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MTS workshop details bus route changes coming with new trolley extension

MTS' proposed bus Route 140 would begin service when the new Mid-Coast Trolley extension opens later this year.
(Courtesy)

Ahead of the November opening of the Mid-Coast Trolley, which will extend trolley service between San Diego’s Old Town and the UC San Diego and University City areas, the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System held a public information session online Feb. 10 about coming additional trolley stations and proposed bus route changes.

Denis Desmond, MTS director of planning, said the project to extend the trolley has been in the works for nearly 30 years. “We’re excited this is finally coming along now,” he said.

The extension will have nine stations along 11 miles, Desmond said, with “a one-seat ride from the border and South Bay all the way up through” UCSD and the University Town Center area.

One of the stops will be the Balboa Avenue station between Interstate 5 and Morena Boulevard, which will have several bus lines running through, Desmond said.

The next station going north is the Nobel Drive station, which will have a parking structure, followed by the VA Medical Center station, which will be within walking distance of the hospital.

The next four stops will provide access to the UCSD campus and UTC area, he said. The last will terminate the line at the UTC Transit Center.

The San Diego Association of Governments, or SANDAG, is overseeing construction of the extension, Desmond said.

Local bus routes will be added or changed with the opening of the extension because the current network of routes “is not optimized for the trolley line,” he said.

The changes, Desmond said, follow survey results indicating that “most do want a viable alternative to driving their automobile.”

“They’d like to use transit,” he said, but transit travel times can be too long for most, especially as “there’s a major disconnect in the region between where people live and where they work” due to the cost of housing.

MTS’ objectives are “to improve access to local communities” and “reduce overall travel times for people using transit,” he said.

In the La Jolla area, that means changes to the existing Route 30, a major north-south bus route between downtown and UTC via Pacific Beach and La Jolla.

The proposed changes mean Route 30 would terminate farther north in Old Town instead of in downtown San Diego.

“We’ll have eight trolleys an hour in each direction” between Old Town and downtown, Desmond said. “We’d like to … reinvest the resources that go to Route 30 in that corridor in other areas.”

The proposed bus Route 30. The red dashed lines show portions of the current route that would be served by other routes.
The proposed, changed bus Route 30. The red dashed lines show portions of the current route that would be served by other routes.
(Courtesy)

In the north, the edited Route 30 would travel along Nobel Drive instead of La Jolla Village Drive. “That would give us additional capacity along Nobel Drive, where we currently have very heavy loads” on bus Routes 201 and 202, he said.

A new route, 140, has been proposed for the area “to help people get from the trolley corridor into downtown La Jolla,” Desmond said.

Route 140 would come out of the Balboa Avenue Transit Center, travel north on I-5 and exit at La Jolla Parkway, ending at the Silverado Street and Herschel Avenue bus stop for Route 30.

MTS brought Route 140 to the La Jolla Traffic & Transportation Board in January, which approved it.

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.

“We’ve gotten lots of questions about what the bus stops will look like along this route,” Desmond said. “We would serve all of the existing Route 30 stops along Torrey Pines Road. There are some challenges in the La Jolla Shores area with where we can put stops on Torrey Pines Road, because a large section of it doesn’t have any crosswalks or sidewalks. So we may be limited in how many stops we can put closer, but that’s certainly something we’re looking at.”

He said 140 “is a route that we envision will help people, especially people who work in downtown La Jolla, that currently might be using Route 30,” which he said “is fairly slow going across Pacific Beach and up through Bird Rock along La Jolla Boulevard. We anticipate this could save up to 15 to 20 minutes each way.”

Route 140 would run daily in 30-minute increments, with “some 15-minute frequency during weekday peaks,” Desmond said.

Route 30 would still operate every 15 minutes on weekdays but change to every 30 minutes Saturdays and Sundays.

Also affecting La Jolla is new shuttle Route 985, which would come out of the UCSD Central Campus trolley station and serve the North Torrey Pines area, including Scripps Green Hospital. “This would operate weekday peak hours only,” Desmond said.

MTS will hold another public information session from 4 to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 16. To register, go to bit.ly/mtsFeb16.

The changes to the bus routes will be taken to a public hearing Thursday, March 11, with final approval by the MTS board expected in April. Desmond said all new routes and changes would go into effect the day the trolley operation begins.

To participate in the March 11 hearing or to offer feedback, email mts.planning@sdmts.com. ◆