CITY SPOTLIGHT: San Bernardino, California Part 4


This post is part of a new series on the CNU Salons, CITY SPOTLIGHT. City Spotlight shines a light on the latest news, developments and initiatives occurring in cities and towns where CNU members live and work.

The post below is City Spotlight Part 4 of a 4 part series on the City of San Bernardino, CA from Mario Suarez, AICP, CNU-A. Part 4 lays out the lessons learned from TOD, BRT, and passenger rail -related initiatives in the City of San Bernardino. Read Part 1 (overview)Part 2 (bringing BRT to the City), and Part 3 (passenger rail).


  • It starts with funding. If it was not for the positive support for implementation of mass transit systems in the region by the voters, the bus rapid transit and rail projects may not have happened.
  • It requires strong regional planning agency presence. The local Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) and sub-organizations were in full support with adopted regional policies, funding, and staff expertise.
  • General Plan policies work. The City's 2005 General Plan policies made it easier to foster change in a City that is facing challenging financial times and difficult circumstances. There were a number of policy goals, objectives and tasks that made it much more clear for hired consultants in implementing the transit-oriented development code and for the regional transportation agencies to move forward with their transportation enhancement plans.
  • It requires the continued education of municipal planners. Municipal Planners need to take the responsibility in understanding new urbanism. An accreditation course, offered at the University of Miami, is a great place to start. It is affordable and self-paced. It could be completed on-line within a three- month to nine-month period. The following link will provide more details:
  • BRT for Major East-West Corridor Under Study. SCAG and SANBAG are now in the process of a new study to complete an east-west corridor along the famous Route 66 across several cities in this region of Southern California.  
  • Proximity. A noun defined by nearness in place, time, order, occurrence, or relation.  The distance a pedestrian will walk and definition of the 1/4 to 1/2-mile neighborhood will come into question when establishing your TOD district boundaries. The Federal Transportation Authority (FTA) does have a 1/2-mile radius walking criteria based on the average distance people are willing to walk, 15 minutes (at 2 miles per hour) to public transit.

Omnitrans planning staff indicate that "people are willing to walk further for a higher level-of-service; Omnitrans surveyed riders in the 1990s and ended up doubling our frequency and doubling route spacing.  The average walking distance for riders currently is 1/2-mile to each stop in each direction (2 miles total per day).  From what Omnitrans staff found, frequency weighs more importantly than mode, but there could be other factors as well, such as how transit-dependent the person is, the weather conditions, the availability of sidewalks, etc."

  • Public Outreach and Participation. There is no skipping this step. The process needs to incorporate this takeaway in order for decision makers to focus on issues and not the planning process. Please note that stakeholder committees, community-wide outreach and participation is great, but neighborhood level input will need to be sought prior to completing your first draft. Plan accordingly as bulk mail will be your friend when budgeting for this part of direct public outreach and participation. Lastly, your supporters will also provide the start up and ending final push to the finish line.
  • Planning Grants and their scope - be careful. Obtaining a planning grant is outstanding, but be overly cautious of deadlines from the grant because you may lose the funding or have to modify your scope of work thereby reducing the quality of final product if you do not monitor the timeframes like a hawk. Even more importantly, the loss of organization's credibility is at risk.
  • Leadership Stands-Out at City Council. During the public hearing process, the City Council members were not unanimous in their decision regarding the project. However, the support for the overall project from many including the development  and building community far out-spoke the naysayers and provided public testimony in support of the Transit District Overlay project. In the end, while it was clear from the testimony of some of the members of the City Council that philosophical or continued views of the Transit District Overlay, BRT and related rail projects would not change their minds no matter what form these new project took, the Mayor and the majority of the Council felt that the Transit District Overlay project would be an asset to the City and voted to approve it.
  • Compromise will be your friend and will help you get the project adopted. A partial win, a first step forward, provides an opportunity for staff and developers/builders to show that if the projects take into account the objectives of the new legislation then good things will happen. 
  • Economics back up better performing communities. Communities that "get it" find their coffers are better off and their communities are filled with pride for their buildings, cityscapes, and municipal services. Their mobility, identity, and quality of life issues are much improved and longer-lasting.
  • Processing Permits by Municipality. Some municipalities may need to legislate faster processing times as an incentive to build within a TOD. Others may not need to do this, because current staff processing times are fast enough to address and support the time constraints requested by developers and builders for their projects. This really depends on whether the government organization understands that reduced permit processing times are a great way to bring projects to their town.
  • The New Economy.  No one dares guess what it will be.  Cities that are diverse, complex, resilient, and environmentally awake to implement TODs and sustainability plans are developing new economies such as innovation districts, new manufacturing districts, new employment centers, new tourism, mixed-use projects and the list keeps on growing with time.

Cold Fact by Sixto Rodriguez, an American folk musician, writes about his home Detroit, Michigan. Listen to the album as a minor detour but worth a break from what we do for a living. The pie charts above speak for themselves.


Jane Jacob's best describes action taken by the challenges faced by our cities to be filled with positive or negative consequences and the choices made in a City's action are not coincidental in her quote below:

"Whenever and wherever societies have flourished and prospered rather than stagnated and decayed, creative and workable cities have been at the core of the phenomenon. . . Decaying cities, declining economies, and mounting social troubles travel together. The combination is not coincidental. . ."  Jane Jacobs, Author - Death and Life of Great American Cities, 1961.  

A departing thought for City decision makers is what part of the paragraph above, the former or latter, does your legacy want to be remembered for in current time period and into the future?



The New York Transportation authority defines Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) as a term applied to a variety of  public transport systems using buses to provide faster, more efficient service than an ordinary bus line. Often this is achieved by making improvements to existing infrastructure, vehicles and scheduling. The goal of these systems is to approach the service quality of rail transit while still enjoying the cost savings and flexibility of bus transit.

 It indicates the following:  In 2006, the Legislature passed and Governor Schwarzenegger signed AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, which set the 2020 greenhouse gas emissions reduction goal into law.  It directed the California Air Resources Board (ARB or Board) to begin developing discrete early actions to reduce greenhouse gases while also preparing a scoping plan to identify how best to reach the 2020 limit.  The reduction measures to meet the 2020 target are to be adopted by the start of 2011.  The target was identified, along with many other requirements, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels to serve as the emissions limit to be achieved by 2020.

Final Policy Statement on the Eligibility of Pedestrian and Bicycle Improvements Under Federal Transit Law


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