Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Fiscal Surplus means MORE PARKING!

In the latest edition of the City's official newsletter, the Riverside Outlook (which yes, I read every time it appears in my mailbox), we heard the great news that the City is looking at a substantial fiscal surplus this year. City revenues outpaced expenses by $3.5m in FY 2009-2010, which, according to the newsletter, went into "enhancing city services."

And, of course, "city services" means "free parking and roads". Of the $3.5m in surplus cash, City leaders spent $900,000 on the Public Works budget, which went into road maintenance and parking at the Orange Terrace Community Centre; and $600,000 on parks, which went into parking at Andulka Park (my local park, served by routes 22, 51 and 53). That's $1.5m, or 42% of the fiscal surplus, that went into car-related spending. This doesn't count the $1m that went in to the police department budget, and a goodly share of police resources in North America are spent either on traffic enforcement or collision cleanup and investigation.

As always, I see City leaders who seem to get it... and then do something spectacularly wrong.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

This Week in Transit, 9/19

An addition to the This Week in Transit calendar- the LA-San Diego High Speed Rail Authority calendar is now featured. Local events in red, HSRA events in orange.

If you find this feature useful, please don't hesitate to subscribe to either of these calendars.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

HSRA Meeting in LA

Well, we all missed the boat on the "public" hearing for high-speed rail at the Chamber of Commerce last month. However, there is going to be a huge public meeting at Metro Headquarters in Los Angeles, adjacent to Union Station, next Tuesday. Project staff from all of the Los Angeles segments (LA-Palmdale, LA-Anaheim, and LA-San Diego) will be on hand for questions and will be making presentations with updates. I plan on attending and asking, with all of the benefits, just why Riverside's HSR station isn't being planned downtown.

The "open house" portion of the meeting begins at 16:30 and ends at 21:00, with presentations between 17:30 and 19:30. For those who don't want to make the pilgrimage to Los Angeles, online streaming of the presentations will be available at For more information, see Metro's web invitation.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Park[ing] Day LA this Friday

This Friday, livable streets activists of all stripes will be building tiny, temporary parks in public parking spaces across Los Angeles, in order to call attention to the way that cars have been allowed to usurp our public spaces. I'll be touring these parks this Friday, and I hope to see some of you all out there.

I'm going to start by visiting the Streetsblog LA space at 11555 National Blvd. near Santa Monica, then go hit up the UCLA space in Westwood Village (1130 Westwood Blvd). After that, I plan on heading to Hollywood and winding my way down through the various spaces along the Metro Red Line corridor, and then heading home. I strongly encourage you all to join me!

You can find more information, as well as a map of planned Park[ing] spaces, at

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Local Preference Policies

Beach Cities Transit, originally uploaded by So Cal Metro.

This is a bus.

Heading downtown

This is also a bus. They're both partial-low-floor 40-foot buses with front and rear doors and bicycle racks. For all I know, they are equipped with the same fareboxes. So what's the difference between them, besides the agencies and routes they serve?

The one on the bottom was built in Alabama, with parts largely made in Hungary. The one on the top was built in Rubidoux, just outside of Riverside, with mostly locally-produced parts.

Most federal grants have what are known as "Buy America" conditions, which require things purchased with the grant money to be made in America. The idea is to spend our money on creating jobs in our country, sensibly enough.

If the idea works on a national scale, why then shouldn't we implement it on a local scale as well? The LA Times today has an article on "local preference policies"- language in city and agency purchasing policies that give local businesses an edge in getting jobs and contracts- the proposed bonus to LA businesses in LA is 8%.

So, what's the difference between the two buses at the top of this post? One of them creates jobs and tax revenue in Riverside and Riverside County, allowing it to provide more service to more people in a more prosperous local economy. Isn't that something we should all hope for?

San Bernardino County Wins

San Bernardino County yesterday gained the distinction of being the first county in the metro Los Angeles area to have every single transit provider available in Google Transit, with the addition of the Twentynine Palms-area Morongo Basin Transit Authority. (Los Angeles County's hodgepodge of municipal operators are still struggling with implementation, while in Orange County the Laguna Beach Transit System remains stubbornly un-Googled. All of San Diego County is available, but since they only have two operators that's kind of cheating. Ventura County is similarly Google-challenged.)

Riverside County also gained some operators in Google Transit yesterday- the Beaumont-operated routes of the Pass Transit system (2, 3, 4, 7, 8, 9 and 10) and the Palo Verde Valley Transit Authority in Blythe. Only one transit agency in the county remains un-Googled, but it's a major one: Sunline Transit in the greater Palm Springs area. Their web site lists Google Transit as "coming soon", but it has for several months.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Victory for LGBT Rights in... Riverside?

Indeed, a federal judge right here in Riverside has found the military's Don't Ask- Don't Tell policy unconstitutional. This will, of course, be appealed, but it seems that there hasn't been a stay of the ruling filed just yet. Get the details at the LA Times Blog.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

"Saving the Planet" is Selfish

News flash- the planet Earth is a massive ball of rock hurtling through space at 30km a second. On that ball of rock there are more complicated and varied natural systems, supporting more kinds of life, than any one person could hope to even see in a lifetime. At this time, many of those natural systems are vulnerable, along with their attendant forms of life, and this is because of things that we, as a species, have done to this planet.

