal grants. This is money Metro has but has not yet decided how to spend. There is another category of formula funds that are "obligated," meaning Metro has already received FTA approval to use that money for specific projects but has not completed them yet. Clemens said FTA staff is researching whether Metro has an obligated-funding balance that might explain the $58 million gap. "I want to know the answer but haven't seen it yet," Clemens said. "We have to go back into our system X amount of years to see what grants have been obligated that are still in the system that Metro hasn't drawn down." She added it's possible Metro and the FTA have been "comparing apples to oranges," acknowledging the details of federal transit funding allocations "actually does get fairly confusing." Metro President and CEO Shirley DeLibero blasted the FTA in a letter Monday to Administrator Jennifer Dorn, contending it failed to come up with the correct numbers or consult anyone at Metro. Clemens said Dorn hadn't received the letter as of Tuesday afternoon and therefore had no response. Clemens added it's not routine to consult with a transit agency when a member of Congress makes an inquiry about its formula funding balance or projections, but FTA staff in Washington did run the figures by the administration's regional office in Fort Worth. "We do not intervene in local issues," she said. "We provide technical assistance to a member of Congress when they ask us." Culberson is a fierce opponent of Metro's referendum, which includes $640 million in bonds to accelerate construction of 22 additional miles of light rail by 2012. He said Tuesday he would not comment on the discrepancy again until the FTA finishes re-examining Metro's accounts. Metro provided reporters Monday with a detailed list of projects the transit authority says it has federal funds to build. These include construction of Metro's new downtown headquarters and transit center, addition of new Park & Ride lots, and computerizing traffic signals. Also Tuesday, Clemens said the rumor that Dorn had not seen or signed the Sept. 26 letter to Culberson was false. Metro spokesman Ken Connaughton was among those who reported hearing the rumor Monday, but Clemens said it was "rather funny" to think someone had forged a letter from her boss. "If we do something in writing to a member of Congress, the administrator sees it and signs it," Clemens said. "She's been intimately involved in this. It's an important issue." =PTP=========================================== Houston Chronicle Oct. 8, 2003, 9:09PM Wordy Metro ballot may make for sore eyes By LUCAS WALL Voters might have to adjust their eyes a bit when they reach Metro's transit-expansion referendum on the Nov. 4 ballot. The ballot language approved by the Metropolitan Transit Authority board last month, lengthened to meet the demands of a local U.S. representative, is too long to fit on the standard computerized ballot screen. Employees in the Harris County Clerk's Office have been devising a solution to the problem this week. David Beirne, spokesman for Clerk Beverly Kaufman, said this afternoon that it appears the office has solved the dilemma by reducing the size of the type and placing the proposition language into separate columns. Beirne said it's important Metro's referendum appear on one screen to avoid confusing voters. "This one is giving us a bit of a challenge," he said, noting with a laugh that the length of Metro's proposal "might hold a record." The Clerk's Office is trying to finish laying out the ballots this week so it can began mailing paper versions to the elderly, disabled, and voters who live abroad. Others may vote early starting Oct. 20. Rep. John Culberson, R-Houston, inserted a provision into this fiscal year's transportation appropriations bill banning federal funding for rail in Houston unless voters approve each segment in a referendum. When Metro's board adopted its ballot language in August, it included a segment list in the official resolution but did not place the list on the ballot itself because board members, on the advice of attorneys, feared it would make the wording too lengthy. Turns out they were right. But Culberson stepped in last month, releasing a letter from the Federal Transit Administration's top lawyer stating Metro's original ballot language did not satisfy the requirements of the bill, still pending in the Senate. Metro's board called a special meeting to change the language Sept. 22, the deadline for submitting any propositions under the Texas Election Code. "it's extremely long and part of that problem is the rail components that were called by Metro to appear on the ballot," Beirne said. "We think we've been able to get something that everyone will be pleased with." The type size change is "just a minor decrease" that voters should still be able to read without trouble, he said. But if some voters can't see it clearly, they will be able to listen to an audio version of the ballot language. "Usually we can accommodate wordy propositions," Beirne said, "but this one is definitely taking us to task." =PTP===========================================,21133,826448,00.html Asbury Park Press 10/08/03 Newark's much-maligned subway getting 1-mile, $208M extension Line will reduce traffic, spur development, planners assert THE ASSOCIATED PRESS NEWARK -- For some, the terms "Newark" and "subway" could form a kind of double negative, conjuring one-two punch imagery of crime and grime. Others may be surprised to hear Newark even has its own subway. "The problem with Newark, people who work here, they don't stay; six o'clock comes, they go home," said Ken Wrangler, 55, a financial consultant for PSE&G. "'Newark at night? Do I really want to bring my family in?'" it is a notion -- outdated, Newark's boosters insist -- that fueled skepticism before the New Jersey Performing Arts Center was built, and helped discourage now-stalled plans to build a downtown sports arena. Nonetheless, work is under way on a $208 million, mile-long extension of the Newark City Subway, which planners say will help reduce traffic, spur economic development and even enhance the city's entertainment and cultural opportunities. Scheduled for completion in 2005, the extension will link Newark's Penn Station, a downtown hub for New Jersey Transit, PATH and Amtrak trains as well as NJ Transit buses, to Broad Street station, about eight blocks to the north. About $170 million of the cost will come from federal taxes; New Jersey taxpayers will fund the rest. NJ Transit Executive Director George Warrington said the link will double the ridership of the 5-mile subway line, now at about 17,000 trips per day. Most of the new extension will be above ground. Joe Competello, 22, of Toms River, a first-year student at Seton Hall Law School, thought the stations could be linked for much less money and disturbance. "I can't understand why they don't just use shuttle buses," Competello said. =PTP============================================== SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER Wednesday, October 8, 2003 Nick of time? Court to decide SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER EDITORIAL BOARD if the Washington Supreme Court rules tomorrow that initiative 776 is unconstitutional, it may be literally in the nick of time to save $94.7 million in light rail contract bids that came in $16 million under projections. It also should effectively disarm the argument an Oklahoma congressman has been using to hold up a half-billion dollars in federal funding for the Sound Transit project. if the court ruling doesn't come tomorrow, the contracts, which expire Friday, likely will have to be rebid -- and certainly with no guarantee that they'll be as low in the next round. No matter when it comes, a ruling that I-776 is valid could well tip the first in a row of fiscal and political dominoes that could crush the light rail project. Sound Transit officials responded last week to demands from Rep. Ernest Istook, R-Okla., to explain how the light rail project could weather the loss of motor vehicle excise taxes mandated by I-776 without cannibalizing Sound Transit projects in the rest of the three-county transit district. But any large public works project is about more than money and legalities. Regardless of fiscal assurances if I-776 is upheld, the political impacts easily could outweigh the financial. The Washington Supreme Court's validation of a voter-approved measure to slash local funding for Sound Transit might be sufficient excuse for Istook to yank federal funding in favor of another project elsewhere that enjoys less questionable local support. =PTP============================================= West Seattle Herald/White Center News 2003/10/08 Monorail faces Delridge flap [PHOTO] DUELING STEEL TRUCKS. Due to the narrow width of Andover Street, a truck loaded with scrap steel coming to the Nucor Steel plant must swing wide, forcing the out-bound truck loaded with finished rebar to back down. This is the same intersection where cars and buses to the proposed monorail station will be forced to use to reach the station a short distance west, where a Services Group of American parking lot is now. MATTHEW E. DURHAM By Jack Mayne The rosy vision of the monorail has one particular thorn. And it's a local one. Tom Weeks, Monorail board president and West Seattle resident, probably summed it up best last week. "Delridge is the most difficult (monorail station and route) to site in all of the 14 miles of the Green Line," he said. Services Group of America, Nucor Steel, the Delridge Neighborhoods Development Association and an organized group of Pigeon Point residents all oppose the "preferred" route described in the project's draft environmental impact statement, claiming that it was a latecomer that was selected without community input. The current "preferred" route comes off the West Seattle Bridge near the Delridge Way off-ramp and follows Delridge to Southwest Andover. The Delridge station would be located in what is currently a leased parking lot just to the east of recently restored Longfellow Creek. Then the line would move south to Yancy and up a steep hill, making a right turn onto Avalon. The route favored by residents (the bridge-side route) stays on the north side of the West Seattle Bridge until it passes the northwest corner of the Nucor Steel Co. plant. It then moves over the freeway and its various ramps and onto Avalon Way Southwest. The station would be somewhere over the general location of the Chelan Café. Services Group of America operates a 122,000 square foot office building at Andover and Delridge Way. Nucor Steel Seattle is a successful rebar- manufacturing facility that is visited daily by 100 or so huge semi-truck and trailer rigs. Pigeon Point residents are some of the largest potential users of the line. And fans of the newly restored Longfellow Creek are determined stewards of its heritage and are concerned about potential damage from having a monorail station nearby. Well over 100 residents around the area have signed petitions seeking to restore the bridge-side route. in a petition circulated last month, community activist Sharon Price who says she is a strong monorail supporter, but not of this route - says that the bridge-side route has parking, bus routes and would not harm local businesses or the trails and Longfellow Creek. Price says "(Monorail officials) changed the original placement to dip into Delridge without facts, figures or community involvement. In fact, at the Delridge monorail meetings, whenever someone wanted to discuss location, it was quashed." Bart Kale, safety and environmental manager at Nucor, says they first heard of the route over or around the east and south side of their property in April. Nucor is concerned that the preferred route will limit the company's ability to grow. In addition, the preferred route takes an already congested path on Delridge and Andover, where the semis and flatbeds make deliveries to the plant. "The project as it is laid out now may prevent us from servicing our customers and that worries us," says Doug Jellison, general manager of Nucor Steel Seattle Inc. "We want to know that the community wants and we want to work to support that in a way that allows our business to survive." He, like the residents and Services Group, want "to make sure that all route alternatives are thoroughly investigated." "Not just analyzed for the monorail staff preferences but also for the effect on the businesses," Jellison says. "This must be an open process." Gary Odegard of Services Group points out many problems with the Andover route. He notes that the Delridge and Andover intersection is constantly clogged with trucks often forcing cars to back up to allow the trucks to pass. He also says that nearby 24 Hour Fitness has overgrown its parking lot and clients often park around the narrow streets of the surrounding area. Like many, Odegard says parking is a real issue, not only because his company would lose parking spaces to a monorail station. "It is unreasonable to assume that many monorail riders will use only public transit or shuttles and not drive their own vehicles to the monorail stations," he said, then adds, "It is also questionable whether full-sized Metro coaches can negotiate the narrow streets in the area." There is a suggestion that Metro might build a bus terminal near the monorail station. Tom Weeks, in an interview last week, said the bridge-side route was omitted from the recently released draft environmental impact statement primarily because it would cost too much to build a route over the freeway and onto Avalon Way. "Engineers said the station would have to be 100 feet high at the Chelan Café area, and that it would be expensive, complicated and difficult to get over the freeway," he said. Weeks says the final environmental statement will consider this bridge- side route. But he defends the Andover route by noting it is the "best location for maximized ridership (because) we are building a transit system for the next 100 years." No one suggests this will go away without a fight. With two large companies and a cadre of unhappy citizens, monorail will have reason to remember the name Delridge long after the shouting dies down. Editor Jack Mayne can be reached at or 932.0300. =PTP============================================ [BATN] centerline7oct07,1,7616090.story?coll=la-headlines-california Los Angeles Times Tuesday, October 7, 2003 CenterLine Rail Tunnel Plan Gains New Life Urban line could go underground near the South Coast Plaza area. Talks with business owners produce a cheaper, shorter subterranean route. By Dan Weikel Times Staff Writer Under pressure from civic leaders in Costa Mesa, Orange County transit officials say they may agree to put the proposed CenterLine light-rail line underground through the South Coast Plaza area -- a compromise that would increase its cost but also help it get off the drawing board. in another CenterLine related development, officials for the first time have said how many properties along the line would be purchased through condemnation proceedings. All or part of 483 parcels would be needed for the light-rail line and related widening of Bristol Street in Santa Ana, according to the Orange County Transportation Authority. The OCTA, following discussions with Costa Mesa officials, is now considering a tunnel that would allow CenterLine to serve one of the county's commercial and cultural hubs. The area includes key destinations of South Coast Plaza, the South Coast Metro office tower area, South Coast Repertory and the Orange County Performing Arts Center. City Councilwoman Libby Cowan, who helped resurrect the light-rail project last year after the transit agency shelved it for lack of support, said the new thinking is welcome. "In order to survive, CenterLine would have to be put underground in Costa Mesa," said Cowan. "From our perspective, this is a very positive step." if built as proposed, CenterLine tracks would go from elevated above street level to underground after turning left onto Sunflower Avenue from Bristol Street. Tracks would run in a tunnel for less than half a mile under Avenue of the Arts and emerge at street level before turning left on to Anton Street. OCTA had planned to build an elevated line down Bristol Street that would turn left on Anton before proceeding to other destinations. The route would have had stops at South Coast Plaza and South Coast Metro areas. in February, OCTA rejected a request by Costa Mesa to have the agency study the feasibility of placing the line underground through the shopping center and adjacent commercial and theater complexes. OCTA board members said the authority could not afford a $3-million study and that they feared a tunnel would add another $250 million to the cost CenterLine, which now is planned to run 8.5 miles from John Wayne Airport to the train station in Santa Ana. The request came from a coalition of business and political interests, including C.J. Segerstrom & Sons, which owns South Coast Plaza and other commercial properties; Sakioka Farms, another major property holder; Commonwealth Partners, a developer; the Performing Arts Center; and the South Coast Metro Alliance, a group of business and property owners. They argued that acquiring rights-of-way for the elevated line through prime commercial property would be expensive. The group also said the line would seriously detract from the aesthetics of South Coast Plaza and the theater area. in discussions over the past several months, OCTA agreed to consider a tunnel proposal that is far cheaper and shorter than putting the line under the original route. The proposed tunnel length of slightly less than a mile has been cut in half. There are no underground stations, and the $250-million additional cost has been cut to about $50 million, according to early estimates. "I support the potential underground route. We are not going as far or as deep as initially thought," said OCTA board chairman Tim Keenan, who originally pronounced the tunnel idea dead in March due to a lack of support among his colleagues. The OCTA board cannot vote on the tunnel proposal until after the public gets a chance to comment this month and next on the CenterLine's environmental report. OCTA officials hope to place the tunnel issue behind them in order to show strong political support for the project, a prerequisite for securing more than $500 million in federal funds, roughly half the project's cost. Political and community opposition already has reduced the length of the line from 28 miles to 8.5 miles. Paul Freeman, a spokesman for C.J. Segerstrom & Sons, said the new underground route, if approved, will satisfy the concerns of the Segerstroms and members of the business coalition. "This is a very different tunnel," Freeman said. "Besides the cost savings, it will provide very convenient service for anyone interested in getting to the area's arts venues." OCTA and the city of Santa Ana are planning to buy 303 pieces of private property in their entirety and small parts of another 180 parcels, allowing the uses of those parcels to continue. The cost is estimated at about $250 million. The purchases are contingent upon CenterLine receiving final approval by the OCTA board and the approximately $500 million in federal funds. If the project proceeds, property owners will receive notification next July. Santa Ana City Manager David N. Ream said widening Bristol Street is part of the Bristol Street Redevelopment Project, which has been planned since 1987. CenterLine, which would run down the median of Bristol, will accelerate the planned street improvements by almost 18 years, he said. So far, the city has acquired more than 100 properties to help widen Bristol in areas that are not part of CenterLine. improvements between McFadden Avenue and Santa Ana Boulevard are along the light- rail route. "This will be a continuation of what is already underway," Keenan said. "Eminent domain is a very touchy subject. But we want to make sure it is a fair process." =PTP========================================== [BATN] Los Angeles Times Monday, October 6, 2003 Sales Tax for MTA Could Face '04 Vote Davis gets a bill allowing placement on the ballot. The half-cent increase would raise billions for transit projects but need a two- thirds approval. By Kurt Streeter Times Staff Writer Assuming that it receives final state approval this month, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority will probably ask Los Angeles County voters to adopt a new half-cent sales tax that would raise billions of dollars for buses, light rail lines and a costly subway extension, among other projects. The MTA board has not yet decided whether to put the issue on the ballot, but key officials -- including Los Angeles Mayor James K. Hahn and board Chairman Zev Yaroslavsky -- said the move was likely, possibly next year but perhaps not until 2005 or 2006. in the final days of the state legislative session last month, lawmakers voted to give the MTA authority to put the tax measure before voters. Gov. Gray Davis or his successor in Tuesday's recall election has until Oct. 12 to sign or veto the bill, although no action would be the same as approval. The levy, which would require two-thirds approval from voters, would raise the sales tax in most of the county to 8.75%. The increase would last 6-1/2 years before going off the books and would raise more than $4 billion, according to estimates. MTA officials say it would pave the way for one of the busiest periods of transportation construction in the region's history, paying for a three-mile extension of the Red Line subway; a light rail line between downtown and Santa Monica; an extension of the Gold Line; a north-south busway for the San Fernando Valley; and new freeway lanes, sound walls, buses and trains. MTA officials say they could finish the construction within about 10 years. The most vocal supporters of the bill on the 13-member MTA board are Yaroslavsky, who is also a county supervisor; Hahn; Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke; and Los Angeles Councilman Antonio Villaraigosa. They all said they thought the tax increase would go before voters — if not next year, then by 2006. Even opponents of the measure acknowledge that the board is likely to embrace it. "I don't think we have the votes to stop it," said Supervisor Mike Antonovich, an MTA board member who believes that subway construction is a waste of money. "I just don't feel confident there's any way to get in front of this thing." The MTA already has two half-cent sales taxes that raise more than $1 billion a year. When they were approved by voters in 1980 and 1990, officials also promised an array of transit projects. Some of those have never been built. Voters barely approved the 1990 tax, which needed only a simple majority. Passing muster this time, with the two-thirds approval now required, will be extremely difficult, officials said. "it's a hail Mary pass," Yaroslavsky said. "But we have to take this opportunity. This is the one thing we can do to jump-start an integrated transit system" and to ensure that "a system comes together in our lifetime." Yaroslavsky said the odds could change significantly if the Legislature approved bills to reduce the threshold for countywide tax increases to 50%. if the proposed tax is approved, planners say, the transportation landscape in L.A. County will be transformed after 10 years of construction. From downtown Los Angeles, train riders would be able to take light rail to Santa Monica and the subway to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Bus passengers would be able to crisscross the Valley in landscaped bus-only lanes. Motorists would have fewer freeway bottlenecks across the region. Critics are already lining up. Some say the MTA, with its history of mismanagement, can't be trusted to spend the tax money wisely. The Bus Riders Union advocacy group argues that the tax would only hurt the pocketbooks of the people who rely on transit the most -- the poor. And others say there's no assurance that the MTA would have enough money to run all of the new buses and trains. The sales tax measure doesn't include money for operations, and the MTA barely has enough money to keep its current fleet of buses and trains going. That opens the door for major problems, said Martin Wachs, director of UC Berkeley's institute of Transportation Studies. "I would be extremely reluctant about it if there's nothing for operations," he said. "How are they going to run this system?" =PTP========================================== [BATN list] San Francisco Examiner Monday, October 6, 2003 Residents rally against density By Jean Choung Of The Examiner Staff Five neighborhoods in the western end of The City recently rallied in opposition of the newly proposed Housing Element, a comprehensive plan on how and what types of housing should be developed in The City. The Housing Element, developed by Planning Department staff, would open the door to increased heights and density of residential developments citywide. And it will ruin the character of various neighborhoods, said some west side residents. "it's really a rezoning of the entire city," said Jeff Hagan, president of the Francisco Heights Civic Association during a meeting to discuss the plan Sept. 29. The meeting, attended by 150 people, was sponsored by FHCA, the Jordan Park improvement Association, the Laurel Heights Association, the University Terrace Association and Ewing Terrace Association. The proposed Housing Element has also been rejected by the Coalition of San Francisco Neighborhoods, which is an umbrella organization of 37 different community groups citywide. Although taller and denser housing projects are being proposed along some transit corridors throughout The City, it is not being done at the expense of neighborhood character, said Amit Ghosh, the chief comprehensive planner for the Planning Department during an interview. It is stated in one of the new policies in the plan, Ghosh added. He also said west side residents had very little to be concerned about, considering 90 percent of the new Housing Element would apply to the eastern end of the city, east of the Twin Peaks Neighborhood The city might be fighting an uphill battle to approve the new Housing Element as residents object to various new policies in the document. The new plan proposes eight new policies and modifications to nearly 50 of 70 existing policies. One policy that some residents are especially opposed to is one that would reduce current requirements for residential projects to create one parking spot for every unit of housing developed. "Virtually anywhere in the city, it is difficult to park your car," said Greg Hylton, who lives in the Jordan Park area. "It does not make any sense to reduce the amount of parking spaces created," he added. Another proposed policy, allowing the conversion of garage spaces into housing units, would also adversely impact neighborhoods by decreasing the number of parking spaces available, some said. During the meeting, people also complained that the Planning Department has done a poor job of holding community meetings and collecting public input, especially from the west end of the city. "We paid to send out 3,000 invitations on our own nickel," Hagan said about the neighborhood groups holding their own meeting on the issue. Ghosh said the Planning Department has done more than its share of work gathering public input. Since August 2002, he said the department has held four public hearing and department staff attended any meeting when an invitation was extended, he said. The process of updating the document is tedious, Ghosh said. The Housing Element, in place for more than 20 years as mandated by the state government, also requires that it be updated every six years. The City has passed the deadline of December 2001 for the most recent update. "The state has been waiting ever since," Ghosh said. Scarce federal and state funds designated for developing affordable housing projects is in jeopardy without the completed document, he said. According to the document, the city requires approximately 20,400 new housing units by 2006 to meet increasing demand. That figure includes nearly 7,400 affordable units. Such units should be affordable to a family of three, making $50,000 or less, according to the document. The Planning Department is expected to start developing another Housing Element next year, which is due in 2007. =PTP========================================== The Gazette (Montgomery County, Md) Oct. 8, 2003 Officials briefed on corridor transitway by Effie Bathen Staff Writer Second only to the question of whether a transitway linking Rockville to Frederick should offer bus or rail service is how the transportation route will wend its way north. The county Planning Board met with the mayors and councils of Rockville and Gaithersburg last Thursday for a briefing on the alignment recommendations of the Corridor Cities Transitway following an eight-year environmental study on the 31-mile project. The transitway would link Shady Grove Metro Station to Frederick County via the I-270 corridor to Route 15 at Biggs Ford Road, north of the city of Frederick. Nearly half of the route falls within Montgomery County. in the coming months, state Transportation Secretary Robert L. Flanagan is expected to recommend either light rail service or a sleek European- style bus line. Either system is expected to cost about $800 million to construct. Bus system gains ground A rapid-transit bus system is "gaining ground" over light rail among transportation officials since the environmental impact study indicates that operating costs would be about the same or lower and allow more flexibility in implementation. Transportation officials weighed costs for rights-of-way and potential increased ridership on Metro's existing Red Line. They looked at trimming construction costs on such things as bus bypass lanes and pedestrian overpasses at stations. They also recommended dropping a hiker-biker trail from both the bus and rail proposals, said Henry M. Kay, director of the state's office of transportation and transit planning. But a light rail line has better popular support because of the impression of "permanence," elected officials said. Planning Board Chairman Derick P. Berlage added that light rail service could be more appealing to commercial investment. Meanwhile, several issues, including the location of transit stations and yard and shop locations, remain unanswered. For example, the Kentlands community in Gaithersburg has requested a station to serve it directly on the west side of Great Seneca Highway rather than at a proposed Quince Orchard Park station to the east. Also being debated is the location of a School Drive station in Gaithersburg and a Middlebrook station in Germantown. The proposed project is competing with local developers at those sites, transportation officials said. Hardy noted that improvements on interstate 270 either with or without dedicated high-occupancy-vehicle (HOV) lanes would not eliminate congestion on the interstate in the county by the time the transitway is built. The possibility of toll lanes, reversible lanes or those with tolls proportionate to congestion may be considered in future studies. At last week's tri-party meeting, Kay fielded questions about the proposed project, which has seen little public debate in 10 years. He told the gathering that the technology for a light rail line with overhead electrical wires had not changed in 100 years. New technologies, including hybrid vehicles and alternative fuels, on the other hand, are being developed for rubber-wheeled buses every day. Kay said the transitway could provide 20,000 to 25,000 trips a day whether on rail or rubber. A clear advantage of a modern bus system is that it could be implemented piecemeal, he said. A light rail service would likely be built in three large stretches: Shady Grove to Metropolitan Grove, then to the old COMSAT property, and then on through Clarksburg into Frederick County. =PTP========================================= The Cincinnati Enquirer Wednesday, October 8, 2003 Opponent of light rail considered for seat on regional transit board By James Pilcher The leader of the successful campaign to defeat last fall's proposed light- rail sales tax will be considered today for a post on the board overseeing the area's largest public transit agency. Yet the Ohio Elections Commission in June found Stephan Louis' Alternatives for Light Rail Transit guilty of a false statement in a television ad during last fall's campaign. The statement said that the Federal Transit Administration had rated the MetroMoves plan, which included the proposed light rail system, as one of the worst in the country. The FTA has since said that it does not rate systems against one another, although Louis stands by the claim even though he says he was not involved with the ad's production. Louis' name is among as many as four to be considered today by the Hamilton County Commission for a spot on the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority, which oversees Metro. There are two board spots coming open soon. E-mail =PTP============================================= [LRTA] The Times (London) 08 Oct 2003 Croydon convinced it's on the right lines By Maria Ahmed SOUTH LONDON has always been viewed by many people, mostly those who live north of the Thames, as a Tubeless backwater out of reach of the rest of the capital. Slow and unreliable overground trains and long-winded buses made it the blight of commuters' lives and the butt of countless jokes. But with the start of the Tramlink network in May 2000, the grey sprawl of Croydon was finally plugged into the mains of London's transport system. Although it has fallen far short of the predictions for passenger numbers, it is very popular with those who use it. The 17½-mile route crossing Croydon from Wimbledon through to Beckenham and New Addington attracts 19 million passengers a year, a fifth of them former car users. Hope Smith, 88, from Beckenham, takes the tram to Croydon nearly every day to meet friends for coffee and shopping. "it's so easy to use," she said. "I always get a seat, and it's fast. My journey only takes 15 minutes compared to 45 minutes on the bus." The service also scores highly with parents of young children who, handicapped with buggies, used to resort to cars rather than face getting on a bus or train. With their double doors, floors level with platforms and space inside to park buggies, trams have proved easy for parents to use. Angela Noble, 37, from Addington Village, who has two small children aged two and four, said: "It makes such a change from the usual nightmare of lugging a double pushchair on to a bus or Tube." The Government's retreat from its commitment to expand trams has placed a question mark over the planned north-south extension of the Croydon network. Motorists barred from roads near the town centre will not be too sorry. David Norton, 35, a taxi driver from Croydon, said: "I still think car drivers should have an equal right to be on the road."
