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San Diego Cabbies Oppose Downtown Shuttle

San Diego Cabbies Oppose Downtown Shuttle
The on-demand shuttle would pick up downtown residents and visitors for little or no cost. But taxi drivers spoke out against the plan at a budget hearing.

Taxis have had to compete with rideshare companies for some time now. And they could soon face a new competitor: a publicly funded downtown shuttle.

The city-owned nonprofit, Civic San Diego, wants to spend $1 million on an on-demand shuttle that would pick up residents and visitors for short trips at little or no cost.

Taxi drivers spoke out against the plan at a budget hearing Monday. The proposal comes at a time when the city is poised to issue more than 1,500 new taxi permits.

Taxi driver Max Afifi says competition is already stiff among cabbies and rideshare drivers.

"There's even the horse carriage that goes around downtown. There's the pedi-cabs, which are absolutely everywhere," Afifi said. "I'm not sure we need to waste good taxpayer dollars when, frankly, they could use it for other things like streetlights, homeless services, whatever."

The shuttle funding would come from parking meter and garage revenues. Civic San Diego Vice President of Neighborhood Investment Richard Seges said that money is designated for specific uses.

"Generally, they're things that make parking more available or manage the supply of parking downtown," Seges said.

Sarah Saez, program director for United Taxi Workers of San Diego, argued the money could relieve congestion and impact more San Diegans. She pointed to calls from community groups and the San Diego Community College District to provide free city bus passes for students.

"It doesn't always have to be tourist oriented," Saez said. "(Free student bus passes) will mitigate traffic and parking issues, as well as help residents in other neighborhoods, as opposed to competing with small business taxi drivers living in the low-income neighborhood of City Heights and surrounding areas."

Seges said downtown residents and businesses involved with the Downtown San Diego Partnership, a nonprofit that represents businesses in the area, have been asking for the shuttle for four years. They say parking makes taking multiple car trips around downtown a challenge, and having the shuttle would let them park once for errands and entertainment. The partnership's CEO, Kris Michelle sent the following statement:

Addressing Downtown’s current and future mobility needs requires creative solutions that allow people to move around the area without restriction. The best way to do this is with a circulator system that gets people where they need to go on demand without the need for a car. The Downtown Partnership believes a circulator system is an essential piece of the mobility puzzle. It will alleviate the demand for parking, offset the need for increased parking, decrease traffic congestion and positively impact the environment by emitting zero greenhouse gas emissions. Cities across the country have implemented costly circulator shuttle concepts. Rather than duplicating those models, San Diego will solve its mobility challenges with an innovative, cost effective solution. This is a no brainer for Downtown San Diego and we look forward to its implementation.

Michell said employees needing to get to a meeting several blocks away or residents dressed up for dinner at a nearby restaurant may use the service instead of walking or hopping in their car.

If the Civic San Diego budget gets the OK, Seges said the shuttle could start running as early as summer.

San Diego Cabbies Oppose Downtown Shuttle