That said, there are many forms of life that are not vulnerable, and most natural systems will find a new equilibrium during the course of geologic time. Cockroaches, for example, will probably not experience a massive die-off, nor will ants, no matter what we humans do to the planet. Even a full-fledged nuclear winter is not, over the long term, going to bother the planet we live on.

Let us be clear. When we say that we want to save "the environment" or "the planet", we are being extremely selfish as a species. What we want to save is not some generic concept of planet Earth, which has survived untold devastation in the fullness of her life, nor even the planet's ability to support life, which it will go on doing no matter what we do to her. What we are saving is the planet's ability to support us, humanity. We are trying to save the planet's ability to support agriculture, commercial fishing and the like- to support, in essence, human civilization. Make no mistake about it- in a post-global warming world, life will carry on. I even think humanity will carry on, just because we are so very adaptable and there are so very many of us. What will falter, causing untold suffering, sickness and death, is the global civilization that we have built over the past several hundred years, and the advantages that it confers- communications, transportation, medicine, agriculture, leisure.

It's time the environmental movement stopped asking others to Save the Whales, to Save the Delta Smelt, to even Save the Planet, and time we started being honest about what we want to do- and that is to Save the Humans.

Transit Resources

I've posted a number of How-To posts on this blog before, with information on everything from bus trips to the beach to RTA's fare policies. However, I've never collected those in a single location before, and I'm going to try and do that now. Up top at the right hand side, you'll see a link to "Resources". Any posts that describe something that transit riders ought to know are going to be permanently linked there.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Network Legibility in Riverside

Legibility is, simply put, how easy it is to find your way around in a transit system, how easy it is to look at a part of a transit network and figure out what vehicle will take you from where you are to where you need to go. Our bus network does a terribly bad job of it out here. I was in the midst of writing a post on the to/via problem in naming transit routes in Riverside, and I was under the impression that most bus lines in Riverside run primarily along one or two arterial streets through the city. This is true, if you only look at the portion of the routes that run between Downtown and the Galleria at Tyler (which is where I spend most of my riding time), but when trying to propose names for our routes based on the streets they travel on, I found myself struggling. The 1 and 15 are pretty straightforward routes, but take a look at the 10. My mental impression of this route is that it's relatively simple, but try to come up with a description of its route that would fit on a bus headsign- you can't do it. The route primarily serves Lincoln, Victoria and 3rd/Blaine, but that's far too much for a simple route description, and even that doesn't quite cover all the little twists and turns built into the route to pick up this destination or that transfer point. And the 10 is simple compared to the planning nightmare that is the 13, which can't even figure out which north-south arterial it wants to use. (It uses Central, Arlington, and Colorado before winding its way around Crest, back to Arlington and down Tyler.)

Compare these routings to San Francisco Muni's policy of associating a route with a given street, and naming the route accordingly (N-Judah, 14-Mission, F-Market & Wharves, etc.). Every stop, headsign and route map there displays the name of the route, making it relatively simple to determine the principal service area of that route with nothing more than a glance. If you want to head up Mission, it's as simple as grabbing the bus that says "Mission". Muni is a legible system. RTA is not.

RTA has proposed doing a lot of service upgrades, schedule re-structuring and re-routing in order to get the system ready for the Magnolia Avenue Rapid line (which is still a few years off). One thing they want to do is get a core group of routes under 40 minute headways, and schedule them in such a way that they make timed connections to the aforementioned Rapid line when it shows up. This is an admirable goal, to be sure, but if significant improvements in the legibility of the system aren't made, new riders will be put off of the system simply because they don't know where the buses go. (I've seen this in action before- some UCR students heading up Canyon Crest from campus will actually refuse to ride the "white bus", the 16, and will allow it to pass them up in order to wait for the 51 Crest Cruiser "trolley" even though the 16 would work just as well.) This probably starts with streamlining routes, and then coming up with a system to simply indicate where each route runs.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Emergency Rider Alert

To anyone riding routes 1, 16 or 25 and trying to get to the UCR/University Village area, these routes are currently detoured east of Chicago for road work. Call RTA at (800) 800-7821 for details and alternate stop locations.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Speaking Gig

Tomorrow morning, I'll be speaking at the Friday Morning Club, at the Janet Goeske Senior Centre. It's located off of Sierra and Streeter (5257 Sierra, 92504), directly served by the 12 and a few blocks from the 1, 13 and 15 at Arlington and Magnolia. We'll be in room D from 10:00 AM to 11:30. The meeting is open to the public, so stop by if you can. I'll be speaking on the problems that cars cause in our world, and the solutions that a balanced transportation infrastructure can provide.

Seeking Contributors

Urbanists and livable streets advocates in the Inland Empire, I know you're out there. If you'd like to join the RiR efforts, maybe writing about what your neighbourhood/city gets right, or what it does horribly wrong, please e-mail me at

Also, I'm thinking about scheduling a bloggy meetup at my local watering hole. Comment if you'd come.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

New Omni Bus Book Out

The new Omnitrans Bus Book is out, detailing the new schedules for the upcoming Sept. 7th service changes. The following routes are changed, and may have suffered from trip eliminations or frequency reductions: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 14, 15, 19, 20, 22, 29, 61, 63, 66, 68, 80, 81, 82, 83 and 215. Also, the new OmniGo community shuttles have launched, routes 308, 309, 325 and 365. If you ride the bus at all in Omni territory, you should pick up a copy, because odds are your schedule has changed. You can pick them up on board, at Omnitrans' offices, or at your local library.

Also available, by the way, is the new RTA Ride Guide.