One of four proposed bus route changes in southwest Riverside County cities will include stops along Interstate 215 in Murrieta, including Loma Linda University Medical Center-Murrieta.
Route 217 has a monthly ridership of about 1,500, according to Jim Kneepkens, director of marketing for Riverside Transit Agency. Compared to other routes that serve Murrieta, Temecula and Wildomar, that is the lowest ridership.
Route 217 currently takes riders east on Winchester Road to Hemet; the proposed changes will discontinue the eastbound Winchester Road stops. It will instead take riders north on Interstate 215 through Menifee to Domenigoni Parkway, eventually ending up in San Jacinto at Mt. San Jacinto College.
Collectively, RTA provides about 24,200 rides each month among the three cities. Route 23 is the most heavily traveled route, with 8,000 riders a month, according to Kneepkens. It travels between the Temecula Community Center and Inland Valley Regional Medical Center in Wildomar, with many stops along the way. Riders can travel easily between the three cities, with one of the major stops being Wal-Mart in Murrieta.
Murrieta City Councilman Doug McAllister, who serves as the vice chair of RTA's Board of Directors, said the proposed changes will improve that service.
"We monitor how the routes are working and we monitor how many riders they have," McAllister said.
He said the agency also has federal and state service guidelines they need to meet in areas they provide service to.
"The routes do change periodically, but this one focuses a lot on southwest County. This is more of an effort to make mass transit more available here."
Pamela Gladie, 61, is a Murrieta resident who uses the bus every day--sometimes two or three times a day--to get around. Gladie waited at Wal-Mart on a recent weekend afternoon, after doing shopping at the nearby 99 Cent Only Store. She also uses the bus to go the Murrieta Public Library, where she uses the computer.
Gladie has a monthly pass, which costs her $23 because she is a senior citizen. She lost her car in a rear-end accident a year ago, but said the bus gets her where she needs to go. It is a different story for her daughter, though, who is looking for employment.
"It is hard for her to find work because the bus stops running too early in the evenings," Gladie said.
Most of the routes stop running between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. each night.
"A lot of times there is a lot of walking after I get off the bus, too," she said. She has had worsening knee problems since her car accident.
Temecula resident Betty Wolfenbarger is 84 and uses the bus regularly to travel between Temecula and Murrieta. She stopped driving five years ago after she had a car accident.
"The bus gets me everywhere I need to go. I take the bus to church, to get groceries and to all my doctor's appointments," Wolfenbarger said. "I have a daugther that lives in Temecula, but I try not to bother her."
"I've met a lot of nice people on the bus. That is where my most of my friends are now," she said.
Wolfenbarger is aware of the proposed changes, including a change to Route 23.While the route will no longer service Old Town Temecula, those stops will be picked up by Route 79.
A community meeting about the changes is planned at 3 p.m. Wednesday at the Murrieta Senior Center. Similar meetings were held in Temecula, Menifee and Wildomar earlier this week.
There will also be a public hearing about the changes on Feb. 24 in Riverside. If approved, the changes will become effective in May. To see a breakdown of the changes, click here.