Inland taxpayer transportation money being tossed around at colossal rates

The Transit Coalition takes the misuse of public transportation money seriously as it pays for your mobility. We don't want that money to be wasted.

The celebration of the new and improved Omnitrans.

The two county-seat regions in the Inland Empire are caught up in a game of political football with your public transportation dollars at hand.

Omnitrans' Rebranding Project:
Press Enterprise Columnist Cassie Macduff wasn't too pleased when the reporter discovered that the Omnitrans Board of Directors was never consulted over the transit agency's $1.9 million rebranding project. The proposal was reported to be approved as a line item buried deep within Omnitrans' budget. Fortunately, the final bill for the graphics and printing turned out to be well under budget at approximately $500,000 which included this rebranding ceremony.

Future rail service to Redlands.SANDAG and Omnitrans' operating budget:
At the same time, Omnitrans is not happy about what the San Bernardino Associated Governments is up to with their proposals. SANDAG is figuring out how to pay for the $130-$150 million Redlands Passenger Rail project which will likely be a Metrolink extension to Redlands or a dedicated light rail line. Normally, affected transit agencies would back rail upgrades. However, Omnitrans shot back after analyzing SANBAG's reports; the transit agency claimed it would lose a whopping 20% of its bus operations budget toward contributions to the rail line's price tag. Although nothing has been finalized by the SANBAG board, the Transit Coalition believes the idea of tapping into Omnitrans operating budget to pay for the rails is a wrong move.

At present, there are no commuter or express buses overlapping the proposed rail corridor to restructure. Maintaining Omnitrans existing service or even adding rail feeder service is key to the region's continued transit growth. The Transit Coalition would like to see a first-rate rail line linking San Bernardino to Redlands, but it must be done right. SANBAG must find a sound means to pay for the train; tapping deeply into Omnitrans operations and causing a 20% decrease in bus service--absolutely unacceptable.

The Downtown Riverside Transit Center:
In Riverside, the Transit Coalition called for officials to keep the Vine Street Transit Center Project and the Riverside City Council agreed. Most of the project's secured funds will be spent toward the new transit center. However, due to federal deadlines combined with the 2008 public buyout of the Riverside Greyhound bus station, $3 million of the funds must be spent on upgrading the existing Downtown Terminal Station. Riverside Mayor Ron Loveridge treated this funding situation as a lesson. The city would be wise to spend the $3 million on capital items that could be repurposed at the Vine Street Station later, such as benches, live next-bus-arrival signs, information kiosks, security cameras, and trash cans.

The Transit Coalition takes the misuse of public transportation money seriously as it pays for your mobility. We don't want that money to be wasted, but it is an ongoing issue. Whether it's hiding a multi-million dollar rebranding project as a line budget item, raiding a transit agency's operating budget for capital improvements, or the lack of oversight in building a transit center on time, political football games with precious public transit dollars is a serious problem. It must stop.