UCSD-University City mini- bus line plan moves forward


A plan to improve public transportation in the corridor between UCSD and North University City is moving forward as officials work to fine-tune station designs for a new mini-bus line.

The San Diego Association of Governments presented new designs for stations for its so-called Super Loop at a public forum at the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center on July 11. The Super Loop is planned to be a bus route that will exclusively serve 14 stations between UCSD’s East Campus and North University City. The San Diego Association of Governments, which is managing the project along with San Diego Metropolitan Transit System and City Council President Scott Peters’ office, is currently seeking designs for a new type of bus to serve the route, hopefully smaller and more fuel-efficient than traditional 40-foot-long buses.

The design of the new stations unveiled at the July 11 forum has also been trimmed down in size as a response to input received from the public in earlier forums.

“One of the comments we got quite often was that people thought the initial designs were too large in scale,” said Christine Rychel, project manager for the San Diego Association of Governments. “So we lowered the height and reduced the width of the roof canopy structure.”

In addition to reducing the height of the stainless steel structures by about four and a half feet, designers also modified the lighting to reduce the impact of the stations on surrounding areas.

“The original design had uplighting as well as fluorescent lighting on the platform, and it had a lot of ‘sideglow,’ ” Rychel said.

The lighting design now includes blue overhead light emitting diodes, as well as focused fluorescents that light directly onto the platform, Rychel said. The San Diego Association of Governments will now assess feedback it received at this most recent forum to determine whether its station designs need further modification. Rychel said that early indications were that the response to the new design was positive.

The public has also had a chance to weigh in on the proposed route of the Super Loop. The public review period for the negative declaration of the project - which is issued when the impacts of the project do not warrant a full environmental impact report - recently ended, and included officials’ preferred plan for the route of the bus system.

Traffic studies have shown that 60 percent of vehicles traveling in University City make internal trips - they travel within University City and do not leave the community. The Super Loop is intended to be a quick, convenient alternative to driving for these short-range travelers, and officials expect more than 3,000 people per day to use the Super Loop.

Plans currently call for 14 stations to be located between UCSD and University City, including stops along La Jolla Village Drive, Executive Drive and Nobel Drive. The San Diego Association of Governments hopes to purchase 12 new buses that will serve the stations at 10-minute intervals during peak periods of the day. The fare to ride the new line has not been set and will be determined by the Metropolitan Transit System.

The $35 million price tag for the new system would be paid using funds from the TransNet, a half-cent sales tax devoted to transportation projects. Officials hope that construction on the stations can begin by the end of this year so the system can be up and running by late 2008.

The San Diego Association of Governments is currently soliciting designs for an entirely new type of bus that will serve the Super Loop. They are asking for designs that feature a smaller bus than the traditional 40-foot-long buses the Metropolitan Transit System uses throughout San Diego. The buses will run either on compressed natural gas, as do all buses currently in San Diego, or could possibly be gas-electric hybrids. Beyond that, officials are asking for a design that is generally sleeker than current buses.

“Because we’re buying new buses, we’re asking them to provide a design that is more modern, sleeker, with larger windows - something that looks different than what’s out on the street right now,” Rychel said.

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