Saturday, February 28, 2009

The 'Hound Bites Back.

I mentioned in my last post that I would be joining the 83,000 (thanks to my readers) riders who use the Riverside Greyhound station annually as of Thursday night. Well, we used the station, but that's all.

I did everything I thought possible. I picked up my tickets early, we traveled with carry-on baggage only (my standard policy), and we were at the terminal an hour before departure. I have to mention, of course, that the terminal has seen better days. The Greyhound sign has been taken down, the counter no longer serves snacks and beverages, and I'm pretty sure some seating has managed to disappear. Anyway, our 20:20 bus arrived five minutes early.

And the driver came into the terminal and said "I've only got two seats." There were nine passengers waiting for that bus in the terminal that night.

The ticket agent and driver made a valiant effort, but they freed up only two more seats, and Dani and I were not among the four who made it on the bus. The ticket agent then tried to get dispatch to send out a new bus, but to no avail. Finally, we were told that we were being re-routed through Los Angeles, and would arrive in Las Vegas at a bleary 4 or so in the morning. (Our original time of arrival was 00:40, late enough for my tastes...)

I told the ticket agent to refund my tickets, which she promptly did. She said that even this was generally against company policy, and further informed me that there were usually 20 people in San Bernardino that would subsequently be re-routed. (San Bernardino's personnel are working the Riverside station until the station's fate is known.) She also told me that the bus, a 53-passenger MC-12, had 45 people on board upon leaving Los Angeles. That means that the bus didn't even have enough capacity to accommodate Riverside alone, let alone the other stations on the route.

I ended up driving to Las Vegas, tired and in a foul mood, but I'm fortunate to have had the option. Greyhound should be ashamed to allow customer service to deteriorate to such a level, and they should understand that service like this creates a huge PR problem for those of us who would really like to see their service as an integral part of Riverside's intercity transportation.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Joining the 82,000

Tonight I'm joining the 82,000 Greyhound passengers that board or alight at Riverside's station every year. My wife and I have tickets through to Las Vegas, to go see a friend get married.

If it weren't for the Riverside Greyhound, I'd either be fighting traffic on the I-15, or I wouldn't be going at all. We certainly can't afford to fly. Oh, and did I mention I hate traffic?

Save the Greyhound.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Meeting write-up

Okay. So I promised a write-up on the public meeting held at RTA headquarters regarding the coming service cuts, so here it is. No promises on being cheery.

The meeting was run by Scott Richardson, Director of Planning. Two other office-y folks were in attendance, but I didn't catch their names.
Mr. Richardson assured the public of the necessity of cutting service, and the sheer abject poverty facing the transit agency. He explained that transit funding in this county comes primarily from sales taxes, and, since sales taxes are down, so is RTA's funding.

I spoke first for the public, delivering my petition (301 signatures) and a short speech on how public transit is the best deal out there for suffering Riverside County residents. Mr. Richardson acknowledged that I had good points, but also said it didn't change anything.

After me spoke Art Guerrero, ATU shop steward for the operators at RTA. He was concerned that the 14 would be run along the CA-91 freeway. He made a powerful, empassioned plea for the people who rode his route, saying that a freeway routing would bypass several important destinations. It moved everyone there nearly to tears. He was then told that the 14 will remain on Indiana, with no plans for a freeway routing.
I'll also mention that Mr. Guerrero said that there will be 20-30 layoffs of drivers at RTA. As a union rep, I'm sure he knows.

After Mr. Guerrero were two women from the CSU San Bernardino social work program. They'd apparently held a public meeting in Highgrove and asked RTA for additional service to their local community center. (You girls have got cajones, by the way. Even I'm not aggressive enough to ask for MORE service right now.) The RTA drivers on hand said that there was a feasible re-routing of 25 that was available. Mr. Richardson said he'd "certainly look at it."

The aftermath of the meeting was basically this: There's no money. Service is getting cut. The only question at this point is, what service, and the routes under consideration have been identified by RTA as the least-patronized. Mr. Richardson told us all that, if we want to save a route, we should ride it.

That's a good idea...

