Friday, June 28, 2013

Friday Tips: Travel trips for Independence Day July 4th

A rendering of a TOD at the future site of the Gold Line station in Monrovia. It's time to celebrate our nation's Declaration of Independence! For those traveling out of Southern California or setting off fireworks, here are some basic tips to get the most out your holiday:

Flying? Buy your tickets and book your flight, airport shuttle and lodging reservations as early as possible. Arrive early at the airport and give yourself lots of extra time to clear security. Take advantage of online check-in options to avoid getting bumped off of an overbooked flight.

Taking the train or bus? Buy your tickets and book your trip early for the better fares. Take care of your lodging reservations early. Take advantage of online ticket options so that you can arrive at the station stress-free, check your baggage and board. Plan some stopovers along the way for long-haul ground trips.

Traveling by car? Plan your route and book your hotel/motel stops well in advance. Get your car properly tuned up. That means changing the oil if needed, inspecting the brakes, fluids and tire pressure. Remember that Inland Empire freeways, especially SR-91 will get very congested this Friday afternoon! The highways are also busy during commute hours and during the day and evening on weekends. The highways are generally wide open during the late night on weekdays and early morning hours on weekends. Make sure your designated driver gets proper rest breaks. If you have a smartphone, take advantage of numerous free travel apps to get live traffic reports and the best prices on gas, food and lodging.

For those who plan to shoot off fireworks at home, please follow these tips published by the California Department of Forestry & Fire Protection and our friends working for Riverside and San Bernardino County:

  • Obey all local laws and ordinances before buying or setting off home fireworks. Don't be the one responsible for fire damage due to unsafe or illegal use of fireworks.
  • All fireworks are illegal in Riverside County. The only cities in the county that allow State Fire Marshal Safe and Sane Fireworks are Cathedral City, Indio, Blythe and Coachella. However, these fireworks must not be transported or possessed outside of the cities where they were purchased according to law enforcement
  • Fireworks are not permitted in unincorporated areas of San Bernardino County. Safe and Sane fireworks are only allowed in Adelanto, Chino, Colton, and Rialto, as well as designated locations in Fontana, Grand Terrace, and San Bernardino. Please call the fire department in these cities for more information. 
  • Use only State Fire Marshal approved fireworks. All fireworks that explode, shoot into the air or move along the ground are termed dangerous and are illegal anywhere in California.
  • Never allow children or teenagers to light fireworks on their own without adult supervision. They are not toys. Parents will be liable for any damage or injuries caused by their children using fireworks.
  • Read the instructions on the package before lighting the fuse.
  • Enjoy the fireworks outside only.
  • Keep your fireworks show away from dry grass or other flammables.
  • Enjoy one firework at a time.
  • Keep a safe distance. Do not wear loose fitting clothing.
  • Sparklers can reach 1800° F. Hot enough to melt gold.
  • Never point or throw active fireworks at another person.
  • Do not experiment with fireworks.
  • Never carry fireworks in your pockets.
  • Have a bucket of water to dose the used fireworks in & a hose in case of flying embers.
  • Discard defective fireworks. Do not attempt to re-light or repair.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Riverside County food trucks and transit

On Tuesday, June 25, The Riverside County Board of Supervisors unanimously asked its staff to write up a local ordinance that would permit food truck businesses to operate more freely in the marketplace. Supervisor Kevin Jeffries even organized a special festival that day in the parking lot of the downtown Riverside County Administrative Center where food trucks came; the public well attended the event. Currently, Riverside County only permits food trucks to sell their freshly cooked food only at organized events.

These trucks are certainly not the roach coaches of days past. Many of today's food trucks are in line with health codes and have evolved to offer a variety of great food on the go. Larger food establishments have even expressed interest in getting into the food truck business. Easing county restrictions would not only provide marketplace competition in Riverside County and provide additional restaurant-sector jobs, but will enhance the county's public transit system with some extra amenities.

