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SANDAG Puts Off Rapid Bus Debate

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Critics say SANDAG has postponed a decision over an unpopular transit plan by cancelling a Friday meeting.

— A lot of downtown activists and business owners were expecting to attend this Friday's transportation committee meeting of SANDAG, San Diego's regional planning agency. But they won't be there.

That's because the meeting's been cancelled. Dave Schumacher, a senior planner of SANDAG, said the cancellation was a simple matter of not enough to talk about.

"The meeting was cancelled due to a lack of agenda items to warrant bringing all the elected officials together," he said.

But others suspect it was more likely the heat generated by one agenda item: the plan to bring bus rapid transit, or BRT, downtown.

BRT has been called "trolleys on tires," and it's part of a plan to boost transit use in San Diego. Rapid buses move people faster with fewer stops, often running in dedicated bus lanes. But plans to route three BRT lines onto Broadway have fostered fears the heavy bus traffic will make the street a place where people don't want to be.

Marco Li Mandri is chief administrator for the Little Italy Association. He said we could see transit planners ruin another San Diego promenade.

"(Metropolitan Transit Development Board) killed C Street when they ran the trolley on a surface level," he said. "So are we going to watch another street get killed, which is the only remaining promenade street in downtown?"

Schumacher said Broadway's central location makes it a natural destination for rapid buses. But Li Mandri said a better plan is to terminate BRT at three existing transit hubs and connect travelers to buses that would circulate downtown.

Schumacher said the political controversy over rapid buses on Broadway had nothing to do with the decision to cancel the transportation committee meeting. But Li Mandri argued it was a calculated move to postpone the decision, possibly to force a rushed acceptance of plan the prior to the end the fiscal year.

Elyse Lowe, with MOVE San Diego, wouldn't go that far. But she said lack of community consensus over the plan almost certainly had something to do with the decision not to hear it this week in committee.

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