Wednesday, February 10, 2016

February Inland Empire Transit Briefing


By: Nicholas Ventrone, Community Engagement Director
riversidetransit@gmail.com


I hope you're finding my blog series on the rental market to be informative. If you've been keeping up on that, you know that high demands and lackluster supplies near job hubs all over Southern California have led to super long-distance commuting and development in far-off regions. The fact that both trivial red-tape regulations at the state level combined with a general lack of will at the local front have obstructed developers from infill development in high demand areas. This pattern of overpriced rentals has crept into both Corona and Southwest Riverside County and must be controlled before the market experiences a collapse. California's employers need productive workers and housing them at least somewhat near their jobs is essential for that to happen.

I have several other areas to check out which includes New York. The market in the nation's most populated city appears to be just as chaotic as the Bay area with out-of-control rental rates for working families. Far-left ideology pretty much has blinded both of these city government bodies from solving this grave intrusion of social economic justice with real solutions such as allowing developers to better compete and expand inventory. Thankfully, most Inland Empire leaders are willing put the needs of the people over extreme political agendas but Southwest and Corona both need to grow housing infrastructure and quickly. Better yet, both Orange County and San Diego must do likewise. Stay tuned for those reports.

Speaking of Corona, Circle City's fixed route transit system is getting bigger. Mid-sized Corona Cruiser buses have made their way onto the streets as part of operations testing which will replace the smaller shuttle buses. They will be fully live for each regular Red and Blue Line trip soon. The smaller fleets will continue to serve the city's general public Dial-A-Ride service.

Corona 91 Carmageddon Weekend Closure

The big transit story that's taking place this month is the full weekend closure of the 91 between the I-15 and SR-71 freeways. That is set to take place on February 19 at 9pm through Sunday overnight. Overall, the government agencies and the press have been doing a tremendous job in getting the news to the public. I've seen front page articles in the Press Enterprise, billboard ads, rider alerts, and notices along the freeways. If you're a regular commuter or traveler through the Corona Crawl, chances are you're well aware of this planned closure. Motorists need to follow the directions of the campaign and stay out of the Carmageddon zone. That's exactly what happened in Los Angeles a few years ago and the gridlock that many people feared never materialized. Let's hope that happens here. The good people living in Corona and the cities along SR-60 deserve a break from all the through traffic.

I do predict that the Friday afternoon commute through this area may be chaotic given that the closure starts at 9PM. But as I said, hopefully through-motorists remain out the Circle City area during the weekend.

As far as affected transit services are concerned, Metrolink will be increasing services and fare deals are planned for the corridor. Riverside Transit Agency Route 216 will be rerouted from the 91 to the SR-60 and SR-55 freeways west of the Galleria at Tyler transfer hub. Transit riders from Corona would need to connect to the Galleria via Route 1.

Metrolink Perris Valley Line

Several readers have been posting questions and are asking just when will the 91 Line extension to South Perris open. It is slated to begin operations early 2016. That's it. That's what we know so far.

Tune into www.perrisvalleyline.info for updates on that.

More Spin in the Bullet Train Debate

I'm getting tired of the polarization and divisiveness that has been unfolding with the high speed rail debate. Another anti-HSR editorial was published by the Press Enterprise which again calls for throwing out the landmark project with the partisan leadership. The issue this time was politics as usual at the state level during a hearing held by the California Assembly Budget Subcommittee No. 3 on Resources and Transportation. To be clear, I'm not in favor of what went on during this oversight meeting as I wasn't there. But for some reason, the reported party-line voting led to this questionable conclusion in the editorial: "In short, the Authority, and those supporting the project, have long since lost all credibility."

Tell that to high speed rail advovates like me and Bart Reed.

As you well know, I want high speed rail done right. That means, the proven transit infrastructure gets built without the government waste, overspending of public funds or pandering. I have called for the voter-approved bond money to be spent in a way that would draw private investments to pay for the remainder of the master plan. The state would spend the bond money plus the awarded federal funds to make the system shovel-ready so that private businesses like DesertXpress Enterprises and supporting investors would fund the engineering and construction phases.

The unfunded portion of this $68 billion price tag would not have to come from taxpayers, period. Plus, as the XpressWest corridor clearly demonstrates, the marketplace could get this HSR price tag down by substantial margins and deliver a first-rate bullet train system with competitive service providers and lower fares. If one can train from Palmdale to LA in less than 45 minutes or from Corona to Irvine in less than 15 minutes, the market demands combined with business-friendly policies at the state level would call for the investments of the private captial from competing providers because the system would operate with a profit. If there was a state incentive to do so, why would the firm behind the bullet train to Las Vegas or its competitors not want to invest in a profitable branch to the Bay Area, Los Angeles, and San Diego markets?

So I stand by position that high speed rail advocates have not lost all credibility. Since it favors the marketplace running other services such as trash pick up in San Bernardino, the PE editorial board should look into the private sector as a HSR solution instead of throwing out the train's unquestionable high speed benefits with the partisan politics.

The Oil Market and CA's Summer Blend Fuel

With crude oil supplies through the roof thanks in part to strong production competition in the Dakotas, fuel prices continue to fall. OPEC also continues to flood the market with supply. That means the actual boom and huge oil profit margins in the Peace Garden State may be long over with the lower market prices. But I believe production will stabilize, continue and remain profitable for smaller-name entrepreneurs.

Despite numerous firms filing for bankruptcy protection and the governments facing revenue shortfalls, the fact remains North Dakota is a business friendly state, which should allow for healthy competition and good production once the market stabilizes. That will help keep oil prices in check with stable supply production while the new or reorganized firms profit from the existing infrastructure. Given the business-friendly rules in North Dakota, I predict the domestic oil market will be like how the home rental market is in Las Vegas, where supply is plentiful and affordable yet stable and profitable for landowners and developers to continue investing.

I'm going to keep an extra close watch on California's market. Three times over the past year, the Golden State experienced so-called supply shortages that led to steep spikes in gas prices, all isolated within our borders due to refinery issues, a wandering ship, or any other excuse to keep our prices well above what the rest of the nation pays. Under the current political climate, competitors can't come in to deliver the product if the existing providers fail which leads to such price hikes. Of course, if this pattern is left unchecked, this could have devastating effects on the economy simply because businesses and residents have the freedom to relocate across the state border. That will damage our transit systems.

As we head into the summer blend season starting in a few months, the state needs to prepare and allow for better competition so that we're not unfairly paying 4 bucks per gallon at the pump while the good folks in Phoenix and Vegas pay under $2. Otherwise, people will be more inclined to leave the state, a freedom that cannot be abridged. I hope we don't get to that point.



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