Monday, June 2, 2014

Improving Inland Empire Metrolink Service

Officials have big plans to expand Southern California's regional rail infrastructure.

© Justin Nelson CC-BY-SA

Transit Talking Points by: Nicholas Ventrone, Community Engagement Director
riversidetransit@gmail.com


As many rail commuters and transit followers are well aware, Metrolink is Southern California's and the Inland Empire's regional passenger rail system. The Southern California Regional Rail Authority which governs Metrolink was formed in 1991 to improve mobility throughout Southern California and to cut down on freeway congestion by closing a void in the region's transportation infrastructure between five counties. The system has proven to be very successful. According to the Metrolink website, service has grown from three service lines, 11 stations and 2,300 daily boardings during the early 90's to seven service lines, 55 stations and 44,000 daily boardings, all over a 512 route-mile network.

More expansions are coming. Here's a run down:

Perris Valley Line: Spearheaded by the Riverside County Transportation Commission, the Metrolink 91 Line will be extended from Downtown Riverside south to Perris using the existing RCTC-owned San Jacinto Branch Line. The project is under construction. The PVL is expected to open to riders by late 2015.

A new Metrolink station is planned for Placentia, which will also connect the 91/Perris Valley Line to additional job hubs in Orange County. According to the city website, The City of Placentia has been working with OCTA to secure the funds to design and build this station in the City's downtown area.

Downtown San Bernardino and Redlands Passenger Rail Projects: The San Bernardino Associated Governments is working to expand passenger rail transit service between San Bernardino and Redlands utilizing the Redlands Subdivision rail corridor. The Downtown San Bernardino First-Mile project will extend Metrolink trains from the historic Santa Fe Depot one mile east, where it will join with the San Bernardino Transit Center project which is currently under construction. In addition, some major changes will occur at the historic Santa Fe Depot, which is the current terminal station for San Bernardino. The Transit Center is expected to be completed in during the summer of 2015, while the Metrolink extension and Santa Fe Depot modifications scheduled for completion by
the follwing summer in 2016.

I-15, I-215 Rail Corridors: Several years back, the Riverside County Transportation Commission conducted two rail feasibility studies to evaluate future passenger rail lines in Riverside County. A 2005 study supported advancing the Perris Valley Line from Perris to San Jacinto with additional Metrolink service along the I-215 to Temecula. A 2008 study looked at potential train service along the I-15 corridor, Temecula North and Temecula South. The findings found that such a public project would be expensive, but supported public-private partnerships, where private developers help fund or donate right of way and contribute to the overall capital costs.

The study also found that high speed rail would have to address the major commuter demand between Temecula and San Diego County. With the way things are going with the California High Speed Rail Authority, don't count on this project materializing anytime soon with public funds alone. The private sector must be inclined to invest in this robust infrastructure and expansion of our Inland regional rail system. 

Coachella Valley Rail Service: We cannot forget the overwhelming public support of getting additional trains in between the Coachella Valley and Los Angeles via the Inland Empire. Since the 1990's both state and local transportation officials have been pushing to get daily intercity train service into the Coachella Valley from Los Angeles. Officials have been looking into expanding Amtrak services through this region in lieu of Metrolink. However, the main problem has been the rail right-of-way which is privately owned by the Union Pacific Railroad, not public agencies. UPRR has long objected to additional passenger trains along these tracks to prevent obstruction of its logistics business. On top of expanding Amtrak services which has been widely discussed in the public forums, this blog has suggested other alternatives of getting additional intercity trains through the region.

Be sure to check out The Transit Coalition's Future Vision of Inland Empire Mass Transit to see which corridors would fare well with expanded high speed intercity and regional trains.

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