Nothing will change San Diego’s transit system in the foreseeable future so much as the Mid-Coast Trolley line, the $2.1 billion project that will extend the light rail system from Old Town to University Town Center.
Once it’s done, regional planners at the San Diego Association of Governments and Metropolitan Transit System will have more work to do to get everything they can out of the massive investment.
The project, first approved by voters in 1988, has been a long time coming. SANDAG is now short on funds, so it will be the region’s last light-rail extension for years, unless leaders figure out how to raise more revenue for major projects.
There is, however, at least one low-cost way to make the project even more valuable to commuters – and that’s improving all the buses that feed into the new Mid-Coast line.
SANDAG and MTS can improve the timing and frequency of the east-west bus lines from the beaches and the inland areas around Clairemont that will bring riders to the new trolley line. The rail service, in turn, can bring them to jobs centers in UTC and downtown. Done right, it can improve the transit service for the entire swath of the city north of I-8 and south of La Jolla, rather than just the area along the new rail corridor.
Doing so is especially important because the Mid-Coast Corridor doesn’t fit the mold of an ideal rail corridor, despite the many jobs and amenities it’ll connect commuters to in UTC.
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The major limitation of all of the bus routes serving UCSD/UTC from the south is that they are slow and unreliable because their routes are circuitous and/or they are stuck in traffic without dedicated lanes and signal priority. The trolley extension addresses all of those issues by providing faster, frequent, and more reliable service. This addition will help strengthen the overall MTS network.
But more generally, there are some things that could be done that would improve bus service across the city, some that don't cost that much nor necessarily require much political will:
- Implement all door boarding on all buses (faster loading/unloading for faster, more reliable service).
- Expand signal priority beyond portions of the mid-city Rapid route to to every route with more frequent service.
And rebuild, from the ground up, the major streets that host the more frequent bus service - streets such as University, El Cajon, Broadway, and Clairemont Mesa Boulevard through Kearny Mesa, etc. These streets are in horrid condition. They need more than just repaving. And such improvements would benefit all users of those streets, not just those on buses. It's harder to argue for buses over trolleys, even if that might be a better option in some cases, if the ride quality on buses is so poor because of the condition of the streets that one risks a back injury by riding buses on those streets. That's not something MTS controls, but the city of San Diego could and should reprioritize funding for street repairs to rebuilding major city streets instead of more frequent repaving of smaller, neighborhood streets with much less traffic.
There are so many thing WRONG with the mid-coast, it's hard to fathom why it's worth more than TWO BILLION $$ (and more than twice what the original ballot measure was to pay for) to go a mere 10-11 miles - except when you understand the corruption at SANDAG - and not just the former Caltrans head of the Agency, but the Board that doesn't have any accountability for any transit performance when it comes to their elections and none of them actually have or really want to use the system.
The policies of this region amount to: let the congestion rise and eventually people will have to take transit. Sadly, the transit system itself remains a service-of-last-resort with a few SLOW trolley "glamour" projects sucking up the funds and utterly unsuited to our hilly region.
For what's possible based on good planning advice, see: https://www.slideshare.net/UrbanVisioning/presentations
University City to Downtown is served not just by route 150 (2,695 weekday passsengers) but also by route 30 along the coast (6,757), route 105 from Old Town (1,336), route 50 (1,040), and route 41 from Fashion Valley (4,535). (Grand total=16,363 weekday passengers.) Plus the UCSD shuttle to Scripps Mercy in Hillcrest if you count that, and the COASTER if you don't mind a little backtracking from Sorrento Valley. Ultimately, which bus to take depends on the time of day and day of the week and what kind of transit pass you have. It's all pretty complicated, and the Mid-Coast Trolley has the potential to greatly simplify transportation along the corridor.
So yes, strengthening the east-west bus routes would allow MTS to eliminate these duplicate north-south routes and bring passengers onto the faster and more comfortable light rail line with lower operating costs than buses.
And not just buses. It would also help to strengthen the bicycle and walking routes along the east-west roads. For example, a pedestrian bridge from La Jolla Colony (Charmant Drive) across the 5 directly to La Jolla Village Square would eliminate a very roundabout trek to Lebon Drive just to get to the Nobel Drive station. There may be other similar opportunities for bicycle and pedestrian improvements along the Mid-Coast Trolley line which MTS ought to investigate.
It's unfortunate that MTS decided to spend our tax money building parking garages at the transit stations. That's only going to add car traffic (ironically!) to the streets surrounding the transit stations, and now the city has to think about widening those streets to cope with the additional traffic.
Mira Mesa Boulevard very badly needs those queue jump lanes you mentioned, but that's a different story.
The Clairemont community plan is not going anything to promote in density around the stops. The balloon heads are probably going to whine their way into blocking any height/density adjustments.
The mid coast trolley is already broken before it is completed, the ancillary development, which would assist with any efficient transit oriented model is being blocked.
The common sense solution is to create density at the bottom of the hill along morena and leave the hills behind it single family zoning.
Housing is a funny issue in politics. It all boils down to self interest in the end.
You go to a community meeting and you see mostly the elderly who are going to be pushing daisies in the next decade or two controlling plans that will impact they area long after they are gone. The younger folks who the plan will actually impact have jobs, kids, and a life to lead.
I have gone to planning meetings and you have Republicans opposing private property rights of land owners, and Democrats supporting inclusionary zoning policies that have a long history of racism and disproportionately impacting the underprivileged and minorities. It is like an alternate reality.
Personally I think the solution is greater property rights, less fees, regulations and oversight. A simplistic model like the zoning mode in Japan. It is sad that California as a whole doesn't plan coherent for the future, even in the midst of the affordability crisis it faces today.
Hopefully with the climate action plan all this nonsense is overridden for the good of the future and we are able to urbanize and move out of the 1960's thinking when it comes to urban planning and zoning.
I am a candidate for SD CC D2. I have lived in Clairemont for over 50 years. I do not own a car preferring to take local buses like the number 5 and 27. As a member of the Clairemont Planning Group I often lament on the hypocrisy of public transportation in this largely provincial community built on the backs of the old Plant 19 Greatest Generation. These connector bus routes ain't going to work folks. Residents in Clairemont are a unique blend of old folks, lazy folks, privileged folks and folks that would rather be seen at a Strip Club than bus stop so stop pretending. The number 5 and 27 bus routes go largely unused during a typical workday. Honestly, I seem to be the only dummy standing in the rain waiting for a bus in my neighborhood so why do you folks continue to pretend!! STOP PRETENDING!! In 50 years I have yet to see my neighbors on a City Bus!! Elect Danny D2 SD CC Danny