PTP Digest 2003/10/07-A = CONTENTS * Houston Metro blasts FTA, Culberson on rail issues Houston Chronicle Oct. 6, 2003 * Houston: Rail opponents broke tax laws? Houston Chronicle Oct. 6, 2003 * Sacramento LRT: New South Line OK, but needs tweaking Sacramento Bee Saturday, October 4, 2003 * Tacoma: New rail station 'already bustling' SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER Wednesday, September 17, 2003 * Seattle: 'Monorail taxes still coming up short' SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER Wednesday, September 17, 2003 * Orlando: Rail transit options focus of struggle Orlando Sentinel September 19, 2003 =PTP============================================= Houston Chronicle Oct. 6, 2003 Metro budget battle heats up at news conference By LUCAS WALL The battle of the Metro budget numbers turned uglier Monday with the transit authority accusing a federal agency of issuing false figures while rail opponents called a news conference to warn Metro will go bankrupt in 2005. The dispute over how much federal money the Metropolitan Transit Authority has on hand and how much it expects to get in the next six years is the latest round in a fracas pitting Metro against its opponents and the Federal Transit Administration. Who wins the dollar debate could determine the outcome of the Nov. 4 transit-expansion referendum. Meanwhile Monday, as the opposition group Texans for True Mobility began its TV advertising campaign, the committee pushing for passage of the Metro referendum accused the group of failing to file a required campaign-finance disclosure. Citizens for Public Transportation said the mobility group is violating federal tax and state ethics laws. Metro began the day's wranglings at noon, responding in detail to allegations made last week that it overestimated its federal revenue through 2009 by more than $100 million. Transit officials said the FTA, on which opponents relied for their data, failed to include $66 million already awarded to Metro in the calculations it sent to Rep. John Culberson, R- Houston, on Sept. 26. "This is a lot simpler than it has been portrayed to be," said Francis Britton, Metro's chief financial officer. A simple day it was not, however. Texans for True Mobility, the group led by developer Michael Stevens, responded to Metro's calculations with a 4 p.m. news conference to announce Metro will run out of money in two years based on what he sees as the agency's reliance on false accounting. Also during the day, Metro's president and CEO fired off an irate letter to the FTA's administrator -- the official who helps determine how much transit money is sent this way -- saying she was "appalled" at the "erroneous" numbers the agency released that are "divisive" and "will no doubt be publicly embarrassing to both the FTA and the [Bush] administration." And Metro's Chairman Arthur Schechter sent another note to rail foe Harris County Judge Robert Eckels chastising him for trying "to distract the public from the real issues." U.S. Attorney Michael Shelby, meanwhile, issued a statement saying he had received Culberson's request to begin a criminal investigation of Metro's finances, but the Justice Department prohibits him from commenting on such a probe. According to Metro's latest projections -- drawn up by staff over the weekend -- it will spend $681 million in federal money through 2009. The FTA, in projections released last week through the U.S. House Appropriations Committee and in a letter to Culberson, states Metro will receive $573 million -- a discrepancy of $108 million. The transit authority said the difference is explained by two factors. The FTA has miscalculated the amount of federal grants Metro has received in prior years but plans to spend in the future. Second, Metro used a different annual growth projection than included in the Bush administration's draft of the transportation spending authorization for the next six years. Britton said the numbers released by Culberson and Eckels did not take into account another $58 million in existing federal grants, not yet spent, as well as a $7 million state clean-air grant to pay for special diesel bus fuel. Rail opponents said the release of Metro's figures Monday did not sway them. Stevens said Metro is asking voters to authorize a $4.6 billion expansion plan, including 22 more miles of light rail, "that effectively handles 1 percent of the traffic in the region and will begin that with no money in the bank and a negative cash flow by 2005." if the FTA numbers prove correct and Metro continues seeing a drop in sales-tax revenue, the authority will be $75 million in the hole in two years, Stevens contends. Britton acknowledged there a difference between Metro's projections and those by the FTA of $43 million because Metro and the federal government used a different rate to calculate annual increases in the federal formula funds. Metro used an 8 percent annual growth factor based on historic trends, Britton said, while the FTA used a 2 percent rate proposed by President Bush. "We've got a rate of growth projected that is a reasonable expectation," Britton said. But even if the president's proposal prevails, Britton said, Metro has included an $81 million contingency to cover shortfalls. Shirley DeLibero, Metro president and CEO, expressed aggravation that neither Culberson nor Eckels asked Metro to explain its federal formula estimates, but instead released their criticism to the press last week when many Metro executives were at a transit conference in Utah and Britton was on vacation in Mississippi. DeLibero's letter to FTA Administrator Jennifer Dorn is an unusually harsh critique of how the FTA handled Culberson's request for information. "Had you or your staff afforded Metro the simple courtesy of a phone call, we could have clarified that FTA's chart is fundamentally wrong," DeLibero wrote. Metro spokesman Ken Connaughton said DeLibero and Dorn discussed the matter at last week's American Public Transportation Conference in Salt Lake City. Dorn has told some people she did not see or sign the Sept. 26 letter that bears a signature in her name, Connaughton said. FTA spokeswoman Kristi Clemens could not be reached Monday evening. Culberson said Monday he had not received the new numbers and could not comment until his office and the FTA has a chance to review the figures. Eckels' spokesman said the judge was out of town Monday but it reviewing Metro's response. This article is: =PTP============================================= Houston Chronicle Oct. 6, 2003 Committee claims rail opponents broke tax laws By LUCAS WALL The political action committee campaigning for approval of Metro's Nov. 4 referendum accused its opponents Monday of breaking federal tax and state ethics laws by failing to file a campaign finance disclosure statement. Monday was the deadline to file reports covering the period up to Sept. 25. Citizens for Public Transportation, the group led by developer Ed Wulfe, filed its report with Metro. After the deadline passed, its campaign manager said of rival Texans for True Mobility, "clearly they crossed the line here" by advocating for the referendum's defeat while claiming non- profit status. Chris Begala, a spokesman for the rail foes, disputed that his group broke the law. Begala said Texans for True Mobility was formed as two separate entities. One is a non-profit educational foundation that may not advocate politically but can air informative ads such as those being run by the Metropolitan Transit Authority promoting light rail. The second part is a political action committee that will specifically urge voters to reject the transit-expansion referendum. Texans for True Mobility did not file a campaign disclosure Monday because its political arm had not raised or spent any money by Sept. 25 and its educational arm has not spent any funds to advocate against the referendum, Begala said. Eddie Aldrete, campaign manager for Citizens for Public Transportation, released a letter Monday evening he says Texans for True Mobility sent to potential donors prior to the Sept. 25 news conference announcing the group's formation. The letter states: "Texans for True Mobility (TTM) is a newly created non-profit organization to discuss and propose financially sound and effective transportation solutions. The proposed Metro Solutions plan is neither financially sound nor effective, and we urge a 'NO' vote against it on November 4." Aldrete said the group clearly has spent money prior to Sept. 25 advocating against the Nov. 4 transit proposition and therefore could face an investigation by the internal Revenue Service or the Texas attorney general if someone filed a complaint. Aldrete said his group is reviewing whether to file such a complaint, believing the campaigning by the opposition has been political and not permitted under laws regulating non- profit organizations. Begala said he could not verify whether anyone had sent out the "we urge a 'NO' vote" letter before Sept. 25. If such a draft letter had indeed gone out, he said, it would have been by a volunteer using personal equipment. With no expenditure of the non-profit's money, Begala said, there would be no violation. Materials provided to reporters at the Sept. 25 news conference does not include any statement urging a vote against the Metro referendum. "I know that this was a in draft form and our legal counsel tells me that if indeed it was sent out, let's assume it was sent out in draft form by a person on their own private e-mail or personal e-mail account," Begala said. "No corporate funds were ever expended to urge a no vote." The Citizens for Public Transportation filing shows it raised $458,147 and spent $185,315 in the month preceding Sept. 25. Its largest expense was $123,227 to purchase television advertisements. Those have yet to air. Spokesman Paul Mabry said it's wrong for his group to publicly release its financial details while the opposition keeps their hidden. This mirrors a long-running national debate over the "soft money" educational foundations and political parties use to run advertisements that "inform" voters without specifically pushing a certain vote. "I don't know if they are trying to skirt the law but they are trying to skirt around the spirit of the law, which is transparency so Houstonians can see for themselves what a narrow-based group this is," he said. "You have a group dominated by westside conservatives who are pooling their very deep pockets to thwart the will of the majority." [BATN] Sacramento Bee Saturday, October 4, 2003 Mixed report card for light-rail line New southern extension is a good start, but lots of work is needed, riders and RT officials agree. By Tony Bizjak Bee Staff Writer Days after proudly opening the south Sacramento light-rail line and new bus routes, Regional Transit General Manager Beverly Scott headed to a south area business meeting -- in a car. That, she says, shows a problem. "I could have come out here taking my own product (the bus or light rail)," she said. "But it would take 2-1/2 hours out of my day, and that wasn't the best use of my time." While calling the Meadowview to downtown line "a beautiful system," Scott, Sacramento's top transit official, said that Sacramento's rail and bus system still has a long way to go before it becomes convenient to use for people who have a choice. "We have to be able to make the service competitive on travel time," Scott said. "You have to have enough frequency for it to be something you can work your life around." That means, she said, more buses, more light rail, and neighborhood and community planning that better supports transit. Nevertheless, Scott and other Regional Transit officials say they are pleased with the first week's performance of the 6.3-mile line through the city's south area and expect it to be a boon to commuters. Officials said they do not yet have a ridership count from the first week but said the trains seemed to be getting decent usage. A Bee survey of trains found that most seats were taken during commute hours, but non-commute-hour trains were lightly used. Parking lots at the three southernmost stations, Meadowview, Florin and 47th, were getting moderate usage. RT official Cam Beach predicted ridership on the line will increase as transit users discover its main selling point: reliability. Other than a few glitches, trains reportedly arrived at stations on schedule every 15 minutes during the day, Beach said. RT police were out in force as well, stationing patrol cars at the three park-and-ride lots. "From a police standpoint, it's been calm," Lt. Mark Sakauye said. "We arrested one drunk who got on a train downtown. But that's it." Scott's comments about the need to push for more service were backed by the people riding the new light-rail line. Many veteran bus riders say they were checking out the new line, and new bus transfers, to see how it worked for them. Eddie Robb, a state Assembly worker, said he found light rail more comfortable and reliable than his regular bus route, but it still requires him to take a bus transfer ride from his Pocket area residence, which makes his commute a few minutes longer. "From my side of town it is shorter taking the bus downtown," he said. But he is attracted by the rail. Unlike buses, "the trains are on schedule, and they are definitely smoother," he said. "I like it. It's different. I'll use it a couple of times a week." Many south line light-rail commuters interviewed this week said they either don't have cars or share a car with family members, and through a variety of circumstances have ended up with jobs that aren't near their residences. Ramona Houghton, who lives near the new 47th Street station, this week started a transit triple-jump to a new job in Roseville. First, she takes the south line into downtown, then another light- rail line to Watt Avenue, and finally a bus. The trip takes nearly 90 minutes, she said. But, "That way, I can leave the car for my daughter. And I'm letting someone else drive on the stuffy freeway. "There's my trolley! Gotta go." An Elk Grove resident asked why the light-rail line stopped at Meadowview rather than continuing south at least to Calvine Road. She gave the train a try Wednesday and decided it took too long. "I'll just stick to my bus." Ryan Dodge, who lives near the new Fourth Avenue station and works downtown as a security guard, said he enjoyed the ride and will use light rail at times but didn't like the fact that a ticket into downtown cost $1.50 at his station, but only 50 cents at the next station north, Broadway, because it is in the Central City zone. Dodge said a tiered pricing system based on distance might encourage him to buy a monthly pass. RT officials said they are looking into the possibility of having more zones with different prices someday. Some people on the trains said they liked the little touches. Marie Anderson, riding to jury duty Thursday morning, was delighted with the voice announcement system. "it's a lady's voice," she reported. "She announces the next stop. i like it. It's gentle. Not that a man's voice can't be gentle." George Henry, a computer technician working in Elk Grove and living in midtown, was pleased to find four hooks for bicycles on each train car. Light rail is a longer ride for him, because he must transfer to a bus, but he said it is dependable and enjoyable. "it's pleasant," he said. "I like to read. I can mind my own business or interact with people. "I feel this is a step in the right direction. They seem to be aware of the need to address the needs of people in the south area." The Bee's Tony Bizjak can be reached at (916) 321-1059 or [BATN: See also: Sacramento LRT first week ridership "decent" Sacramento opens first new LRT line in 16 years Editorial: Sacramento South Line light rail kudos South Sacramento light rail line opens today South Sacramento light-rail line to debut Friday ] =PTP============================================ SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER Wednesday, September 17, 2003 Commuter rail station already bustling SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER STAFF AND NEWS SERVICES TACOMA -- Sound Transit's Tacoma Dome commuter rail station at Freighthouse Square is open, with lots of foot traffic and customers for local businesses. The new platform at Freighthouse Square officially opened this week and shortened the walk for Sounder commuters. Until Monday, they lugged their briefcases from the parking garage at the Tacoma Dome station to the nearby freight yard that served as the temporary stop until the station was finished. The platform adds the final piece to what Sound Transit calls "the most complete multimodal facility in the region." The commuter rail line, the recently completed Link light rail line and Sound Transit express buses meet up at the station, connecting passengers with buses from Pierce Transit and Greyhound, and Amtrak rail service. =PTP========================================= SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER Wednesday, September 17, 2003 Monorail taxes still coming up short By KERY MURAKAMi SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER REPORTER The Seattle Monorail Project collected less in taxes than expected again in August and is likely to have a fourth month of shortfalls when taxes are collected in October. Monorail officials yesterday said the state collected $2.27 million in monorail taxes in August, about 29 percent less than the $3.19 million the agency had expected to get. State licensing officials also told the Seattle Monorail Project yesterday that the state sent out only $2.2 million in monorail-related motor vehicle excise tax notices for October -- about 31 percent less than expected. The gap could be even higher. The tax reminders usually end up being higher than the amount collected, because some people scheduled to renew their tabs have moved away, state licensing spokesman Brad Benfield said. October would be the fourth month since the state began collecting the monorail tax in June that the project's only source of money has brought in less than expected. Last year, voters narrowly approved building the $1.75 billion Ballard-to- West Seattle line. Seattle Monorail Project spokesman Paul Bergman said the agency already has acknowledged it is not receiving as much from the tax as anticipated. Based on June and July's tax collections, the authority estimates it will receive 11 percent to 33 percent less money than expected. The agency is expected to give a new estimate at its finance committee meeting tomorrow morning. But Bergman continued to say it's unknown how serious the situation is for the project. In an interview last week, monorail finance director Daniel Malarkey said the gap could be higher than the first two months indicated because the state tends to collect higher amounts of the excise tax during the summer months. But he also said the gap could end up being smaller because some who were supposed to renew their tabs in June and July may be procrastinating. "We're trying to get a handle on the psychology of renewing tabs," Malarkey said. At the same time, the monorail authority is hoping to collect more taxes by working with the state to prevent people from evading the tax by registering their vehicles outside the city. The authority also wants the state to begin collect the excise tax on out-of-state used cars when they first register with the state instead of when they renew their cars a year later. Monorail officials, at the same time, say they're looking for ways to cut costs without sacrificing the project's quality. Lead monorail architect Alan Hart, for instance, said he's thinking of building a smaller station at Elliott Avenue West and Mercer Street. Originally the station was supposed to reach both sides of Elliott Avenue, but architects are now considering building it only on the east side of the street. But Joel Paston, a monorail critic who has been monitoring the tax shortfall, said, "They've provided no evidence that they have the bonding capacity to build this project." P-I reporter Kery Murakami can be reached at 206-448-8131 or =PTP=========================================== loctaxrail19091903sep19,0,4915117.story?coll=orl-news-headlines Orlando Sentinel September 19, 2003 Transit options pose a puzzle By Scott Powers Sentinel Staff Writer if Orange County voters go for a half-cent sales-tax increase to fix roads, they'll also be approving $400 million for a transit system that has yet to be revealed. The Mobility 20/20 sales-tax referendum would raise $2.6 billion if voters approve it Oct. 7. While most of the money would go toward improving and expanding I-4 and 50 other streets and highways, the second-largest chunk would be used for an unspecified mass-transit plan. That plan could well be a revival of serious efforts to build a light-rail transit system in the county, four years after the last effort fell in an explosive political fight at the Orange County Commission. Or it could be a proposed commuter train to ride tracks north-south through much of Central Florida. State and local transportation planners are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to study the commuter rail and two separate light-rail lines, and Orange County leaders eagerly await the results. Until the options are studied and sorted, which will take a year or more, those political leaders insist they can't say whether transit money would buy Orange County a light rail, a commuter rail, both or neither. What it would buy right away is a spot in the six-year federal-funding process, giving the county time to decide what it wants, said County Chairman Rich Crotty, patron of Mobility 20/20. "Having the availability of funds to do something like this is critical," Crotty said. "What it's going to be, we really don't know." Such uncertainty opens a big target for critics, who say voters deserve answers to costly questions, such as where the system would run, who would ride it, how much it would cost, and what government would front operating subsidies that could oversee tens of millions of dollars a year. "How can voters trust the entities involved when they haven't answered those questions in advance?" Ax the Tax activist Doug Guetzloe said. "That, to us, opens a huge, unfunded, undesignated liability to the taxpayers." County leaders push system For years, Orange County leaders have insisted there is an urgent need for mass transit to ease crowding on overburdened roads, especially one that might parallel I-4, and to provide more ways to get around town. A new transit-authority board composed of the Orlando mayor, Orange County chairman and Florida Department of Transportation District 5 secretary would sort the options. The board could conclude that transit systems are too much trouble or money or won't carry enough riders, said Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer. Then the Mobility 20/20 governing board, made up of the county commission, the Orlando mayor and mayor pro-tem, would figure out what to do with the $400 million. "I suppose the transit authority could come to that conclusion. I don't think it will," said Dyer, a light-rail supporter. "The transit authority's hands aren't tied into commuter rail. They're not tied into light rail." Light rail involves trolley-like trains that carry commuters, shoppers and tourists on short, stop-and-go trips along small tracks that can be squeezed into roadways. Commuter rail takes commuters on longer trips with fewer stops, using conventional-size trains on standard railroad tracks. Critics point at expense Guetzloe has long opposed light rail, calling it an expensive, unnecessary boondoggle. He and other Mobility 20/20 opponents accuse backers either of stealthily pursuing a light-rail proposal that has been rejected twice or of asking for $400 million with few strings attached. Backers point out that if Orange County gets $400 million for construction, it could attract a matching amount from Florida. With that $800 million, Orange County could apply for a matching amount from the Federal Transit Administration, competing against more than two dozen other cities seeking the same limited funds. "What's really important is we're preserving alternatives for the future," said James Harrison, Orange County public works manager. "There are a number of alternatives out there. Mobility 20/20 is not about light rail. It is about making sure we can come to the table and compete once this community has decided its vision." Transit plans offer choices The most developed plan features a light-rail line from Altamonte Springs, weaving in and out of the I-4 corridor to downtown, Universal Studios, the Orange County Convention Center and SeaWorld, with a couple dozen stops. it could cost $1.5 billion to build, just about right for the $1.6 billion that Mobility 20/20 could get. Another light-rail proposal starts at Orlando international Airport and roughly follows the Bee Line Expressway (State Road 528) to the Florida Mall and the convention center, with fewer than 10 stops. It might cost $600 million to $700 million. The third major proposal, a pet project of U.S. Rep. John Mica, R-Winter Park, features a commuter-rail train running from Volusia County through Orlando into Osceola County, on existing CSX railroad tracks. Mobility 20/20 would be responsible only for the Orange portion of the estimated $150 million cost, perhaps less than $20 million. The north-south light-rail plan is a revision of one that Orange County commissioners rejected in 1999, which was an extension of one that Orange County voters rejected as part of a 1997 ballot initiative. The 1999 rejection might haunt Orange County when it applies for federal money, cautioned Edward Coven, FDOT state-transit manager. The Federal Transit Administration had pledged $330 million to the 1999 plan, only to be spurned. "it's a strong hurdle to overcome. The FTA made quite a commitment to that previous Orlando proposal and they were burned," Coven said. Commuter line could be 1st Dyer suspects the commuter line might get started first, since it is cheapest and easiest, provided CSX could be persuaded to let the train share its tracks, something the company has shown no enthusiasm for. The plan already has $8 million in federal and state commitments, and it has Mica, with his key congressional connections. Dyer added, "I think then it probably evolves into a light-rail system, and i emphasize 'system' " --meaning he looks forward to both the airport connector and north-south light-rail lines being developed. Crotty prefers the airport-connector line as a first step. It offers the prospect of carrying tens of thousands of tourists and conventioneers, along with a few local residents, easing the county's risk to have to pay big operating subsidies. That could make expansion easier. "You have to look at who might ride it, and where they are," he said. "in my mind, from the airport to the convention center and the tourism- activities center makes the most sense." Scott Powers can be reached at or 407- 420-5441.
