April Inland Empire Transit Briefing

by: Nicholas Ventrone, Community Engagement Director

Metrolink Perris Valley Line

Anybody know what's holding up the Perris Valley Line? I've been hearing from various inside sources that some additional updates have to be done, but I received no confirmed specifics from official sources other than the predicted launch date has been bumped to mid-2016.

I'm suspecting unnecessary government bureaucracy is the hold up, but I could be wrong. You may remember that two years ago in 2014, Phase I of the French Valley Parkway offramp at the Temecula/Murrieta border was built in January but its opening was held up for months by red tape simply because the construction contractor erected non-compliant signs and didn't stripe the lanes properly which could have easily been addressed within a week under a streamlined regulatory process. The ramp did not open to the public until April, three months after construction was finished.

Whatever is holding up PVL operations should be dealt with as soon as possible. Once open, it will be a tremendous asset for regional mobility. But let's knock off the phony red tape and get some efficiency in regulatory oversight with our transit infrastructure.

Trouble in Downtown Riverside

Also from various anonymous sources, I've been hearing that the social environment in and around the Riverside Downtown Terminal has become rather rough with criminal activity plaguing the area.

The bus station is slated to be decommissioned by 2017 as a smaller transfer point is being developed next to the Riverside Downtown Metrolink Station for key routes including Route 1. The remaining lines can be accessed through upgraded street-side bus stops in the downtown area.

It's been a while since I've done a field study at this central hub point to confirm all of the belly-aching, but based on other supporting crime reports, I believe the testimony to be true. I predict many workers who commute by bus avoid the Downtown Terminal area for that very reason. The current bus station is on the northwestern edge of Downtown Riverside and a number of the connecting inner-city neighborhoods are troubled, especially the Eastside. That makes nearby crowded areas which includes the Downtown Terminal prime spots for abusive conduct, illegal drug sales, theft, and potentially serious violent criminal activity. Plus, complaints posted on Facebook could be showing that the existing security presence needs to be far-improved at this hub with better trained guards.

So, there's very little transit riders can do to protect themselves and their wallets from criminal activity while transferring and waiting for their next bus other than using a street-side stop, which is what the bus route restructure calls for.

This is all preventable from the power structure because the City of Riverside and the affected county agencies can stop this simply by designating the high-crime blocks which includes the terminal as safety zones and hiring additional law enforcement, highly trained security guards for the station and placing undercover officers there. Top that off by expanding the citizen's role in proactive prevention tactics such as neighborhood watch, restorative justice, pro-family growth programs, and other volunteer opportunities. That would greatly cut down on crime at the existing bus station until its time runs its course next year. Then, additional officers, security forces, and citizen community action patrols would be transferred over to the Eastside so that the Metrolink station and the new bus transfer point do not end up becoming the next haven for such crime.

That's something that must be planned and put into action. Plus, ridding Riverside of such bad behavior also pretty much solves the controversy of opening up additional public restrooms throughout downtown. The Transit Coalition does not want our transit stations to be criminal hubs. We do not want bus riders using either of Riverside's central bus stations to be victims of bad happenings.

91 Express Lanes in Riverside County

Future Eastbound Toll Rate sign with approved design for the 91 Express Lanes at the County Line
Note: Toll rates shown
(10 cents per mile off peak) are concept only and have not been released by RCTC.

Construction of the 91 Express Lanes extension into Corona continues. If you happen to be on the freeway, crews have begun to erect the digital toll rate signs for the Inland Empire segment. The design of these signs use the federally regulated generic design with a digital message screen that will display the posted toll which is currently being used for the I-10 and I-110 Metro ExpressLanes. Nope, the catchy signs with the blue and white marketing and branding of the 91 Express Lanes are not being used for the Riverside County segment.

In addition, a couple of Fastrak toll antenna collection points are going up. I saw one just west of the I-15 interchange. The other is just east of the Highway 71. The antennas near the 71 will have a separate 3+ carpool lane simply marked as "HOV 3+ ONLY". I was hoping that switchable transponders would be used instead of the single 3+ lane since OCTA, TCA, and LA Metro all offer such transponders. That would reduce bottlenecking and lane weaving at the toll collection point as evidenced on the Orange County side during the afternoon rush hour.

Riverside County 91 Express Lanes Toll Rate Sign
Note: Peak toll rates shown
are concept only and have not been released by RCTC.
Like the Orange County segment, 3-person or more HOV's can travel the Riverside County 91 Express Lanes for free with a FasTrak, except when traveling eastbound during the PM peak period, Monday through Friday between the hours of 4:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. Currently during this rush hour period, 3+ vehicles pay 50% of the posted toll in Orange County.

Once the toll bond is fully paid off, The Transit Coalition will call for the transponder mandate and discounted afternoon peak hour tolls to be abolished for all 3+ HOV's, rendering the 91 Express Lanes for both counties a dual 3-person carpool lane each way with the FasTrak toll buy-in option for non-HOV's during peak times. The 3-person minimum would be in place during rush hours, summer weekends and holidays for toll-free travel, 2-persons other times.

Non-carpools would be able to continue to use the lanes for the posted toll if capacity permits. Law enforcement would control all carpool and toll payment cheating with heavy fines and points for deliberate violations.

91 Express Lanes and Corona Transit Center Connectivity

Concept: RTA CommuterLink 206 on I-15 Express Lanes in Wildomar
Note: Concept only. Not endorsed by any public entity.
I'm still trying to figure out how officials plan to route Riverside Transit Agency CommuterLink Express buses and private carpools that use the Corona Transit Center and nearby Park & Ride lots with the new HOV infrastructure since the busy multi modal mobility hub is voided of an Express Lanes connection. That has sparked some local concerns.

Perhaps backtracking to McKinley Avenue via Hidden Valley Parkway might be the best interim solution until the state and feds finally decide to pay for this direct connection, preferably via a direct access ramp, let alone the remainder of the debt.

Local officials should not let this one go.