Friday, March 29, 2013

Friday Transportation Tips: Ride and Drive Safely this Easter Sunday

Families from all over the world gather together to celebrate Easter Sunday. If you are travelling this weekend throughout Southern California, here are some tips just for you:
  • The freeways will be busy, especially after dinner time. Check the traffic reports before you hit the road. Allow an extra 30-45 minutes. Return trips from Southwest Riverside County back into Orange County have been historically jammed after dinner from north of Lake Elsinore all the way into Anaheim Hills.
  • Churches and places of worship will be very active and busy. Allow sufficient time for parking. Get to the service at least 30 minutes before start time so you can get the most out of the services offered. If the house of worship is near a transit route and the line operates that day, consider using it.
  • Speaking of transit, if the place you’re headed to for Easter is near a train station or intercity bus terminal, see if taking the family aboard transit would work. See if the provider is offering any last minute deals.
  • If your kids are going back to school the Monday after Easter, get everything ready for Monday before you head out for the Easter festivities so you can spend some extra time for the holiday and not stress on the way home.
 Have a safe and happy Easter Sunday!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Overseeing California High Speed Rail

(3/28/13) – IE Transit Talking Points Short

A poll conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California shows that California voters object to spending $68 billion in public funding on high-speed rail by a margin of 54 to 43 percent. The reasons behind the dissents are very clear. The plans from the California High Speed Rail Authority don’t match financial reality, its ridership projections are suspected to be spun, and the risks of having billions in taxpayer money spent on the project without an efficient business plan is drastic.

The latest 2012 CHSRA Business Plan calls for a $68 billion project cost. The rail agency has proposed what is essentially a second rail system for the central valley, duplicating existing usable infrastructure and potentially disrupting the robust farming sector in the marketplace. Earlier this year, CHSRA was found to dole out $8 million to rail simply submit losing bids to the project. And now, Fox News reported that 10% of the high speed train's labor force must come from the "disadvantaged", which would potentially include ex-convicts, high school dropouts, foster children, and union apprentices--Forget having a fair screening process should a better qualified applicant apply for an affected position. To be fair, assisting disadvantaged workers is noble, but aren't there already non-profit organizations out there like iSeek which assist ex-cons in seeking honest work?

The Transit Coalition believes that public transportation projects need to be both cost-effective and non-disruptive to the communities they serve. For starters, a cost-efficient hybrid blended system through already-developed areas could allow high-speed rail to use existing upgraded commuter and intercity rail corridors--using a combination of electrification, separated grade crossings, positive train control, and/or upgraded rail cars--while improving speeds and travel time for existing train routes. The $9.95 billion in public seed money is more than enough separate several grade crossings along the existing passenger train routes throughout the urban areas of the state to speed them up, or perhaps that seed money can be used to close the Los Angeles-to-Bakersfield rail gap for a potentially profitable intercity rail corridor between the Bay Area, Los Angeles, and San Diego. That would bring in private investment for the remainder of the high speed train project, would it not?

And if there's some "law" that panders to the interests of special labor groups like the "disadvantaged" which unfairly displaces better qualified applicants from the job, the state legislature must repeal it immediately.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Calimesa: Adopting Transit Study Recommendations

Why were recommendations that were made in a transit study, paid for by Riverside County taxpayers, never adopted for the Pass Area?

Pass Transit bus The Inland Empire's Pass Area which includes Calimesa, Beaumont, Banning and Cabazon, will have its transit system analyzed, courtesy of the City of Beaumont. This is welcoming news for Calimesa as this small town between Yucaipa and Beaumont currently lacks through-bus service; its residents are urged to take an active part in the study. However, the fact that Beaumont taxpayers are footing the bill for the study remains questionable. In addition, the fact remains that recommendations from a 2007 transit study to establish a productive bus route for the corridor were never adopted.

