Let's Debate: Paying for the Coalition's Future Vision of Inland Empire Mass Transit

The Transit Coalition's long term Future Vision of Inland Empire Mass Transit is based on data from numerous feasibility studies, agency proposals, the media, growth patterns, and public feedback. How can we pay for it?

By: Nicholas Ventrone, Community Engagement Director

The Transit Coalition's long term Future Vision of Inland Empire Mass Transit is based on both short and long-range recommendations and data from numerous feasibility studies, agency proposals, the media, growth patterns, and public feedback. One of the jobs I do is take findings from such reports as whole, analyse the facts, and compile solutions into the future vision.

I interact with people and some are saying, how is that vision going to get paid for? That's the question I want to submit to you.

There's three corridors specifically I want to draw attention to: the SR-91/I-215 between San Bernardino and Orange County via Riverside, I-10 between Indio and Los Angeles, and I-15 between San Diego County and the high desert area. Those corridors are the backbones of getting in, out, and around the Inland Empire region. Both policies and the infrastructure need to support the expansion of Metrolink and Amtrak rail service, inclining the private sector to invest in additional rail services including potentially reinstating Class One services, expand public express bus services, get better competition with intercity bus providers to improve services and lower fares, developing landmark transit stations, and providing the highway infrastructure for people riding in high occupancy vehicles of any kind. Again, the question is, how can we pay for it when the economy is still generally soft here at home?

The Coalition has already submitted potential solutions to these problems. We want to get to the bottom of the problem of why such infrastructure projects take nearly decades to materialize and we need your voices, ideas and opinions. If we continue to lag in improving transportation options and fail to expedite master plans whenever economic growth occurs, serious issues like traffic gridlock and bare-bones transit services will come back to surprise us. I mean, both the 91 Express Lanes extension through Corona now under construction and planned Metrolink and commuter bus expansions should have been done during the housing boom years and the I-15 project should have followed a few years later. Why is it taking so long to do it? Yes, there was the non-compete clause while the 91 Express Lanes was in private ownership before OCTA took ownership of the robust facility last decade which blocked the improvements, but why? It's very easy to point fingers at our local agencies, but addressing these problems go beyond local control and that's why the Coalition is here to bring you the larger picture. What laws or policies which stand in the way need to be streamlined or reformed to get Southern California moving?

Coalition Concept: A conceptual high speed train station in Murrieta.
Note: Concept Only. Not endorsed by any public entity or Amtrak.
So anyway, that is the topic of discussion.  I'll be on the run for the next few weeks starting on Friday. I'll be headed up to Washington State. On the way up, I'll take a fresh look at California's San Joaquin Valley transportation corridor linking Southern California to the Bay Area. I know the statewide high speed rail project is mired in all kinds of problems but the proven transit technology is very feasible. We need better leadership to get its per-mile costs down, private investments up, and policies streamlined.

Also, later this summer, I'll be heading down to San Diego County, checking out the recently opened Rapid express bus services that utilize the I-15 Express Lanes between Escondido and downtown San Diego. San Diego County's I-15 corridor generally has what I envision here. I might include a trolley trip to San Ysidro to see if anything was done to the border signage so we don't have repeats of the horrible story involving U.S. Marine Andrew Tahmooressi. Tahmooressi has been held in Mexican incarceration since March 31 on so-called weapons charges, but really committed no wrongdoing. He still remains jailed in a Mexican maximum security prison in solitary confinement. According to reports, he had all of his personal belongings stuffed in his car as part of a move which included 3 legally registered firearms, walked into Mexico, came back later in the dark night to his car, wanted to head back to San Diego, but accidentally took a wrong turn back into Mexico due to unlit vandalized signage, told authorities he needed to get back to the U.S. and the Mexican military arrested the Marine. The U.S. federal government needs to get on this issue. He and all other unreported innocent U.S. citizens who are incarcerated need to be sent back to the U.S. immediately.

Anyway, thank you for following this blog. Check out the Streetblog CA and Alpern At Large for the latest news on transit while I'm gone. I'll talk to you again after the Fourth of July weekend.