Friday, February 20, 2009


If you couldn't make it to the Tuesday night meeting (which was fun, and which I still need to find time to write up... busy week...), you can still comment on the fare changes. All of the official public meetings have passed, yes, but comments can still be submitted via e-mail (to, via telephone (at 1-800-800-7821), or by snail-mail, if anyone still uses that (ATTN: Director of Planning, Riverside Transit Agency, 1825 Third Street, Riverside, CA 92507). Furthermore, public comments will also be accepted (per the Agency Director of Planning) at the upcoming RTA Board of Directors meeting on the 26th of February, at 14:00 in the County Administration Center, Board of Supervisors Conference Room in downtown Riverside. (The meeting location has moved, and yes, this move seems to be permanent.)

Tell 'em you want effective transportation in Riverside County.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

"Are you the blogger?"

I'm being watched. I walk in to the RTA public meeting tonight (which I didn't see any of you folks at, tsk tsk tsk!) and the director of planning says to me "Hey, are you the blogger?".


More on the meeting later, when my grad school applications are finished.

Special Meeting

Riverside residents, heads up! I was on IE Craigslist's Politics section, and I found notice of a special meeting between the City Council and (*yech*)Congressman Calvert. It's at 9:30am on Wednesday the 18th, in the Mayor's Ceremonial Conference Room (that's seriously what they call it), and they'll be discussing, among other things, the Riverside transit center.

I can't make it. No way no how. I've already missed too much of my Japanese class. However, if you can make it, please please please please please be there, and tell them we need a modern, intermodal transit center here in Riverside. Don't let them redirect FTA funding to downtown transit center improvements, which most people say will only work if Greyhound is gone.

Info on the meeting here.

Monday, February 16, 2009


RTA public meeting, tomorrow night, 18:00, RTA headquarters.

That's at 1825 Third Street, Riverside, 92501.

If you're on the bus, the 10, 13 (alternate routing via Hulen) and 14 serve it directly, the 13 (normal routing) serves Third and Chicago, a short walk away, and the 1, 16, 22, and 25 serve University and Chicago, a bit longer of a walk away.

Come help tell the RTA exactly what you think of their "service changes."

Edit: You can read my route-by-route analysis of the service changes here.

Not so stimulating

From the Press-Enterprise, this article points out the road-centric nature of the recent stimulus bill, and it manages to quote some really annoying libertarian folks.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not a libertarian, but I can actually respect their position, unlike the Guns-4-Jeezus wing of the Republican party that has recently been ascendant. However, the analyst quoted in this article makes some really, really lousy assumptions.

Mr. Adrian Moore, when asked about the "drawbacks" of public transit, replied that "[in] particular, no one uses it." He also says that road spending "helps more local residents because most people drive."


I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that, literally speaking, Mr. Moore is entirely correct. Very few people use public transport in America, and more people do indeed drive. However, while he states this as simply given, public transit activists like myself see these truths as symptoms of a dysfunctional transportation infrastructure. Public transit is not inherently lousy. People do not eschew transit simply because it is transit. No, people choose to drive (and spend a LOT of money on their automobiles- I just got done talking with a friend about this) because it is the only reasonably convenient mode of transportation here, especially in the Inland Empire. I was out circulating petitions on Thursday and Friday (to oppose the service cuts) and I had SEVERAL people say "Man, the bus service around here sucks. Where I used to live (usually the Bay or back east), I didn't own a car, but I just can't do it here."

There IS demand for a reliable, comprehensive public transit system. There are plenty of people here who would love to be car-free by choice, but it's just simply not an option right now. The system desperately needs reform, and the stimulus plan is a very, very good place to start. It's too bad the IE is getting shafted.

Oh, and RTA, on that whole reliable, comprehensive transit system thing... Build the RapidLink! Omnitrans is doing it. Hell, the 25 will even connect with the planned sbX system. BRT along Magnolia would go a long, long way towards making transit a reasonable alternative here in Riverside.

