Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Political Chaos with the Hemet Transit Center

Unnecessary Bureaucratic Red Tape is sapping proposed Riverside County Transit Centers at epidemic levels

The location of the proposed Hemet Transit Center. Political money games and the lack of cooperation between public entities are sapping worthy Inland Empire transit projects once more. Again, The Transit Coalition has to remind the state and feds: You have to know what's it like to be in the real world.

This Google Maps satellite aerial imagery shows the general location of a city-identified site and a prime location for a proposed transit center in the City of Hemet. The multi-modal station was proposed to be developed adjacent to a proposed courthouse in the heart of the historic downtown core complete with a transit village.

In reality, developing the transit center, a courthouse with a public square and a future Metrolink station in this area would be very desirable for this Inland suburb starved for free market economic growth. However, according to this RTA Budget & Finance Committee Report, delays at the state level combined with potential de-obligation actions from the federal government has led to nothing except for bureaucratic red tape for the Hemet Transit Center. RTA thus decided to conduct a site feasibility study to determine another optimal transit center location.

This is an outrage because plans for the Hemet station have already been in the works for nearly a decade by local officials. This is why the lack of cooperation with the state combined with overregulation and spending deadlines with the federal funds is bad for transportation projects - too many hurdles which negate Inland Empire transit development. This has happened before. RTA was forced to empty nearly all of the funds for a very desirable transit center project at the Riverside Downtown Metrolink station. According to the latest public documents from RTA, the alternative site for the Riverside Transit Center which is currently under study is now the site of the proposed Moreno Valley Transit Center, located on the western edge of the City of Moreno Valley at a proposed station for the Metrolink Perris Valley Line; the transit hub is now labeled the Northwest Transit Center. Basically, the Downtown Riverside Transit Center is back on the drawing board sitting with a near empty fund. Both the state and the White House should be outraged as The Transit Coalition is.

Moving ahead, the City of Hemet does have some local control over their transit center. Because the city envisions the development of a transit village adjacent to the transit center, why not entice private developers to come in by designating the transit center and courthouse block as a specific plan and offer tax incentives to the entrepreneurial class to build both of the public buildings and the courthouse square as part of the village complete with private sector jobs? The truth is Hemet is starved for a private job marketplace. Its residents could use some logistics, manufacturing, distribution and other blue-collar jobs. That is a smart way in getting Hemet back to a healthy state.

If local officials are serious about getting both the Riverside and the Hemet Transit Centers built next to the Metrolink rail system without going through a decade of planning, they must take the unnecessary regulations off the backs of the private sector and incentivize them to come in and build the facilities. Local officials need to have the desire and the will to have Riverside and Hemet not only survive, but to thrive. Meanwhile, both the state and the feds need to get out from their desks, visit the affected transit center sites themselves, and see what upper-level regulatory reform needs to be done to move these projects forward. The bottom line of this story: Government roadblocks continue unchecked, our transportation projects are being delayed at epidemic levels, and the riding public is paying for it.

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