Tag Archives: omnitrans sbx bus rapid transit

Q & A with a Planner

Planning project manager Anna Rahtz recently received the Omnitrans Employee of the Quarter award. Anna managed the Omnitrans Transit Design Guidelines project, which has earned the Focused Issue Planning Award from the American Planning Association – Inland Empire Section. We recently caught up with her to ask her a few questions about the guidelines, upcoming projects and her personal use of public transit.

Can you talk a little bit about what was involved with the transit design guidelines?

“The Omnitrans Transit Design Guidelines was the brainchild of our planning director, Rohan Kuruppu, and I worked on it as the project manager. It is basically a combination of our Bus Stop Design Guidelines document as well as a ‘lessons learned’ guide based on our experience with the sbX corridor in San Bernardino and Loma Linda. We always get lots of questions when the cities are trying to plan their future corridors or put in bus stops. They want to know how much space is needed, how long is the bus stop, how wide is the sidewalk, what are the ADA requirements. We also get lots of questions about the bus rapid transit (BRT) stations–how much space does it take up and how do you fit it into the street cross section?

Our consultants, Parsons Gruen, and MIG, took everything they had learned from working on the sbX project and compiled it into a toolkit. Now when designers, consultants, developers, city staff or others have questions about how to make these things work, they can refer to this toolkit for answers. City staff has already made a lot of use of it because cities like Highland, Ontario, and Fontana are doing their own BRT studies now. They’ve been able to integrate it into what they’re planning instead of reinventing the wheel.

Right now the Omnitrans Transit Design Guidelines is a PDF document, but we’re working on setting it up as an online interactive tool as well.”

What do you like best about being a planning project manager?

“I actually think I enjoy the smaller projects the most because they are more tangible and can be completed in a faster time frame. Recently I worked with several cities and our planning interns Allison and Alvaro to complete a grant application for SANBAG funds to improve pedestrian access to bus stops, including replacing and constructing new sidewalks.  Improving pedestrian infrastructure is extremely important.

Anna Rahtz and Omnitrans Planning Director Rohan Kuruppu

Can you tell us a little about any major upcoming projects?

“One of the main projects we will be kicking off in the next couple of months is the route 61 corridor through Pomona, Montclair, Ontario, Rancho Cucamonga and Fontana.

The current 61 is our highest ridership corridor with more than 6,000 boardings a day. We’re looking at ways to speed it up because it currently takes about an hour and a half to go from one end of the corridor to the other. There are 92 stops in the 20 miles.

Our consultants Parsons are doing an alternatives analysis so we can determine the best way to tackle the issue. One of the biggest criteria for federal funding is cost effectiveness. So we look at what the cost would be of various measures we could use, such as transit signal priority, dedicated bus lanes, or just reducing the number of stops. The corridor could also be developed in phases–maybe by incorporating a limited stop express bus and later transitioning to bus rapid transit. We look at the cost of all these things and how it would impact both ridership and the movement of traffic along the corridor.”

Why not just put another bus in service on the corridor?

“Frequency helps a lot, but we also have to focus on decreasing the amount of time it takes for the bus to get through the corridor because, as traffic congestion worsens, our buses slow down. Alternatives like dedicated bus lanes and traffic signal priority help the buses move much more quickly.”

I know you regularly use public transit yourself. Do you feel it’s important for you to do that? Is it a personal or professional choice?

“Both. I’ve always taken transit whenever I could ever since I was in grad school.  As a student, I was dependent on the bus. I don’t really like driving a whole lot to begin with, and driving is getting more and more expensive.  So I think it’s really important to have options. I prefer riding my bicycle, taking the bus, or both, whenever possible. I find that bus riders are like a community, and the people are generally pretty courteous to each other.

As a transit planner, I do think you have to be a rider in order to understand how a rider experiences the system. I find I am constantly taking my observations as a rider and applying them to my planning projects. That’s why all of us in the planning department ride all the routes in the system regularly.

Do you use NexTrip when you’re traveling?

“Yes. It’s actually been working out for me very well. I can use it to see when the next bus is arriving at the stop so I know how long I have to wait for a transfer. Then I can decide whether it’s faster to catch the bus there or if I should bike over to an alternative stop instead. It’s a huge help to be able to access live bus information from your phone. ”

 

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Rohan Kuruppu: Planning Director & Father of sbX

 

Omnitrans Planning Director Rohan Kuruppu is something of a Renaissance man. He makes exotic wines, enjoys extreme adventure travel and is working on restoring his 100-year-old home. But his passion is public transit.

