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Downtown San Diego- La Jolla shuttle proposed

If a local tour bus company can get it on the road, a new shuttle service might bring visitors to La Jolla from downtown San Diego as soon as March.

Tim Schenck, who calls himself Tour Guide Tim and is working with Grayline Tours/Coach America, told Promote La Jolla’s board last week that he wants to start with afternoon tours that would leave the Santa Fe railway/trolley station area three days a week, with the idea of expanding to daily trips — even twice a day — during the summer.

Schenck said he is pursuing the idea because he learned from concierges at downtown hotels that visitors who stay downtown want to visit La Jolla but don’t want to spend $75 for a round-trip taxi or to pay for a rental car.

“They’re not getting insight into what La Jolla has to offer,” Schenck said, adding that he needs the support of the local market.

Unlike the bus that loops through La Jolla in the summer months without stopping, his plan would route vehicles up Mount Soledad and into the Village, with stops at the Cove and throughout the Village. Operators would talk about area attractions — from the galleries to cultural institutions and kayak operators — as well as its geology, architecture and history.

Schenck said he’s also looking into some sort of arrangement that would shuttle visitors to Bird Rock and La Jolla Shores as well.

“We want your ideas about what makes La Jolla unique,” he told the group, noting that the existing map of antique stores was a great example. “We need extra incentives to get them here.”

PLJ board member Nancy Warwick suggested that the tours run later in the afternoon so people would be inspired to stay for “sunset at the Cove and dinner in our restaurants.”

Board member Deborah Marengo, who owns the Goldfish Point Cafe and also serves on the Traffic and Transportation Board, noted that the community groups would want to see a drop-off plan because “circulation is an issue.”

Daisy Fitzpatrick, another board member, suggested that Schenck should include the hotels on Torrey Pines Mesa in his plans for an expanded shuttle to bring visitors into the Village.

The plan still must go before La Jolla’s Traffic and Transportation Board as well as other community groups, who would offer advice on the best places to stop and get input on size of vehicles and whether they would shut their engines off while loading and unloading.

Joe LaCava, chairman of the La Jolla Community Planning Association who heard the presentation, wrote in an e-mail on Jan. 14 that he thinks it is a great opportunity to bring shoppers to the Village without the accompanying cars.

“As long as the service is sensitive to our narrow and sometimes congested streets, coastal areas, and parking their buses in unobtrusive areas, I think it can be a very positive addition,” he said.

He said the existing tour bus parking on Kline just east of Fay Avenue could work as a drop-off/pickup area.

LaCava, who also chairs the Coastal Access & Parking Board, which gets money through the city from fees paid by developers under Coastal Commission requirements, added that it’s possible some funds might be available to assist with the concept.

“At first blush, this proposal does not seem to strictly meet the criteria set forth in the memorandum of understanding between the Coastal Commission and the city. However, the board has been unable to demonstrate that criteria is feasible given the small fund and the expense of running a shuttle service and remote parking area.”

He said the second phase of Schenck’s proposal might fit the requirements and “be an opportunity to dovetail serving tourists, shoppers as well as employees.”