City Heights Kids' 2-Hour Trek To Beach Highlights Inequities
Speaker 1: 00:00 Last week. Lots of kids around San Diego were taking one last trip to the beach before school starts now, but for one group of kids from city heights, a couple of hours of the sand and surf was extra special. KPBS reporter Prius Schriefer explains why Speaker 2: 00:16 it's around 1:00 PM on an August afternoon and dozens of kids from the city heights area have gathered at the El Cahone Boulevard Transit Plaza. They're going somewhere. They rarely go to the beach, Speaker 3: 00:28 man. Look, looking forward to playing volleyball and swimming. Speaker 2: 00:31 11 year old, Tina Lou has only been to the beach three times even though she's lived in San Diego her whole life Speaker 3: 00:38 and it's inconvenient for my family. And um, I have a lot of activities that I do. Speaker 2: 00:44 This will be the first time she makes the 11 mile trek from her city heights home by public transportation. All right, let's go. It will take two buses in about an hour and a half to get to Pacific beach. Speaker 3: 00:57 [inaudible] Speaker 2: 00:58 one 14 the kids board, the two 35 north bus, approximately 15 minutes later they arrive at a bus stop in Kearny Mesa. Speaker 3: 01:07 Yeah. Speaker 2: 01:10 After walking across the street, the group waits 20 minutes for the 27 boss to Pacific beach scheduled to depart at one 51 Speaker 3: 01:18 my favorite moment in the beach was getting sand thrown at me. Speaker 2: 01:22 They make some introductions to pass the time, the next bus rolls in, but it's having a few maintenance problems. Wait, continues about 20 minutes after it was supposed to leave. The bus finally had Zau out 3:00 PM almost two hours since their journey began. They've Speaker 3: 01:44 need it. We went here by bus. It was my first time going here, my bus, Eh, it was, and it was my first time being on the bus ever. So it was very like, I was very nervous. It was like a little bit too cramped. But um, I think it was, it was really good though. Speaker 2: 02:11 10 year old Allen Vez [inaudible] and most of his friends had few complaints despite the long commute. But sitting on a cramped bus for two hours isn't acceptable. Says Randy tourist van black. He's with the city heights community development corporation. They organize the trip to highlight what they say are inequities in ocean accessibility for minorities and low income people. In San Diego. Speaker 4: 02:36 There's a lot of folks in our neighborhood and in city heights but want to be able to go to the beach but because of different access issues, affordability, it's not really a feasible, Speaker 2: 02:47 according to SANDAG is regional plan minorities and low income people in San Diego are more likely to live farther than 15 minutes away from the beach by both car and public MTS spokesperson Rob Shupe says that there are a lot of considerations that go into planning bus routes and their frequencies. Speaker 5: 03:07 You know San Diego is a spread out community. We have over a hundred buses that are a hundred bus routes. We got 800 vehicles out there including over a hundred trolleys. Some it's well-designed but but San Diego is a challenging area to get people where they want to do go. Wee people live here and are working way over here and vice versa. Speaker 2: 03:29 Back at the beach, the kids are enjoying their time in the sun and the water. They plan to stay for about an hour before they grabbed some tacos and board the bus again to make the trip home. Jonathan Burgos is one of the chaperones for the kids. He says all kids should have a chance to take advantage of the beach Speaker 6: 03:48 to, to be here to watch a sunset. So even like have a smores on the beach, you know, those are things that sometimes like I took for granted, you know, growing up, a lot of times when the students have that, it's just, it's such a game changer. Like to know that they hadn't had that in their lives and like I just want that and we should want that. And I think everyone should have that opportunity. Speaker 2: 04:09 11 year old Randy Thorn says the beach is his happy place. Speaker 3: 04:14 The beach I can explore, like learn more new things. Speaker 2: 04:20 Joining me is KPBS reporter [inaudible] ether and welcome Priya. Thanks for having me. First of all, what happened to the bus? Why did it break down? So we didn't really get a clear answer beyond there were maintenance issues and I did bring it up with the MTS spokesperson when I got a chance to talk to him and he said, listen, this happens. You know, anyone who rides public transit knows that, you know, it's not a completely smooth system, but he claims that compared to other cities of San Diego size, that we actually have pretty good numbers when it comes to the amount of breakdowns we have on the road. But of course that's what happens when you go on public transit. There are things that are out of your control and so it's really hard to plan accordingly and make sure that you're going to get somewhere on time because you're not really responsible for that vehicle in the same way that you are when you're riding in your own personal car. Speaker 2: 05:10 Now, a lot of us of course, don't get to the beach as much as we'd like to, but that's not because it would take us two hours to get there. Is there really not a faster public transit route from city