Your Views on Transit Related Matters - September 2015

By: Nicholas Ventrone, Community Engagement Director

I appreciate the reader-input on all of The Transit Coalition's discussion forums. Here's a run-down:

Re: CEQA Reform and Greenhouse Gases
As far as CEQA goes, SB32 would've forced planners and engineers to finally think for a change. Instead of mitigation measures that just consist of wider roads and more street lights, they would've been forced to finally recommend alternative transportation measures including stuff like pitching in for funding infrastructure like the Redlands Rail that can really move quite a lot of people and relieve congestion on the freeways and arterial network.

-Marven/Transit Talking Points

As I mentioned, SB-32 is well-intended and the good people living in Los Angeles and several areas of the Inland Empire need cleaner air to breathe. Plus, better mass transit infrastructure needs to be funded for both local and especially regional trips. But CEQA abuse in the courtroom has been a statewide epidemic for far too long and should have been part of the debate and final bill.

Reform language should have either been included in SB-32 or introduced separately according to the business community because NIMBY opponents and some in lawyer lobby can exploit the law's loopholes to obstruct in-fill urban housing, job development projects and alternative transportation infrastructure in court and attempt to cash in on a settlement. That included Friends of Riverside Hills blocking the Metrolink Perris Valley Line and banking on a settlement and Neighbors for Smart Rail trying to stop LA Metro's Expo Line. Thankfully, both projects are proceeding.

Re: Redlands Passenger Rail, DMU's and Metrolink

There's nothing wrong with DMU service, especially if it's just going to be on the Redlands subdivision. As already noted, a lot of Redlands residents are rather cool toward the whole idea in general and running it as full Metrolink trains is a great way to kill it. Besides, most of the stations will not be big enough for longer Metrolink consists anyway.

Ideally, the DMU service could be extended out to the Ontario Airport (or even beyond), which SANBAG already looked at a year ago. Unfortunately at that time, the conclusion was that it's "not feasible" because the report assumed that that project would require double tracking the entirety of the San Bernardino Line, which it would, but is a project that needs to be done regardless of what happens to Redlands Rail. Doing this would also allow more express Metrolink trains on the San Bernardino Line. It could also be extended down to the Perris Valley Line and fill a very critical void in regional transit connectivity.

Also, the area isn't exactly suburban, especially in the downtowns. Redlands is redoing their general plan and really wants to capitalize on the station areas to focus TOD and when San Bernardino finally gets itself some clear leadership, they will likely do the same. The Waterman station is ripe for it since it's surrounded by fields anyway, though some of them are unfortunately becoming warehouses as we speak. Additionally, Omnitrans is seeking out developers to build on the empty part of the Transit Center and San Bernardino is mulling over project offers for the Carousel Mall site.

-Marven/Transit Talking Points

The Transit Coalition is wrong to advocate, in any way, against the use of D.M.U. trainsets as part of the San Bernardino-Redlands railway. The corridor will be adding stations located approximately a mile apart from each other in the future, and the land-use and economic-development potential of this line will only be realized by utilizing the smaller trainsets for the more frequent service.

By the way, the principal objections to the line have come from individuals concerned about: the long Metrolink trainsets that would require greater time to cross at grade; the air and noise pollution from Metrolink's Diesel locomotives and other equipment; etc. D.M.U.'s are far more efficient than running nearly-empty full-scale trains back and forth between San Bernardino and Redlands. The San Bernardino Common Council has also expressed significant opposition to running many Metrolink trains past E Street.

Reducing the costs associated with the new line is a matter of removing the stipulation in Measure I that forces so much of the revenue raised to be used for automobile-dependent infrastructure. $70 million of the cost is debt service to finance part of SanBAG's required $50-million contribution. Measure I could provide the funds, though, to completely avoid assuming any debt.

-Matt Korner/Facebook

The Transit Coalition's assessment of the Redlands Rail corridor is fair and accurate.