Friday, February 13, 2009

"Service Discontinued Due To Low Ridership"

If I have to read the above phrase one more time I'm going to scream. I finally got my hands on a copy of the Service Changes brochure for RTA's recently proposed changes. Not much new information, though a few pretty maps are included, Lots of "service discontinued due to low ridership" though. So I figured it's time for a route-by-route analysis of what we're up against.

Complete cuts
  • Route 17, Moreno Valley. The indignity continues. A route that lost Saturday service just a few short months ago now finds itself on the chopping block. There are other routes in Moreno Valley that serve some of the same areas, but now trips that used to take one bus will probably take two.

  • Route 36, Banning/Calimesa/Yucaipa. Wow, yet again RTA has proposed cutting this route, the one and only bus service in Calimesa. I thought we'd saved it last time 'round. Let me tell you guys something. I grew up in a rural area. We had one bus route to one bus stop in our town, and it only showed up with 24-hour advanced reservation, but that bus route meant the world to me. Even just that tiny, tenuous link to the rest of the area meant opportunities both occupational and romantic that would have been unavailable without it. Even if the 36 does have rather low ridership (like the VVTA 21), it is a lifeline service. Respect that quality and keep it around.

  • Route 38E, Metrolink Express to Eastvale. I'm not surprised here. Eastvale isn't exactly a transit-friendly place. It does pain me to see this being cut but, let's be honest, in a relatively well-off new suburb, most riders are going to be able to drive at least as far as the Metrolink. It was an admirable try, RTA, but no great loss. Not to mention that there is still a link south to the North Main-Corona Metrolink.

Shortened routes
  • Route 3, Norco-La Sierra. In keeping with a long tradition of cutting the most tenuous links in the transit system, the RTA will be axing the portion of Route 3 that connects with Route 15 at Arlington/La Sierra. This is also the section that runs along 6th Street in Norco. You can read that as "Norco's Main Street", as that is effectively what it is. While the Hamner Ave. routing is still technically in Norco, this change would end the only service that actually goes *into* Norco in any effective way. There are basically no residential developments along Hamner, and so this re-routing will take bus service out of walking distance of many, many residents. (Knowing Norco, one solution could be a Hitch-N-Ride post along the route. Yeah, it's a horse town.) Note that the 3 may be combined with the 38.

  • Route 7 and 8, Lake Elsinore. I really don't know the Lake Elsinore area enough to effectively comment on this change. It might be a reasonable change, given the geography of the city. However, looking at the maps, it looks like they may be considering making this a circulator service. Circulators are BAD, BAD things, at least on anything like a citywide scale. If you want to move counter to the direction of the route (say, clockwise when the route travels counter-clockwise), you have to ride all the way 'round, which could very well be on the order of an hour or two for such a large run. Keep running the buses both ways, guys. It's the only way to run 'em.

  • Routes 10 and 14, Riverside, UCR to Tyler Mall. I grouped these two routes because RTA is trying to shuffle some route segments between them. The segment on route 10 from Tyler Mall to Pierce and Sterling will move to route 14, which will then give up service from Downtown to UCR. On the southern segment, this doesn't seem like a huge change. Riders from the area will still make it to Tyler Mall, and the routing via Indiana instead of Lincoln is not a terribly large change. Some individual riders will be inconvenienced (and I apologize), but on a system-wide scale, this doesn't seem too consequential. The northern segment, however, is a bigger deal.
    The downtown-3rd street-UCR segment is currently served by both 10 and 14. Cutting 14's service on this segment is akin to cutting service frequency on that segment, which travels deep into the impoverished Eastside neighborhood. Bad idea guys.

  • Route 16, Riverside to Moreno Valley. This route will be truncated at Moreno Valley Mall. It currently travels throughout much of the city, finally ending near March Air Force Base. While this will possibly improve service on the Riverside portion of the route, this cut, combined with the 17 and the next paragraphs, leave Moreno Valley in a bad place.

  • Route 18, Moreno Valley. Circulator? Did I mention something about that earlier? Yeah, circulators are just bad. Thinking that this is "replacement service" for the lost 16 and 17, and rerouted 19, is laughable. Oh, and cutting the service to RCC Moreno Valley is a really great way to ensure college access to the underprivileged. Nice job, guys.

