Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Going On in Government

A few things have been happening in those public-but-poorly-attended meetings that define our local transport policy. First off, RTA and UCR formalized another year's extension for the U-Pass, and, of course, Cal Baptist University joined the free-ride club. (Hey guys!) You already know what I think of U-Pass, so I won't bore you.

Second, the City of Riverside Transportation Committee approved a measure a few days ago to study the implementation of City-funded, subsidized bus passes for economically disadvantaged residents. I think this is a great policy, one that's in place in such progressive, urban places as San Francisco and New York. The subsidy levels are not speculated upon as of yet, but even a quarter off of bus passes gives a person an extra $12 a month, which is a lot of rice and ramen. (I'm kind of in that boat myself, right now...) It's a good idea, and one that will impact a lot of people's lives for the better. Hell, it may even save lives, by encouraging people to ride the bus instead of walking in the Riverside heat. But there's one big problem with this idea: It's revenue-neutral.

The economically disadvantaged already ride our public transport system in large numbers. At $50 a month, it's not likely that many are put off from riding by the cost. (Probably some, but not many.) This program, therefore, will simply subsidize the pass purchases of people who already ride the bus. Don't get me wrong, that's fantastic for them, and I'm glad to see it. However, I'd rather see the City chipping this money straight into transit service here in Riverside... perhaps late-night service on 1, 15 and 16. For the transit-dependent, more service is almost always preferable to lower fares. Improvements to night service might open up new job opportunities for some people, or perhaps just the chance to work a little extra overtime. Overall, better service would improve the lives of more people a greater amount than a subsidized bus pass ever will.

Lastly, and this one is one I really enjoyed reading, the City has sent off a letter to RCTC and RTA asking them to support the "preferred alternative" (read: Vine Street) location for the new Riverside Multi-Modal Transit Center. For an agency who's still planning on the Market/University location, this is fantastic to see. Let's hope the political pressure works, and the buses all meet the trains in a couple years.


Sirinya said...

Hey Justin,
This is a great entry! And you bring up a great point about how late night service might/will probably greatly benefit the working poor. Up here in LA, the late night buses are always busy - ridden primarily by transit-dependent immigrants traveling between jobs on the Westside and their homes points east. Buses here in the Valley, where I'm currently living with my parents, don't always run that late, and after a close scare with getting stranded in Burbank, my parents are thoroughly spooked and begged me to drive. Drive??

JN said...


Our lack of late-night service frustrates me because I have met many folks who have to go to extraordinary lengths just to keep mediocre jobs. One gentleman I met on the express to San Bernardino worked the night shift at a factory- he took an evening bus to work with his bicycle, and rode around 15 miles home when he got off around 3 in the morning.
My brother-in-law works nights at Little Caesar's Pizza. Lacking even a bicycle, he walks 5 miles home each night.

Subsidized bus passes are all well and good, but I'm sure these folks would rather just have a bus to ride when they're done with work.