The transit corridor linking Beaumont through Calimesa into Yucaipa has a history of major route changes. The Riverside Transit Agency once operated bus Route 36 which previously served the City of Calimesa and directly connected the region with Yucaipa to the north and Beaumont to the south. RTA is mandated by the Riverside County Transportation Commission to meet productive performance standards for its bus lines. Route 36 did not meet several of them and the line was proposed to be canceled in the summer of 2009.

As mentioned, the corridor was studied back in 2007, paid for by Riverside County taxpayers. RTA's 2007 Comprehensive Operational Analysis recommended that the transit corridor connecting the Pass Area into San Bernardino be Omnitrans-operated and connect directly with major points in San Bernardino. However, no transit agency in the area adopted the recommendation. Instead, the City of Beaumont agreed to launch the Pass Transit Express Route on June 22, 2009, connecting central Beaumont to central Calimesa to replace Route 36. Unfortunately, a multitude of problems became clear as one looked at the Express Route bus schedule and map. One fundamental flaw was its limited coverage. Following another restructure, the express route now serves as a peak-only CommuterLink Route 120 with direct service to the San Bernardino Metrolink Station. However, RSVP's are required and the last morning bus out of Beaumont is 5:00 am.

Under the recommendations made by the 2007 RTA COA transit study, The Transit Coalition envisions an all-day regional bus connector for the Beaumont-Calimesa-San Bernardino corridor with hourly headways paid for by Pass-area cities and San Bernardino County which would be operated by Omnitrans. The line would be an extension of the existing Omnitrans Route 9 which would directly connect Beaumont, Calimesa, and Yucaipa to major points in Loma Linda and San Bernardino, terminating at the downtown transit station. An up-to-date study will further assist The Transit Coalition in restoring productive public transit for Calimesa. Let's hope officials adopt its recommendations this time around.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Cutting out waste to fund paratransit services

(3/26/13) – IE Transit Talking Points Short

A contractor promising to trim down spending waste for OCTA’s paratransit service Access won a $156 million contract on Monday, March 25. MV Transportation focused on cutting out unnecessary costs such as excessive management expenses and keeping employee payrolls in check by curbing overtime. OCTA needs to ensure MV Transportation’s projections do not rely on spun data. However, an honest means of cutting unnecessary spending on paratransit service is most welcome. Transit agencies need to ensure that any wasteful spending patterns, especially within paratransit services, are dealt with immediately. 

OCTA reports that its Access paratransit riders pay a $3.60 one-way fare per trip, curb to curb. Between the state, local, and federal funding, taxpayers foot the remainder of the per-passenger cost, a whopping $43.75 per trip per person. Let’s see if MV Transportation can reduce this giant subsidy by honestly cutting the waste. Also, how many of OCTA’s 30,000 registered paratransit riders are mobile and would ride OCTA’s fixed route system if they simply knew how to or had a transit buddy? Transit ambassador program OCTA?

Monday, March 25, 2013

Growing marketplace jobs and transit in Southwest Riverside County

(3/25/13) – IE Transit Talking Points Short

The Transit Coalition is taking a critical look into major redevelopment proposals advocated by the cities of Temecula, Murrieta, Wildomar and Lake Elsniore. These cities envision urban, European-style development along a historic commercial corridor, the old Highway 395, which parallels the I-15 freeway and connects the historic downtowns of each of these cities together. The cities envision parks, pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods and more mass transit.

The Transit Coalition supports infill smart growth development and better mobility options. With a region of a skilled, well-educated workforce, each of these cities will need to recognize that this master-planned development must address the area's need for local marketplace jobs, primary schools and universities, and entertainment. Many residents currently have to travel long distances by car to access many of these amenities. The cities should adopt both business-friendly and transit-oriented development policies.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Friday Transportation Tips: Keeping your bus secure

