Friday, March 21, 2014

Expanding Omnitrans express and bus rapid transit services

Proposed West Valley sbX BRT
Source: Omnitrans

Despite battling a $12.8 million budget shortfall, Omnitrans has big mid and long-range plans to expand services for commuters and bus riders needing to transverse longer distances. Such services include freeway express, limited stop, and additional sbX bus rapid transit routes. We've mentioned that acquiring the funding to quickly pay for these services on top of balancing the budget all without waiting for years on in will require leadership beyond what the Omnitrans planning department can execute or propose.

West Valley sbX BRT Introduced

Omnitrans has big plans to upgrade the Route 61 and 66 corridors. The agency plans to bring in an sbX BRT line for the western span of the Route 61 corridor via Holt Blvd between the Pomona TransCenter and the Ontario Mills Mall transfer point, and along Foothill Blvd from the Ontario Mills Mall to Fontana which overlaps the eastern segment of Route 66. Like the E Street sbX route, the line will have improved stations with stops spaced 1/2 to 1 mile apart and will provide a speedy alternative to slower all-local service with speed improvements of up to 15%. More details to come, but the line certainly looks promising on the surface as it is now proposed to connect with the Metrolink San Bernardino Line at the Fontana and Rancho Cucamonga stations. Also at the Pomona TransCenter, the line will connect with both the Metrolink Riverside Line and the Foothill Transit Silver Streak rapid express line.

Foothill Blvd Limited Stop Service
Proposed "Express" or more accurately, limited stop services for Foothill Blvd

Omnitrans also proposes to speed up travel trip times for the entire Foothill Blvd corridor between San Bernardino and Montclair with limited stop runs of Routes 14 and 66. In addition the eastern branch of Route 1 between San Bernardino and Highland is proposed also to have limited stop runs. The official proposal labels the proposals as "express", but "limited stop" is a more accurate term to avoid confusion with longer distance express bus routes that transverse freeways. The expanded service will serve Foothill Blvd with stops spaced about one mile apart from each other. Omnitrans will propose to fund the Route 14 segment first between San Bernardino and Fontana.

The agency had longer-range plans to bring in two sbX BRT routes for Foothill Blvd with Fontana serving as the transfer hub. Under the current economic climate, limited stop runs of the existing routes will have to do. Local officials should designate portions of the Foothill Blvd corridor as specific plans to entice marketplace smart growth and job investments so that Omnitrans has the funds and ridership base to phase in sbX BRT for the corridor later down the road.

Freeway Commuter Express

Proposed: More freeway express routes
Source: Omnitrans
The Riverside Transit Agency brought in peak-hour CommuterLink express routes several years ago. It looks likes it's now Omnitrans' turn. Omnitrans has included in its transit master plan a network of commuter express buses which will utilize the I-10 and I-210 freeway corridors built "upon the strength of existing Route 215." The I-210 freeway currently has a 2+ carpool lane as infrastructure. The I-10 has a 2+ carpool lane west of the I-15.

San Bernardino County officials have a key transit opportunity. SANBAG currently is proposing high occupancy toll lane infrastructure for the I-10 corridor between the Los Angeles County line and Redlands which could provide the high occupancy vehicle transit infrastructure for the expanded bus services. If planned right, the proposed I-10 commuter express services could grow and mature into rapid express routes with an early morning to late night service span with potential overnight night owl departures. Imagine having both rapid express BRT and Metrolink rail service as options to get around quickly in between Redlands and Los Angeles.

Omintrans should work with SANBAG so that direct access ramps and/or intermediate access points between the HOT lanes and adjacent transit stops can be integrated into the proposals.

The transit agency has not yet identified how it will pay for the expanded freeway express services. Under the current economic situation, it may take years to acquire the funding on top of allocating funds for continued operation. That's where the members of Omnitrans' governing board and elected officials need to go back to their jurisdictions and take leadership role in solving this problem by enticing the private sector to improve the Inland Empire job market which would increase tax revenue at the local level, standing up and holding the state accountable with its spending spree of our tax dollars--that includes combating artificially inflated infrastructure costs and excessive spending, and driving out crime at the local level.

Let's get San Bernardino moving. Let's get its people back to work. Let's get the region back to prosperity. The time to act is now.

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