Both the Riverside Transit Agency and the City of Riverside have big plans to bring rapid transit along the city’s dense corridors. A light rail car to be delivered to San Diego made a stop in downtown Riverside. The Siemens S70 train was parked on University Avenue offering a real-time preview of what rapid rail transit might look like along the streets of Riverside. Based on a Riding in Riverside blog post, city officials hope that one day, Riverside will mimic Portland complete with multi-modal transit mobility and transit oriented development. The project at hand is Riverside Reconnects, a streetcar proposal advocated by the City of Riverside.
Public debate on this project has been robust. For Riverside Reconnects to work, it will need to be done right and coordinated with the Riverside Transit Agency. The finished product must not duplicate existing RTA bus service, proposed bus rapid transit, nor obstruct existing traffic flow. The technology used to move the citizens of Riverside must also be fact-based and cost-efficient. The local press has opposed the streetcar for those very reasons. RTA has recently proposed to phase in peak-hour limited stop runs of Route 1 within the next few years with long term plans for all day RapidLink BRT service with station stop amenities. The Transit Coalition originally envisioned dedicated transit lanes for the higher density areas for the RapidLink service so that the rapid buses neither obstruct existing traffic nor get stuck in congestion, much like how sbX system is being developed in San Bernardino. Also envisioned are RTA ticket vending machines at each of the RapidLink stations that will help accelerate the boarding process. We also have a blog post on how officials can speed up the BRT project. RTA and the City need to network and coordinate these two projects. We don’t want RTA to spend precious resources on RapidLink only to find out that a separate trolley line will scrape and replace BRT only a few years later.
The Transit Coalition has long been advocating for better Metrolink and bus service in Riverside through A Better Inland Empire. There is no question that both the Magnolia and University Avenue corridors are in need of better rapid transit options and a quick and speedy alternative to slower local bus service for longer trips. Both agencies need to work to get first-rate transit lines built for Riverside and both need to agree on which technology would work best in regards to transporting passengers and keeping costs in check, whether it be rail or BRT. The city also needs to ensure Riverside Reconnects doesn’t ignore the need to connect with Metrolink. In terms of connecting local transit to Southern California’s regional rail system, the sound idea of establishing the downtown transit hub at the Metrolink station with a pedestrian overpass across the 91 Freeway into the core has been on the drawing board for almost a decade.
As pictured here, developer incentives can transform the train station into a robust transit and marketplace employment hub with the transit center, a Riverside Reconnects station stop, and the bridge integrated into the development. The infrastructure would be fully paid for. Getting private capital and marketplace jobs into Downtown Riverside will be key to getting a funded, robust transit system for Riverside’s streets.