The Riverside Transit Agency has published some tips to safeguard your safety and security while riding the bus. There’s several ways you can help. First, familiarize yourself with the following signs of suspicious activity and report passengers who:
  • Are acting in a disorderly manner.
  • Are harassing or disturbing others.
  • Leave a package and quickly leave the area.
  • Are carrying a weapon for the purpose of committing a crime.
  • Nervously pacing the bus or transit station.
  • Wear clothing that is extremely inappropriate for the weather, such as a heavy coat on a hot day.
Secondly, learn how to determine suspicious packages from lost-and-found items. Look for the following characteristics of unattended packages and report suspicious items which:
  • Are placed in an out-of-the-way location.
  • Have attached batteries, electronics, wires, or any other signs which may suspect explosives.
  • Have an attached message.
  • Discharge suspicious cloud, mists, gases, vapors, odors or fluids.
  • Cause nearby individuals showing signs of illness or distress.
Remember, in an emergency always follow the instructions of your bus driver, the police and/or fire officials.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Improving Riverside County's Public Transportation System

What exactly needs to be done to improve transit mobility?

An RTA bus. The Riverside Transit Agency has been working on an updated Comprehensive Operational Analysis which will provide the agency a blueprint of future transit planning. According to the February, 2013 RTA Board of Directors Agenda, the consultant firm assigned to develop the study conducted a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) analysis. The SWOT generally affirmed several concepts and ideas already illustrated on The Transit Coalition's Future Vision of Inland Empire Mass Transit and what county officials need to do to improve mobility. Here are a few findings:

  • The SWOT report shows a transit mobility threat of continued freeway expansion proposals without bus infrastructure. Ever wonder why The Transit Coalition advocates for direct access ramps between HOV/HOT lanes and major transit centers? Will there be seamless bus transit connections between the Corona Transit Center and the extended 91 Express Lanes?

  • Constrained financial resources and high unemployment: Are cities and Riverside County establishing business-friendly and transit-oriented land use decisions for marketplace job development to reduce long distance solo commuting? A local robust job marketplace provides the resources for productive public transit service.

  • Reported Dial-a-Ride constraints: Paratransit gives mobility to the immobile, but is hard on the taxpayer if overused by mobile riders. What can RTA do to improve its Travel Training program? Has RTA considered putting in a team of volunteer transit ambassadors into Travel Training to better educate mobile riders on using the fixed route system?

  • Wednesday, March 20, 2013

    Fixing the Pass Transit Bus System

    (3/20/13) – IE Transit Talking Points Short

    The City of Beaumont plans to hire a consultant to conduct a transit study of the Pass Area which is welcoming news for the region, although it is questionable that Beaumont taxpayers are footing the bill instead of Riverside County. The Transit Coalition has noted that the Pass Area’s local bus routes are very circuitous and there are no connections through the City of Calimesa into San Bernardino County outside of rush hour.

    As Beaumont’s study moves forward, it is evident that Pass Transit’s trunk routes which connect Beaumont, Banning and Cabazon need to be simplified and streamlined into a hub-and-spoke model combined with feeding bidirectional circulator routes. Calimesa is long overdue to have its bus service reinstated with a regional connector route.

    It’s also clear that Pass Transit’s commuter express route can use additional intermediate stops in Downtown San Bernardino and Loma Linda to build up its commuter ridership base. Also, why is the last AM-peak bus departure at 5:00 am? The 24 hour reservation mandate also needs to go. These are just a few issues of the Pass Transit bus system that the consulting firm needs to address in its report.

    Stay tuned for more details.

    Tuesday, March 19, 2013

    Riverside County’s Transportation NOW and The Transit Coalition

    (3/19/13) – IE Transit Talking Points Short

    Combined with groups of concerned citizens and transit bloggers, Riverside County has two major transit advocacy groups serving the region. Those advocacy groups are Riverside County’s Transportation NOW and The Transit Coalition. Both organizations serve a similar purpose. For instance, Transportation NOW “has been a proud advocate and enthusiastic supporter of public transportation in Riverside County. (T-NOW's) efforts have produced results that will last a lifetime, and ensure that bus and rail usage remains an integral part of this region for years to come.” The Transit Coalition can certainly echo that statement. Both groups are also vital in allowing members of the public to take active roles in promoting multi-modal transportation in Riverside County.

