Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The State of Transit Funding and Infrastructure

The Press-Enterprise ran this feel-good article about 4-H students in Murrieta holding bake sales, picking up recycling, and selling coffee to ultimately raise $5,500 for a bus shelter near their city hall and library.

What it doesn't tell you, of course, is that the buses that serve that stop only run hourly-ish (seriously, check out the 23 schedule, it isn't even consistent) during business hours.

It's a sad commentary on the state of our transit system when students have to hold a bake sale to install bus shelters, especially at locations where there probably should have been a shelter anyway- city hall, the library, senior centres... I don't see anyone holding a bake sale to pay for their local freeway offramp.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Rider Alert

For those of you using Google Transit to plan trips in the University area, be aware that RTA's GT feed currently includes routes 51 and 53, the UCR shuttles. These routes are NOT OPERATING during UCR summer sessions. Check your itinerary and plan an alternate route if Google tells you to use either route 51 or 53.

I've notified RTA of the problem, and will monitor its repair.

Published with Blogger-droid v1.3.7

Welcome to the Blogroll, More than Red Cars!

I'm terribly belated in doing this, but I'd like to welcome frequent commenter cph's fascinating blog More than Red Cars to the RiR Blogroll, after his excellent portrait of LA-Riverside bus service by private operators, the SCRTD and the Inland Empire Connection. I look forward to more interesting bus history, and so should you all. Keep up the good work!

Friday, June 25, 2010

RTA Board Officially Approves Signal Priority Tests

I briefly mentioned that RTA still had some cash laying around for signal-priority testing a few months ago. The RTA Board officially ratified a partnership with City officials, giving the green-light extending devices the, um, green light. Installation should be complete by spring 2011, with the test concluding in fall of that year.

The BRT report (PDF) presented at yesterday's Board meeting seems to imply that the design of RapidLink is not yet finalized- earlier incarnations were most emphatically BRT-light projects similar to LA's Metro Rapid- signal priority, limited stops, and enhanced bus shelters, but no dedicated lanes, but both that report and a recent Press-Enterprise article suggest that some amount of dedicated busway may be in the cards for Magnolia, at least at peak travel times. Is it possible that the economically-induced delay for this project (which was slated to launch in 2005) will actually result in a better transit system for Riverside?

The planning and alternatives analysis for the RapidLink BRT project is slated for after the signal priority demonstration, in late 2011 and 2012.

They need one of these in every subway...

From Volkswagen (yes, the car company) comes a great idea for injecting fun into subway stations:

Too bad somebody in the US would get hurt, or be too fat to fit on it, and would sue the hell out of the transit operator.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Metrolink FailWhale

Metrolink melted down in a spectacular way yesterday. First, a freight train accident in southern OC made a mess of OC and IE-OC Line trains, and then an SB Line train hit a pedestrian in Covina. I'll post the Metrolink twitter feed from yesterday, unedited.

San Bern. line train 328 delayed 22 min out of Fontana due to late train meets. about 17 hours ago via HootSuite

San. Bern. line train 330 delayed 44 min out of LA Union Station due to delayed turn from train 331. about 17 hours ago via HootSuite

San Bern. line train 331 is on the move delayed 45 min. about 17 hours ago via HootSuite

San Bern train 331 still stopped at Mission due to mech. problems. Mech. personnel on the way. Will update status. Train 330 & 410 affected. about 18 hours ago via HootSuite

OC line train 689 will arrive on track 5 at LA Union Station today about 18 hours ago via HootSuite

OC & IEOC Line - train 806 will operate on track 2 at Irvine today. about 20 hours ago via HootSuite

Orange County Line train 609 will operate on track 2 out of Laguna Niguel. about 20 hours ago via HootSuite

San Bern Line train 329 delayed 29 minutes out of Pomona due to a late meet with train 314. about 20 hours ago via HootSuite

