Friday, October 21, 2016

Corridor Metrolink Routing for the Perris Valley Line and beyond

The plan should be simple; boardings along the PVL can increase substantially by changing from a "segment" system to a "corridor" system.


Transit Talking Points by: Nicholas Ventrone, Community Engagement Director
riversidetransit@gmail.com

 

Last month, the extended branch of the Metrolink 91 Line into South Perris received some bad press: Low ridership.

That is not good considering that local government agencies battled wall after wall of red tape and a trivial environmental lawsuit to reinstate passenger transit service along an existing rail corridor right next to a freeway that has big commuter demands. As you may know, that hard work lasted over a decade. To turn things around, there is a prediction of some ridership growth since the Perris Valley Line was launched at a time when transit boardings are at a typical low and due to the fact that some schedule adjustments were made earlier this month.

Back on October 3, officials improved regional connectivity into Downtown Riverside from the south which allows for more efficient timing for workers who are to report in at 8am. Short-trip Train 731 now departs an hour earlier from Perris and a fully funded feeder shuttle now circulates through the central city which will ensure employees are able to clock in on time.

To my opinion, that change will help things out a little bit. 8 o'clock is a very common start time for daytime work. However it won't be a ridership game-changer for the route. Plus, the total commuter trip time on this short turn section nearly matches the time aboard Riverside Transit Agency CommuterLink Route 208 in between the two destinations with the latter costing less. So I believe the PVL still needs work beyond mere schedule changes.

First, let's take a look a the strengths of the route. 

For starters, as I mentioned earlier, the I-215 transportation corridor that the line serves is a major commuter route, with scores of peak-hour traffic headed toward Riverside and San Bernardino from the bedrooms of Perris and Moreno Valley in the morning. There's several job and school hubs as one descends the hill and into both of the central city cores.

The central Perris station is a multi-modal transit hub which allows feeders to seamlessly connect. Soon will it also be with the Riverside Downtown station thanks to frequent connecting feeders from the new Route 54 and the existing Route 1. Plus, the new "Grand Central Terminal" transit station in San Berardino is also a prime hub point destination served by several local Omnitrans routes and the sbX Green Line BRT.

So under this hub-and-spoke model, we should have an efficient means to move people up and down the I-215 and PVL corridor quickly and efficiently.

Here's where I see the problems lie:

First, the late morning and midday 730-series short run trains that operate between Perris and Riverside have very limited station pairs: 5 to be exact. That limits the coverage to Perris, Moreno Valley and Riverside which I believe is a driving factor to the low boarding counts. I predict that most I-215 commuters travel well beyond this area.

Secondly, the reverse-peak and weekend runs of the original 91 Line don't go down the PVL corridor which hurts the stats. Don't forget that Moreno Valley has a growing logistics job hub in the region and inboud commuter demands into the area will grow from the north. That means one who lives in Corona and works at a warehouse or manufacturing hub in Moreno Valley at 8am should be able to take Train 700 that leaves North Main Corona at 6:50am, get to the March Field Station at 7:30 and shuttle into work by 7:45. But Train 700 currently ends in Riverside and that timed connection is not possible. To be fair, students headed to UC Riverside from the north and west can rely on RTA Routes 1 and 16 to connect between the downtown station and the school with a 15-20 minute bus ride.

Number 3: Travel patterns show high commuter demands in between Menifee and Orange County via Corona that were not directly addressed; have you tried to utilize Railroad Canyon Road at the I-15 during the rush hour? That means additional IEOC Line trains to Orange County need to be routed via the PVL corridor and I say "additional" because those peak-hour trains are already packed by the time they reach North Main Corona. And finally, high demands between Moreno Valley and San Bernardino should call for selected San Bernardino Line trains to operate along the PVL branch.

Rush Hour: Trains 705 and 700 pull into North Main Corona at 6:50am.
Westbound 91/PVL Train 705 is very popular at this station.
Metrolink and the local government agencies at Riverside County can increase productivity and revenue simply by changing the PVL from a "segment" system to a "corridor" system. Instead of having several of the 91 Line routes begin and end at Downtown Riverside, the segments should be combined or interlined to create larger corridors. A full-span peak-hour 91 Line train is a good start: those station pairs are strong for the commuter market. But why not include the IEOC and San Bernardino Line corridors too? Travel demands call for it. Plus running the Metrolink Riverside Line through to Perris can speed up the end-to-end trip time for Perris and Moreno Valley passengers needing to go all the way to LA and back. I understand there's going to be some additional hardball negotiations with the freight railroad operators as well as securing funding from the state and feds to get the extra trains going, but the transit market demands need to be met in order to move the people. Basically, the high-frequency lines would continue through the Riverside and San Bernardino hubs after a stop instead of just terminating there.

That will certainly boost daily ridership of the PVL into productive territory and well above the original 4,000 daily goal. Plus, just wait until the long-range plans of bringing the rails down south and into San Diego are funded and built. Then everything will change.

2 comments:

  1. The San Bernardino-PVL service should operate as an extension of the Redlands Rail. I'm not sure the ridership will justify a full consist and that also avoids having to incur the time penalty for switching the PTC head end in San Bernardino. It appears that the FRA is updating their rules soon, so it should be possible to complete the project with little more than a Supplemental EIR and a new DMU or two. However, RCTC really needs to more more aggressively on the improvements necessary for utilizing both tracks adjacent I-215 for passenger service because that will become necessary if more trains start running in the corridor.

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  2. bike racks solve the last mile challenge

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