During peak hours when a public bus transit or train station is full of people, a licensed food truck can park along the adjacent street and offer refreshments to the public. Care to grab a cup of fine coffee and a glazed old fashion doughnut during your ten minute layover at the Corona Transit Center? To be fair, regular health inspections and basic safeguards are necessary to eliminate the possibility of food poisoning and food truck waste must be disposed of properly to counter pollution. However with the greater range of food options and competition which will lower prices and enhance quality, both the marketplace and the public waiting for the bus or train stand to benefit. Transit riders can no longer be classified as a captive audience when it comes to food.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Proposed east/west Omnitrans sbX BRT routes move forward

What is going on with bus rapid transit in the Inland Empire? It is no secret that Omnitrans is building the sbX system on E Street in San Bernardino. However, the agency has plans to expand the concept with a much grander east-west sbX rapid route mostly following Holt Boulevard and 4th Street through Ontario. Omnitrans recently secured a federal grant that would study BRT through this corridor, which would ultimately have endpoints at Pomona and Yucaipa. The Holt Boulevard route would directly link points from Fontana with Foothill Transit's Silver Streak service in Pomona, thus providing an east-west backbone of rapid bus routes spanning from Santa Monica to San Bernardino. Of course, Metrolink stops its trains at the Inland Empire transfer points and LA Metro will soon have the Metro Expo Line extended to Santa Monica; the rail lines would continue to cater for longer distance end-to-end trips. However, these new rapid routes promise to bring a speedy alternative for those points in between.

Cities along the proposed route are even more excited, as several are conducting studies as to whether BRT is feasible and what kind of transit-oriented development opportunities BRT would bring. Check out Omintrans' BRT master plan here. Note that the proposed Holt Boulevard line is marked in purple:

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

More heated debate over the Villages of Lakeview

Developers behind The Villages of Lakeview project have scaled down their proposal and turned to Riverside County officials for a second approval. The first proposal, which was found to be too environmentally prohibitive in court, proposed adding more than 11,000 homes in the rural and agricultural town of Lakeview, located between Hemet and Perris along the Ramona Expressway.

The scaled-down version proposes approximately 8,700 homes and a sprawling 1.3 million square feet of combined commercial and retail space. Talk about mixing undesired urban sprawl with a much desired and much need job market. According to the Press Enterprise, both the Sierra Club and the San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society are seriously questioning the revision, and for good reason. The proposed development still covers sprawling acres of undeveloped or agricultural land. To be fair, the Inland Empire's economy could certainly use the added marketplace jobs, but as mentioned before, both the I-215 and SR-91 simply cannot handle the added commuter traffic. Therefore, this project should be debated, but public officials must remain firm on their commitments to counter worsened traffic congestion, potential disruption to natural ecosystems and car-centric development.

If demographics dictate that the majority of Lakeview's residents will end up commuting to jobs in Orange County or Downtown Riverside, getting developer funds to start up all-day Metrolink train service along the Perris Valley Line corridor, launching all-day hub-and-spoke RTA bus lines, and paying off some of RCTC's bond debt for the 91 Express Lanes extension will need to be part of negotiations; otherwise, the development will be just another car-oriented example of urban sprawl which deserves to be opposed. The Inland Empire cannot thrive if its streets and highways operate under forced traffic flow conditions. We simply cannot continue to have transit infrastructure with ongoing "F's" in level-of-service. If, however, both the ecosystem and Riverside County's regional transportation infrastructure can handle the economic boost of the Villages of Lakeview by maintaining a "C" or better in level-of-service (stable traffic flow), the Inland Empire as we know it should be okay.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Riverside Transit and Omnitrans "Public Hearings" never close here

What rapid bus service in the Inland Empire can look like. As mentioned last Friday, there are times where Inland Empire transit riders who have a legit and fact-based concern, submit their requests directly to a transit agency only to have their requests looked at for a moment, but not adopted for whatever reason it may be. To be fair, public transit agency staff are very busy and must remain impartial to the law and transportation policy. Official public hearing periods are also heavily regulated. More often than not, some requests cannot be fulfilled simply because it goes beyond the power of the transit agency. Transit riders are often tempted to think that their requests go ignored and are led to believe that what gets decided after a public hearing period is absolutely final.

Good news: Riders can voice their comments and opinion anytime, whether they're general requests, or for a specific project or proposal. The U.S. Constitution gives concerned citizens a right to express their opinion. The First Amendment has no time limits.

With that, The Transit Coalition and RTA's Transportation NOW serve as ongoing outlets for public opinion and suggestions related to transportation mobility. If there's a trivial obstruction, the agency or group in power will be held accountable, whether it be a special interest group, or a local, state or federal entity. As mentioned, TTC's positions are fact-based and led by independent concerned citizens without political spin. Everyday suggestions such as improved intercity transit options between regions, faster and more frequent service, more rail options, late night bus service, and combating wasteful government spending are compared with the facts and incorporated into our campaigns. Comments left on this blog, on our Facebook page, and through public engagement serve as foundations for our positions. 