Plus, we do not oppose DMU technology in general since it has proven to be an efficient mode of rail travel in Europe and north San Diego County. However, frequent, corridor-based regional rail service as advocated through Metrolink Max is also a proven concept and we find that it will maximize productivity for the proposed Redlands Rail headways (30 mins peak, hourly off-peak) as passengers won't have to transfer in San Bernardino. The SB Line segment between Upland and North Pomona already has stations that are spaced only a few miles apart. That means two stations in Redlands, two in San Bernardino and one intermediate hub with full-size platforms could work for Metrolink equipment.

In addition, each Metrolink train set would operate as several different train trips throughout the day which maximizes the fleet and helps keep costs down. Although a train set may have vacant seats on one leg of a trip or near the suburban bookends, that does not mean the set has too many cars for the other trips or the Redlands branch. The trip with the highest ridership number each day dictates the number of cars on the train set. Smaller DMU's in lieu of full-size Metrolink train sets during the off-peak hours is a well-thought concept, but operating a segmented or feeder system won't generate as much ridership as a corridor-based regional rail system would by running the trains through San Bernardino instead of terminating there. That's based on the current demographics.

DMU locomotive with full-size regional/commuter rail passenger cars.
Photo: US Railcar, LLC
Regarding the opposition party's views, quiet zones combined with improved sound walls at the stations can and should address the noise pollution concern and we're talking a difference of mere seconds for the grade crossing time between DMU's and full-size Metrolink trains.

A few footnotes: I have been exploring the possibility of extending both the Riverside Line and every other trip of the San Bernardino Line to continue down the Perris Valley Line right-of-way. The latter would require an agreement with the BNSF.

Plus, if the DMU option with smaller cars does move forward and becomes a reality with the smaller station platforms and more station stops, The Transit Coalition will work with the technology and will advocate that the local zoning rules and state environmental laws do allow for business-friendly in-fill growth in the area which will be needed for productive DMU rail transit service.

Plus, US Railcar Company released some interesting reading material on how improving DMU technology could be incorporated with full-size train sets which could very well reduce locomotive pollution. I'll keep a watch on this one.

This was the first time I heard of Metrolink MAX, and I think it is a fantastic idea, to develop fewer corridors with more frequent service throughout the day. Having frequent service like this would likely help alleviate the stress of many commuters when congestion occurs as the result of freight trains also needing to use the tracks. Right now with departures every hour or two apart, any disruption can significantly impact trip plans.

-Marcus R Garcia/Facebook

Be sure to check out the approved frequency upgrades for the San Bernardino Line. Many departures during the week will be on a clock-face schedule (ie. 30 minutes peak to LA in the morning, 30 minutes peak to San Bernardino in the afternoon, and hourly off-peak). The 5:30am train from San Bernardino and the 5:30pm departure from LA will be express. Cal State LA and Montclair, two major destinations and hub points are now express stops. To be clear, there's still some doughnut holes throughout the day from last year's funding dispute with SANBAG with some periods in between departures spanning up to an hour and 45 minutes, but the frequency improvements will a great asset for the line and the Redlands Extension. New schedule becomes effective October 5.

Other Stories:

(Carmageddon in Corona) is an excellent reason why people should take Metrolink!

Cecil Karstensen/Facebook

Keep in mind Mother Nature has and can strike at transit routes too prompting for emergency inspections, closures, and/or repairs. Metrolink is not exempt from natural law.

I just tried to comment on one of (Citizens Against 2nd Railroad Track) posts asking how they could block such a worthwhile project. They responded quickly and childishly and then blocked me from commenting further. Talk about an open-minded group.

Philip D. Obaza/Facebook

It looks like the Puppet Masters are controlling this group's page to restrict dissent and protect the twists in truth and maintain their altered states of reality. With the exception of blocking baseless smear attacks, stonewalling legitimate statements that have supporting facts is not a good practice in public debate.

@TTCInlandEmpire wow ("Transforming Dangerous Neighborhoods into Livable Communities") is so spot on. It coincides with so much of my senior project

Jesus Navidad/Twitter

We appreciate you selecting this topic for your school work. We invite you to send us your final paper and we may feature it on this blog. Violent gang and drug crimes have been plaguing society for far too long and we need proven answers. I'd like to see your solution.

It's long past time that we protect the streets and help the kids who grow up in these chaotic environments.