Thursday, February 16, 2012

Metrolink Synrome in Beaumont

UPDATE: For anyone wanting to actually *use* this new route, Beaumont Patch reports that reservations are required 24 hours in advance. They're also calling it the "Commuter Link"- I wonder how RTA feels about that.

The Press-Enterprise reports that Pass Transit officials in Beaumont will be offering a new express bus service between the Beaumont Wal-Mart and the San Bernardino Metrolink station. Obviously, this is great news to commuters heading from Beaumont to LA, or anywhere along the I-10 corridor (do people really drive that far every day? Holy hell...) every day, but there are a couple of worrying troubles with this route.

First, it seems to be exclusively designed for long-distance commuters connecting to Metrolink, and in that respect it is indicative of Metrolink Syndrome on the part of Pass Transit. At the Beaumont end, the bus will stop at the major transit center (at the Beaumont Wal-Mart parking lot), although it appears that the morning trips will leave too early to connect to any local routes. The PE reports, however, that the bus will proceed "directly" to the San Bernardino Metrolink, and that is troubling, because in doing so it will pass close to two major Omnitrans transfer centers- the Redlands Mall and the Downtown San Bernardino transfer center. It is difficult for me to fathom a rider willing to take transit from Beaumont to Los Angeles to work on a daily basis (although I suppose some would), but I can easily imagine a rider taking said transit from Beaumont to Redlands or San Bernardino. Facilitating their transfer to a local route would allow this new express bus to serve a much larger market of commuters, and might even someday allow it to expand to a more regular schedule than twice-a-day.

Second, the PE is unclear about reverse-commute schedules, and neither Pass Transit page (both Beaumont and Banning maintain one) has any mention of the new service. If the buses are to travel all the way to San Bernardino, only to deadhead back to Beaumont, this service will be missing out on yet another market. It's entirely reasonable to expect that there are people in San Bernardino who would like, on occasion, to go to Beaumont. It costs nothing to provide such an opportunity to them, and might help out the ridership numbers a bit. Allow the bus to connect at Omnitrans transfer points and pick up riders heading southbound, and you'll collect the transit-dependent folks who want to go to Beaumont.

Last, I'm concerned that this route may cannibalize ridership on RTA's Route 210. Pass Transit has made clear that they are marketing this route to long-distance commuters seeking to connect to Metrolink. There is already a bus that serves this market, RTA 210. It connects Banning, Beaumont, Moreno Valley and the Riverside Metrolink, and travels a bit more frequently than the new Beaumont route would. It also suffers from Metrolink syndrome-- for example, it doesn't stop at the Pass Transit hub at Wal-Mart. Neither route serves the transit-dependent well, which means both will be competing for those scarce-and-precious "choice riders." In doing so, it may lead to the downfall of both routes. Granted, these two buses would connect to entirely different train lines, and so it may be that there is a huge population of Beaumontians who work along the San Bernardino Line at points between San Bernardino and Los Angeles, but I'm skeptical. It would be safer for Pass Transit to serve the needs of the transit-riding population (and pick up under-served choice riders along the way), and in doing so ensure that both routes flourish.

Still, any new transit offering is something to be celebrated. Congratulations, Beaumont, on trying to improve your citizens' commutes.

1 comment:

cph said...

Beaumont posted the "Commuter Link" schedule on its webpage:

I don't particularly care for having to call for a reservation to ride, but it's a start. Hopefully, there will be expanded service, coordination with RTA's Banning-Moreno Valley-Riverside Route, and other improvements soon.