Friday, December 20, 2013

Transportation Tips: Travel Safely this Christmas and New Year's Day

As the Christmas and New Year's Day holidays are around the corner, many people will be travelling to see loved ones. Last night three separate bus accidents in the Inland Empire occurred on wet highways which resulted in one passing and numerous injuries. Two accidents involved casino buses at the start of the afternoon peak hour around 2:30 PM, one of which overturned while coming down a hill along the northbound I-15 approaching SR-91 through Corona, the other overturned on the southbound I-15 in Pala Mesa just south of the Highway 76 interchange. Earlier in the day, a collision involving a westbound Riverside Transit Bus Route 27 occurred on Highway 74 in Menifee in between the Romoland and Homoland areas.

All of the collisions are under investigation and should serve as lessons for all us planning to travel for Christmas or New Year's Day: Travel Safely. Drivers especially should be extra careful on the roads. Give yourself plenty of extra time so that you're not rushing or traveling aggressively. Lastly, if you are drinking, do not--under any circumstance--drive.

By the way, if you happen to be in the Redlands area for Christmas and/or the New Year's Day holiday, several local small businesses have pooled resources together to fund a program where people who may have had too much to drink can get a ride home for free or reduced cost in lieu of taxi travel. The Responsible Redlands Safe Rides Home Program will be available starting tonight through New Year's Day. A local public official praised the program.

San Bernardino County District Attorney Mike Ramos stated, "I would like to commend Hangar 24 and all the participating business owners for spearheading this project, which ultimately has the goal of offering a safe alternative to those who might otherwise feel compelled to drink and drive."

Have a safe and Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year, and we'll talk to you again in 2014.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Shaking down the small business marketplace in the name of ADA

Tens of thousands of lawsuits have been filed against California small businesses in the past few years for matters related to the American Disability Act. Some of those cases are trivial. Whenever a business is out of compliance of ADA, one can file a suit to force a business to correct the fault while at the same time, the plaintiff and his/her lawyer can cash in on the awarded damages or settlement.

The ADA is a vital law for America's disabled. If a business is found to be out of compliance, it should be held accountable to fix the problem. However, fixing such problems through litigation goes way beyond the intended purpose of fixing non-compliancy and instead places many businesses in serious financial binds through expensive settlements or litigation. In fact, it has become a full-time job for some in the state to scout for businesses that are out of compliance, file a suit, and then capitalize from the settlement. Local Inland Empire establishments and businesses statewide, especially thriving and growing companies are targets for these suits. Groups of people simply want a share of their profits and they will exploit loopholes in the law to get it. Businesses therefore are in a position to budget more money for lawyers because of this situation. The added expenses weakens the job market because companies cannot afford to hire despite the fact that there is tons of work to be done to improve the Inland Empire's quality of life. Worse yet, if a business cannot afford to fight or settle such litigation, it may end up facing bankruptcy or closure. That is no sound way to enforce ADA.

A local television news station in Sacramento did an extensive investigation on this issue. Without small business growth and a strong competitive economy, job opportunities will stay low, salaries will be down, unemployment will still be high, and our transit systems will not have the resources to grow and flourish. That's a reality.

We the volunteers at The Transit Coalition are no lawyers and have no business interpreting ADA law at the state or national level. We'll thus keep our point simple. We and many fair-minded individuals well know that the current process of enforcing the landmark law unfairly obstructs small business growth. There's no question about it. To be fair, if a business patron or customer does sustain physical or economic damage as a result of non ADA-compliancy and can prove it beyond reasonable doubt in the court of law, it would be perfectly justifiable to file a claim or suit. However, if a plaintiff sues and the case is to be found frivolous, the suing party should be held fully liable for all attorney fees and court costs. Getting businesses to be ADA-compliant in general should be done through an alternative means other than the courts that won't cost them tens of thousands of dollars to fix on top of the modest costs to fix the problem.

