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$44 Million Mid-City Bus Rapid Transit Route Is Slower Than Route It Replaced

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Federal and local taxes paid $44 million for a bus rapid transit route from San Diego State University to downtown that is slower on average than the route it replaced, according to an inewsource analysis.

Speaker 1: 00:00 Transportation officials spent $44 million on a San Diego rapid bus route that's slower than the one it replaced. That's according to a new analysis from KPBS partner I knew source their reporter Lauren J. Map has the story. The two 15 best route between Sdsu and downtown has been in operation for nearly five years and is actually five minutes slower on average than the old route metropolitan transit systems. CEO Paul j Blondes, he says part of the problem is four miles of plan dedicated bus lanes never got built.

Speaker 2: 00:35 We're working with the city to give us the lanes now mean the community up in alcohol home wants to give us dedicated lane along Gail Calling Boulevard San Diego City Council

Speaker 1: 00:45 members, including council president George Jet Gomez, have okayed spending $97,000 to create bus only lanes for the two 15 which in reality means they're going to paint about five miles of lanes.

Speaker 2: 00:58 Hopefully this year we'll have a pilot to show to demonstrate that if we have a better circulation of buses, they're more efficient. Uh, writers can a ditch their car at a real option. So real choice

Speaker 1: 01:12 except the council isn't sending any goals for how fast they want the route to be or how many writers they expect. Again on the new and improved two 15 yeah.

Speaker 3: 01:22 Great. The

Speaker 1: 01:23 KPBS, I'm I knew source reporter Lauren j map and Lauren J. Matt joins me now with more. Lauren, welcome. Thank you. What was the original intent of the two 15 line? The so called rapid bus. So this route was actually supposed to be this showcase to show that if you have the right infrastructure, if you do all the right things, that you can make a cheaper version of a trolley by using a bus route. And they wanted to increase ridership and have a faster, more reliable service. Oh, and so how did you do the calculation to determine that the two 15 actually isn't faster? Well, first I rode the bus and I had written this bus for years before, before I had a car. And when I was writing it, when one reporting on this story, I noticed that it didn't seem to be that much faster than, than the route that I was supposed to replace.

Speaker 1: 02:11 And so we looked into the actual schedule from the 15, which was the original route versus the two 15, which is a newer route. And we um, we calculated the amount of time it took to get from end to end on both routes and then found an average for each one. And then Brandon cluster, our data director, he determined that it was indeed five minutes slower and mts points to the fact that a dedicated bus lane was never built as one of the reasons this line isn't faster. What else did you find out about features intended to speed up the travel times that really never came to be. So the biggest issue was definitely those four miles of dedicated lanes that have been planned and alcohol on boulevard. They did build a about one mile round trip of dedicated lanes on Parkville. Um, but in, in addition to you and not having those lands on Oklahoma Boulevard, they also don't use a, a lights immunization device to make the bus route faster. They just use it to catch up to schedule. Alpha found that they originally were supposed to be ticket dispensing machines. At the stations, which would have kept people from having to fight their way onto the bus through one door to pay pay at the front. And if they had done that, they could have had all Dora boarding similar to the trolley.

Speaker 4: 03:23 But you did find some successes for the two 15 what, what were those?

Speaker 1: 03:27 Yeah, so, um, some of their other goals, in addition to trying to make that faster, where I, that they wanted to increase ridership by 20 to 40%, and they hit that mark right in the middle at about 30% for their annual ridership. And they also wanted to increase in the number of trips per hour and the, the service hours. So that now runs for a longer period of the day. And, uh, Matthew Vasa [inaudible] says that some of these updates that they did to the route were definitely great updates, but he was hoping that they would improve the speed a lot more.

Speaker 5: 03:58 It was definitely an aesthetic improvement. Um, you know, larger buses, more plush seats is wonderful stations. Um, but in terms of reliability and service, it hasn't been that much of a difference. Uh, so I mean, again, aesthetically pleasing but not necessarily more effective or reliable.

Speaker 4: 04:15 And Matthew is a regular rider up the two 15, right?

Speaker 1: 04:18 Yeah. He's written that, uh, buses along that route for about 10 years. So he originally was on the 15 and now on the two 15, he rides it every day to get to work.

Speaker 4: 04:27 The city has agreed to invest another $97,000 to create dedicated bus lanes on Elka Home Boulevard, which were initially squashed because business owners didn't want them. Have those concerns been resolved now that the, the city plans to add the new lanes on El Cahone Boulevard?

Speaker 1: 04:45 Yeah. So the, but this pilot project, they're not expecting to affect parking. They're not expecting to take out any of the parking lots there, which was one of the big concerns with the business leaders before. Um, but now they're also, the priorities have changed along that boulevard and they want to increase safety and they, they think that by having this dedicated lane that that might increase safety on the route. And what can you tell us about plans for adding those lines? Yeah. So they're going to be painting a white painted line too. You didn't know the bus only lean, and that's expected to start at some point in the summer, but they're still working on engineering in the plans. But it will be about 2.7 miles in each direction, which is actually longer than the original. The original plan for dedicated lands on alcohol and boulevard was

Speaker 4: 05:27 meanwhile, mts is exploring putting a measure on the ballot to raise money for more trolley lines, including one along El Cahone boulevard. Is that a real thing? Real

Speaker 1: 05:36 possibility. Well, there have been plans for a trolley on alcohol and boulevard from going from San Diego state to downtown for a while. They've been talking about it since the 80s and in the 2011 San Diego say she's not governments regional plan. They had discussed having a, this trolley that would be built by 2035 and cost about $4. But everything's kind of up in the air right now. And with this tax measure, they're not just talking about trolley is we're talking about street cars, which are kind of trolley bus hybrids. Uh, they're also talking about fairies and people movers and a lot of, a lot more electric elements. And you spoke with someone named Maria. Tell us about her. So Maria is also a regular bus riders. She's been riding buses for decades and has been advocating for buses and Saturdays. And she's still waiting for that trolley

Speaker 6: 06:26 the way things were going at first I said I may not be here to see the trolley coming through, but I will be here. I, my granddaughter will be pushing my ashes through, but I'll be here one way or another.

Speaker 1: 06:39 All right. So a lot of people, depending on these modes of transportation. Yes, definitely. All throughout the city heights I've been speaking to, I knew source report or Lauren j math. Thank you so much, Lauren. Thank you. And if you want to help plan San Diego's transit future, go to elevate SD 20 and click on get involved. I knew storage, Susan independently funded nonprofit partner of KPBS.

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KPBS Midday Edition Segments

Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.