Omnitrans Change Spurs Hope For Bus Line Links To Upland Rail Station

(August 16) The departure of the former head of Omnitrans more than two months ago has Upland officials hopeful that the public transit agency serving the San Bernardino Valley will soon consent to providing heretofore denied bus routes to and from the downtown Upland train station.
That Upland officials have developed something of an inferiority complex with regard to neighboring Claremont’s highly successful downtown business district goes without saying. For decades Upland has been seeking ways to renew the once vibrant but now long-struggling commercial hub north of the railroad tracks that lie south of Ninth Street, spanning from Euclid Avenue on the west to just beyond Sultana Avenue on the east and extending north to Arrow Highway. Contained in that area is the city’s civic center, entailing City Hall, the Upland library and the city’s oldest existing fire station. But for a variety of reasons, the area has not prospered, despite concerted city efforts to promote it, subsidizations to restaurants and other businesses believed to have promise, as well as the investment activity of outsiders, including the late comic Sam Kinison, who with members of his family sought to revive the old Grove Theater on Ninth Street.
Across the county line, in Claremont, a similar historic business district surrounds the civic center and city library. But over the last decade, efforts to reignite the night life in that similarly compact area has succeeded. Restaurants and night spots there are flourishing. A hotel that does a brisk business, especially on weekends, is pouring tax money into city coffers.
One obvious advantage Claremont possesses that Upland does not is  Claremont is a university town that hosts five colleges, a graduate school and a school of theology within walking distance of the downtown district.
Moreover, Upland has been further disadvantaged by a policy maintained by a public agency beyond its control. Upland’s historic downtown district, like that of Claremont as well as numerous other cities in not only Southern California but within the entire state and nationwide, sprang from where the railroad passing through town had its station. With the advent of the automotive culture, train stations became somewhat passé and for decades offered little or no draw to those downtowns. Over the last two decades in this part of Southern California, though, the Metrolink line that runs from San Bernardino to Los Angeles has revived the railroad line as a vital transportation link.
In Claremont, which lies in Los Angeles County as opposed to San Bernardino County, the placement of the Metrolink station in the downtown district was accompanied by the extension of bus lines to its train station, providing an incentive for what were initially scores and today are hundreds of commuters to utilize the train, confident that they can get to the station in the morning by riding the bus and return home in the evening in the same way.
In Upland, this fluid continuum of public transportation has not been available. That shortcoming has stymied downtown Upland’s potential growth.
In June, Milo Victoria abruptly resigned as the general manager and CEO of San Bernardino-based Omnitrans. His departure, it seems, had been hastened by the release of a scathing audit of Omnitrans operations, including the sbX (sic) project in San Bernardino now under development, a high speed bus route running from Loma Linda to Cal State San Bernardino. Since January 2010,  Victoria, who was previously the assistant general manager for bus service with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority in Washington, D. C., had been in charge of Omnitrans. During his tenure in San Bernardino, the agency had proven highly resistant to requests that Omnitrans extend or reconfigure or create bus lines linking downtown Upland with other spots or lines.
Victoria was replaced as general manager and CEO by Scott Graham, who had been Omnitrans director of operations since 2006. Previously, Graham worked for the Orange County Transportation Authority for 12 years as a transportation base manager. Prior to that he served 26 years in the US Marine Corps, He has a masters degree in transportation management from San Jose State University and a bachelor of arts degree in political science from East Carolina University.
Upland officials believe that Graham will prove amenable to a request that the Omnitrans, which was established as part of a joint powers authority involving 15 San Bernardino County cities and currently operates a fleet of 1,500 buses serving more than 360 bus routes and more than 12,000 bus stops across a 480 square mile service area while carrying 15 million passengers each year, will augment its routes and operations to include ones to downtown Upland.
“We have a well-used Metrolink station downtown that has more than adequate parking for daily commuters,” said Upland Mayor Ray Musser, who is a member of the Omnitrans Board of Directors. “But the station is a really underused asset. What would really help this take off is the addition of three or four bus routes with stops at the station. It would take time, but if people in this area could rely on bus service that would deliver them to the train station and back to stops that are reasonably close to where they live, you would see ridership on the Metrolink into and out of Upland dramatically improve.”
Musser went on to say, “With Milo Victoria gone, I think we stand a pretty good chance of Omnitrans reassessing whether these new routes into Upland can be created or whether some existing routes to Ontario or Montclair or Fontana could be altered to include us. I am looking forward to those discussions with the Omnitrans board.”

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