A fair way to address this problem is to reform the law. Here's an idea to put up for debate. Set up the system in a way where a business that is found to be out of compliance of ADA law--either through a citizen complaint or code enforcement inspection--has 30 days to correct the problem. After 30 days, the enforcing government agency can levy fines for continued non-compliancy. That would be a fair idea that those in the state legislature and Congress should debate.

It is long past due for lawmakers to close this legal loophole so that the small business marketplace cannot be unfairly shaken down in the name of ADA law.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Another reason why the I-15 needs transit infrastructure

Concept: What the Lake Elsinore Diamond Stadium area may look like with infill marketplace growth and high occupancy vehicle and transit infrastructure.
A Lake Elsinore freeway interchange is currently beginning to look like Temecula where long traffic queues are spilling over onto high speed freeway lanes. Such situations make the highway hazardous as traffic in the far-right lane can come to a dead stop without notice. The location is the I-15 freeway at Railroad Canyon Road in the Lake Elsinore Diamond Stadium area.

For the past 14 years, officials have been attempting to fix this interchange with one problem after another obstructing progress. With peak-hour traffic now spilling over into lanes, governments have ran out of excuses to get this junction upgraded. When safety becomes an issue, officials need to fix it without delay.

On top of the short range interchange upgrade which has taken nearly a decade and a half to plan and fund, public officials should incorporate transit infrastructure proposals into its long range master plan so that high occupancy vehicle travel can become a more feasible travel option in this busy area. RCTC previously proposed adding a single carpool lane along I-15 between Murrieta and Lake Elsinore and dual high occupancy toll lanes each way north into San Bernardino County. The upgrades have since been scaled back to exclude this region. Because of a stubbornly soft economy combined with artificially inflated public construction costs, no HOV or rail infrastructure is proposed for this area other than on-ramp meter carpool lanes and a local RTA bus transit center.

Placing a direct access ramp, transit station, and park & ride at or near this area should be a part of long term plans so that HOV's can bypass the congested interchange altogether and access Railroad Canyon Road via the DAR and the connecting surface streets. With major development proposals in store for the Temecula Valley region down south, dual 2+ carpool lanes for the I-15 freeway and a rail line should also be included in the master plan.  Regarding the specific station locations, this region and the downtown Lake Elsinore area would be prime candidates for a future multi modal train station and an RTA transit hub.

Such HOV infrastructure will be needed to accommodate the existing traffic demands and future growth. Adding general purpose lanes and widening freeway interchanges does redistribute traffic flow with the added capacity, but it's the high occupancy vehicle infrastructure that actually reduces congestion.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Project 91 Breaks Ground

© Wikimedia/Fietsbel CC-BY-SA

The 91 Express Lane extension project entered into its construction phase with a groundbreaking ceremony which lasted two hours according to Press Enterprise blogger Peter Fischetti. Riverside County officials have long proposed extending the HOT lanes from the Orange County line east into Corona with a direct access ramp at the I-15 freeway to/from the south. The groundbreaking was more ceremonial than literal as the event took place on the top deck of the Corona Transit Center parking structure, away from the actual freeway. Transit center and Metrolink station patrons were a bit upset that their parking structure was closed off during a regular business day even as officials notified them ahead of time to park at the neighboring train stations as an alternative.

According to news reports, The Coalition and the public learned two things from the ceremony. Elected officials looked forward for this day which was long overdue and significant inter-agency coordination and cooperation with the private sector were necessary to fullfil the project's challenges. That was basically the show. It took two hours and 16 speakers to get this message to the public.

When Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal spoke explaining why the project was long past due, a political partisanship road block was brought up. That statement certainly is questionable to say the least. A 91 Express Lanes non-compete clause obstructed all infrastructure upgrades for eight years starting in 1995 when the toll lanes first opened. In 2003 when Orange County taxpayers bought the facility through OCTA, the clause was voided and upgrades could then continue. A few years later, the economic recession combined with inflated public infrastructure costs caused by continuous special interest pandering at the state level further obstructed funding resources to the corridor. Those were the true road blocks.

