Sunday, November 28, 2010

This Week in Transit, 11/28

Local events in red, HSRA events in orange.

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hello, all of you out there in reader-land. Enjoy your poultry-related merriment. Please be reminded that there is no Omnitrans or RTA service today, and limited Metrolink service on the San Bernardino line ONLY.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

This Week in Transit, 11/21

Local events in red, HSRA events in orange.

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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Stuff the Bus!

I'm a little late with this, but there's still time! Operation Safehouse, a local charity that provides services for at-risk youth in our community, is holding a migrating Stuff the Bus event around the city today. RTA loans them a bus, and you folks stuff it full of the stuff they need to help out their clients.

Operation Safehouse are the folks that are responsible for all of those little yellow Safe Place stickers on the buses you see around. They provide a shelter and resources for teens in crisis in the Greater Riverside area, and have just opened up a new facility out in the Palm Desert area as well. They're a fantastic organization, and you should drop by any of the following locations that they'll be at today and donate some supplies so they can keep doing what they're doing:

3 pm Riverside City Hall, 3900 Main St.
4 pm Kaiser Permanente, 10800 Magnolia Ave.
5 pm Riverside City Plaza, at 3535 Riverside Plaza Dr., at Regal Theaters

Monday, November 15, 2010

Bicycle Lounge at UCR

The Bicycle Lounge, Riverside's first- and only- bicycle collective, is now open at UC Riverside. They'll be teaching folks how to fix their own bikes- and providing tools and parts- from 11:00-14:00 on Tuesdays in the Rec Centre parking lot, lot 24. For those who have to bring their bikes in by car, metered parking is available.

They also have hours downtown, at the Culver Centre for the Arts, 12:00-16:00 on Saturdays until the end of the Re:Cycle exhibit.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

This Week in Transit, 11/14

Local events in red, HSRA events in orange.

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Friday, November 12, 2010

Things you Learn from Zipcar

So I rented a Zipcar last Monday in order to get to a doctor's appointment on time. (Kaiser Permanente is stubbornly located on the other side of town. The #1 is agonizingly slow, and the #216 and Metrolink aren't frequent enough outside of rush hour.) On the way home, I got stuck in horrific traffic (of course). This particular car had a very interesting feature- it calculated average speed on its display. Since I had re-set the display when I took possession of the car (because it was set in km/h), I was actually able to see my average speed.

Which was a lightning-fast 14 miles per hour.

As any cyclist knows, this is not an unreasonable cycling speed. I can average 12 all the way to Huntington Beach. When all of those other blogs said that a bike can beat cars in urban traffic, I always thought "urban" meant "not in the suburbs." Guess I was wrong.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Belated Anniversary!

So, I forgot my anniversary. No, not that one, if I'd forgotten that anniversary I wouldn't be around to blog.

On Monday the 8th, Riding in Riverside marked two years of fighting the auto empire in the Inland Empire.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

sbX Project Attacks Car Dealer, Steals His Parking

A car dealer may soon find himself put out of business by a bus project in San Bernardino. No, not because the project will be so successful that residents will abandon cars en masse (though we can hope), but because the car lot owner can't think of anywhere besides curbside parking on E Street for his customers and employees to park.

So goes the tale in the Press-Enterprise. Granted, most of the article is rather positive, but they had to include the doom-and-gloom car lot owner in the story. Imagine the horror of a car lot without convenient curbside parking!

Perhaps the owner could simply stop using the subsidized on-street parking provided for free by the city, and start providing parking for his own customers and employees... perhaps on the *lot* he owns that's full of *cars*.

Of course, everyone knows that no customer will ever take one of the shiny new sbX buses to his business. Only hobos ride the bus, otherwise they're empty. Right?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Metrolink Service Changes

Metrolink has started operating on a new schedule today. While the Riverside, 91 and weekday San Bernardino Lines have not seen any changes, the IE-OC and OC Line trains all have at least one minor schedule adjustment. Also, weekend San Bernardino service has changed. Most notably, Riverside-Downtown will now see late-night weekend service, with a train leaving Los Angeles at 9pm and returning here at 11:15pm. Also, the IE-OC Line will revert to its previously-used once daily weekend schedule.

All the details are available on Metrolink's web site.

RTA CommuterLink routes that connect to Metrolink trains- 206, 208, 210 and 212- have also changed schedules in order to continue connecting with the trains. The new schedules are available from RTA. (PDF)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

This Week in Transit, 11/7

Local events in red, HSRA events in orange.

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Friday, November 5, 2010

The Injustice of American Health Care

Not transportation related, sorry, but I felt I had to share this one.

Over last weekend, I was in line at my local Rite-Aid picking up some prescriptions. I overheard the woman in front of me telling the pharmacist that she needed to get her prescriptions refilled before her insurance ran out. The pharmacist, making conversation, asked why she was losing her insurance- it's common enough these days, what with the economy being FUBAR'ed and all. Her answer?