heights to the beach? That was the fastest one, surprisingly. So, um, I think that's one of the things that obviously the story highlights is there aren't a lot of direct routes and how do we prioritize when it comes to urban planning, um, where we want to move people from place to place and it seems like the most logical ways are in high densely populated areas. And then also areas where there is a lot of jobs. And you know, I did speak to uh, mts about that as well. And they said, of course, they also have to focus on areas where there is a big transit riding population and city heights actually happens to be a huge, um, a lot of times we're seeing people on public transit who are from low income communities. Speaker 2: 06:03 Obviously it costs a few dollars to ride on a bus. So, um, you're seeing a lot of people use that for their commute to work. And so that's something that they're prioritizing over perhaps going to the beach. But what was shocking to me is that we live here in beautiful San Diego. What do people think about when they think of San Diego? They think of the ocean. And many of these kids had been living here for 10, 12 years and had only gone to the beach a handful of times because it's so difficult to get to. Why did the city Heights Community Development Corporation organized this trip? So they're really trying to make people in San Diego think about how easy it is to get around on public transit. And so it's a series of community rides that they're doing. They've done one called boulevard to the border, uh, which goes, went from alcohol and Boulevard, the same transit plaza to the border. Speaker 2: 06:50 Then they did a boulevard to the beach and the next one they're doing is boulevard to the ballparks. So, um, they're really trying to highlight these inequities. And they're also asking people, you know, mts is doing a campaign called elevate San Diego 2020, where they're trying to get people to think about how we look at public transportation and, um, essentially put forth a funding measure for the 2020 ballot. And so if it gets two thirds of voter approval here in San Diego, um, that would increase our sales tax a little bit to have perhaps better, um, service area within the San Diego area. And so if you're interested in learning more about that, you can go to elevate SD 20 twenty.com. How do the problems of having to rely on public transit affect other aspects of life in city heights? Yeah, so think about it. I mean, there's a trickle effect here. Speaker 2: 07:38 It makes your commute to work longer. You know, a lot of these people are choosing to live in certain communities because the rent is low, but then when you factor in perhaps a two, three hour commute to work, is it really worth it? And then when you talk about families who have children, um, that's also longer childcare and having to figure out the logistics of all of that. So all of this adds up, you know, time is money and if you're going to spend hours of your life on a bus, you have to figure out how that's gonna impact the rest of your family as well. Aside from the proposed ballot measure that you mentioned, a lot of this has to do, of course with transportation planning is any thing in the works to increase accessibility for study heights? Yeah. So there's also bus only lanes that are being proposed in city heights that will perhaps make a riding on buses faster because they won't be competing with regular traffic. Speaker 2: 08:31 And so as you know, our KPBS as Metro reporter Andrew Bowen has been doing a lot of reporting on that. And that's something that the community as a whole, you know, a lot of people in cars say we don't want these bus only lanes because it's gonna make our commute. It's longer. So the city really needs to stop and think about how, what percentage of our population is riding public transit now and as the city continues to grow, um, how many people will be to that as an option in the future as well? Let's get back to the kids you met. They spent longer on the bus than they did actually at the beach. Did the long ride get to them at all? So these guys were incredibly patient and they were also very cute, but I mean I think one thing as an adult is we sometimes lose our patients a lot more quickly than the kids and they were just so excited. Speaker 2: 09:15 Many of them said it was the first time they'd actually been on real public transportation. They had been on school buses obviously, but not an actual mts bus. So they were sort of fascinated by the whole experience. They had seen these buses in their neighborhood, in their community, and I think the fact that they were with dozens of their friends made the ride a little bit more enjoyable to them. Perhaps if they were just with a parent or a guardian, I'm on this two hour bus ride. They would've maybe been whining a little bit more, but overall they actually thought it was a really fun experience. Did you get the sense they'd be willing to do it again to get to the beach? Probably, but I have a feeling that that commute would get a little bit old if they had to do it more frequently. I think the novelty would wear off. And I think that's exactly why. Um, you know, the city heights CDC decided to organize this was to really, really show that I've been speaking with KPBS reporter Prius. Truther thank you so much for Ya. Thanks. Speaker 3: 10:11 [inaudible].