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Neighborhood Shuttle Proposed For Downtown San Diego

Civic San Diego could have low-cost or free shuttle operating by next summer

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Photo credit: Kevin Zolkiewicz, Flickr

The Mall Ride, a free shuttle service in downtown Denver, is run by Denver's regional transportation district.

Two downtown San Diego groups are working on a plan for a low-cost or free shuttle that would carry passengers between downtown neighborhoods.

Civic San Diego, a city-owned nonprofit that works on redevelopment projects, put out a request for qualifications from potential vendors on Monday.

Earlier this year, Civic San Diego proposed a shuttle bus that would follow a circular route through downtown. The organization scrapped the idea and is trying instead for an on-demand shuttle that riders could summon with a mobile app.

"We found that a traditional route-based shuttle did not solve the mobility needs of downtown," said Reese Jarrett, president of Civic San Diego. "It was a 20th century solution. We needed a mobility option that was flexible, cost-effective and nimble."

Downtown San Diego Partnership, a downtown-advocacy nonprofit, helped work on the plan. CEO Kris Michell said the idea would be similar to ride-sharing companies like Lyft and Uber, which allow you to request a ride on your phone. She said she thinks people in downtown will use the shuttle service because it won't require a membership and will be cheap or free.

Michell said the cost of a ride will depend on which proposal Civic San Diego picks. In other cities, she said, businesses provide free shuttle services and make up their costs by putting advertising inside and outside the shuttles.

She said she thinks the shuttles will appeal to downtown workers, residents and visitors who do not want to take the bus.

"Existing transit systems have routes, as they should," Michell said. "(They) won't take you from Point A to Point B."

She said the on-demand shuttles would be different.

"You can call it up, it's on demand, and it will take you exactly to where you want to go within downtown," Michell said.

She said she hopes the service will also allow people to park in one part of downtown and then visit another.

“With this new free service, you can go shopping in the Marina District and have dinner in the Gaslamp without having to get back into your car and look for parking all over again," Michell said. "It makes the downtown experience feel more connected and seamless."

The shuttle would only operate within the boundaries of downtown. In its request for qualifications, Civic San Diego said it could provide a subsidy, but plans that don't require funding or involve a loan that would be repaid "are strongly preferred."

Proposals are due to Civic San Diego by Dec. 19. Michell said she hopes the program will begin next summer.

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Photo of Claire Trageser

Claire Trageser
Investigative Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksAs a member of the KPBS investigative team, my job is to hold the powerful in San Diego County accountable. I've done in-depth investigations on political campaigns, police officer misconduct and neighborhood quality of life issues.

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