San Bern Line train 314 delayed 20 minutes out of Fontana due to mechanical problems. about 20 hours ago via HootSuite

San Bern. line train 327 delayed 18 min into Baldwin Park about 21 hours ago via HootSuite

San Bern. line train 314 delayed 15 min into Baldwin Park about 21 hours ago via HootSuite

San Bern. Line train 325 delayed 44 min departing San Bern. about 22 hours ago via HootSuite

San Bern. Line update: Metrolink passengers to expect delays this afternoon. Will continue to update. about 22 hours ago via HootSuite

San Bern. Line train 310 terminated at Pomona. about 22 hours ago via HootSuite

@ joelwitherspoon Saw your tweet.Would like to reach out to ur school & provide counseling & safety briefing. Pls send me ur contact info. about 24 hours ago via HootSuite

@Metrolink wants to thank all its passengers for their patience during today's unfortunate incidents. We'll do our best to keep you informed Wed 23 Jun 2010 12:09:35 PM PST via HootSuite

RT @melissaniiya: thanks @Metrolink for the updates this morning! <
San Bern. line update: All MTA buses have arrived to take train 319 passengers to LA Union Station making all Metrolink stops. Wed 23 Jun 2010 12:05:42 PM PST via HootSuite

San Bern. line train 321 terminated at Pomona. Inland Empire buses will be provided. Wed 23 Jun 2010 11:36:36 AM PST via HootSuite

San Bern. line train 306 terminated at Covina, MTA buses will be provided. Wed 23 Jun 2010 11:34:17 AM PST via HootSuite

San Bern. line update: train 306, 308, 321 & 321 may be affected by train 319 incident. Will continue to update. Wed 23 Jun 2010 11:20:23 AM PST via HootSuite

San Bern. line update: Buses are 15 min away from incident location to transport passengers to LA Union Station making all Metrolink stops. Wed 23 Jun 2010 11:17:55 AM PST via HootSuite

San Bern. line update: 3 MTA buses en route to incident site to provide transportation to train 319 passengers. Wed 23 Jun 2010 11:10:23 AM PST via HootSuite

San Bern. line train 306 stopped at Covina due to train 319 incident. Will update. Wed 23 Jun 2010 10:57:35 AM PST via HootSuite

San Bern. line train 319 struck a trespasser in the City of Covina. Updates to come. Wed 23 Jun 2010 10:46:55 AM PST via HootSuite

Amtrak train 565 will be on the number 2 track at Laguna Niguel today Wed 23 Jun 2010 09:11:31 AM PST via HootSuite

Track is officially opened no speed restrictions. Will update. Wed 23 Jun 2010 07:37:10 AM PST via HootSuite

Riv. Line train 405 now delayed 25 min out of Industry due to freight interference Wed 23 Jun 2010 07:34:54 AM PST via HootSuite

OC line train 683 from Irvine to LA running on time and making a stop at Commerce. Wed 23 Jun 2010 07:26:37 AM PST via HootSuite

IEOC line annulled train 850 passengers may take Amtrak 763 making all Metrolink stops. Wed 23 Jun 2010 07:19:49 AM PST via HootSuite

Riv. line train 405 delayed 20 min into City of Industry Wed 23 Jun 2010 07:16:47 AM PST via HootSuite

OC line train 605X at Laguna Niguel now heading North Wed 23 Jun 2010 07:15:39 AM PST via HootSuite

IEOC line train 850 will be annulled. Suggest passengers detrain at Orange and wait for train 800 to San Bern. Wed 23 Jun 2010 07:06:48 AM PST via HootSuite

OC line train 600 will be annulled, passengers please take Amtrak train 564 & 566 making all Metrolink stops Wed 23 Jun 2010 07:01:00 AM PST via HootSuite

Metrolink riders can board Amtrak trains 763 to LA + 564 & 566 to Oceanside will be making all Metrolink stops between Irvine and Oceanside. Wed 23 Jun 2010 06:48:45 AM PST via HootSuite