Late dissent over the high occupancy toll lane proposal has begun to surface based on comments left in the PE article. The project is nearly identical to the now-shelved I-405 toll lanes in Orange County which includes a conversion a carpool lane and capacity expansion. The 91 Project proposes to double the capacity and convert the existing 2+ carpool lane into a 3+ HOT lane, add a general purpose lane, and add additional auxiliary lanes. Numerous bridges will be upgraded as well.

Ordinarily, the Transit Coalition would oppose the conversion of an existing carpool lane into a transponder-mandated HOT lane. Look at what resulted in LA. However unlike the I-10, I-110, and the I-405 corridors, when the 91 becomes congested--which it very well does during the peak congestion, many holidays and hot summer days--the carpool lane is just as slow as the general purpose lanes. One will generally not be at a destination any faster by using the single dedicated lane. That's because 2+ carpool demands are so high that they well exceed capacity for the corridor. Therefore, the traffic chaos caused by the displacement of 2-person and non-registered 3+ carpoolers from the high occupancy lane will be minimal at least for the short term. Meanwhile, Riverside officials should plan between now and opening day a strong marketing campaign to convert the 2-person carpools into 3+.

Coalition Concept: Free 3+ carpooling along the 91.
Note: Concept Only. Not endorsed by OCTA.
Because ridesharing demands are so high for the 91, our current position is extend the dual HOT lanes as proposed, keep the carpool occupancy requirement at 3+ but gets its debt paid off as soon as possible so that it can financially support free non-transponder 3+ carpooling and upgraded transit infrastructure later down the road. That is, high occupancy vehicles with 3 or more persons would be able to use the HOT lanes free anytime and not have to pre-register for a toll transponder. 3+ HOV's and transit fleets would be able to access the lanes directly from nearby transit stations. Tolls for non-carpools would also be reduced to the market rate. Dual 3+ carpool lanes combined with expanded transit options will certainly be able to accommodate the existing HOV demands and future growth for years to come.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Transportation Tips: Thank you for supporting our fundraising campaign

Please Support our Efforts!The Transit Coalition wishes to thank you for your generosity toward our fundraising campaign. We had a goal of $5,000 by the end of November. That was extended through the end of year. As you may be aware, destructive tornadoes passed through the Midwest United States and the Philippines was hit hard by a typhoon.

As of December 10th, we're almost there! We're a little more than $1,000 shy of our fundraising campaign goal of $5,000 in order to pay for the publication of our weekly eNewsletter and monthly print newsletter Moving Southern California.

We wish to thank our sponsors Leland Dolley, Anil Verma Associates, Ferrovial Agroman US Corp, and the countless individual contributions toward the fund. Please help us reach our goal by making a donation. Your contributions are greatly appreciated!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Should the state really ban I-405 toll lanes in the future?

The Orange County Transportation Authority has shelved the high occupancy toll lane proposal for the I-405 freeway between the I-605 and SR-73 for now. Local officials however have indicated that they might come back with this proposal at a later time. Bring in California State Assemblyman Allan R. Mansoor. Mansoor said he expects to introduce a statewide bill next year that would block toll lanes specifically along this corridor or require residents to vote for their approval.

As much as we, local cities, and the countless Orange County residents don't want the free 2+ carpool lane along the 405 to be converted into a transponder-mandated 3+ HOT lane, Sacramento really should not be legislating one specific local corridor. Yes, the freeway is state-operated, but its improvement projects and carpool lane usage policies need to be decided locally through OCTA and the local Caltrans district. The carpool chaos last decade with the I-10 El Monte Busway clearly demonstrates why.

