Friday, April 29, 2011

San Bernardino = Yucca Valley?

You might as well put this thing in Yucca Valley.

That was one San Bernardino resident's reaction to the soon-to-be-built sbX bus rapid transit system along the E St. corridor. The man's other statements included calling the project a "boondoggle"-- which seems to be a word that means "non-automobile transportation" in Angry Old White Man-ese-- and saying that we need to "fix our freeways and the problems we have now," leaving open the possibility of constructing "this thing" later.
Most of the complaints in this article from the PE's ever-excellent Dug Begley are familiar-- businesses along the line are convinced that the change in traffic patterns along E street, making turning left more difficult, will mean that customers won't drive to their businesses-- and, of course, nobody who rides the bus has ever purchased anything in their lives. But Mr. Ott's assertion that the system will fail for lack of ridership is laughable. First of all, I highly doubt that the project would be underway if credible ridership projections didn't show a significant ridership base for the system. As-is, the #2 bus that serves the corridor sees nearly 5,000 boardings a day, or roughly 1/3rd of the population of Yucca Valley. Improved amenities and travel times along the corridor, as well as service realignments to feed the BRT stations, will send that skyrocketing.

Second, though, is that these comments point out how Riverside and San Bernardino see themselves as cities. I've often said on this blog that Riverside is the 12th-largest city in the state, and that it needs to start acting like it. However, much of what I hear when talking to people about our city is a suburban mentality. Here's a comparison for you:

Riverside is a city of 300,430 people, the 61st most populous city in the nation. It is the principal city of an urban area that contains 1.5 million people. Pittsburgh, PA is a city of 305,704, the 59th most populous in the nation. It is the principal city of an urban area that contains 1.7 million people.

Being situated as we are near the second-largest city in the nation, it is hard to remember at times that the Inland Empire, and its two largest cities in particular, would be dominant urban entities if they were located pretty much anywhere else in the country. We are in the same class of city as places like Pittsburgh, St. Louis and Cincinnati, at least in terms of population. (We're similar to Cincinnati in terms of density as well, though less dense than the other two.) Our city was once a place in its own right, before the land around the 10, 60 and 91 freeways filled in with suburban sprawl. When we are talking about building place and transit out here, we need to realize that we are not simply Los Angeles' sleepy bedroom communities-- we have here cities that are deserving not only of their own identities, but of all the amenities of city life, and the sooner our City leaders realize that, the better.


Anonymous said...

Well put.
It reminds me a bit of how Arlington, TX thinks of itself vis-a-vis Dallas and Ft. Worth.

JN said...

Though, to their credit, both Riverside and San Bernardino are served by a general-public bus system. Arlington, TX is the largest city in the US not served by a general bus system- voters have refused such a system three times. Perhaps this stems from the attitude detailed above?

Matt Korner said...

Most of San Bernardino's leadership gets it, even if a few Tea Party loudmouths commenting on the local newspaper Web sites are some of the only voices that people hear. The city has been doing everything possible to reposition itself to compete in the category of first-tier cities, including Los Angeles and San Diego.