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
riversidetransit@gmail.com


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.

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