“Transit has been a big part of my life from childhood,” says Kuruppu. “I was born in Sri Lanka where 98% of the people use public transit. There, transit is 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and runs very frequently. It is something you are born into. From the time you are a child, the routes, the numbers and the network is all in your head like a second language. Nobody needs maps or bus books. This concept of informing people and marketing transit is foreign to that culture. It is the complete opposite from here, where 98% of people use cars and only 2% use transit.”

As a young student, Kuruppu originally planned to become a lawyer and came to San Bernardino to study pre-law at Cal State University. While at the university, he took a part-time job with Omnitrans in gathering and analyzing information as an on-board transit checker. Transit checkers were the precursor to automated passenger counters, and it was common practice for agencies at that time to hire students to ride the buses and physically count the number of people getting on and off.

Kuruppu had been working for Omnitrans for several months when the 1991 American Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed. “My boss approached me and said, ‘Hey, you’re a law student. Why don’t you look over these new laws and prepare a plan for Omnitrans.’“ Kuruppu laughs. “So I read the American Disabilities Act from top to bottom, reviewed all our existing policies on how we accommodated existing passengers and worked up a plan. He was so impressed that he gave me other tasks. Before long he really encouraged me to become a transit planner instead of a lawyer.”

Because Kuruppu was doing so well and was so passionate about transit, his boss sent him to an American Public Transportation Association (APTA) conference. At one of the workshops, Kuruppu had to stand and introduce himself to the other attendees. “I explained I was planning to go to law school but that my boss had asked me to become a transit planner. Everyone said, ‘Not a lawyer! We have enough lawyers.’ I said well, in that case, I will become a transit planner! Everyone clapped and jumped to their feet and cheered ‘hey—we’ve got another planner!’” Kuruppu laughs.

“So I gave up law school and began building on my graduate degree. I had my Associates’ degree in electrical engineering and strong analytical and planning skills from my experience with traffic engineering and signal design. My political science, pre-law studies and policy training gave me a good foundation on laws and regulations. They were all a natural fit into transit planning. After that I got my Masters in Public Policy and Public Administration. Now here I am. I love what I do and it was the best decision I ever made!”

Of his many accomplishments, Kuruppu is most proud of his role as father of the new sbX Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line which Omnitrans will launch in January 2014. It is the first of its kind express service to be constructed in the Inland Empire.

The sbX BRT line  is the beginning of an intermodal public transit system in the San Bernardino Valley that will reduce vehicle congestion while providing the public an environmentally friendly alternative that is sophisticated, cost effective, and time efficient.

This express service will serve a 15.7-mile corridor that spans between northern San Bernardino and Loma Linda. It will include 16 art-inspired stations at key university, government, business, entertainment and medical centers as well as four park-and-ride facilities.

Juno Kughler Carlson
juno.carlson@omnitrans.org

Rohan was recently featured in this People in Transit video
from Mass Transit Magazine.

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Station Work Begins on Hospitality

New sod, trees and other types of plants have been put in on the south side of Hospitality Lane.

Construction progress on Hospitality Lane has become quite apparent during the past month as concrete driveways and sidewalks have re-opened and new landscaping has been planted along the south side of the street. In fact, on the west end of Hospitality Lane, traffic control has been lifted near E Street and the public can now see the new width of the street.

Additionally, new concrete bus pads have been poured at Omnitrans Route 2 stops along the south side of Hospitality Lane and slot asphalt paving is expected to begin at the end of April. The slot paving will allow traffic lanes to moved outward as construction crews begin to work on the center-running lane stations at Hunts Lane and Carnegie Drive.

During the next few weeks, the planter walls at the Tippecanoe Avenue station on Hospitality Lane will be formed and poured.

On the east end of Hospitality Lane, crews have achieved key milestones in building the center-running lane station at Tippecanoe Avenue. The concrete structure slab has been poured and planter walls will be formed and poured during the next few weeks.

-Robert Chevez
rchevez@westboundcommunications.com

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Visit Omnitrans sbX on Facebook
http://facebook.com/omnitrans.sbx

 

sbX ADA Features Make Transit Easy

Ramps and steel plates at all five doors allow wheelchairs to roll right onboard, reducing the time it takes to load and lift on a hoist, as with traditional buses.

At Omnitrans, we understand getting used to a new transportation system can be a challenge for riders. For our those riders with disabilities we want to highlight the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act)-friendly features of the Omnitrans sbX Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system below:

Level Boarding at Platform Stations – Eliminates need for hydraulic lifts or ramps. Makes it easier for people to board by foot or in a wheelchair. A bridge plate can be deployed to cover the gap for wheelchairs.