PTP Digest 2003/10/06-A = CONTENTS * Houston suburb draws up is own rail transit plan Houston Chronicle Oct. 5, 2003 * Houston paper blasts 'unethical' pol's anti-rail intrigues Houston Chronicle Oct. 3, 2003 * Salt Lake: LRT having mixed impact on neighboring businesses Deseret Morning News (Salt Lake City) Sunday, October 5, 2003 * 'Light rail giving UTA ridership a major lift' Deseret News (Salt Lake City) Sunday, October 05, 2003 * Minneapolis: As LRT nears startup, focus on luring riders Minneapolis Star Tribune 09/21/2003 =PTP================================================= Houston Chronicle Oct. 5, 2003 Fort Bend drawing up commuter rail plan 25-mile project linking suburbs to city weighed By ERIC HANSON SUGAR LAND -- While the battle over the referendum for Metro's 22-mile Houston rail expansion heats up, leaders in Fort Bend County are putting together a commuter rail project that could deliver thousands of suburbanites to downtown and the Texas Medical Center. Fort Bend leaders say a commuter line connecting the fast-growing county with Metro's light rail system could be one way to ease traffic problems and provide greater mobility to a wider area. Missouri City Mayor Allen Owen said people eventually will want to take rail from Fort Bend County to such destinations as Hobby Airport, the Galleria and Bush intercontinental Airport. "Every day when I am out in public, someone walks up to me and asks, 'How is the train line coming?' " Owen said. The Fort Bend line would use the U.S. 90A rail corridor to shuttle riders from Rosenberg to Metro's light rail station in the area of Fannin and Loop 610. Supporters say a Fort Bend commuter line is at least a decade away. Before trains start running, several elements must be in place: First, a lengthy study has to be completed to see if the proposal makes sense. Next, the cooperation of the Union Pacific railroad is essential because any commuter service would have to be compatible with the railroad's freight operation. Then, Texas lawmakers must create a transit authority to sell bonds and build and run the system. Metro has agreed to eventually fund eight miles of the route within its service area, from Fannin/Loop 610 to Missouri City. The other 17 miles would have to be paid for by the proposed Fort Bend County transit agency. While Metro's Nov. 4 referendum includes the Missouri City segment of the commuter train in the long-range system blueprint, no money has been identified to pay for it by 2025. The rail proposal has strong and active support from some elected officials, but others are more cautious. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land, has said he will back a Fort Bend rail line if there is strong public support for it. But County Judge Bob Hebert said a Fort Bend line should be tied into a larger system, and not just Metro's light rail system. "If somebody can get on a rail system in Rosenberg and get downtown in 45 minutes and read the newspaper or use their laptop, now you are talking about something that becomes attractive," he said, "But if they go downtown (Houston) and have to take two trains, it won't work." A feasibility study, conducted by the Houston-Galveston Area Council, has been under way for a year and a half. The final report has not been released, but some preliminary findings have been made public. The 25-mile project would start in Rosenberg and run through Richmond, Sugar Land, Missouri City and Stafford to Houston. The line would connect to Metro's Fannin South Park & Ride lot near Reliant Stadium, where commuters could change trains and head on to the Texas Medical Center and downtown. Stations are planned in each Fort Bend County city and one in southwest Houston. Earl Washington, special transportation planner for the council, said the final report should be finished in December. in March, Washington said the preliminary report found that building the project would cost between $75 million and $126 million. He said ridership was estimated at 3,000 to 5,000 each weekday. Owen said new ridership figures are higher than originally thought, between 6,000 and 11,000 people on weekdays. Sugar Land Mayor David Wallace said new construction estimates put the price at between $350 million and $700 million. Wallace said planners estimate that a commuter-rail system might be able to break even in daily operations but that income from fares may not be sufficient to pay for debt service. The existing rail line passes by several residential neighborhoods, and Wallace said city officials will have to consider possible noise and safety issues associated with a commuter line. Wallace said he has many questions about a commuter rail, and he added that the city has not taken a position on the issue. in Rosenberg, where commuters face farther drives to Houston than commuters from any other Fort Bend city, Mayor Joe Gurecky said he thinks a rail line has potential. "Looking 10 to 15 years in the future, it is going to be congested here," he said. "This is a long-range transportation issue that we need to start working on now." After the Houston-Galveston Area Council releases its feasibility study in two months, Owen said, a more comprehensive planning study must be conducted. Meanwhile, Hebert said people must be sold on the idea that riding a train is in their best interest. He said if a 3 1/2-hour round-trip drive can be cut by an hour, then commuters might consider using the train. "I can use that two half-hours to do something else. Now you have given me some value," he said. =PTP=============================================== Houston Chronicle Oct. 3, 2003 Editorial DEMOLITION DERBY Unethical Culberson menacing this city's interests Thirty years ago, President Nixon and his aides thought nothing of using the CIA and FBI to thwart justice, harass opponents and advance unseemly political ends. U.S. Rep. John Culberson, R-Katy, is trying to revive the tradition. Culberson is a protege of U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R- Sugar Land, and therefore is an implacable foe of rail transit for Houston. First DeLay and now Culberson have used a seat on the powerful House Appropriations Committee's transportation subcommittee to punish their own constituents. Between the two of them, they have blocked federal rail transit funds for Houston while channeling billions to rail projects in 33 other cities. Culberson is free to argue against rail transit, but if light rail is so bad, why do so many other cities have it or want it? is Houston so different from Dallas, Atlanta and other car-choked metropolises that have built clean, useful rail transit lines? if rail is a waste of tax dollars, why have DeLay and Culberson been so willing to fund projects in other cities? Now Culberson has asked the U.S. attorney's office here to investigate the Metropolitan Transit Authority and its 22-year budget projections. Houstonians can consider this the unethical cherry atop Culberson's sundae of malicious and opportunistic behavior. Culberson alleges that because Metro's revenue projections are higher than his, Metro should be the subject of a criminal investigation. The congressman admitted he was so busy grandstanding about his request for a "confidential" investigation that he didn't bother to ask Metro to back up its numbers. After only a few years in Washington, Culberson believes that disagreeing with him is a federal offense. If making faulty revenue projections were a crime, President Bush, many of his aides and most members of Congress would be indicted for being half a trillion dollars off the mark in a single year. Culberson is not part of a vast conspiracy to thwart Houston's public interest, but he is not acting alone. A tiny cadre of wealthy, selfish developers, highway contractors and ambitious Harris County officials are using Metro as a whipping boy in order to thicken their wallets or consolidate their power. in the process, they are sending hundreds of millions of dollars in federal aid elsewhere, poisoning Houston's reputation in Washington and endangering regional mobility. Seldom has so much harm been done to so many by so few. Metro owes it to the public to state how it arrived at its revenue projections, and why they are more reliable than Culberson's numbers. However, Culberson and his allies have made it clear that Metro can never satisfy them. They criticized Metro for not using historical trends to predict sales tax revenue, and condemn it for using historical trends to estimate federal aid. =PTP============================================ Deseret Morning News (Salt Lake City) Sunday, October 5, 2003 Light-rail line a mixed bag for neighboring businesses By Jody Genessy Deseret Morning News It's common knowledge that business at TRAX has far exceeded expectations. Question is: How has TRAX been for neighboring businesses? While some companies seem to be chugging right along, thanks in part to Salt Lake County's light-rail system, others have been derailed by hopes that have so far been higher than profits. Managers of the Apollo Burger thought they had a perfect recipe for success when they opened up a new fast-food restaurant next to the station on 3300 South. And considering TRAX's higher-than-anticipated ridership, that line of thinking seemed sound. But it hasn't exactly turned out that way. Sure, some riders and employees wander the 100 yards to the joint, but the lobby isn't exactly crammed with TRAX traffic. "It's been terrible for us," lamented a manager, wishing to remain anonymous. "All we get off TRAX is people using our restrooms and wanting free stuff. It's been very surprising for me." At least Apollo Burger's registers are still ringing up some orders. The same can't be said of another business that saw dollar signs when it opened up near the Ballpark Station by Franklin Covey Field. But the 13th South Stop shop, a mini-market to the west of the rails, didn't stay in business for very long. "UTA hopes those types of developments can be sustained by communities surrounding them," said UTA spokeswoman Marti Money. "I guess its time just hadn't come." The Gateway is perhaps the biggest business beneficiary of TRAX. The west-side Salt Lake City shopping haven opened after the system was in place, but being located at the end of the line has made it an attractive destination for many public-transit-using shoppers. "Activity at the Delta Center station really picked up once The Gateway was built," Money said. Though a formal study hasn't been conducted by the Crossroads Plaza, the mall's marketing director makes an "educated guess" that TRAX has bolstered business at the downtown shopping center. If nothing else, it gives extra exposure to the store windows and banners. "We're very glad they're our neighbors," Chris Stanger said. "It has been a very positive experience for the shopping centers (ZCMI Center included). Stand at the doors on Main Street and watch, you'll see people come with bags getting on TRAX. You see them come off TRAX and come into the shopping center." UTA's goal was to be a partner in TRAX communities as far as helping future development and local economies. And TRAX seems to have had a positive impact for businesses along the 400 South corridor. A recent economic study there revealed that sales tax revenue was down only 5 percent along that line compared to a citywide 17 percent drop. It could be linked to the recession and/or a post-Olympic lag. "The recessive economy has affected service-oriented business along 400 South," Money said. "Those types of businesses still follow the market conditions." Cities including West Valley City and West Jordan — and Farmington and Woods Cross for commuter rail — are working with UTA to determine the viability of businesses for future rail spurs. To that point, they have an advantage because the first TRAX lines had to follow pre-existing railroad tracks. "When they see new lines coming in, they can plan around those to make transit-oriented business successful," Money said. "With the main line, it was difficult because the railroad track was already in place." E-mail: =PTP=========================================== Deseret News Sunday, October 05, 2003 Light rail giving UTA ridership a major lift But TRAX lines to take back seat to commuter rail By Stephen Speckman Deseret Morning News Light rail is a hit. The ridership numbers prove that. Deseret Morning News graphic [PTP NOTE: Graphic is a table showing data as follows: Year ... Bus ... TRAX ... Paratransit Bus 1998 ... 23.4 million ... - ... - 1999 ... - ... - ... 426,000 2000 ... 22.9 million ... 6.1 million ... 490,000 2001 ... 22.2 million ... 6 million ... 537,000 2002 ... 21.2 million ... 10.2 million ... 546,000 2003* ... 13.8 million ... 6.3 million ... 351,000 *Jan.-Aug. 2003] in fact, mass transit ridership combined for the Utah Transit Authority hasn't been as high for the Salt Lake area since the 1940s, a time of light rail's first incarnation in Utah. Today's version of light rail, TRAX, has played a major factor in boosting UTA's overall numbers. But plans for at least three new light-rail spurs are going to have to wait a few more years as they take a back seat to UTA's next big project, commuter rail. It was once thought that spurs into West Valley City and the southwest portion of the Salt Lake Valley would be on line somewhere between 2008 and 2010. "I think now we're realistically looking at 2012, 2013, in that range," said John inglish, UTA general manager. A planned spur to Salt Lake City international Airport could be put off even longer. That's because it's going to take about $350 million to $400 million to build a 40-plus-mile commuter-rail - faster than light rail - line between Salt Lake City and Pleasant View in Weber County, with at least seven stops in between. Some of that money has already been spent in the landmark acquisition of rail right of way from Union Pacific, with the first 40 miles worth an estimated $75 million. And in the next round of federal transit allocations, Utah is looking for another $25 million just for commuter rail. Funding for commuter rail will end up at a 50/50 federal-to-local match - UTA's first light-rail spur saw the government kicking in 80 percent of the $312 million cost. Despite uncertain, limited federal transit funds, the plan is still to have commuter rail in sooner than later. "We set a goal for 2007, and we intend to keep it," inglish said. In the meantime, light rail's popularity is expected to keep gaining speed while UTA tries to stay ahead of the crowds by adding more and more rail cars. But some would argue that TRAX has merely stolen riders from UTA buses. While that's true, overall ridership throughout UTA's system has increased. Mike Allegra, UTA director of transit development, said UTA is averaging more than 100,000 trips a day on weekdays (some people use UTA more than once a day) "in a system where we were never carrying that many before." About 85 percent of UTA riders still take the bus - the rest use TRAX, which is bringing in riders who have never used either the bus or train. It's expected that total TRAX ridership this year will exceed 30 million. That figure will include riders on UTA's newest line. On Sept. 29, the new $90 million 1.5-mile TRAX medical center line through the University of Utah campus will open, about a year ahead of schedule. UTA will get seven new light-rail cars at $2.8 million each for that line. By October, UTA will have 19 miles of track in operation at a total cost of almost $510 million. The number of UTA's steel wheels is going up 72 percent with the acquisition of 29 used light-rail cars from a California transit agency for $18.6 million. Some of the used cars will be in service next year. That should bring relief to already cramped cars, particularly during rush hour, special events and on weekends. With so much attention being paid to Utah's mass transit darling, TRAX, some wonder what will happen to UTA's bus system. One plan is to explore bus rapid transit. UTA plans on introducing bus rapid transit to four areas to start: Provo/Orem in Utah County, 3500 South in Salt Lake County, routes to Salt Lake City international Airport and parts of south Davis County. Bus rapid transit operates on several different technologies, but the gist is that the buses are able to travel faster through traffic on secondary streets than the average bus or car. It's also a system that costs about one-third less than light rail. Allegra said UTA needs to work on improving its frequency of bus service for some routes. That may come with more localized hubs and transit corridor development. And those true to the comfort, safety and security of their cars may soon see more reasons to use mass transit as UTA works on making its vehicles more compatible with those things the automobile offers â€" without having to drive. Trax funding/costs * 15-mile north/south line, $312 million, 80 percent federal funds * 2.5-mile University line, $118.5 million, 70 percent federal funds * 1.5-mile Medical Center line, $89.4 million, 60 percent federal funds * 40-plus-mile commuter rail-line, estimated cost between $350 million to $400 million, about 50 percent federal funds E-mail: =PTP=============================================== Minneapolis Star Tribune 09/21/2003 As LRT work continues, officials think about luring riders Laurie Blake Looking up at the sun reflected in the color panels she selected for the all- glass light-rail station above E. Lake Street, artist JoAnn Verburg can feel it: The train is coming. Hiawatha Avenue light rail is 80 percent completed. The start of service is but seven months away. Heavy construction has shifted to the Bloomington end of the 12-mile line. And in Minneapolis, stations are undergoing finishing artistic touches. For St. Paul artist Verburg: "it's thrilling to me to see people looking up at the building, and my color of glass is part of that. I just can't wait to see real transit users walk past my colors and hop on a train." Riders will be able to jump on in April when the line opens between downtown Minneapolis and Fort Snelling. The rest of the line, through the Minneapolis-St. Paul international Airport and on to Bloomington with a final stop at the Mall of America, is scheduled to open in December 2004. With the start of service in view, the project's pace is picking up, said John Caroon, manager of the design-build effort for the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT). Dry weather allowed strong progress this summer, Caroon said, and it was a good thing. "It seems like no matter what kind of project it is, when you get close to the wire, things start to get compressed a little bit." Rail construction requires work in sequence: move the earth, put in the ties and lay the rail. Said Caroon: "If a little more time is taken by putting in the rail or the ties, that can cause more stress on later activities, such as putting in the signal system and wiring for closed-circuit TV at the stations. We still plan on being into revenue service in April of 2004. And we are going to do what's necessary to cause that to happen." Here are glimpses of progress. The budget This year, the decision was made to tweak the route of the line through Bloomington, putting the last stop right at the Mall of America's transit hub. That added about $40 million to the cost -- bringing the total to about $715 million. About $9.2 million remains in the contingency fund to cover unexpected expenses in 2004 and it will all be used, said Mark Fuhrmann, chief financial officer for the project. Wooing riders A chief concern is how to get passengers on board once the trains start rolling. The goal: 20,000 daily passengers by 2005. "That's the first thing by which it will be judged," said Mike Setzer, Metro Transit general manager. About 40 connecting bus routes will deliver passengers to the trains. And Metro Transit plans to offer free rides on initial weekends. Sports fans are also expected to fill the trains on the way to the Metrodome. Beyond that, the ridership campaign will include airport advertising aimed at tourists and conventioneers, mailed invitations to residents along the line, and advertisements encouraging suburban commuters to park and ride the rail line. Light rail also will be advertised through the state's tourism bureau and hotel industry, said Bob Gibbons, director of customer services for Metro Transit. With luck, all the buzz will encourage people to ride, he said. But officials are making an early disclaimer: in April, the line will open only part way. The real ridership race won't be on until the trains run all the way to the Mall of America next December. The cars Twenty-four rail cars have been ordered for the service. Two have been delivered, one is en route and 14 will be needed to open the line in April, Setzer said. The cars will be equipped with molded snowplows to sweep the snow off the tracks, a blade on the cantenary will clear power lines of ice, and heating elements on the roof will melt snow. it would be nice to have one big blizzard this winter, Setzer said, to put these features to the test. More parking The line lacks parking. About 1,400 spaces are planned, but Setzer said 4,000 to 5,000 are needed. He continues to look for more. His latest proposal is to designate spaces at the underused parking ramp at the airport's Humphrey terminal for a light rail park-and-ride site. The ramp has open space, and the Metropolitan Airports Commission is considering the idea. But because airport revenues were used to build the parking ramp, users must pay to park there, said Patrick Hogan, Airports Commission public-affairs director. Typically park-and-ride parking is free. There will be 600 free parking spaces available to commuters at the 28th Street Station in Bloomington and 880 at the Fort Snelling Government Services Administration Building. The plan had been to raze a MnDOT maintenance facility near Fort Snelling to provide parking space but because of the state's budget crisis, there isn't money to rebuild the maintenance building elsewhere. Negotiations are underway to make other property available for parking there, Caroon said. The artwork in all, $80 million, about11 percent of the total spending for the line, was spent on the 17 stations, which were individually designed to suit their surroundings. Another $2.5 million was budgeted for public art at the stations. Seventeen artists have been commissioned to add artistic touches at the stations, including paver patterns, decorative railings, etchings on glass windscreens and an enameled mural on the side of the light-rail maintenance building. Fundraising continues to expand the program, said David Allen, art and transit administrator for the project. Laurie Blake is at
PTP Digest 2003/10/05-A = CONTENTS * Study: Public transit relieves traffic delays, costs Metro October 1, 2003 * Sacramento's new South Line has smooth first week Sacramento Bee Friday, October 3, 2003 * Seattle: Budget cuts could keep LRT project on track Seattle Times Saturday, October 04, 2003 * Seattle LRT: 'Istook might still raise trouble' SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER Saturday, October 4, 2003 * Seattle monorail: Crews drill for soil samples West Seattle Herald/White Center News 2003/10/02 * DC Metro facing fiscal, service crisis Washington Post Monday, September 22, 2003 * Toronto op-ed: Tolls should help fund transit Globe and Mail (Canada) Thursday, October 2, 2003 * Amtrak: Senate panel opposes Bush dismantling plan Washington Post Friday, October 3, 2003 =PTP============================================= Metro October 1, 2003 Public transit relieves traffic congestion, study says Transit is successfully reducing traffic delays and costs in America's 75 largest urban areas according to data released Tuesday by the Texas Transportation institute (TTI). This year's study reports that regular bus and train services in America's most congested cities saved drivers more than one billion hours in travel time in 2001. Without transit, nationwide delays would have increased by nearly 30%, costing residents in the major urban areas studied an additional $21.2 billion in lost time and fuel. Among its conclusions, the TTI study found that the average annual delay time per person climbed from 16 hours in 1982 to 60 hours in 2001. During that same period, the extra time needed for rush hour travel tripled. The cost of congestion in 75 major U.S. cities in 2001 totaled nearly $70 billion. To find out more information on the study, log on to =PTP======================================== [BATN] Sacramento Bee Friday, October 3, 2003 Few bumps cited during light-rail line's first week By Tony Bizjak Bee Staff Writer Regional Transit General Manager Beverly Scott and other transit officials say they are pleased with the first week's performance of their 6.3-mile line through Sacramento's south area, and expect it to be a boon to commuters. Officials said they do not yet have a ridership count from the first week, but said the trains seemed to be getting decent usage. A Bee survey of trains found that most seats were taken during commute hours, but non-commute-hour trains were only lightly used. Parking lots at the three southernmost stations, Meadowview, Florin and 47th, were getting moderate usage. RT official Cam Beach predicted ridership on the line will increase as transit users discover its main selling point -- reliability. Other than a few glitches, trains reportedly arrived at stations on schedule every 15 minutes during the day, Beach said. RT police were out in force, as well, stationing patrol cars at the three park-and-ride lots. "From a police standpoint, it's been calm," Lt. Mark Sakauye said. "We arrested one drunk who got on a train downtown. But that's it." Many veteran bus riders say they were checking out the new line, and new bus transfers, to see how it worked for them. Eddie Robb, a state Assembly worker, said he found light rail more comfortable and reliable than his regular bus route, but it still requires him to take a bus transfer ride from his Pocket area residence, which makes his commute a few minutes longer. "From my side of town it is shorter taking the bus downtown," he said. But he is attracted by the rail. Unlike buses, "the trains are on schedule, and they are definitely smoother," he said. "I like it. It's different. I'll use it a couple of times a week." For more details, see Saturday's Bee. =PTP=============================================== 0.html Seattle Times Saturday, October 04, 2003 Sound Transit letter details cuts By Alex Fryer Seattle Times Washington bureau WASHINGTON — With time running out on millions of dollars in construction bids, Sound Transit yesterday outlined how it could build light rail, maintain commuter rail and bus service, and not tap into Eastside revenue if the agency loses its court fight to collect motor-vehicle taxes. Without offering specifics, Sound Transit laid out several cost-saving scenarios in a letter to federal transit officials dated Thursday and released yesterday. For example, Sound Transit could save $25 million if it dropped building the Federal Way Transit Center. Plans for express buses and commuter-rail service across the region would be spared, but buses and trains would not run as frequently as planned, the agency said. "The letter responds to all our critics," said King County Executive Ron Sims, who is also Sound Transit board chairman. "We have done the best we can." Sims said the agency could not give a more detailed report without holding public hearings. it's a critical period for the future of the proposed $2.4 billion light-rail route from Seattle to Tukwila. Time is running out on two pending construction contracts, worth $94 million. The contracts came about 15 percent under budget, but the bids expire Friday. "Obviously, we are concerned (about the deadline)," said Sims. "We have great bids. We want to capture these savings." On Sept. 10, an influential congressman, Rep. Ernest Istook, R-Okla., disapproved of a $500 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration to Sound Transit. Agency officials say the grant is essential before it can begin building light rail. The agency is hoping Istook will change his position and release the grant now that it has tried to answer his questions about the potential impact of initiative 776. Istook had challenged Sound Transit to explain how it would absorb the potential loss of motor-vehicle taxes should the state Supreme Court uphold I-776. He also wants to know if the agency could build light rail without tapping into tax money collected on the Eastside and earmarked for transit improvements. it was too early to tell yesterday if the letter will satisfy Istook's concern. i-776 is a Tim Eyman-sponsored measure that would limit all car tabs to $30, and cut $703 million from the Sound Transit budget. A King County Superior Court judge ruled that I-776 is unconstitutional, and the initiative's backers appealed. Last week, Sound Transit asked the state Supreme Court to hurry its opinion on the case. Alex Fryer: 206-464-8124 or =PTP=========================================== SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER Saturday, October 4, 2003 Sound Transit hopes plan ensures federal money By KERY MURAKAMi SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER REPORTER Trying to free $500 million in federal light rail funds held hostage by an Oklahoma congressman, Sound Transit officials said yesterday the agency would not have to use taxes from people not directly benefiting from light rail -- even if a court rolls back the agency's taxes. However, Sound Transit said it might have to dip into money it had saved for extending the light rail line to Northgate and slow down some improvements in Sounder commuter rail and express buses. in writing to the Federal Transit Administration, Sound Transit officials tried to ease some of the concerns raised by Rep. Ernest Istook Jr., R- Okla., chairman of the House subcommittee that hands out federal transportation dollars. Istook had taken the FTA to task in August for recommending funding for the controversial Seattle-to-SeaTac rail line. Istook was concerned about what would happen if the state Supreme Court were to uphold initiative 776, thus rolling back the 0.03 percent motor vehicle excise tax the transit agency collects. That would cost Sound Transit $704 million in tax and bond revenue, $115 million of which is slated for the light rail project. Istook wondered whether the agency would still be able to build light rail without drawing money from areas like the Eastside, that wouldn't get rail service. Sound Transit taxes paid by King, Pierce and Snohomish counties are only supposed to be used for service in those areas. Much of the money raised in the Eastside is supposed to be used for commuter buses. The Federal Transit Administration had approved the federal funding, but forwarded Istook's questions on to Sound Transit anyway. Yesterday's response -- from Sound Transit Chairman Ron Sims, Vice Chairmen Jon Ladenburg and Dave Earling, and finance Chairman Kevin Phelps -- came even as Sound Transit awaited a Supreme Court ruling that might render the entire question moot. Sound Transit has asked for an expedited ruling to leave the tax in place. The court did not rule yesterday. it was unclear whether Sound Transit's seven-page letter will satisfy Istook. He had asked for a specific contingency plan showing how Sound Transit would deal with the loss of taxes if it loses the court case. Sound Transit's letter detailed several possible funding sources, but did not specifically lay out what would be cut. Sims, who is the King County executive, said coming up with an actual plan would take a lengthy public involvement process. The agency is facing an Oct. 10 deadline to accept two construction bids that came in 15 percent below estimates. Istook spokeswoman, Micah Swafford, said the congressman was in Oklahoma and would not see Sound Transit's letter until Monday night. She also left open the possibility that Istook might still raise trouble for Sound Transit, even if the letter were adequate or if the Supreme Court were to rule in Sound Transit's favor. "There have been a number of concerns raised about this project, and the letter concerns only one of the them," Swafford said. King County Councilman Rob McKenna, a leading light rail critic, said he hadn't had the opportunity to review Sound Transit's letter. When it was described to him, McKenna said, "It sounds better than what they had before. I'm glad to hear they're being more specific." Though he did not predict what Istook would do, Sims said he hoped the letter would finally silence light rail's critics. The letter said that even if the courts were to lower the tax, Sound Transit would still have enough to build light rail, without cutting back on existing serve. The agency would first look at about $550 million in surplus funds that had been slated for future improvements like a second light rail line. P-I reporter Kery Murakami can be reached at 206-448-8131 or =PTP============================================ West Seattle Herald White Center News 2003/10/02 Monorail drills in West Seattle By Tim St. Clair Drilling crews have been cutting holes in pavement and drilling deep into the ground at various points along the proposed monorail route through West Seattle. Tall drilling rigs mounted on large trucks are being used to take core samples at 18 locations. The drilling will provide soil samples and help identify the geological layers underground, said Erin Fletcher, who heads the monorail project's geotechnical work. The drilling will also define the size of bodies of a hard substance called glacial till. That is the solid underground footing upon which the monorail columns will be attached. Once the crews hit gracial till, they keep drilling to make sure it is at least 20 to 30 feet thick, Fletcher said. Before drilling begins, utility maps are studied to see where nearby underground electrical, gas, water and sewer lines are located. The drillers first excavate a hole about 7 feet deep and 4 inches in diameter. That takes about one day. The next day the drillers continue boring down, taking a core sample about every 5 feet as the drilling descends to a depth of about 70 feet over the course of several days, Fletcher said. When each hole is finished, powdered bentonite is poured in to expand and refill the hole. Then the pavement is patched. Each hole requires a separate permit from the Seattle Department of Transportation, said Josh Stepherson, West Seattle representative on the Monorail Project. The geological data will help engineers and architect design the Green Line. =PTP========================================== Washington Post Monday, September 22, 2003; Page A23 Putting Politics Before Transit By Fred Hiatt Richard White, who runs Metro, says the Washington-area rapid transit system is "on the precipice of a fiscal and service crisis." Without an infusion of cash, Metrorail's future is one of declining service, crowded cars, jammed doors and frustration -- the dissipation of a $9.4 billion investment ($24 billion in today's dollars). But he is having a hard time persuading people. Partly, he acknowledges, that's because Metro doesn't feel like a system in trouble. A lot of the bus routes aren't what they should be, and escalators seem to be in a perpetual state of disrepair. But that's been true for a long time. On the whole it's still a pretty nice rail network. Partly it's that the people who should know better -- the politicians in charge of funding Metro -- either don't believe or don't want to believe the numbers. That's true most of all of Maryland's relatively new Republican administration under Gov. Robert Ehrlich, who White fears has declared war on public transit. "The governor is saying he carried all but three parts of the state -- Montgomery, Prince George's and Baltimore City," White says. "Transit riders didn't get him elected, and transit isn't where they're going to put their money." Labor unions didn't support Ehrlich either, White notes, so they're "going to go after our labor agreements." "There are a whole lot of political reasons they're comfortable taking the position they've taken," he says. "So I'm not surprised. . . . What I resent is, I think some of the shots are cheap shots." Doug Duncan, Montgomery County executive and a potential Democratic challenger to Ehrlich in 2004, also says the governor has been anti-transit. "During the campaign, he couldn't say enough nice things about Go Montgomery," Duncan says, referring to his plan to relieve traffic congestion through road-building and Metro expansion. "Since then they've done everything they could to undermine it." Which raises two questions: is Duncan right, and is he wise to be talking about it? After all, the Maryland governor has a lot of power over how much state money flows to Montgomery. Just last week Ehrlich and his ally, former governor William Donald Schaefer, lashed out at a former university chancellor who dared question, in a published letter, the governor's budget cuts. But Duncan said Montgomery loses either way. "They came to me during the session" -- meaning the General Assembly session last winter -- "and said, 'Keep quiet on transit and we'll help you' " with a revenue-raising measure Duncan sought. "I kept quiet, and Flanagan testified against the bill. . . . They're going to come after you if you keep quiet, they're going to come after you if you speak up, so I'd rather speak up." Which brings you back to substance. Robert Flanagan, who is Ehrlich's transportation secretary, said during a recent visit to The Post that Ehrlich is determined to cap spending increases at Metro to the inflation rate, not for political reasons but because Metro spending is out of control -- there's a "party atmosphere" on the Metro board. White says the insult was literal; Maryland officials were offended to see notices on a Metro bulletin board of a number of going-away celebrations. But these were parties for longtime employees who had taken early retirement as part of a cost-cutting program. "They had an average of 22 years of service, they're loved by their colleagues -- and he's saying it's a party atmosphere," White said. Maryland officials may find waste to cut at Metro -- underutilized bus routes, overindulgent catering bills. More power to them if so. But no amount of thriftiness will produce the $1.5 billion that White and Metro chairman Jim Graham, a D.C. Council member who doesn't shoot from the hip, say Metro needs for three essential tasks over the next six years: maintenance on aging train cars and equipment, purchase of new cars to meet growing demand and improved security from terrorist threats. Because Metro, unlike many major systems, has no dedicated source of tax revenue, there are only three places the money could come from. One is the farebox, but riders already pay 75 percent of Metrorail's operating costs. If you raise the fares so much that transit makes no financial sense, the roads grow more crowded for everyone. The second is the federal government, and Metro will make its case there. But Congress isn't likely to ante up unless the locals do also. And given that Virginia voters rejected a transportation sales tax increase not long ago, and that Ehrlich in his first year raided Maryland's transportation fund for non-transportation uses, that will be a steep hill to climb. Paul Schurick, an Ehrlich spokesman, says the governor doesn't make funding decisions based on who voted for him. Schurick acknowledges that Metro has made a good case for its growing maintenance and capacity needs and that Maryland needs some new source of funding for transportation. But he also says that road maintenance and construction need help too. "Nobody's going to get everything they want, but hopefully they'll get what they need." Metro isn't yet persuaded. "Our sense of looming despair," says White, "is believed by our board not to be understood at all by the vast majority of people out there." =PTP=============================================== [BATN] Globe and Mail (Canada) Thursday, October 2, 2003 No free road The French, Spanish and even car-loving Americans accept that the route to our transport future has a toll booth, says urban planner Joe Berridge. By Joe Berridge The August electricity blackout gave Ontarians a taste of what happens when a major infrastructure network grows too fast after years of underinvestment. The transportation network may be next. One way to save it would be to bring in toll roads -- a variation of the user-pay strategies being proposed by Mayor Glen Murray in Winnipeg. For years bureaucrats at all levels of government have been warning about underfunding the road, rail and transit systems across Southern Ontario. Yet the transportation demands are rising in the Greater Toronto Area faster than in most other North American urban regions: The annual number of kilometres travelled by auto in the GTA increasing by 80 per cent between 1991 and 2001. Truck traffic volume is up by 48 per cent. In the same period, public transit ridership increased by only 2 per cent, thanks in large part to steadily declining investment by the province. All this at a time when the Greater Toronto Area and the booming areas of Southern Ontario are adding 100,000 people a year. By mid- century, the Toronto urban region will be the third-largest in North America, with a population of 15 million. Meanwhile, traffic is becoming impossible, transit unpleasant. Unconstrained urban growth sprawls in search of an open road -- and you ain't seen nothing yet. On the engineers' network diagrams, the transportation system is already flashing red for overload during the rush hours on a third of the major roads. Soon, two-thirds of our freeways and half of our arterial roads will be gridlocked during peak periods. We're at the tipping point. Most observers agree that we must invest much more in the transportation system, and manage urban growth to support transit- and pedestrian-friendly movement patterns. However, getting people into buses, trains, streetcars and subways, and getting them to walk and cycle depends on convenient alternatives to the car. it all comes down to money. Lack of proper funding is leading us to bad investment decisions with the few resources available. The province's apparent preference for a seemingly cheaper GO-bus rapid transit (BRT) spine across the region over a light rail-based (LRT) solution is an example: Buses move people very effectively, but don't change the way cities develop. They don't structure employment and residential development into the compact, mixed-use urban form that must become the essential building block of our exploding metropolis. By persistently underfunding the Toronto Transit Commission, we risk turning people off public transit. Customer service worsens year by year. And the once-proud TTC -- still the most efficient public transit system in the world in terms of cost recovery per rider-- compares more and more poorly with that of other cities in terms of modernization, expansion and ride quality. Upgrading the Toronto region's transport systems will cost about $800- million a year more than is now being spent on transportation by the region's governments. There's little sign of that changing. The provincial government's priorities are health and education; Ottawa is mostly interested in funding pet projects such as airport links and high-speed trains. Waiting for big funding from those governments guarantees gridlock. if we want decent roads and transit, we the users are going to have to pay for them. One potential revenue stream is big enough to do the job: We must charge drivers to use the highway system. We do so already on Highway 407, a private toll road. The Americans already use their EZ-Pass charge-card system, which extends across the highways, bridges and tunnels of New York, Connecticut and New Jersey. Most French and Spanish highways are toll roads. The British are looking at a similar scheme. With new road-fare technology, we can levy charges targeted at the problem that causes gridlock -- too many single-occupant cars during the rush hours. Reducing their numbers just a little would restore free traffic flow. Higher charges at these times could divert drivers to transit or to other times of day and still allow off-peak travel at a lower rate or for free. The huge cash flow generated would be enough to make public transit a viable alternative. A charge of 7 cents per kilometre, charged during rush hours on the Toronto and Hamilton-region freeways, would cost the average commuter $45 a month, and yield a staggering net revenue of more than $700- million a year. It's almost enough to close the transportation investment gap, and if dedicated to a regional transportation agency, could provide really good roads and public transit for our cities. The system self-funds to take advantage of growth, rather than being an insatiable demand on public finances. Besides, it's a myth that road users already pay for roads. Roads have an effective life of about 25 years and must be continually rebuilt and expanded. Yes, car use is already extensively taxed. But no, those taxes aren't all targeted at the road system. Governments tax where they can and spend where they must. For a public utility such as the transportation network, charging the real costs of maintaining and expanding the system is the best policy. Some say that highway fares will divert traffic onto local streets. Another myth. The evidence suggests that this just doesn't happen to any degree that can't be averted through clever traffic management. Sophisticated road pricing can be selective and influence behaviour by charging different amounts according to time of day, for cars with several passengers, or for disabled drivers. By contrast, the much- vaunted gas tax is a blunt instrument, applying to all drivers regardless of time of day, or route, or the nuisance they cause. A third myth is that road tolls are political suicide. London's Mayor, Ken Livingstone, took a huge political risk this year in introducing his "congestion charge," a £5 fee to enter central London, with proceeds dedicated to transit improvements. The scheme has been a great success; Traffic levels have dropped by 16 per cent; bus use is up 14 per cent; traffic moves faster; London's streets are once again a pleasure to walk -- and Mr. Livingstone's political fortunes have never been higher. Toronto's solution won't look like London's, but it too must be bold and imaginative. The electricity grid breakdown reminded us that we can't have something for nothing. For less than the monthly cost of a cell phone, the region could have a state-of-the-art road and transit system. And the city could be the envy of the world. Joe Berridge, vice-chair of the Toronto Board of Trade, is a partner in Urban Strategies Inc., an urban planning and design consultancy. =PTP============================================ [BATN] Washington Post Friday, October 3, 2003 Senate Panel opposes White House's Amtrak Bill By Don Phillips The Bush administration's plan to restructure Amtrak ran into nearly universal bipartisan opposition yesterday from a Senate committee, and Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) said he fears Congress will continue to subsidize the passenger railroad's losses while demanding no basic changes in how it operates. Federal Railroad Administrator Allan Rutter defended the administration bill before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. Rutter said he was incredulous that anyone could think it was intended to dismantle Amtrak and dump financial responsibility for passenger train service on the states, as several senators then charged. Over a six-year period, the bill would gradually end federal operating subsidies for passenger rail, with the federal government picking up 50 percent of the capital costs. It would open up some Amtrak routes to private operators and turn the Washington-Boston Northeast Corridor over to a compact of states under a no-cost 99-year lease. The only two people who had anything positive to say about the administration bill were McCain and Transportation Department inspector General Kenneth M. Mead. But both said parts of it were inadequate or unworkable. "There are obvious omissions in it, notably how much restructuring will cost, and some aspects of the plan may not be entirely workable," McCain said. "Nevertheless, the plan is commendable for addressing head-on the difficult issues of restructuring." But after listening to committee members from both parties dismiss the plan as a way to force states to pay for passenger trains, McCain said it was becoming obvious that Congress will not deal with Amtrak's structure but will simply "give them enough money to let them limp along." At issue is a six-year Amtrak reauthorization bill. Amtrak will be funded in the current fiscal year by an appropriations bill now working its way through Congress. The House has approved a fiscal 2004 budget of $900 million, the same amount President Bush requested, and the Senate $1.36 billion. Amtrak President David L. Gunn has asked for $1.8 billion. Mead said Amtrak will need at least $1.5 billion just to "get by" for the year. Even that "merely postpones the day of reckoning," he said, "and that day is surely coming. Amtrak cannot continue to operate the current system without, eventually and soon, addressing the backlog of investment needed to bring that system to a state of good repair." McCain was not the only member to complain that the bill contained no estimate of how much restructuring Amtrak would cost. Administration and congressional sources said the White House would not allow the Transportation Department to include any financial numbers. That has led to suspicions by the states that the federal government would walk away from passenger rail, which in turn has stoked strong congressional opposition. "That is not what we are proposing," Rutter said. But Mead said the lack of financial information "has weakened support for the governance reforms in the proposal, particularly given the current fiscal climate in the states." Mead discouraged the idea of breaking the Northeast Corridor into separate operating and infrastructure companies because "each company will be responding to different incentives that may not be reconciled. The result could be disruption of service and a decline in on-time performance." Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.), chairman of the subcommittee with jurisdiction over Amtrak, led the chorus of senators dismissing the administration plan. "I fear this approach will be the end of Amtrak as a national system," she said. Sens. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.) and Byron L. Dorgan (D-N.D.) said the administration plan would probably kill the Chicago-Seattle Empire Builder, which provides the only public transportation to vast stretches of rural North Dakota and Montana.
