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La Jolla’s new bus route for Blue Line trolley sees low ridership early on

Two MTS Route 140 buses sit on Silverado Street in La Jolla.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

With the opening of the Mid-Coast Extension of the UC San Diego Blue Line Trolley, La Jolla got a bus route that connects riders of the new line to The Village.

While the new bus route has “potential,” ridership is off to a slow start.

Bus route No. 140 connects the trolley’s Blue Line stop at Balboa Avenue to La Jolla’s Village at Silverado Street and Herschel Avenue. The new route opened in November with the Blue Line extension that runs between San Diego’s Old Town and the UC San Diego and University City areas.

“The ridership is low right now, averaging 160 people a day, but all new routes take awhile to build ridership,” Rodrigo Carrasco, senior transportation planner for the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System, told the La Jolla Coastal Access and Parking Board during its Jan. 27 meeting. “It’s a challenge, but it has potential.”

Carrasco noted that service started right before the holidays and shortly before UCSD shifted classes online because of the recent regional surge in coronavirus cases.

“I’m not surprised the ridership is down,” he said. “I expect it to pick up.”

He encouraged partnerships to help promote the line, and CAPB member Jodi Rudick agreed, saying, “Let’s make that happen for sure.”

Route 140 uses Interstate 5 to link the Balboa Avenue trolley station and the Silverado Street and Herschel Avenue bus stop for the existing Route 30. Route 30 has run between Pacific Beach and UCSD through La Jolla for about nine years.

The Coastal Access and Parking Board has long advocated a shuttle to bring people taking mass transit to La Jolla and reduce traffic congestion from cars.

The La Jolla Coastal Access Parking Fund was established some 50 years ago through California Coastal Commission-required contributions by office-space developers. The dual purpose was to implement a shuttle system to move people throughout The Village from a remote parking reservoir and create other short- or long-term parking solutions. The terms are outlined in a memorandum of understanding between the Coastal Commission and the city of San Diego.

At one time, the board pursued its own shuttle system to circulate in The Village but was advised by the Coastal Commission to wait until the new bus route was in place and see if the “shuttle money” could be used in a way that supports the bus line.

On-street parking

CAPB also has been exploring whether to implement technology that would use sensors to gauge the number of available on-street parking spaces on congested coastline streets and relay that information to digital signs to help inform those searching for a parking spot.

A rendering of what a sign could look like under a proposal to measure on-street parking in La Jolla.
A rendering presented to the La Jolla Coastal Access and Parking Board shows what a digital sign could look like under a proposal to count on-street parking spaces and relay that information to drivers looking for an open space.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

Parking consultant Brad Elsass presented a conceptual proposal introducing the board to technology offered by Germany-based Cleverciti. The board did not vote on the proposal.

Elsass said Coast Boulevard could be a pilot street, saying it “is one of our biggest issues when it comes to traffic stopping in The Village during peak days” because of people slowly circling area streets looking for an open parking space. “So we focused on Coast because we think it will improve the overall traffic flow.”

“Several companies” could customize and install the technology, with cost estimates ranging from $60,000 to $150,000, Elsass said.

He assured that the technology does not collect identifying information such as a car’s make, model or license plate number.

The next step is for the board to work with the Coastal Commission to see if the idea meets the terms of the MOU, then meet with community planning groups. At that point, the board would launch a request for proposals from companies.

Board member Tom Brady called the proposal “very exciting” but said the problem will be “selling the idea” to the planning groups.

Rudick said she would send the proposal to the Coastal Commission informally and “see what happens.” She added that she would present an update at a future board meeting.

La Jolla Coastal Access and Parking meets quarterly or as needed. The next meeting is scheduled for 4 p.m. Thursday, April 28. Learn more at lajollabythesea.com. ◆