Friday, May 20, 2016

May Inland Empire Transit Briefing

By: Nicholas Ventrone, Community Engagement Director

Almost Here...Metrolink Perris Valley Line

June 6, 2016.  That is the scheduled launch date for the long-awaited Metrolink Perris Valley Line. The branch extends the existing weekday Metrolink service on the 91 Line from Riverside Downtown to South Perris with stops at Riverside Hunter Park, March Field, Perris Station Transit Center, and South Perris. In addition, the service adds 3 short-turn roundtrips of the 91 Line between South Perris and Riverside. Weekend 91 Line service will remain in service between Riverside and Los Angeles.

Metrolink is offering special grand opening fares for the extension.
  • A $10 promotional Round-Trip fare when traveling within Riverside County
  • A 10% discount on tickets starting at one of the new stations and traveling outside of Riverside County.

Looking at the schedule, the end-to-end trip time is about 2 hours, 20 minutes which some may consider excessively long for a commute. But we need to remember two facts: First, not everybody will travel from South Perris to Los Angeles; many will utilize an intermediate stop. For example, the turn time from Moreno Valley/March Field to Fullerton is about an hour and twenty minutes, and with the connecting Bravo BRT route a daytime Disneyland employee for example can get from the March Field station park & ride to work in Orange County during the rush hour in less than 2 hours. Try driving that. Also, keep in mind that the Antelope Valley Line, Orange County Line, and the Inland-Empire/Orange County Line all have end-to-end spans that exceed 2 hours.

RTA is also expected to get a bus ridership boost thanks to the connecting feeder service.

The Perris Valley Line will be a great means to move high volumes of people for the I-215 and 91 corridors.

Small-Town Feelings in the Megalopolis of Southern California

As the region continues to grow, many people are aware that runaway urban sprawl often spells disaster. As you may know, unjustifiable rents and housing prices near job hubs have sparked demands for non-subsidized affordable housing in far-off regions which have resulted in our freeways being clogged with long-distance commuting, a consequence of sprawl.

But there's another factor that people need to be aware of when it comes to growing a region. How can the qualities like openness, calmness, freedom, silence, and knowing neighbors often found at small independent towns be preserved in huge sprawling economic regions like Southern California?

With our SoCal environment psychologically polluted with a constant state of rush, crowds, noise and distractions, that's another growth issue that must be addressed. As I continue to research deeper into the area's chronic issue of expensive housing, I've been discovering that our perpetual fast-paced world and life under unnatural time pressures is making us sick, both physically and emotionally. Constantly rushing to keep up with all of our obligations often causes us to fall further behind, encroaches into our recreational, family, rest and sleep periods, and damages our health.

There are people that I know who have decided to move out of the state simply because of this problem and not necessarily because of the economy, politics or expensive housing.

I'm going to do some more homework on this topic, but building up community awareness, educating and encouraging people to know their neighbors and group with them regularly, and including open spaces in urban infrastructure all should be good starting points.

The sad irony behind all of this is that illegal street gangs that sell hard narcotics and destroy infrastructure and young lives already know how to do this which have given them the power to overtake neighborhoods and the rule of law in places like South Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Moreno Valley and unleash hell to troubled youth and their families.

They often group together in secluded spacious areas like open alleys, hillsides, and flood channels. Perhaps, you may have seen small groups of hooded youth congregating in public areas. Kids all over SoCal starved for community grouping erroneously find that "satisfaction" in the criminal street gang culture which leads to death and destruction.

We absolutely have to get the law-abiding citizens to group up too with like-minded people--not necessarily in dark alleys but maybe at the corner restaurant or even a picnic table at the central square. Citizens need to be educated and made aware to better know their neighbors and take back ownership of their communities. This is especially true in the youth circles.

We can retain small-town community in populated Southern California. Stay tuned...

Regional Connectivity Upgrades in the Works at Omnitrans & Toll Lanes

In San Bernardino County, Omnitrans has a number of transit service expansions planned too. Last month, the agency held public meetings and gathered comments for a new commuter express route proposed for the I-10 corridor to serve Yucaipa, Redlands, and San Bernardino. The transit agency also proposes increasing service span and frequency on the Route 290 freeway express that had its rush hour departures reinstated last year that connects San Bernardino, Arrowhead Regional Medical Center in Colton, Ontario Mills and the Montclair Transit Center. The proposal adds 10 additional weekday trips, including midday departures. The proposal does not fully reinstate the hourly headways before the line was cut several years back, but the upgrades will be a key step in the right direction and will be very desirable.

Proposed Alternative: I-10 Express Lanes
The Transit Coalition will continue to watch the transit growth in the area which includes advocating for seamless connections between the express station stops and the planned I-10 and I-15 Express Lane alternatives. If that happens, we can foresee a first-rate BRT express system along the planned high occupancy toll lanes paid for in part by non-HOV user tolls from Yucaipa all the way into Los Angeles for the I-10 with potential 30 minute headways during rush hours and 60 minutes at other times combined with the existing very frequent service for the Montclair-to-LA segment by the Foothill Transit Silver Streak Line and El Monte-to-LA segment by the LA Metro Silver Line.

