RTA Route 216: Getting between Orange County and Riverside by Bus

Bus Photo: Riverside Transit Agency
Map: © OpenStreetMap Contributors

Bus transit riders needing to transverse between Orange County, Corona and Riverside outside of the rush hour will have some more options. The Riverside Transit Agency has proposed adding two additional runs for Route 216, a CommuterLink express line that links these cities together via the 91 Freeway and the 91 Express Lanes through Orange County.

If adopted, the line will have peak hour runs with additional limited midday, evening and weekend service. Officials promised enhanced transit services as part of the 91 Express Lanes extension project. With the added departures, the bus route is well on its way from being labelled as a commuter bus to being an all day express regional connector as it should be.

According to RTA's Comprehensive Operational Analysis in 2007, Route 216 should be operating at least every hour with the last bus departing at 9:00pm. We anticipate that happening in the near future. Both OCTA and RCTC have big plans to expand Metrolink and bus transit in the coming years; most of which being rush-hour oriented. With the 91 Freeway corridor as busy as it is, local officials should revisit and update its transit master plan so that transit riders can transverse through the corridor anytime during the day. This would include extensive upgrades to Route 216.

Route 216 Mid-Range Concept Ideas

Extending Route 216 west to connect directly to additional Orange County transit hubs would be a very desirable option. One key reason is this: More direct transfer opportunities.

If connected to the Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center and the Disneyland Resort area, riders aboard Route 216 can connect to Metrolink and Amtrak trains along the LOSSAN Rail Corridor, LA Metro Route 460 for local-plus-express service to Los Angeles, the busy Harbor Boulevard corridor served by OCTA Route 43 and limited stop Bravo! Route 543, and OCTA Route 83 for connections to Santa Ana and South Orange County.

Such an idea would require RTA to work with OCTA since the extended service crosses over county lines. The worst case scenario could be offering closed-door service in Orange County beyond the Village at Orange (ie. West of the Village at Orange, eastbound passengers may board only and westbound passengers would be discharged only; Riders would be able to board and alight at any stop from the Village at Orange and points east).

Coalition Concept: Express Lane Access Ramp at Smith Avenue
(Not endorsed by RCTC)
In addition, officials should plan to better integrate the bus route with area carpool and toll lanes. A major obstruction for Route 216 is the lack of transit infrastructure for the 91 Express Lanes. On the west side, the bus has to backtrack via Katella Avenue so it can weave across the freeway to get to the western HOT lanes entrance. On the east side, RCTC had plans to develop a direct access ramp in Corona at Smith Avenue which would have provided quick access between the Corona Transit Center and the HOT lanes to/from the west. That proposal never made it to the 91 Express Lanes extension project.

Regardless of what caused these situations to occur, officials need to revisit proposals to add direct access ramps between the express lanes and adjacent transit hubs. And we're not buying the claim that such facilities degrade HOT lane traffic flow. All that needs to happen is for officials to restrict entry into the lanes to 3+ HOV's should the 91 Express Lanes near capacity even with high tolls. That has been proven by other HOT lane operators to prevent bottlenecks at these ramps.

© Flickr/CalCars CC-BY-SA
Mid-Range: Car Sharing Facilities at Transit Stations

We are well aware that there are workers and commuters who need access to a car during the workday for business, a reason why taking transit to/from work doesn't seem to work for them with the current built infrastructure. People who move around during the workday like sales persons, real estate agents and district managers should have the option to rideshare, use Metrolink, or take the bus for the long haul and be able to quickly grab a set of wheels at the transit station to go about their business at an affordable price. Car sharing, car clubs, and short-term hourly rentals of vehicles have been proven to work for such groups of people and the marketplace should be inclined to get additional car sharing facilities at receiving transit hubs in Orange County and Riverside. This would include ARTIC, the Village at Orange, Galleria at Tyler, and Riverside Downtown for Route 216.

Longer Range - Potential RapidLink 991 Express Service

Bus Photo: © Wikimedia/The Port of Authority CC-BY-SA

Looking ahead into the longer range as the Inland region grows and more destinations and marketplace job hubs are developed in the Downtown Riverside area, Route 216 can one day become a rapid express route with runs operating at least every 30 minutes from early morning through late night with potential hourly night owl service. Riders would be able to purchase tickets and passes at the transit stops to speed up the boarding process. The line could be dubbed RapidLink Express Route 991.

In addition, as officials develop HOT lane infrastructure for the I-15 freeway and the market economy improves for Lake Elsinore and the Southwest region, a second long range RapidLink Express line, dubbed Route 915 could run every 30 minutes between downtown Lake Elsinore and Fullerton. Incorporating bus transit infrastructure and direct access ramps into the HOT lanes will be key to making this possible.

In addition, spacing the RapidLink Express headways equally apart can allow for productive and frequent transit services for the 91 Express Lanes with a bus departing once every 15 minutes between the Village at Orange and Corona from early morning until late night.

If officials want to get productive transit services into the busy 91 Freeway corridor and make it less car-dependent, they should consider debating and adopting these ideas on top of expanding Metrolink rail service.