Bus at Irvine station will start heading south shortly making all Metrolink stops to Oceanside Wed 23 Jun 2010 06:34:57 AM PST via HootSuite

Riv line train 405 will be on track 2 at Ontario Wed 23 Jun 2010 06:25:57 AM PST via HootSuite

Bus will be picking up annulled train 607 passengers @ Oceanside leaving @ 6:41am to Irvine. Passengers to wait at Irvine 4 train 685 to LA. Wed 23 Jun 2010 06:21:41 AM PST via HootSuite

OC line RECAP: trains 601, 603, 605 & 607 annulled today due to freight incident in San Clemente. Bus bridges in place to/from Irvine. 6:07 AM Jun 23rd via HootSuite

OC line trains 685 & 687 expected to run as normal 6:03 AM Jun 23rd via HootSuite

91 line trains 701 & 703 will stop at Commerce today 6:02 AM Jun 23rd via HootSuite

Due to freight incident this A.M. 1st train heading North out of Irvine may not leave until 6:50am or later. Please consider other transport 5:11 AM Jun 23rd via HootSuite

OC & IEOC line passengers may consider driving this morning. Buses are now at Oceanside to take passengers to Irvine. More details to come. 4:52 AM Jun 23rd via HootSuite

OC & IEOC line Update: Freight train incident will affect all trains. Buses are on route to transport passengers. 4:44 AM Jun 23rd via HootSuite

Riversiders Carpool

While our transit mode share out here may be abysmally low (I calculated it something around .1%), we apparently lead the nation in car-pooling. Via Xing Columbus, Census Bureau stats put the Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario MSA (most people's definition of the "Inland Empire" in statistics) number 1 among the 50 largest metros for car-pooling, with 16.1% of all auto commuters sharing a ride in to work.

This is admirable, but it also belies one of those myths about why transit doesn't work in the suburbs. People are always saying that Americans won't ride transit because they value their privacy so very highly. Well, nearly 1 in 5 Riversiders give up that privacy on their work trip. We don't ride transit out here, not because of the sharing-the-vehicle aspect of it, but because our built environment is so very bad, and our commutes so very long.

Monday, June 21, 2010

On Gas Prices

Everyone in the livable streets blogosphere has known for a long time that gasoline is far, far too cheap. Ezra Klein, in the Washington Post, makes that same point again for the general public, and he does so well. He cites figures that suggest that a gallon of gasoline should cost a minimum of $4.37, and that's before you get to all of those unquantifiable costs- like security policy and habitat loss during oil spills. All of this is a well-deserved wake-up call to the car-addicted nation, but while his point is solid, his conclusion is disheartening.

Increasing the cost of oil could make other energy sources cheaper in comparison, and if the mechanism were a tax that would fund development of alternatives, that would hasten our transition. But it is the speed with which we can discover and refine those alternatives, more than the price of oil, that will decide our energy future.

The question, in other words, isn't just what a gallon of gas costs. It's what a gallon of anything that can replace gas costs. Maybe that's what we should start asking politicians.

As I've posted here before, there is no future in alternative fuels. I support sustainable fuel for the motoring that we'll have to do in the future- and make no bones about it, we will have to do some motoring. Utility workers, for example, require the convenience of some form of motorized transport. However, we also need to be drastically reducing the amount of driving we do, and in most cases entirely eliminating our reliance on automobiles. We don't need to "discover" or "refine" alternatives- they are running around the streets and subways of our cities every single day, in the form of bicycles, electric trains and trolleybuses, and electric commuter trains. We don't need to put something else in our cars, we need to get rid of them entirely, and this is something that the overwhelming majority of posts on the BP oil disaster miss by a mile.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Welcome back... to reality.

