Monday, May 30, 2011

A little late- but REMINDER!

As commenter Five Before Midnight has already found out, there is no RTA, Omni or Metrolink service today.

Use the time trapped at home to honour the memory of those lost in the First, Second and now Third (Libyan) Oil Wars, and to hope for a day when our way of life doesn't depend on sludgy supply pipelines from unstable regions of the world.

BruceMcF (of "Burning the Midnight Oil") has a great piece on "Why We Fight." A hint? It's oil.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Connecting Desert Communities

One problem with San Bernardino County's smaller, more rural transit providers is the fact that they operate as islands, failing to provide inter-regional connections that are critical for many local residents. Anyone from the Victor Valley knows that it is difficult to live your life entirely within its confines, and that journeys "down the hill" to the more urbanized areas of the Inland Empire are commonplace for most. A good portion of Victor Valley residents commute "down the hill" as well. Similarly, residents in both the Victor Valley and Barstow have social, economic and governmental reasons for taking trips between both communities- I took my first driver's license exam at the Barstow DMV, for example. (I failed that time, later passing in Victorville.)

Unfortunately, for anyone in the Victor Valley or Barstow areas who finds themselves without access to a car, there was essentially no regional transit service in the desert communities. The Victor Valley Commuter service, which used to run weekday peak-hours between various points in the Victor Valley, was discontinued many years ago due to low ridership. (I've discussed why in a previous post.) Greyhound is an option, but not a terribly convenient one for bus riders as most local buses don't serve the (admittedly very nice) terminal. Amtrak does serve Victorville with one train daily, but the arrival times don't connect with local transit service for service to LA. (With a few hours' waiting at the station, you could use transit to connect to/from service to points east.)

At least one glaring hole in the transit network has been closed, though. No, sadly, it is not the Victor Valley-San Bernardino bus that I'd really love to see- although SANBAG has concluded their Commuter Needs Study and will hopefully start something up soon. However, the Victor Valley Transit Authority now provides service on the "B-V Link" route, connecting Victorville with Barstow. Fare is $6 each way, and it includes a transfer to all VVTA and BAT routes. Unlike the VV Commuter, this service is designed to connect with major destinations and transit services, linking VVTA's transfer points at the Victor Valley Mall and 7th and Lorene with BAT's transfer point at City Hall, as well as major medical destinations and Barstow's Senior Centre. Of course, it only runs three days a week... but you've gotta start somewhere.

I wonder if they use the Metroliners that used to run the Commuter service...

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Endorsements 2011

It's election time in River City, ladies and gentlemen, and that means it's time to take a look at where the candidates stand on transportation, land use and urban issues. This year, seats are up for grabs in Council Wards 1, 3 and 7. (Incumbent Chris MacArthur is running unopposed in Ward 5.) Ballots have been mailed out to voters, and are due back by June 7th.

Headlines: Yeager for Ward 1, Bailey for Ward 3, and Brandriff for Ward 7.

Let's start in Ward 1. Ward 1 comprises the North Side, Downtown, the northern half of the University area, the Wood Streets and the Hunter Park industrial area. Of particular interest in urban issues is Downtown, the densest part of the City. Currently running for the seat are incumbent Mike Gardner, local politico Dom Betro (no web site available), teacher Dvonne Pitruzzello, and LA Metro executive Marisa Valdez Yaegar.

First off, Dom Betro (who held this seat before Councilman Gardner) ought to be off of anyone's list. His name is nearly synonymous with political scandal in Riverside, particularly in terms of eminent domain abuse.

Pitruzzello has generated a lot of buzz in the local political press, but two things about her make me wary. First, she supports ending metered parking downtown- currently the only place in Riverside it actually exists. Not a great plan for downtown's walkable future. Second, one of her key issues is the elimination of "wasteful spending"- which, in politician-speak, usually means all spending. We're in the middle of an economic crisis, but the City of Riverside is still quite sound and still doing good things to help out her citizens. We don't need somebody on the Council willing to end that.

Now, we get down to the hard choice in this race. Mike Gardner has been a capable Councilman (I usually count him among the votes on "our side" of urban issues), and he seems to really reach out to his constituents. He also uses alternative transportation- if you count a Segway, that is. He is in favour of downtown parking.

Yeager, on the other hand, is trained in political science and works for Los Angeles Metro. She has a degree in policy and experience in transportation. While she is (deliberately?) vague about her issue stances, she could be a powerful force for good in Riverside's transport policy. She also has an impressive list of endorsements from what counts for Riverside's political left- Democratic Congressional candidate Bill Hedrick, RCCD trustee and candidate for Assembly Jose Medina, even statewide figures like Gavin Newsom. I'm feeling lucky- I endorse Marisa Valdez Yaeger for Ward 1. That said, if you have your reasons, Gardner's not a bad pick- but don't vote for Betro or Pitruzzello.