    However, there is a key difference between T-NOW and The Transit Coalition. Although both organizations are grassroots-oriented, T-NOW operates under the Riverside Transit Agency and its Executive Committee is comprised mostly of elected government officials and paid RTA staff; therefore T-NOW is government-led. In contrast, The Transit Coalition is an independent non-profit organization led by concerned citizens.

    What does this mean to you? Generally speaking, at T-NOW, your personal views regarding transportation will be directly heard and considered by officials, but the government will call the shots on official positions and decide the actions of T-NOW’s chapters. More often than not, those decisions are not always best for the good of the people. However, to be fair, citizen's voices are certainly heard at T-NOW. Having this outlet for transit riders is important for Inland Empire mobility. In contrast, The Transit Coalition takes in commentary, ideas, and opinions from various sources and compares such remarks to the facts to independently draw positions and conclusions without inducing spun ideology. Those positions are then presented to government officials through various methods.

    The United States of America gives organizations like The Transit Coalition constitutional privileges to question decisions and proposals made by those in power. For instance, it’s irresponsible to disregard Travertine Point’s sprawling development impact on I-10 freeway traffic through Thousand Palms and the San Gorgonio Pass. Likewise, how will future rapid express buses access the extended 91 Express Lanes from the Corona Transit Center if the closest proposed HOT access point is 10 miles away at the Orange County Line? Those in power within the county are not addressing these issues which is why both T-NOW and The Transit Coalition are needed for the future of Inland Empire mobility.

    Monday, March 18, 2013

    Express buses or light rail for North San Diego County?

    (3/18/13) – IE Transit Talking Points Short
    Down south, with the Sprinter train service suspended, early reports are showing that NCTD’s replacement bus service is costing NCTD far less money and transporting some passengers faster than the rail line did. So, should the Sprinter be permanently replaced by a fleet of express buses? Not quite. The reports are certainly questionable. 

    For instance, the Sprinter would easily outrun the Route 620 express buses during peak congestion along the 78 Freeway. Ridership impacts have not been factored; has transit ridership decreased along the corridor since NCTD suspended the Sprinter? Also, Route 620 bypasses several intermediate Sprinter stops which are connected by local bus routes, thus giving the bus route a fast turnaround. However to be fair, given its fast travel time during off-peak times between Vista and Oceanside, Route 620 could serve as a productive permanent express line between Oceanside, Vista and Escondido in the future while the Sprinter provides the local rail service. Transit officials have some work to do to improve mobility for the Oceanside-to-Escondido transportation corridor.

    Friday, March 15, 2013

    Friday Transportation Tips: Staying safe around the rails

    Our public transit agencies work hard to ensure public safety around railroad tracks. Be a good patriot by following the tips below and be sure to teach them to your children:
    • Lives come first over trip times. Never attempt to go around or under whenever the crossing lift-gates are down. Don't put lives at risk by ignoring the train signals or cutting around the lowered lift-gates in the name of saving a couple of minutes.
    • Always wait for the lift-gates to rise before proceeding, even if the train has passed through; there may be second train coming.
    • Cross the railroad tracks at designated crossings only; don’t be the one caught trespassing or hopping the fence.
    • If you’re walking or riding a bicycle, look both ways before crossing over.
    • Public transit vehicles must completely stop and look both ways before crossing the tracks. If you see a transit or school bus driver failing to do this, report it.
    • Trains normally don’t blow their horns through “quiet zones”. Take that into consideration whenever you see a railroad crossing signal activated.
    • Never walk along the tracks or trespass into the rail right-of-way. Most trains extend at least three feet beyond each side of the tracks.

    Thursday, March 14, 2013

    The XpressWest HSR and Victorville

    Is the $5.5 billion federal loan for the XpressWest risky to taxpayers?

    A rendering of an XpressWest train leaving Las Vegas.

