Friday, February 13, 2009

"Service Discontinued Due To Low Ridership"

If I have to read the above phrase one more time I'm going to scream. I finally got my hands on a copy of the Service Changes brochure for RTA's recently proposed changes. Not much new information, though a few pretty maps are included, Lots of "service discontinued due to low ridership" though. So I figured it's time for a route-by-route analysis of what we're up against.

Complete cuts
  • Route 17, Moreno Valley. The indignity continues. A route that lost Saturday service just a few short months ago now finds itself on the chopping block. There are other routes in Moreno Valley that serve some of the same areas, but now trips that used to take one bus will probably take two.

  • Route 36, Banning/Calimesa/Yucaipa. Wow, yet again RTA has proposed cutting this route, the one and only bus service in Calimesa. I thought we'd saved it last time 'round. Let me tell you guys something. I grew up in a rural area. We had one bus route to one bus stop in our town, and it only showed up with 24-hour advanced reservation, but that bus route meant the world to me. Even just that tiny, tenuous link to the rest of the area meant opportunities both occupational and romantic that would have been unavailable without it. Even if the 36 does have rather low ridership (like the VVTA 21), it is a lifeline service. Respect that quality and keep it around.

  • Route 38E, Metrolink Express to Eastvale. I'm not surprised here. Eastvale isn't exactly a transit-friendly place. It does pain me to see this being cut but, let's be honest, in a relatively well-off new suburb, most riders are going to be able to drive at least as far as the Metrolink. It was an admirable try, RTA, but no great loss. Not to mention that there is still a link south to the North Main-Corona Metrolink.

Shortened routes
  • Route 3, Norco-La Sierra. In keeping with a long tradition of cutting the most tenuous links in the transit system, the RTA will be axing the portion of Route 3 that connects with Route 15 at Arlington/La Sierra. This is also the section that runs along 6th Street in Norco. You can read that as "Norco's Main Street", as that is effectively what it is. While the Hamner Ave. routing is still technically in Norco, this change would end the only service that actually goes *into* Norco in any effective way. There are basically no residential developments along Hamner, and so this re-routing will take bus service out of walking distance of many, many residents. (Knowing Norco, one solution could be a Hitch-N-Ride post along the route. Yeah, it's a horse town.) Note that the 3 may be combined with the 38.

  • Route 7 and 8, Lake Elsinore. I really don't know the Lake Elsinore area enough to effectively comment on this change. It might be a reasonable change, given the geography of the city. However, looking at the maps, it looks like they may be considering making this a circulator service. Circulators are BAD, BAD things, at least on anything like a citywide scale. If you want to move counter to the direction of the route (say, clockwise when the route travels counter-clockwise), you have to ride all the way 'round, which could very well be on the order of an hour or two for such a large run. Keep running the buses both ways, guys. It's the only way to run 'em.

  • Routes 10 and 14, Riverside, UCR to Tyler Mall. I grouped these two routes because RTA is trying to shuffle some route segments between them. The segment on route 10 from Tyler Mall to Pierce and Sterling will move to route 14, which will then give up service from Downtown to UCR. On the southern segment, this doesn't seem like a huge change. Riders from the area will still make it to Tyler Mall, and the routing via Indiana instead of Lincoln is not a terribly large change. Some individual riders will be inconvenienced (and I apologize), but on a system-wide scale, this doesn't seem too consequential. The northern segment, however, is a bigger deal.
    The downtown-3rd street-UCR segment is currently served by both 10 and 14. Cutting 14's service on this segment is akin to cutting service frequency on that segment, which travels deep into the impoverished Eastside neighborhood. Bad idea guys.

  • Route 16, Riverside to Moreno Valley. This route will be truncated at Moreno Valley Mall. It currently travels throughout much of the city, finally ending near March Air Force Base. While this will possibly improve service on the Riverside portion of the route, this cut, combined with the 17 and the next paragraphs, leave Moreno Valley in a bad place.

  • Route 18, Moreno Valley. Circulator? Did I mention something about that earlier? Yeah, circulators are just bad. Thinking that this is "replacement service" for the lost 16 and 17, and rerouted 19, is laughable. Oh, and cutting the service to RCC Moreno Valley is a really great way to ensure college access to the underprivileged. Nice job, guys.

  • Route 19, Moreno Valley. This will be rerouted to provide service on the bits of 16 that are going away. Of course, this leaves the cen tral portion of Moreno Valley even worse off, as if losing #17 isn't enough. These cuts leave transit service in Moreno Valley simply gutted.

  • Route 27, Riverside/Hemet/Sun City/Perris. Need I say it? "Duplication of service" is RTA for "transit service that is actually reasonably frequent". This one, maybe cutting the Sun City portion will make the rest of the route more efficient... but getting timed connections is going to be absolutely key if this is going to be cut.

  • Route 35, Moreno Valley/Banning. So, you're going to take what is essentially an inter-city express route, and force it to serve portions of Moreno Valley that you're cutting service to? It seems a touch anachronistic. Combined with the cuts being made to Route 210, and you're making it just more and more inconvenient to ride the bus in from the Pass area.

  • Route 38, Eastvale/Norco. The plan is to merge this route into Route 3, making one route along Hamner Ave. On the downside, this'll probably be an excuse to cut service frequency, but on the upside, this will replace the Eastvale/East Ontario Metrolink connection with a connection to the North Main-Corona Metrolink. Via surface streets, granted, but it's a nice start.

  • Route 40, Lake Elsinore/Sun City/Menifee. More "service duplication." Once again, having two routes serving one street just means transportation options for the people who live there, not inefficiency. When this "duplication" includes a community college, this is even more apparent. By removing the Route 40 service to MSJC-Menifee, you are removing a transportation option for those students, and yet again harming college access to those who most need it.

And lastly, the following routes are not undergoing routing changes, but just losing trips. Which is pretty much always a bad thing:
21, 23, 24, 29, 30, 33, 208, and 210. Also note that most of the above routes, aside from receiving routing changes, will also be losing some trips.

RTA, I hate to keep hammering on this, but you saw a 40% increase in ridership year-over-year. That is phenomenal for a suburban operator like yourself. People are turning to public transit in droves. With the economy the way it is, people need to get to jobs and college ever, and driving is just not an option for many. You provide an essential service for those who most need it in our increasingly depressed area. In the outlying areas of western Riverside County, you provide a tenuous lifeline for those who simply cannot afford to get around any other way. This round of service cuts, the second in six months, is simply unacceptable and will impact the daily lives of many, many residents of area.

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