High occupancy toll lanes can work for the I-405 if usage policies matched those in San Diego County. That is, high occupancy vehicle traffic with 2 or more persons may continue to use the HOV lanes for free and don't have to preregister for a FasTrak toll transponder. Solo's would have the option to buy their way into the upgraded dual carpool lanes if capacity permits at the market rate. Based on the 13 mile distance of the corridor between the I-605 and SR-73, the maximum market rate toll for solos would be about $4.00 during most rush hours, approximately $7-8 on Friday afternoons, and about $.50 during free flow times. If the dual lanes begin to approach full capacity, dynamic signs would designate entry points for carpools only until space frees up. Significant groups of solo drivers have demonstrated nationwide that they are willing to tax themselves into a carpool lane on days they need to be somewhere quickly. Because OCTA was so focused on the dollar and proposed ill-advised usage policies, getting robust high occupancy infrastructure onto the I-405 will even be more difficult to sell to the public.

OCTA should retain power to manage local projects and we should be thankful that its governing board reflected the value of its residents regarding the I-405 toll lanes. Should OCTA have moved forward with the ill-advised conversion, there would have been much anger, expensive litigation, and potential recall campaigns. When governing bodies fail to represent the value of their residents and their republics, voters will hold them accountable. Look at what's going on in Moreno Valley. However, the state should allow local governments to decide how to upgrade transportation infrastructure.

As we've mentioned before, toll lanes should not serve as government money fountains. They need to be about moving people. Banning local agencies from artificially inflating tolls beyond the market rates and stopping wasteful spending so that the outstanding debt for the 91 Express Lanes can be paid off with taxes instead of tolls could be good starting points for robust debate for state lawmakers.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A legal lesson to be learned from Metrolink Perris Valley Line

The Metrolink Perris Valley Line project received a $75 million federal grant which clears the project for construction within the next two to three weeks, most likely to begin after the Christmas and New Year's Day holidays. Getting to this point was far from smooth sailing. PVL was the target of a trivial CEQA lawsuit. Its $3 million settlement is a hard lesson for state lawmakers. Lawyers are capitalizing by exploiting loopholes in the law which obstruct both infrastructure projects and marketplace growth. We'll get to that in just a moment.

The new Metrolink branch will extend the 91 Line from Riverside to Perris with stops at the Hunter Business Park in Riverside, March AFB in Moreno Valley, the downtown Perris Station Transit Center and southern Perris. The $248 million project would serve a fast-growing region and has the blessing of USDOT Secretary Anthony Foxx.

The one question that many folks in the Inland Empire have long been asking is this: When will the line officially open? Officials predict the summer of 2015. Now that the funded project is ready for ground breaking, high occupancy rail travel options between Perris and points west via the I-215 and 91 freeway corridors will soon be a reality.

Prior to this point, the PVL branch faced one obstruction after another. On top of getting public funds and all of the politics that go with them, the line faced an environmental lawsuit which pretty much had nothing really to do about environmental protection and more about exploiting loopholes in CEQA law so that a lawyer and the plaintiff can capitalize on the project.

When the lawsuit was settled for $3 million back in July, we took a look at some of the numbers. To be fair, some of the promises in the settlement were good and officials have the opportunity to ensure that the funding for the new open spaces and trails benefit the entire county. However, significant portions of the agreement were really about the profits. Over one third of the settlement--$1,005,000 to be exact--was to be set up for homeowners to tap into for various home improvements in the name of countering noise pollution. Residents can apply for up to an astounding $15,000 per dwelling--for window treatments and another $500 for trees. Last time we checked, "Noise Minimizing Window Treatments" do not add up to $15,000 for an entire house. In fairness, any unspent funds will be allocated to the land conservation deal. In addition, $250,000 in public money went to the attorney who represented Friends of Riverside Hills during this lawsuit and this lawyer has a history of capitalizing on loopholes in CEQA law.

