Thursday, May 14, 2009

SRTP Comments

So, I've read through the entire proposed SRTP. Yes, all 199 pages of it. Most of it is tables detailing every aspect of the RTA's operation... accordingly, I have saved the document. It is now squirreled away in RiR's vast archives, and although I can't post it permanently on the site, I'll make it available by request. Anyway, the plan is mostly good, with some glaring bad to it. I'll go through it in order, and blog what stands out.

First comes the capital funding projections. For RTA, this means payin' off some buses (good), and transit centers. Lots of 'em. Fantastic, especially for places like Perris, Moreno Valley, Corona and Hemet, where the Agency is planning for multi-modal centers adjacent to either current (Corona) or future (Perris Valley Line/Hemet Extension) Metrolink stations. This is the sort of development that ties together our region and expands employment and travel opportunities for all citizens throughout the county, and it's fantastic. That RTA is planning for this in Hemet, where Metrolink isn't projected to stop until long past 2012, shows how dedicated the agency is to multi-modal connections, and I commend them for it.

So why is it, exactly, that they don't plan for this in Riverside? Riverside's City Council has made a lot of noise in the last month or so asking for a multi-modal transit center, and the SRTP plans for $3.5 million to be spent rehabilitating the current Downtown Terminal. Huh? RTA, go back and talk with the City a bit, and stick your transit center near the Metrolink where it belongs. That's what the FTA funds are for, that's what the City wants and it's what any sane transit rider would want.

We've already gone over the service "adjustments" ad nauseum here at RiR, and you guys know I don't like 'em. You don't like 'em, and the fact is that RTA doesn't like 'em either. However, I have to bring them up again, because RTA is touting their "Smart Stops" again. As a frequent rider who often boards downtown, I do like the Smart Stop displays, they're fantastic. But the fact is, they aren't installed at "heavily used bus stops in the City of Riverside", as the SRTP says. They're installed at Downtown Terminal (awesome!), University & Lemon (Also a good choice), and in front of RTA. You know, on Blaine street. Where they're reducing service to once an hour. RTA, I'm glad your employees know when the next bus is coming, but judging from the ample parking provided, I'm betting most of them don't care. Maybe you should spend your passenger amenity money on stops like, say, Tyler Mall, or maybe at my stop at Campus and Canyon Crest at UCR. No benches, no trash cans, no shelter, just a bare pole in the earth, and still it's used by 20 or 30 students an hour, all day. Those Smart Stops in front of your building are nothing but a shiny PR stunt, and you know it as well as I do. Move 'em throughout your system, a la San Francisco's NextMuni program, and THEN you can brag about 'em.

I appreciate that the RTA has made it's service standards public, as far as hours of service. Unfortunately, 8:30 is not the time that the last trip starts, but when it ends. Not quite as helpful.

I'm glad you're up front about it, but I can tell you that I don't consider a bus that's 6 minutes late to still be on time. That bus is, in fact, 6 minutes late.

Productivity vs. Coverage target... this is a nice little section here saying, in manager-speak, that you're going to cut rural routes by ~10%. (This is probably the justification for pulling Route 36.) As somebody who grew up in the sort of place that was covered (by VVTA) simply based on the need to be covered, and who grew up without his own car, rural transit service is VERY important. I hope you can figure out your funding issues and ensure the lifeline service that your agency provides to rural Riverside County is not interrupted.

RTA publishes here the standard service span and headways we're supposed to expect from them. This is helpful, especially because we can use these standards to hold their feet to the fire. Like, in the case of Route 49. As a directly-operated regional-class route, it should be running from 05:00 to 21:00 on weekdays. It doesn't. It stops running at 19:45, a full hour and a quarter before it should. I expect an extra trip on that route come June, RTA. Each way. That's my brother-in-law's route, so I will hold you to this.

Here's the "service adjustments" in detail. You can read them for yourself, I linked to this section from my post entitled The Gritty Details. I appreciate, however, that the Agency says it won't cut any trips outside of their service standard times, 06:00 to 20:30. That helps. We still await the June Ride Guide with bated breath.

And now we get to the happy part of the SRTP.
LATE NIGHT SERVICE! WAHOO! WAHOO! Okay, so RTA's definition of "late night" is midnight for some routes, 23:00 for others, but it's a start. Routes 1, 16 and 19 will run through midnight, while 20, 22, 25 and 27 will run through 11 pm. Now, these routes may seem like interesting choices, and I was fully prepared to come on here to criticize them until I looked at this map prepared by The Transit Coalition, highlighting the SRTP's proposed changes over the next few years. It reminded me of this map, the Bay Area's All Nighter network. The focus is not on local routes (though Muni and AC provide them in SF and Oakland), but on regional connections, and this makes sense when you're writing a grant proposal for employment opportunities. Therefore, I applaud RTA's efforts in expanding their nighttime service, and look forward to the day when we can finally close that four-hour gap in our transit service. 24-hour service is a benefit to all, and I believe this is an important step towards that goal.

I also implore you, readers, to ride this service. The SRTP makes it explicitly clear that these projects will be canceled if demand does not materialize. The next time you're out on the town, after January 2010 of course, take the bus.

The SRTP also outlines the preparation for the deployment of the Magnolia Ave. BRT. Yay! Of course, it doesn't say that the BRT will be launched, only that routes will be upgraded to better serve it, starting in 2011. This thing was supposed to be launched way back in 2005... but better late than never, I suppose.

Oh, and one last thing that I like, but am probably way geeky for liking. The 149 to Orange County is going to be re-branded the CommuterLink 216, unifying it with the fare structure and numbering scheme of the rest of the system. Finally.

So that's the SRTP proposal. RiR likes:
Late-night service, BRT, new CommuterLink routes.
RiR dislikes:
Downtown terminal upgrades, the "service adjustment" coming anyway in June.

WE ARE CURRENTLY IN A PUBLIC COMMENT PERIOD!!! You can send your comments on this plan to RTA via e-mail (, telephone (1-800-800-7821), snail-mail (Does anyone still send snail mail? 1825 3rd St. Riverside, CA 92507), or at the Board Meeting on May 28th at 2pm, downtown at the County Administration Building. The building is reachable by routes 1, 10, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 22, 25, 29, 49, 50, 52 (for now), 149, 204, 208, 210, and Omni 215, so no excuses for not being there.

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