The Point: Elected leaders to help shape RCTC’s short-term, long-term priorities

With less restrictive COVID-19 stay-at-home orders and increasing vaccination opportunities, Riverside County residents may be seeing a light at the end of a long, dark pandemic tunnel this year. New Commission Chair Jan Harnik is leading RCTC in addressing immediate needs and setting longer-range transportation priorities.

Harnik, who also serves as the Palm Desert Mayor Pro Tem, was appointed by her fellow Commissioners in December as the 2021 RCTC Chair. County Supervisor V. Manuel Perez was selected as First Vice Chair and Lake Elsinore Mayor Bob Magee was named Second Vice Chair. The trio will preside over the 34-member Commission, which consists of the five Riverside County Supervisors, a mayor or council member from each of the 28 cities across the county, and a non-voting member from Caltrans.

Enhancing public transit options are one of Harnik’s priorities for the year. RCTC provides a portion of funding and other support to seven bus operators and Metrolink passenger rail service in Riverside County. RCTC also makes grant funding available to agencies and organizations that provide specialized transit service to seniors, low-income residents, and those who aren’t able to use traditional transit service.

“We need to make sure that our public transit systems are available to provide much-needed services for our community members so that we have options for traveling to work, school, recreational pursuits, medical appointments, and buying groceries,” Harnik said. “Listening to our community members and their needs is an important role for RCTC.”

Later this year, RCTC will seek public comment on the draft environmental document for the planned San Gorgonio Pass-Coachella Valley Rail Corridor Service Project, which aims to provide twice-daily rail service between Los Angeles Union Station and the desert. Securing funding to continue this project and heightening awareness of the project is of high importance to Harnik. Learn more about Coachella Valley Rail.

RCTC Commissioner Jan Harnik

Harnik also noted that during the past 10 months, many Riverside County residents have pivoted and adjusted to changes in the way they work, learn and shop, due to COVID-19, and RCTC is positioned to offer support as needed.

“RCTC must work with all stakeholders to understand and respond to the changes in work and lifestyle, such as telecommuting, online learning, e-commerce, and more. This will allow us to provide support and use our transportation funding efficiently,” she said.

Caring for the environment is another priority for Harnik as the Commission Chair. In January, RCTC become the managing agency for the Western Riverside County Regional Conservation Authority, which oversees the Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan. The plan aims to preserve 500,000 acres of land to provide habitat to 146 native species and expedite the environmental approval process for transportation projects. Read about the RCA and its mission and register for news updates.