Monday, February 28, 2011

Bundu Bus?

I've lamented previously on the blog about how truly awful intercity transportation is out here on the West Coast. Trains are daily, if you're lucky, and Greyhound has its limits. The quirky and cheap Chinatown lines that ply their trade between every Northeastern city do exist here in CA, but as only a pale shadow of their Yankee cousins. And if you're car-free and want to visit some of the vast natural wonders that dot our region? You can do Yosemite with a little planning, or buy an expensive package deal with the Grand Canyon Railway, but that's about it.

So imagine my surprise when I put in an LA-SF itinerary in Google Transit (to take a look at the route of the Coast Starlight, and its relation to the coast) and Google spit out a handful of bus trips as well! The service was labeled as "Los Angeles to San Francisco," and Google said it was provided by Bundu Bus. Of course, I clicked on the link.

It seems that a tour operator, Bundu Bashers, has started providing bus service between major cities in the West and- this is the amazing part- the various national parks in the region. They serve Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, Bryce, Zion, Arches, Monument Valley, and even Yellowstone. They say that their full system only operates during the summer travel season (April 15-September 30), but even their reduced system serves all those places above, along with Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City and Phoenix. Fare is $52 LA-SF, which is in line with what you'll pay on Amtrak, but the trip is somewhat quicker.

One of their better deals, which I'm suddenly terribly interested in, is the "Hop-On Hop-Off" pass, providing unlimited travel on their system for 4, 7, 14 or 30 days. I may just spend some time soon flitting about the southwest on Bundu Bus. It's also really cool to see places like West Yellowstone, MT on Google Transit.

Downtown LA terminal is at 8th/Maple. Take the Metro 733 from Chavez/Alameda to 8th/Main, walk east one block and south one block.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Have you seen the price of gas lately?

My wife filled up our Civic to the tune of $32- $3.48/gallon. That's nearly 50 cents higher than what we were paying as recently as last quarter- and it isn't even summer, when the state-mandated switch to more expensive (but cleaner) gasolines is sure to cause supply problems and price spikes.

The cost of fueling my bicycle? Still zero.
The cost of transit? Still just $1.50 or less a ride!

We have reached the end of the cheap oil era. If you want to be able to reliably make a budget for yourself and your household from here on in, you are either going to have to allocate a whole lot of money for gasoline, or you are going to have to switch to less oil-dependent forms of transport. I encourage all of you out there in readerland to give it a try- dust off that bike in your garage (or pick one up used), ride it down to City Hall and buy a bus pass. (Don't forget your photo ID and utility bill.)

What are you waiting for? Gas prices aren't getting any better.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

PE Editorial Board Says Something Stupid

Really, that happens so often it shouldn't be news. When it's about transportation, however, I feel a duty to report it. The editorial in the paper yesterday calls on the federal government to lend Riverside County $400 million in order to further widen the already 13-lane-wide 91 freeway through the Yorba Linda canyon, up to I-15 in Corona. They say that this project is necessary because of the congestion that plagues this stretch of freeway- and don't be mistaken, traffic truly does suck there, all day long, every day. But, as we all know around here at RiR, widening freeways to reduce congestion is like loosening your belt to reduce obesity- it's just not going to happen.* What the 91 freeway corridor needs, and needs desperately, is transportation alternatives.

As it stands today, the Metrolink IE-OC and 91 lines, the OCTA 794 and the RTA 216 travel through the canyon. This sounds impressive, but it actually means very little in terms of congestion. Both Metrolink lines serve the area primarily during peak commute hours, and neither has impressive weekend service. (IE-OC has one train a day, and the 91 Line has none at all.) The 794 is similarly peak-commute oriented, and also makes no stops from Corona to Costa Mesa. The 216 runs 4-5 buses a day. This is simply not enough transit capacity to make a real dent in the 91 freeway. What we need to be doing to this corridor is not expanding the freeway, but expanding bus and rail service on and along it. No matter how many multi-billion-dollar construction projects we undertake, there will always be traffic on the 91 freeway. Latent demand along the corridor is such that, no matter how many lanes we add, drivers will be poised to fill them up. It would be a better use of our money and time to give drivers a choice- do they want to deal with soul-crushing traffic, or would they rather take transit?

Remember, by the way, that $400 million would be enough to DOUBLE RTA's annual budget for 10 years.

The fact that Riversiders generally, and the PE editorial board in particular, are ignorant of the vast body of research on the subject doesn't surprise me. However, I must wonder about the traffic engineers at RCTC.


Chen, Donald D.T. 1998. “If you build it, they will come: Why we can’t build ourselves out of congestion.” Surface Transportation Policy Project Progress 2(2):1–4.

Hansen, Mark and Yuanlin Huang. 1997. “Road supply and traffic in California urban areas.” Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice 31(3):205 – 218.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Bike Committee Meeting

The Bicycle Advisory Committee will meet on next Thursday, March 3rd, at 5:30pm in the Mayor's Ceremonial Conference Room, 7th floor City Hall. (3900 Main St., Riverside, CA 92501- served by RTA 1, 10, 12, 13, 15, 208, 210, 212 within a block, walking distance from downtown terminal.) A committee chair and co-chair will be selected at the meeting, and Mayor Loveridge will lead a discussion of Joyride, a book about the cycling experience in Portland, OR.