PTP 2003/10/04-A = CONTENTS * Houston rail vote: 'total warfare has begun' Houston Chronicle Oct. 3, 2003 * LA's Gold Line: First month draws more weekend riders San Gabriel Valley Tribune Thursday, September 18, 2003 * Tampa-St. Petersburg rail transit link pushed Bay News 9 - Tampa Friday, September 19th * Seattle: Options for LRT-SeaTac link to be studied King County Journal 2003-10-04 * $15.7 billion plan: 1/3 transit, 2/3 roads The Arizona Republic Sept. 18, 2003 * D-FW: Transit, road tweaking reduces congestion Dallas Morning News Wednesday, October 1, 2003 * Chicago: Current transport policies costing time, money Chicago Tribune September 20, 2003 * Pittsburgh avoids service cuts, fare hike with state aid Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Friday, September 19, 2003 =PTP=========================================== Houston Chronicle Oct. 3, 2003 Rail foes demand inquiry Dueling sides swap barbs over funding By DAN FELDSTEIN With exactly one month until the Metropolitan Transit Authority's rail referendum, total warfare has begun. When U.S. Rep. John Culberson, R-Houston, found that Metro's predicted flow of certain federal funds was 20 percent higher than his own, his first move wasn't to ask Metro to explain, but to seek a criminal investigation by the U.S. attorney in Houston. On Friday, three Houston Democratic congressmen stood together, calling Culberson's behavior "outrageous" and "silly." Minutes later at a dueling news conference, rail opponent Paul Bettencourt, the Harris County tax assessor-collector, stood before the cameras and said, "Metro needs to show me the money!" And for its part, Metro has yet to fully explain its projections, although transit authority President Shirley DeLibero promised details would be forthcoming, on Monday. While the pro- and anti-rail forces will argue over many points of Metro's light rail plans, this one involves how much cash Metro will really have on hand for the next six years. if Metro overestimates its income from such sources as sales tax and federal grants, and goes forward with an expensive rail system, it will have to shortchange its bus service and street work, critics like Harris County Judge Robert Eckels contend. if Metro cuts back on street work, leaving local cities with the onerous task, property taxes might have to rise to cover the cost, they say. in a telephone interview Friday, Culberson was asked why he wrote a letter to the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Texas before asking Metro itself for an explanation of its higher funding estimates. "That was a private inquiry that I was not going to publicize," he said, but a television reporter "asked me the right question" and thus he spoke publicly about it. Culberson made his first remarks Thursday evening. By 12:30 a.m. Friday, the anti-rail campaign issued a news release with the headline, "Cong. Culberson calls for federal investigation into Metro's finances." The source of federal money at issue is called "formula funds" and comes from the Federal Transit Administration. Each transit agency in the country gets a piece, based on population, density and other factors. The total pot of money and annual inflation factors are calculated in a massive transportation bill passed every six years. The bill for the next six years has been controversial, as usual, and sits unapproved in Washington. in the version put forward by President Bush, the inflation factor would be 2 percent per year. Using this number, based on what Metro got in 2003, staffers on an appropriations subcommittee told Culberson that Metro could expect $565 million from 2003-2009. Culberson said FTA officials verified the math. But figures from Metro indicate an expected $681 million. Metro officials said several factors may explain the difference. Metro used an 8 percent inflation factor, which it said was the historical average increase under the last transportation bill. Culberson insisted that 2 percent was iron-clad and the president wouldn't budge, while DeLibero said that had never happened before -- Congress always increases transportation funding from what the president wants to make constituents happy. At present, said U.S. Rep. Nick Lampson, D-Beaumont, Bush's bill is worth $247 billion, the Senate version is $311 billion and the House version is $375 billion. "We know it will be in excess of $300 billion," he said. But the inflation factor may not explain the entire $116 million difference between Metro and Culberson. Metro officials said that their numbers were for expenditures, not appropriations. A transit authority does not have to spend the money in the year it is appropriated, and thus Metro's first few years of predictions may include money that is already promised to it. However, Metro officials couldn't say for sure, saying their top financial officer was on vacation. While DeLibero promised a full accounting Monday, rail opponents charged that Metro simply didn't have a good explanation. As the days passed this week, Metro looked flat-footed. Lampson joined U.S. Rep. Gene Green, D-Houston, and U.S. Rep. Chris Bell, D-Houston at a pro-rail news conference. U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee,D-Houston, was in Washington but issued a statement in support of Metro. U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, also issued a statement saying she would work to make sure that federal funds were available if Harris County voters choose rail. Bell said that by demanding criminal inquiries to grab headlines, rail opponents were being "irresponsible, malicious and dishonest by design." Metro will hold its referendum Nov. 4, asking voters to approve a $640 million bond issue for 22 miles of light rail by 2012. The authority also pledges $774 million for road projects from 2009 to 2014 and a 50 percent increase in bus routes by 2025. Opponents believe the rail plans are too expensive and do too little to relieve congestion. Pro-rail forces say Houston cannot build enough freeway lanes to relieve congestion and other alternatives are necessary. Culberson said that if exaggerating financial estimates before a public bond referendum were not illegal, it ought to be. "it's quite obvious they are desperate," said Ed Wulfe, a real estate developer leading the pro-rail campaign. "They are behind in the polls, and they are grasping at anything they can." Rail opponents, who previously said Metro's sales tax projections were also too rosy, said they were just trying to bring the financing facts to light. "In my mind, they (Metro) have no credibility on this issue," Bettencourt said. =PTP==============================================,1413,205%257E12220%257E16420 23,00>html# San Gabriel Valley Tribune Thursday, September 18, 2003 First month draws more weekend riders Saturday busiest for Gold Line in first month, figures show By Mary Bender Staff Writer PASADENA -- During the Gold Line's inaugural month, the light rail system was ridden more often on weekends than on weekdays, according to statistics compiled by the Metropolitan Authority. The 13.7-mile line, which runs between Pasadena and Los Angeles, was built with the hopes that train service would alleviate traffic on the Foothill (210) and Pasadena (110) freeways, which the Gold Line roughly parallels. Both freeways are gridlocked during morning and afternoon rush hours. Ridership figures for August show Saturday was the most popular travel day among Gold Line riders, with 24,528 "average daily boardings,' the transit industry's term for one-way trips. Sundays came in second, with 21,652 boardings, according to the MTA, which operates the Gold Line. Monday-through-Friday statistics were calculated as a whole, with average weekday ridership estimated at 18,364 boardings. "It seems that it doesn't have the characteristics yet of a commuter line,' said Simon Guevrekian, a systems manager in the MTA's service performance analysis department, which gathers ridership statistics for the agency's bus and rail lines. "It seems to be more of a curiosity now. They're evaluating it,' Guevrekian said. He speculated Gold Line riders are taking the train on the weekends to explore where it goes, how to use it, and how they might incorporate it into their regular commute. A more accurate picture of the light rail's effectiveness will emerge as the Gold Line makes the transition from a novelty to a viable transportation option, he said. "By January we can look at the data (and say) 'Now that the line is stabilized, what patterns do we see?' ' Guevrekian said. Summer ridership patterns are different than the rest of the year, when prospective passengers are back at work and school, he said. Also, it takes a while for a public transit system to lure drivers hesitant to leave their cars behind. "August is a vacation month,' Guevrekian said. "It takes any new system six months to one year to be recognized by the community.' Gold Line builders estimated the train would average 26,000 to 32,000 daily boardings. Jose Ubaldo, an MTA spokesman, said those figures referred to the light rail's first year of operation. Guevrekian said ridership on the Long Beach Blue Line, which began operation in 1990, the Metro Green Line, which opened in 1995, and the Red Line subway, which was completed in 2000, all grew over time to their current levels. First-month data on those rail systems wasn't available on Thursday. "Although these (Gold Line) numbers are solid, reading too much into them this early in the ballgame would not be accurate, because we only have one month of data,' he said. The Gold Line operates 196 daily trains, from 4 a.m. to 2 a.m. seven days per week. in calculating ridership, the MTA adheres to methodologies certified by the Federal Transportation Administration. Sales from ticket vending machines at Gold Line stations represent only one slice of the total ridership. Many rail passengers buy a monthly pass that entitles them to unlimited rides on any of MTA's bus or rail systems. Others purchase bags of 90-cent discount tokens rather than paying the $1.35 fare at the ticket machines. Some use discounted passes available to senior citizens, students and the disabled, or transfer from other bus and rail lines, Guevrekian said. Therefore, to accurately calculate ridership, MTA personnel ride the Gold Line at all days and times to gather representative samples, Guevrekian said. "They count at each station how many people got on and how many people got off,' he said. -- Mary Bender can be reached at (626) 578-6300, Ext. 4456 or by e-mail at =PTP========================================= [PTP NOTE: it would seem that "light rail" is used loosely in this article to apply to a variety of guided modes.] Bay News 9 - Tampa Friday, September 19th Sebesta promotes light rail system that would connect Bay area is there another way to move people more efficiently than just in cars? Bay area Senator Jim Sebesta says the answer to that question is yes. Sebesta briefed representatives from Polk, Pasco and Hernando counties about a 1990 law aimed at creating a light rail system for the Bay area. The system would connect those three counties with Pinellas and Hillsborough counties. Hernando County Commissioner Betty Whitehouse says the system would be a winner for Hernando residents, since 25 percent of them already commute south. "I do think you would see many people, especially the older population, using the rail as a way of going into the Tampa Bay area for entertainment and other things," said Whitehouse. According to the law, the system and its operation will be paid for through a fee that people who actually ride the rail will pay, and not through any new taxes. Sebesta says a light rail system could change a lot of people's attitudes toward commuting. [GRAPHIC] Sebesta wants to hold a fourth meeting on the issue soon. "If you can hop on a train, a light rail or a monorail, and zip to your office, you can arrive fresh," said Sebesta. "Read or sleep on the train instead of beating your brains out on the road." Sebesta says the light rail law was long forgotten, so it's still in the very early planning stages, but he says if all five counties go to work on it, the rail could be up and running in less than four years. Friday's meeting was the third one aimed at planning the light rail system. Sebesta plans to hold a fourth in the near future, with representatives from all five affected counties taking part. [GRAPHIC] The system would connect five Bay area counties. =PTP============================================= King County Journal 2003-10-04 Study of Southcenter link to light-rail stop approved by Jeff Switzer Journal Reporter Mini-cars on guideways high above the streets. Moving sidewalks. Shuttles. A train. Any of these might be used to connect Sound Transit Link light-rail stops in Tukwila or the Sea-Tac Airport to Southcenter. The agency's executive board voted Thursday to spend up to $200,000 for a study on the topic. What the agency learns could be applied throughout the Puget Sound region to better connect Sound Transit's linear transportation systems, which are forced to bypass the heart of some population and job centers. ''Fixed rail may come close, but may not directly serve the heart of an urban center, or geography may be such that a choice must be made to serve one urban center but not another that is nearby,'' said Paul Matsuoka, Sound Transit's planning and policy officer. ''We're using Southcenter as our case study, but what we learn might have general applicability throughout the region.'' Seattle's 14-mile, $2.5 billion Link light-rail project will run from downtown Seattle to Tukwila, with promises to extend it 1.6 miles to Sea-Tac Airport by 2011. Still, plans show it will miss Southcenter, prompting Gov. Gary Locke to request a connection to Link light rail. County Councilmembers Dwight Pelz and Julia Patterson similarly pushed. Southcenter is home to the mall and a 30-year-old concrete tilt-up warehouse district that could be easily torn down and redeveloped. A Sounder commuter rail station straddling Tukwila and Renton is encouraging land owners to redevelop their warehouses. Connecting light rail would improve those redevelopment prospects, Jamie Durkan, a lobbyist for the city of Tukwila and Southcenter's Segale Business Parks, has said. The study of a Southcenter connection to light rail will look at how to connect either Sea-Tac Airport or the Tukwila light-rail station at South 154th Street with the Sounder commuter station east of Southcenter. it could be as simple as a bus shuttle, or as complex as a web of two- or four-person cars on fixed guideways high above the streets, Matsuoka said. It could mean a moving sidewalk, or surface light rail similar to the underground shuttle at Sea-Tac Airport, Durkan said. The results of a study are expected in about nine months, Matsuoka said. Jeff Switzer can be reached at or 425- 453-4234. =PTP================================================ html The Arizona Republic Sept. 18, 2003 $15.7 billion transit plan endorsed Valley officials' OK clears way for possible vote Marty Sauerzopf A $15.7 billion plan to improve freeways, streets and transit over the next 20 years won unanimous approval Wednesday from Valley officials and business leaders. The plan, bolstered by $480 million in last-minute street and freeway improvements aimed at pleasing residents across the Valley, goes to the Maricopa Association of Governments' Regional Council next week, where it is expected to be approved. it will then move to the state Legislature to authorize a countywide election next May, when voters will decide whether to extend a half-cent sales tax to help pay for the plan. The plan includes a new freeway from southwest Phoenix to Buckeye, funding for the South Mountain Freeway through the Ahwatukee area, a new parkway to Williams Gateway Airport and double-decked express lanes along a stretch of interstate 17. The plan includes $2.3 billion for the light rail system, $2.4 billion for regional buses and new general and carpool lanes on virtually every existing Valley freeway. The new street projects added Wednesday include intersection improvements and additional lanes on a host of streets in Chandler, Gilbert, Mesa and Scottsdale. The West Valley, meanwhile, secured additional funding for Jomax Road in Surprise and money to purchase land for widening Arizona 85 in Buckeye and Arizona 74 near Lake Pleasant, and the extension of Loop 303 in Goodyear. Wednesday's vote of MAG's Transportation Policy Committee belied the often-confrontational nature of the past few months, during which leaders from the East and West Valley debated the virtues of various freeway projects in hopes of securing more funding for their regions. That discord threatened to derail the plan early Wednesday when East Valley leaders pushed to add $288 million in street improvements. West Valley leaders were prepared to fight the effort but relented when more than $192 million was added to purchase land for future westside freeway projects. By the end of the nearly four-hour meeting, the committee members were patting each other on the back and espousing a plan they believe benefits residents Valley-wide. "Every segment of this region is receiving what they requested. Period. End of story," said Tempe Mayor Neil Giuliano, chairman of the committee. Although the new street projects and land purchases added about $480 million to the transportation package, the plan is still expected to come in under budget. in midsummer, the overall transportation package was roughly $789 million over budget. But after recalculating revenue projections and reducing the cost of several projects, MAG financial experts said Wednesday that the plan was $94 million under budget. The additional projects added Wednesday would be funded using the $94 million budget excess and a portion of the $1.7 billion contingency fund that had been built into the overall plan. MAG transportation Director Eric Anderson said the final plan still includes a roughly $1.3 billion contingency fund. Glendale Mayor Elaine Scruggs said she would have preferred to see more funding for rapid-transit buses along Grand Avenue in the plan, but overall she was pleased with the outcome of the months-long effort to plan the Valley's transportation future. "Given the realities we have to deal with and the way the population is dispersed today . . . I think we did really really well for the West Valley," Scruggs said. Chandler Mayor Boyd Dunn said each side of the Valley had to give a little to make the plan work. "I do feel the overall plan should have included more mass transit than it does, but there has been compromise," Dunn said. The mayors said they hope the unanimous vote will send a message to the Legislature not to fiddle with the plan. Giuliano said the Legislature and governor must approve the plan by Feb. 3 for the issue to make it on the May 18 ballot. Voters must extend the existing half-cent sales tax, which was originally adopted in 1985, to help raise more than $8 billion over the next 20 years. The balance of the plan's funding will come from various state and federal transportation funds. =PTP========================================== 00.html Dallas Morning News Wednesday, October 1, 2003 Highway congestion levels off in N. Texas Report finds it's still slow going, but delays aren't getting longer By TONY HARTZEL / The Dallas Morning News North Texas is struggling to hold its ground in the battle against highway congestion, but local motorists still spend more than two days a year stuck in slow traffic, according to a national study released Tuesday. Congestion is getting worse nationally, but Dallas-Fort Worth traffic remained relatively stable from 2000 to 2001, according to the Texas Transportation institute's Urban Mobility Report. The study, based on 2001 data, also shows that the use of technology and public transit can ease the crush on highways. Figures for 2002 are not yet available. "We're getting a hair of a breather here. If you travel around the region in the last year or so, I don't think it's as bad," said Michael Morris, director of transportation for the North Central Texas Council of Governments, the regional planning agency. He argued that North Texas should use the leveling off of congestion to start expansions on LBJ Freeway and Airport Freeway. The transportation institute, a research arm of Texas A&M University, has published its Urban Mobility Report annually for two decades. In the report's first year, North Texas motorists suffered a 7 percent delay for driving in peak periods versus driving in free-flowing conditions. That delay grew to 33 percent by 2001, the same level as in 2000. Nationally, congestion grew at a slower pace in 2001 when compared with traffic growth seen in 2000. The nation's economic slowdown is at least part of the reason. "A lot of cities from 2000 to 2001 didn't change," said researcher and study co-author David Schrank. "What we are seeing there is the link between the economy and transportation. It will be really interesting to see what the 2002 numbers look like." Even with relatively stable conditions, Dallas-Fort Worth motorists in 2001 spent 51 hours a year slowed behind someone else on their way to and from work. That figure, based on a national average 25-minute, one-way commute, ranks 18th in the nation. in addition, congestion has become so prevalent that on average, every man, woman and child in North Texas spends 36 hours a year delayed in traffic. Only three cities – Los Angeles, San Francisco and Houston – have worse per-capita delays. But there is hope, researchers say. For the first time, they measured the effects of public transportation, bus and carpool lanes and technological improvements such as signal-light timing, traffic lights on entrance ramps and the use of traffic cameras. Those efforts paid off by reducing commute times by 4.3 hours per person a year in North Texas. "While things are getting worse in general, things could be much worse if departments of transportation and everyone else involved did not put these treatments out there," Mr. Schrank said. "All these things make a difference." Mass-transit advocates nationally used the report to call for increased attention to federal public transportation funding. Locally, mass transit's role in reducing congestion was less than in some cities like Houston, which does not have rail lines. However, the study did not include Dallas Area Rapid Transit's light-rail extensions into Garland, Richardson and Plano, because they opened in 2002. "This says what we've said all along: We're one of the tools," said DART board chairman Robert Pope, who added that only 41 percent of the area's population lives in a city served by the transit agency. E-mail =PTP=========================================== 0309200184sep20,1,6595803.story?coll=chi-newslocal-hed Chicago Tribune September 20, 2003 Transit ills add up in time, dollars By Virginia Groark Tribune staff reporter Chicago-area residents allocate more of their household budgets to transportation costs than their counterparts in all but two other large U.S. cities, and they could spend an extra 80 hours in their cars each year if current transportation policies continue, a civic group said Friday. The information is part of a 25-page report that Chicago Metropolis 2020 released to highlight key concerns it thinks a new regional transportation task force should address in meetings beginning this fall. The 11-member task force was created by legislation that Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed last month. The group has until March 1 to assess transportation issues in northeastern illinois. The report presented by Chicago Metropolis 2020, a non-profit civic planning group, and several other businesses and civic groups in Chicago emphasized that seven agencies with a total of 102 board members are responsible for land use and transportation policies in the Chicago area. More often than not, they are focused on their specific area rather than taking a regional approach that would help create a seamless transportation network, the report said. The task force will study the possibility of merging several of the agencies. There also is no mechanism to coordinate transportation investments with land-use planning, a problem that leads to the "planning equivalent of one hand clapping," the report found. Consequently, too many people are dependent on a car because they don't have any other choice. The report said 17.4 percent of Chicago residents' household income is spent on transportation-related costs, making it the second largest cost for most families. Only Dallas and Los Angeles spend more. =PTP======================================== Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Friday, September 19, 2003 Port Authority won't have to cut service or increase fares By Joe Grata, Post-Gazette Staff Writer Transit riders can expect the financially troubled Port Authority to maintain fares and service at current levels through winter and maybe longer. Allegheny County and state officials have agreed to redirect $10 million of highway money to public transit, as permitted in certain categories of federal funding, to help plug a projected $19 million shortfall in the authority's 2003-04 budget. The money had been earmarked for the $80 million reconstruction of interstate 79 between the Kirwan Heights and Parkway West interchanges. Because the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation's project isn't expected to start for another year and last through 2006, the $10 million being redirected for the Port Authority's use won't be needed for a while. County Chief Executive Jim Roddey, former chairman of the Port Authority board, announced the new funds at a news conference yesterday. The arrangement required the cooperation of PennDOT and the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission, the transportation planning agency for the nine-county region. PennDOT and the commission have the final word on where, when and how federal transportation funds are spent. The commission's technical committee is to approve the funding transfer today and the Port Authority should start receiving the funds within two months. Port Authority Chief Executive Paul Skoutelas, expressing thanks for the collaborative effort, said $10 million "will help alleviate but not eliminate our current budget crisis. We remain concerned about securing a long- term solution to funding public transportation in the commonwealth." For now, people who account for 245,000 bus, light rail, incline and paratransit rides on an average weekday won't have to worry about the base fare being increased by 25 cents to $2, or 20 percent service cuts that could go as far as eliminating weekend, holiday and nighttime service. The $10 million will be spent for preventive maintenance or bus and trolley repairs. The authority will transfer a number of mechanics' salaries from the operating budget to the capital budget, reducing operating expenses. "This is a short-term solution," Roddey said, to preserve public transit caught in a series of fare increases, service cuts and subsequent ridership losses, "a never-ending spiral that feeds on itself." The reprogramming of funds will not delay the I-79 project, he said. "We've been assured of it," Roddey said. Steve Donahue, founder of the Save Our Transit citizens group, praised the temporary financial fix but said the group's campaign will go on. "We have to continue to fight for predictable, stable and reliable funding," he said. The Port Authority board has initiated $5 million in administrative cuts and is hoping the state will, at least, restore a 6 percent cut in operating subsidies. The $276 million operating budget faces $19 million in increased expenses and reduced state assistance. The authority expects to pay an additional $5 million in health care costs, $5 million in pension payments, $3 million in union raises and higher diesel fuel, supplies, parts and utilities costs. The state's 6 percent subsidy cut of $4 million translates into a $5.3 million loss because of matching county funds. In addition, a special state transit assistance fund is projected to bring in $5 million less this year. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Joe Grata can be reached at or 412-263-1985.
