Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Let's Debate: Improving Inland Empire Intercity Bus Transit Services

An Intermodal "Union Station": The San Ysidro Transit Center connects Mexican border patrons with San Diego MTS trolley and bus services, Greyhound, cross-border shuttles, and taxis. Several other private coach providers have outlets very close to the hub. How can our Inland Empire transit hubs follow this?

By: Nicholas Ventrone, Community Engagement Director
riversidetransit@gmail.com


Last weekend, I conducted a field study of San Diego County's rapid express services for the I-15 corridor between Escondido and downtown San Diego and submitted that the Inland Empire should have similar services. Our long range future vision calls for such service between downtown Riverside and Orange County. We believe the Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center with a terminal stop at the Disneyland Resort is a prime candidate for the western station given the numerous transfer opportunities there. Other strong terminal stop candidates are the Fullerton Transportation Center and the Santa Ana Regional Transportation Center.

Many of you would like to see expanded express services for our corridors. On Monday, I've talked about the rapid express option for speedy cross-regional trips for areas not served by rail. But what about those longer-haul intercity trips? Let's say: Riverside to San Diego? Indio to Los Angeles? Oceanside to Perris? Temecula to Fullerton? Murrieta to Las Vegas? Yes, there's Greyhound and there are a number of Amtrak motorcoach buses that provide intercity feeder service to/from train routes. In addition, the Megabus to Las Vegas stops at the Riverside Downtown Metrolink Station. Nothing wrong with that; those are all desirable and productive services. But how can more of these direct services be improved with across-the-platform access to/from public transit centers? Let's debate a solution.

San Ysidro Transit Center

During my field study of the rapid bus in San Diego, I transferred to the MTS Blue Line trolley and wanted to see what was going on in the San Ysidro Transit Center area. As many of you are well aware, this area is home to the San Ysidro Port of Entry, gateway into Tijuana, Mexico. This transit center certainly is a busy hub with many different options to get around. Mobility is written all over it. The transit center demonstrates exactly what happens when several transportation providers set up shop at or near a single hub. I've noted that on top of the San Diego MTS trolley and bus services, Greyhound also stops their buses at the facility. The ticket office is literally located at the end of the blue line trolley tracks. I also noted numerous private sector shuttles utilizing the hub as well as several taxi cabs. I found intercity bus competition to be pretty good in this area. A number of the neighboring retail outlets were used as bus stations. Here are some names of bus providers that few of us may know: El Corre Caminos, Transportes Intercalifornias, and the Mexicoach. The former two serve destinations in the Inland Empire. The latter ferries travelers between the Border Station parking lot--located on the opposite side of the port's pedestrian bridge--and Avenida RevoluciĆ³n. I am almost positive that there are other bus and shuttle providers that I missed. Post any you may know to the comments, especially carriers that connect to the Inland Empire.

Improving Intercity Bus Competition and Stopping Buses at Public Transit Centers

How can we expand intercity services in our area with streamlined and seamless transfers, great services and low fares? A desirable outcome we would like to see is combined headways of about an hour in between buses between Los Angeles and San Ysidro via the Inland Empire. Because the bookends of this corridor are densely populated urban centers, the service would be profitable. Robust competition would lead to enhanced services and deals on fares. Greyhound, El Corre Caminos, Transportes Intercalifornias each have stops in the Inland Empire. Other than Greyhound, very few of us know where to catch these buses. I will compile a list of where to catch some these buses on Monday; however, why are some of these terminals far from public transit connections?

The providers should be inclined to stop their buses at or near existing public transit centers and transfer points which would maximize mobility options. This blog has advocated for our governments to provide incentives to such bus companies to expand intercity transit mobility in the Inland Empire in the form of tax or fee breaks. The perk can be as something simple as a nice break to incline the provider to stop their buses and conduct ticket transactions inside or very close to the city's primary transit center; let's say a 1/4 mile walk maximum between boarding platforms. The shorter the walk, the higher the incentive.

Here at home, I've seen some examples where carrier terminals and stops are located far away from the region's designated transit center. How on earth would Perris Station Transit Center patrons know of El Corre Caminos bus services when the bus company's ticket office is located about 3/4 mile away at 4th Street and Wilkerson? The Perris Greyhound station located at 4th and G Street is also a good 1/2 mile walk away from the transit hub. To be fair, the old Riverside Transit Agency hub in Perris was at 4th at Wilkerson before the Perris Station Transit Center was built, but why haven't the bus companies been inclined to relocate and set up shop at the transit center which would allow for better connections? Another incentive would be local permit fee breaks to move an existing outlet closer to the hub.

Los Angeles Union Station has been a prime example of a unified transit hub for 75 years. The San Ysidro hub is also a good example; the only request I have for the latter is to have a map of all of the nearby bus providers with a boarding diagram posted at the station and in public transit literature. Openstreetmap has a good example of this. But how can we better improve intercity bus transit for San Bernardino and Riverside Counties to quickly get around Southern California? Let's debate.

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