Wednesday, January 15, 2014

How will sbX Fare with Ridership?

Photo: Omnitrans

How will sbX fare with riders? That's a big question that centers around the continued ongoing debate of San Bernardino's bus rapid transit system as the construction phase ends and testing begins. Another question is whether choice riders will utilize the line. Yet another is how will such figures compare against projections. There's a lot of speculation and predictions going around. However the fact is that we really won't know the answers until after a few months of operations. At that point, that's when we'll have some real facts directly related to sbX.

However, it doesn't hurt to make some educated predictions based on past transit projects. When the LA Metro Orange Line through the San Fernando Valley opened on October, 2005, the line was busier than projected. Ridership grew rapidly with the Orange Line now operating at full capacity during part of the day. The Metro Orange Line operates on a dedicated transitway. Likewise during the expansion of LA's Metro Rapid network, the frequent limited stop service lines that operates in mixed traffic provided a speedy alternative to slower local bus lines for longer trips all throughout LA with the fewer stops.

The sbX E-Street line mimics the Metro Orange Line through downtown San Bernardino and Metro Rapid elsewhere. It's true that the overall population density of San Bernardino is less then Los Angeles. We don't expect sbX ridership to match LA's system. However, both bookends of sbX and its central core are high density activity centers: CSU San Bernardino to the north, Downtown San Bernardino in the middle, and the Loma Linda University Medical Center area to the south.

It's therefore safe to predict that many transit riders who ride the current Route 2 will transition to sbX for longer trips. The local Route 2 therefore will have fewer riders, but will remain a vital local service for the short-haul trips. That will be a reality. Likewise we estimate that more students and staff who attend both universities will utilize the sbX to save a few bucks on parking with the faster service. Therefore, the bus line will likely see some choice riders.

Another big draw later down the road for choice riders will be an extension of the Metrolink San Bernardino Line to connect to sbX at the proposed downtown transit center as many folks who ride the train do have the option to drive but leave their cars at home. Once the extension occurs, train riders would be able to transfer to sbX to get to the bookend destinations or points in between. Choice ridership will thus soar.

We therefore predict sbX will not fail and will fare well with a strong pool of riders. San Bernardino County Supervisor Janice Rutherford was concerned that failure will hamper with future funding, but BRT has already proven to provide a speedy alternative to local bus travel. Comparing sbX's actual ridership numbers with official projections and predictions will be a waiting game and there will always be ways to improve the system.

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