I'm writing you all from aboard the Metrolink OC Line, on my way home from a whirlwind vacation. First, I hit the Bay Area via Amtrak to see my best friend graduate from CSU East Bay, and then we drove across the country together in order to move her to her new school, Long Island University in Brooklyn, NY. Both of these metro areas have excellent public transport, which I used extensively. Well, a few hours ago I landed in Los Angeles, and I was immediately jolted back to reality. The experiences of airport transit in my departure and arrival cities was markedly different, and I think that a lot of the problems with transit usage here in southern California stem from these differences.

I flew out of LaGuardia this morning. This is the smaller and more poorly-connected airport in New York City, with no rail leading to the airport. (JFK, by contrast, has a direct, but expensive, rail connection to both the NYC subway and the Long Island Railroad.) Despite this fact, the experience using transit at LaGuardia was surprisingly smooth and inviting. Bus connections to the airport were advertised at each subway station they served, with line numbers and directional signs. At the airport, concise information displays offered information on each line serving the area, and the rail lines to which they connected, and stood next to comfortable bus shelters. Inside the terminal stood MetroCard vending machines, allowing passengers to purchase their transit fare without even leaving the airport.

Contrast this with the experience of riding a city bus from LAX. First off, city buses do NOT serve the airport terminals. To get to the admittedly plentiful city bus service at LAX, you have to ride a free airport shuttle- and that shuttle makes no mention of its transit connections, with a destination sign succinctly reading "LOT C". Signs in the terminal itself did not point to the location of city bus service- riders were simply required to know that "LAX Shuttle- Airline Connections" buses connected to both the rail station and the bus centre. Once on the shuttle, transit riders face a 20-odd minute ride, as the shuttle makes several zig-zagged passes through a large remote parking lot before finally stopping next to the bus centre. The stop at the centre lacks a curb or the attractive signage that all of the other parking lot shuttle stops had. The bus centre itself is isolated, dirty, and features several pornography vending machines, but no restrooms and little shade. Fare vending was not available, and I shudder to think of the fate of visitors seeking to buy a Day Pass- which, as we all know, can only be put on a TAP card on Metro buses, and yet Metro buses do not sell TAP cards. Despite decent way-finding information, fare information was conspicuously absent- riders on the 439 Express (which I took) would have had no way of knowing that the fare to downtown was $1.90, rather than the usual $1.25.

The difference here is clear. New York expects a substantial amount of visitors to use their transit system, and so enables them to do so with plentiful information, helpful fare payment, and attractive signs and stops at their port of entry. Los Angeles expects visitors to rent cars, and car rental shuttles were indeed plentiful and attractive. The only people who are expected on LA buses are the folks who work at the airport, and even then probably only those who are economically disadvantaged- they are therefore undeserving of anything more than the most basic amenities.

Southern California, we need to do better. You'll notice that none of these criticisms address the service provided at the LAX bus centre- in fact, aside from the hourly express route that I was waiting for, it seemed that bus service was in plentiful supply to all major corridors. Matters of signs and the like are not huge, ongoing costs- they cost a little bit of staff time to do it right, and an understanding of what transit patrons are looking for at any given location. Transit centres are costly, but they are often paid out of federal funds, and building attractive transit centres is usually no more costly for a local agency than building unattractive ones. It is not a shift of funding, but a shift of priority that is necessary here. We must stop treating public transit as something that only poor people ride, and start treating it as they do in New York and San Francisco- a system that the general public (and indeed, often the upper-middle class) can use in comfort and respectability. More than moving money, we must move minds- and after that, the money will follow.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Do you guys know about this?

A reader e-mailed me yesterday. She had recently returned from a trip to San Francisco, and had great success with Muni's NextMuni system, a real-time bus tracker that I've used myself (and also to great success). She asked me if RTA had any plans to implement such a system in the future.

I was pleased to inform her that RTA already HAS a real-time bus-tracking application, for most local routes in Riverside and Moreno Valley. It's available at displays at Downtown Terminal, RCC, RTA headquarters and a few other places (I think). It's also available online, and works great with smartphones.

