Inland Empire Transit Happenings - October

Carmageddon II in Corona: Westbound traffic on the Grand Avenue circle and the 91 freeway is a at standstill.

By: Nicholas Ventrone, Community Engagement Director

First, I need to apologize for not posting anything recently. Work and family have been keeping me busy. As I preach here on this blog, we need to mentor and spend the undivided time with the kids.

Anyway, enough of my personal worries. This autumn continues to be a very busy season on the transit front as there's several important stories that we're covering:

Metrolink's Hyundai-Rotem Cab Cars
Reports are showing that there may be a potential safety flaw in the railroad's Hyundai Rotem cab cars.

The specifics were not made public and Metrolink did make the decision to add a second locomotive, at least temporarily, to each train set beginning as soon as possible. In a collaborative effort using BNSF Railway locomotives, Metrolink will soon have a locomotive on either end of each train to compliment the passenger rail's existing fleet. BNSF was selected because it has positive train control and the proposed 9-month lease agreement plus additional resources is projected to cost a total of an estimated $19.1 million.

Because of the sudden change of the locomotive use in the name of safety, I believe the public needs to know what specific flaws are suspected in the cab cars. The information leading up to this decision should become transparent as they're found out.

Carmageddon II in Corona
Last Wednesday, there was a morning peak hour traffic wreck on the westbound side of the 91 Freeway at the Orange County Line blocking a segment of the ingress point to the 91 Express Lanes. Due to the Sig-Alert location and lack of direct alternative routes, Corona experienced Carmageddon II. Traffic in the Circle City of Corona was once again gridlocked with the 91 west and surface streets jammed with stopped cars well before the I-15. Like the previous gridlock episode, some commuters headed to the North Main Corona Metrolink station arrived late and had to wait for the next train. That included some inbound RTA Route 206 CommuterLink connections via the I-15.

The morning before, there was a separate rush-hour Sig-Alert at Maple Avenue, causing major delays for motorists and transit riders.

I believe stepped up traffic enforcement of safe lane changes and the 55 MPH posted speed limit through the Corona Squeeze will need to occur in order to reduce the collision rate in Corona. There have been far too many injury-wrecks in this area. The lifeline segment of the 91 through the County Line between Green River and Gypsum Canyon Roads probably needs to be designated a safety zone as well with strong enforcement and heavy fines for speeding and safety violations. If any major incident occurs there, the whole transportation system which includes riders headed to the Metrolink station is seriously affected.

The Future of the Corona Cruiser

Also in the Circle City, some possible good news. I've been hearing some talk here and there over potential plans to upgrade the Corona Cruiser bus system. I've heard the system is getting brand new mid-sized buses and potentially some improved routing.

Unfortunately, I found nothing yet that has been made officially public even though I've personally seen photos and illustrations of the new buses during a recent field study there. I'll network with a city spokesperson to get some official information for you.

The upgrades will be a great asset for local mobility in Corona.

Funding CA High Speed Rail

Here's some more good news: A number of domestic firms have finally expressed interest in investing in California High Speed Rail. That could mean that the marketplace may end up pouring in some private capital to help pay for the bullet train master plan. Perhaps some of the baseless smear-statements over the public funding of HSR might eventually be proven wrong.

The rail authority asked private firms to respond to a list of questions on how to reduce costs, speed up construction and attract more private-sector investment for the segment between Merced and Burbank, which is scheduled to start operating in 2022. 35 firms responded.

No details or deals have been made public at this time but I think the questions asked by CHSRA were very fair considering they've actually addressed some of the valid points that have been long addressed by HSR critics such as high infrastructure and per-mile costs.

Streamlining Route 206 through Lake Elsinore

I've been hearing of some local belly-aching of Route 206 riders out of Lake Elsinore regarding unproductive backtracking.

I was on the route last week to see if this was real or trivial. The complaints are valid.

The majority of bus commuters from Lake Elsinore use the Outlet Center Park & Ride bus stop located off of Nichols Road. There is another Route 206 stop located a few blocks south which is the hub point for the local connecting buses. You would think the southbound 206 bus would exit at Nichols Rd, connect to the car park to drop off most of the commuters and then proceed south to the transit hub stop to discharge passengers transferring to the other bus routes. Not so.

The southbound routing has the line bypassing the park & ride stop, exiting the freeway at the busy SR-74 Central Avenue interchange and backtracking north via Collier Avenue, serving the transit hub first followed by the park & ride. That's because the transit hub point has a bus stop only on one side of the road. Because Route 206 operates through the hub, the backtracking adds about 5-7 minutes of unnecessary travel trip time. That has to be dealt with.

Both the Park & Ride and the transfer hub should continue to be served and I believe the solution lies with getting bus stops on both sides of Collier, working with the City of Lake Elsinore on adding pedestrian crosswalks, and streamlining the Route 206 bus routing through this area.