PTP 2003/10/03-A - CONTENTS * Bayonne (NJ) - Staten is. bridge eyed for LRT Jersey Journal Friday, October 03, 2003 * Portland: interstate Ave. LRT to open early, under budget The Oregonian - Portland 09/17/03 * Toledo eyes downtown streetcar The Blade - Toledo September 15, 2003 * Houston anti-rail pol seeks Metro plan criminal probe KTRK-TV ABC13 Eyewitness News 10/02/03 * Houston anti-railers launch TV ads against rail plan Houston Chronicle Oct. 2, 2003 * Houston: Private schoolbuses grounded for violations Houston Chronicle Oct. 2, 2003 * Ottawa suburb plans its own "bus transitway" The Ottawa Citizen Wednesday, October 01, 2003 * Miami: Rail transit favored for city's NE corridor Miami Herald Sun, Sep. 14, 2003 * Seattle ed: Build all of monorail, or none SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER October 2, 2003 * Seattle letters: Monorail plan flaky, LRT better Seattle Post-Intelligencer October 3, 2003 * Seattle letters: Seattle's transit better than Portland's? Seattle Post-Intelligencer October 2, 2003 * S Jersey: Rail project builder linked to overruns in Boston's 'Big Dig' Camden Courier-Post Thursday, September 18, 2003 =PTP======================================== Jersey Journal Friday, October 03, 2003 Bayonne Bridge is wished a happy 75th anniversary Fall 1928 groundbreaking is marked by Port Authority By Julia M. Scott Journal staff writer STATEN ISLAND - The Bayonne Bridge, arching 325 feet into the air, looked proud enough to touch the sky yesterday as elected officials and Port Authority of New York and New Jersey employees gathered to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the bridge's groundbreaking on Sept. 18, 1928. When the bridge opened Nov. 15, 1931, the toll was 50 cents each way for cars - or horses - and a nickel for pedestrians. One remnant from that era, the shovel from the original groundbreaking, happened to turn up in a Port Authority closet about a month ago, said Gerard Del Tufo, manager of the P.A.'s Bayonne and Goethals bridges and the Outerbridge Crossing. Port Authority officials dusted it off, encased it in a wooden box and showed it off as a symbol of the longevity of P.A. structures. "It says something about our predecessors, the P.A. that built these bridges and they're still functional today," said Ken Philmus, director of tunnels, bridges and terminals for the P.A. Philmus presented the historic shovel to Bayonne Mayor Joseph V. Doria Jr., who said it would be permanently stored at the Bayonne Community Museum, which is currently undergoing renovations. "The Bayonne Bridge is an important part of the Bayonne community and the metropolitan area," said Doria, who hinted at plans to extend the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail across the bridge. The bridge has the capacity to carry heavy rail, he noted, adding that the city has had "very preliminary" discussions with the Staten island borough president and New Jersey Transit officials about extending the rail line, which will reach to 22nd Street in Bayonne next month. Othmar Ammann, the bridge's Swiss designer, also designed the George Washington and Verrazano-Narrows bridges. The year it opened, the Bayonne Bridge was recognized as the most beautiful steel arch bridge in the nation by the American institute for Steel Construction. "it's not only a beautiful structure, it's a functional structure," said Philmus, who explained how the bridge works: the arch is grounded in two concrete abutments on either side of Kill Van Kull. The roadway hangs from the arch, which allows it to expand and contract with the weather. "You want to have a bridge with flexibility," he said. "it's a living structure." Over the bridge's 75 years significant upkeep work has been done to the structure, which spans 1.6 miles, Philmus said. The entire roadway, including the pavement and the concrete underneath, has been replaced. The bridge is painted as needed, and the abutment on the New Jersey side is currently being rebuilt. "The Bayonne Bridge has been one of the best bridges in Staten island," said Albert De Lillo, special assistant to Staten island Borough President James P. Molinaro, alluding to the fact that the bridge has the least traffic of Staten island's four bridges. The bridge, which cost $13 million to build, handles more than 3.5 million cars each year. =PTP============================================= The Oregonian - Portland 09/17/03 interstate Avenue rail line will open early FRED LEESON TriMet will open its new interstate Avenue MAX line four months early next spring on a street that is showing new life for enterprise as well as transit. The 5.8-mile Yellow Line running between the Rose Quarter and the Portland Expo Center will open May 1, ahead of schedule and about $30 million less than its $350 million budget. The original opening target was Sept. 7, 2004. "When you see a government ahead of schedule and saving money, it's a great victory for TriMet and for the community," said Rick Krochalis, regional administrator of the Federal Transit Administration, which provided $257.5 million for the Yellow Line. The new line is expected to attract about 13,900 daily riders at the outset and grow to 20,000 a day by 2020. That compares with 48,000 average daily riders at present on the eastside line and 28,400 on the westside. Meanwhile, the interstate Avenue corridor traversed by the line is beginning to show signs of economic revitalization that planners had hoped for when they created a sprawling urban renewal district in 2000. Fred Meyer has announced plans to spend $20 million rebuilding its retail complex at interstate and Lombard Street, to be completed by the end of 2004. in another coup for grocery-starved North Portland neighborhoods, New Seasons Market will demolish an old Safeway building at interstate and Portland Boulevard and build a new grocery store to open in 2006. Fred Meyer announced that no jobs would be lost while it demolishes its current two-store complex and rebuilds. New Seasons is expected to provide about 140 new jobs. Brian Rohter, president of New Seasons, said the new rail line figured into the company's go-ahead decision because the site is adjacent to a MAX platform. "Light rail is certainly an added benefit to sales forecasts for that store," he said. "There is definitely strong developer interest on interstate," said John Southgate, project manager of the interstate Corridor Urban Renewal Area. He said the Portland Development Commission received "five good responses" from developers interested in mixed-income and mixed-use projects on a city-owned site at interstate and Killingsworth Street. A decision is due on that site later in the fall. Completion of the Yellow Line also appears to be prompting some talk about extending the line to Vancouver. Vancouver voters rejected a proposal for such a line in 1995 by a 2-1 ratio. TriMet General Manager Fred Hansen and Krochalis said there have been recent talks about light rail with Vancouver and Clark County officials. C-Tran, the Clark County transit agency, is in the midst of a new round of strategic planning. Krochalis said the FTA is not necessarily pushing light rail as the answer. "We encouraged them to find the right solution for Clark County," he said. Hansen said he expects sizable numbers of Clark County riders to use the Yellow Line even without a light rail service in Vancouver. He said there are park-and-ride lots at the Delta Park and Expo light-rail stops and that C-Tran buses will connect with the rail line. Hansen said the Yellow Line's early completion will make it available for riders during heavily attended events of Cinco de Mayo and the 2004 Rose Festival. The latest MAX addition will extend the Portland area's mileage to 44 since completion of the original Banfield line between Gresham and downtown Portland in 1986. improvements in track-laying and street reconstruction technology helped finish the project early. Reconstruction of North interstate Avenue itself was finished in November. Major general contractors on the project were Stacey & Witbeck, which installed track from the Rose Quarter to Kenton, and F.E. Ward, which built a 4,000-foot-long bridge from Kenton to the Delta Park station. Knowing that work was running at least a half year ahead of schedule, TriMet officials began thinking about an early opening about a year ago. Hansen instructed drafters of TriMet's 2003-04 budget to include more than $1 million to help pay for operations if the interstate line could open early. Early opening also meant accelerated training for new drivers and mechanics. Work on the interstate line began in November 2000 with utility relocation. The Portland City Council that year approved an interstate Corridor Urban Renewal Area that generated $30 million in local matching funds for the project. Other elements of the payment in addition to the federal transit money were $25 million from TriMet and $37.5 million from regional transportation funds. Hansen said TriMet is talking with the federal agency about potential uses for the $30 million savings on the interstate project. He said increased security equipment is one possibility. Current plans call for security cameras on passenger platforms at the Delta Park and Expo Center stations. The surplus money could add cameras at some or all of the other eight interstate stations. Fred Leeson: 503-294-5946; =PTP=============================================== The Blade - Toledo September 15, 2003 Reviving downtown streetcar a possibility Proposal would give city distinct image By DAVID PATCH BLADE STAFF WRITER [PHOTO] The last streetcar to serve Toledo traverses the downtown in January, 1949. (THE BLADE) More than 50 years ago, the last of Toledo's streetcars were replaced with buses, and before long the rails were yanked out of the streets or paved over. Now, a downtown transportation study commissioned by the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments is on the verge of recommending the streetcar's return as a practical transit mode and as an attraction in the downtown area. A downtown streetcar line is the most exotic proposal that a preliminary version of the Regional Core Circulator Study finds to be feasible. More elaborate ideas, like an elevated downtown "personal transit" system or an aerial tram to international Park, are ruled out, at least for the foreseeable future, because of cost and other considerations. "We want to keep some of the elements of the old that were good, and improve on them," said David Dysard, TMACOG's vice president for transportation. The streetcar idea "fits right in with the idea of a downtown renaissance." Other possibilities outlined in the report include regular shuttle buses between downtown and international Park, conversion to two-way of more downtown streets and shifting part of the downtown bus loop to Monroe Street instead of Jefferson Avenue. The study will be the subject of public meetings tomorrow midday and evening at One Lake Erie Center, Jefferson and Huron Street. The first 90-minute session will start at 11:30 a.m., while the second will start at 5:30 p.m. "We would like to know whether the public thinks we're on the right track with this study," said B.J. Fischer, account executive with Funk Luetke Skunda, a public relations firm that is coordinating public involvement in the study. Wilbur Smith Associates of Columbia, S.C., and Parsons Brinckerhoff, Inc., of New York are conducting the $890,000, federally funded study intended to explore ways to improve transportation as a way to support downtown Toledo's commercial and residential revitalization. A steering committee with representatives from downtown business, planning, and community organizations is overseeing the consultants' work. Even if residential and industrial development continues to occur predominantly in suburban areas, "the image we portray in our downtown core has implications for our region," Mr. Dysard said. The streetcar proposal, Mr. Fischer said, is a way to give downtown Toledo an identifying transportation feature. "You need something that's distinct for a downtown - something that's fun, something that's different," he said. "It almost becomes an attraction in itself." The preliminary report proposes a route running from the Toledo Farmers' Market passing Fifth Third Field, SeaGate Centre, COSi, and Government Center on its way to a transportation center at Cherry Street and Buckeye Basin Greenbelt Parkway. Basic construction and equipment cost is estimated at $18 million, while the transportation center, which would include a station, parking, and maintenance facilities, would cost between $15 million and $17 million. The study does not identify funding sources, but Mr. Dysard said prominent consultants were hired to ensure that a good case could be made for federal support. "This is a project we want to actively pursue," Mr. Dysard said. "This is not about having a pretty report we can look at on a shelf. This is about actually getting something done." "The initial finding that a historic streetcar system could work is exciting," said James Gee, general manager of the Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority. "The project itself would lead to economic development downtown," Mr. Gee predicted. "Just putting the rails in place would be indicative of a public commitment to downtown. Developers see that commitment. Residents see that commitment." Mr. Gee said he also supports the idea of better transit service across the Maumee River, which now consists of a seasonal, privately operated water taxi and TARTA buses that must use a roundabout route over the Anthony Wayne Bridge because of weight restrictions on the Martin Luther King, Jr. Bridge. Completion of King renovations is scheduled for 2005. "The river should not be a barrier downtown," Mr. Gee said. "It should be another amenity - an attraction and part of downtown." Relocating the Jefferson Avenue portion of the bus loop to Monroe would put it closer to Fifth Third Field and several new restaurants, and eliminate confusion that now occurs because buses run opposite to Jefferson's one-way, eastbound traffic, the consultants said. But the report also proposes converting all remaining downtown one-way streets to two-way, except for Erie and Michigan streets and possibly 11th and 14th streets. Other downtown traffic pattern changes also were considered. =PTP=========================================== [PTP NOTE: Dropping damaging political "bombs" in the late stages of an American rail transit vote initiative has become a classic tactic of anti-rail transit campaigners ~ in this case, US Rep. John Culberson, a key member of the "advisory committee" of the Houston anti-rail effort. Culberson has managed to wait at least 4 months before "discovering" purported financial problems in the Metro plan and raising his sudden call for an "investigation" by the US Attornery's office. The intent of these last- minute "bombs" is clearly to advance the "sow doubt" tactic that is central to the strategy of anti-transit partisans.] KTRK-TV ABC13 Eyewitness News 10/02/03 Congressman asks for probe into METRO's finances By Kevin Quinn 10/02/03 - HOUSTON — Eyewitness News has learned that a US Congressman has asked for a federal investigation into METRO's finances. Eyewitness News was first to report early this week that documents obtained from the federal government indicate that METRO may see a $116 million shortfall through 2009. Congressman John Culberson says he's asked the US Attorney's office to investigate METRO. He wants to know if a violation of federal law has taken place. His Houston transportation advisor tells us METRO is trying to make the public believe it's more economically viable than it really is. "I don't know why the numbers are off," said Culberson advisor Edd Hendee. "I can just tell you the federal government is very sure of what they're going to write them a check for." Hendee is the person Congressman Culberson asked to go to Washington to investigate METRO's funding projections. Hendee's efforts led to the revelation by the Federal Transit Administration that METRO would see a $116 million shortfall over the next six years, that the federal government won't give METRO all the money it's anticipating. "Has METRO misrepresented their position? I will tell you they have not accurately presented their position and I have been a party to that verification," said Hendee. METRO says its numbers are accurate, that critics are comparing apples to oranges, though they can't specify how because their chief financial officer is out of town. A spokesperson for METRO declined comment on camera, saying there's been no misrepresentation on METRO's part. Their figures are based on historical performance. "The taxpayers have to foot the bill. There's no other source," said University of Houston economist Stephen Craig. Craig is watching the METRO situation closely, worrying how a lack of funding for METRO might play out. "The taxpayers are going to pay," he said. "We're either going to pay 35 years of interest if they borrow it on the back end or we're going to lose our roads real early and pay property taxes right from the get-go" To be fair, we should note that the congressman and his liaison are against passage of METRO's $640 light rail bond next month. METRO has said repeatedly that allegations questioning its finances are strategically timed ploys to create doubt in the minds of voters about METRO's financial health. =PTP============================================ Houston Chronicle Oct. 2, 2003 Group launches opening ads against rail extensions By RAD SALLEE Coming soon to local prime time: Traffic noises followed by a hard-hitting advertisement against the Metropolitan Transit Authority's proposed rail transit extensions. The 30-second spots, which will start running Monday and continue through Oct. 12, are just the opening number in pro and con media campaigns leading to the Nov. 4 referendum on the agency's 25-year Metro Solutions plan. The ad ends with "Metro's plan costs far too much, does far too little" -- the theme that Texans for True Mobility hopes will resonate with voters. The well-funded group includes high-profile Republicans, such as U.S. Rep. John Culberson and state Sen. Jon Lindsay, both of Houston. Developer Michael Stevens and John Butler, a member of Metro's original board of directors, are chairing the campaign. The spots will appear on the ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox News networks, as well as CNN, MSNBC and CNBC, said Chris Begala, political consultant for the group. "We've bought the four major networks pretty heavy," Begala said. "We bought Jay Leno on Channel 2 and Nightline on Channel 13." The group is drafting other anti-Metro rail ads, he said. "So far we are at about $178,000 in buy including TV," a figure that only covers the first week. But more will be purchased, he said. "It will be an aggressive well- funded campaign. People feel strongly about informing the public what a bad deal this is." Metro spokesman Ken Connaughton declined to respond to the ad, noting the transit agency is barred by law from political campaigning. Metro has been running a $1.5 million "educational" campaign about its transportation plan. Paul Mabry, spokesman for Citizens for Public Transportation, the committee promoting the Metro Solutions plan, urged voters to read the ballot. Mabry said the Nov. 4 ballot proposal, if approved, would authorize Metro to issue $640 million in bonds -- not $8 billion as the ads suggest -- to build light rail over 10 years, adding an estimated 22 miles to the 7.5-mile line from downtown to Reliant Park. Metro would come back to voters after 2009 to finance the next extension. Voters would also be authorizing -- but not voting to fund -- an eventual 80 miles of light and commuter rail at an estimated $5.9 billion, along with more buses and more roads, Mabry said. "it's sleight of hand, trying to get voters to think they're voting on $8 billion and just for rail," he said. Begala said the $8 billion figure cited in the ad includes about $5 billion in capital costs, $2 billion for operation and maintenance, and another billion for debt interest and contingencies. Begala added, "The ballot says 72 additional miles of rail. If you vote yes, you're voting for 72.8 miles of rail, end of story. Once again, they're hiding the ball." Mabry disputed the ad's statement that the proposed rail system would not relieve congestion. Critics have argued that the system would carry only 1 percent of local trips, but Mabry said those numbers reflect round-the-clock travel throughout the eight-county metropolitan area. The rail and bus system will carry a larger share of trips during rush hour in the area it serves, he said. "If you apply the same standard to the Katy Freeway, which will cost about $2 billion to widen, it would carry about the same percentage of traffic," he said. The ad also says rail proposals were defeated in Austin, Fort Worth and San Antonio and that Dallas' light rail system has "run out of money" and is "asking taxpayers for an $18 million bailout." Voters in Austin and San Antonio did recently reject rail. Fort Worth voters in the early 1980s voted not to join a proposed regional transit system including Dallas and Collin counties, but no referendum has been held there on a local rail plan. Begala said the ad refers to a City Council decision not to pursue rail. Dallas Area Rapid Transit spokesman Morgan Lyons said the agency has applied for $14 million in federal maintenance funds, but he denied this is a bailout. DART's sales tax revenues are down, he said, reflecting layoffs in the telecommunications industry. But DART rail ridership was up 26 percent through August 2003 compared to 2002, in part because the system has been extended. =PTP============================================ Houston Chronicle Oct. 2, 2003 DPS slams the brakes on some private buses Dozens of students left without ride after school By JO ANN ZUIGA Parents of dozens of HISD students had to scramble for transportation Thursday afternoon after state troopers grounded private buses that were in violation of state law. The Texas Department of Public Safety early Thursday morning inspected dozens of private buses en route to several schools in the Houston independent School District, asking drivers for required documents. DPS Captain Steve Sullivan said a citizen's complaint in August prompted a crackdown Thursday on private buses in HISD. Sullivan declined to provide specific details of the complaint but said it accused private school buses of failing to have proper insurance and other credentials necessary to drive on city streets. Sullivan said he investigated and found 168 private school bus companies in the Houston metro area that may not have proper credentials or [may] lack driver training. Sullivan said late Thursday afternoon he did not know how many buses troopers stopped earlier in the day or how many infractions were found, because that information was still being compiled. He also declined to disclose the number of troopers used in the crackdown. He said violations ranged from unlicensed drivers to lack of a state- required liability bond. Many of the buses stopped or grounded bear the names of the owners -- Muñoz Bus Service; Colunga; Duran, Aguilar -- written in black on the yellow sides along with a telephone number. Bus owners whose vehicles were grounded at Park Place Elementary said they thought they were compliance with all regulations, saying they had liability insurance requirements and city permits. Some, however, were cited for not having a $5 million bond per bus required of vehicles that carry 60 or more passengers. Owners thought the bond applied only to long-distance bus carriers. Carmen Tapia, who owns five buses and transports about 250 students daily, said she would have to pay pay $5,000 a year per bus to get the $5 million bond. "I cannot move my buses," she said. "I'm losing my business." Her southeast Houston routes include Park Place Elementary; Stevenson, Ortiz and Deady middle schools; and Milby and Chavez high schools. Private buses like the ones Tapia owns are commonplace at public schools, including HISD, which does not provide transportation to students who live more than two miles from their schools. Many parents then turn to individual bus companies. in Thursday's crackdown, troopers patrolled the Houston area and if they saw a private bus, pulled it over and asked the driver for proper documents, Sullivan said. If the driver did not provide the documents, the bus was still allowed to continue to school. "We were worried about the kids being stranded and wanted them to make it to school," Sullivan said. The afternoon, however, meant headaches for many parents whose children would otherwise be stranded at the school. HISD officials said they had to hurriedly call parents in the afternoon to pick up their children. "I barely got a call this afternoon to come pick up my son," said Guadalupe Delgado, still dressed in her nurse's scrubs from her job at Bayshore Medical Center. Her 4-year-old, Adrian, stood outside Park Place Elementary dressed in his school uniform and wearing a noodle necklace he made in school that day. "My mother-in-law takes care of him when the bus drops him off at home. She can't drive and we live on the other side of the freeway," Delgado said, nodding toward the busy Gulf Freeway nearby. Veronica Garcia left her downtown office job at Waste Management to pick up her kindergartner. "This is why kids get stolen and raped, if they have to walk home from school," she said. But Garcia said bus safety is also important and she'd pay more to put her children on a bus that complies with all regulations. "I pay $9 a week each for both my children to be bused," she said. "I'll be willing to pay more if it will keep them safe on a bus." Metro bus driver Consuelo Garza, still in uniform, said she finished her shift just in time to pick up her grandchildren after getting a call in the afternoon. "I have to get up at 3 a.m. to get ready for work and be there by 4 a.m. We depend on these school buses for our children," Garza said. HISD Spokeswoman Adriana Villarreal said the state agency did not contact the district about Thursday's inspections. She said the district learned of it from the media early Thursday afternoon. Sullivan said DPS officials did not need feel they needed to to notify the district about the inspections because they were not being done on school property. "We don't know how many children or schools were affected because the parents contract directly with the private school buses," Villarreal said. "We're worried about them missing classes if they don't have transportation." School board trustee Esther Campos, who said she was contacted by community activist W.R. Morris about the inspections, said if the situation escalates, it could have an impact on school funding. "The district doesn't have jurisdiction over private buses, but we do have a vested interest because for every child absent for whatever reason, the district loses state funds," Campos said. Sullivan said his office has met since August with representatives of bus companies and explained the laws and the training and fees required. "If something bad would happen to the kids on board accident-wise," he said, "the parents should be concerned that the drivers have proper training and the buses are insured, certified and bonded." He mailed the companies a letter warning them that their grace period was coming to an end, Sullivan said. "We just decided to nip it in the bud," he said. =PTP============================================== 58877a41b422 The Ottawa Citizen Wednesday, October 01, 2003 Gatineau to build own bus transitway to cross city, link Ottawa by 2005 The transit system will include bike lanes and 10 new stations, at least four with park-and-ride lots. Dave Rogers The City of Gatineau unveiled plans yesterday for a 35-kilometre bus transitway to link Masson-Angers in the east and Aylmer in the west through downtown Hull by 2005. The transitway will connect to Ottawa via the Portage Bridge. The first phase of the $100-million Société de transport de l'Outaouais (STO) system will be an 18-kilometre dedicated bus route next to a railway line, to run from Lorrain Boulevard, near Gatineau airport, west to Montcalm Street, near Les Terrasses de la Chaudière federal government complex. The rest of the bus system is to be on existing roads and bus lanes. The entire "Rapibus" system will be at street level, unlike Ottawa's $500-million Transitway, which is partly below-grade to reduce noise. The Rapibus system is designed to ease traffic congestion on Highway 50 and on city streets. Gatineau councillors hope the bus network will reduce air pollution and encourage new economic development. "I am not sure that Rapibus will take cars off the road, but it will certainly slow down the growth rate of cars and will eliminate traffic congestion," said STO chairman Lawrence Cannon, a Gatineau councillor. "Every year Highway 50 becomes more crowded. This project sends a strong and clear message to the federal government that putting 25 per cent of government offices on the Gatineau side will be much easier because of a more reliable bus network. This will be a big economic boost to Gatineau." Construction is to start in 2004 and be completed in 2005, unless there are financing delays. The bus route will run west on Alexandre-Taché Boulevard and Aylmer Road to a station near the Aylmer Hippodrome harness racing track, and east to Buckingham and Masson-Angers. A secondary bus route will be built north to Freeman Road. The transit system will include bicycle lanes and 10 new stations, at least four with park-and-ride lots for 1,500 vehicles. The bus, rail and bicycle route will be about 10 metres wide. Gatineau architect Pierre Cayer and a Montreal firm that designed that city's Metro stations have designed the Rapibus stations. Mr. Cannon said the Quebec government will pay up to 75 per cent and a public-private partnership with a bus company may help pay for the project. The bus company is seeking a $30-million Transport Canada grant for diesel-electric buses. "This project is similar in many ways to Ottawa's transitway, but it will follow the Quebec-Gatineau rail line," Mr. Cannon said. "It will leave the rail line at Montcalm Street, continuing west or along St. Laurent and Maisonneuve and into Ottawa. There will be park-and-ride stations on Lorrain, Labrosse, Montée Paiement and the Casino. =PTP========================================= Miami Herald Sun, Sep. 14, 2003 NORTHEAST DADE County is set to take on boom area's traffic woes BY DAVID OVALLE Biscayne Boulevard snakes about 14 miles through northeast Miami-Dade County, from the fringes of downtown Miami past the mall-gridlock in Aventura. Drive up the boulevard, undoubtedly the region's main artery, and it is easy to see why people worry about worsening traffic. The skeletons of high-rise condominium buildings foreshadow waves of new residents who have tired of suburban commutes. Signs of redevelopment -- Starbucks, Home Depot, Office Depot -- have popped up. Yet, public transportation here is still too weak to ease congestion. ''The buses move like turtles,'' said Noemi Baldeom, 42, as she waited for a Metrobus on Biscayne Boulevard at Northeast 79th Street. ''They never come on time, it's horrible.'' Frustrated northeast Miami-Dade commuters like Baldeom were among the targets of the campaign for the half-penny transit tax, which voters approved last year to overhaul the county's transportation system. Now, the county is about to focus on their concerns. In the next couple of weeks, its Office of Public Transportation Management will commission a study to examine ways to improve mass transit along the northeast corridor, along the Florida East Coast Railway tracks and Biscayne Boulevard. The study's recommendations -- whether expanding Metrorail or Tri-Rail, introducing a lighter rail system or just expanding bus service -- are probably about two years away. But most agree that public transportation must be addressed in northeast Miami-Dade, arguably the most urban and diverse region of the county. ''it's an area that is prime for the next phase of major development,'' said Clark Turner, the city of Miami's director of transportation administration. ''it's the place where the activity is going to be taking place -- and it lacks first-class transit facilities.'' Many transit experts and politicians, like Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas, and community activists interviewed by The Herald say they favor a rail system along the FEC railway, which roughly parallels Biscayne Boulevard. Mario Garcia, OPTM's chief planning assistant, said rail is appealing because streets will not be able to handle the expected flood of residents in northeast Miami-Dade. ''I'm afraid we're going to be pushing the envelope with anything other than light rail,'' he said. ''And even that may be pushing it.'' GROWTH AND CHANGE Northeast Miami-Dade is roughly bordered to the west by interstate 95, to the east by Biscayne Bay, to the north by the Broward