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Traffic board approves new bus route to connect La Jolla with new trolley station

MTS' proposed bus Route 140 would offer faster service between La Jolla and the Balboa Avenue trolley station.
(Courtesy)

The La Jolla Traffic & Transportation Board gave the green light Jan. 20 to a new city bus route in La Jolla that would replace a previously planned addition and modify a current route.

The approval came after a board subcommittee favored the proposed new route. T&T Chairman Dave Abrams said the subcommittee was charged with looking at “how do we get folks from The Village of La Jolla to the trolley stops,” specifically the Mid-Coast Trolley line, which is under construction to extend trolley service from San Diego’s Old Town to the UC San Diego and University City areas and is planned to begin service late this year.

The proposed new bus route, labeled 140, would connect La Jolla and the Balboa Avenue station (under construction on Balboa between Interstate 5 and Morena Boulevard) and run concurrently with Route 30, which has run between Pacific Beach and UC San Diego through La Jolla for eight years.

The 140 would pick up passengers in The Village and head to the Balboa station via southbound I-5 and would be “a more expeditious way to get to a trolley station from The Village,” Abrams said.

Route 140 replaces the previously proposed Route 34 (shown in green).
Route 140 replaces the previously proposed Route 34 (shown in green).
(Courtesy)

The subcommittee last year approved proposed bus Route 34, which “essentially followed the 30 except it was a local stopping bus and instead of going to UTC [University Town Center], it could go to the nearest trolley station, which is Nobel Drive,” said subcommittee chairman Dan Allen.

Route 34 was scrapped in favor of the 140 to move more passengers through the area, said Rodrigo Carrasco, senior transportation planner for the Metropolitan Transit System, which provides all public transportation to the San Diego area.

“We looked at what can we do to move people where they want to go and be more effective, more efficient,” Carrasco said. “That’s how the 140 came to be.”

Allen noted that the 140 will serve The Village but not the La Jolla Shores or Bird Rock areas and that the 34 had a “much wider pickup of residential passengers.”

Carrasco said “Bird Rock is not only tough to travel through with the roundabouts” but also “very few people board there. Looking at the data, zero to 10 passengers board a day, but 30 to 40 ride through there. We’re looking at how to provide the most benefit. The direct route ... via I-5 ... seemed like the most effective use of the resources to move the most people.”

The proposed new route also comes with adjustments to the existing Route 30, which would end in the south at Old Town instead of the current endpoint downtown. Route 30 also would run through La Jolla Shores instead of up Torrey Pines Road, ending at the new Nobel Drive trolley station near the La Jolla Village Square shopping center instead of UCSD.

Allen said the subcommittee’s recommendation to the full T&T Board was that the Route 140 proposal “is favored, but not strongly” and that the subcommittee is concerned with the effects of traffic getting off I-5 at Balboa Avenue.

Carrasco called that “one of the worst intersections in San Diego” but said Route 140 will still offer “significant savings at peak hours” on travel times, based on traffic studies.

Allen said “it appears the only way to find out is to try it,” noting that MTS will run the buses on a trial basis for one year to collect data on efficiency before making 140 a permanent route.

T&T member Patrick Ryan said the proposal “makes sense, considering low rider numbers in Bird Rock.”

Ryan said Route 140 “looks like it gives a fairly express path from The Village to the Balboa station. One thing I liked about [proposed Route] 34 is that it gave a path from the Balboa station by the coast. I wonder if the 30 ran closer to the Balboa station … if the 30 could pick up passengers from the Balboa station.”

Carrasco said he “would love to be able to serve everyone directly from the Balboa station” but that MTS would not be able to make Ryan’s suggested change without additional resources.

T&T member Tom Brady asked if MTS would establish signage on Silverado Street between Girard and Herschel avenues in La Jolla, where Routes 30 and 140 would overlap, “so that it’s explained easily to the riders.”

Carrasco said the idea “would be great for tourists. We just need to find the funds for it.”

The T&T Board unanimously approved the MTS proposal with the recommendation to add signage as Brady suggested.

T&T’s recommendation will go to the La Jolla Community Planning Association at its Feb. 4 meeting, Abrams said. He added that MTS may have a hearing on the matter in March.

After a lengthy and spirited discussion, the La Jolla Traffic & Transportation Board voted to approve updated plans for the La Jolla portion of the city of San Diego’s Coastal Rail Trail project, which includes protected bike lanes on Gilman Drive.

Other T&T news

The board discussed residents’ concerns about safety at the intersection of La Jolla Mesa Drive and La Jolla Scenic Drive South.

Robert Gish and Michael Reidy, both of whom live at the intersection, said motorists often drive through the stop signs or accelerate or do “doughnuts” in the intersection.

“There’s also drag racing,” Gish said, adding there have been traffic accidents that injured people or caused property damage.

“It’s jaw-dropping,” Reidy said of the racing and speeding.

The board discussed suggestions to address the issue, such as flashing lights across the intersection, brightly painted crosswalks and a traffic circle.

Abrams said he will forward the ideas to city of San Diego traffic engineers for further study. “They know what’s possible and what’s not,” he said.

Further board action will be scheduled as appropriate, he added.

The Traffic & Transportation Board next meets at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 17. For more information, email manana@san.rr.com.