Opinion by Noel T. Braymer
Today Metrolink has just one round trip between San Bernardino and Oceanside.
Train 803 leaves San Bernardino at 4:55 AM and arrives in Oceanside at 7:15 AM. Transferring passengers miss a Coaster train heading for San Diego which also leaves at 7:15 AM; the next Coaster leaves 28 minutes later. Returning passengers can take train 808 at 4:45 PM from Oceanside for a 7:10 PM arrival into San Bernardino. There is a Coaster that arrives from San Diego at 4:41PM to connect with train 808. Train 850 leaves Oceanside at 7:30 AM and terminates at Riverside at 9:35 AM, train 851 leaves Riverside at 10:40 AM and arrives in Oceanside at 12:45PM. It is even possible to travel from Oceanside to Fullerton on trains 609 at 3:35 PM and arrive at 4:50 PM, then to transfer at Fullerton on train 706 at 4:54 arriving at Riverside at 5:55PM. In the other direction train 705 leaves Riverside at 2:13 PM and arrives in Fullerton at 3:19. A person can catch trains 602 at 3:57 in Fullerton and arrive in Oceanside at 5:18.
By creating a bus connection between Riverside and San Bernardino it would be possible with a few adjustments and marketing to create for little money, 2 more trains between Oceanside and San Bernardino. Why connect with San Bernardino? The distance between Riverside and San Bernardino is less than 10 miles and San Bernardino is not only a large town but also an important hub as the terminal for the busy Metrolink line to Los Angeles. It will be a few years before the Colton crossing grade separation will be built and even when it is there will be congestion problems delaying extending all Metrolink trains from Riverside to San Bernardino. Besides trains 850,851,705, and 706 that would benefit from a San Bernardino connection with Riverside, there are 10 more trains, 5 round trips that could be connected between Riverside and San Bernardino as well as Oceanside.
How can we connect more trains to Oceanside from the Inland Empire? We can by using those existing 10 trains, 5 round trips running every weekday between the Inland Empire and Orange County. Adding connecting buses to these trains would give Oceanside the potential of 8 round trips a day connecting service using existing trains. Not only northern San Diego County would benefit but bus service could also serve southern Orange County. Currently Inland Empire-Orange County trains terminate at Irvine, Laguna Niguel/Mission Viejo and San Juan Capistrano. Dedicated connecting buses could serve all stations in southern Orange County while expanding service to Laguna Niguel/ Mission Viejo, San Juan Capistrano and San Clemente. Such buses would not only connect with Inland Empire Trains. In the next few months Orange County will begin adding additional trains between Fullerton and Laguna Niguel/ Mission Viejo. Connecting busses can economically extend service to San Juan Capistrano, San Clemente and Oceanside to the rest of Orange County.
In a perfect world we would already have corridor rail service between San Diego and San Bernardino. Between San Diego, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties there are over 10 million people. In San Diego three sets of Coaster trains equipment are stored in San Diego between rush hours during week days. Integrating this equipment with Metrolink equipment would go a long way to create seamless service in this corridor. But there are other problems mostly centered on track capacity problems because so much of the railroad south of Laguna Niguel/Mission Viejo is singled tracked. In time these problems will be fixed. But in the near term dedicated bus connections between Riverside/San Bernardino and Oceanside/southern Orange County is an economical way to rapidly expand service and revenue in this region.