|Connecting Communities: Another example of how connections can make or break a bus transit trip.|
Map: © OpenStreetMap Contributors
By: Nicholas Ventrone, Community Engagement Director
I have been conducting a number of peak-hour field studies aboard CommuterLink Route 206 and have been observing and examining this signature CommuterLink route. That's so the express line can operate at its best as the Riverside Transit Agency continues its master plan of expanding the line's service span so that one doesn't need a car to get up or down the I-15 freeway corridor quickly. When 2023 rolls around, RTA plans on phasing in all-day services with an express bus departure every hour, seven days per week. I want to make sure that this line is productive during the weekends and middle of the day.
RTA introduced Saturday service on Route 206, but that turned out to be a flop and the service was eventually cancelled simply due to lack of connections combined with the economic recession which contributed to very low ridership. That should not repeat.
One of the pillars to strengthen bus route productivity is to ensure that there are seamless connections between the express and local feeding routes and that the station stops are near major activity centers which help generate trips.
Enter in the South Corona and Dos Lagos areas, home of the Dos Lagos master-planned community, the Crossings at Corona regional shopping center, the town of El Cerrito, and a local business district.
Route 206, the Corona Cruiser Red Line, and OCTA OC Express Route 794A. However, public transit in this area suffers one fundamental flaw. The lines don't directly connect with each other.
Route 206 has an express stop in Dos Lagos. The weekday runs of the Corona Cruiser Red Line terminates about a mile north at The Crossings at Corona. A couple miles northwest of that, the "A" branch of Route 794 headed to major job hubs in south Santa Ana and north Costa Mesa picks up passengers at a local church Park & Ride lot. But these lines don't interconnect. And that could mean the difference for one looking into riding the bus versus driving alone to work.
- Dos Lagos/Corona Crossings Stop - Route 206 and the weekday Red Line departures would share the same bus stop. Local officials should determine the location but it should be near a major activity center. The change could be done using existing resources.
- Route 794 needs to connect with Route 206. That would provide direct 2-seat express bus connections from Route 206 pick-up points along the I-15 corridor to the Route 794 destinations in the South Coast Metro area via a timed transfer and existing fare/transfer agreement. The line should continue to serve the existing Park & Ride lots so that commuters can continue to easily leave their cars and board the bus in Corona, but the line should also connect with Route 206 which would greatly expand commuter options at minimal costs. Adding a restricted stop at the Corona Transit Center (ie. Passenger restriction is board only westbound, discharge only eastbound) could be done with minimal additional public resources. Also, since the line already originates near Dos Lagos, why not extend the line further south to a bus stop shared by Route 206 and the Corona Cruiser Red Line? Speaking of which...
- Corona Cruiser Red Line Earlier Departures - The City of Corona and the county should consider funding and launching earlier departures for the Corona Cruiser Red Line. That's because of the presence of a large business district along the I-15 in between Ontario and Magnolia Avenue. At present, the first Red Line bus goes through the job hub area via California and Rimpau Avenues well after 7am. Workers who need to report to work at 7am or earlier can't use the bus under the current service span. By having earlier Red Line departures timed with inbound express buses, more workers would have the option to take a local or CommuterLink Express route into the Corona Transit Center or Dos Lagos area and transfer to the Red Line to get to their jobs on time. Plus, the earlier departures would provide inbound feeder connections with Route 794; local Corona residents working in the South Coast Metro area won't even need to drive a car to enjoy a two-seat bus ride to work and back.
These small fixes can certainly help bridge these transit gaps, better attract choice-riders into taking the bus to work, stimulate ridership growth, and allow these lines to be more productive.