Corona, CA: 91 reasons why commuting is taking a toll

Editors Note: I've been saying this publicly and privately for years.

If the Occupy movement is still around in 2017, I can think of a “street” that will qualify as a worthy target: “Occupy Toll Lanes”.

Corona’s new Highway 91 toll lanes are still two presidential elections away, but prices are now set and it looks like a 1 percent solution: A peak-time commuter on RivCo and OC Highway 91 toll lanes could pay $15 one way. A Riverside commutant tolling up and down the 91 could drop more than $100 a week.

Drivers who use these lanes may squawk — but they will pay up. The rest of the commuting crowd will continue to carpet the concrete from the mountains to the prairie to the oceans — bright with chrome.

You can’t blame government price-setters. Without making the toll lanes the exclusive domain of motorists with means, what good are they? Everybody would use ’em. Democracy run amok! Look at it this way: Toll lanes don’t keep the 99 percent out; they lure the 1 percent away from the People’s Freeway, providing more room to stretch. You buying this?

It might be unfair to view all toll laners as members of the Beemer Brigade. Anne Meyer, director of the RivCo Transportation Commish, suggested as much saying toll fees are meant, in part, “to alter driver behavior.” Jack up tolls at peak hours and some commutants tweak their schedules to drive at cheaper times.

Perhaps inadvertently, Meyer nailed it. Day after day, thousands of Inland motorists “propel” themselves through the eye of the needle that is the Santa Ana Canyon, violating every known law of Nature. But when Meyer speaks of altering driver behavior, being picky about one’s hours of travel represents as much progress as rush-hour creep.

A more profound alteration would be an end to commuting as we know it. No, not more mass transit, wider freeways or extended carpool lanes. Not new ways to squeeze through the needle. Just this: better jobs and companies in the Empire.

I know. We’re just Warehouseville. America’s truck stop. Riverside only has three universities and a budding med school. For what it’s worth, Corona just nabbed a top national ranking (based on, among other things, income and education) as a place to raise a family and Riverside is the world’s “Intelligent Community of the Year” for its efforts to infuse the community with high-tech tools and know-how. Yet, every day, crack of dawn, it’s take the 91 through the needle.

Riverside Councilman Mike Gardner, who lost his bid for Riverside mayor, says the runoff probably won’t be remembered for a “home run idea.” But he has a single, maybe a double.

“If a company is thinking of relocating, we need to get Riverside in their consciousness. We should be actively recruiting them (especially California businesses) just like Texas, Nevada and Georgia are doing. We need (city) people who specialize in that.”

We need to break out of this rut. Otherwise, we’re doomed to keep pouring millions down that canyon, pitting driver against driver, as we cook up ever more ingenious ways to thread that needle.

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