"Oh... my husband recently passed away."

This is the horror of the present American health care system. A woman loses her husband to the ravages of time and, in her grief, has to remember to call the pharmacy before the health insurance company notices he's dead and kicks her out into the cold.

You want death panels? We've got death panels. They're called health insurance companies.

We return to our regularly scheduled bus-and-bike ranting tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

State Parks Sacrificed for Suburban Car Fetish

So last night was a pretty awful night for anyone who's part of the muddled American "left." We did keep the Senate, but lost big in the House. For a great analysis on the subject, I defer to The Transport Politic. To avoid repeating what hundreds of others throughout our blogosphere have written on the subject, I'll confine my reporting to local (and under-reported state) issues.

The first result from last night's election that has drawn my outrage is the failure of Proposition 21. (42% Y, 58% N w/ 96.6% reporting) California's system of gorgeous and fragile state parks protects our state's natural beauty, biodiversity, and anthropological and cultural history- and despite these benefits, it is under attack. The inadvisable budget austerity that our broken state government has forced upon us is depriving the citizens of our state of these much-needed natural and historical treasures by closing, reducing the hours of, or simply not maintaining our parks. Prop 21 would have given the parks a stable, ample revenue source and would have freed up current parks money for other worthwhile purposes while giving Californians unfettered access to the riches their state possesses. At $18/year, a Californian could make up the fee by visiting state parks just twice. Remembering that many popular beaches are state parks, a couple of trips to the beach a year would have been an easy endeavour for most southern Californians.

So why did such a beneficial initiative get shot down? Well, the story I heard from local progressives (and I think it's plausible) is that many opposed the initiative because they have multiple cars. The $18/year fee is $18/year/car- and many suburban families have 3, 4, 5 or more cars. You know, one for each driver in a household with two teenagers/young adults, plus maybe that classic car they kept around from their younger days- or perhaps it's a lower-income multi-generational household with several families pooling resources, each with their two cars... suddenly $18 is more like $90+, and it's just not worth it in these hard economic times. (My parents, rural empty-nesters who enjoy motorized toys, would have paid $72/year- two cars, motorcycle and RV. Of course, they use state parks so often it would have been a significant savings... but they illustrate my point.)

Now, I think even $90/year is worth it to save our state parks, but that's immaterial to my point. The point is that our automobile-dominated transportation system is placing significant hardship on people, and the fact that they see a personal fleet of cars as necessary led directly to the defeat of Prop 21. If we had enough transportation alternatives in place such that a suburban family of four could get by on just one car, perhaps the initiative would have passed and California's natural and historical resources would have been kept open for all to see.

Also troubling at the state level is the passage of Proposition 26. (52.7% Y, 47.3% N, 96.6% reporting) Prop 26 will make it nearly impossible to fix the state budget via revenue by making most "fee" increases and all tax changes- even revenue-neutral ones- subject to a 2/3rds vote or local election. A 2/3 vote is essentially impossible- there are always Republicans taking up just over 1/3 of the state legislature, and they have unquestionable party discipline against anything that even smells like a tax increase. It will particularly hamper the implementation of AB 32- though I think a clever implementation of cap-and-trade with the already planned giveaway of emissions permits would be possible, it will be impossible to bring in revenue through such enforcement, leaving all of the gains from creating a carbon market in the private sector.

Prop 26 will further contribute to the ungovernability of the state of California, hampering our ability to pass a budget that is anything more than a series of drastic, ugly cuts. The failure of Proposition 24 (41.6% Y 58.4% N, 96.6% reporting) as well- a measure that would have eliminated a corporate tax loophole benefiting only the largest corporations in the sate- means that governor-elect Jerry Brown will have a tough time fixing the mess this state is in.

Taken together, these votes demonstrate just why the initiative system is terribly broken- only the largest corporations and wealthy interests can afford to pay the several millions of dollars needed to get a measure on the ballot. Once there, complex measures (like Props 24 and 26- even I don't understand all the specifics) are submitted to uninformed voters who then tie the hands of their elected officials in actually getting things done. When the electeds fail to govern the state, more wealthy interests use the gridlock to convince voters that further initiatives are needed, enhancing their interests and destroying our public sector. The cycle will repeat until we reform the initiative process, either through (ironically) an initiative or a constitutional convention.

On another note, we did have some local successes. Measure K, the RCTC's proposal to borrow against Measure A funds for highway, street and Metrolink improvements, passed (62.39% Y 37.61% N, 91.82% reporting). This is sort of a Faustian bargain for alternative transportation advocates- it would increase the rate of highway and local street expansion, but would also ensure the completion of the Metrolink Perris Valley Line, expanding Metrolink service to new areas for the first time since the 1995 opening of the IE-OC Line. (The 91 Line opened in 2002, but served only existing stations- and the Buena Park station opened in 2007, but served only existing lines.) With any luck, the Metrolink expansion will serve to catalyze further transit ridership and service in the Moreno Valley and Perris areas beyond the stations themselves. The Perris and Alessandro stations in particular have the potential to become serious regional transit centres- the former is already a hub for local bus lines.

