For those of you who missed it, you can find the first part of my "Transit Fallacies" series here.
This second bit I'm calling "Metrolink Syndrome", because Metrolink is one of the most egregious offenders, but it can be applied to nearly any express transit service. The Victor Valley Commuter had a particularly bad case of Metrolink Syndrome. The idea is that express services and local services serve different ridership bases, and so don't necessarily need to be connected, especially in the outlying areas they serve.
When Metrolink and RCTC built the Riverside-Downtown (Marketplace) Metrolink station in 1993, it stood the same six blocks away from the Downtown Terminal that it does now. Yet only now, in 2009, is RTA even considering a move into the vicinity of the station. Metrolink and RCTC, in their infinite wisdom, built 2 bus bays and 710 parking spaces. There is no reason that they should not have constructed a large transit center on the site, immediately in front of the train station, except for the fact that they did not think that local riders would seek to connect to the Metrolink station in large numbers. Even today, only two lines serve the station, and mostly only during weekday peak hours.
The Riverside Metrolink is not the only example. See the Green Line and Metrolink Norwalk stations, separated by several miles, or the El Monte Metrolink and El Monte bus stations. The latter is one of the busiest bus stations in the nation, but Metrolink felt no need to connect the two. At the very least, a frequent, direct shuttle route ought to connect these places, but no such route exists. (RTA tried to implement such a route in Riverside, the 52 Trolley Green Line, but it was weekday peak-only and failed miserably.)
And Metrolink, of course, is not the only example. I mentioned the Victor Valley Commuter. How about the CommuterLink routes at the Promenade Mall in Temecula? Only a half-mile from the main local bus transfer point at County Center Drive, but there's no connection between them except on the rare local routes that serve both destinations. Why? Because it's assumed that commuters will drive to the park-and-ride facility at the mall, rather than ride their local bus.
Transit planners, please learn this lesson, because it's not a difficult one. In fact, it should be obvious. Transit riders are transit riders. Somebody who's willing to ride a bus to work is probably willing to ride a bus all the way to work. It's admirable to try to attract choice riders at the park-and-ride lot, but when doing so, don't forget about the steady base of ridership on the local bus system. When car-free riders want to get somewhere further than their neighbourhood, they need connections to express routes, because they will use those routes. "Choice riders" may desert you, but others won't. To ignore your ridership, when it would be so easy to serve them, is puzzling and inexcusable.