    The XpressWest high-speed rail project has a proposed western terminal station in Victorville which has long drawn dissents and opposition from various individuals. Now, Senate Budget Committee Ranking Member Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) sent a letter to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, urging the U.S. Department of Transportation to deny a $5.5 billion federal loan toward the project. Their letter cites, "Promoters expect people to drive 50 to 100 miles to get to the station and then get off the freeway, park, and board the train for the final 175 miles to Las Vegas." While minimizing marketplace risk with taxpayer-funded loans is imperative, rejecting the loan based on these remarks alone would be counterproductive. One only needs to check out the entire master plan for the XpressWest. The future looks promising once the master plan is put into perspective; the completed project needs to be taken into consideration during loan negotiations. To be fair, risk with federal taxpayer money must be kept to a minimum and XpressWest must be able to show to the federal government that the rail line will operate at profit without spinning its ridership projection data. A route from Downtown LA into the Las Vegas Strip area would be able to show this.

    While it's true that Victorville will serve as California's terminal station for the initial phase, a second phase includes an extension into Palmdale. From there, the line could utilize the existing rail corridor into LA. Electrification of the existing Metrolink Antelope Valley Line, a concept advocated by The Transit Coalition, combined with separated grade crossings and positive train control would potentially allow for a productive and profitable direct XpressWest connection to LA Union Station.

    Even if trains took 60 minutes to get between LA and Palmdale by using the existing infrastructure (assuming Metrolink upgrades in lieu of high-speed rail), the Palmdale-to-Victorville HSR segment would take approximately 30 minutes while the Victorville-to-Vegas segment would take 80 minutes. Factor in a 3 minute stop at the intermediate stations and the XpressWest could have a 2 hour, 55 minute end-to-end trip time. These short trip times would allow XpressWest to compete well in the marketplace and would therefore reduce risks relative to the federal loan.

    Additional track upgrades and straightening of the Antelope Valley Line corridor combined with a productive rail link through the Cajon Pass to the Inland Empire would cut the LA-Victorville segment trip time to under an hour which would establish an end-to-end trip time of 2 hours, 25 minutes. Could you imagine what this type of high-speed transit service can do the marketplace?

    Wednesday, March 13, 2013

    A first look at Omnitrans’ fare policy change proposals

    (3/13/13) – IE Transit Talking Points Short

    The Transit Coalition will take a critical look into Omnitran’s recent proposal to amend its fare policy. At present, Omnitrans has no plans to actually hike fares; the agency is proposing policy changes. With the amount of government waste from both the state and federal level reported in the media, any budget-related fare hikes will be questioned. According to the transit agency, here is what is at stake with some preliminary commentary:

    Proposed Omnitrans fare policy changes:
    1. Reclassify the Student Pass into a Youth Pass category. Namely, adult students who are not enrolled in a Go Smart participating school will pay the regular adult bus fare. The discounted passes for youth 17 and under would be maintained. Several other transit agencies follow this model.
    2. Simplify the definition of the Go Smart fare program. Generally speaking, this will simplify and get rid of unnecessary red-tape bureaucracy for schools and business desiring to enroll in the program, thus making Go Smart more business friendly.
    3. Cancel the ADA Access Monthly Subscription fare category. Persons with recurring “subscription” trips will pay the regular cash fare to ride Omnitrans' paratransit buses. This change is certainly debatable. Paratransit shuttles generally follow fixed routes and deviate up to 3/4 of a mile for door-to-door service. There are immobile bus riders who physically cannot use Omnitrans’ fixed routes, require door-to-door service, and rely on a simple monthly fare package.

      However, the Transit Coalition is aware that there are mobile senior/disabled paratransit riders who would actually use the fixed routes instead of paratransit; however, many don’t simply because they do not understand how to use the fixed bus routes and therefore stick with the more costly paratransit option.