Measure V, a City of Riverside measure to increase the local hotel tax, passed. (65.88% Y 34.12% N, 82.58% reporting) This measure should provide funding for city parks, public services, and the new Riverside Convention Centre- which promises to be a more integrated and pedestrian-friendly place than the current monstrosity. Of course, I'm sure much of this revenue is going to be used for more parking lots...

And lastly, on a non-transpo note, Corona School Board member Bill Hedrick lost against corrupt real-estate developer and incumbent Congressman Ken Calvert. This race was always going to be an uphill battle, but there was a minute there where it looked possible. To my fellow members of Hedrick's all-volunteer army, keep the faith- we'll get it next time.

Travelers, not "Commuters"

In nearly every story about transportation issues, you will see somebody refer to those who use transportation infrastructure as "commuters." We privilege the daily commute as the epitome of transportation challenges, and it strongly shapes the way we look at transportation (especially transit) around us. The sort of infrastructure that may well serve a "commuter" will likely be very, very different from the sort of infrastructure that will serve a person on a different sort of outing- and, for our transportation system to be effective, we need to plan for every sort of journey a person is likely to take.

An analysis of transportation in Kane County, IL (a suburban county outside of Chicago, and the first data point I found on Google) shows that work trips make up roughly 23% of all trips. Of course, these trips are highly concentrated at particular times of day- this is why "rush hour" congestion occurs- but they are notably not even a quarter of trips. Add in the 9% of "school" trips (many of which I'm sure are K-12, not university) and you still only get 32%, a little less than a third. So planning exclusively for work trips is missing somewhere between 2/3 and 3/4 of journeys taken- a vast majority.

What do we get when we plan transit just for work trips? We get things like Metrolink and RTA's CommuterLink- systems that run only during peak hours, Monday-Friday. We get a local bus system that shuts down by 7 or 8 pm- just when things are starting to get interesting! We get an understanding that, while transit might be a viable alternative for getting to work and back, you're still going to need a car when you get home if you want to go anywhere else- making it impossible for people to realize the financial and health benefits of car-freedom.

What do we get when we plan cycling facilities just for work trips? We get bicycle parking ordinances that require showers, lockers and storage rooms for employees while customers chain up to the handicapped parking sign. We get commuter cyclists advocating within their companies for better cycling facilities, while the community at large does without. We get a community of cyclists that ride to work and back every day, and then get home, get in their car and go out to dinner.

What do we get when we plan auto infrastructure for work trips? We get bloated freeways, highways and streets to keep up with peak-hour demand, while our pedestrian, transit and cycling environments suffer, and we get people who find it incredibly easy to just keep driving to work because, after all, they need their car when they get home.

We need to start thinking of transportation infrastructure- especially transit- for every sort of trip people make, rather than just the daily commute. If we don't, we will perpetuate auto-dominance for the other 75% of trips, which will feed demand for more "commuter" automobile facilities.

So I encourage you all to stand up and say with me- I am not a commuter. I am a traveler.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Polls are closed

Polls are now closed in California. If you're anything like me, you're going to go watch the results come in (and drink heavily). Watch this blog for updates on local elections in the coming days.


Polls are open now, and will stay open until 20:00 (8:00 PM) tonight! Go vote, if you haven't already done so.

You can check with the RivCo Registrar of Voters to find your polling place. If you need transportation to the polls, the Hedrick for Congress campaign will have volunteers stationed throughout CA-44 to assist you- call (951) 218-1227. (Of course, if you'd like to volunteer with the campaign today, call that number as well.)

Nobody thinks this race will be tight... but nobody thought so in 2008 either. Get out and make a difference today!

Monday, November 1, 2010


I've written before about the transportation inequities just within our own city. While cars get plentiful infrastructure (varying in maintenance) everywhere, the experiences of pedestrians, cyclists and transit riders vary wildly with the neighbourhood they inhabit, and are especially poor in areas like Casa Blanca and Arlanza, where alt-transport is desperately needed.

So how bad is it out there?

I was out canvassing for Bill Hedrick on Saturday morning in Arlanza. On my way back, I needed to cross Van Buren at Audrey (across from the Wal-Mart). The intersection is right-turn-only for vehicles, so I dismounted my bike and pushed the pedestrian signal. For whatever reason, I also started singing "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall" to myself. (I'm strange.)

When the signal light finally allowed me to cross the busy, high-speed thoroughfare, two complete light cycles had passed- and only 67 bottles of beer remained on the wall.

Something's wrong here.

(By the way, this is post #400 on Riding in Riverside!)