Public Officials Must Stop the Nonsense with the Riverside Transit Center

Get the private sector onboard with a public-private partnership.

Downtown Riverside. Even though there has already been much discussion about it for the past several years, let alone the last few weeks, the location of a proposed transit center in Downtown Riverside is once again back on the public agenda in Riverside. This time, the Riverside Transit Agency's Board of Directors will vote to rescind last month's approval to redevelop the existing Downtown Terminal station and instead direct agency staff to study alternative locations.

Recap of Riverside Transit Center Progress:
The Riverside Downtown Terminal is currently located northwest of the downtown core and the current facility is too small to sustain the growth in transit demand. Greyhound Bus Lines also operates a terminal next door; its facility is long overdue for a remodel. Local officials proposed closing the Downtown Terminal and developing a multi modal transit center at the Riverside Downtown Metrolink Station to address long term growth; a smart thing to do. In 2006, Compass Blueprint studied the area and concluded that private developer investments be included to fund recommendations such as a pedestrian bridge over the 91 Freeway into the downtown core. Public officials have not been able to secure the funding as of now.

Early in September, with transit rerouting yet to be analyzed and federal funds in jeopardy, the City of Riverside had considered shelving the multi-modal project altogether and instead decide to renovate the existing downtown bus terminal. After the September 27, 2012 RTA Board meeting where the agency approved plans to demolish and rebuild the existing Riverside Downtown Terminal, the Riverside City Manager and the downtown business community contacted RTA and expressed concerns regarding the plans. The specifics were not disclosed; however the issue will be brought up again at the November 13, 2012 Riverside City Council Meeting. In response, RTA convened a special Executive Committee meeting and staff was directed to conduct another site feasibility study of the Riverside Transit Center.

Stop the Nonsense:
The Transit Coalition believes public officials at both the local and federal level must stop this stuff right now. We already have an existing report explaining the benefits of building the Riverside Transit Center adjacent to the Metrolink Station. Spending extra public money to re-scout and re-study the transit center's location is not the best approach, even if its bundled with RTA's upcoming Comprehensive Operational Analysis report. If Downtown Riverside's market economy was robust and RTA's bus system was first-rate, we could invest additional transportation dollars for another site feasibility study for the Riverside Transit Center. But the Compass Blueprint report has sufficient data. The private industry also continues to have limited confidence in Downtown Riverside. That means private expansion remains slow and very few new jobs being created. Unnecessary spending of precious public transit dollars must stop. There is no question about that.

Funding the Riverside Transit Center at the Metrolink Station:
As The Transit Coalition has been addressing for the past several years, seamless connections between the growing Metrolink train network and connecting local RTA buses at Downtown Riverside is limited. The 91 Freeway also continues to divide the train station with the heart of the downtown core. Compass Blueprint studied these issues and opportunities and offered several suggestions. Other than adding a carpool lane to the 91 freeway, not much has changed since 2006 in regards to demographics. These are the primary reasons why the Coalition continues to advocate for the transit center to be built next to the train station combined with a pedestrian bridge over the freeway.

Public officials may not seem to know what to do to build this transit center and bridge. So let The Transit Coalition offer a possible solution. Get the private sector onboard with a public-private partnership. Incline developers into the area by designating the Metrolink station block as a specific plan as suggested by Compass Blueprint. Offer a developer incentive for including the bus bays, parking structures, and the freeway pedestrian overpass as part of the transit-oriented development. Establish business-friendly policies so that owners and entrepreneurs can better invest in property and build up a private sector job marketplace. The result would be a powerful free market job site like Irvine Towers in Downtown Riverside complete with a multi-modal transit center, seamless rail connections and a pedestrian bridge to the downtown core.

Now that's good oversight on building a robust transit center for Downtown Riverside that would "meet [RTA's] needs well into the future".


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