Riverside Train Commuters Derailed

Lagging ridership on trains between the Inland Empire and Orange County has led Metrolink to suspend several commuter train lines beginning February 15.

The cuts come as part of Metrolinks' plan to deal with mounting red ink, which is projected at more than $15 million in 2010-2011. The Metrolink board, in a January 8 meeting, decided against increasing fares and instead eliminated train service they said lacked ridership.

"We've reduced bus service really drastically," Metrolink's Orange County representative Art Brown told the Los Angeles Times. "It's not fair to reduce bus service and keep riders on these trains."

Justin Nelson, creator of the transit blog, Riding in Riverside, said that cutting back on trains will only put more pressure on already overcrowded and rather anemic bus services.

"I took the bus here and left at 1 o'clock. I live four miles away," said Nelson after apologizing for arriving late to our 2 o'clock meeting at a coffee shop in downtown Riverside.

Nelson said that unless additional buses are added on the train routes that are shut down, many Riverside residents will be unable to get to their jobs or see families that live in Orange County. He also said the cuts will force many who would otherwise use the trains, especially the suspended weekday services, to drive and further clog already busy highways.

Riders on trains facing suspension had mixed feelings when hearing about the cuts.

"I understand the cuts, because its kind of a dead weight" said one commuter who takes the train home from his night shift at Costco, noting the lack of passengers. "But as a consumer it is a disadvantage. I use it to sometimes take my kids to the beach, and to get to work. So with the cuts I will have to use my vehicle instead, which is a disadvantage for me."

For sixteen-year-old Tanya Armenta, the cuts to the train schedule could make it difficult to visit her grandparents because she can't drive and the bus she connects to doesn't run on a frequent schedule.

"It's my only form of transportation to get to Santa Ana and visit my family. If I don't get to the bus in time I will have to wait three hours in order to visit them on the weekend."

The suspensions won't stop all the riders from using Metrolink as their mode of transportation, but will force many of them to rework their personal schedules.

Tina Mena, an Oceanside resident, takes the train every other weekend to stay with her father, who lives in San Bernardino. She said she takes the train because it is more relaxing and she can get work done without being caught up in the stress and hassle of driving through congested traffic.

"I will still take the train," she said. "I might have to come Friday night, or take the long route through downtown, but it's still better than driving."

Metrolink has not said when, if at all, the suspended lines will return. It also has not said how much it expects to save from the cuts.

Federal government aid might be one solution to Metolink's financial woes. The Obama administration recently released a list of proposed transit projects naming Riverside as one of the possible beneficiaries. Just how much money and where it might be spent has yet to be determined.

During its January meeting, the Metrolink board also approved temporary spending cuts, including suspending time-off accruals for agency employees and imposing a "hard" hiring freeze.

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I love your slideshow. It makes me sad because we already have so few trains and way too few people use them. Thanks for remembering we who do.

There is an undercurrent here that neither the train people nor the commuters themselves understand. The car industry and the oil industry are doing the very best to keep us on cars so they can keep making profits, while we spend countless hours gridlocked and wasting our life savings on gasoline. This four county area LA, OC, SBD & RIV, need to understand that the future of our economy and our very existence relies on public transportation. Why, because without people moving from point A to point B, no money moves from point A to point B! The southland needs to dream big and make tough choices now. We need to only keep our trains, but add more! I'm realizing that the dreams of many southern californians are being ruined by politicians who can't see beyond the ever-present haze in the air called re-election. Well, let me tell you something politicians, we are in the midst of an economic/bankruptcy cancer, and as everyone knows about cancer, IT SPREADS!!! No one, will be spared, including you, who will remain to govern a failed state, only to be compared to an "Economic Bladrunner" where crime, polution, and ignorance rules. Dream big or step down!

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The train is great while it is running, but it isn't convenient for everyone. The monthly pass is awesome, but parking costs add up as well as the train doesn't run late at night. How awesome would it be to do Hollywood and then take the red line to metrolink to get home? I would if I could. Way safer than drinking and driving.

Mike
CEO of Santa Ana Jail