As mentioned before, RTA's T-NOW is government led, but its meetings also provide an outlet for Riverside County transit riders to voice suggestions directly to top officials. Both groups are vital to have your voice considered anytime for better transit mobility in the Inland Empire. If you have any transit requests anywhere within Southern California, please contact us or post your opinion in the comments section.

"Public hearings" never close here.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Friday tips: Final call to get your opinion of RTA bus service into public record

Friday tips: If you haven't done so already, get your comments to RTA at (951) 565-5002 or email to no later than June 26. At the very least, your opinion will be part of the public record.

RTA Short Range Transit Plan 2014-2016 and FY2014 budget:

View the proposed 2014-2016 SRTP here.

RTA Dial-A-Ride No-Show policy changes:

RTA Title VI Policies and Plans:

RTA Route 210/220 bus stop changes:

Don't forget that if you have a legit and fact-based concern that you think is being overlooked by our government officials, please remember that you also have The Transit Coalition and RTA's Transportation NOW as outlets. As mentioned, TTC's positions are fact-based and led by independent concerned citizens without political spin. T-NOW is government led and provides an outlet for transit riders to voice suggestions to top officials. Both groups are vital to have your voice considered anytime. "Public hearings" never close here.

We have urged RTA once more to actually budget promised late night bus service, close transit gaps, make Southwest area bus routes more direct, work with RCTC for bus infrastructure for the planned high occupancy toll lanes for SR-91 and I-15, and for elected officials to clear the way for the private sector to improve express intercity transit options for the Inland freeway corridors between San Diego and Los Angeles with stops at existing and planned public transit hubs.

View The Transit  Coalition's comments to RTA here:

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Transit Coalition releases comments on RTA FY2014-16 proposals

Riverside Transit AgencyThe Transit Coalition has released its positions upon the proposed Riverside Transit Agnecy Dial-A-Ride policy changes, 2014-2016 Short Range Transit Plan, Route 210/220 bus stop changes, and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act policy amendments. 

For more information and details on the Coalition's comments, please visit:

RTA has five public comment agenda items on the table--four public hearings and one public survey. Here are links to each one:

RTA 10 Year Plan Survey:

RTA Short Range Transit Plan 2014-2016 and FY2014 budget:

View the proposed 2014-2016 SRTP here.

RTA Dial-A-Ride No-Show policy changes:

RTA Title VI Policies and Plans:

RTA Route 210/220 bus stop changes:

Public Hearing Period continues through Wednesday June 26:
It's not too late! Get your comments to RTA no later than June 26. The 10 Year Plan Survey will be open through the fall. RTA will officially close the comment period at the June 27 RTA Board meeting. RTA will accept comments at the meetings, by phone at (951) 565-5002, emailed to, or sent via standard mail to 1825 Third Street, Riverside, CA 92507.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Getting the drug traffickers out of Eastvale and the I-15 freeway

Eastvale was once a completely rural area, with farms and agricultural fields dominating the area until the turn of the century where a sea of single family homes transformed the region. Currently, Eastvale is a robust bedroom community. Jobs in Ontario to the north, Corona and the Metrolink system to the south, and government services in downtown Riverside are a bus ride or short drive away. Eastvale can also boast over its median family income of more than $100,000.

With those assets, criminals are exploiting ways to hide out in the area, turning vacant rental properties into drug production houses and using the I-15 freeway corridor as a means to transport illegal marijuana into the black drug market. The recent subprime mortgage crisis led to an upswing of rentals. At least 18 pot houses had been discovered in the city alone since the beginning of 2013, and police officials report that there are more houses being watched and investigated.

The City of Eastvale is exploring options to track down on this crime wave. One idea floating around city hall is better regulating landlords and rental properties. Such a notion is subject to debate. One fact that needs to be considered is that there are legit and law abiding landlords who are in no way affiliated with this type of activity; they should not be paying the price. With a strong local law enforcement presence, the focus should be catching the illegal drug operators through an intelligence-driven means, giving legit landlords the power and immunity to immediately evict such criminal activity from their properties, busting criminal landlords assisting in the practice, and setting a floor for mandatory jail time for such drug operations. Programs to keep our youth away from drug abuse must also continue in our schools.

