Friday, July 25, 2014

Transportation Tips: Fighting for the dignity of our cities

Along Old Rt. 66, San Bernardino, Rendezvous 2005.jpg
"Along Old Rt. 66, San Bernardino, Rendezvous 2005" by Don - Flickr: Along Old Rt. 66, San Bernardino, Rendezvous 2005. © CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

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


This week's tip is how you and I can fight against the surge of violent crime that has been reported all over the local media. But first, I want to encourage you to get involved with The Transit Coalition. The organization is all-volunteer and we can use some extra helping hands. Consider donating to our cause. We also want to hear your transit stories and your experience living in the Inland Empire and getting around. I hope you check these outlets and our current campaigns out at our website because we long for A Better Inland Empire.

Your Views

Before I get into the tip, I've got some very constructive comments over the course of the week. Here are some of your views:

Although we want Metrolink to fill seats perhaps shorter four-car consists could help O&M bottomline before service cuts.  -Twitter/Metrolink Diary

It's certainly true that locomotive gas consumption is consistent regardless if the Metrolink cars are full or empty and shortening the train set could save on fuel. But the fact is the train set operates multiple lines and needs to be at its prime length to accommodate peak passenger loads.

The trolley system in San Diego is GREAT for sporting events. -Twitter/Tank D. Sanchez

I know of people from the Inland Empire who travel into San Diego County for the ballgames, park their cars at a trolley station and ride into downtown stadium. The mode is very efficient and reliable.

Regional Transportation Authority is needed to take funding out of the hands of county governments. Benefits buses and rail. -Twitter/Phantom Commuter

Regional Rail: If the local funds and tax receipts do not go through the county governments or cities, it would all have to go through the state government and then passed back down to the regional rail agency. With the way transportation policies are governed at the state, I believe Metrolink's funding system is more fair and the better buy for us. Yes, that will result in disagreements and debates like the current dispute. Nothing wrong with robust debate. But I don't welcome the inflated costs and the service cuts proposed as the solution and we need to demand better local leadership than that.

While we're on the topic of regional services, transportation corridors vary all over SoCal which is why local agencies and jurisdictions need some decision making power. Yes, there needs to be more regional coordination to streamline issues like inter-agency transfers and schedules. Also, I don't oppose inter-agency partnerships which allow for the overlapping of cross-regional connectors and express routes into neighboring counties so that such lines terminate at major hubs, not at the county line. Same holds true for local routes with closed-door service (board only outbound/discharge only inbound) between the terminal and county line. But decisions like specific routing, fares, and planning needs to be local. Back in the days when Southern California Rapid Transit District dominated transit operations, there were local mobility threats where service improvements were focused mostly in Los Angeles with less attention to lower-activity corridors.

Here are you views from Facebook on Wednesday's Let's Debate post of addressing "low-ridership" Metrolink lines:

Those trains are packed. The cancellation has much more to do with the backwardness of SanBAG. -Matt Korner

I'm not giving either the SANBAG or Metrolink elected Board Members a pass on this funding dispute. Both sides have valid arguments, but we need leadership so that this issue can be solved without cutting the trains.

Stop widening freeways. Invest in transit. Lower impact! -Mark Friis

We should be converting existing lanes to "Truck/Bus Only" with tolls. -
Matt Korner

Many transit advocates believe a reason why our transit systems are underfunded is simply because too much transportation money is being allocated toward expensive highway infrastructure and freeway projects. Generally speaking, that is certainly a correct argument and perhaps one of the top frustrations for those who do transit advocacy. If a tiny fraction of massive highway-dedicated funds were re-purposed to our transit agencies, RTA's operating budget would be more than doubled, both the long-range sbX and RapidLink BRT proposals would be fully built out, LA Metro and Omnitrans would not be forced to raise fares, RTA would not be dependent on JARC funds to upgrade years-overdue service span upgrades, and every proposed transit center in Riverside County would be built and paid for including a multi-modal transit hub at the Riverside Downtown Metrolink station. In addition, major highway capacity improvement projects especially freeway widening projects should generally include transit infrastructure and better land use policies, not just more general purpose lanes.

However, we must remember that public works capital projects all over the state cost way more than the current private sector market rates even during a soft economy here in the Inland Empire. It's clear that government waste and inflated costs are certainly out of control at the state level and political ideology and foolish spending are the prime culprits. That's what must stop.


Since all of Metrolink corridors will be PTC by the end of next year, it is time for them to petition the FRA to allow exemptions so that they can run DMUs on their lines. Smaller trainsets could easily be replaced by a DMU (especially that late-night run) that are cheaper to operate. Double bonus, it could help the robbing Peter to pay Paul that SanBAG is being forced to do with the Gold Line Extension. -Nevram Norman

Mitch Alderman, SanBAG's head rail guy, has personal experience with D.M.U.'s through his work on S.D. County's Sprinter. -Matt Korner

It's very true DMU's can make the rail system more efficient. They would need to be compatible with the station platform design which includes the wheelchair ramps. More on that at a later time. The Transit Coalition also supports electrification of the regional rail system to cut down on operations costs with the help from the private sector.


Transportation Tip: Fighting for the dignity of our cities

The San Bernardino region has been seeing sudden rise in violent crime and receiving hard press lately. Just last night, an armed robbery took place in San Bernardino, the suspect drove off, police found the car later that night, and a chase occured that ended in a rollover crash in Highland, resulting in another crime-related death.

There are a number of transit projects happening in this region and I don't want this infrastructure--let alone the city it serves--mired in gang violence or vandalism.

Besides the hard news, we need to make clear that the good people of crime-plagued Inland Empire regions like San Bernardino are fighting back. And we encourage you to take an active part. Despite going through a round of budget cuts, the city's police department is adding officers according to the San Bernardino Sun and the department has a multitude of volunteer positions. The city should ensure that these programs are funded so that every qualified volunteer applicant has something to do to fight against crime. Every street corner in troubled neighborhoods should have an active volunteer or Reserve patrolling the area.

Yesterday, concerned citizens staged a march for peace down Base Line Avenue. It's clear that a number of faith-based organizations and church groups want their city back. To name a few, Victory Outreach and The Way World Outreach. If you know or participate in any of these organizations, please post them to the comments and I'll feature them in a future post.

Similar campaigns have formed in places like South LA which aims to stop gang violence at its source. Here is a 2012 video of a full meeting of Project Fatherhood in Watts. This campaign deals with the fathers of families in troubled areas including some who have turned away from the criminal life and want to reintegrate back into the community. Pay attention to the passion of these people and the courage they have to fight back.

In addition, a White House campaign called My Brother's Keeper underwent an expansion. Despite all the problems going on within the federal government, My Brother's Keeper is a tremendous program and we all should be backing it. The federal campaign connects corporations and wealthy businesses with entities to improve the lives of youth who grow up in chaotic environments. It links troubled kids and teenagers with caring mentors and legit job opportunities. This deters and discourages such youth from getting involved in the deadly criminal gang culture. If a gang is unable to recruit new members combined with robust law enforcement to get criminals off of the streets, street gang power will die off. I believe this is one federal program that will leave a positive mark on President Obama's legacy.

Can you imagine having the option to come back to the urban areas to live, work, and play safely at places like San Bernardino, Riverside or Los Angeles since such crimes will be ridden? That will certainly get our transportation infrastructure moving again. Many workers in the urban centers live far away from their jobs and commute in daily simply due to all the crime, blight and riff-raff that goes on everyday. Let's give them back the option to live and invest back in the city centers.

Transportation tip: Get on board with one these organizations.

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