      Federally mandated paratransit bus service is by far the most expensive line item in a transit agency’s bus operating budget and getting mobile riders off Omnitrans' Access shuttles and onto the fixed route system would save local taxpayers thousands of dollars. Omnitrans may want to consider launching a transit ambassador program, similar to ones already in place by RTA and NCTD, to educate the riding public of how to use the fixed route system. This would incline mobile paratransit riders to give the more cost-efficient fixed bus routes a try and save paratransit resources to those who really need it.

    Tuesday, March 12, 2013

    The Sprinter Train Interruption and Safety

    The North County Transit District suspended all Sprinter rail service March 9th until further notice due to discovered safety issues involving the rail line’s braking systems. NCTD reported that light rail vehicles are equipped with a multi-redundant braking system; therefore at no time were rail patrons at risk. However, the discovery of the faulty system has prompted NCTD to rightly shut down the rail line until the brakes are replaced and approved by regulators.

    NCTD discovered during brake testing premature wear on one of three braking systems that total eight of the 24 brakes on each Sprinter car. Specifically, rotors inside the central brakes were exhibiting unexpected accelerated wear patterns. During the brake tests, NCTD found that the rail line’s brake system also meets all manufacturer and California Public Utilities Commission brake performance standards.

    As NCTD works to replace the braking system, bus service will be offered as a replacement until further notice. Stations will also be staffed with ambassadors and NCTD volunteers to help affected patrons. While it is unfortunate that NCTD’s light rail system ran into an unforeseen safety glitch, this event clearly shows why mandatory safety testing and frequent in-house inspections are imperative for transit fleets. Checking for faults will allow operators to fix problems before they can become catastrophic. Suspending the rail line’s operations and offering alternative bus service in the name of safety is a small sacrifice we must accept to protect life. NCTD will be working with suppliers and regulators to expedite the replacement parts in order to get the trains up and running. Stay tuned for more information.

    Monday, March 11, 2013

    Future Vision of Inland Empire Mass Transit and Government Studies

    (3/11/13) – IE Transit Talking Points Short


    The Transit Coalition’s Future Vision of Inland Empire Mass Transit not only illustrates concepts advocated by The Transit Coalition, but also official public transit proposals that were found to be feasible according to studies. The Future Vision utilizes data from both Coalition field studies and government transportation reports and combines the information into a single map illustrating what productive mass transit could be like in the Inland Empire. Let’s get Southern California moving!

    Friday, March 8, 2013

    Friday Transportation Tips: Keeping the Drive-Thru moving

    You see them at many fast food outlets, banks, and drug stores. Drive-throughs allow customers to patronize businesses without leaving their cars. It’s been a longtime convenience offered in the marketplace. Due to their high demand, businesses rely on quick customer turnaround times to keep their drive-through queues moving and services profitable. Also, the environment benefits whenever drive-throughs are not backed up with a bunch of stopped idling cars. More often than not, drive-through customers placing large orders tend to contribute toward the bottlenecks which often back up the queue. That’s where you can help.

    Please consider sacrificing just a few minutes, park and walk in if you have any large orders or special needs that need to be filled. This may include:
    • Getting food for multiple people at the fast food restaurant.
    • Picking up a new prescription which would necessitate consultation at the pharmacy.
    • Conducting large or multiple transactions at the bank.
    If you follow these guidelines and walk in instead of driving through whenever you have a lot to order, you can help keep the drive-throughs moving with fewer idling cars which pollute the air. In addition, you help the economy of the establishment by keeping their drive-through queue times down which in turn keeps their prices in check.

    Thursday, March 7, 2013

    A no-spin view of the Metro ExpressLanes

    High occupancy toll lanes done right can provide an efficient multi-modal transportation facility within congested freeway corridors.

    A sign announcing express lanes. There has been much unfair dissent toward the Los Angeles Metro ExpressLanes lately by the public. However, the fact remains that the new Los Angeles HOT lanes are not bad for Southern California; it is the current HOV usage policy that remains undoubtedly questionable and the Transit Coalition will continue to confront it. LA Streetsblog caught ABC7 News spinning the facts when the news channel presented an overall negative report of the high occupancy toll lanes.