Such a crime wave has happened before in the young city. We all remember in 2006, MSNBC aired To Catch a Predator in Riverside, which actually took place at an Eastvale home on the southeast side of town on Riverboat Drive. 50 suspected child predators were busted, the most caught during the show's run. California now has some the hardest penalties for lewd acts against children and similar crimes against minors. There is no question that locking up drug trafficking criminals would contribute toward getting such behavior out of Eastvale let alone the rest of Southern California. Our transportation network, let alone the houses in our Inland Empire cities, should not be facilitating these kinds of criminal activities.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Temecula: Getting transit into Old Town's transit-oriented development

A park in Murrieta. The City of Temecula has earmarked public funds toward the development of additional mixed use affordable housing in its robust historic downtown district. The city's proposals are certainly sound ideas. Old Town will be a livable community, oriented around people rather than cars. The apartment complexes on the west side of town are just a few blocks away from the central core. Old Town Temecula has numerous shops, restaurants, a fire station, police station, and Temecula City Hall within walking or biking distance for its residents. Shops front directly with the sidewalk, as with offices, and residential units above the shops. Add in a some service-oriented jobs and commercial retail storefronts and Old Town will one day be completely livable.

Getting transit into Old Town Temecula:

Viable public transit and bus infrastructure is needed to support this development in order to prevent colossal traffic congestion in the area. At present, two local RTA public bus transit routes, each operating nearly hourly, run through Old Town starting from early morning through the tail end of the evening rush hour. Route 79 (Hemet-Temecula) operates weekdays only; Route 24 (south Temecula circulator) operates daily. An additional Old Town circulator trolley route runs every Saturday from 8 am – 1 pm. In addition, a Greyhound route (San Bernardino-San Diego) stops four times per day, two times per direction.

Public officials are currently looking at a rapid transit route which will link Old Town Temecula with neighboring downtown districts up north in Murrieta, Wildomar, and Lake Elsinore. As officials continue their transit studies, one option that needs to be explored is streamlining Temecula's local bus routes into a hub-and-spoke model with Old Town serving as a potential local hub. Bus routes serving the Pechanga Parkway, Temecula Parkway, Rancho California Road, Front Street, and Jefferson Avenue corridors should seamlessly feed through Temecula's downtown district. The Old Town transfer hub may even qualify to have its own direct access ramp to/from future HOV or HOT lanes along the I-15 freeway in the long term.

Public incentives also needs to be debated and offered to the private sector so that hourly intercity bus service can be offered between San Diego and Los Angeles via the I-15 freeway corridor with potential local stops in Temecula Old Town, the planned Twin Cities Transit Center, Lake Elsinore and the Corona Transit Center. Otherwise Temecula Old Town will have a serious case of dense transit oriented development without reliable transit.

Monday, June 17, 2013

High Occupancy Toll Lanes: Productive utilization means moving more people, not cars

There have been many news reports that high occupancy toll lanes throughout the country, namely the  I-495 Express Lanes in Washington DC and Metro ExpressLanes in Los Angeles have been "underutilized" due to vehicle and revenue shortfalls.

Most, if not all, toll lane corridors carry the most vehicles during peak congestion hours. They are often wide open at other times. Without congestion, toll-paying non high occupancy motorists generally have little incentive to use the toll lanes. However, HOT lanes should not be written off just because they don't carry many cars; here's why. Most HOT lane corridors in the nation allow 2+ or 3+ HOV's toll free travel, many of which allow for free non-transponder carpooling. The question is: How many people are moving through the corridor versus vehicles in comparision to the general purpose lanes?

Concept of I-15 facing north near Interstate 10Take a close look at the conceptual graphic to right showing a free flowing I-15 freeway in between the I-10 and SR-60 interchange. The general purpose lanes are carrying at least a dozen vehicles. The conceptual HOT lanes are carrying only 3. Suppose the 12 cars in the regular lanes carried an average of 1.5 passengers. That would mean 18 people traveling. In contrast, the illustrated Megabus in the toll lanes is carrying 50 passengers, the airport shuttle is hauling a family of four, and a single CHP motorcycle officer conducts enforcement. In this example, the HOT lanes are not generating any revenue; however the lanes are moving 55 people in contrast to 18 in the general purpose lanes. If the corridor can move more people per hour with the HOT lanes, under no means are the high occupancy lanes underutilized even though fewer cars are using it.