  • Route 19, Moreno Valley. This will be rerouted to provide service on the bits of 16 that are going away. Of course, this leaves the cen tral portion of Moreno Valley even worse off, as if losing #17 isn't enough. These cuts leave transit service in Moreno Valley simply gutted.

  • Route 27, Riverside/Hemet/Sun City/Perris. Need I say it? "Duplication of service" is RTA for "transit service that is actually reasonably frequent". This one, maybe cutting the Sun City portion will make the rest of the route more efficient... but getting timed connections is going to be absolutely key if this is going to be cut.

  • Route 35, Moreno Valley/Banning. So, you're going to take what is essentially an inter-city express route, and force it to serve portions of Moreno Valley that you're cutting service to? It seems a touch anachronistic. Combined with the cuts being made to Route 210, and you're making it just more and more inconvenient to ride the bus in from the Pass area.

  • Route 38, Eastvale/Norco. The plan is to merge this route into Route 3, making one route along Hamner Ave. On the downside, this'll probably be an excuse to cut service frequency, but on the upside, this will replace the Eastvale/East Ontario Metrolink connection with a connection to the North Main-Corona Metrolink. Via surface streets, granted, but it's a nice start.

  • Route 40, Lake Elsinore/Sun City/Menifee. More "service duplication." Once again, having two routes serving one street just means transportation options for the people who live there, not inefficiency. When this "duplication" includes a community college, this is even more apparent. By removing the Route 40 service to MSJC-Menifee, you are removing a transportation option for those students, and yet again harming college access to those who most need it.

And lastly, the following routes are not undergoing routing changes, but just losing trips. Which is pretty much always a bad thing:
21, 23, 24, 29, 30, 33, 208, and 210. Also note that most of the above routes, aside from receiving routing changes, will also be losing some trips.

RTA, I hate to keep hammering on this, but you saw a 40% increase in ridership year-over-year. That is phenomenal for a suburban operator like yourself. People are turning to public transit in droves. With the economy the way it is, people need to get to jobs and college ever, and driving is just not an option for many. You provide an essential service for those who most need it in our increasingly depressed area. In the outlying areas of western Riverside County, you provide a tenuous lifeline for those who simply cannot afford to get around any other way. This round of service cuts, the second in six months, is simply unacceptable and will impact the daily lives of many, many residents of area.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

How they do it in Fontana

Recently I posted on a little excursion to Los Angeles. All told, things went pretty smoothly. Last week I took a trip to Fontana to retrieve a sweater I lost. Smooth was... not the adjective that came to mind.

A lot of other words came to mind, but I won't post them here.

Where to start? Okay, summary time I suppose. I rode my bike from UCR to the downtown terminal, took Omni 215-San Bernardino to 4th & E, transferred to the 10-Fontana to Baseline and Citrus, rode my bike to Baseline and the 15 freeway, got my sweater, rode a couple of blocks back towards Citrus, got lunch, hopped the 67-Fontana to Baseline and Citrus, caught the 10-San Bernardino back downtown, took the 215-Riverside to the RTA terminal and the 16 back home.

It started out innocently enough. I put my bike on the 215's rack, sat down, put on my headphones and started doing some philosophy reading. Twenty minutes later I look up and something is wrong. We're on the 60 speeding eastbound, passing through Rubidoux.
After determining that the driver is a newbie on the route who was trying to save us some time, another rider and I manage to talk her to Colton, where she re-joins the route. I was hoping to catch a Metrolink in San Berdoo, but alas this will not be. Thirty minutes down, we roll into San Bernardino. (For the record, the driver handled herself admirably, and I hope she isn't reprimanded too sternly. The route she was trying to take was confusing.)

This annoys me about San Bernardino. They don't have a bus terminal. They have the "4th Street Transit Mall", which is a fancy way of saying they have a three-block-or-so area where all the buses eventually end up in. Long Beach has a transit mall, and it works well. The street is bus-only, with ample pedestrian crossings and well-labeled stop locations (not to mention Metro Light Rail). San Bernardino's transit mall is the exact opposite.