County line and to the south by the edge of downtown Miami. The region's population, for years characterized by senior citizens, has changed. It's bigger, for one thing: Between 1990 and 2000, the population in an already dense area grew 9 percent, from 246,000 to 269,000 residents, according to census data. The population of the area's white residents declined by 30 percent in that time. Now, more families from Caribbean nations live in cities such as North Miami and North Miami Beach. Wealthier pockets, particularly hugging Biscayne Boulevard, continue to grow as part of the ''Eastward, Ho!'' movement. Future large-scale residential developments such as Biscayne Landing in North Miami and Buena Vista in the Wynwood neighborhood of Miami are expected to draw tens of thousands of people. Already, population growth has strained Biscayne Boulevard. Consider: in 1997, an average of 38,500 automobiles drove north-south each day on Biscayne Boulevard at Northeast 79th Street, according to state statistics. Five years later, that number had jumped to 48,000 daily. ''We're all in favor of public transportation, and studies in improvement would be welcome,'' said David Treece, who heads a coalition of neighborhoods and business owners in Miami's Upper Eastside. ''Now, often, studies are just that, and nothing seems to come of that.'' indeed, northeast Miami-Dade has seen similar studies and efforts fizzle in the past. BACK TO THE TRACK During the energy crisis of the late 1970s and early 1980s, the county -- aided by federal money -- spent about a billion dollars to build Metrorail. Lines were slated to be built in northeast Miami-Dade. One of the chief proponents of Metrorail then was now-retired U.S. Rep. William Lehman, who hails from northeast Miami-Dade and chaired the transportation subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee. Despite delays and budget bungling, lines were completed from downtown through southern Miami-Dade's expansive suburbia. But Metrorail never made it to Lehman's home turf. Support for expansion plummeted and federal dollars disappeared under President Reagan, who dubbed Metrorail a ''billion-dollar mistake.'' County, state and federal officials buoyed by the half-cent tax now maintain that the region will no longer be ignored. OPTM planners are also launching a study to look at building a bus hub in northeast Miami-Dade, which would include park-and-ride facilities, bus pass sales, police substations and even retail stores. Both studies will seek input from residents groups, the state and cities such as North Miami, North Miami Beach and Aventura. The northeast corridor study will include input from the FEC railway, Broward County and Tri-Rail, the regional transit system that is interested in extending service down the FEC railway. ''it's the most viable link toward regionalism,'' Mayor Penelas said. ''if we can get that corridor established and encourage Broward to continue the corridor, you've linked all the beach communities.'' Herald database editor Tim Henderson contributed to this report. =PTP========================================== SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER Thursday, October 2, 2003 Take a fast train over the silly path SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER EDITORIAL BOARD Does anyone remember the concept of a "seamless" transportation system? if so, they're not among those offering the Rube Goldberg scheme that would have riders take the monorail from West Seattle only to get off that elevated line, descend to the downtown bus tunnel to catch a bus to the other side of downtown, get off the bus and ascend once again to the monorail and complete the trip to the end of the line in Ballard. First to pitch this silly scenario were former Mayor Paul Schell, Flexcar director Neil Peterson and former Seattle Weekly publisher David Brewster. Picking up and running with this odd ball now are commercial real estate developers Greg Smith, Howard Anderson and Aaron Alhadeff. No one wants to see the city torn up for a project that can't be built for the money allocated. The Seattle Monorail Project's design-build-operate- maintain approach requires that bids and revenues match -- before construction starts. if the potential bidders can't pledge to finish the job for the available funds, they don't bid the project. If they can and they win the bid, the onus is on them to complete the project on time and on budget, enforced by massive surety bonds. This approach is becoming the global standard for large public works projects. Seattle voters said to build a 14-mile, well-designed monorail if and only if it can be done with the revenues pledged. Spending more would violate the voters' trust, but so would building anything less. =PTP============================================ Seattle Post-Intelligencer October 3, 2003 Letters to the editor Light rail technology allows use of the tunnel it was interesting to read Wednesday's article "No monorail through downtown, some urge" and to note the irony when the Metro bus tunnel was mentioned. If the monorail were being built using light rail technology instead, downtown wouldn't be a problem at all -- it would be able to use the tunnel. if the Green Line were built using light rail technology, it could use the tunnel along with the central link light rail line being built by Sound Transit. This would avoid the costly route duplication through downtown currently being proposed. Furthermore, the light rail tracks being built along the busway in Sodo could be used by both lines. When added to the savings by not duplicating through downtown, more than three miles of duplicate routes could be avoided (at the monorail's projected cost of $121 million per mile, this would save $363 million). Also, only one maintenance facility would need to be built instead of one for each system, saving even more money. Also, the line could tunnel under the Seattle Center and Belltown, eliminating controversy there while saving the existing monorail along Fifth Avenue. The businesses calling for ending the monorail at both ends of downtown have it right. Why spend hundreds of millions of dollars to duplicate what we already will have? Monorail technology is completely inflexible and non-interchangeable with light rail or any other technology. Why waste money on two completely incompatible systems? Dump monorail now and replace the Green Line with light rail technology. Jeff Hansen Bellevue it's not too late to pull plug on the monorail if the monorail can't be built as promised, it should be canceled. This project was conceived as an exercise in nostalgia for the good old days of the Seattle World's Fair, found favor in the ridiculous notion there's something democratic about ordinary citizens designing complex transportation systems and won voter approval in large measure because civic leaders were afraid to speak out against it. It's never made a lick of sense. The Puget Sound area needs a comprehensive, regional transportation plan backed by an authority with the muscle to get the job done. This plan must account for all the ways people and goods move between and within the communities in the area. If a piece of that puzzle turns out to be an elevated train from Ballard to West Seattle, fine. But you don't spend almost $2 billion because you grew up thinking monorails were cool. Gary Moresky Seattle =PTP============================================ Seattle Post-Intelligencer October 2, 2003 Letters to the editor Linking monorail pieces by bus fails the laugh test The idea to break the monorail in two and link the pieces by buses is the lamest idea since the light rail to Tukwila ("No monorail through downtown," yesterday). Is developer Greg Smith downcast because Portland just beat out Seattle for worst traffic? Smith says he wants to raise money to fight the people's monorail because he fears the monorail doesn't have enough money. Why not raise money for the monorail and get it built? Let's be very clear: Three times the people voted for the monorail. Three times the people discarded groundless objections and lame ideas such as these. Let's stop the foot-dragging, nit-picking, NIMBY whining and join together to build the people's monorail. Janice Van Cleve Seattle Numbers and modes of transportation tell tale According to the Texas Transportation institute's latest report, rush hours traffic in Seattle is better than in Portland (ranking 12th and eighth worst, respectively). Portland has light rail. Seattle relies on buses. Donald F. Padelford Seattle =PTP========================================= Camden Courier-Post Thursday, September 18, 2003 Legislators urge probe of builder of light rail line Firm linked to cost overruns in Boston's 'Big Dig' project By RICHARD PEARSALL Courier-Post Staff Two Burlington County legislators on Wednesday called for the state to investigate the contractor building the South Jersey Light Rail Line. Assemblymen Jack Conners, D-Pennsauken, and Assemblyman Herb Conaway, D-Burlington City, said the idea for the investigation comes from Massachusetts. A special panel there has been looking into cost overruns on the so-called "Big Dig," construction of a highway tunnel beneath the city of Boston. The Boston Globe reported Wednesday that the panel is planning to sue the Bechtel Corp. to recover "tens of millions" in overruns on the $14.6 billion project. Bechtel is the principal partner in the consortium that is building the South Jersey Light Rail Line. That consortium, South Jersey Rail Group, filed a suit against NJTransit last year, contending it is entitled to more than $100 million above the $453 million contract it signed to build the 34-mile, Camden-to-Trenton line. Delays and changes made by NJTransit added substantially to the project's cost, the consortium contends. With interest, land acquisition, preliminary design and other costs, the bill for building the line is expected to exceed $1 billion. The two sides are trying to negotiate a settlement of Bechtel's claims. Also under way is an investigation into the origins of the line being conducted by the state Attorney General's Office. The administration of Gov. James E. McGreevey launched that investigation a year ago. Reach Richard Pearsall at (856) 486-2465 or
PTP 2003/10/02-A - CONTENTS * Houston: Metro chair defends transit finance plan KPRC TV News - Houston October 2, 2003 * Houston: Critics claim 2% funding limit rules out rail Houston Chronicle Oct. 1, 2003, 9:52PM * Tacoma LRT streetcar ridership exceeds expectations SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER Friday, September 12, 2003 * Salt Lake: 'BRT', not LRT, to suburb? Deseret Morning News Friday, September 12, 2003 * San Jose: TOD on LRT line sparks pro & con San Jose Mercury News Fri, Sep. 12, 2003 * Denver: Businesses now say LRT project fears unfounded Sep 12, 2003 * Sacramento launches LRT project to Folsom KTXL -TV FOX40 News September 12, 2003 * US traffic congestion reported to get worse Associated Press Tuesday, September 30, 2003 * Sacramento has 9th worst traffic in nation, study says Sacramento Bee Wednesday, October 1, 2003 * Hub motor may boost bus performance New York Times October 2, 2003 =PTP============================================ KPRC TV News - Houston October 2, 2003 METRO Chairman Defends Light-Rail's Finances Mayoral Candidates Weigh in On Metro issue HOUSTON -- Claims made Wednesday put Houston's light-rail extension at risk. Critics said METRO grossly over-estimated the amount of federal money it would need to complete the rail line, meaning taxpayers could pay the rest of the bill. However, METRO said its plan is on track. METRO Chairman Arthur Schechter was bothered during a late Wednesday afternoon press conference by the recent questioning of METRO's accounting ability. "All of this stuff on a daily basis is just a political barrage of garbage, depending on how you want to view it," Schechter said. Schechter is mad that County Judge Robert Eckels has questioned METRO's math. Eckels said that METRO's sales tax numbers were inflated to win the people's vote in November. Schechter disagrees. "I am extremely confident in these numbers," the METRO chairman said. "I don't think anyone is lying -- that is kind of a harsh word. But I will say this, I think that those who want to criticize are selecting the numbers that they want to use." Eckels said he is using numbers given to him by the Federal Transit Administration, which show that METRO overestimated its tax revenues by $160 million. "If these numbers are right and if METRO maintains its expenditures levels where they are, they will be broke," Eckels said. "METRO's math is a mystery to me." Schechter told News2Houston that METRO will not go broke. He said Eckels numbers might have come from the federal government, but they came through Republican congressman John Culberson -- a man who vigorously opposes the Metro rail plan. Both sides said they agreed on one thing: the METRO issue is the most important issue on the November ballot. Mayoral Candidates Debate Metro issue Houston's top mayoral candidates discussed the light-rail issue Wednesday at southeast Houston's Trinity Church. A few of the candidates do not support METRO's proposed $620 million bond to accelerate the construction of the next 22 miles of rail. Bill White and Sylvester Turner are backing the plan, while Orlando Sanchez is against it. "Transit administration is telling us that they have over-projected their revenues," Sanchez said. "METRO's own financial analyst, Professor Barton Smith, said they are over-projecting their revenues." Turner said he is confident METRO can build the 22-mile light-rail proposal with the numbers that have already been projected. "The size of the bond issue was scaled down from the various numbers and plans that METRO originally had because I and others pointed out early, last March, that the numbers should be more conservative," White said. =PTP========================================== [PTP NOTE: Coming late in the Metro Solutions initiative campaign, this move by anti-rail lawmaker US Rep. John Culberson appears to be another last-minute "bomb" designed to confuse voters and catch pro-rail campaigners by surprise. it is quite unlikely that the FTA has limited other New Start urban areas to a mere 2% increase in funding over the previous year.] Houston Chronicle Oct. 1, 2003, 9:52PM Critics say Metro overestimating future funding By DAN FELDSTEIN Critics of Metro's rail plans released budget numbers today that seemed to show Metro is wildly overestimating how much federal funding it will get in the next six years. The chairman of the Metropolitan Transit Authority called the attack "garbage" as the debate over Metro's November bond referendum got hotter. County Judge Robert Eckels, an opponent of the rail plan, called a news conference to highlight a packet of information from the Federal Transit Administration and a Congressional committee. It had figures asserting Metro was over-estimating its expected federal funds for the next six years by $116 million. if that were the case, Eckels said, spending on the proposed rail system would leave nothing left for buses, carpool lanes and Metro's contribution to local road work. "The financing is more questionable at every turn," Eckels said. One hour later, Metro board chairman Arthur Schechter held his own news conference and said opponents were trying to create doubts about the rail plan regardless of accuracy. "Politics. Pure politics.... It's just an effort to be disingenuous and play political football," he said. Critics have already questioned Metro's projections for its sales tax income -- its largest source of money -- saying the figures were far rosier than historical precedent would suggest. This time, opponents focused on federal "formula" funding, a pot of money handed out by the FTA to all transit agencies. U.S. Rep. John Culberson, R-Houston, a rail opponent, asked the FTA to determine what share Metro could expect from formula funds. It responded that while the bill laying out the formula for the next six years hadn't been passed yet, it currently calls for a 2 percent increase each year from whatever a transit agency was getting in 2003. Staff on a committee on which Culberson serves did the math and compared the results to Metro's own estimate, finding Metro's to be 25 percent higher. "As you can see, FTA estimates show Metro overstated its projections by over $116 million. I believe this over-estimate, along with Metro's lowered sales tax estimates as well as its aggressive fare box recovery estimates, raises serious concerns about Metro's credibility and its ability to build the light rail system," Eckels wrote to Schechter in a letter he released. Metro objected immediately and loudly, but couldn't respond in detail because its senior financial officers who might explain the discrepancy were out of town at a transit conference. Schechter said that no transit formula bill had ever called for an annual increase as low as 2 percent, and he didn't expect the current number to stick. He also called the comparison numbers "apples and oranges." The Culberson numbers were what Metro could expect to be appropriated in each of the next six years, said Metro vice president John Sedlak. But the numbers Metro provided were expenditure numbers, he said, which can include money that is appropriated in one year but spent in a later year. Transit agencies have three years to spend their annual formula appropriation. And Metro plans to spend money from previous years in the first three years of its projections criticized by Culberson, Sedlak said. He said he was not sure if that issue accounted for the entire discrepancy between the sets of numbers. it was possible that both parties were correct -- or at least had some justification for their numbers. But there seemed little chance that they would congratulate each other and apologize. Metro will hold its referendum Nov. 4, asking voters to approve a $640 million bond issue for 22 miles of light rail by 2012. Also on the ballot, the authority pledges $774 million for road projects from 2009 to 2014 and a 50 percent increase in bus routes by 2025. Eckels sounded the theme of opponents of every rail concept since Houston began regularly fighting over them in the 1970s -- he supported rail, but just not this particular plan. "I just think this is not the right rail plan for Houston. The financing is more questionable at every turn," he said. "The opposition has no plan," Schechter responded. "All they want to do is keep the status quo, which hasn't worked for our community." in the packet of information released by Eckels, he includes a letter he wrote dated Sept. 24 asking Culberson to check on whether Metro had over-estimated its formula funding. Culberson apparently forwarded the request, and the chairman of a Congressional subcommittee responded on Sept. 25 with the full set of data, saying it has been fact-checked by the FTA. Culberson's office could not be reached late Wednesday to explain how the FTA and the committee were able to respond in detail to Eckels within 24 hours. =PTP======================================== SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER Friday, September 12, 2003 Tacoma light rail ridership exceeds expectations SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER STAFF Tacoma's new light rail line has proved popular in the first two weeks of its existence, Sound Transit announced. The agency projected that the line would carry 2,000 riders a day by 2010, but the 1.6 mile-line through downtown Tacoma exceeded that number on eight of the first 13 weekdays that Tacoma Link was in operation. The peak happened on Thursday, Aug. 28, when 3,230 riders hopped aboard. "This clearly shows that people are ready to park their cars and take advantage of convenient and reliable transit options," said King County Executive Ron Sims, chairman of the Sound Transit board. =PTP============================================ Deseret Morning News Friday, September 12, 2003 Salt Lake helps fund Davis transit study By Larry Weist BOUNTIFUL — Salt Lake Mayor Rocky Anderson ventured into south Davis County Thursday to let the locals know that while he opposes the Legacy Highway, he joins them in wanting more public transit from Davis to Salt Lake City. Rocky is backing up his talk with a $10,000 check toward a $100,000 transportation feasibility study the Wasatch Front Regional Council will conduct over the next year. The Utah Transit Authority will donate $45,000 toward the study, the Davis Council of Governments, $10,000, and the six south Davis cities will give $35,000. Anderson noted that in recent years he and Davis County leaders have been on opposite sides of the Legacy Highway issue, but improving transportation from the county to downtown Salt Lake City is something on which "we enthusiastically agree." Although the corner of 200 West and 400 North, the southwest corner of Bountiful Park, was so noisy that speakers were occasionally drowned out during the press conference, Bountiful Mayor Joe Johnson said the location was picked to show off 200 West and the possibility of putting rapid transit buses on the street, which runs through Centerville as well as Bountiful and passes shopping and recreation areas. Bus rapid transit, as it is known, is an improved version of bus transit with buses having a dedicated lane and preference for moving through stoplights, he said. Such bus transportation is similar to light-rail transit at a fraction of the cost. Speaking just before Anderson, Davis County economic director Wilf Sommerkorn said a Davis COG survey two years ago found 70 percent of residents wanted the Legacy Highway as well as improved public transportation. "We disagree on Legacy Highway," Anderson said. "As the 39th most polluted area in the country, we need to make a major change in our transportation," he said, adding having commuters drive with one person per vehicle is bad for public health. The mayor said he agrees an alternate route for vehicles is needed from Davis County into Salt Lake City, but "not one that devalues wetlands. We want Davis County people to access Salt Lake City; we just don't want thousands of cars impacting Salt Lake City." E-MAIL: =PTP============================================== San Jose Mercury News Fri, Sep. 12, 2003 Planning panel OKs Tamien high-rise By Janice Rombeck Mercury News The city's first high-rise housing project outside of downtown San Jose was approved by the San Jose Planning Commission early Thursday over the objections of residents who say it's too tall, will cause traffic jams and doesn't guarantee the neighborhood will get a badly needed park. But housing and open-space advocates strongly support the Tamien Place project, next to the Tamien light rail, Caltrain and bus station. Advocates, including residents, say tall buildings in residential areas, especially near transit lines, will help solve the city's housing shortage, stop urban sprawl and provide more open space. The unanimous commission vote on the 120-foot-tall project at the three- acre Alma Bowl site at Lick and Alma avenues came at about 12:40 a.m. after 3 1/2 hours of testimony and debate. The commission also voted to uphold the environmental impact report that several residents and the Preservation Action Council had challenged. The city council vote is set for Sept. 30, with District 6 Councilman Ken Yeager vowing to ''make the best case I can'' to persuade his colleagues to vote against the project. Councilwoman Cindy Chavez, whose district the project is in, favors the plan. in the works for two years, the project by developer Barry Swenson would provide 242 units, with 228 condominiums in two 11-story towers -- about as tall as the Hotel De Anza -- and 14 townhomes along Lick Avenue. Most will be sold at market rate with 48 units, or 20 percent, reserved for moderate-income residents. Commissioners approved the project, saying that it conforms with the city's development goals, would revitalize the area and moves the city toward putting housing near transit. Commissioner Christopher Platten called the project a bold step. ''We're the new city,'' he said. ''We're the future.'' The commission also sent a strong message that the city and developer must help the neighborhood get a park. ''I thought the debate uncovered additional flaws to the plan,'' said Yeager. ''The most revealing was that no one knows where the money will come from to complete the park.'' Swenson would be required to pay $2.7 million to $3 million in parkland fees, but that could go toward buying the land. But Erik Schoennauer, speaking for the developer, said ''it'll contribute a significant portion.'' And if the city and Valley Transportation Authority agree on using nearby land for a park, the developer is willing to build a park there, he said. The height of the project was a common complaint from residents and the seven neighborhood groups that oppose it. The council in 1995 approved the Tamien Specific Plan, a master plan for the area, with a 65-foot height restriction. But it was amended during a general plan review in 1998. Some speakers believed they had been left out of the changes. ''Sixty- five feet makes sense,'' said resident Tom Smith. ''Why was that wholesale disregarded?'' But others spoke to the direction they say the city must go in the future. ''it breaks new ground for transit-oriented development,'' said resident James Riley. Autumn Gutierrez, president of the Washington Area Coalition, is concerned about traffic and park development, but sees the project as ''the real beginning of momentum'' to revitalize the area. Contact Janice Rombeck at or (408) 920- 5944. =PTP========================================== Sep 12, 2003 Businesses No Longer Lamenting T-REX Effects The T-REX construction project and its impact on business, described in the story below, was a topic of discussion at a community forum with the group South East Business Partnership. If you would like a forum in your area, or if you have an idea for a community story, call CBS 4 at (303) 830-6477 or email DENVER (News 4) - T-REX, Denver's massive transportation construction project, is an inconvenience for drivers on interstate 25. But while drivers face a slower daily commute, business owners in the Tech Center feared T-Rex would flat out kill their business. You might be surprised to find out what those same business owners are saying now. Two years into the project, many businesses in the Tech Center say they've escaped the worst of the project. Business at the Hyatt Regency Tech Center depends on good customer service and easy access, the latter making T-REX a huge concern. "There were a lot of questions about it going into it," general manager Greg Leonard said. Leonard worried not only about keeping his guests, but also about keeping his employees. "We took a very early proactive approach on what we did," Leonard said. "(We) purchased bus passes for the employees got them thinking about alternative modes of transportation." But T-REX trouble never materialized. John Lay with the South East Business Partnership calls the project an exceptional success. "Obviously, we were somewhat concerned early on, but it has worked out extremely well, and I think we obviously we see the light at the end of the tunnel," Lay said. The light at the end of the tunnel is light rail, the final phase of construction in the south corridor. "A lot of the big work is done here," T-REX project spokesman Hunter Sydnor said. "You're going to see continued work on the light rail bridges." Leonard hopes the light rail lines will bring even more people to his hotel. =PTP=============================================== 091203folsomlightrail,0,4304761.story?coll=ktxl-news-1 KTXL -TV FOX40 News September 12, 2003 Project To Bring Light Rail To Folsom FOLSOM -- Folsom and eastern Sacramento County are a step closer to getting light rail service. Friday was groundbreaking day for a project that will extend light rail all the way to Folsom's historic downtown. Supporters say light rail will provide a faster alternative for commuters who are sick and tired of fighting traffic to get to downtown Sacramento. The Folsom extension includes more than 11 miles of new track and new stations at Zinfandel Drive, Sunrise Boulevard, Hazel Avenue, iron Point Road and Historic Folsom. The project will cost 230 million dollars and is expected to be completed in the spring of 2005. The light rail extension is partially funded by the Governor's transportation initiative. =PTP=========================================== [BATN] Associated Press Tuesday, September 30, 2003 Traffic Congestion Reported to Get Worse By Tim Molloy LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The average Los Angeles driver wasted 90 hours - nearly four days -- in traffic in 2001, according to the annual report released Tuesday by the Texas Transportation institute at Texas A&M University. Nationally, the average driver spent 51 hours in traffic -- four hours more than five years ago. After Los Angeles, the San Francisco-Oakland area was next at 68 hours, followed by Denver (64), Miami (63) and Chicago and Phoenix, which tied for fifth (61). The price tag was $69.5 billion in wasted time and gas, according to the study, which looked at 75 urban areas. With a round-trip commute that normally lasts four hours, Lina Martinez tries to make the best of her grueling journey. The legal secretary studies business courses, listens to jazz and Christian and motivational tapes and looks for the bright side of spending so many hours in gridlock. "You just do the positive thing," said Martinez, who spends three hours each day in a bus and another hour in a car, even though her home is only 37 miles from work. "In life you have to have some time to think." if there's one thing Los Angeles commuters have, a new study says, it's time to think. And to scream. And to grip the wheel and stare disbelievingly into the maze of gridlock. Noreen Kazauchian, a Los Angeles bank employee, said traffic regularly adds 20 minutes to her drive to work. She arrived 10 minutes late Tuesday after a half hour in the car, trying to unwind with an easy-listening station. "If there's no traffic I get here in 10 minutes," she said. "it stresses me. I get mad." Tim Lomax, the study's co-author, said public transportation, traffic signals on freeway entrance ramps and other congestion-busting measures have kept a bad situation from getting even worse. For example, traffic signal coordination aimed at smoothing the flow of cars, trucks and buses saved commuters 16 million hours, the report said. The study found some areas of the country where gridlock eased. The average delay dropped for commuters in San Antonio; Fresno, Calif.; and Pensacola, Fla. But the report said more improvements are needed, including more roads, additional bus and car pool lanes, and adjusted work hours for commuters. Consulting company Deloitte & Touche is among firms that allow employees to adjust their hours to avoid rush hour. The company also has satellite offices around the Los Angeles area where many employees can opt to work to avoid the commute to the downtown office. "Some people do come in late because they live far away and don't want to deal with traffic," said spokeswoman Suzanne Thompson. in response to criticism about its earlier studies, the institute for the first time factored in improvements that cities are making, such as traffic light coordination and ramp metering, as well as the benefits of public transportation, Lomax said. The researchers analyzed data from the Federal Highway Administration and information from various state and local agencies to come up with the rankings. Associated Press Writer Jennifer C. Kerr in Washington, D.C., contributed to this story. =PTP======================================== [BATN] Sacramento Bee Wednesday, October 1, 2003 Capital traffic 9th worst in nation, study says By Tony Bizjak Bee Staff Writer Sacramento's regional roadways are congested a distressing 78 percent of the time during peak morning and afternoon hours -- the ninth worst performance in the country -- according to a national report released Tuesday. Time spent in traffic slowdowns amounts to roughly 40 hours, or a wasted workweek, each year, report co-author David Schrank estimated. The report, the "2003 Urban Mobility Study," was done by the Texas Transportation institute , a research affiliate of the Texas Department of Transportation. Congestion, however, is defined by report authors as occurring when speeds drop below "free flow" or 60 miles per hour on freeways, Schrank said. That definition of congestion is different than the one used by the California Department of Transportation. Caltrans says freeway congestion happens when traffic travels 35 miles per hour or less for 15 minutes or longer. "Most people going below 60 miles per hour in an urban environment still feel they are making progress, but below 35, you start feeling you are going to be late," said Sacramento Transportation Authority executive director Brian Williams, who prefers the Caltrans definition. A Caltrans report from last year