Public agencies from both the local and state level must understand that proposed high occupancy toll lanes in the Inland Empire should not be public money fountains. HOT lanes should be designed to move more people, not cars. Any revenue collected from non-HOV's should be used to pay for corridor operations which includes mass transit and basic capital improvements. However, the state must also be held accountable for its actions and ensure state transportation and gas tax funding is also making it to the transportation corridor as it should. Under no circumstances should county entities like RCTC be bound to massive debt obligations for highway capacity improvements which should otherwise by state-funded.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Friday Tips: Avoiding red light camera tickets the right way and calculating the minimum yellow light interval

High school students cross Jefferson Blvd. At Farmdale.
The effectiveness of automated photo enforcement at Southland intersections is certainly questionable and subject to debate. One certain fact is that the capability of automated enforcement equipment is so limited that such limitations could be easily exploited. With that, there are numerous websites giving people tips of avoiding red light camera tickets.

Unfortunately, many of these sites have ill-advised tips which go above the law. For instance, masking your identity or installing covers which blurs the plate number from certain angles certainly is bad advice. While it's fine to question the policy of automated photo enforcement, going above the law to avoid a ticket is abuse. If you have an issue with automated red light cameras, put it up for robust debate and sell your argument to the public.

Here's our tips to avoid getting a red light ticket from Big Brother: 
  • Don't run the red light.
  • On red, come to a full and complete stop at the limit line or before entering the crosswalk. Don't do a California Stop when turning right against a red light. Obey the "NO TURN ON RED" regulatory signs.
  • If you see a yellow signal, that means the red light is about to appear. Quoting from the California Driver Handbook, whenever you see the light turning yellow, stop if you can do so safely. Otherwise, cross the intersection carefully.

How to calculate the minimum yellow light interval for California traffic signals:

If you suspect that the yellow light interval at an intersection is too short, report it. The interval length of the yellow light is state regulated and determined by the posted speed limit. Right and left turn yellow lights are set at a 3 second minimum.

T = t + V/2d

T = The minimum yellow light change interval
V = Posted speed limit in feet-per-second
d = Deceleration Rate of 10ft per second
t = Reaction time (1 second)

Here's how to calculate the state-regulated minimum interval of the yellow light for a 45 MPH roadway. First, convert the speed limit into feet per second. Mutiply 45 by 5280 to convert it into feet, and then divide that by 3600 to convert the per-hours into per-seconds. You should have a speed of 66 feet per second. Now, divide that number by 20 (a deceleration rate of 10 feet per second mutiplied by 2). Add that to a reaction time of 1 second.

T = t + V/2d
T = 1 + ((45*5280)/3600) / (2 * 10)
T = 1 + 66 / (2 * 10)
T = 1 + 66 / 20
T = 1 + 3.3
T = 4.3

The minimum yellow light interval for a 45 MPH road is 4.3 seconds.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Moving forward with the Perris Valley Line lawsuit ruling

Metrolink to Perris.
It is quite evident that the Riverside County Transportation Commission is doing whatever it can within its power to get the Perris Valley Line moving, and the agency has every right to do so given that the rail line is environmentally friendly, the right-of-way is publicly owned, and the majority of the public supports it. Earlier in May, Superior Court Judge Sharon Waters ordered that RCTC decertify the project's EIR within 90 days because of puritanical environmental issues which could be easily resolved. RCTC had a number of options to move foward:
  • RCTC can appeal the judgment at a higher court.
  • According to Len Nunney, the secretary for Friends of Riverside Hills, RCTC can engage in a settlement without having to recompile its EIR.
  • RCTC can lobby the state legislature for CEQA reform
RCTC has basically selected "All of the above." The Commission board voted in closed session at its 6/12/13 meeting to appeal Judge Waters' ruling. RCTC filed the appeals paperwork with the Fourth District Court of Appeals. Even with the appeals papers filed, the two parties remain open to settling the case without RCTC having to redo the Perris Valley Line EIR.

Just days before the meeting, RCTC Chairwoman Karen Spiegel, Riverside County Supervisor Marion Ashley, and City of Perris Mayor Daryl Busch met with members of the state legislature to lobby for an exemption of the rail line's trivial and construction-related environmental issues from the current legal loopholes in CEQA law. It is without question that the landmark law needs to be amended and made retroactive to counter abusive lawsuits; however, to be fair, fast-tracking projects by granting outright CEQA exemptions is very questionable. During settlement negotiations, RCTC must also ensure that the NIMBY party is not receiving any unnecessary "home improvements" paid for by county taxpayers.

