Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Watch Live

Quality of Life

MTS won't be using a new bus-only lane in Balboa Park during December Nights

Nine months ago, San Diego installed bus-only lanes on Park Boulevard in Balboa Park. The goal was to give transit riders a faster and more reliable trip through the park by letting buses bypass traffic.

But when December Nights returns to Balboa Park next week — and with it, the typical gridlock on Park Boulevard — half of the new bus-only lanes will be lying fallow.

That's because city transportation officials, who work under the direction of Mayor Todd Gloria, left gaps in the bus-only lanes along Park Boulevard to allow for street parking. One of those gaps in particular, from University Avenue to Upas Street, is forcing transit riders into a lengthy detour.


On a typical day, passengers coming from North Park or City Heights could take the 7 or 215 buses directly to Balboa Park's Central Mesa, where the annual holiday fair takes place, this year on Dec. 1 and 2.

But Park Boulevard is flooded with cars on December Nights, leaving buses stuck idling in traffic. MTS spokesman Mark Olson said in prior years, passengers have asked to disembark in the middle of traffic because walking would be faster.

"We have seen traffic delays of up to 45-60 minutes just on the half-mile segment from University to Upas Street," Olson said. "Those delays would also then lead to large disruptions to the overall schedule — missed trips, bunched buses, and very long waits between buses."

To avoid the gridlock, MTS plans on detouring southbound 7 and 215 buses onto the SR-163 freeway. Passengers can then transfer to a free shuttle to December Nights at San Diego City College. Those shuttles, along with northbound 7 and 215 buses, will make use of the northbound bus-only lanes on Park Boulevard.

MTS bus routes 3 and 120, which operate to the west of Balboa Park, will also be running their regular routes and schedules.


Anar Salayev, executive director of BikeSD, said he's disappointed the city couldn't figure out a way to make use of the new bus-only lanes through Balboa Park.

"If you have a piecemeal bus-only lane that forces the bus to merge in and out of traffic, it makes the bus just as inefficient as it would be without that bus-only lane," Salayev said. "We hope that after this event, and over the next few years, they realize that this wasn't the best design … and they put effort into covering all the gaps."

City spokesman Ramon Galindo told KPBS the Transportation Department has no plans to install bus-only lanes between University Avenue and Upas Street.

BikeSD will be hosting group bike rides to and from December Nights on Dec. 2. It will also be offering free valet parking to anyone who bikes to the event.