Friday, January 24, 2014

Better RapidLink Transit in Riverside and Economic Justice

The Riverside County Transportation Commission announced the allocation of federal and local transportation funds totaling $152 million to various infrastructure projects. Based on this Press Enterprise report, transit and bicycle infrastructure allocations include:
  •     $9.2 million toward peak hour RapidLink service on University and Magnolia avenues in Riverside
  •     $2.4 million for a trailway along the Santa Ana River through Riverside
  •     $5.1 million for a trail along Salt Creek through Menifee and Hemet
By the way, the start-up cost for RTA's RapidLink service is $12.3 million which includes the purchase of 40 additional buses and 3 years of operations. The new service certainly will not be true bus rapid transit just yet. BRT provides a quick and speedy alternative with frequent service and early morning through late night service span. Through dense areas, BRT often uses dedicated transit lanes and offsite ticket vending machines. However, the limited stop service will at least provide a faster alternative to get up and down these corridors during peak hours. For those looking for true BRT for Riverside County which we hope will happen soon, economic justice and growth will be a necessary component. More in a moment on that.

In addition, RCTC dedicated the following funds for these highway projects:
  •     $26.8 million for truck lanes on SR-60 through the Badland Hills
  •     $16.5 million for extending Clinton Keith Road from the I-215 into French Valley
  •     $14.6 million for the upgrade of the Newport Road interchange along I-215
  •     $13 million for Temecula's "ultimate" interchange along the I-15 at Temecula Parkway
  •     $6.5 million for the grade-separation of the SR-60 and Potrero Boulevard interchange
  •     $2.7 million for the Ramona Expressway in San Jacinto
  •     $2.6 million for a widening of Magnolia Avenue in Riverside
  •     $1.6 million for the I-215/Nuevo Road interchange in Perris
It was mentioned that a key source of this funding was due to improvements in the economy. There is some truth to that. Amazon will be developing two hubs in the region bringing in thousands of marketplace positions. Logistics development also continues to grow which will provide the entry-level workforce and some skilled laborers more choices. Medical jobs which includes some entry positions also continue to go up throughout the region. However, the Inland Empire is still a long way off from income and economic justice.

According to various sources, the purchasing power of the dollar in the Inland Empire has declined. During the robust economic times of the 1990's, local median annual income was just more than $33,000 with a purchasing power of about $56,000 in today's currency. In 2000, it grew by a grand to about $57,000 in today's currency ($42,000 in year 2000 dollars). In 2008, it was $59,547.

Following the economic collapse, the median household income in Riverside and San Bernardino counties combined fell back to $53,201 in 2011 and to $51,695 in 2012 based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau. We might see some improvements for 2013, but nowhere near the peak levels.

The reasons why the purchasing power of the dollar is in decline is very complex, but the continued lack of marketplace jobs in the region is a big factor. Domestic manufacturing for example continues take massive hits under the current trade agreements with third world countries especially China. Also, taxes and fees continue to increase. Los Angeles Metro for example has proposed massive wholesale fare hikes for its bus and rail system. With the exception of the San Diego region and the Bay Area, carpoolers have to get a toll transponder and sometimes have to pay discounted tolls in order to use high occupancy toll lanes. Such hikes and taxation weaken the purchasing power for we the people and thus the local economy weakens. Finally, a complex regulatory system to establish a business in the state inclines entrepreneurs to invest elsewhere. That's a prime reason why the Inland Empire lacks social income and economic justice for its people.

Concept: Marketplace job growth in Moreno Valley
A proven solution to this problem is building up the private sector job market locally. The marketplace needs incentives to invest in the Inland Empire and to hire a productive labor workforce. Key policies to prevent sprawl, pollution, and corporate corruption are necessary public policies. However over-regulating the marketplace with a complex tax code, lengthy permit and license process, and high fees discourages job growth because such investments are kept out of the Inland Empire let alone the rest of the state. It's long past due to reverse this trend. Our region offers huge opportunities for fresh ideas and innovation. Any trivial obstructions from the government must be addressed without excuse so that the business marketplace can invest in the Inland Empire.

Private investments means more jobs. Jobs mean more public resources to build our transportation infrastructure and expand transit. Ridership growth means a productive and paid-for first rate transit system which includes true BRT for Riverside County.

2 comments:

  1. A, LA Metro's "wholesale fare hikes" are actually probably a good thing for their network. LA Metro's network is designed on a grid, where transferring between two buses is required for most trips. A $2.25 fare (the eventual fare in 2020 under their proposal) with free transfers included would actually be a $0.75 fare *decrease* for anyone riding two or more vehicles to complete their trip, as most riders have to do. This is a huge win for network design and transit freedom, even if the bottom-line price appears to be a bit higher.

    B, very few people who are concerned about social and economic justice would say that the key to getting those things is the destruction of regulation and the clearing of the ways for private capital. Regulation is there to protect vulnerable communities from the ravages of corporate greed. You may trust in the beneficence of business to bring social justice, but I don't, and nor do most activists involved in social justice work.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's a pleasure again to debate with you. You've got some strong points again and here's the response to those. It's true direct transfers in LA are proposed to be free, but Metro's official announcement of the fare restructuring shows that the changes are due to budget deficits and the fares and prices for just about everything else especially passes are going up. The single ride fares hikes are not too bad, but pass prices will see the biggest hits. The regular monthly pass is proposed by 2021 to be consolidated with the EZ Pass and priced at $135 or $180, almost doubled from $75. To compare, the price of an RTA pass is $50 and Omnitrans at $47. OCTA is $69. The San Diego MTS and NCTD regional pass is $72. We have not taken a hard "no" on this, but needed to expose the reality of it weakening the spending power of LA's people compared with how their local officials spend tax money. Obviously if the only two options left at the local level are fare increases or cuts, the former is the less damaging, but still takes more money from the riding public. The point is income with inflation factored in has not kept up with growing expenses because the private job market remains soft with more workers than positions. Improving the job market will take care of this and this was acknowledged when we met with RCTC staff years back.

      As mentioned in the post, corporate greed, pollution, sprawl, lax safety rules and anything else bad for region has to be confronted and stopped through the government. No question. But the private sector, especially small business investors with great ideas need the incentive to invest back and grow the local market economy and job market which provides those who will to work an opportunity. We're not advocating for deregulation, but for streamlining the process to be more business-friendly so that trivial situations don't obstruct good, legit and productive job growth which provides greater opportunity. Prime examples that we ran into during past field studies are a local restaurant owner who was forced to lay off a professional pianist who simply played soft background music in the dining room. The other was a karate school owner who wanted to install a shower facility for its instructors. Both required very expensive conditional land use permits according to the owners. Those are the trivial obstructions that have to be debated and revisited. But the vital regulations that you pointed out are certainly necessary.

      Delete