It gets worse with questionable trivial lawsuits against small businesses, the American Disability Act, and parking spaces for the disabled. We'll analyse this next week. Meanwhile, the PVL delay and its litigation are strong lessons for the public sector. State lawmakers must work together and close up the CEQA loopholes once and for all at the state level and stop the excuse making and 11th hour changes. While we live a in captitalistic society and both CEQA and the ADA are vital laws to protect both the environment and the disabled population, regulations also need to protect both public works projects and the small business marketplace from trivial lawsuits that do nothing except obstruct economic marketplace growth and public transportation infrastructure projects. Lawyers should not be in a position to exploit loopholes in the law for their own or clients' gain. It's long past due for both the state and federal government to close the loopholes in both of these laws and establish fair means to enforce both CEQA and ADA.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Toll Lane debate all about the money

Concept: I-15 and I-10 proposed HOT lanes need free non-transponder carpooling and transit infrastructure.

High occupancy toll lane proposals throughout the Inland Empire and Orange County took another turn. And the debate has centered around the dollar and not really about moving people.

I-405 Improvement Project - No Toll Lanes for now:

Shelved for now: I-405 toll lanes in Orange County.
The Orange County Transportation Authority Board of Directors on Monday voted 11-4 to add one general purpose lane for the county's I-405 Improvement Project and table the alternative to convert the existing 2+ carpool lane into dual transponder-mandated 3+ HOT lanes each way. Massive public opposition including dissent from city bodies led to the change. The reason for the opposition is this: Money.

High occupancy vehicle demands along the I-405 are high during rush hours in the peak direction: southbound into Irvine in the morning, northbound in the afternoon. The carpool lane experiences reduced speeds, but its flow is generally faster than the general purpose lanes. If its capacity was doubled, carpool lane speeds would increase tremendously. We predict locals would have supported such a proposal since San Diego County's I-15 Express Lane system was well received. However, OCTA staff previously recommended to convert the free 2+ carpool lane into a HOT lane, increase its occupancy requirement to 3, slap an ill-advised mandatory FasTrak transponder requirement on all vehicles including free carpools, and potentially charge mandatory discounted tolls on 3+ HOV's. OCTA staff argued that such policies would raise more money to pay for the project. That proposal sparked the intense opposition which led officials to table the HOT lanes for now.

As we've mentioned, a fair long term compromise that would move more people would be to double the capacity of the existing 2+ carpool lane and permit solo drivers to buy their way into it at the market rate. Many solo's have demonstrated nationwide that they are willing to tax themselves into a fast-moving carpool lane. Toll revenue paid for by solo drivers would be restricted to the corridor. All day high speed express bus service would also be implemented. The lanes would remain free for any 2+ carpool and such traffic would not have to preregister or get a toll transponder ahead of time.

That would be a sound long term proposal to move people quickly through the corridor.

Inland Empire Toll Lanes:

Concept: 91 Express Lanes with free non-trasponder 3+ carpooling.
Meanwhile the Press Enterpise has been educating the public on both RCTC's and SANBAG's highway expansion proposals. On Monday morning, its paper subscribers were greeted with a front page headline article "Future Takes Toll" with much of the debate about funding issues and money instead of moving people. Comments posted on the online version of the article show dissent toward the toll lane proposals and we might be seeing some more Inland Empire toll lane debate in the public square now that the HOT lane proposals have been making headlines.

The Transit Coalition has been covering the HOT lane proposals through the campaign We want Toll Lanes done right! This campaign advocates for free non-transponder 3+ carpooling along the 91 Express Lanes and 2+ carpooling elsewhere via robust dual high occupancy lanes with bus transit infrastructure and the option for solo's to buy their way in with a FasTrak at the market rate. Generally, we would like to see the I-15 Express Lanes from down south expanded into the Inland Empire, a system that can quickly and productively move more people through suburban corridors. Governments have claimed that adopting such sound policies results in reduced toll revenue simply because they have less open capacity to sell to toll-paying solo's. Carpool lane to transponder-mandated toll lane conversions in Los Angeles and Atlanta have demonstrated this reality.

