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Cuts Loom for Express Bus Users

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

At a time when transit officials are handing out gift certificates to promote public transit, commuters say planned reductions in express bus service from West Covina to downtown Los Angeles will drive them back to their cars.

As many as 1,000 San Gabriel Valley commuters park their cars each day at the Eastland shopping center and then catch Foothill Transit’s 498/499 express bus service to downtown.

But starting next month, Foothill Transit will cut the number of buses through Eastland by two-thirds because the shopping mall’s owner is reducing the number of available park-and-ride spots by nearly half.

After the change, the mall will allow only 394 parking spaces for commuters.

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Yet this commuter route is so popular, late-arriving bus riders even now have to find spots on surrounding streets or risk being towed from the mall.

Commuters are fuming. Nearly 600 signed a petition demanding more parking, not less.

“What kind of message does this send to commuters?” asked bus rider Patty Diroff of Pomona. “All this will do is send people flocking back to their cars and clogging the 10 Freeway.”

Doran Barnes, deputy executive director of Foothill Transit, said the agency is hearing plenty of complaints.

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“We wish we had the space at Eastland,” he said. “We are trying to find another park-and-ride location. This is a real dilemma. But we don’t control the parking. It is a Catch-22 for us.”

Foothill Transit officials say they are moving some of the buses to create a new service to downtown, the 699. That line will originate at park-and-ride lots at the Fairplex in Pomona and at Citrus College in Azusa. A new 499 line will serve San Dimas.

Foothill officials say a survey completed by 150 riders showed that four out of 10 commuters would consider using the Fairplex line instead of the West Covina service. But many riders interviewed say it is not as convenient. Pomona is about 10 miles east of West Covina.

Foothill’s executive board agreed on Wednesday to start the new schedule Dec. 14. Foothill is a joint powers authority operated by 20 San Gabriel Valley cities.

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Eastland General Manager Larry Martin said construction has taken up portions of the parking lot. Now that all the shops are leased, he said, they need more parking.

Foothill Transit officials said they have nearly $11 million available for new parking, but finding a site in West Covina or Covina is tough.


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