Great Circle Trip, July 5, 1999

Ever consider a five county great circle (LA-Orange-San Diego-Riverside-San Bernardino) transit trip? I always have, but the schedules always made it impossible--until now. The reverse commute Metrolink to Oceanside, along with the new RTA service in Temecula makes such a trip possible, and interesting.

FT #195

At about 5:30 AM, I boarded #195 at 1st and Indian Hill in Claremont (#195 doesn’t serve the Claremont Metrolink area like the other FT buses in Claremont). When I boarded it, no one else was on board, but we did pick up a few riders along the route from that point on. The total number of passengers never exceeded six or seven.

#195 took its looping path through Pomona and Diamond Bar, stopping at the Pomona Transit Center. As we got there, I saw #482 pulling away (it doesn't wait for the timed transfer), pointing out one problem with the timed transfer system. (We'll experience the *other* problem with timed transfers later on . . .)

OCTA #757

I and one other passenger from the #195 transferred to OCTA's #757 in Diamond Bar. The #757 driver accepted our transfers and gave us OCTA transfers. (Note that OCTA is going to a day pass system vary soon). We picked up about 10 people in Diamond Bar before continuing on to Brea. (Interestingly, we took Brea Canyon Road, rather than the crowded freeway). In Brea, we picked up about 10 more people, then got on the SR-57 carpool lane to Orange and Santa Ana. Most of the riders got off in Downtown Santa Ana; I was the only one to ride all the way to the Santa Ana Transportation Center.

Santa Ana Transportation Center

I had about an hour's layover before my Oceanside-bound Metrolink train was due; this time was spent in eating a quick breakfast, walking around the station, watching various Amtrak and Metrolink trains pull in, etc. Greyhound and several "Mexican" bus companies also serve this station, which also features a banquet room and an unemployment office (!). A four-story parking structure was under construction.


At 8:33, the Metrolink to Oceanside finally arrived. It was almost empty, with only 2 others in the car I was in. (one got off at Capistrano). For anyone who has ridden Amtrak along this route, Metrolink may be a bit slower in spots. At any rate, when we got to Oceanside, about six people got off the train with me.

NCTD #320

At 10:00 a.m, I caught the NCTD #320, this time it was one of their older buses (a Grumman). I asked the driver about transfers from Metrolink; at first he said "no", but then he asked to look at my ticket, and then let me ride. Claremont to Escondido on one transfer (not counting the additional $5.75 for the Metrolink fare)!

#320 runs mostly along the SR-78 freeway, but hops onto surface streets to serve Plaza Camino Real, Vista, and Palomar College. It actually had pretty good ridership (generally between 20-30 passengers on board at any one time). Near the Vista and Palomar College transit centers, we could see the old railroad right-of-way that may one day, become a light rail line . . .We arrived at Escondido around 11:07. Since my next bus wouldn't leave until 12:10, now would be a good time to break for lunch....


Since there's currently no public transit between San Diego and Riverside County (we’re working on it!)., Greyhound would fill in for this trip. The one-way fare was $9. Two buses (separate sections for the same trip) arrived; the bus I was in was about 1/3 full, mostly with college kids returning from Tijuana (or so it sounded like). The ride was pretty uneventful . . .yes, the Border Patrol still runs its checkpoint at the Riverside county line, a couple of agents walk through the bus and ask everyone for their citizenship information. No problems on this trip. Soon, we were in Temecula, and we arrived at the "Temecula Stage Stop" (i.e. bus station). Greyhound would continue on to Riverside, San Bernardino and Las Vegas...but I was headed for...

RTA #24

"Old Town" Temecula is one of those downtown areas with an "artificial" feel (boardwalk sidewalks, wooden buildings, etc.) The "real" Temecula is more like a fast growing suburb, of the type you’d find in Orange County, etc. It was also the first place that day where I was starting to feel a bit warm . . ."Front Street" was torn up with several kinds of construction, so I had to hunt around a bit for a RTA bus stop. But I found one, and eventually RTA #24 (a 13-seater "cutaway"). Ridership was not spectacular, maybe we maxed out at about 6-7 passengers. I got off at County Center, in order to catch my next bus . ..

RTA #37

#37 is the new Temecula-Sun City Perris express route, which represents one of two new services finally connecting Temecula with the rest of RTA (the other is #23, which connects to Lines #7 and 8 in Lake Elsinore. In fact, #23 and #24 are through-routed). Again, like the Greyhound, #37 is mostly freeway running. Somewhere between Temecula and Sun City, you’ll pass by a yard full of old buses (Complete Coach Works?). The #37 trip I was on was lightly loaded, with me, the driver of the #24 (who was off duty and riding back to the yard, or wherever) and one other passenger, who got off in Temecula. One other person boarded in Sun City (he was trying to get the #27 to Hemet, but missed it by a minute). #37 uses low-floor minibuses, similar to LADOT’s new DASH buses.

RTA #22

At this point, things began to go downhill. There was a 30-minute layover at 4th/Wilkerson in Perris, so I had a quick ice cream. Then I wandered around the transfer point . . .no fancy transit center here, just a few shelters here and there. There were hardly any bus stop signs or any good indication of what bus stopped where. Soon, the #22 pulled up. This bus (one of RTA’s Flxibles) lacked air conditioning, and only a few windows would open, making this trip the Bus Ride from Hell, Part 1. #22 was about 1/3rd full when it left Perris, and emptied out along most of the rural roads. We actually made pretty good time along the two-lane highways--maybe too good time, as we almost passed up a couple of people waiting at stops. But it was all for naught, as we had to wait about 10 minutes for a late #27 at the Wood/Cajalco timed transfer point. (the other problem with timed transfers). We arrived in Downtown Riverside about 10 minutes late, and I wondered if I’d make it in time to catch my next bus. But as it turned out...

IEC #100/110

The Inland Empire Connection bus was late, not only due to traffic congestion, but also to a serious mechanical problem. It arrived about 20 minutes late. As we boarded, a few passengers had difficulty understanding the new fare structure (the fare had just gone up this week). The engine sounded horrible, and we stalled at least once in Riverside (the driver had to go to the back of the bus and start it). Air conditioning was out of the question; the engine probably couldn’t take the strain. Again, only a few windows would open.

On the freeway ramp, we were backed up behind the ramp meter. I was hoping and praying that we wouldn’t stall there! We did well on the freeway, but stalled for good once we made it to San Bernardino. (One passenger complained that the IEC buses had broken down earlier that day.) In about 15 minutes, they did send us another bus that seemed to work well (with air conditioning!) and we rode it back to Montclair with no further incidents.

#100/110 was generally about 1/3rd full at all times, using their CNG Neoplans

Foothill #480

The final leg of my trip took place around 6:50 p.m. when I boarded FT #480 back to Claremont, using my IEC transfer.Although boardings were limited at the Montclair Transcenter itself, more people got on near the Montclair Plaza, so we left Montclair about 1/3 to 1/2 full.
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