December & Christmas 2015 Transit Briefing

by: Nicholas Ventrone, Community Engagement Director

I hope this Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Year holiday season is going well for you. It's been a busy year out there on our transportation networks. I want to thank you for checking in on this blog, our websites, and social networking channels and staying informed of transportation policy.

Metrolink Perris Valley Line

The big story that's going to unfold in January is the opening of the Metrolink Perris Valley Line. The new infrastructure will be served by an extension of the weekday runs of the existing 91 Line from Riverside Downtown to South Perris. Once open, one will be able to train from the Perris Valley into Los Angeles through northern Orange County and vice versa. RTA has big plans to launch feeder bus service to/from the new stations which will allow riders to better connect to their final destinations.

This will certainly be an asset for the citizens living or working along the I-215 corridor in between Menifee and Moreno Valley. I predict the 91 Line will be more productive with the increased station pairs.

Getting Productive Discussion Going for CA High Speed Rail 

The high speed rail debate continues to be divisive. A lot of people who I network with want CA HSR stopped. However, for the most part, the dissenters generally don't object to having the private sector invest in the technology. That's where transit advocates can play a powerful card in the debate.

When I mention marketplace investments in the discussion which this U.S. Congress generally supports, the tune often changes. As you may know, the XpressWest bullet train proposal between Los Angeles and Vegas with Victorville as the starting orgin point is a privately funded route.

Regarding CA HSR project, I also understand that some individual officials within the state are trying to be honest and to do their part to develop HSR the correct way, but the politicians need to clear the way of any political roadblocks so that the voter-approved money will be spent wisely, right-of-ways and stations in high demand areas secured, and routes made shovel-ready so that the high speed rail industry like XpressWest can develop and fund the remainder of California's master plan.

Streetcars, Riverside Reconnects and RTA RapidLink

In Riverside, the Press Enterprise published another dissenting editorial piece against the Riverside Reconnects Streetcar project. The City proposes to upgrade the Magnolia and University Avenue corridors with the modern light rail fleets within the right-of-way corridors.

The Transit Coalition generally supports urban light rail in the form of streetcars and peoplemovers. That's because transit demands in the Los Angeles region have reached points where such infrastructure is necessary to shuttle mass amounts of people throughout a dense area in the city at a productive operating cost. The current LA Metro Local, Rapid and City-operated buses cannot sustain that while the Metro Rail system (not to be confused with Metrolink) is designed for longer-haul trips throughout the city.

However, unlike the urban rail projects unfolding in the LA area, the newspaper is not wrong to criticize the City of Arts & Innovation's train proposal. That's because current demands and travel patterns show that first-rate RTA rapid buses with expanded Metrolink service would better address the region's needs. I think RTA's long-planned proposal to phase in limited stop RapidLink bus service for the corridor as an alternative starting with peak-hour service should move forward as the solution. This alternative has underwent numerous studies already and should be played out given current demographics. Factor in Metrolink trains passing through every 30-60 minutes during the middle of the day, and Riverside can have a robust Riverside Reconnects project.

But if growth and changes to these patterns do demand that the local transit infrastructure be upgraded from Rapid buses to urban rail and if the city can draw such infill development along the routes, then let's go for the streetcar by working through RTA and allow private developers to chime in on funding the tracks and stations in return for a tax break. Also, if the City wants to show off, I don't object to pro-history and entertainment entrepreneurs coming in and investing private dollars in tourist-oriented streetcar services too. Temecula has a number of private shuttle buses that mimic the historic trolley which serve the Wine Country area and those eye-catching vehicles do bring value to the region.

However, I think the PE's editorial board may want to have a chat with RTA Marketing Manager Brad Weaver on transit ridership stats before publishing any further claims that "people generally don’t use them". Bus boardings are at all-time highs and Riverside's numbers are sufficient enough to support RapidLink service, period.

Corona Cruiser Upgraded Buses
On the local front, the Corona Cruiser bus system is getting closer of having mid-size buses replace the smaller fleets for the fixed route services. The new coaches have arrived to Circle City and are undergoing testing and driver training. Major route restructuring is on the way and I'll keep a close watch on that as portions of the existing Red and Blue lines are circuitous and overdue to be streamlined for faster trip times.

In November, Corona's Public Services Committee had a meeting covering the temporary re-routing of the Cruiser and showed this slide, offering a "sneak-peek" of the new buses:

If you ride the Corona Cruiser regularly, you're in for a better ride throughout Circle City.

Gas prices are going down and up...What?

Finally, the state once again in is caught up with more local oil refinery issues, a decline in imports leading to a so-called fuel supply shortage which means gas prices have ticked up for the last couple days. That's despite the fact that gas prices are going down elsewhere in the nation. Oil supplies domesticity are at record high levels. Crude oil prices are at their low point. Many gas stations in the USA have prices that have dropped below $1.70 gallon and falling. But California's prices are headed back up toward $3.00. Makes perfect sense, right? These spikes, all isolated within the state have already happened multiple times this year, and what does the state do about it to prevent it from repeating? Nothing. Last summer, I posted a memo on the repercussions of high gas prices in relation to the transit system.

This crony capitalism affects us all through increased living costs whether or not one drives a car and it's long past time for the state to fix this.

Anyway, this is my final post for this year. I'll be spending time with the family but I want to wish all of you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. I do appreciate you all following this blog. 2016 is going to be an active year in transit. Talk to you then.