How current and future urban development will boost so-called "slow start" ridership aboard San Bernardino's bus rapid transit line...
Transit Talking Points by: Nicholas Ventrone, Community Engagement Director
Over the weekend, the Press Enterprise ran a ridership report on Omnitrans' sbX bus rapid transit line. The very headline and thesis of the article is "Rapid bus line off to slow start. Passengers on the sbX line rave about faster service, but ridership hasn't met expectations in its first year."
On the surface, that sounds like trouble for Omnitrans. But not so fast. The fact is the transit infrastructure was built and opened well before other major developments took place which promised to feed into the line. Last year, I argued that the sbX is a success in waiting and I continue to stand by that position. I had to spend several volunteer man hours getting all of the facts to write up "The sbX Bus Rapid Transit: A success in waiting" blog post in the May of 2014. With major proposed development plans in and around the BRT route, expect this "slow start" bus route to improve rapidly...pardon the pun.
Building the Infrastructure before the Developments
One common question I hear from many residents is: Why isn't transportation infrastructure built before homes and businesses are developed? That seems like a logical question. After all, the infamous 91 freeway through Corona is finally getting upgraded--both infrastructure and transit--even though this project should have been fully funded roughly two decades ago during the Inland Empire housing boom. As I've said before, we really can't blame our regional transportation agencies on this. Both the state and federal government need to fully fund this so that both Riverside and Orange County do not have to resort to massive toll bond debt.
Also, even though the sbX may appear to be under-performing now, the ridership growth rate is not at all bad even with the lack of current efficient regional connectivity. The Press Enterprise reported that the sbX was getting about 2,300 average weekday boardings, which according to the paper was less than half the number anticipated in its first year. However, last year, I spoke with Omnitrans Marketing Director and spokeswoman Wendy Williams and got the average daily ridership of the line as of May, 2014. Back then, it was averaging only 1,327 riders per day. Also, PE Columnist Cassie MacDuff road the bus and networked with Williams just before I did last year. The weekday daily average given to her was 1,280 boardings per day. The near-doubling of ridership between last year and this year from 1,280 boardings to 2,300 was not even mentioned in the last PE article. Not to mention that the Metrolink First Mile and other private development projects were omitted as well.
So, I stand by my position that the sbX is a successful transit line in waiting. The media really needs to wait until both the transit hub and Metrolink extension into downtown are developed before making any other accusations that the bus rapid transit line is "off to a slow start" and leading readers who may only skim over the headline into believing the sbX project is a taxpayer flop, which it really isn't. The truth is the transit infrastructure preceded the urban infill development investments that promises to drive up the ridership.
One last fact--This one too deals with an example where local transportation infrastructure was built prior to development:
Butterfield Stage Road through Roripaugh Ranch in Temecula
|Under-utilized $12.1 million road too? Where's the media outrage? Oh yeah, usage along this complete street will improve once the homes get developed.|
However, Temecula's Average Daily Traffic Volumes report shows an average of less than 8,000 cars per day using the $12.1 million infrastructure segment for 2014 after July. Much of Roripaugh Ranch is undeveloped, but it will be soon. To compare, Winchester Road (SR-79 North) averaged more than 46,600 cars per day between the twin cities.
Is this new section of Butterfield Stage Road really off to a "slow start" too, worthy of a dissenting news headline? You make the call.