by: Nicholas Ventrone, Community Engagement Director
I'm in the process of writing up an analysis of the new 91 Express Lanes in Riverside and hope to have this published later this week. I've taken four round trips aboard the HOT lanes during its first few weeks in service, all of them except for one have been in a 3+ carpool. The lanes have been a blessing. We finally have some decent HOV infrastructure through Corona and I've found that both branches of OCTA Route 794 have been re-routed to use them. With the 91 Express Lanes serving as a virtual transit way for this line, I predict that it and the connecting Park & Ride lots will see some sharp growth in the months to come. More on this soon.
Speaking of Park & Ride lots, I need to break the story of a situation in Southwest Riverside County. The Murrieta Wal-Mart Park & Ride, one of the busiest commuter lots in the region that serves RTA Route 206 to Corona, Route 202 to Oceanside, the future Route 205 to the Village at Orange, and about a dozen private vanpools is slated to be closed to commuters. Management posted towing warning signs at the lot entrances which bans public parking. Customers only from now on.
I was able to confirm this issue and got some information from local management and passed it on to RTA so that action can be taken so that hopefully, a replacement bus stop next to a public lot can be found. To be clear, since I have contacted somebody locally, I really cannot publish any details of the disposition or what was discussed, but it appears very clear that Sam Walton wants out of providing commuter parking just because this store has gotten so busy.
I am thankful that the retail giant has provided the Park & Ride section ever since the dawning of Lines 202 and 206, but with growth outpacing lot capacity, I can understand why this action was needed to occur from a business standpoint. If I were the district manager and saw my store's parking lot filled with non-paying commuter traffic, I'd execute the exact same thing.
The reason this is an important story is that most of Murrieta's residents commute out via the I-15 freeway. Public Park & Ride lots with commuter transit and vanpool options are essential given these demographics. To have such Park & Ride infrastructure cut off at these transit stops for an extended period of time will negatively impact traffic in through an already congested corridor and seriously hurt ridership aboard the 202 and 206. RTA needs to secure an alternative site, follow the lead of the private vanpool companies and stop these buses there, immediately. There are a number of official Park & Ride lots out there that deserve transit services.
I'll keep a close watch on this story as it unfolds.