Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Hey Riverside, Go Transit!

The awkwardness of the title should not be attributed to me, but to the Riverside City Council, who instituted the Riverside Go Transit program quietly on Monday. After a registration process (which sounds no more difficult than getting a library card, but which I will be testing tomorrow), residents of the City of Riverside will be permitted to purchase, either in person at City Hall or online, subsidized RTA local bus passes. The cost of a monthly pass will be reduced by 30%, and the cost of a weekly pass by 20%. Here's a quick table:




Type of PassNormal CostSubsidized Cost
General 30-Day$50.00$35.00
Youth 30-Day$35.00$24.50
Senior/Disabled 30-Day$23.00$16.10
General 7-Day$16.00$12.80


I had heard from Mayor Loveridge's office a long while ago about how he was planning on bringing subsidized bus passes for low-income riders to Riverside, and I assume this is the program he was talking about. I need to point out, though, that this program is not simply for low-income riders (though certainly they will benefit), but for ALL residents of Riverside. No matter who you are, what you do, or how much you earn, you too can buy cheap bus passes from City Hall. There are no qualifications except that you live in the City of Riverside and are able to prove it. Though I'd still like to see the City put up some money for operations funding (because, despite growth in ridership, revenue is still shrinking and so is service), I can appreciate that the City Council and Mayor have created a program here that will get more people on the bus, and that's a good thing.

A couple of notes, though. No, CommuterLink passes are not available. If you have a job worth putting up with a long freeway commute for, you can afford the pass. Local passes are good for $1.50 credit towards CommuterLink fare. Also, this is ONLY for people who live within the City of Riverside. There are a lot of spots out there (zip code 92509, I'm looking at you) with "Riverside, CA" mailing addresses that are not within the boundaries of the City of Riverside, but are actually unincorporated bits of Riverside County. A little tip-off: If your power bill comes from Riverside Public Utilities, you're probably eligible. If it comes from SCE, you should check the City Council's maps closely.

This wouldn't be a Riding in Riverside post without me pointing out some flaws, though, and that's just what I'll do. I mentioned that the registration process for the program sounded approximately equivalent to getting a library card (show up with a photo ID and a utility bill), except that the library has 7 branches in the City, and they're open at least into the evening. Riders wishing to use the Riverside Go Transit program have to get to the 4th floor of City Hall, and they have to do it between 8 am and 4 pm, M-F. No evenings, no Saturdays, no Sundays. Now, I know you government job types don't always understand this (I know, I'm a government employee!), but there's a lot of folks out there who have to work for a living, and often this "working" happens between 8 and 5 or so, maybe even later. This makes it kind of hard for them to make it in to City Hall for a bus pass. If I need an RTA pass, any day of the year, I can stop by Campus Shop-n-Go on Iowa and get one. If I'm using your program, the online ordering helps quite a bit, but getting that initial registration done is going to be a hurdle. Maybe you should consider moving the registration process out to a different government agency that's closer to the people, perhaps one that's already experienced at determining whether somebody's a City resident or not... Hey, I know, how about the Riverside Public Library?! 7 branches in the City, longer hours, it just might work.
Of course, if you're dead set on keeping this in the Public Works department, how about the Public Utilities payment locations? There's two of them, one downtown and one in Casa Blanca, and they have longer hours than 8-4. Hell, they could look up people on utility bills right there at the counter.

Second, and I've already raised this point with the City webmaster (or whoever answers webmaster at riversideca dot gov, I'm sure their title is "Web Developer" by now)- the FAQ on the program's web site currently lists a "Valid California Drivers License with an Address in the City of Riverside" as a requirement for eligibility. Now, I know that this isn't a requirement (and my readers should note that as well), because under "Program Guidelines", a longer and more formal explication of the program also lists "California Identification Card[s]" or other "acceptable forms of identification" as complying with the program, but not many folks are going to read that. Transit riders are often without driver's licenses, for whatever reason, and if this error is not corrected, people will get the impression that they are ineligible for the lack of one.

Last, but certainly not least, call RTA and tell them to include this program in their Ride Guide. There's a new one coming out in January, and this information is currently not in it. City Hall isn't even listed as a pass sales outlet. One of the few reliable sources for RTA information is the Ride Guide, and riders would certainly find this information interesting. At least put it on the RTA web site. Not everyone knows about this little blog (though I do appreciate the City sending me this press release, thanks!), and you could get a lot more response from one of these other media.

For reference purposes, here's the City's full press release, as posted on a comment to this blog:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
December 16, 2009


‘Riverside Go Transit’ Offers Significant Savings to Ride Bus
Savings of up to 30% off retail price of Riverside Transit Agency tickets

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – Recent City Council action is giving Riverside residents extra incentive to leave their cars in the garage and use public transportation, thanks to a new program dubbed ‘Riverside Go Transit.’ The goal of the program is to help take cars off the road and increase use of public transportation.

This program offers all Riverside residents the opportunity to purchase Riverside Transit Agency bus passes from the City at substantial savings: 30 day passes will be discounted by 30% and 7 day passes at 25%. This will drop the price of the 30 day general use pass from $50 to $35, and the 7 day pass from $16 to $12. The program will officially begin on Monday December 14th.

“Reducing air pollution and helping relieve traffic congestion is what this program is all about,” said Riverside Mayor Ron Loveridge. “Recently named California’s first Emerald City by the Department of Conservation, this program is further evidence of Riverside’s clean and green focus.”

The program will be funded with resources provided to Riverside by Assembly Bill 2766 (AB 2766), which was adopted by the State of California to provide a revenue source to jurisdictions to reduce air pollution from motor vehicles. Previous uses of these funds in Riverside includes the synchronization of traffic lights along major arterials to limit idling, and the Citywide Alternate Fuel Vehicle Rebate which encourages the purchase of hybrid and natural gas vehicles by city residents.

"Not only is this program a great way to encourage public transportation, it also comes during a time of high gas prices and economic challenges for many families," said Riverside Transit Agency Chairman of the Board Karen Spiegel. "We are pleased to work with the City of Riverside to make this important program a reality."

Passes can be purchased online by visiting www.riversidegotransit.com, or in person at the 4th floor Public Works counter in City Hall at 3900 Main St., Riverside, CA 92522.

3 comments:

  1. FYI - This program will be included in the January 20 RTA Ride Guide.

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  2. Eric, you must have sources that I don't have. I have a pre-printed copy of the Ride Guide from RTA, located at http://www.riversidetransit.com/downloads/RideGuides/RideGuide_10-01_vWeb.pdf which includes everything but the back cover, and no mention of this program is made. I assumed that this was the Ride Guide that RTA sent to their print shop. Please, correct me if I'm wrong.

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  3. Yes, the ad will be in the printed version.

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