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.
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
pointing out one problem with the timed transfer system. (We'll
the *other* problem
with timed transfers later on . . .)
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.
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
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
(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...
"Old Town" Temecula is one of those downtown areas with an "artificial"
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
passengers. I got off at County Center, in order to catch my next bus . ..
#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.
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
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
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...
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
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
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
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