So I catch the 10 across the street and am reminded that not everyone has low-floor buses. I comment on this to my wife via text message, and jokingly suggest that I'm glad nobody needs to get on with a walker. Three stops later, you guessed it, an older lady with a walker. A mile or two after that, the interminable wait of a wheelchair lift. Omnitrans, RTA has a bigger service area and less population density and they can manage low-floor buses. You've a higher farebox recovery rate and you advertise on your buses, can't you get the old ladies on board in less than five minutes?

Anyway, after a nice, long forty-five minute ride (which the 90 express used to do in 20, before it was cancelled), I disembark at Citrus and check the bus book to see if I can make a connection to the 67. Surprise! No timed connections, and the 67 has 1-HOUR headways. I thought I left those behind in the high desert, but I did bring my bike for a reason.

Heading back, I got to enjoy waiting for the 67. It was mysteriously hot in Fontana (global warming, anyone?) and I was full of food, so not ideal riding conditions. (Let's be honest- I'm not in as good a shape as I once was. I'm trying!) Once onboard, I noted how full the bus was. Not surprising, considering it only shows up once an hour. When I got off at Citrus to wait for the 10, I noticed how awful the facilities were. No benches. No shade. No nothing but a sign in the ground. Thanks, Omni.

It was then that it occurred to me that I ought to have taken the 67 down to the Fontana Metrolink. Looking back, it wouldn't have saved me any time at all, and would have cost more, but the air-conditioning factor would have been nice.

Anyway, the trip to Fontana, one that would have taken me no more than an hour round trip in my car, took me from 10:15 'till around 4:00. Please, Omni, bring back the 90 express. It's the least you could do.

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Issues

Time for a kind of big-picture post. I noticed I'm (to my surprise) gaining some notoriety in the local political circles. (Hi guys! I really wish some of you met at some time other than 7 in the morning.) I originally started this blog really not caring if anyone read it besides myself, but if you guys are getting something out of my rantings, then I shall try extra-hard to keep on ranting.

In that spirit, here's how I see it.

Transit, as an issue, is about two fundamentally different populations. Simply put, the riders who don't have cars, and those who do. (I fall into the latter class, though reluctantly.) These two populations are affected in very different ways by our policy decisions about transit and transportation, and so it's a good idea to have a clear idea of who we're talking about in mind when we talk about things like the upcoming service cut fight.

The folks that don't have cars are often called "transit-dependent" in planning literature. We're talking about seniors, the disabled, the poor, and in some cases students. These folks will ride whatever it is that happens to run in their area, simply because they don't get a say in the matter. These are the people who put up with the joke that is VVTA in the high desert, and some parts of the RTA system. (Eastvale, Norco, and Yucaipa/Calimesa spring to mind almost instantly.) Consequently, they are the most affected by transit policy issues. Cut the #36, for example, and these people are calling cabs or staying home, or perhaps even moving if they can. Remove the Greyhound station, and some days they won't be in Riverside. Other days they'll ride to San Bernardino and transfer, wasting hours and hours of their time to do even the simplest of tasks. I used to be transit-dependent, and I remember going to visit my then-girlfriend (now my wife of 4 years) in Ontario. It's a 30-minute drive. When the 204 was running (commute hours only), it was an hour's ride. Not too bad, when you consider the connections I was making. However, when the 204 was not running, it was a three-and-a-half hour ride along the old Omni 90. Now that the 90's been cut, that same ride might take me five buses and as many hours. Each way.

Cutting transit service affects the transit-dependent drastically and instantly. It is like placing jail bars around their home. They are no longer able to get around on their own. Having to ask somebody else for a ride every time you need to go somewhere gets old very, very quickly.

However, cutting transit service also affects those of us who aren't transit-dependent. First off, some of us choose to ride transit. I do. People ride for a number of reasons, and I won't detail them, but cutting service takes the choice of transit out of the equation. Don't like the $4/gal. gas prices? Tough. Car broke down? Get a rental. Stressed out, sick, or road raging? Deal with it. Secondly, transit provides innumerable benefits even to those who don't ride. Drivers, every time you see a bus along your daily commute, think to yourself that there'd be forty cars in the place of that single vehicle if that service wasn't there. (Now go Downtown, and count how many buses you see.) Transit reduces the environmental impact of our transportation system, unclogs our clogged streets, and gives people a choice in the rare case that they can't drive.

