Looking for a Transit Friendly Community? Try Claremont

6_25_09_claremont.jpgClaremont Station. Photo: Szoksnapshot/Flickr

(editor’s note: For more people stating the case for their communities, check out Dana Gabbard’s love of the Wilshire Corridor and Steven Frein’s description of the Downtown)

I just got back from Cambridge, England, where I stayed for 2 weeks. The city of about 100,000 seems to have more bikes than people, and indeed the medieval city core streets are closed during many parts of the week to car traffic. There is convenient bus and rail to local and long distance destinations. I did not set foot in a care the entire time I was there.

In Claremont, as in Cambridge, you can be carless. It’s true that we’re talking about suburbia (population 35,000). However, Claremont has a walkable/bikeable downtown village that provides all kinds of services and entertainment. Larger grocery stores and other services just outside the village are easily reached by walking or biking. Foothill Transit provides local and longer-distance bus service.

Work here? Great! Many of the major thoroughfares have well-marked bike lanes, and the side streets are usually very calm. Don’t have a job in Claremont? No problem: you can take the Metrolink San Bernardino line from the middle of the Claremont village to Union Station 7 days a week (with an 11:30 PM departure back home from Union Station on Saturday nights!). The Foothill Transit Silver Streak bus runs 24/7 from the Montclair transit center (bikeable from the village) and, although it takes longer, provides a nice complement to the Metrolink Service. You can also reach the Ontario Airport via bus, with one transfer from Foothill Transit to Omnitrans. We hope the Metro Gold Line will be extended to Claremont from Sierra Madre by 2017, providing a link from the village by rail to downtown LA via Pasadena.

If more people here had the courage to get rid of (or at least mothball) their cars, maybe someday Claremont could even have a carless downtown!

  • It’s too far away for me, but having lived in LaVerne for two years in senior high, I can testify that Claremont is really nice.

    Head on Foothill Blvd. eastward. You won’t need a sign to tell you that you’ve left Claremont and Los Angeles County and entered Upland and San Bernadino County.

  • M

    I lived in Claremont without a car for about 3 years. I was in college at the time so nearly all my friends lived nearby. I didn’t have to deal with much grocery shopping and I had friends with cars, but it wasn’t so bad. I also had a job and volunteered. Biking was a little much for me after growing up in Houston where it is completely flat and I had no need to learn what bike gears were for (saying that now seems rather embarrassing!), so I struggled biking completely uphill to get to some destinations and battling with the sycamore pods. After visiting Claremont more recently though, there are ever more useful stores and businesses nearby than when I lived there.

  • DJB

    It’s nice that Claremont has some bike lanes, Metrolink, and the Silver Streak, but unless you work in Claremont or really close to a Metrolink stop (at a job that allows you to afford to live in Claremont), it’d be pretty tough to make that work without a car.

  • Unmentioned is Claremont’s dial a ride, which provides service to all corners of the city 6 days a week – but even better for seniors, the disabled, and teenagers under driving age, it’s open 24 hours a day. If I was a senior who occasionally went out and about, and wanted to peaceful community free of the a lot of hustle while sitll being connected to Los Angeles, then I would live in Claremont. http://www.pvtrans.org/asp/Site/Claremont/index.asp

    Nearby San Dimas does one better with Dial A Cab, a 24 hour general public cab service at a fraction of the cost of a regular cab: http://www.pvtrans.org/asp/Site/SanDimas/

  • Claremont is also very fortunate to be on a county line, which makes it one of the few places that has good transit options in both directions, at least if you’re willing to make the short walk to Montclair TransCenter. I worked in the 1990s on a few plans that helped stitch the networks together — e.g. extensions of San Bernardino County’s Omnitrans to downtown Pomona and of Foothill to Montclair — but it’s still the case that the county line is a significant barrier to travel. That will always be the case, I expect, as long as California transportation planning is done mostly in county-level agencies.

    I’d add that I was a carless student in Claremont 1980-84. At that time, this basically meant that I never left the campus+downtown area, unless on an outing with friends. Things have improved a lot in a generation. Less smog too.

  • limit

    I too have lived in Claremont. While mainly walkable a car is quite useful for getting groceries – Montclair Costco.

  • Wad

    Jarrett, we used to have a regional agency in the 1970s. The Southern California Rapid Transit District once upon a time actually covered all of Southern California! But as the counties surrounding L.A. grew, they felt their transit systems could not grow had they stayed with the RTD.

    Orange County broke first, forming the OCTD, now OCTA. Then San Bernardino followed with Omnitrans and then Riverside County with the RTA.

    The 1980s brought a breakaway within the county, as Foothill Transit was able to form in the San Gabriel Valley. The decade also brought us the passage of Proposition A, the first transit tax. Because of its local return provisions, cities were able to start local “Prop. A” shuttle services.

  • The SCRTD was a failure, though, because it never had taxing authority. Very few transit districts do. Ultimately, it is better for transit to be controlled closer to the communities where they are involved. The downside is that it is more expensive. On that tangent, one of the ideas coming out of Art Leahy, according to the rumor mill, is the re-consolidation of service planning back to Corporate (i.e. downtown). The General Managers would either get jobs back at Corporate, or they would be dismissed. The service planners would move back downtown, or be redirected to other tasks (since there will no longer be a need for so many of them), and the Sector Governance Councils will function to hold service change public hearings and make recommendations, and not meet the other eight months out of the year. I don’t know how real this is, but it is what I have heard come out of the Taj.

  • cph

    I grew up in the Claremont/La Verne Area during the 1980’s….

    Back then, mostly I rode a bike. Oh, there were certain streets I wouldn’t
    use, due to lack of shoulders. But for the most part, I had no problems riding around La Verne, San Dimas, Claremont and parts of Pomona.

    I wasn’t particularly aware of transit until 1984, and at the time, what little was out in the area was a joke. Only 2 RTD lines served Claremont; both wrapped up service around 7 pm and neither ran on weekends. (I remember reading a newspaper article complaining about the lack of RTD service, and advocating that Omnitrans extend service from San Bernardino County to Claremont!)

    Things have improved markedly since then. Now Downtown Claremont is a major transit hub, and there is frequent service over to Montclair for trips into
    San Bernardino County. Not everything is perfect: the Silver Streak skips Claremont (and doesn’t do a particularly good job east of West Covina, in my opinion). And I miss good, all-day express bus service from Montclair to Riverside and San Bernardino. But I’ll take what we have now, and hope for improvement.

  • Erik G.

    I’m a little late, but the author neglected to mention that Amtrak California runs 8 buses a day (4 Roundtrips) from Claremont to Bakersfield to connect with the San Joaquin trains. I have hear that the stop in Ontario might be moved to Ontario Airport. Now if the stupid Perata law concerning local travel on Amtrak California buses could be lifted, then there would be additional opportunities for travel from Pasadena to Claremont, Ontario (airport?) San Bernardino and on to Palm Spring.

    Claremont also has a Greyhound station, but good luck figuring out what buses run where these days on the crappy Greyhound.com website.

  • Wad

    The way around the bus-only Amtrak trip is to book a train trip to the next immediate stop. Just don’t ride the train.

  • cph

    That might work if you’re traveling to/from Bakersfield (the “Wasco Trick”) but there’s nothing to indicate that Amtrak California might start allowing local travel on the buses (such as between Claremont and Ontario Airport). They *could*, though.

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