Toll lanes with transit infrastructure can spell additional funded rapid express freeway bus services and amenities for private carpools and other commercial ride-sharing and transit services. Commercial trip sharing services like Uber and Lyft are on the rise and our HOV infrastructure needs to be able to handle this growth in carpools with seamless connections to/from the major hub points.

Our transportation agencies should get on board with this proven concept.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

"Public Hearings" never close here

Improving the transit system will be an ongoing task. 

Transit Talking Points by: Nicholas Ventrone, Community Engagement Director

A major asset of any transit advocacy group or blog which includes The Transit Coalition and the Riverside Transit Agency's Transportation Now program is that public comments and concerns can be taken anytime and sent to the appropriate entity or politician for action. Whether they're general requests, or for a specific project or proposal, the U.S. Constitution gives We the People the right to express our opinions anytime to the power structure. The First Amendment has no time limits. Improving transit mobility in the Inland Empire combined with a better quality of life will be a perpetual ongoing process.

Two official comment periods are now in place in Riverside County. The first of which is the Riverside Transit Agency's Proposed Fiscal Year 2017 Budget and Short Range Transit Plan public hearing that opened earlier this month. There's a lot of information packed in this report, most of the non-fiscal matters already mentioned during the 10 Year Network Transit Plan hearing. To sum it up, bus service is proposed to be on the increase as the population and local economy grow. RTA and other entities have proposed several new bus transit centers dubbed mobility hubs at Metrolink stations, UC Riverside, the Promenade Mall at Temecula and Mount San Jacinto College in San Jacinto. RTA also proposes upgrades to the existing Galleria at Tyler and Moreno Valley Mall transfer points as well. In addition, more CommuterLink Express buses will be headed to the 91 freeway upon the opening of the 91 Express Lanes extension through Corona. These buses are proposed to stop at the North Main Corona Transit Center but with that hub voided of an express lanes connection, it will be very interesting to see how RTA plans to route the lines. In addition, numerous casino buses serve the nearby park & ride lot; those motorcoaches need to be able to access the Riverside County HOT lane system too. That's what the The Transit Coalition will address. Funding and developing an intermediate access point about a mile west of Main Street will likely need to be the interim solution followed by the development of a direct access ramp.
Concept: 91 Express Lanes direct access ramp to the Corona Transit Center at Smith Avenue
Note: Concept only. Not endorsed by OCTA, RCTC or any public entity.

The second hearing is actually not really an official hearing but an RCTC-sponsored Coordination Plan and Strategy Prioritization Workshop on May 26 at the Albert A. Chatigny Senior Community Recreation Center in Beaumont. One item on the wishlist is better coordinating the following: RTA CommuterLink buses, transit centers and park & ride lots with RCTC-sponsored high occupancy vehicle and toll lane projects. Seamlessly linking the RTA-proposed mobility hubs with the HOV infrastructure along our freeways can create virtual rapid-express transit lanes between hub points via the carpool and HOT lanes. San Diego's I-15 Express Lane system was coordinated with the county's main transit agency San Diego MTS which allowed for a first-rate rapid-express mass transit system for the HOT lane corridor. This is something that RCTC may want to consider when moving forward with future carpool and HOT Express Lane projects.

Back to the 91. I have been receiving behind-the-scenes talk that officials are aware of the disconnect between the Corona Transit Center and the 91 Express Lanes and know that something needs to be done to resolve that. RTA will be reminded again when we submit the comments to the agency. Hopefully that will spark some inter-agency coordination to get this item resolved and funded. With upgraded RTA CommuterLink Express buses coming, those commuter transit routes absolutely need to be able to connect to the HOT lanes given that they will be the highest form of an HOV for the 91 Express Lanes. They must not be stuck in the general purpose lanes.

I will keep a close watch on the progress of this, even after the so-called closure of these comment periods. Keep in mind also that The Transit Coalition and RTA's Transportation NOW serve as ongoing outlets for public opinion and suggestions related to transportation mobility. As mentioned, TTC's positions are fact-based and led by independent concerned citizens without political spin. Everyday suggestions such as linking transit centers with HOV and toll lanes, improved intercity transit options between regions, faster and more frequent service, more rail options, late night bus service, and combating wasteful government spending are compared with the facts and incorporated into our campaigns. Comments left on this blog, on our Facebook page, and through public engagement serve as foundations for our positions.

As mentioned before, RTA's T-NOW is government led, but its meetings also provide an outlet for Riverside County transit riders to voice suggestions directly to top officials. Both groups are vital to have your voice considered anytime for better transit mobility in the Inland Empire. If you have any transit requests anywhere within Southern California, get them out into the public square of debate.

"Public hearings" never close here.