Let's Debate: RTA Route 61, The Metrolink Perris Valley Line and Southwest Riverside County

Proposed: RTA has proposed extending Route 61 to the Perris Station Transit Center.
Graphic: Riverside Transit Agency

By: Nicholas Ventrone, Community Engagement Director

My next several posts will be Let's Debate articles on the specific routing proposals for the Riverside Transit Agency's proposed 10 Year Transit Plan. The proposed plan includes system-wide route changes and want to ensure that I cover each of them. Public open house meetings have begun today with comments due to RTA by October 7.

To kick all of this off, I'll start by taking a look at bus routes proposed to connect with the Metrolink Perris Valley Line starting with connections to/from Southwest Riverside County.

Currently, Route 208 is the CommuterLink express route that runs in between Riverside and Temecula via Perris and is currently the designated express route for the I-215 corridor which also serves as a peak hour Metrolink rail feeder. The proposed transit plan calls for the route to be maintained with additional morning and afternoon trips.

Route 61 Proposed to Connect to PVL at Perris

Outside of peak hours, current Southwest county transit riders needing to access the Metrolink system or other points north like Riverside and Moreno Valley have to go through a very slow bus journey. Such midday and weekend trips can span several hours. As a solution combined with the Metrolink Perris Valley Line project, The Transit Coalition has called for Route 61 to be further streamlined so that it can be extended north to the Perris Station Transit Center. Not only would that connect Southwest to the PVL for the off-peak train departures, that would also provide direct connections to Routes 22 and 27 to Riverside and Route 19 to Moreno Valley. That will considerably improve Southwest Riverside County inter-regional connections in a productive manner. Now, RTA has made it an official proposal in its proposed 10 Year Transit Plan. We hope this proposal moves forward and fast.

However, with the route streamlining, there will be some service disruptions here and there. In fairness, these negated areas should still be addressed and not ignored by transit planners.

First, Temecula's primary local bus transfer hub now at the County Center area is proposed to be merged with the Promenade Mall CommuterLink transfer point. On the surface, that is a very sound proposal. In fact, The Transit Coaltion has called for better local-to-CommuterLink connections in the region. Making the Promenade Mall area the region's designated transit hub will address that while we wait for the coming of the Twin Cities Transit Center. I have no problem supporting the merge as a whole. But the minor issue is maintaining transit mobility in the County Center area with the presence of the government offices there with at least one through bus route. I'll take a closer look at this connectivity issue and will address it more in detail when the Temecula routing proposals are analyzed.

Past-Recommendation: East/West Clinton Keith Rd bus route.
Graphic: RTA 2007 COA
The second minor issue is the cancellation of service to the Orchard Stone Creek shopping center. Route 61 is currently the sole route that operates through this area. Yes, removing the deviation certainly will speed up through-trips and improve productivity. That should be the goal. But here would be an ideal solution to address cancelled service to the shopping center and connecting multi-family housing units: A separate east/west bus route. RTA's COA in 2007 called for a weekday local route than ran every 70 minutes via Clinton Keith Road between Inland Valley Medical Center and French Valley. That route did not come to reality simply because the road infrastructure was never built between Murrieta and French Valley following the study. The Coalition had also envisioned an extension of a local route in Lake Elsinore as an alternative in order to sustain productive weekend service with buses running through every hour. A fair solution to maintain connections to the affected area would be to adopt this through route via Clinton Keith Road into the 2014 COA since the Clinton Kieth Road extension is still being planned.

In the north Murrieta and Menifee region, Route 61 is proposed to serve Antelope Road and no longer deviate to points east. I believe this solution would be best for the area. Again, this will speed up through-trips and improve productivity. Unlike the connectivity situation with the Orchard Stone Creek shopping center, destinations via Antelope Road are more active and should warrant a direct bus route. With the presence of a college campus, shopping centers, and higher density multi-family housing units, the proposed realignment is sound. East of Antelope, lower density tract and some rural development dominate the Menifee Road corridor. Regarding connectivity with these lower density areas, city officials should work with RTA on improving the pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure between Menifee Road and Antelope so transit-dependent riders living in the outer tracts can continue to have safe access to/from the route. In addition, Route 74 will continue to serve parts of the affected areas in Menifee on weekdays and establishing a timed transfer at MSJC can help offset the mobility issues.

Finally, in Sun City, RTA has proposed realigning Route 61 and 40 to be more direct, allowing for a much better streamlined hub-and-spoke routing through the area. Establishing a timed transfer between the lines at the Sun City Center hub would address any minor connectivity issues with the realignments.

Route 61 has a very interesting history and a bright future ahead. Starting off as one of RTA's least productive circulators through Sun City, the former Sun City Scooter bus appears to be transforming into the I-215 Southwest Scooter--name not official--which is proposed to directly link Temecula to the Perris Station Transit Center with through-service in Sun City. I believe the streamlining will continue to transform and make Route 61 a key regional connector route in RTA's bus system.