The public is invited, but asked to RSVP to Brenda Flowers either via telephone- 951.826.5813- or e-mail.

The agenda for the meeting is below:

1. Welcome/Self-Introductions & Updates
2. Selection of Officers
3. Discussion of "Joyride" by Mia Birk
4. Goal Setting
5. Next Meeting
6. Adjournment

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Driving for fun!

I've mentioned before that I don't have a problem with people driving for recreational purposes, if we can just make all their other day-to-day trips on better, greener transport. I can freely acknowledge the allure of the automobile- the ability for you, the driver, to have all of the abilities of a powerful machine right at your fingertips, to be used as you see fit.

Let me tell you, though, that I've never had so much fun driving anything as I did over the weekend at Corona's Pole Position Raceway. The proprietors have turned a warehouse into an indoor go-kart raceway- and these are not the go-karts that you've raced about at the local putt-putt centre. They maintain a fleet of electric 20hp karts with a top speed of 45mph. The electric motors mean they're both green AND fantastically powerful at every speed. The way the track is laid out, there's also really nothing for you to slam into- even the track barriers give way nicely, so you can drive these things as fast and as wild as you like.

The good news, alt-transport peoples, is that this is one of the many things that you can do in Riverside without a car! The raceway is a mere block from Magnolia/6th St. and Promenade in Corona, making it a short walk from RTA 1 and Corona Cruiser Blue. From Riverside or Corona, take either of these routes to Magnolia/6th and walk north one block. From elsewhere, take Metrolink to North Main-Corona and catch Corona Cruiser Blue to Magnolia/6th. Also, text "EK20" to 368266 to get a buy-one get-one coupon, giving you 2 races for $20. Satisfy your need for speed without involving a freeway.

Disclaimer: I have not received any compensation from Pole Position, but I did have a really good time there Sunday.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Cars: who needs 'em?

People will say that you need a car in order to do grocery runs. People are wrong. This is me bringing home $100 of groceries by bike- and this is without a trailer, longtail, or other two-wheeled cargo solution (beyond my rack and signature big red Campagnolo panniers).

Disclaimer: I have received no compensation from Dr. Pepper, Kroger Foods, or Fresh Step cat litter for this post.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

City Council Cars Considered Carefully

(Any day I get to pull off a five-word alliterative headline I feel good about myself. Onward!)

Apparently, as Election 2011 starts its slow simmer, the issue of City-provided cars for Councilmembers is becoming problematic. At present (as I'd previously reported) the 7 councilmembers get free City-owned vehicles, with free City-provided gasoline, insurance, and maintenance for their use. There are no penalties against them if they use said cars for personal reasons, though they're supposed to report personal trip expenses covered by the city as income to the IRS. (I'm sure that works about as well as California's "use tax" reporting- that is, not at all.)

I understand that, from time to time, a council member will have to attend a regional governing meeting or forum on the City dime. But why, exactly, are we paying to subsidize their driving everywhere? Note that, even if the councilmembers pay taxes on their personal driving, it's still you and I paying for it!

Apparently some councilmen agree. As reported today in the PE, even freshman Ward 4 councilman Paul Davis, who drives a City-owned car, is willing to give it up. Two weeks ago he defended his use of his City vehicle.

Of course, the big hold out on the policy is councilman Steve Adams, who costs taxpayers more than double the next-nearest user of the car perk. Apparently, having a car makes him a "better representative."

I'm fine with the Council either being provided vehicles for City-related business or reimbursed for their official travel- because, let's face it, our transit system is just not well-developed enough to allow our officials to flit about the southland with ease. Paying for whatever travel they like, whenever they like? Not happy. On your off hours, councilman, you get free transit like every other City employee- and that ought to be it.

As fellow blogger Chewie puts it, let's take the cars off welfare- staring with the City Council.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Cyclists- Time to Re-Lace Your Shoes

Most people simply leave their shoes laced they way they are at the store, or at best re-lace them in a simple criss-cross pattern. This is a wasted opportunity. There are literally billions of possible shoe-lacing combinations, of which hundreds have interesting functional or aesthetic properties.

Of course, this is an alternative transportation blog, so what am I doing talking about shoelaces? Well, it turns out that there is a way to lace your shoes so that you never get your laces caught in your bicycle chain again. My latest pair of sneakers has ridiculously long laces, which were frequently getting caught. Re-lacing them did the trick! Just remember to put the bow on the outside of your shoe, not the inside.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Vague Rail Article in the PE

Dug Begley writes this very vague article about RCTC studying Metrolink expansion. The focus of the piece is on the supposedly enormous cost of expanding our meagre Metrolink options.

The horrible price tag? $300m. Translation: Less than we spent on adding 4 miles of one lane to one side of the 91 freeway in the Yorba Linda canyon.