Judicial appeals processes normally take several months from start to finish, but RCTC still predicts breaking ground later this July. It is still early to predict what will happen. This trivial lawsuit in general has one big message for the state: Close up the CEQA loopholes.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Metrolink Perris Valley Line Lawsuit: Protecting the $75 million in federal funds

A Metrolink locomotive built by Rotem.$75 million in awarded federal funds for the Metrolink Perris Valley Line are now at risk according to John Standiford, Deputy Executive Director of the Riverside County Transportation Commission. The FTA granted RCTC the money through the Small Starts program, but since the entire project is stalled over trivial environmental litigation, the federal funds could be deobligated.

As mentioned, the state legislature is working on amending CEQA law to prevent environmentally-friendly projects from being stopped in the courts in the name of the environment. The California State Senate unanimously backed changes to the landmark legislation on May 29. Now, the feds are getting in on the debate. Congressman Rep. Mark Takano (D-Riverside) sent this letter to FTA administrator Peter Rogoff, asking him to keep the Perris Valley Line federal funds in tact:

Dear Administrator Rogoff:

The Perris Valley Line Metrolink Extension represents a significant step towards sustainable living in California’s 41st Congressional District and I welcome the $75 million federal investment that has been appropriated by Congress for this project.

As you may know, a California Superior Court Judge recently ordered decertification of the Perris Valley Line’s environmental impact report (EIR) prepared under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The project’s sponsor, the Riverside County Transportation Commission (RCTC), has assured me that they are pursuing all options available to ensure that the Perris Valley Line ultimately moves forward to construction.

I urge the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to take all actions necessary to preserve the $75 million that has been appropriated under the Small Starts program for Perris Valley Line during ongoing litigation. The Small Starts grant is an imperative piece of the total funding for the Perris Valley Line project and I encourage the FTA to ensure that the Perris Valley Line project remain eligible to receive the grant once CEQA litigation has concluded.

Perris Valley Line provides critical regional connectivity to my constituents, particularly in the underserved cities of Perris and Moreno Valley, while connecting major job centers in Riverside and March Air Reserve Base.

Thank you for FTA’s continued support of Perris Valley Line and for working with RCTC to advance livability and mobility in California’s 41st Congressional District.

Sincerely, Mark Takano

RCTC Commissioners will be discussing what will happen next at their Commissioners board meeting later today. In the mean time, the FTA should grant Rep. Takano's request to prevent anything else from delaying the Perris Valley Line extension which is long past due.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

RTA's SWOT Analysis: The need of bus infrastructure on Inland Empire toll lanes

Conceptual Smith Avenue Direct Access Ramp Inland Empire transportation officials must not forget that if the proposed high occupancy toll lanes along SR-91, I-15 and I-10 are to provide for efficient multi-modal transportation options, such facilities need to include bus transit infrastructure. A prime example is the I-15 Express Lanes in San Diego County. Direct access ramps along this HOT facility allow for HOV's like buses and carpools to access transit centers and park & ride lots from within a few blocks of the highway without having to merge across any of the general purpose lanes. 

According to a February, 2013 RTA Board of Directors Agenda, a Strengths Weaknesses Opportunities Threats (SWOT) analysis shows a transit mobility threat of continued freeway expansion proposals without bus infrastructure. Current plans by the Riverside County Transportation Commission to extend the 91 Express Lanes into Corona fit into this category. At present, there are no plans to link the 91 Express Lanes with the Corona Transit Center. On the other end of the line in Orange County, express buses must backtrack in order to reach the Village at Orange bus transfer hub from the HOT lanes, all due to the lack of a direct access ramp in the area. Such backtracking wastes nearly 5 miles per bus trip.

To be fair, OCTA and RCTC are at the mercy of reduced funding from the state. However, with this SWOT finding, linking proposed HOT lanes with Inland Empire transit centers via direct access ramps needs to be planned. Both the local agencies and the state should take a tour of the I-15 Express Lanes in San Diego County to see how direct access ramps can make toll lanes more transit friendly.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Get ready to Dump the Pump

A person pumps gas.
It's time to Dump the Pump! On June 20, 2013, American Public Transportation Association and public transportation systems across the country will celebrate the 8th Annual National Dump the Pump Day. Southern California transit agencies are gearing up to incentivize the public to their bus systems by giving away free day passes. Activities in Riverside County begin on Saturday, June 15, when RTA will hand out giveaways and free day passes at the Temecula Farmer's Market, Lake Elsinore Outlet Center, Hemet Valley Mall and Riverside Plaza.