Check it out at departure times are available with any web browser, and those who are slaves to users of Microsoft Internet Explorer can also enjoy a live map of bus positions.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Dump the Pump Day 2010

As many transit advocates know, June 17th is Dump the Pump Day, and the IE's two major transit agencies are launching initiatives designed to get people out of their smoking death machines cars and onto public transit.

RTA is giving away free Day and 30-Day passes in a drawing- simply send in a 1-day or 30-day pass that was valid on June 17th, and you'll be entered into a drawing for 100 free bus passes. The agency has more information here.

If you're in Omni territory, you can get a free ride all day on Thursday by visiting Omni's web site and downloading this flyer, which can be exchanged on any Omnitrans bus for a free day pass. Please note that Omni is only accepting flyers printed in colour, so don't print it off on the office laser.

Me? I'll be entirely disregarding Dump the Pump day, hurtling down I-80 in a fossil-fuelled vehicle, but know that I support the campaign in spirit!

Where I've Been

I haven't been posting on the blog the last week or so- that's been the product of finishing up finals, and then immediately going on vacation. I'm writing in from my cousin's apartment in Hayward, CA, where I've spent the last several days. Tomorrow I'm helping my best friend drive across the country to New York City, and I won't be back in town until Sunday. I'm never one to turn down a bit of travel, so I hope you all don't blame me too much.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Good News Everyone!

Per RTA spokesman Brad Weaver, no new fare hikes or service cuts are planned for FY 2010-2011 (that's until next June), barring any further budgetary disasters, and Metrolink staff say that a second daily round trip will be added to the IE-OC line from July-October for Beach Train service.

Also, I'm done with my first year of grad school. Break out the bubbly!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Want to stop future oil spills? Stop driving. (HOW TO)

Readers of this blog need not be reminded of the direct connection between our nation's automobile obsession and the oil that is currently gushing into said nation's ocean, washing up on her beaches, killing her fragile marine ecosystems and poisoning her citizens- and in Louisiana, a state that really didn't need any more disasters. Of course, it's now affecting Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida, too. However, residents of the IE especially may be curious what to do about it. Many in suburbia have lived shackled to our cars for so long that they cannot imagine life without them. So, for those of you who want to do something about America's addiction to oil, but don't know quite where to start, here's a helpful guide.

Step 1: The Commute
Chris Balish, author of "How to Live Well Without Owning a Car", says that if you can "get from your home to your place of employment and back safely and on time without a car, you probably don't need to own one." He makes this point well- the most important trip to most people on most days of the week is their trip to work. So your first challenge is to figure out how to get to work car-free, and it's probably possible.

Your first recourse, especially here in Southern California, is to Google Transit. Every operator in San Bernardino County (except MBTA in Twentynine Palms), and RTA in Riverside County (with Sunline coming soon), is available on Google Transit, as are all of the major agencies in neighbouring Orange and Los Angeles Counties and Metrolink. Just go to just as you would if you were getting driving directions, and when the directions pop up, click the little train icon at the top left of the page. Be sure to set the appropriate date and time- Google defaults to the next available trip, while there may be rush hour service that is much more appropriate. Don't get freaked out by the commute times they give you- remember, when you're driving to work, you can't do anything but drive. If you commute via transit, you can sleep, eat breakfast, get some work done, or do the aimless blog surfing that you're probably doing right now, if you have mobile 'net access (which is cheap these days, and free on many RTA and Foothill commuter buses).

If you live within 5 or so miles of your workplace, consider walking or cycling. Google can help you here, too- next to that train icon are bike and pedestrian icons, and they work the same way. Nearly anyone can cycle 5 miles after only a touch of practise. Don't go out and buy an expensive bicycle, at least at first- used bikes are plentiful and cheap. Check out this guide to buying a used bike.

Take note of the alternatives that you've mapped out, because you'll need them in the next step.

