Several transit-related things happened this week, and due to a viral infection and the March 4th rally in support of public education, I haven't had the time/energy to post about them until now.
On Tuesday, both the afternoon and evening sessions of the City Council had transit-related items to contend with. In the afternoon, the Council considered the question of making a $20m loan to developer MetroRiverside, LLC for the purposes of building a Hyatt hotel and (this is the interesting bit) mixed-use development, including condos and retail/restaurant space, between 5th & Mission Inn on the east side of Market. I'm not normally a fan of government money being funnelled into the private sector, but these particular bond monies (which originate in last year's stimulus bill) are earmarked specifically for private construction subsidies, and Riverside happens to have $20m worth. If we have money to subsidize private construction, I wholeheartedly support it going to mixed-use downtown infill development. I should note that the city's hoteliers were out in force, speaking against the project, and the city's union officials were practically begging for the construction jobs it would create. I, of course, spoke in favour of the project from an urbanist perspective, one that I thought was poorly represented. On this one, we won. The six councilmembers present voted unanimously to approve the project, and the hotel should open in 2012.
During the evening, the Council received an update about the Multi-Modal Transit Centre from City staff. Confirming my suspicions, the City is the "lead agency" on this project, and is co-ordinating with RTA and RCTC. No word yet on if Greyhound or other private bus operators have been contacted, but then again no real design work has been done for the station yet. The City sent out an RFP last month, and the responses are due today. We also learned a bit about exactly how much land is available for the Centre itself. It turns out that the parcel that the City bought is not the only bit of land that's on offer- in fact, nearly the entire length of the Metrolink station worth of land is open. Click here for a quickie Google Map showing the appropriate bits of property- anything coloured is open for the Transit Centre. The sheer amount of area available- a back-of-the-envelope calculation shows ~17,800 sq.m.- means we could reasonably expect an excellent station indeed. (For comparison, the current Downtown Terminal is ~2700 sq.m, and the Greyhound station ~4860 sq.m, most of that taken up by the police department.) Rumours have indicated possibilities of a passenger waiting room, with restrooms, snacks and ticket sales. Now, upcoming widening of SR-91 through downtown may swallow up some of that land, but with any luck it won't be too much. A selection of contractor proposals, as well as quarterly progress updates, will now take place in the Transportation Committee, which next meets on April 15th.
On Wednesday night, RTA held a community meeting at their Riverside headquarters about the upcoming service changes. Since that brochure has gone out (and I first wrote on the subject), one big thing has happened- the routing changes for the 25 will be delayed at least until September. I should also mention that I failed to write about the proposal to cut all holiday service (RTA currently operates on a Sunday schedule on New Year's, Memorial, Independence, and Labour Days). My comments to the Agency on Wednesday night were essentially what I wrote on my earlier post, along with the suggestion that the RTA operate a skeleton network on holidays rather than completely cut all service- I suggested the same routes that I want to see run late at night, the 1, 15 and 16. Many people there echoed my statements about the I-10 and I-215 congestion, as well as congestion on Anderson St., and RTA assured that they were "studying" the issue. They also mentioned that all express routes have alternate routes in the event that their freeway routing is congested, and that drivers have the authority to make that determination. Furthermore, I learned that the primary reason for re-routing the 25 is to cut, not the fixed-route service, but the dial-a-ride trips that come with it in San Bernardino County. RTA says that they're working with Omnitrans to ensure that Grand Terrace passengers are not left without transit service. (I'm betting this will probably take the form of an OmniLink, but I suppose the 19 could be diverted south along Barton.) I don't expect that any of these proposals will be taken seriously... but RTA may still surprise me. At least they're doing the right thing on 25.