    The Transit Coalition generally supports multi-modal HOT express lanes and congestion pricing. To be fair, The Coalition did reference this news report in the 2/19/2013 eWeekly Newsletter, but the story reported the fact that overall traffic in the corridor has worsened in the general purpose lanes mainly due to the displacement of non-registered HOV's. This is why the Coalition aims to have the Metro ExpressLanes and all other HOT lanes throughout Southern California allow for any 2+ or 3+ HOV to travel toll free without a transponder. The reasons can be found here. Metro does predict that the increased congestion will phase out as more people register, but the question that needs to be addressed is: How many toll-free HOV's versus toll-paying non-HOV's are using the ExpressLanes compared to the original HOV Lanes? Has the number of HOV's decreased in the high occupancy lanes?

    Currently all HOVs except for motorcycles and buses must have a FasTrak to use the Metro ExpressLanes. Any motorcycle can use the lanes for free. Private buses preregister by submitting their license plate numbers. While it's true that the ill-advised policy of mandating all other HOVs need to have a FasTrak transponder needs to be revisited, it's also true that anti-toll lane groups have been unfairly spinning the facts of the ExpressLanes to promote an overall negative public view of HOT lanes in general. That too is counterproductive.

    Los Angeles Metro's high occupancy toll lanes accomplished two major productive changes to promote multi-modal mobility: First, new rapid express buses were launched to serve the corridors. Secondly, the HOT lanes allowed any non-HOV to pay a toll with a FasTrak transponder to access the ExpressLanes which funds the bus service and other improvements. In addition, LA Metro's switchable FasTrak could and should set the standard for all FasTrak transponders statewide, eliminating the need to manufacture mylar bags and/or the need to construct and maintain separate lanes underneath the toll antennas. HOT lane facilities can provide a quick and easy throughfare for motorists. If Metro, OCTA, and RCTC can cut out the "Nanny Lane" usage policy and allow free non-transponder HOV usage, high occupancy toll lanes can have a future in Southern California transportation.

    Speaking of ExpressLanes, the Los Angeles Times published an anecdote about a person who was sent a citation by the operators of the 91 ExpressLanes. The problem was that his car was nowhere near Orange County and was in fact stored in his garage on the day of the alleged violation. Much of the toll-charging and violation-reporting process is automated. However, operators assure that appeals are reviewed by human beings, with some 900 of these appeals leading to the dismissal of the citation every year.

    Wednesday, March 6, 2013

    Villages of Lakeview and Smart Growth

    (3/6/13) – IE Transit Talking Points Short

    Last May, a massive development project dubbed The Villages of Lakeview was struck down in court due to potential pollution and increased traffic congestion. The development was proposed along the Mid County Parkway corridor in the heart of Lakeview, a small agricultural town located between Perris and Hemet. The project called for the development of 11,000 residential units and 500,000 square feet of commercial space.

    It’s quite clear that this project would initiate a conversion of the small town of Lakeview into a robust city, and to be fair to the developers, efforts were made to include a privately developed bus transit center, a park & ride, and open space areas along the hillsides and wildlife corridors. However, commuters well know that the I-215 and 91 Freeways certainly do not need 11,000 households worth of cars in these already congested corridors. Superior Court Judge Sharon Waters rightly agreed that this traffic impact presented in court had enough merit to warrant the invalidation of the project’s EIR.

    So how can The Villages of Lakeview be developed right? It’s quite evident that both the Lakeview and Nuevo economies rely on the agricultural and farming sectors. A better growth plan would be this:
    • Develop business-friendly zoning policies for the existing ranches south of the Ramona Expressway so that their owners have more options to generate income on their properties which would stimulate economic growth with minimal traffic impacts.
    • Designate the existing agricultural areas north of the Ramona Expressway as agricultural. Permit dwelling areas for property owners, but no tract housing, golf courses or shopping centers.
    • Designate a central area of Lakeview as a specific plan which would incline developers to invest in a small downtown district with mixed-use development to support the existing economy. Lofts and apartments would be developed over pedestrian-friendly small business retail.
    • Designate portions of the central downtown area for a park, school, bus transit station and park & ride, and essential government services.
    This type of smart growth would certainly be more environmentally friendly and would strengthen--not disrupt--the agricultural and farming economies. That's how Lakeview can smartly evolve into a robust city.

