Inland Empire Transit News Updates: Metrolink, Toll Lanes, and Stopping Gangs

There's much in the news in the transportation department this Christmas and Hanukkah.

By: Nicholas Ventrone, Community Engagement Director

This holiday season has been a busy month in the news. Here's brief run down:

Changes coming to Metrolink Leadership: Michael DePallo has announced that he will step down as CEO at the start of the new year on January 2, 2015. The railroad has been in a rocky boat recently as it continues to addresses fundamental problems such as broken ticket vending machines, late trains, and finances. The Metrolink Board will commence the hiring process for a new CEO.

I'm hoping that both the new leader and the Board would agree on fiscally conservative and cost-efficient solutions to fix #TVMFail, get the stations secure, and solve the numerous on-time performance issues.

Also, I hope there will finally be consensus for the railroad to adopt corridor-based regional rail service through LA Union Station. That is a proven solution that would make the entire Metrolink train system more fiscally productive which would certainly generate the revenue and ridership necessary to fully fund the San Bernardino Line and restore the recently suspended two midday and two late night weekday roundtrips with potential hourly off-peak service and future expanded 30 minute frequencies.

Ending the 2014 year on Metrolink on the bright front, Mr. DePallo is an asset to Metrolink passenger safety. He led the agency into implementing Positive Train Control quickly, making the regional rail system the safest railroad in the nation. Locomotive operators are now monitored which combats distracted driving on the rails. Also, Metrolink employed cleaner Tier 4 locomotives on his watch which means cleaner air. In fact, the CEO came to The Transit Coalition in the fall of October 2013 to describe the safety improvements to our meeting participants in Los Angeles. DePallo will likely go down in Metrolink history as the safety CEO. 

Don't get caught carpool cheating in San Diego: Law enforcement patrols the I-15 Express Lanes during the afternoon rush hour.
Carpool and Toll Lane Debate: I ran across a number of local articles on reports of increasing statewide traffic congestion, slow and crowded carpool lanes in Orange County, and continued HOV cheating along LA's Metro ExpressLanes.

I'll have a transit talking points on this matter written up soon, but these new facts do support our position that stronger deterrents against HOV/HOT lane cheating is absolutely necessary, deterrents that go well beyond automated transponder photo enforcement. The presence of intelligence-driven law enforcement is necessary to prevent non-HOV's from cheating carpool and high occupancy toll lane systems regardless of whether a tolling agency requires mandatory FasTrak transponders and vehicle registration or not for toll-free HOV's. Reliable automated systems simply cannot determine how many passengers are in a vehicle, and that is the truth for now.

Efficient HOV Connections: A congestion-free direct access ramp connects the Mira Mesa Transit Station with the I-15 Express Lanes in San Diego County during the northbound afternoon rush hour, allowing for 2+ HOV's, MTS Rapid transit buses, and toll-paying solo drivers seamless access.
Plus, the evidence shows that there needs to be seamless connections between all rapid transit HOV-related infrastructure. Such infrastructure includes transit stations, bus transfer hubs, and commuter park & ride lots as well as Southern California's carpool and high occupancy toll lane network.

What can be done to better link these HOV amenities seamlessly? More on that soon...

Combating San Bernardino Gang Crime: Earlier this week, law enforcement busted 33 suspected gang members which promises to put a dent on a violent clash between two rival criminal gang groups. Last month, The Sun published a report showing that local grassroots organizations are working hard to unite the communities to take back their neighborhoods from the ciminal subculture.

My Brother's Keeper: President Obama's initiative promises to help our youth grow up and become productive adults.
As the bankrupt City of San Bernardino continues to figure out ways to balance its books with the unfunded pensions, I believe the city is making a comeback with the unified voice.

Unity of its people can allow a fiscally broken city to prosper socially and economically. We should all urge local politicians and officials to continue to take a leadership role on stopping criminal gang crime with firm public messages, allowing the non-profit sector and religious groups to seamlessly do their parts to improve the lives of broken youth and the incarcerated, and to flood troubled areas with community action patrol watchdogs, volunteers and reserve deputies to assist the paid full time law enforcement.

As you saw in the recent police news stories making national headlines combined with the public reaction, our law enforcement ranks can have flawed individuals, but what individual is without his/her personal flaws? The men and women in law enforcement is what we have to protect our local streets from turning into dangerous full-fledged criminal war zones.

While I know the city has a long way to go before it makes its way to a top-safest-cities list, I believe San Bernardino is at a turning point for the better even with its ongoing bankruptcy case and money problems. Public transportation, road capacity and HOV infrastructure continues to be improved. If both the community and government leaders continue to take a serious stand against gang crime and continue to grow the economy with inclining tax and fee breaks, San Bernardinio will once again be a desirable place to live.

End of the Year Commentary

I do appreciate you taking your time to read this blog. We are all in it together to bring about A Better Inland Empire. Bottom line is I want our system to have robust and paid-for transportation infrastructure so you and I can get from one end of Southern California to the other quickly and efficiently without the traffic congestion. That's why I volunteer to work with The Transit Coalition to make this happen. I want our region to be protected from violent crime, evil, pollution, and greed of power. I believe we all agree on those core principles.

Yes, we often disagree on a number of specific solutions and that's why I invite anybody reading this post who has not contributed comments here on this blog or on the social networking sites to please do so. Volunteer for the Coalition. Become a college interim and join our Tiger Team. Politicians, decision makers, the press and top transit agency staff follow this discussion. Your voice isn't just going to the choir. We receive constructive comments and reactions from smart people on various topics and I enjoy the lively debate because we are all unique and have different solutions to make the Inland Empire better for all, something that is universally desired among us.

I want to wish you all a very Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and a Happy New Year. I will talk to you again in 2015.