Move LA applauds Metrolink’s recent decision to provide express service between LA’s Union Station and San Bernardino. The 2010 Census data shows San Bernardino and Riverside counties experienced by far the fastest growth of any metropolitan area in California, and the Inland Empire is the fourth-fastest growing region in the U.S. — behind Raleigh, Las Vegas and Austin. Faster service between San Bernardino and downtown Los Angeles — travel times have been reduced from 90 to 60 minutes — suggest the potential for linking downtown LA with Southern California’s eastern counties to support more sustainable transit-oriented growth in the near future.
Completion of the 12 Measure R rail lines, hopefully within the next decade, will strengthen the transit links between downtown LA’s Union Station and jobs and destinations throughout LA County — making downtown LA an even more desirable place to live and do business than it already is and boosting the importance of already-busy Union Station. Rail links could be strengthened to both San Bernardino and Riverside, and eventually connect to Ontario Airport in San Bernardino County — an important regional airport for cargo and passengers, and a resource many regard as key to San Bernardino County’s economic and job future.
County sales tax measures in both San Bernardino and Riverside counties are focused mostly on highway projects but important transit investments are planned. These include an extension of Metrolink into downtown San Bernardino (the existing station is a mile west of downtown), a light rail line from San Bernardino to Loma Linda, a medical center and site of Loma Linda University, and to Redlands, an historic and artsy town that is home to the University of Redlands.
Riverside is served by three Metrolink lines (Riverside, San Bernardino and the Inland Empire-Orange County lines), and a Metrolink extension is planned to Perris and to Hemet in the fast-growing San Jacinto Valley.
There is untapped potential for transit-oriented development in both downtown San Bernardino and in Riverside’s pedestrian-friendly downtown, which is adjacent to the dramatic and historic Mission Inn and numerous surface parking lots that could be redeveloped. And there is tremendous development potential in the City of Ontario and around the airport, as well as in other cities along Metrolink's lines.
Almost every city along the planned Metrolink extensions and light rail line have already completed station area plans in anticipation of the transit projects.
The Inland Empire’s fortunes have declined dramatically since the 2008 national mortgage debacle and recession, and foreclosure and unemployment rates are among the highest in the nation, caused in part by declines in housing and construction, an accelerated decline in manufacturing and a weakening in the logistics, warehousing, distribution and wholesale trade industries. Nonethess San Bernardino and especially Riverside County are expected to remain the locus of growth in Southern California.
Transit and transit-oriented development are the key to making this growth more sustainable and connecting people to jobs and opportunity throughout the region, with the goal of reducing congestion, improving air quality and creating a stronger regional economy!