    Tuesday, March 5, 2013

    Keeping the Carpool Incentives

    (3/5/13) – IE Transit Talking Points Short

    USA Today interviewed Jim Bak of INRIX, a traffic congestion tracking firm based in Washington. Bak stated, “Drivers (in the Inland Empire) have a lot of incentive to carpool.” He is correct, to an extent. With the 91 Freeway ranked the 10th worst freeway in the country, demands to rideshare and use high occupancy lanes to bypass traffic congestion is high. 16% of all commuter traffic in San Bernardino County alone are HOV’s according to the US Census Bureau.

    So with an overwhelmingly high HOV market demand in the area shown by congested freeway carpool lanes and filled park & ride lots, the focus may be incentives to convert 2-person HOV's into 3+ HOV's. Why then are 3+ HOV’s mandated to use a FasTrak transponder to use the 91 Express Lanes into Orange County and pay tolls during the PM rush hour in the peak direction? Why are these lanes carrying more toll-paying non-HOV’s than 3+ HOV’s? It’s clear that there are legit 3+ HOV’s being displaced from Orange County’s high occupancy toll lanes with the extra capacity being sold to non-HOV’s. It seems like incentives to carpool with 3 persons or more drop when such HOV’s are strapped with ill-advised usage policies in a publicly owned high occupancy toll lane corridor. “Nanny lanes” anyone?

    Monday, March 4, 2013

    Trains to Palm Springs: All aboard the...Union Pacific?

    (3/4/13) – IE Transit Talking Points Short

    For decades, the Riverside County Transportation Commission and the State of California have been evaluating the feasibility of establishing an intercity Amtrak passenger rail route between Los Angeles and Indio via Orange County. The project has gained much support.

    The rail right-of-way that parallels the I-10 freeway between San Bernardino and Indio is operated by the Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR). UPRR continues a firm opposition to any new Amtrak service on its tracks through this area.

    While many private sector railroad firms including UPRR are reluctant to permit passenger intercity trains along their right-of-way’s, these Class One private railroads have considered reinstating passenger service. Public incentives both at the local and federal level should be considered to offset any losses connected with direct passenger service. In addition, liability protection provisions should be considered. Such business-friendly policies would incline private Class One railroad operators like UPRR to operate or allow passenger trains along their right-of-way corridors and finally bring forth productive intercity rail transit service into the Coachella Valley.

    Friday, March 1, 2013

    Friday Transportation Tips: How you can make bus travel enjoyable for everyone

    Here are some basic guidelines while riding a public transit bus through the Inland Empire to make the ride safe and enjoyable for both you and everybody else:
    • Be at the bus stop 5-10 minutes before the bus is due to arrive.
    • If more than one bus route serves the bus stop, stand up and flag the driver to stop by raising your hand as your bus approaches; otherwise, if a different bus shows up and you're the only passenger waiting, wave to signal the driver to proceed.
    • Have your fare or pass ready by the time the bus arrives.
    • After you enter the bus, use the handrails as you head toward a seat as the bus may begin moving once all of the passengers have boarded.
    • Remain seated during your trip. If the bus is standing-room only, use the handrails.
    • Keep the center aisle clear.
    • Be courteous and offer your front row seat to senior citizens or those with disabilities.
    • Remember, eating, drinking, smoking, and loud noise is not allowed on public transit buses.
    • Vandalism is a crime. Report it. Don’t be the one caught defacing property.
    • Exit the bus through the rear door whenever possible. After the bus pulls away, use the designated crossings to cross the street. Don’t jaywalk.