CA: Cities are Not Footing sbX Bill

In about a year and a half, San Bernardino and Loma Linda will be the beneficiaries of a new bus rapid transit (BRT) line offering quicker commute times, more frequent trips and an enhanced streetscape.

The Omnitrans sbX project now under construction represents a significant investment in our local transportation infrastructure. Best of all, local cities are not footing the bill. Omnitrans successfully competed for and received a $75 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration to build it. In fact, federal and state transportation funding sources combined cover 90 percent of the total cost. County Measure I funds designated for express and rapid bus service also are being used. San Bernardino and Loma Linda are contributing, but only through in-kind efforts such as permit fee waivers and rent-free office space.

Improvements will be significant, helping to revitalize an aged corridor in a way that will attract new businesses and enhance walkability on the corridor now served by one of Omnitrans' busiest bus lines, Route 2. On a typical weekday, Route 2 carries 4,000 riders. With sbX, 35 percent more daily boardings are projected. This is based on similar BRT service like L.A. Metro's Orange Line in the San Fernando Valley which generated ridership three times higher than originally projected!

If you look past the traffic cones and heavy equipment you can see the future beginning to materialize. On the north end, the sbX line starts at Palm and Kendall where a new station and park and ride lot are taking shape. The line travels along Kendall, E Street, Hospitality Lane and Tippecanoe/Anderson Street. Along the way, 16 station locations will feature public art and water-wise landscaping.

Some may wonder where all this ridership will come from. With convenient service to two universities, two hospitals, two civic centers, several major employers plus a myriad of shopping, dining and entertainment destinations, it should be pretty obvious. Add in a new Transit Center to be built at E and Rialto streets that will connect sbX to Metrolink, Redlands Rail and local bus routes, how can it miss?

The improved connectivity between different modes of transportation also creates an impetus for transit-oriented development, a concept in which new transit is used as a vehicle to spur economic growth at all socioeconomic levels. The city of San Bernardino is already working to leverage the sbX line with future development opportunities.

At Omnitrans we are proud of this project and applaud the cooperative efforts of the two cities, the Federal Transit Administration, San Bernardino Associated Governments and those who look to invest in the region's future. The success of the first corridor will serve as the catalyst for developing future corridors along major thoroughfares like Foothill Boulevard, San Bernardino Avenue, Holt Boulevard, Riverside Avenue, Sierra Avenue, Haven Avenue and Euclid Avenue.

Our vision for the future involves planning: What will the region look like 10, 20 or 30 years from now? Who will live and work here and how will they get around? San Bernardino County is expected to double in population over the next 30 years. Do you really think we can afford to double the freeways? We have to build a smarter transportation system and BRT is a practical part of the solution. It is less expensive than rail, provides greater connectivity and serves a broader commuting public.

We are fortunate to be building a better future today with the Omnitrans sbX project. Get on board!

Dick Riddell is mayor of Yucaipa and chairman of the 20-member Board of Directors of Omnitrans, a public transit agency serving the San Bernardino Valley;omnitrans.org oromnitrans-sbx.com .

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