Ward 3 comprises a broad swath of the middle of the City. Running from the west side of Chicago Avenue all the way down to Van Buren, it covers the Airport, Magnolia Centre, Ramona, and southern bits of the Canyon Crest neighbourhoods. Incumbent Rusty Bailey is running against retired ironworker Jim Davis.

Mr. Davis is running a very conservative, economically populist campaign- correctly pointing out that unemployment is a huge issue, and yet spending most of his time on pensions and immigration. If you read the speech he gave to the Friday Morning Club, you'll see why I couldn't support such a candidate. (He goes so far as to lament the nation's military defeats, criticize the Ho Chi Minh statue downtown, and did you catch the subtle racism at the end there?) On the bright side, he does support food trucks.

Councilman Bailey is, thus, the other option- but he has several things to recommend him to urbanist voters. Not only is he for "targeted" infrastructure spending, but he also speaks positively about both a bicycle corridor system and the high-speed rail project. (He does, sadly, put the bicycle plan under "Parks and Recreation" rather than "Traffic and Transportation.") I endorse Rusty Bailey for Ward 3.

Last, we have Ward 7. On the far southwestern edge of the City, the ward contains La Sierra University... and a whole lot of low-density single-family homes, many in new tract developments. There's a three-way race on between incumbent Councilman Steve Adams (no campaign web site), former mayor Terry Frizzel and UPS driver John Brandriff.

Steve Adams... what can I say that I haven't already said? He was a key force in evicting Greyhound, he favoured sending HSR down I-15 instead of through Riverside, and he is the #1 biggest user of the free cars provided for councilmen. Every other member of the Council said they'd be willing to give up the car perk. Not only that, but he's also the only Council member who has ever been personally rude to me in a meeting. Google around and you can find any of a dozen more scandals involving Councilman Adams. Ward 7, vote this bastard out please.

Terry Frizzel has garnered considerable praise from others in the City political blogosphere, such as it is, but she has a serious problem with density. One of her biggest issues with Councilman Adams was that he allowed too much growth in the ward. Anti-density politics are not uncommon out in that stretch of the City, but I can't say it endears a candidate to me. She did mention that residents have a right to better public transportation service, but was unspecific as to what.

That leaves us with John Brandriff, a union activist and UPS driver, who has served on several boards and commissions throughout the City. Among Mr. Brandriff's issues is a concern for bus-dependent residents of his ward. He notes, correctly, that the last bus bound for Ward 7 leaves residents entirely unable to participate in City Council meetings, and has come out directly in support of extending the span of RTA service to his ward (presumably along Route 15). He also doesn't seem to have the same hostility to density that plagues Ms. Frizzel- while he does see a need to protect open space, he seems to advocate a cooperative process that balances community concerns and development. Therefore, I endorse John Brandriff for Ward 7.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

It's about damn time!

It's only been, oh, several YEARS since the ZipCar iPhone app was released, but finally Zipsters who carry Android phones get an app! The app allows you to search for and reserve cars, check your account details and billing, and lock/unlock and honk your ZipCar, making it easier to find in a parking lot. If, like me, you value flexibility in both your automobiles and your cellular phones, download the ZipCar Android app today!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Jarret Walker agrees with me!

Which probably means I'm right. Mr. Walker, the guy behind Human Transit, just posted a stunningly pictorial version of my argument here, saying that MSA's are a really awful way of measuring transit service. He also specifically cites the Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario MSA as the prime example of that awfulness, noting not only the vastness of the MSA but the many separate communities that lie within it, "largely experienced by locals as different metros." He cites Riverside/San Berdoo/Ontario and Palm Springs. I'd add in the Victor Valley area, the Barstow area, Needles, and Blythe- all separate communities, all the same MSA.

Sadly, I can't take credit for this post- Mr. Walker is a smart guy, and I'm sure he could come up with the same good idea independently. Still, his posting it pretty much confirms that it's a good idea.

Cars claim another victim

UCR's Chancellor, Tim White (some of you may have seen him on CBS' reality show Undercover Boss a few weeks ago- I didn't) sends out a letter to the campus community every Friday. Most often it is shameless self-promotion, but if there has been a death in the campus community he often reports it. Generally, that's limited to distinguished alumni and emeriti- we recently lost a long-retired political science professor.

