I attended the Perris Valley Line public meeting last night. I posted the meeting notice here. Based on what I saw, this may or may not be a more efficient solution for commuters, depending on where you commute to.
The Metrolink line will start from Ethanac Rd, near the I-215 freeway, and run north to downtown Riverside. It won't open until 2011.
The reason why it stops at Ethanac Rd is because the Riverside County Transportation Commission didn't buy any of the rail south of that point. There's actually more rail that continues into Menifee, goes by Heritage Lake, then parallels Simpson Rd, and ends in San Jacinto. An RCTC representative said they might buy up this rail depending on the demand.
The RCTC has an agreement with Burlington Northern Santa Fe to allow cargo tranportation. The BNSF already ships lumber along this line.
While the RCTC bought the rail, they still haven't acquired all the land necessary to build the depots.
Choosing the First Depots
One of the reasons for having this meeting, is to hear from the public on what depots to build first. Even though they know what depots will eventually be built, they only plan to have one or two depots functional by 2011. It'll take until 2030 to get all the depots built.
I don't know how many people from Menifee were there, aside from myself, and at least one person I talked to, but I did put in my suggestion to build the southern-most station first, and extend the rail south into Menifee.
I'd say most of the people in attendance were from Perris.
A Viable Solution?
So, I wanted to know if this commuter rail plan was feasible for Menifee commuters travelling to Orange County. The representatives there didn't know what the fare would cost to ride from Perris to Riverside, and didn't know what the travel time would be.
Moreover, I asked what time would the first train leave Perris, assuming many commuters may need to get to work in Orange County between 6:00am and 7:00am. They didn't know that either.
However, the existing Metrolink schedule shows that they have a train leaving downtown Riverside at 5:11am, and arriving in Irvine at 6:20am. From there, commuters will board OCTD buses to take them closer to their jobs, and then walk to the office from there. If you worked in Irvine, that could get you to work by 7:00am.
Therefore, what would be needed is a train leaving Ethanac Rd by no later than 4:30am, in order to get someone to work in Irvine by 7:00am. That's 2 1/2 hours of one-way travel. I remember driving from Menifee to my office near John Wayne Airport in about 1 1/2 hours on average, leaving home at 5:30am. I'd get out of bed around 5:00am, and didn't return home until 6:30pm. I'd still have about 4 hours to spend at home, until I hit the sack.
If I took the Perris Valley Line, I'd have to get out of bed at 3:45am, just to catch the 4:30am train, and ultimately come back home around 7:00pm. That would leave me with about 1 hour to spend at home, until I had to hit the sack and get about 7 hours of sleep for the next day.
As far as the cost, the existing fare from downtown Riverside to Irvine is $233.00 a month, for roundtrip service. So let's assume it'll cost $400.00 a month to extend that route to Ethanac Rd. Earlier this month, I posted that it would cost about $450.00 a month to drive a car to commute to Irvine and back, and that's assuming the price of gas is $5.00 per gallon. Add to that about another $200 a month for toll road fees. Then service maintenance on your car is probably $1,200 a year (oil, tires, brake pads), or $100 a month. All in all, about $750 a month to commute to Irvine and back.
Therefore, it's looking like a commute to Orange County and back along this Perris Valley Line will save you close to $350.00 a month in expenses, but will add another 2-3 hours of commute, and pretty much take away your family time. But, you'll get to sleep on the train, get a little bit of walking exercise from the bus stop, and you'll make your environmentalist-wife a lot happier.
I used Irvine as an example. Depending on your destination, taking the Metrolink might be better or worse. It might also open up new job possibilities as far away as Ventura County, depending on that job's proximity to a train station.
Of course, by 2011 the price of gas may be $15.00 per gallon. But then again, Metrolink trains are diesel-electrics, and those fares will go up too.