Step 2: Fill Your Toolbox
Now that you know how to get to work and back, fill up your toolbox. Determine what sort of transit pass(es) you'll need, and buy them. If you're only going to commit to taking alternative transport every once in a while, go buy pre-paid day/week/10-Trip passes. The sunken cost of the passes will encourage you to use the system more than if you simply pay cash.

I also highly recommend a decent bicycle. For transportation purposes, look for a road bike with a cargo rack on the back, or better yet, a "hybrid"/commuter bike. The skinny tires will make a difference- I know it seems unlikely, but trust me. The cargo rack and a good set of panniers (bags that attach to the rack) will expand the errand-running and work-stuff-carrying capacity of the bicycle, which can make a big difference. All RTA and Omnitrans buses, Metrolink trains, and most other transit agencies permit bicycles, though a frequent bus user might want to invest in a small folding bike instead. Bus bike racks DO fill up, especially during peak times.

Step 3: Shop Local
There is probably more going on in your neighbourhood than you realize. Find your local grocery store, rather than driving to Costco all the time. Sure, you'll spend more on food, but you'll spend less on gas! Shop several times a week, carrying home just enough for the next few days. It helps if your store is on your route home- I do this all the time. Patronize local restaurants, instead of driving across town for Chinese food. I bet there's somewhere within a reasonable cycling distance that will take care of most of your needs.

Also, if you want to shop in bulk, remember that many stores offer grocery delivery. Currently Albertson's and Vons offer grocery delivery services to Riversiders. Delivery usually costs around $6-$12 depending on when and how you schedule it, and they deliver your online order straight to your door.

Step 4: Learn the System
Now that you've learned your route to work and back, take some time to familiarize yourself with the routes that serve your area. Learn how to get from your house to the mall, to specialty stores, to civic services, to health care, etc. Learn the schedules if you can- most RTA routes are scheduled regularly (though less frequently than I'd like). For example, the 16 north passes the bus stop near my house around 20 and 50 past the hour on weekdays, and the 16 south around 27 and 57, from 5am to 9pm. I don't need to look at the schedule if I'm going anywhere along the 16, and that's anywhere from school to the University Village to the mall to downtown.

For more spontaneous or unfamiliar trips, Google Transit is still an excellent ally, especially if you carry an iPhone, Blackberry or Android smartphone. (All of these support Google Maps, with built-in transit directions.) If you don't, your ordinary cell phone can get text directions from Dadnab in most areas in the LA Basin. Text (323) 863-6221 with your origin and destination.

Step 5: Sell Your Car
Well, you may not get to this point. Hell, even Dani and I haven't been able to, though I rarely drive it. (We may accomplish it after she gets her teaching credential next year, but transit home from CSUSB at 10pm is just non-existent.) However, if you do all of those steps above, you may find that the amount of time you need your car just doesn't justify the expense. Remember that, if there are a few trips every once in a while that force automobility upon you, you can always rent a car- and if you live near UCR, you can join Zipcar (using the link on the right of this page) for even more flexibility. Even if you don't sell your car, though, reducing your usage will help keep our nation's appetite for oil down, and it won't hurt your wallet either.

For those who are just starting to experiment with transit, remember a few things. First, residents of Riverside get substantial discounts off RTA 7- and 30-day passes, but only for local buses. After a brief registration visit to City Hall (near downtown terminal, served by routes 1, 10, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 22, 25, 29, 49, 149, 204, 208, 210, 212, and the 50 Jury Trolley), you can order passes online for mail delivery. Second, if your employer provides free parking, there's a strong possibility that they may be required to pay you the value of your parking space if you don't use it. It's called parking cash-out, and it's required by California state law. Also, you and your employer could save on taxes by buying your transit passes with pre-tax Commuter Checks. If your employer does not offer Commuter Checks, tell them to start, and direct them here.

