Thursday, January 31, 2013

Complete Maps for California Rail and Bus Transit

Patriot citizens offer big, yet inexpensive lessons for government transportation agencies. As gas prices go up, we can use complete transit agency system maps.

California Transit Map A group of transit patriots from all over the state teamed up and produced what the government has not: A state-wide transit map linking major California destinations via rail and major connecting buses. The actual map was produced and released last November.

However, the map inspired The Atlantic Media Company, a group exploring innovative ideas, to contact the map developer Alfred Twu and see if it was possible to travel from the Mexico border all the way up into Oregon by only riding public transportation trains and buses. Although the map illustrates Amtrak train routes and major private sector inter-city connectors, the itinerary would exclude these modes.

Twu concluded that such a trip was impractical, but certainly possible: From the southern border crossing at San Ysidro, take the San Diego Trolley to downtown San Diego, connect to the NCTD Coaster, and then transfer to Metrolink at Oceanside. From there, ride Metrolink through Los Angeles Union Station to Lancaster. After that, take some Eastern Sierra Transit Authority buses up US Route 395 to Reno. From Reno, take the Sage Stage bus system into Oregon. According to The Atlantic Media Company, the journey would take over 32 hours, span 480 miles, and cost $41.25. Not to worry, there's a selection of private sector inter-city lines available as a speedy alternative according to Twu's map, yet there are still several transit gaps. The Transit Coalition, for example, continues to advocate for public agencies to clear the way for private carriers to serve the Los Angeles-to-San Diego inland corridor via the I-15 Freeway.

Public transportation agencies also have much to learn from this mapping project. As prices at the gas pump rise, so too will be a surge in the number of people switching to public transportation. The riding public will need agency system transit maps that are complete with both agency-operated and connecting inter-agency routes. By including these routes on their system maps, transit agencies could better educate riders of available routes and thus improve the productivity of their systems at minimal cost. For instance, one would never know that an Omnitrans express bus between Riverside and San Bernardino existed just by looking at this RTA system map. Likewise, how would a San Bernardino County bus rider headed from Ontario to Corona know where to transfer to RTA buses based on the Omnitrans system map alone? OCTA's map leaves this important question: Where's the Metro Line 460 connection into Los Angeles? A resident who lives in Santa Ana and works in LA would more likely travel by bus if he saw Line 460, an all-day local-plus-express hybrid route, on his local agency's bus route map.

In contrast, Foothill Transit smartly illustrates not only its agency-operated lines, but all other connecting inter-agency routes on its system map, thus making bus trip planning in the San Gabriel Valley more efficient. Los Angeles Metro does likewise. Public transit agencies throughout Southern California should therefore make it a standard practice to include connecting inter-agency routes on their official system maps. Twu's state-wide map clearly shows the public benefit and with gas prices once again going through the roof, the public needs to be made more aware of their travel options without having to refer to several maps of multiple transit operators.

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