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.