I also strongly recommend the book I referenced at the beginning of this article, Chris Balish's "How to Live Well Without Owning a Car". You can get it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or via Link+ through the Riverside Public Library. Mr. Balish shows how every part of your life can be accomplished without owning your own auto.

If you want to reduce your car dependence, but you're not sure how to do it, feel free to contact me at

Friday, June 4, 2010

Get angry!

My wife has been working as a substitute schoolteacher in Redlands for the past few weeks. I mentioned here the impact California's repeated budget-slashing has had on her job hunt. I'd like to tell you now about what she's seen in just a few days working in our rapidly collapsing public education system. This is Victoria Elementary School in San Bernardino, just over the Redlands city line. Their mascot is the tiger. The school celebrated its 60th year in operation last year. It serves an older, working-class neighbourhood with a couple of new subdivisions, north of I-10 between Tippecanoe and Alabama. It is a Title I school, meaning that at least 40% of the students it serves are from low-income families. On the campus is both a library and a nurse's office, which you would expect to find in any elementary school.

However, there is no librarian, nor is there a nurse.

One of the students in my wife's classroom was feeling ill, and she was informed that she must keep the student there until he decided he was so ill he needed to go home, at which point his parents would be notified.

This is what is happening to our public services in California. Our buses are being cut, our roads are falling into disrepair, our colleges are hiking fees as quickly as they can (fees at UCR for resident undergraduates increased by over $3,000 a year during my bachelor's degree alone), and our schoolchildren are stuck in crowded, crumbling classrooms with inadequate services and valiant, but overworked teachers. Over the past 20 years, corporations and the wealthy have systematically removed the tax base on which our entire government (and consequently, our state's prosperity) sits, and it is now falling down. And in the midst of our crisis, our joke of an Assemblyman is putting crap like this on his web site.

We need to rise up against the corporations and super-rich individuals (like, say, Meg Whitman) who have kicked our government out from under us. We need to realize that the taxes that we do pay (sales tax, gas tax, income tax) have been raised to compensate for what the wealth don't pay- property and corporate taxes- and we need to look north for a solution. Please, California, stop letting the conservatives frame the debate. Realize that effective governance is the solution, and stand up for it.

SART through Norco- Meetings!

Thanks to the Riverside Bicycle Club, I was notified of meetings about the Santa Ana River Trail segment from SR-71 (the current terminus of the Orange County section of the trail) to the Hidden Valley Wildlife Reserve (the current terminus of the Riverside/San Bernardino section of the trail). The meetings are as follows:

  • 6/8 7:00pm-8:30pm
    George Ingalls Equestrian Centre
    Nellie Weaver Hall
    3737 Crestview Dr. in Norco
    (Crestview & 6th, no transit service, but only a short cycle from the current end of the SART)

  • 6/10 7:00pm-8:30pm
    Corona City Hall
    Room 1405
    400 S. Vicentia Ave. in Corona
    (Sixth & Vicentia, route 1, Corona Cruiser Red & Blue)

  • 7/21 6:30pm-8:00pm
    Riverside County Parks District HQ
    4600 Crestmore Rd. in Rubidoux (don't be fooled- the flyer says Riverside)
    (Crestview at the river, nearest transit route 49 about 1 mile away at Mission & Crestmore, or route 29 a similar distance at Riverview & Crestmore)

Cop Nearly Kills Me

I was riding my bike on Chicago Ave. just past Linden St., taking the lane because that stretch of Chicago is narrowed by on-street parking. A Riverside Police Department car was behind me at the light. Just after we cleared the intersection, the police car accelerated until he was right behind me, made half of a lane change, and passed within about a foot or so of my handlebars. He didn't put on his siren before or after the incident. I would have moved out of his way within 50 feet or so. Anyone who's biked on city streets has probably experienced this move before.

