Thursday, June 16, 2011

You want to put my train station... where?

Mead Valley, that's where. Don't know where Mead Valley is? That's okay, you're not alone. Happily, I've provided a map:

View HSR in Riverside in a larger map

When we last left the HSR saga, the Riverside station was proposed for the Orangecrest neighbourhood of Riverside, at Alessandro and the I-215. The site was, shall we say, sub-optimal-- surrounded in every direction by single-family housing, much of it literally walled-off from the nearby streets. Also nearby is a large, typically suburban shopping centre, anchored by a K-Mart, and a trailhead for the Sycamore Canyon Wilderness Park. Not exactly a thriving, mixed-use urban paradise well-suited for an HSR station, which is why I opposed the site.

Bad enough, but it gets worse. You see, I went out to an open house put on by the Authority a few weeks ago, at the Orange Terrace Community Centre. The engineers have refined their station locations a bit more, and the old location was unsuitable for the station. Turns out that you can't built a station- or even track- off the end of a runway, so the train has to go below grade at Alessandro. So the engineers decided to move it down the track a bit... to here:
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Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that is the proposed site of the new "Riverside" high-speed rail station. As you can see on the map above, it's not in Riverside, nor even Moreno Valley. It's in the unincorporated community of Mead Valley, just across the freeway from Perris. There is no transit nearby, no houses nearby, no meaningful commerce nearby- unless, of course, you'd like to buy surplus building materials or ship a few tons of air freight. Here's another view:

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I even caught a few panoramic shots of the location, so you could see the abject nothingness of it all:

2011-06-04 16.40.07

And, by the way, the site eschews the most populous and vibrant city in the Inland Empire for a community that looks like this:

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Now, I mean no disrespect to those who live in rural communities, but this is not a place for a high-speed rail station. If you want to bring infrastructure here, try bringing sewers and gas lines- most residents are on septic tanks and have to purchase propane from the local general store. Oh, yeah, there's a local general store:

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This is not the sort of downtown-to-downtown service that the Authority promised us.

There is an alternative. While the authority never considered a downtown Riverside station (and for good engineering reasons- turns out they need to build the system so that trains can pass through all but the termini at speed), they did consider two others in Riverside proper: one at Watkins and Blaine St. and one at I-215 and MLK. The one at Watkins and Blaine was removed from consideration due to expected community opposition- the University Neighbourhood Association killed a rather-minimal Metrolink station at the site, so an HSR station would probably be unthinkable- but the I-215/MLK station was removed for much shoddier reasons.

You see, both the Mayor and UCR's Executive Vice-Chancellor wrote letters to the Authority specifically requesting that the station be put at March Field. I don't know about the Mayor's reasoning, but UCR asked that the station be put at March Field instead because the UCR 20-year plan calls for PARKING STRUCTURES, not a high-speed rail station, around the overpass where the station would be.

Now, if I'm a student at UCR in 2031, when gas prices are so high that only the well-off can afford to drive, I wonder what would be more useful to me: a bunch of parking structures, or a high-speed rail link to the rest of the state? Also, while UCR has literally acres of land on which to build more parking, the HSR station can only go in a few places. If it's a choice between right on campus (full disclosure: literally steps from my office) and Mead Valley, I say we convince the campus to move their parking structures.

UPDATE: I should probably mention that the photos that weren't taken at the station site were taken on the bike ride to the site, as it is 1.5 miles from the nearest transit line (the 22).

7 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing this information. It's a farce!

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  2. Rene-

    Don't tell me, tell your mayor and council members.

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  3. Wasn't the proposed Metrolink Station in Mead Valley killed by local oppisition. How would an HSR station in Mead Valley be accepted? And why is it about 2 miles up the road at Harley Knox where said Metrolink station was planned at Cajalco Road?

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  4. I already did, literally after reading this article.

    Mike replied that he's not aware of this new development. He's on jury duty and I'm sure he will find out more details. I begged the Mayor and Mike G. to try convince UCR to change its tunes.

    This is a ripe opportunity to mobilize support because I see the stars aligned properly. We need to get Chamber of Commerce involved along with transit advocates. It's no brainer that having a HSR near downtown Riverside will create economic boom. It will help disadvantaged communities to take advantage of HSR's routes for commute jobs. It will help launch UCR to have a competitive advantage compared to other universities. UCR may be the only one in UC system that has a HSR station in its backyard.

    I already explained that to Mike G. and Mayor. I don't understand why they don't see the benefit of having HSR near UCR.

    I believe that the city should convince UCR, no matter what to build HSR station on their premises.

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  5. @Anon-

    At this point in time, no Metrolink station is (or has been) planned at the HSR site. Authority planners assure me that an infill station could be constructed when HSR opens. However, the nearest currently planned PVL stations will be at Alessandro and downtown Perris.

    I'm unaware of any community opposition to a Cajalco Rd. station, but that doesn't mean it wasn't there.

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  6. Got this email:

    Mr. Visco -

    Thank you for writing. I am glad we have strong supporters for high speed rail in Riverside such as yourself. I checked with the consultant charged with outreach for the San Diego to Los Angeles via the Inland Empire section of HSR to be sure the station location has not changed. She informed me that
    "There have been no changes to the station plans for the High-Speed Train project in the Riverside area. The March Air Reserve Base continues to be shown as the preferred station location. "

    Thank you,

    Eric Ustation
    Assistant to the Mayor

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  7. Rene- "March Air Reserve Base" is what they're calling this station location. It's only a couple of track miles down the line from the old one, and still adjacent to the air base. They've simply re-defined "March Air Reserve Base" from Alessandro to Harley Knox.

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