RTA's 2014-2016 SRTP: Evening and Late night bus service

According to RTA and numerous Transit Coalition field studies, "demand for later service has been on the rise." RTA has proposed later evening and potential late night bus service service on major regional and local routes over the course of the next three years.

RTA has planned to begin implementing later evening and possible late night service with routes that serve major destinations such as large employment centers and colleges and universities. In FY2013-14, RTA has proposed to expand the service span of Routes 1, 15, 16, 18, 20, 31, and 32 into the later hours of the night.

Currently, service span for many of RTA's bus routes ends shortly after the evening peak hour. This prevents several retail and entertainment sector employees who work into the late night hours from using the bus system to return home. Lack of public funding has long been a major hurdle and RTA has worked hard to allocate such money to extend the span of service for these routes.

Public-Private and Inter-agency Partnerships for expanded service span

Several transit agencies including RTA have entered into public-private and inter-agency partnerships in the past to quickly fund expanded service. Here are few within the Inland Empire:

  • Metrolink Rail 2 Rail® is a cooperative ticket and service program provided by Metrolink, Amtrak and Caltrans. The Rail 2 Rail® program allows Metrolink monthly pass holders along the Orange and Ventura County corridors to travel on Amtrak Pacific Surfliner trains within the station pairs of their pass at no additional charge, including late night and weekend trains. 
  • Coaster Rail 2 Rail® COASTER monthly pass holders can purchase a Rail2Rail-UPGRADE by visiting the Amtrak ticket offi ce in Oceanside, Solana Beach or San Diego Santa Fe Depot to ride the extra Pacific Surfliner trains.
  • RTA Route 55 - Temecula Trolley - A local home developer started a high school shuttle service in Temecula. The city currently maintains full funding of the RTA-operated route.
  • NCTD 388/389 - Pala-Escondido - Through the Reservation Transportation Authority, a federal 5311(c) grant funds expanded service of a regional connector and casino hopper bus route in inland San Diego county. NCTD operates the line with a regular local fare policy. Last bus leaves the casinos during the 9PM hour.
  • The Job Access and Reverse Commute federal program funds expanded trips along selected RTA CommuterLink routes. 
Here are some additional partnership concepts local officials may want to consider:
  • Major entertainment destinations in Orange County: With partnerships with major sports centers, the Disneyland Resort, and beach destinations, additional express buses can be added for the SR-91 Corridor between Riverside and Orange County for both customers and employees from early morning until late night with potential owl service on Friday and Saturday nights.
  • Pechanga Resort & Casino currently offers several bus trips for its Player's Club members from all around Southern California. Through a small agreement, pick-up and drop-off locations can be established at public transit centers or along the adjacent street and such connections can be included in the RTA schedules.
  • Fantasy Springs, Morongo Casinos: Like Pechanga, these large casino resorts operate adjacent to the I-10 corridor between the Inland Empire and Coachella Valley. Such a partnership can help support the existing peak-only express service between the regions during off-peak hours for casino patrons and employees.
  • Bus Wraps: Branded vehicle advertising from the entertainment sector would provide additional late night service revenue.
  • Use of Smaller Buses for Late Night Runs: Based on ridership data from other transit agencies offering such service, use of smaller buses for lower-demand late night runs will help keep agency costs low for routes operating near RTA bus yards. For example, the former Bear Runner Shuttle used a 15-seat passenger bus while the daytime Highlander Hauler used a larger trolley bus.
  • Transit Oriented Development with developer-funded capital investments at RTA station stops, transit centers, and high density bus lines.


  1. On the subject of smaller buses, I actually asked RTA about that once. They noted that, for directly-operated routes, union contracts prevented their drivers from driving anything less than the standard 40-footers, and the time spent returning to the yard and swapping the bus out pretty much wiped out any savings from running smaller buses. Remember, too, that in the developed world, the primary cost driver for transit is not physical operating cost but labor.

    As far as TOD, you really need seriously high frequencies and high-end infrastructure to make a difference, and you need to make changes in local zoning codes in order to get the kind of density and site plans to make a transit-oriented development actually *transit-oriented,* and not just a high-rise apartment building with a huge parking lot. You might be able to do something in downtown Riverside or along the University Ave. corridor, but only if you get the frequencies of route 1 in the 10-minute peak range, plus seriously expand evening service.

    1. A few of RTA's local routes and some of the CommuterLink routes have selected trips that are directly operated; other trips are contract-operated. The same cost-savings model could work with the late night additions of certain RTA routes where the RTA-employed driver operates the 40' buses and the contract-operator drives the smaller buses. It's evident that this hybrid system won't work on every route, but it has worked for some. Also, the restriction of RTA-employed bus drivers to drive only the full 40' buses all because of a union contract should certainly be renegotiated once the contract is due to be renewed. The notion that this is a labor rights issue is questionable.

      For TOD to be done right as you've mentioned, not only does the local jurisdictions need to designate such land as specfic mixed-use plans, the state government must also make California a better place to do business in the marketplace. Obviously, this is beyond RTA's power, but local elected officials do hold some of the keys. What would incline a private investor to build a robust transit-friendly marketplace employment hub over street-side retail in the heart of the Riverside Downtown Metrolink station which in turn would pay for an RTA transit center and pedestrian bridge across the 91 into the downtown core?

  2. Thanks for the update, is there any way I can receive an email sent to me when you write a fresh article?

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