Now, this manoeuvre is common enough among jerks in giant trucks and sports cars who think that bikes don't belong on "their" roads, but I would expect my local law enforcement officers to have some knowledge of traffic law, and a respect for the lives of those citizens they serve. Of course, it may be that cyclists on the streets around here are mostly poor people of colour (and immigrants, documented or otherwise), and so they can get away with this sort of behaviour, but it's still reprehensible. The City would obviously find it difficult to educate every Riverside driver about proper driving around cyclists, but they should at least provide that education to their police officers.

I've filed a complaint with the police department (moments after the incident- don't screw with me, I have 311!), though I don't expect much from it.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Metrolink College Program Cut

In yet another cut to Metrolink services, the former College Student Discount program has been discontinued. The program allowed students to order monthly and 10-trip passes through their college offices (including UCR's Parking and Transportation Services) at a 25% discount. In an effort to decrease administration costs, the discount has been cut to 10%, and the passes will now be available through Metrolink TVMs- students must carry their student IDs while riding.

These changes go into effect on June 30th, 2010. More info here.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

NIMBY rage not satisfied with taking my train station, wants the whole PVL

Residents in the neighbourhood east of UC Riverside are really, really getting on my nerves. Were it not for their incessant complaining, the Perris Valley Line would already be up and running, and it would be stopping on my campus as well. RCTC officials delayed the project two years and removed the UC Riverside station to appease them, and yet they still aren't happy.

Ladies and gentlemen- YOU BOUGHT A HOUSE NEXT TO A TRAIN LINE. If, when you looked out the back windows of your home when considering buying it and saw train tracks, you didn't think "Hey, maybe trains call on this area from time to time. Trains are a deal-breaker for me, I should go look at that shiny McMansion in La Sierra or Woodcrest," then you are an idiot. You did not adequately consider all of the factors involved in the purchase of your home, and you are asking the entire I-215 corridor to suffer on account of your shortsightedness. This is ridiculous- either shut up or move.

I lived on Watkins Avenue immediately across from the train tracks for a year- the freighters that came through at night were noisy, yes, but we got used to it. And Metrolink trains will be MUCH quieter than freight trains, considering their comparatively light weight, minimal length and higher speed. Furthermore, the PVL line improvements will actually make EVERY train that passes through your neighbourhood less noisy- the standards to which passenger tracks must be built are higher, and the tighter tolerances mean less noise. If you knew a damned thing about trains (which you don't, obviously), you'd ask for the project to be built with a quiet zone at the two grade crossings, rather than all of these sound walls and window treatments that even you all can't agree on. And the safety arguments are crap. You're seriously shouting "Won't somebody think of the children?!?!" in this debate? Once again, track improvements will mitigate any chance of derailment or disaster- and when freighters and Metrolink trains go by, for the most part, your precious little snowflakes won't be in school! Metrolink trains run during commute hours, and freighters travel that route late at night. If your child is still in school at 5pm, I think you have bigger things to worry about than this train thing.

Seriously, Watkins Avenue neighbourhood- it's six measly trains a day. Odds are you'll be off in your SUVs to your jobs for at least a few of them. It won't be as bad as you think- in fact, it might be better than the trains that already rumble past your homes- and at any rate, you have no right to complain, because YOU BOUGHT A HOUSE NEXT TO A TRAIN TRACK. (Normally, I'm not a big fan of arguments like that- often, it's low-income residents who can't afford to live anywhere else. Not in this case- that's a very affluent middle-class neighbourhood.) There is only one place for any sort of eastward rail line to leave Riverside on the current rail network, it goes by your house, so bloody deal with it.

Worst of all, this article quotes Save Riverside's Kevin Dawson as part of the Watkins Avenue Resistance- Mr. Dawson was formerly a contact of mine when we were dealing with the Greyhound debacle last year. It just goes to show you that there is no concerted coalition for transit and livability out here in Riverside. (Note: Kevin mentions in the comments that, while he is affiliated with Save Riverside, his advocacy on this issue is related to his membership in the University Neighborhood Association.)