On Dump the Pump Day, Thursday June 20, RTA will be rewarding some of its bus riders who ride that day with free 7-Day passes and Starbucks Coffee gift cards at the Corona Transit Center, Temecula Promenade Mall, UC Riverside and the Perris Station Transit Center. Likewise, Omnitrans plans to incentivize the public with this Free Day Pass coupon, valid on Dump the Pump Day, June 20.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Friday tips: Submit your comments to the Riverside Transit Agency

Riverside Transit Agency.It's public hearing time at the Riverside Transit Agency. Do you have a few things to say about bus transit mobility in Riverside County?

RTA has five public comment agenda items on the table. This week's tip: Get your comments and opinion over to RTA.

RTA 10 Year Plan Survey:

RTA Short Range Transit Plan 2014-2016 and FY2014 budget:

View the proposed 2014-2016 SRTP here.

RTA Dial-A-Ride No-Show policy changes:

RTA Title VI Policies and Plans:

RTA Route 210/220 bus stop changes:

Get your comments to RTA at (951) 565-5002 or email to no later than June 26. The 10 Year Plan Survey will be open through the fall.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Changes in store for Omnitrans

An Omnitrans bus heading to Chino Hills.Omnitrans General Manager Milo Victoria unexpectedly announced his resignation on June 5. The CEO submitted his resignation without reason to the Omnitrans Board of Directors. He had been with the transit agency for 3 1/2 years.

Some have already claimed that his resignation was related to faults in the sbX bus rapid transit project. At this point, these claims are mere speculation. What we do know is that Victoria's resignation followed a closed session Board meeting which included a performance review of the CEO. Board discussions on employee matters are almost always done in closed session due to confidentiality issues. Omnitrans Director of Operations, Scott Graham, will assume Victoria's duties as an interim.

With a change in leadership, The Transit Coalition will keep a watch on the progress of Omnitrans' sbX BRT line and the transit agency's long term plans to expand the sbX network across Omnitrans' service area. We predict the starter line will mimic LA's Metro Orange Line through Downtown San Bernardino and emulate LA Metro Rapid in other areas. Both of these rapid transit forms provide LA bus riders a quick and speedy alternative to slow local bus rides for longer distance trips.

Based on information from the sbX website, here are some highlights of the corridor and bus fleet:
  • Each of the 16 stations is art inspired and reflects the culture & heritage of the community it serves. Shelters provide protection from sun, wind, and rain.
  • The line will have stations either in the median of the road are along the sides.
  • There will be four Park & Ride lots--Palm Avenue, Marshall Boulevard, Rialto Avenue, and Anderson Street.
  • The interval between buses is 10 minutes during peak hours and 15 minutes at other times.
  • Interior bike racks

Photo © George Lumbreras CC-BY-SA

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

CEQA abuse: Not In My State Anymore

Not In My Backyard obstructionists who exploit loopholes in CEQA law to stop environmentally-friendly development projects over very trivial environmental concerns through the courts may soon face this:
Not In My State Anymore.

Consider what is unfolding in Riverside County, where Friends of Riverside Hills, a small group of NIMBY's, successfully stopped the Metrolink Perris Valley Extension through a CEQA lawsuit, at least for the moment. The group used little more than throw-to-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks trivialities as genuine concerns in alleging that the project's environmental documents violated CEQA requirements. Here's a question for fair-minded individuals: Is the Perris Valley Line lawsuit really a case of a community fighting to protect its quality of life and the long term welfare of the environment, or just another frivolous CEQA lawsuit that unreasonably hampers progress?

As mentioned, the Riverside County Transportation Commission is turning to state lawmakers for help in moving the project forward. Fortunately, Senate Bill 731 provides more clarity on what constitutes a genuine CEQA violation, gives preference to projects that logically improve the environment and eliminates some of the more archaic and counter-intuitive elements. The State Senate unanimously approved the bill on May 30 and SB 731 now awaits review by the State Assembly. Environmental law and unanimous legislative agreement are certainly not normal in the state legislature, but since 100% of the State Senate agrees that CEQA abuse is a problem, it may soon be Not in My State Anymore for NIMBY's abusing the law.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Will Corona surface streets continue to serve as shortcuts for 91 Freeway commuters?