Sadly, this was not the case today. Sharon Higgins, a third-year from the Bay Area, was struck and killed by a tractor-trailer while standing beside her car on a freeway on Tuesday, another victim of our auto-centric transportation system. During the same week, two of my own students were in automobile collisions- and no, it's not just because they had a paper due. They both had documentation from the ER. (They're thankfully both fine.) Yet another one of my students had a flat tire on Tuesday, probably putting him in the same peril that took Ms. Higgins' life.

Cars not only kill tens of thousands each year- and maim hundreds of thousands more- but they are indiscriminate and difficult-to-avoid killers. They are the leading cause of death for children, teenagers, and young adults. Furthermore, while you can do something about the second-most common cause of death in America (heart failure), no amount of exercise, diet and medical treatment will remove the danger of automobile collisions. Being a good driver isn't enough, because it only takes one bad driver on the road near you... and we've all seen enough bad drivers to start a mass slaughter. Even foregoing driving isn't enough, as bicyclists and pedestrians injured and killed by cars can attest to.

When will we stop the carnage? How many promising young lives need to be snuffed out before we wake up and make safer transportation choices? I fear it will be far too many.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Required Reading Cheat Sheet

A while ago, I recommended David Owen's Green Metropolis. For those of you who haven't been by the library/bookstore to pick up a copy, I learned that he wrote an essay entitled Green Manhattan in the New Yorker some time ago that makes many of the same points. As is befitting, the book is a much more data-packed and well-sourced version of the argument, but if you'd just like to get the gist of things, go read Green Manhattan.

UPDATE: The New Yorker has put Green Manhattan behind a paywall, but a PDF copy is available here.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Trolleys Expand Their Range

According to the Transit Coalition's Nicholas Ventrone, RTA is now running route 24 in Temecula with their trolley-themed buses. Observant riders will note that (because of the useless and ornate cowcatcher on the front) these buses lack bicycle racks. If I haven't mentioned this shortcoming before on the blog, I'm disappointed in myself- this limitation severely curtails bicycle capacity in the UCR area by not accepting bicycles on the 51 and 53 shuttles. Of course, these are relatively short-distance routes, both of which cover easily-biked distances. The 24, on the other hand, is one of the main local bus routes in the Temecula area, covering nearly the entire city on an over-10-mile route.

In areas with poor public transit service, like Riverside and especially Temecula, the combination of bicycles and public transit can afford users substantially more flexibility than either mode alone. Ensuring that this combination is unusable will drive customers away from transit, increase automobile use, and significantly reduce the utility of route 24.

Stylized trolley-themed buses are not incompatible with bike racks- the entire Highlander Hauler fleet (UCR's shuttle system) is a set of blue Cable Car Classics trolleys, and each one of them is equipped with a little-used bicycle rack. RTA's trolleys choose to utilize the space in the front of the bus for useless ornamentation rather than bicycle capacity. I urge RTA to find a way to return bicycle capacity to Route 24 as soon as possible.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Metrolink Fare Changes Approved

The fare changes that I reported on in this post have been approved by the Metrolink Board. Specifically, the 10-Tripper and Friends and Family 4 Pack have been eliminated. In their place, a 7-Day pass and a $10 Weekend pass have been instituted. Also, college students will now receive discounts on one-way and round-trip tickets, as well as on monthly passes and the new 7-Day pass.

Take photos of the Metrolink validator machines- they're on track to disappear.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Riverside: One of the Worst Cities for Transit?

As reported in Time, Riverside has been named by the Brookings Institution as one of America's top-ten worst cities for public transit to work. On the face of it, you might think this is an intuitive outcome. After all, I'm here on the blog complaining about transit out here a few times a week. However, there's some digging to be done into the methodology behind this report. Of course, top ten lists are always flawed (as noted recently by Human Transit), but this particular report has a particular bias against us here in the IE which I'd like to note.

The report does two things that are methodologically questionable. First, in a laudable attempt to be objective, they rank each city in accordance with three metrics: coverage, measured by the percent of working-age population near a transit stop; median rush-hour frequency; and the percent of jobs reachable in 90 minutes on transit. A quick glance shows that Riverside does poorly on only one of these metrics- the percent of jobs reachable in 90 minutes on transit. I'm assuming this is because the report looks at the jobs that people residing in the area currently hold, and we do have our fair share of truly epic commuters out here. This disadvantages Riverside, however, because it essentially measures the rate of out-of-area commuting. You'll note that the inhabitants of the top 10 positions on this list are all relatively small self-contained centres rather than suburbs. Further, the results are extremely sensitive to this measurement flaw: if we disregard the jobs measure, Riverside compares favourably to Provo-Orem, UT, number 9 on the top 10.