There's a story I heard somewhere about the man who was in charge of the redesign of the Fairmount Park boathouse. They say he was upset about having to include a wheelchair ramp, but by the end of the project he'd had a stroke and had to use the ramp himself to attend the ribbon-cutting.

So, even if you don't ride the bus, remember that transit is like that wheelchair ramp. It's good for the community, and it might just be good for you one of these days.

Friday, February 6, 2009

We got trouble.

UPDATE: The public meeting is scheduled for Tuesday the 17th, not Wednesday the 11th as previously reported.

Sorry for the lapse in posting, folks. Midterms. They're killer, and they continue. However, my time to get this word out is short. RTA is "upgrading" our bus service again, which in the Suburban Transit dialect of Bureaucratese means "cutting". These cuts are scheduled to go into effect in June of this year, and they will further erode bus service in a region where service is already anemic. In fact, some of the worst-hit areas in both January's cuts and the new proposal are the areas where service is at its most dodgy already. (Eastvale, Norco, north Moreno Valley) Back on the chopping block is #36, an ephemeral lifeline for Yucaipa and Calimesa and the only RTA/Omnitrans connection east of Loma Linda. Moreover, cuts are also scheduled for here in Riverside. The #3/#15 connection at La Sierra/Arlington is scheduled to go away, forcing all trips to Corona to go via Main Street on route 1, and further isolating Norco and Eastvale from Riverside.
The following routes are affected: 3, 7, 8, 10, 13, 14, 16, 17, 18, 19, 21, 23, 24, 27, 29, 30, 33, 35, 36, 38, 38E, 40, 42, 61, 208, 210

Chances are you've ridden one of these at some point.

There is a public meeting to discuss the changes a week from Tuesday at 6 pm at the RTA headquarters. I'm organizing a bunch of students, and we're all going to march down there and let 'em hear it. Various other public meetings are scheduled around the area, but if you want to show your solidarity, I'll see you on Tuesday.

Don't let RTA eat itself.

Monday, February 2, 2009


Okay, here's a question for all you transit riders and eco people out there. What does the new, sustainable transportation world look like?

There are basically two camps developing in the green movement when it comes to transportation. There are those who believe that we can reform the automobile, keeping the advantages (and maybe development patterns) of the private car while getting rid of the negative environmental consequences. These are the folks producing and promoting hybrids, electric cards, fuel-cell vehicles, and other such developments. (I hesitate to include ethanol, because ethanol really isn't a green fuel. It burns cleaner, but actually produces more CO2, as it has a lower energy density.)
The other camp is folks who believe that we must essentially replace the private automobile on a day-to-day basis. They call themselves the Car Free Movement, and they advocate for transit infrastructure and development patterns that allow the near-complete abolition of the private car. (I say near, as most advocate for some form of car-sharing arrangements for emergencies or long-distance trips.)

Browne at the Bus Bench posted a bit of a rant about the "GREENWASHING" she saw at the LA Green Expo. In my personal opinion, this is what the electric car/hybrid/fuel cell folks are doing- trying to convince people that they can buy their way out of this crisis. The fact of the matter is that our current society is unsustainable. Getting out of it will not be accomplished by simply buying a Prius.

Go over and read up on the Car Free City people. They have a real vision for the future, and it is a beautiful one. Livable, mixed-use communities, with ample opportunities for local retailers, connected by frequent and convenient public transport, and (most importantly) NO CARS. At least, not for most people on most days. It's beautiful. If they built a car-free development anywhere near my town, I'd move in immediately. (hint hint, Riverside planning commission) Furthermore, I think that their vision for the future, one that emphasizes less consumption and a change in development patterns, is a more credible one. They paint a gorgeous picture, but they acknowledge that it will take a lot of work to get there.

Compare that with the future implied by the other camp, which is a future of electrically-powered suburban sprawl. I know which one I'd like.