Carpools only when HOT lanes get congested
Conceptual entry sign for the planned 91 Express Lanes extension: Concept advocates for free non-transponder 3+ carpooling and HOV-only usage should the lanes become congested.

Since the early 1990's, 91 Freeway commuters headed to jobs in Orange County have been looking for ways to get around the infamous Corona Crawl. For the past few decades, several peak hour commuters use surface streets in the City of Corona to get around the chronic stop-and-go 91 Freeway traffic between the Inland Empire and Orange County.

The Green River Road interchange in the early 90's

At one point more than twenty years ago, residents in western Corona became so fed up with stopped commuter traffic spilling over into their local streets that such issues made living in this part of Corona undesirable. This was caused by a bottleneck along the westbound 91 Freeway at Green River Road.

At that time, the 91 Freeway between Corona and Orange County was four lanes wide with no high occupancy lanes. When the 91 Express Lanes was built a few years later, the bottleneck was still present due to a westbound lane drop just west of Green River Road. Each morning, commuters dealt with bumper-to-bumper traffic between the I-15 Freeway and the Orange County line. Due to a non-compete clause with the toll lane operator, public officials could not restripe the roadway in order to get rid of the lane drop. The issues lasted for more than a decade until the early 2000's when OCTA took public ownership of the 91 Express Lanes.

The Green River Road interchange today

Thanks to ongoing local improvements, the establishment of Metrolink service, the development of the 91 Express Lanes and additional general purpose lanes, the Green River Road bottleneck is now generally confined within the interchange area during the early morning peak hour.

Is the El Cerrito Road interchange next?

The I-15 southbound from Corona into Lake Elsinore may experience a similar problem. At the I-15 southbound at El Cerrito Road, there is a lane drop where the highway goes from four lanes to three. During the afternoon peak hour and weekends, this bottleneck often creates a 3-5 mile traffic backup. Public officals will be breaking ground next year to upgrade the 91 Freeway through Corona by adding a general purpose lane and extending the 91 Express Lanes to the I-15 with a short extension along the I-15 to the south. With these lane additions, the I-15 is expected to carry more vehicles, yet upgrades to fix the actual bottleneck are still in the planning stages. This means the traffic chokepoint along southbound I-15 at El Cerrito Road is expected to be exacerbated. Public officials must therefore prepare for the coming of even more afternoon commuters and weekend travelers of whom may end up using the local surface streets as a means to get around the Corona Crawl.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Pressure building on Metrolink Perris Valley Line NIMBY's

Metrolink to Perris.As previously reported, local NIMBY opposition has placed an indefinite delay on the Metrolink Perris Valley line extension when a judge tossed out the project's EIR over trivial concerns on May 16, 2013.

The Riverside County Transportation Commission had planned on discussing what the public agency was going to do at its 6/12/13 Commissioners board meeting. However, elected officials are not waiting around.

RCTC Chairwoman Karen Spiegel, Riverside County Supervisor Marion Ashley, and City of Perris Mayor Daryl Busch met with members of the state legislature to lobby for an exemption of the rail line's trivial and construction-related environmental issues from the current legal loopholes in CEQA law. Local officials hope that the amendments would be made retroactive to the Perris Valley Line which would affect the judgement in favor of RCTC. As mentioned, US Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA 42nd District) also plans to work with his federal colleagues and the state legislature.

The public officials' actions has built up pressure on the Friends of Riverside Hills, the organization behind the lawsuit, and its representatives are not happy about it. The group claimed that "it is a source of serious concern when public agencies view themselves as being above the law, which is what this effort suggests." With all due respect, that statement is not true. The Founding Fathers of our nation established the separation of powers which gives concerned citizens--local elected leaders included--the right to communicate with their elected state representatives whose duty it is to write the law. What part of lobbying to the state legislature to close up CEQA loopholes in order to stop abuse goes above the law? Surely, such pressure groups know that force-advancing NIMBY agendas by exploiting loopholes in the law in the courts--a potential example of going above the law through judicial activism--would be a cause of concern by those who write the law.

To be fair, California needs to maintain its strong environmental laws which would control large developments, urban sprawl and pollution, but such law also needs to protect environmentally sound projects from trivial CEQA litigation. State lawmakers are well aware of this. These are not good times for NIMBY pressure groups.