Second, the report measures not cities but "Metropolitan Statistical Areas." The Census bureau divvies up the counties of the U.S. into MSAs, and this works pretty well for most places. Counties in most areas are relatively small, cohesive economic units. The Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario MSA, however, encompasses the entirety of San Bernardino and Riverside Counties. That means that everything from Montclair to Needles, from Corona to Blythe is included in the MSA, and therefore the Brookings report.

To put this in perspective, San Bernardino County is 51,934 km², making it the largest county in the lower 48 (exceeded in area only by several Alaskan Boroughs.) It is larger than 9 states, and larger than the smallest 4 states combined. Riverside County is no slouch either, clocking in at 18,667 km² (still larger than RI, DE, and CT). The Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario MSA, then, is 70,601 km², larger than West Virginia. The portion of this region that might count as a "city," however, is at best limited to parts of the RTA, Omnitrans, Sun Transit and VVTA service areas.

While there are other reasons to think that this report isn't capturing what we mean when we think about "good public transit"-- for example, both Merced and Fresno rank higher than New York City or San Francisco-- the ways in which it particularly slights the Inland Empire are worth pointing out.

UPDATE: The inestimable Human Transit has covered the more general weirdness of the Brookings measures.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Another reason not to drive

A woman crashed her car into a utility pole about a block from my apartment. A colleague saw the fire last night. Just another example of the carnage that we accept on a daily basis from our transportation system.

Transit buses are over 170 times safer than cars, with rail over 400 times safer. Cycling is roughly 50% safer than driving on a per-hour basis, and cyclists generally spend fewer hours on their bikes than drivers in their cars.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Service Changes

Just a quick reminder: both RTA and Metrolink are now operating on new schedules. RTA switched on Sunday, Metrolink on Monday. Read the summaries of the changes here (Metrolink, RTA).

Sunday, May 8, 2011

This Week in Transit

Happy Mother's Day! Don't forget to do something sweet and embarrassing to show your mom you care.

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.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

California High-Speed Rail Outreach

The California High-Speed Rail Authority is holding outreach meetings out in our neck of the woods in two weeks' time. They'll be touring around eastern LA County and the IE in order to solicit feedback on the Los Angeles-San Diego section of the Cal HSR system. I encourage all train- and transit-loving citizens to come out and make your opinions heard, because I guarantee the other side will be there. You do NOT want only their voices to be heard in this debate.

The meetings will be held at the following dates, times and locations:

Murrieta Public Library, Monday, 16 May
4:00p to 7:00p in the Community Room
8 Town Square, Murrieta, CA
RTA #23

Montclair Senior Centre, Tuesday, 17 May
4:00p to 7:00p
5111 Benito St., Montclair, CA
Omnitrans #65 (Walk W. on Benito from Central/Benito)

Ganesha Park, Pomona, Wednesday, 18 May
4:00p to 7:00p
1575 N. White Ave., Pomona, CA
Foothill #197

Orange Terrace Community Centre, Riverside, Thursday, 19 May
4:00p to 7:00p
20010 Orange Terrace Pkwy., Riverside, CA
RTA #27, walk from #22 (0.7mi E. on Orange Terrace Pkwy. from Orange Terrace/Trautwein)
(I'll be attending this one.)

Ontario Airport, Monday, 23 May
4:00p to 7:00p in the Administration Conference Room
1923 E. Avion Dr., Ontario, CA
Walk from Omni #82 (N. on Vineyard, then E. on Avion from Haven/Vineyard) or bike from East Ontario Metrolink (W. on Mission, N. on Vineyard then E. on Avion).

Norman Feidheym Library, San Bernardino,, Tuesday, 24 May
4:00p to 7:00p in the Kellogg Room
555 W. 6th St., San Bernardino, CA
Omni #2, #3, #10, #11, walk from SB Transit Mall, MARTA OTM, Greyhound
(From Transit Mall, walk 4th to E St., then N. on E to 6th.)
Bike from San Bernardino Metrolink

Corona City Hall, Tuesday, 21 June
4:00p to 7:00p in the Multipurpose Room
400 S. Vicentia Ave., Corona, CA
RTA #1, Corona Cruiser Red, Blue
Bike from North Main-Corona Metrolink

Josephine Knopf Senior Centre, Fontana, Wednesday, 22 June
4:00p to 7:00p
8384 Cypress Ave., Fontana, CA
Walk from Omni #10 (N. on Cypress from Arrow/Cypress), Walk from Omni #66 (E. on Arrow to Cypress, then N. on Cypress from Arrow/Juniper)

Meetings are also on the LA-IE-SD calendar from the CHSRA, which is the orange bit in the regular "This Week in Transit" posts.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

This Week in Transit

I just realized I haven't posted one of these since February. If anyone knows of a good way to do recurring posts in Blogger, let me know.

As usual, 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.