Long-time readers and those familiar with Riverside transportation politics will be familiar with the roller coaster ride that has been rumours of late-night service this year. Last May, late-night service (until midnight on some routes, and 11pm on others) was proposed for a skeletal regional network, linking Riverside, Corona, Loma Linda, Moreno Valley, Perris and Hemet. Then the economy exploded, and the grant funding that RTA had for those late-night buses (from FTA's JARC program) was moved to cover other eligible projects. I understand that making the buses run more than every two hours in Lake Elsinore is valuable, but I was still miffed (a fact I made clear to the RTA Board). Since then, RTA has actually implemented one route's worth of late-night service: the 53 Bear Runner shuttle in the UCR area. It's a rather limited service, and is mostly used by students, but it is open to the general public, and it does run until half past midnight. I'm particularly happy that it runs within a block of my home, even if I normally cycle within its service area.
Well, it's about to get even more interesting. I was at the Greater Riverside Transportation NOW! meeting on Thursday, and the group is advocating single-mindedly for one thing in particular- late-night service. Robert Yates, Multi-Modal Services Director for RCTC, and Brad Weaver, RTA communications specialist, were in attendance, along with various community activists. At the meeting, the organization proposed that RTA speak with the Downtown Partnership, Riverside Plaza, and Galleria at Tyler about securing funding for late-night bus service along Route 1. Mr. Weaver agreed to look in to the possibility, and said he would report the results at next month's T-NOW! meeting. I don't know the attitudes of the various business associations involved, so I can't predict anything definitive, but we can all hope that this brings better transit service to our city. If this is in any way successful, I hope the Agency looks in to talks with UCR, the Moreno Valley Mall and surrounding businesses to spur late-night service on route 16 as well.
Personally, if I were appointed RTA dictator for the day, I would institute hourly service on routes 1, 15, and 16, with timed connections at the Downtown Terminal, from the current end of service until the current start of service. I think this would provide a network that puts most of Riverside within reasonable walking (or cycling) distance of a bus, 24 hours a day, and connects major nightlife and shopping together. However, just seeing route 1 extended would be a significant victory. Best of luck, RTA.