showed the slowest average freeway speed in Sacramento was 20 miles an hour during afternoon commute on southbound interstate 5 from Richards Boulevard to Sutterville Road. Also slow: interstate 80 in the Madison Avenue and Douglas Boulevard areas and, in morning commute, Highway 99 north of Sheldon Road. The Texas report shows Sacramento's congestion isn't as bad as other cities' when measured by hours lost, Schrank said, ranking 21st among the 75 urban areas studied. in terms of time lost, Sacramento drivers were better off than their counterparts in Portland, even though the Oregon city also is congested 78 percent of the time during peak hours. Sacramento fared far better than the stop-and-go nightmares of Los Angeles or the San Francisco Bay Area. Los Angeles was worst, with 88 percent peak hour congestion. San Francisco and Oakland tied with Atlanta and Washington, D.C., at 83 percent congested. San Diego was sixth at 80 percent; San Bernardino rated 13th; San Jose tied for 14th with Detroit and Phoenix. Commute-time congestion has increased over the past two decades. In 1982, the commute was congested 33 percent of the time nationally. By 2001, the most recent update of the study, the national average had increased to 67 percent. Peak-period congestion in Sacramento during that same period increased to 78 percent from 24 percent. California and several other states assisted in the Texas report. "A lot of the Sacramento area has some congestion, but it tends to be lightly or moderately congested, rather than real intense congestion, so the amount of delay isn't as high," said report co-author Schrank. The current delays would be several hours longer if not for efforts here and elsewhere to provide public transit, car pool lanes, highway metering lights, coordinated traffic signals, and quicker methods for clearing crashes from highways, the researchers said. "Those treatments are having a positive effect," Schrank said. "They are often quicker and cheaper than widening roadways or expanding transit service, like building a light-rail line." He added that such treatments aren't complete solutions; widening and adding roads, as well as transit lines, are needed, too. Downtown state worker Do Nguyen knows the situation firsthand. He lives in the new Silver Springs subdivision near Calvine Road, just north of Elk Grove. Despite the housing growth in that area, the intersection of Calvine and Bradshaw roads is still a rural two-lane crossroads. Commuters idle in long lines there every morning, stuck for three or more traffic signal changes before they can pass. That congestion is part of what makes Nguyen's commute 45 minutes long. "I'm not surprised," Nguyen says of Sacramento's No. 9 ranking. For people in his area, he says, "If they could just add turn lanes there and another lane on Bradshaw, that would be good." it might be a wait. State officials, struggling with a budget crisis, cut a billion dollars this year from the state funds to provide congestion relief. in Sacramento County, officials are expecting to ask voters as early as November 2004 to extend a longtime county sales surcharge, due to expire in 2009, for another 20 or 30 years. The money would go toward building roads and expanding such public transit services as light rail. Some money, however, could go to many less costly traffic management projects. With similar concerns in mind, the Sacramento Area Council of Governments next month will step up its "blueprint" process -- an attempt to encourage "smart growth" and transit-oriented development concepts, such as more density and less sprawl in housing developments, to accommodate the expected continued regional growth. The Bee's Tony Bizjak can be reached at (916) 321-1059 or =PTP============================================ New York Times October 2, 2003 WHAT'S NEXT With a Motorized Hub, the Wheel on the Bus Goes 'Round By MATTHEW L. WALD MOST electric vehicles work by connecting the wheels to a motor. But tomorrow a Dutch company plans to unveil a bus in which motor and wheel are one, a refinement that promises more miles per charge and a vehicle that is safer and easier to maintain. The company, e-Traction, has modified a city bus as a diesel-electric hybrid. It has a small combustion engine that charges the batteries, but propulsion comes from two electric motors with tires attached that serve as the rear wheels. E-Traction, based in Apeldoorn, the Netherlands, where the bus will operate as part of the local transit service, predicts that the system will more than pay for itself because diesel fuel consumption will be reduced by 70 percent. The idea of such a wheel-motor was first advanced by the automotive pioneer Ferdinand Porsche more than a century ago. Many companies have since tried to popularize such a motor, and a few are currently producing them - including WaveCrest Laboratories, a Virginia company that is using a similar motor to power a bicycle. But plenty of technological and economic hurdles must be overcome before such motors gain widespread use in transportation. "It is the future," said James Worden, founder and chief executive of Solectria, a company in Woburn, Mass., that has produced drivetrains for more than 100 hybrid electric buses. "Whether it is 10 years out, 20 years out or 30 years out." Mr. Worden said he had so far not embraced wheel-motors like E- Traction's because he felt that the underlying technology was not quite ready. But he said he would stop far short of saying it would never work, for fear that in 20 years, his comment would sound like a buggy manufacturer's prediction circa 1900 that cars were just a fad and would never replace horses. E-Traction, which has already built a wheel-motor for a forklift truck, claims that the time is now. For one thing, it argues that in mass production, two wheel motors would cost no more than the large engine and other parts that the motors would replace on a regular diesel-powered bus. The prototype bus nonetheless cost $500,000, about two and a half times the cost of an ordinary bus, said Peter le Comte, a spokesman for the company. The circular shape of e-Traction's motor is not unusual, but the basic parts are reversed. Usually an electric motor consists of a ring-shaped part that does not move, called a stator, through which a current runs, developing magnetic forces that turn the shaft that runs inside it, the rotor. For years, engineers have talked about building a motor in which the shaft is fixed and the ring turns. If the shaft were to serve as an axle, and the ring were to have a tire attached, the result would be a motor that serves as a wheel. Such an arrangement would have only one moving part, and would eliminate the parts of the drivetrain, which transfers power from the engine to the wheels. For example, it would eliminate the differential, gears that allow a vehicle's wheels to turn at slightly different speeds when cornering. With a direct-drive motor on each wheel, speeds could be independently controlled. Electric wheels would also be a simple way of making a vehicle four-wheel drive. And if one wheel started to slip in acceleration or braking, a central computer could determine that far faster than existing traction control or anti-lock braking systems, advocates say, and make adjustments. Those benefits could be approximated by any vehicle that used one motor for each wheel. But the E-Traction wheel goes two steps further. First, it squeezes into the wheel an electronic part called the inverter, which changes the direct current from the battery into alternating current for the motor. Converting the current elsewhere in the bus would require running long AC cables to the motor, and such cables lose energy, said Arjan Heinen, the inventor of the motor. Running DC cables from the battery to the wheel and converting the power there to AC increases efficiency, he said. in addition, some electronic tricks can make the motor turn at speeds fast enough to run the bus without gears, he said. The result is to drop the gearbox, a source of weight and friction. Unlike vehicles with internal combustion engines, most electric vehicles do not need variable transmissions, but they do need a gearbox of some kind. if something went wrong with the motor, with the inverter or with the chips that control the motor, a mechanic could replace them all in about 25 minutes by swapping out the wheel, Mr. Heinen said. That requires unscrewing 12 to 20 bolts, depending on the wheel, and disconnecting a handful of cables, he said. Yet Mr. Worden of Solectria said that one drawback in the bus design was that the electronics in the motor were in direct contact with the road, not protected like the rest of the bus is by shock absorbers. If the tire hits a bump, he said, "It beats the living daylights out of any motor or electronics." He said the loss of the gearbox was a major benefit, if it could be made to work, but questioned whether having the current inverter in the motor was much of an advantage. Electric buses with inverters nearer the batteries do not lose appreciable amounts of current through the AC cables, he said. Mr. le Comte said the real proof of the design's viability would be the operation of the bus in Apeldoorn. Meanwhile e-Traction is also working on a Mercedes Jeep borrowed from the Royal Netherlands Army and a Range Rover. Both will have four motors, one on each wheel.
PTP Digest 2003/10/01-B - CONTENTS * N Jersey: Fed grant fuels LRT links to Bayonne, Weehawken Jersey Journal Wednesday, October 01, 2003 * Westside MAX celebrates 5-year mark [Portland] TriMet News & info > News Room Thu, 11 Sep 2003 * Cincinnati: Regional panel OKs LRT in I-75 corridor Cincinnati Enquirer Tuesday, September 30, 2003 * Salt Lake: TRAX LRT to run later on weekends Deseret News Wednesday, October 01, 2003 * Salt Lake: Late-night weekend LRT okayed Salt Lake Tribune 2003/Sep/07 * NYC: Northern suburb eyes light rail THE JOURNAL NEWS [suburban NYC] September 5, 2003 * Miami: Bay Link LRT project hits Beach politics Miami Herald Sun, Sep. 07, 2003 * DC suburb BRT: 'Equivalent of Subway Service '? Washington Post Thursday, September 11, 2003; Page B01 * Seattle monorail: Councilman seeks ban through Seattle Center Seattle Times Thursday, September 11, 2003 * Seattle monorail: Council says says it's all or nothing SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER Tuesday, September 16, 2003 * Minneapolis: LRT result of decades of effort, planning Minneapolis Star Tribune 09/07/2003 * USA: Worsening congestions wastes more commute time NBC Nightly News Sept. 30 [2003] =PTP===================================== Jersey Journal Wednesday, October 01, 2003 $70M from feds to put light rail on the fast track By Jason Fink Journal staff writer Nearly $70 million in federal funds have been allocated to pay for the first phase of the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail Transit System and to kick-start the second phase, which will begin to come on line later this year. At a ceremony yesterday in Newark, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta presented members of the state's congressional delegation with nearly $19 million for Phase I of the light rail, which was completed last fall. The total cost of that portion of the line, which runs from 34th Street in Bayonne to Hoboken Terminal, was $1.1 billion. in addition, nearly $50 million was allocated for the beginning of the second phase, which will extend south to 22nd Street in Bayonne and north to Tonnelle Avenue in North Bergen, with two additional stops in Hoboken and one at Port imperial in Weehawken. That phase is expected to eventually cost $760 million and be completed by mid-2005. The 22nd Street station in Bayonne is scheduled to open Nov. 15. U.S. Rep Robert Menendez, D-Hoboken, called the money "critically important" and noted that New Jersey has the second highest transit use of any state. "This federal transit funding will help to reduce congestion and pollution and encourage economic development," said Menendez, who sits on the House Transportation Committee. The funding announced yesterday was part of a $127 million appropriation from the Federal Transit Administration. About $60 million will go to the first phase of the Newark-Elizabeth Rail Link. Officials began sending electrical current through some of the overhead catenary wires that will be used along the Phase II portion of the line Monday. The third phase is scheduled to reach West Fifth Street in Bayonne and the Vince Lombardi Park and Ride in Ridgefield, but those plans are not certain. Several municipalities in Bergen County have been lobbying for a light rail extension and no final decisions have been made on what the complete map will look like. "There are other Bergen County towns that are at it with a lot of interest," said Desire Ramos, a spokeswoman for Menendez. Jason Fink can be reached at PTP======================================= [Portland] TriMet News & info > News Room Thu, 11 Sep 2003 43 million trips in 5 years for Westside MAX Line turns 5 on Sept. 12 Since the Westside MAX Blue Line opened five years ago, 43.4 million rides have been taken along the 18-mile segment. That equals 13 rides for every person in the state of Oregon. Since it opened on September 12, 1998, ridership on Westside MAX has steadily grown, now averaging 28,400 weekday boardings. In 2000, ridership on the line had already exceeded 2008 projections. MAX system TriMet's three light rail lines, including Eastside and Westside Blue Lines and the Airport MAX Red Line, board nearly 80,000 each weekday. Annually, they provide over 26 million rides. 970 trips around the world Since 1986, trains on all 38 miles of track have logged more than 24 million miles, equivalent to 970 trips around the Earth at the equator. Send comments about this page to TriMet • 503-238-RIDE (7433) • Legal Notices =PTP======================================== The Cincinnati Enquirer Tuesday, September 30, 2003 $1.8 billion I-75 fix proposed Plan includes more lanes, light rail By James Pilcher The Cincinnati Enquirer The committee overseeing a study of what to do about interstate 75 Monday overwhelmingly approved a combination of widening the expressway in southwest Ohio and a new light-rail line from Covington to West Chester. The fix will cost an estimated $1.83 billion, but is supposed to eliminate major rush hour traffic tie-ups 30 years from now. Finishing up a three-year, $6 million study, the committee voted 27-1 for the mix, which calls for four lanes in each direction and some areas getting a fifth lane to reduce congestion. The light-rail system would offer trains every three minutes during rush hour. Four members, including the city of Cincinnati's two representatives, abstained. The lone dissenting vote was Hamilton County Commissioner John Dowlin. The recommendation now goes to the full board of the Ohio-Kentucky- indiana Regional Council of Governments, the area's regional transportation planning agency. That board must approve the proposal as part of the region's long-term transportation plan before any of the recommendations can get federal funding. The OKI board meets on Oct. 9 and could vote to adopt the recommendations. "This three years has been the hardest work I've ever done in one of these, and I've been on a lot of committees and studies," said committee chairman Sterling Uhler, a former Fairfield mayor and councilman. The I-75 fix, with estimated costs in 2003 dollars, would require 23 acres - much less than other wider highway options that were considered. An exact cost breakdown was not yet available, but the light-rail line would be just under $1 billion and the highway expansion would make up the rest. The highway portion of the proposal could take 10 to 15 years to design and build, if and when the funding is located. Officials said it would take another study to pinpoint which areas would get an additional fifth lane. A light-rail line would take as long or longer to fund and construct, given Hamilton County voters' strong rejection last fall of a sales tax hike that would have helped pay for a countywide system. The recommended option was the only one of two that would remove traffic jams at rush hour in 30 years, the study found. The other was widening the highway alone to six lanes in each direction in Hamilton County and five in Butler and Warren counties. But the highway- only option was estimated to cost $1.6 billion, and it would have created major disruptions. Officials estimated that they would have needed to acquire and clear 160 acres and 103 structures to make way for such an expansion. The costs do not include $482 million Ohio is already planning to spend on improving the design of I-75, which does not meet federal safety design standards in many sections. They also do not include a potential replacement of the Brent Spence Bridge, which could cost as much as $750 million. Cincinnati Councilman John Cranley said the city abstained because it did not want to be limited to four lanes or even five in areas that carry more traffic, especially the stretch of the interstate between the Ohio River and i-74, which is already four lanes. "I want to make sure that I discuss this with all of council and that we are not putting ourselves at a disadvantage," said Cranley. Some members of the committee complained that they did not get enough data to make a fair comparison, including the Sierra Club's Glen Brand, who also abstained. "But the good news is that OKI continues to see that any solution for the region's transportation problems must include passenger rail," Brand said. Dowlin raised several concerns about light rail, citing data released by anti-light rail proponent Stephan Louis Monday that questioned points in the study. Dowlin also said more consideration should have been given to a potential I-75 truck ban, adding that no short-term solutions were offered. Louis, whose release was strongly disputed by study consultants, said the decision to press for light rail was "disappointing." "They keep having this irrational pull toward the carrot that the federal government keeps holding out for these pork projects," said Louis, who led the campaign to defeat the light-rail tax. Uhler defended the study, but conceded that OKI now has a difficult task in fitting the proposal into the overall needs of the region. "I think this is the best solution to a very difficult problem," Uhler said. "Maybe this thing will hold up for 25 years." --- E-mail =PTP=========================================== Deseret News Wednesday, October 01, 2003 TRAX to run later on weekends Night life may benefit as trains go until 1 a.m. By Brady Snyder Deseret Morning News Salt Lake City's weekend night life will now come with TRAX. After months of lobbying by Mayor Rocky Anderson's administration, the Utah Transit Authority has agreed to run light rail service to and from downtown Salt Lake City until 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. Anderson, along with his senior advisor D.J. Baxter, had begged UTA to extend the hours it runs weekend trains along the north-south and university rail lines. "This later service will enable our downtown visitors to get home more easily on Friday or Saturday nights, whether they live south of town or near the university," Baxter said Tuesday. Beginning this weekend, the last train to Sandy will leave Delta Center Station at 1 a.m. That train will be followed closely by the final train on the university line, UTA spokeswoman Andrea Packer said. Previously, the last outbound train on both lines departed between 11 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. The later service will be on a trial basis for one year, after which UTA will examine ridership figures and determine whether it is cost effective to operate light rail service that late. The major hurdle to running light rail until 1 a.m. was that Union Pacific runs freight trains on the north-south line between roughly 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. But UTA and the city struck an agreement with UP to allow the 1 a.m. Sandy train to run on Friday and Saturday. Baxter said the late-night runs will benefit those who are enjoying downtown after midnight and employees who work late weekends downtown. Besides potentially cutting down on drunken driving, Baxter said people who use the late-night TRAX also won't have to worry about parking. The service also could give downtown businesses an economic boost and lead to more businesses keeping later hours on the weekends, Baxter said. initially, Anderson's administration had lobbied for 2 a.m. service. But other cities with service that late report there are few riders between 1-2 a.m., Baxter said. E-mail: =PTP===================================== Salt Lake Tribune 2003/Sep/07 TRAX to give late trains on weekends a trial run By Derek P. Jensen The Salt Lake Tribune [PHOTO] The day's last TRAX run leaves downtown Salt Lake City for Sandy recently. That last scheduled train will soon be pulling out an hour and a half later on Fridays and Saturdays. (Ryan Galbraith/The Salt Lake Tribune) Phoenix doesn't do it yet. Neither does Seattle. But now Salt Lake City is poised to join Denver and Portland, Ore., as a major Western city offering light rail service beyond last call. Despite the city's reputation for staid nightlife, Utah Transit Authority officials say Salt Lake warrants late-night train runs on the weekends. So beginning Oct. 3, TRAX will shuttle people until 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. "it's something a lot of businesses downtown have been advocating since the inception of the line," said Bob Farrington, executive director of the Downtown Alliance. "It helps those people who don't want to drive for nightlife." Currently, the final TRAX cars pull out of downtown on weekend nights at 11:32 p.m. The later hours will include both the north-south and east- west lines, including the expanded route to the University Medical Center station scheduled to open Sept. 29. The idea to extend the service nearly an hour and a half was hatched by Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson more than a year ago. "One o'clock is going to be great. Two o'clock could even be better," Anderson said, adding he is thrilled the UTA is willing to make the change for what will be a one-year trial. Orchestrating the late-night push was the mayor's senior adviser, D.J. Baxter, who said public feedback clearly supported the move. "We received letters from people saying it is tough to ride TRAX if you're going out to dinner or a play on the weekends because you can't get home," Baxter said. "It seemed like an unusually early time to stop the service." So, based on the Portland model, which sees significant late-night ridership, Baxter sought a way to keep the trains on the tracks until early morning. Blocking the plan was the fact that freight deliveries, operated by Utah Railway Co., have the right of way on the tracks between midnight and 5 a.m. A close reading of the agreement showed the freight easement applies only Sunday through Thursday, Baxter said. Operating late on Fridays and Saturdays (the final car will not reach Sandy station at 11000 South until 1:40 a.m.) does not encroach on the freight business, according to Barry Olsen, director of sales and marketing for Salt Lake City Southern Railroad. "As of now, our customer base does not demand seven-day-a-week service," Olsen said. in fact, the UTA has extended weekend TRAX runs multiple times including during the Olympics and for arts and jazz festivals downtown. Paul O'Brien, the UTA's regional manager of rail, notes that, along with Sunday service and increasing train frequency from 30 minutes to 15 minutes, the later running time is a logical evolution for TRAX. "Every time we have adjusted our service the ridership has been there," he said. An informal survey to gauge the interest of urban dwellers was conducted by Farrington, who said the city has a built-in market with 5,000 people employed in the hospitality industry, many of whom work nights. And then there are people catching a late dinner after Jazz games, those going to bars, clubs and concerts, as well as visitors and convention crowds. "When you combine all those segments, you're going to find there will be a healthy number of people riding the train," said Farrington, who says the current TRAX schedule doesn't encourage people to linger downtown after an event. More than 15 percent of the downtown work force rides the train, he said, while nearly 25 percent of special event crowds use public transit. Late-night service could also prove an economic boon, Farrington says, as Salt Lake City sells the amenity when competing with other cities for conventions. "That's another arrow in the quiver for selling the city," he said. Transit officials had no cost estimate for the extended service but said the fare to ride the late trains will remain the same. That is good news for University of Utah students, many of whom endorse the change and say they will gladly ride the train back to the dorms after a night on the town. Walking off the new Olympic legacy bridge on campus while TRAX crews tested the latest train route nearby, Libby Shotwell said the later weekend schedule will be a welcome change. "It kind of turns into a curfew," the student said. "For a late night out, i'd ride it, definitely. It would be nice." With the addition of student housing downtown, Anderson said the service will make it possible for students to survive there without a vehicle. He also supports weeklong 1 a.m. service on the university line -- noting that freight is not a factor. Salt Lake City police support the schedule change and encourage those who are drinking downtown to choose the train over their car. "We would hope as many people as possible take advantage," said Detective Dwayne Baird, who hopes the service makes a dent in DUi arrests. "I don't know that it will make the problem go away completely, but it may help." =PTP======================================= THE JOURNAL NEWS [suburban NYC] September 5, 2003 Considering light rail By CAREN HALBFINGER Light rail — a sleek, contemporary version of your grandparents' trolley, cable or streetcar — is being explored as a way to solve a 21st-century problem. The state Thruway Authority and Metro-North Railroad are evaluating whether light rail can relieve pressure on the interstate 287 corridor, a 30- mile stretch from Suffern to Port Chester that is often packed with aggravated motorists. A final decision about whether to repair the Tappan Zee Bridge or replace it with a new bridge, a tunnel or a combination of the two is expected to be made in December 2005. As part of that study, officials are considering if the new span will carry commuter or light rail, dedicated bus lanes or some other form of transportation. But light rail is already attracting interest. "Should it be light rail or commuter rail? I'm not sure which is the right rail," said Maureen Morgan, director of the East-West Rail Project, a steering committee developed for the Westchester Chamber of Commerce. Morgan is building a coalition of business groups, including the Westchester County Association, the Construction industry Council and Rockland Business Association, to back the idea of building a rail line from Suffern to Port Chester. The coalition is leaving open for now the question of whether the trains crossing the Hudson River should be commuter or light rail. The concept of light rail dates back to the 1880s, when cable cars ran through the streets of Chicago, San Francisco, Washington, Kansas City and Los Angeles. In 1889, the first electric streetcar line began operating in Boston, where the "T" still travels many of the same roads, just as San Francisco's trolleys continue to offer a time-tested solution to an age-old problem: how to get around. Today's light-rail cars can ride anywhere tracks are laid — in tunnels, on elevated platforms or on the road. Like trolleys and streetcars, the cars run alone or in pairs. Powered by catenary wires that draw electricity from overhead cables, they can climb steeper hills and turn sharper corners than commuter-rail cars. To Morgan, the advantage of commuter rail, which is similar to Metro- North, is that it can provide seamless connections among the region's five north-south rail lines. Light rail requires separate tracks and power, so riders would have to walk or take elevators or escalators from a light-rail station to a commuter-rail station. "You look to commuter rail when you're looking to bring people from far out into a downtown," said Ron Fisher, the director of the Federal Transit Administration's project-planning office, which reviews and recommends rail projects for federal funding. "Light rail is best-suited, like a busy bus line, to travel throughout the day. People going to work, shopping and coming into downtown. It's a much more diverse travel market than commuter rail. People would go to light rail, or bus rapid transit, in very congested traffic." Bus rapid transit is an express bus system that provides rail-style amenities, such as faster, more comfortable rides, consistent trip time, brief waits at stations, and accurate arrival and departure information. It costs far less than light rail to build and has demonstrated similar successes in several communities. Still, light rail can be an easier sell. It offers tourists, commuters, shoppers and business travelers a way to get around without cars by taking a form of mass transit that people find more appealing than buses. Riders prefer trains because they're accustomed to getting better on-time performance from them. It's a familiar sight to see two buses arrive at the same stop right behind each other — one late and one early. Railroads rarely have that problem. There are 26 light-rail systems nationwide, with 15 approved projects in the pipeline for funding from the Federal Transit Administration. The system is popular with developers because of the opportunities presented by light-rail stations. "Developers love it," said Morgan Lyons, a spokesman for Dallas Area Rapid Transit, which has a 44-mile light-rail system. "We've had $1.3 billion in private investment along rail corridors. We've had a couple of studies done that talk about the increase in property values. What the developers are telling us is they like it because employees can get there. We're getting a lot of office buildings, lofts and condos and some retail right here around the stations." in December, DART added 24 miles to its light-rail system, which opened in 1996. The $1.8 billion cost was paid for largely through a 1-cent sales tax. Today, DART has 27,000 daily passengers who pay $1.25 per ride, Lyons said. The penny tax covers 89 percent of the system's $62.9 million operating costs, while fares cover the remaining 11 percent, he said. DART'S light rail was designed as part of a broader transit system that uses high-occupancy vehicle lanes, buses and commuter rail to link 13 cities around Dallas, covering 700 square miles. Plans are in the works to again double the size of the light-rail system, which is helping keep cars off the roads — 57 percent of DART passengers own a vehicle. Road designers who planned the expansion of the North Central Expressway told DART that they built the highway with six lanes instead of eight because of light rail's presence, Lyons said. Since the examination of light rail's usefulness for Westchester and Rockland is still preliminary, no detailed route maps have been fashioned. But it is likely that if light rail crossed the entire 287 corridor, there would be at least a dozen stops spread across the two counties, including at Metro-North stations in Suffern, Spring Valley, Tarrytown, White Plains and Port Chester. Riders also might use stations near major shopping centers along Route 59 in Rockland and Route 119 in Greenburgh and White Plains. The system also could run to Westchester County Airport, so business travelers could take light rail to the airport. "What else are we going to do?" Morgan said. "Are we going to keep letting cars fill up? This is the only way we can go. We're already at gridlock. We want full-length rail, either commuter or light rail.'' Communities around the country are evaluating light rail against heavy rail, with 130 potential projects under consideration. They are competing for $1.4 billion in annual federal rail funds. The busiest light-rail system in the country is in Boston; San Francisco comes in second. in third is Los Angeles, which has three light-rail lines. The oldest of the three, the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Blue Line, is 22 miles long and opened in 1990. With 33,135 average daily riders, it has one of the highest usage rates for a single light-rail line in the country. The newest light-rail system to open nationally is Los Angeles' Metro Gold Line, which has 13 stations that stretch over 13.7 miles, from Pasadena to Union Station. With an average speed of 45 mph, the Gold Line takes 35 minutes from point to point. Its cars spend 30 seconds at each station and run every 12 minutes. "it's provided an alternative for some people to avoid sitting in