A Coalition comment received from all this comes from a Temecula construction contractor who strongly opposes toll lanes in general. However, he was open to the Coalition's position. We will continue to keep a close watch on the HOT debate. And public officials on all levels need to get their act together and stop the excuse making over transportation funding and government misspending. Even though less tax money appears to be flowing from the gas pump, we still pay high taxes. There is enough demand along the I-405, SR-91, I-15, and the I-10 where state and federal tax money should be paying for capacity and transit improvements and high occupancy vehicle infrastructure.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Bringing about justice in troubled neighborhoods

The Press Enterprise has been providing continuous coverage of independent groups peacefully fighting to take back their communities from Inland Empire street gangs. The tactic that these groups are using is preventing vulnerable youth from joining the criminal culture in the first place. Gangs rely on new members to replace those either killed or incarcerated.

Last October following the murder of 6 year old Tina Ricks, groups in Moreno Valley worked on stepping up their efforts to connect with at-risk youth. More recently, a former Inland gang member who turned away from this culture after serving time in jail has been working very hard to provide a positive place for troubled teens. Terrace Stone founded Young Visionaries Youth Leadership Academy in 2001. There are centers throughout San Berandino County and Moreno Valley. In addition, numerous religious organizations provide mentors, job leads and help for incarcerated youth to prevent them from returning to the gangs upon release.

Research has shown over and over again that countless youth enter into gangs simply because they lack caring parents and have nowhere else to go. That continues to be evident in places like Moreno Valley, San Bernardino, Perris and downtown Lake Elsinore. These criminal cultures violently obstruct the quality of life in communities. The gangs sell illegal drugs which exacerbates destructive addictions. They rely on criminal tactics to get such drugs onto the streets in troubled neighborhoods. These groups destruct communities by marking their "territory" through graffiti and obstruct the transit system. We certainly don't want our buses, trains and transit fleets that we advocate for mired in such crime or vandalism. We want a productive labor workforce aboard a first-rate transit system with safe and robust communities.

Youth group organizations have long been broadcasting the reality that troubled youth will never get the satisfaction they are looking for by entering into the criminal world. As local organizations all over Southern California communities work hard to put an end to street gangs once and for all, the public sector can pitch in for minimal costs. First, law enforcement can be reassigned to better patrol dangerous neighborhoods using intelligence driven law enforcement methods. Non-paid community action volunteers and reserves can be recruited to provide support help to full time officers should public funding be an issue. Secondly, the marketing departments of each public government agency should be allowed to post public messages encouraging parents to take care of their children in order to keep them out of gangs. Good parenting cannot be legislated but putting out a strong public message can be a powerful tool against the violence. Stopping gang crime and violence certainly is a notion that can be universally agreed upon in the public sector.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Transportation Tips: Check out the transit options between San Bernardino and Los Angeles

Yesterday morning, The Transit Coalition conducted a field study of the I-15 Freeway corridor, specifically looking at the route segment between Corona and Ontario. As many transit riders have attested before, transit connections between these two cities is very sparse, slow and circuitous. Area growth has contributed toward peak hour slowing along the freeway through Eastvale, southern Ontario, and through the Cajon Pass. We aim to have this transit gap closed with direct bus connections, both at the local and express level.

There's a number of transit opportunities at hand for this region, both through the public agencies and the private sector. We'll have a future vision of the area drawn up soon. Omnitrans has already explored expanding its sbX bus rapid transit network into Corona. RCTC proposes high occupancy toll lanes for the freeway which, if designed right, can provide the infrastructure for future express buses. More on this at a later time.

During our study, we stopped by the Rancho Cucamonga Metrolink Station. It's large parking lot was nearly filled to capacity; all of those commuters who would otherwise be driving those hundreds of parked cars are benefiting with the regional rail option. It's no question with the presence of the Metrolink San Bernardino Line which also offers several midday, evening and weekend runs, freeway traffic congestion along the I-10 and SR-60 has been reduced.

