Wednesday, March 19, 2014

OmniConnects: Improving Omnitrans' West Valley Bus Service or not?

Current hub-and-spoke Omnitrans Routing System as of March, 2013. Visit Omnitrans.org for updated schedules.
Graphic: Omnitrans

Omnitrans' proposed short-range service changes fall under a project known as OmniConnects. According to the plan, here are its goals:
  • Addressing a $12.8 million shortfall through 2020 with a balanced budget through a fare increase. We have offered some solutions here which requires true leadership from elected officials which goes beyond the authority of Omnitrans' panning department.
  • Streamlining circuitous and overlapping bus routes: Such route restructuring is good to make routes faster and easier to understand but the designs must maintain the hub-and-spoke model where the lines connect at centralized transit centers. We've mentioned some examples for the East Valley area. Given the Inland Empire's spread-out development and demographics, our bus system should operate in a way where routes generally join together at a transfer hub with timed connections, offer direct service along major corridors, and then rejoin again at the next hub. That minimizes transfer wait times for routes that operate less than one bus every 15 minutes.
  • Cancel the OmniLink Dial-A-Ride-like service for the general public in Chino Hills and Yucaipa while maintaining the Access Dial-A-Ride service for seniors/disabled and the OmniGo fixed-route circulators: Omnitrans cites a service duplication with the circulator service, but the issue is not really about overlapping service, but high costs associated with on-demand paratransit services.

    Opening up door-to-door paratransit services to the general public is a noble proposal, was demonstrated by OmniLink, and solutions to cut down costs should be debated. Under the current rules, the service is set up in a way where the subsidy per rider goes through the roof and farebox recovery tanks, something that Omnitrans cannot afford or control on its own. We'll take a look at the affected areas next week and will offer some alternative solutions as transit mobility must not be negated.
Let's enter in the West Valley area proposals. The region currently operates under a hub-and-spoke model with few of the more popular routes emulating the grid system, namely Route 61 (Fontana-Pomona) and Route 66 (Fontana-Montclair).

Omnitrans would like to improve connections to these trunk routes, a sound proposal on the surface but keeping the hub-and-spoke routing model will be essential as the vast majority of connecting routes operate hourly and timed transfers are made more possible at the major hubs. Riders having to transfer buses should have the option to ride into the transit center with a short layover period before transferring to/from the trunk lines or other services offered. Again, there are some sound proposals out there and we'll continue to analyze those and the long-range service improvements tomorrow and Friday.

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