Visual and Audible Stop Announcements – Help riders on-board know when and where to get on or off sbX. 

On-Board Wheelchair Space – sbX vehicles have space on board to accommodate two wheelchairs.

One of two wheelchair locations on the New Flyer XN60

Planter Boxes and Textured Floor Strips Along Walkways and Station Platforms – Helps people with visual impairments navigate on and around the platform.

Communications System at Crosswalks – An audible sound helps alert people at crosswalks.

Textured floor strips help guide riders on boarding platform

As we get closer to the start of service in early 2014, we will work with ADA advocacy groups to continue to inform riders about the new service that will have stations at Loma Linda Medical Center, the VA Hospital in Loma Linda and along Hospitality Lane where there are numerous medical offices. If you are interested in receiving more information, please call the sbX project helpline at (855) sbX-NEWS / 729-6397.

-Robert Chevez
rchevez@westboundcommunications.com 

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Omnitrans offers Travel Training

Launched in October 2012, Omnitrans now offers Travel Training to local community groups, including seniors, students, people with disabilities, and commuters. These hour-long, hands-on training presentations provide people with a hand-on bus experience on an Omnitrans fixed-route bus (specific sbX vehicle training may be available in the future). Topics include boarding, trip planning, paying your fare, vehicle features, etc. If you or your group is interested, please contact Omnitrans Community Outreach Specialist Nicole Ramos at (909) 379-7155.

 

Visit Omnitrans sbX on Facebook
http://facebook.com/omnitrans.sbx


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sbX Launches CSUSB Facebook Promo

Omnitrans wants to increase public awareness and support of its bus rapid transit corridor construction project among students at California State University, San Bernardino.

Students can go to http://bit.ly/10tfDOX to become eligible for as many as four weekly prize drawings to Coyote Bookstore.

During the month of April, CSUSB fans of the Omnitrans sbX Facebook site can qualify for up to four drawings each Friday (April 5, 12, 19 and 25) for a $25 gift card. Entrants must be currently enrolled at Cal State San Bernardino and winners will be asked to verify their current enrollment.

For more information on the sbX project, stay tuned to our Omnitrans sbX Facebook site or visit our website at  http://Omnitrans-sbx.com.

Major sbX Progress Seen on E Street

Landscaping has been put in at the Marshall Blvd. park-and-ride lot.

March has been a very busy month for construction crews working on the Omnitrans sbX Bus Rapid Transit Line Construction Project. All throughout the project corridor, construction progress can be seen – especially along E Street from Marshall Boulevard to Hospitality Lane.

On the north end of E Street, a variety of drought-resistant trees, including willows and shrubs, are being planted at the west and east lots of the Marshall Boulevard park-and-ride. At Highland Avenue, the steel structure for the side-boarding sbX station has been installed on the west side of the street.

In the downtown area between 6th and 2nd streets, work on the west side of E Street has focused on relocation of fire hydrants, storm drains, and sidewalk ramps. A section of sidewalk also was completed at Court Street. Current activities at the Rialto Avenue and North Mall Way stations have crews working on building planter walls.

E Street center-running lanes

Finally, a big milestone on the south end of E Street was the completion of asphalt work in the center running lanes between Orange Show Road and Hospitality Lane. Crews reinforced the roadway by removing the old asphalt, putting in a subgrade, base, geogrid mesh, and the new asphalt.

 – Robert Chevez
   rchevez@westboundcommunications.com

Visit Omnitrans sbX on Facebook
http://facebook.com/omnitrans.sbx


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Station Work to Begin on Hospitality

This month, construction activities will begin on the first Omnitrans sbX center running lane stations on Hospitality Lane at Tippecanoe Avenue (near Costco) and Carnegie Drive (near Home Depot). Traffic control will be in place as you approach these work areas. The first thing to be built will be the station platform followed by the installation of the steel canopies.

Elsewhere on Hospitality Lane, a considerable amount of progress has been made during the past month as all driveways and sidewalks have now been poured on the south side of the street between Tippecanoe Avenue and E Street. Some asphalt paving has begun through this stretch to fill in the new slots created from a wider street.

In the coming months, crews will work toward completing electrical, irrigation and landscaping work on the south side of Hospitality Lane.

 – Robert Chevez
   rchevez@westboundcommunications.com

Visit Omnitrans sbX on Facebook
http://facebook.com/omnitrans.sbx


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