bumper-to- bumper traffic,'' said Ed Scannell, a spokesman for the Los Angeles MTA. "For people who do not have the use of an automobile, it's provided a faster commute time over a bus." Reach Caren Halbfinger at or 914-694- 5004.Reach Caren Halbfinger at or 914- 694-5004. =PTP========================================= Miami Herald Sun, Sep. 07, 2003 Bay Link project hits Beach politics head-on BY NICOLE WHITE AND ANDRES VIGLUCCi To planners and aficionados of city living, Bay Link seemed such a cinch: A compact street-level train gliding across the MacArthur Causeway, zipping tourists and commuters between downtown Miami and South Beach, easing traffic congestion and cementing the region's urban resurgence. Best of all, it wouldn't cost either city's treasury a cent. But proponents didn't count on one thing: The fractious nature of Miami Beach politics, made even more contentious in an election year. More than a year after the Miami city commission enthusiastically embraced Bay Link, Miami Beach commissioners remain divided and undecided about the $400 million light-rail plan on the eve of a hearing on Monday that could bring it closer to reality, or sink it entirely. The impending vote follows months of often bitter debate between vocal pro- and anti-Bay Link camps -- some who say the proposed streetcars will help vault Miami Beach to the first rank of world cities, and others who see the rail project as the ruination of its unique charm. Websites have been launched, full-page ads have cropped up in local newspapers, and leaflets handed out on street corners, turning Bay Link into the hottest issue in the Nov. 4 Beach election. Yet only two of the seven-member commission have publicly stated their positions on the question: Mayor David Dermer against, Commissioner Simon Cruz for. Both are running for re-election. On Friday, Commissioner Matti Bower, also up for re-election, wore a silver brooch to sum up her position on the nagging Bay Link issue: Etched inside is the word ''maybe.'' Privately, some commissioners have said their vote may come down to which side can pack the commission chambers Monday. Technically, the vote would at most decide whether Miami-Dade planners embark on a detailed engineering study of the proposal. But county planners say a ''no'' vote would essentially doom it, putting it behind a long line of rail projects in other cities now seeking federal transit money. In that case, Miami has said it will go its own way and build a light-rail system on its side of Biscayne Bay. On the Beach, objections to the train have run from the pragmatic -- concerns over construction disruptions or the look of the street cars and the electric wire that feeds them -- to the conspiratorial. Some claim Bay Link is a plot by Miami to steal tourists from the Beach. CONSPIRACY THEORY ''I think the whole process has been a sham to benefit the lobbyists and development interests of the city of Miami who are seeking to colonize Miami Beach,'' said Mike Burke, president of a local pro-Dermer group dubbed the Tuesday Morning Breakfast Club. ''I'm absolutely convinced it's the worst possible solution, it's not even a solution. It's designed to generate fees for lawyers, lobbyists and construction interests, '' Burke said. Dermer says rail is simply unsuitable for the Beach. WRONG TRACK ''We're a unique city, a barrier island. To put a track here is like trying to put a square peg into a round hole,'' he said. Supporters say they are baffled by the resistance, and complain critics have deliberately misrepresented the project. They note the Beach was built to accommodate streetcars, which circulated in the 1920s and 1930s. And the city's own consultant concluded its density makes Miami Beach ideally suited for streetcars. Randall Robinson, a Beach resident and a leader of the pro-Bay Link camp, says the facts speak for themselves. ''There are so many benefits,'' he said. ''it would allow us to get around more easily, in comfort, with a level of reliability we don't have with buses. And, imagine, people on the other side of the bay would be able to come to South Beach, without their cars, and not have to look for a parking space.'' Underlying some opposition to Bay Link is an old Beach fear: That a train would draw the urban poor from the other side of the bay. ''Opponents talk about this train like it's a monster. It's disingenuous, the idea that it will bring over people from Overtown. Are they stupid?'' said Beach resident David Kelsey, an early naysayer on Bay Link who came around once the benefits were outlined. ''We already have 600 buses a day going back and forth. It's irrational and racist.'' Bay Link opponent Stuart Reed, an attorney who is a candidate for the commission, dismisses claims that those against the trains are racist or protectionist. ''That has nothing to do with it, we're not against people coming here, we want to improve public transportation for the entire city,'' said Reed. ''But the train is not the best way because it's expensive and would take years to put into service.'' One thing is certain: Bay Link is far more than a parochial concern of Beach residents. KEY LINK it would be among the first big transit projects to be funded by the half- penny sales tax approved by county voters last year. The light trains, which run on rails set into the street, would hook up with Metrorail in downtown Miami, forming a key link in a planned rail system that would eventually reach into every corner of the county. Transit tax proceeds would cover half the cost of construction -- the rest would come from state and federal sources -- and all operating costs. The Bay Link plan was prominently featured in the campaign for approval of the transit tax, and proponents contend that the nearly 70 percent ''yes'' vote for the tax on Miami Beach suggests the rail plan enjoys widespread support there. A survey commissioned by the Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce, which has endorsed Bay Link, also found broad support for Bay Link. Light-rail trains, including the compact streetcars the Beach is considering, are common in European cities and are becoming increasingly popular across the United States as cities like Portland, Dallas and San Diego turn to them for alternatives to auto congestion and unpopular buses. Dermer and other opponents have embraced a less-costly alternative to relieve the Beach's traffic crunch: Rapid-transit buses that, like streetcars, feed off electric wires, but would require minimal construction and no tracks. The commission could vote for such a plan Monday instead of the streetcars. But experts say research has found that professionals and the middle-class, who will happily hop on a quiet, sharply-designed streetcar, typically shun buses. ''if you want a system that will take cars off the road, it can't be a bus,'' said Jill Strube, a senior researcher at Florida international University's Metropolitan Center who has studied urban transit systems. ''A middle class, yuppie-ish person will take rail. Buses have a bad reputation and break down.'' On the Miami side, public officials see the benefits of Bay Link flowing both ways. GOOD FOR TOURISTS Miami planners say it would link tourists and residents on the Beach with Miami-Dade's new performing arts center, Parrot Jungle and the Children's Museum on Watson island, giving them more reasons to stay. ''it's nice for tourists to be able to do more things, because it tends to extend their stay, and everyone benefits,'' said Clark Turner, Miami's transportation planner. The streetcars would provide Beach service workers an easy way to get to their jobs, and simplify the commute for Beach residents who work downtown and now must drive -- while taking cars off the road, Turner said. in addition, Turner said, Bay Link will help Miami Beach lure the top-tier conventions that now elude it because of a shortage of suitable hotel rooms within a close radius. Moreover, proponents say, benefits of streetcar systems are tangible: HDR Engineering, a consultant hired by Miami Beach to advise the commission, said every U.S. city that has built one has enjoyed rising property values and lowered commercial vacancies along their routes because the trains make it easier for shoppers to circulate. Not doing anything, HDR concluded, would likely hurt the Beach. But the report did little to sway opponents like Frank DelVecchio, a Beach resident who launched a website called Because Bay Link would require traffic on cross-streets to stop as the trains approach an intersection, he says the system will actually contribute to gridlock. ''it doesn't relieve traffic congestion and misses an opportunity for a real improvement in transit convenience,'' he said. =PTP=========================================== Washington Post Thursday, September 11, 2003; Page B01 Columbia Pike Gets Bus Equivalent of Subway Service By Lyndsey Layton Washington Post Staff Writer Bus service on Columbia Pike rolled to a new level this week, with more frequent buses, new neighborhood feeder routes and better maps and schedules, all designed to make the bus as convenient and fast as a subway. The changes, which were celebrated yesterday at a bus stop on the pike by Gov. Mark R. Warner (D), are part of a plan to draw more people out of cars on the heavily traveled road that spans 3.5 miles through Arlington County between the Fairfax County line and the Pentagon. "After the referendum went down, traffic didn't go away -- we still have to address the issue," Warner said, referring to the defeat last year of a sales tax measure that would have funded transportation projects in Northern Virginia. The state invested $1.9 million in the project, which is being marketed as PikeRide, to pay for shelters, maps and technological improvements, including a signal control system that will soon give buses fewer red lights at traffic intersections and real-time signs at bus stops that will let waiting passengers know exactly when the next bus will arrive. Arlington County has added $1 million to its annual bus system operating subsidy of $3 million to pay for 45 percent more weekday trips, 64 percent more Saturday service and nearly double the amount of Sunday service. "This essentially has Columbia Pike functioning like the Blue Line," Metro Chief Executive Richard A. White said during yesterday's ceremony marking the debut of PikeRide. Columbia Pike is already the corridor with the heaviest bus ridership in the state, where 10,000 people a day board fleets of buses run by Metro and Arlington Regional Transit. But county planners hope PikeRide improvements will attract an additional 1,000 daily riders each year and lay the groundwork for a light-rail line. "We have a larger vision so that someday we may see streetcars running up and down Columbia Pike," said Chris Zimmerman, who serves on the Arlington County Board and the Metro board. "This is a really big step. It makes a real difference to people." At a nearby bus stop at Columbia Pike and Edgewood Street, a handful of riders said the changes in the schedules and routes had complicated their commutes. "The buses are late or inconsistent. The bus drivers don't know the routes, and it's taking me twice as long to get to work," said Chaz Crawford, 33, a program analyst at the Pentagon who was waiting for a bus about 8 a.m. yesterday. Lisa Perry, who also works at the Pentagon, used to take a single bus from her neighborhood in Shirlington to her job. Now, because of the route restructuring, she has to take two buses. "it's less convenient," she said. "But I try to be flexible." James Hamre, transit program coordinator for Arlington County, said officials are closely monitoring operations and ridership levels and are making changes to the bus schedules and frequency as needed. One rider who welcomed the changes was Vivian Hughes, 53, who said the added service on her express route to McPherson Square has meant she has been able to get a seat on the popular route. "it's very humane, very customer-oriented," Hughes said about the increased service. "The service is so frequent, I don't have to wait even 10 minutes." Although the additional service and route restructuring took effect Sunday, it could be a year before the technological improvements -- the signal control system and real-time bus information, for example -- are in place, Hamre said. in the meantime, Arlington officials are hoping the jazzed-up bus service will attract residents and commercial development to Columbia Pike, helping to revitalize an old thoroughfare. "If you know you're going to wait no more than five minutes to a bus, you might decide to buy here," said Paul Ferguson (D), chairman of the Arlington County Board. After his remarks yesterday, Warner walked across the street to a waiting Metrobus to oblige the gathered cameras. With a borrowed SmarTrip card, the governor stepped onto the parked bus, turned and smiled. Then he moved to the open rear door, stood on the top step and beckoned other officials -- Zimmerman, Ferguson, White, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Katherine K. Hanley (D) and Rep James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.) -- to join him. Braced against a pole and leaning out of the bus, the governor started to sing the Rice-A-Roni jingle, mimicking the television commercial set on a San Francisco cable car. Asked when he last rode a public bus, the governor paused. "I rode the subway last year," he offered. He blinked. Then he said apologetically, "They don't run buses where I live now." =PTP============================================= Seattle Times Thursday, September 11, 2003 Resolution would nix 'NW Route' of Green Line By Mike Lindblom Seattle Times staff reporter A potential route for the Green Line monorail through Seattle Center would be scrapped under a resolution that City Council President Peter Steinbrueck will introduce on Monday. He opposes the "Northwest Route," which would curve north of the international Fountain and exit the Center through Experience Music Project. The Center is the region's premier civic gathering place and should be protected, he said. Tom Weeks, chairman of the Seattle Monorail Project, said his agency is asking the council to wait until technical studies, including cost comparisons of different alignments, are completed. Other proposed alignments would go along Mercer Street north of the Center, or Denny Way to the south. =PTP============================================= SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER Tuesday, September 16, 2003 City Council makes a monorail pledge By KERY MURAKAMi SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER REPORTER With questions surrounding the monorail authority's finances, Seattle City Council members yesterday pledged not to let the project begin construction without "substantial evidence" the entire 14-mile line would be completed. The move came after the Seattle Monorail Project acknowledged its sole source of money -- the 1.4 percent Motor Vehicle Excise Tax increase approved by Seattle voters in November -- is taking in less than expected. "We're not going to let them do things like tear down the existing monorail or tear up our streets if we don't have the comfort they're going to finish the project," said City Councilman Nick Licata. For the project to continue, the council must approve the monorail's route and the location of its stations, and grant authority to build on city property next spring. In addition to examining the project's finances, the resolution also requires the council to hold public hearings on the final route and the sequence in which the Ballard-to-West Seattle line is built. The Building Owners and Managers Association and the Downtown Seattle Association had wanted guarantees the authority would build the ends of the line in Ballard and West Seattle first. They did not want downtown disrupted until it became clear the authority could build the entire line. But they backed off in return for the public hearings. Licata acknowledged that the city may be sued if it denies the measures the authority needs, given that the project was approved by voters. However, Seattle Monorail Project spokesman Paul Bergman said the council does have the power to deny permission to go ahead. Bergman, though, said the authority will work through the financial questions and the council would not have to block the project. He said the authority supports the resolution. The council yesterday also unanimously approved changes the monorail authority needed -- including waiving height limits for stations in Ballard and West Seattle. The council also waived required setbacks, which would have left a 20-foot gap between the edge of the platform and the monorail tracks. The land code changes also streamlined the city's permitting process for the project. The Building Owners and Managers Association and the Downtown Seattle Association had initially opposed the changes because of the authority's financial questions. But they backed the changes in return for the assurances in the resolution. P-I reporter Kery Murakami can be reached at 206-448-8131 or =PTP=========================================== Minneapolis Star Tribune 09/07/2003 Light rail project now on track, after decades of planning Travis Reed Associated Press Follow the winding debate over light rail in Minnesota back far enough and you come to a plastic, metal and glue model about the size of a desk, sitting on a plank in George isaacs' unfinished basement in Roseville. isaacs, a retired engineer who never worked in the rail industry, built the model 23 years ago as part of his crusade to bring commuter trains back to Minneapolis. The 81-year-old has made his case to more than 200 organizations since 1975 and ridden and photographed rail systems all over the world. Finally, his vision is coming to fruition. Next spring, the first train in a $715 million rail project will be running. The rail line connecting the Mall of America, Minneapolis-St. Paul international Airport and downtown Minneapolis is scheduled to rumble along the same route laid out in the basement model isaacs built in 1980. The fight wasn't easy for isaacs and other light rail proponents. Critics of the project -- and there are plenty -- have long argued that buses can move people and ease traffic congestion as effectively for much less money. But now, many of the people who tried to block the construction of light rail find themselves reluctantly in isaacs' corner. "Now that we are committed to going forward with the project, we want it to be as successful as possible," said Phil Krinkie, a state representative who has been one of light rail's staunchest opponents. For many years, it seemed the trains would never run. The state commissioned one planning study after another from the early 1980s until the Legislature banned public funding for light rail in 1985. But lawmakers erased that regulation in 1987, and light rail crept back into public debate with continued planning. It was another decade before then- Gov. Arne Carlson secured half of the state's $100 million contribution for the line. Former Gov. Jesse Ventura made getting the final legislation passed one of his top priorities in 2000, ultimately signing an income tax rate cut in exchange for the Republican-controlled House's green-lighting light rail. But Gov. Tim Pawlenty opposed the project as a state legislator, and still hasn't warmed to it, making expansion unlikely for at least the next few years. Rail advocates acknowledge the track they've laid down the Hiawatha corridor isn't necessarily in the place it's most needed. But it was cheaper to build than any other potential line because it was already owned by the public for transportation development. Lawmakers will closely monitor the success of the initial 11.6-mile track to determine whether to connect more lines to it. Pawlenty reluctantly approved $7 million this year to cover part of the estimated $16 million yearly operating cost, leaving rider fees and local governments to make up the rest. "Anything that's as expensive as light rail needs to have fairly broad-based public support," said Peter Bell, chairman of the Metropolitan Council. "If the public says this is something that makes sense, then we'll support it. "The customer will ultimately decide, 'Do we have more lines?' " Part of the problem with getting light rail off the ground is that it requires the cooperation of several agencies at the state, local and federal levels. In this case, at least seven were involved. The Metropolitan Council -- which played a hefty role in bringing light rail to Minneapolis -- is now composed of people much less supportive of it. But Bell, a Pawlenty appointee, and others who have opposed the line say they're committed to at least making the first leg succeed. As with most rail projects, the federal government picked up roughly half of the total cost -- $340 million in this case -- and stipulated that the money must be repaid if the line isn't built roughly on time and on budget. So far, no city to undertake a rail project has had to worry about that. With the exception of Buffalo, N.Y., most other U.S. cities to open light rail lines have built additional spokes onto their systems or expanded their car fleet to accommodate additional passengers. Minneapolis, Atlanta and Detroit are the only three of the largest 15 metropolitan areas in the United States that won't have a train system by January. The Twin Cities' downtowns, University of Minnesota and many corporate offices in the suburbs are widely considered key to the state's economy. They are also the areas with the worst traffic congestion. "What would stop growth there would be that you can't get to them anymore," said Mike Setzer, head of Metro Transit. Congestion and transit problems in the Twin Cities affect people in other areas of the state, too. It can make for a difficult trip from greater Minnesota to the Mall of America or to a Vikings game, for instance. Some have even blamed the lack of a strong public transit system, in part, for Minnesota's failed bid to host the 1996 Olympics and other marquee events. Setzer said the strong opposition light rail has faced before construction in most cities has typically dissolved after it began running. He saw it happen when he worked for the metro transit system in St. Louis. "Opponents of rail in St. Louis County (Missouri) were every bit as vociferous as they are here. Today, you can't find anybody in St. Louis who's not a rail fan," Setzer said. "Overnight, once the thing started operating, the critics all turned into fans. Elected officials who had been opponents became proponents." Krinkie, R-Shoreview, doesn't yet count himself as a convert. He says light rail is too pricey, and if a line was to be built, the first one should have connected Minneapolis and St. Paul. Now that it's nearly finished, however, Krinkie hopes the train will be well used so the state's investment isn't squandered. if another line is built, the Legislature has required that it connect the Twin Cities' downtowns. Such a route is now in preliminary planning stages. If everything sailed over the many hurdles it faces -- which isn't likely -- it would open in 2008 at a cost of $840 million. Studies are underway for an additional light rail line in southwest Minneapolis. And plans for several long-distance commuter rail lines, which could link St. Cloud and Minneapolis, for example, are in the works. Those would be fundamentally separate from the Twin Cities light rail system, but would link up at key points. Commuter rail is different from light rail because it runs on existing freight train lines, which are leased from private rail companies. isaacs, the electrical engineer, keeps a three-inch thick file bursting with public documents, newspaper clippings yellowed with age and typewriter- chattered cost estimates he's collected over the years while advocating light rail. But now that his decades-long mission is nearing completion, he's leaving it behind. "I've done all I could," he says. "I figure it's out of my hands now." =PTP====================================== NBC Nightly News Sept. 30 [2003] Jam nation: Study sees longer commutes Annual survey finds average driver wasting 51 hours a year MSNBC STAFF AND WIRE REPORTS Sept. 30 — if it seems like more of your time is spent stuck in traffic, you may be right. In U.S. cities large and small, the daily struggle with bumper- to-bumper traffic is getting worse, according to a study released Tuesday. The average rush-hour driver wasted 51 hours sitting in traffic in 2001, the Texas Transportation institute said in its annual mobility study. THE PRICE tag: $69.5 billion in wasted time and gas, said the study, which looked at 75 urban areas. "Congestion extends to more time of the day, more roads, affects more of the travel and creates more extra travel time than in the past," the study said. Study co-author David Schrank told that the time stuck in traffic was based on a 25-minute, one-way commute. Using that benchmark, the authors calculated that drivers wasted 51 hours a year waiting instead of moving. On a per capita basis, i.e. figuring in non-drivers as well, that average is 26 hours, four hours more than in 2000, he said. A similar comparison for driver-only hours is not available as earlier studies didn't look beyond per capita figures. The report found that the average rush-hour driver in Los Angeles spent about 90 hours waiting in traffic in 2001, far more than anywhere else. The San Francisco-Oakland area was next at 68 hours, followed by Denver (64), Miami (63) and Chicago and Phoenix, which tied for fifth (61). The study also found that: 59 percent of major roads are congested compared to 34 percent in 1982, when the survey was first taken. The number of hours of the day when congestion might be encountered has grown from about 4.5 hours to about 7 hours. The authors did, however, note that public transportation, traffic signals on freeway entrance ramps and other congestion-busting measures have kept a bad situation from getting even worse. For example, traffic signal coordination aimed at smoothing the flow of cars, trucks and buses saved commuters 16 million hours, the report said. The study found some areas of the country where gridlock eased. The average delay dropped for commuters in San Antonio, Texas; Fresno, Calif.; and Pensacola, Fla. Still, more improvements are needed, the report said. Among the recommendations: more roads to handle increased demand, additional bus and car pool lanes, and adjusted work hours for commuters. in response to criticism about its earlier studies, the institute, located at at Texas A&M University, for the first time factored in improvements that cities are making, such as traffic light coordination and ramp metering, as well as the benefits of public transportation, study co-author Tim Lomax said. Data from the Federal Highway Administration and information from various state and local agencies was analyzed by the researchers to come up with the rankings. Report details and other background will be placed on the institute's Web site at by the numbers Tied-up traffic The 20 urban areas with heaviest traffic as measured by number of hours of extra travel time for average rush-hour commuter in 2001: Urban area Number of hours per year in congestion Los Angeles 90 San Francisco-Oakland 68 Denver 64 Miami 63 Chicago 61 Urban area Number of hours per year in congestion Phoenix 61 San Jose, Calif. 60 Boston 58 Washington, D.C. 58 Portland, Ore. 58 Urban area Number of hours per year in congestion Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood, Fla. 57 Seattle-Everett 56 Atlanta 55 San Bernardino-Riverside, Calif. 55 Houston 55 Urban area Number of hours per year in congestion Detroit 54 Minneapolis / St.Paul 53 San Diego 51 Las Vegas 51 Dallas-Fort Worth 51 Source: Texas Transportation institute The Associated Press contributed to this report.
PTP 2003/10/01-A - CONTENTS * North Jersey: LRT extensions powered up in test Jersey Journal Tuesday, September 30, 2003 * Cincinnati: Regional panels OKs LRT plan Cincinnati Post 09-30-2003 * Cincinnati: Traffic up 10X since 1982 CINCINNATI POST 10-01-200 * Honolulu: Pols eye LRT, may shelve 'BRT' Honolulu Star-Bulletin Tuesday, September 30, 2003 * Seattle: Opposition to downtown monorail grows SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER Wednesday, October 1, 2003 * Seattle area congestion bad, but transit helps King County Journal 2003-10-01 * San Jose: Budget woes may zap LRT network plans San Jose Mercury News Mon, Sep. 29, 2003 * San Jose ed: Cut LRT to fund BART San Jose Mercury News Monday, September 29, 2003 * Houston's congestion 13th worst in nation Houston Chronicle Sept. 30, 2003 * Pittsburgh: Reports of maglev's death 'exaggerated' Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Tuesday, September 30, 2003 * Kuala Lumpur: 350,000 ride monorail in 29 days The Edge Daily Wednesday, 01-10-2003 * Peirce: Congress's 'puzzling paralysis' on transport law Seattle Times Wednesday, October 01, 2003 =PTP======================================= Jersey Journal Tuesday, September 30, 2003 Light rail pushes ahead - don't touch the wires Juice is turned on testing across system By Jason Fink Journal staff writer Workers for NJ Transit yesterday sent the first electrical currents through the overhead wires that will eventually power the next northward section of the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail Transit System, a portion of the line that will eventually reach North Bergen. The above-ground catenary wires that were recently installed trace the path the system will take across Paterson Plank Road to Hoboken's Second Street station, on the city's west side, which is nearly complete. That stop, however, will not be in use until mid-2005, around the time that the Ninth Street station and stops at Port imperial in Weehawken and Tonnelle Avenue in North Bergen will also come on line, said Ken Hitchner, a spokesman for NJ Transit, the light rail's operator. Meanwhile, the 22nd Street stop in Bayonne, the line's southern terminus, is expected to open on Nov. 15. Construction on that part of the line stopped service on the light rail this past weekend. From Friday night through Sunday, light rail trains did not make stops south of Liberty State Park in Jersey City. What began yesterday and will continue is the turning on of the overhead wires and the electrification of various parts of the line. The catenary wires carry 750 volts of electricity and people are being asked to not touch the wires or cross the street-level tracks except at the designated intersections. "We're testing the integrity of the wires," Hitchner explained. First opened in 2000, the light rail now stops at 16 stations from Bayonne to Hoboken. Original plans for the system, whose first phase - from Hoboken Terminal to Bayonne - cost $1.1 billion, called for the tracks to go out to the Vince Lombardi Park and Ride in Ridgefield. Since then, there have been proposals to extend the system after it reaches North Bergen, but no decision has been made. Jason Fink can be reached at =PTP===================================== Cincinnati Post 09-30-2003 i-75 project wins 1st approval By Bob Driehaus Post staff reporter A key transportation planning committee has embraced a $1.83 billion plan to integrate light rail train service with more highway lanes to keep interstate 75 functional through 2030. An Ohio-Kentucky-indiana Regional Council of Governments committee voted 27 to 1, with four abstentions, on Monday afternoon for the plan. Should the full OKI board agree next month, it would mark the first time since the failed subway project of the 1920s that passenger rail service has been included in growth plans for a road in Greater Cincinnati. Exactly where the highway will be widened to five lanes has not been determined, except that it will occur between the Ohio River and interstate 675 in Dayton to include at least four lanes in each direction and five lanes at choke points. Officials will decide on the five-lane sections after additional engineering and environmental-impact studies. Most of the highway between the river and I-675 is three lanes, though large stretches are wider, including the entire segment between the river and I-74. No determination has been made on where a light rail system, or its stations, would be located, although the most frequently mentioned route is along existing rail lines. Sterling Uhler, committee chairman, said the vote by the OKI committee on the study known as the North-South Transportation initiative was a huge step forward for the region. "it's not going to happen overnight, but it's one more piece of data that light-rail has to come sooner or later," Uhler said. John Schneider, a long-time champion of bringing light rail trains to the area, thinks the combination of more lanes and light rail service will make the flow of people and goods along the corridor better by 2030 than it is today. The vote "means that all these people who looked at this for three years see light rail as part of the solution. It's not a matter of whether light rail comes to the