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Rapid Bus Service Gets Grand Opening In Escondido

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San Diego County's first fully developed rapid bus service officially got on the road today.

— Transit planners cut a red ribbon today to open San Diego County's first fully developed rapid bus line. The grand opening of North County bus route #350 attracted a cluster of VIPs that included the Mayor of Escondido and the Chairman of the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG). They told reporters and other hangers-on that this was a bus line like no other in the region.

You can take a look at route 350 by clicking this link. It connects the Escondido Transit Center, Westfield shopping mall and points in-between. The route leaves the transit center on a dedicated lane. Digital displays at bus shelters tell commuters when the bus will arrive. The rapid-bus system uses technology that gives the bus priority at traffic signals.

Jerome Stocks, chairman of the SANDAG board, called it a test case for the county.

“It’s a demonstration project to show that mass transit doesn't have to be slow and clunky and smelly. It can be rapid and it can be nice" he said.

Though it’s called a rapid bus line, the new 350 bus route doesn’t necessarily run faster than its conventional counterpart. The key is dependability and on-time service. With dedicated lanes and the ability to jump the queue at traffic lights, rapid buses can avoid getting stuck in traffic and stuck behind red lights.

Ed Gallo is an Escondido councilman and North County transit board member. He says the rapid bus, which has been running for two months already, has improved service. And this is just the beginning.

“If this thing works well it will be all over San Diego County,” said Gallo. “MTS (Metropolitan Transit Service) will be incorporating it. We'll have other routes on the North County transit system."

Another rapid bus line is being planned for University City in San Diego. It will connect the UTC shopping mall and UC San Diego. Transit officials expect that one to start running within the year

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