It irks me that every article about rail in our newspaper is about the costs, while every article about freeway expansion is about how wonderful and congestion-free the new roads will be, for all the happy motorists about to drive over them.

Furthermore, it seems that the cost estimates in RCTC's study are primarily driven by the need to add rail capacity in Los Angeles and Orange Counties, in order to get more trains into LA Union. This sort of model is based on a fallacious understanding of how people use transit: either we offer them a one-seat ride into LA, or they'll drive instead.

How about we offer a system with robust transfers?

Metrolink's current fare system allows for unlimited transfers in order to reach your destination. You simply buy a ticket to wherever you're going, and take the most direct route- which, from Riverside, sometimes (especially mid-day) means a transfer through Orange or San Bernardino. This could be encouraged- instead of sending more trains to Los Angeles at significant cost (because of capacity problems in LA and, especially for the Riverside Line, UP's pathological hatred of passenger rail), we could simply provide more service on the IE-OC Line, allowing passengers to transfer at either Orange or San Bernardino.

Previously, the Colton Crossing area was a bottleneck for trains. However, stimulus funds went to building an upgrade for those tracks, and so we should take advantage of this fact and run more trains through them. The San Bernardino Line already provides extremely frequent service to Los Angeles 7 days a week, albeit with a longer travel time. The Orange County Line is being upgraded to provide half-hourly service to Los Angeles all day long, and additional service is provided by the Pacific Surfliner (which would require a transfer at Santa Ana- a change in fare policy that would be easy to accomplish).

Upgrading just one of the three lines that serve Riverside would provide access to nearly all the places that 91 and Riverside Line passengers want to go, as well as the San Bernardino and San Gabriel Valleys. Furthermore, more IE-OC trains wouldn't strain the capacity of LA Union Station, and would only require negotiations with the more passenger-friendly BNSF. It might require some additional rail facilities along the LOSSAN corridor, but it would undoubtedly be cheaper than what RCTC is up to.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Do they think I won't notice?

No, this is not a post about my undergraduates, who pulled stunts on their essays like putting in a half-page of white space before their title, or changing the entire thing to a font notorious for lengthening papers (Courier New). No, this equally-obvious violation of the rules comes from none other than our own City Hall!

I was trying to see just what it is that the Transportation Committee has done lately, so I could pass the news on to you, my loyal readers. Why don't you take a look for yourselves?

Oh, wait. You can't. Click on either Agendas or Minutes from that link, and you get "0 entries." Now I KNOW that the Transpo committee has met- they were the ones that suggested the odious food truck ban last month. (And by "the transpo committee" I mean Councilman/Committee Chair Steve Adams, no friend of this blog.) Perhaps the minutes haven't been ratified yet... but where's the agenda? What are they hiding?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

This Week in Transit, 2/13

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.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Late-night Bike Lights

Last night, I was riding home from an ie atheists event up University Ave. and there was a pack of roughly a dozen cyclists in the lane ahead of me. Their taillights were blinking furiously, and it felt like riding in an impromptu midnight parade. If any of you late-night cyclists are reading this, thanks for making my trip home memorable.

Monday, February 7, 2011

RTA Routing/Schedule Changes Coming

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it's that time again! RTA wants to shake things up with routing and schedule changes, and all you poor saps who depend on them for transportation better listen up. This time, it's all about the and southern bit of RTA territory: Temecula and Murrieta. Routes 23, 24, 55, 79 and 217 will be affected.

The good news is that there aren't any drastic service cuts here. The one thing I think is a little funky is the discontinuation of a portion of route 79, which used to serve Diaz and Ynez roads parallel to I-15 in Temecula. 79 will be instead routed on what used to be 24 to downtown Temecula, and 24 will be truncated at County Centre Dr. Fortunately, most of these portions of the city are relatively close to each other, the roads being an approx. 700ft. walk between each other (though admittedly with a freeway and what looks like a drainage canal between them). My advice to riders affected? Buy a bicycle. (Fortunately, Target is selling some half-decent city-style bikes for in the $150 range. Of course, you can always find a used beater in somebody's garage sale.)

You can get all the details from RTA.

Of course, there are also public hearings about the proposed changes. If you disagree with me and think this is trouble, let RTA know. As always, you can e-mail them at , call them at 1-800-800-7821, or either mail them or visit in person at 1825 Third Street, Riverside, CA 92507.

The meetings will be held at:

Mary Phillips Senior Centre
41845 Sixth St., Temecula
RTA Routes 23 and 24
Tuesday, Feb. 15th, 3PM

Mission Trail Library
34303 Mission Trail, Wildomar
RTA Routes 7 and 8
Tuesday, Feb. 15th, 5PM

Murrieta Senior Centre
41717 Juniper St., Murrieta
RTA Route 23
Wednesday, Feb. 16th, 3PM

And finally, you can comment on the proposed changes at the next Board Meeting:

Board of Supervisors' Chambers
County of Riverside Admin. Building

4080 Lemon St., Riverside
RTA Routes 1, 10, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 22, 29, 49, 50, 204, 208, 210, 212, 216
Thursday, Feb. 24th, 2PM