Monday, March 10, 2014

Streamlining the Circuitous RTA Bus Routes in Temecula and Murrieta



We are going to state this issue once again. Local bus service in northwest Murrieta and south Temecula is very circuitous which makes connections and integration to the rest of the RTA bus system a process that can last in excess of several hours or more for a one way trip. Study after study backs up the fact that the routing in this region is overdue for streamlining and more direct routing.

For instance, a short ride aboard Route 24 from the Temecula Valley Hospital to the County Center transfer hub takes well over an hour. Add in another 15 minutes if the route goes to the Temecula Library. If the bus route was more direct and served the Margarita Road corridor starting from Pechanga at the south and running through the transit hub, the short ride would take no more than 25-30 minutes, or about 35-40 with runs stopping at the library.

The same holds true for Route 23. A trip from the County Center hub to the Inland Valley Medical Center currently takes over an hour. The same trip would take about 30-35 minutes with direct hub-and-spoke routing via Jefferson Avenue.

Regional Connector: RTA Route 61
Former Sun City Scooter Route 61
Streamlining such bus routes has already proven to be beneficial. Several years ago, RTA Route 61 was once dubbed the Sun City Scooter, a shuttle that circulated all around the Sun City region. The route had stagnant low ridership of 3 riders per hour and it was proposed to be canceled at one point.

However officials did the wise thing of streamlining and converting the route into a regional connector that it is today's Route 61. It took some time, but ridership shot up with the improved direct connections to/from the Southwest region. The route segment through north Murrieta near Scott Road should be further streamlined with the line extended north to connect with the Perris Valley Line at the Perris Station Transit Center; that will likely happen further down the road when a second bus line is routed through the corridor.

One can argue that Temecula and Murrieta are distant, car-centric suburbs. While that is true for many parts of both cities, the commercial corridors and destinations in each show otherwise. Go to Old Town Temecula, pass through the Pechanga Resort, and head up and down each of the major commercial roads like Temecula Parkway and California Oaks Road on any given day. These busy commercial and retail corridors supported by neighboring 20+ units-per-acre apartment and condo neighborhoods clearly show and warrant that the Southwest region needs to have the buses running at least hourly from early morning through the late evening under a more direct, hub-and-spoke routing model with additional late night service through Old Town Temecula on Friday and Saturday nights.

Community shuttles and circulators can be good modes of transit for the short-range trips that span a few blocks to a few miles. The Harveston Trolley Shuttle and Temecula's Old Town Farmer's Market shuttle are good examples. But for longer-haul trips that involve transfers, the local bus routes in the Southwest region need to be integrated better with the rest of RTA's bus system with more direct routing and timed transfers at the hubs. With the region's medical sector on the rise, county officials should plan to make sure RTA has the funds to move forward on this issue.

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