This week's tip: If you regularly commute solo along the I-10 or SR-60 corridor, check out what transit options are already out there. The transit corridor between Los Angeles and San Bernardino has grown tremendously with early morning to late evening service, especially at the Montclair TransCenter and points west with the presence of the Silver Streak BRT. Folks headed into Los Angeles have several options to get around and LA's Metro Gold Line will also one day serve the corridor. Take advantage of the expanded options.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Riverside: Going for high speed rail done right

Okay, it's not quite high speed rail just yet, but it's turning out to be higher speed rail. Officials in the City of Riverside are moving forward in their master plan to separate the railroad grade crossings all throughout the city at the major crossings.

One such crossing due to be separated is along the Union Pacific Railroad right of way at Riverside Avenue. The Metrolink Riverside Line and numerous UPRR freight trains utilize the corridor. The $33 million project will be paid for through local, state, and federal sources with private capital coming from UPRR.

It's no question that separating these grade crossings will speed up mobility both along the rails and the roads. With fewer at-grade crossings, existing trains would be able to travel safely at higher speeds, especially along the straighter segments of the line.

Both the logistics industry and the riding public have much to gain. Faster moving freight trains improves economic productivity of goods movement and reduces waste in the industry. Faster moving passenger trains allows Metrolink to operate more productively and could bring private investments into the Inland Emipre's rail transit corridors for expanded service. Should the travel trip times for a passenger train to travel between Los Angeles and points east be reduced thanks to public infrastructure improvements such as separated grade crossings, both the private sector and the Class One railroads themselves may be inclined to expand passenger rail service on top of expanded Metrolink service from early morning through late night.

Higher travel speeds would entice more choice riders to use the train instead of driving or flying, thus making intercity and regional rail corridors profitable. Imagine being able to board into a business class UPRR passenger train in downtown Riverside and arrive in the Coachella Valley or Los Angeles in about an hour. Or, how about having a more reliable, corridor-based Metrolink train network for those needing to travel local or looking for affordable fares.

Certainly there's much more work to be done beyond local separated grade crossings to speed up trains headed to/from Riverside, but getting robust rail infrastructure into the Inland Empire's transit system that supports faster mobility could one day incline the marketplace to invest private capital into true high speed rail infrastructure.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Bus carriers capitalize during the Thanksgiving holiday

Things were relatively quiet in terms of public transportation in the Inland Empire during the Thanksgiving weekend. However private sector bus carriers stood out in the news.

Greyhound for example reported growing popularity on its newer bus fleets over the holiday. The Press Enterprise interviewed waiting passengers at the Riverside Downtown bus terminal and found that they find convenience in taking the bus for their holiday travel needs. We've also conducted field studies aboard several private sector coaches in the past and find that spending a few extra hours on the bus is a lot better than dealing with the plummeting air service. 

The bus ridership growth boils down to this. Passengers who elect to take the bus do not want to put up with the airport madness and expensive fares for short and mid-haul trips. Even though the bus may not win the race, going Greyhound, riding the Megabus or any other private coach is less stressful. Carriers are capitalizing on this.

Greyhound bus passengers headed to northern portions of the state said they preferred the bus over the train simply because there's no direct rail connection between Sylmar and Bakersfield. Gee, we wonder how that can be solved. Oh yeah, high speed rail done right. Follow this link and scroll down for a detailed analysis of the numerous benefits of running high speed trains through the Tejon Pass. Amtrak does operate the Coast Starlight between Los Angeles and points north along the coast but the train bypasses destinations in the San Joaquin Valley. Closing the rail gap through the Tejon Pass combined with local infrastructure improvements could one day make the backbone rail line profitable as ridership on the existing intercity lines would soar. Private investors would thus be inclined to pour more capital into California's rail transit system. 

Back to intercity buses. If this growth pattern continues, we may be seeing more robust marketplace competition for intercity bus travel very soon. However, it is certainly in the public's interest that such carriers pick up passengers at or close to existing public transit hubs. We advocate for public officials to make both streetside and open bus bays at Inland Empire transit centers and major transfer points available for the private sector coaches which would considerably improve express bus transit options for riders at minimal public costs.