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UCSD trolley extension opens

Good Morning, I’m Annica Colbert….it’s Monday, November 22nd.>>>>

The blue line trolley extension is finally open
More on that next. But first... let’s do the headlines….######

Two water main breaks near downtown and balboa park were reported Sunday evening and continued through Monday morning. it shut down a part of the north 5 for at least some of the Monday morning commute. One pipe rupture is at 11th avenue and A street, the other is near state route 163 and 4th avenue. The downtown water main break is believed to be caused a sinkhole and flooded at least one business in the East Village area.

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A vote was delayed on Friday on new air quality regulations for sport fishing boat engines. The California Air Resources Board and environmentalists are pushing boat owners to upgrade to less polluting engines. But the Sports Fishing Association fears that if the regulations are passed, mom and pop shops will close, tour prices will double, and ocean access will become a luxury.

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The 13-day streak in increasing gas prices continues today, ahead of the thanksgiving holiday. The average price of a gallon of gas rose one tenth of a cent to 4 dollars and 66 cents. That’s the highest it’s been since October 2012. Overall the average price of gas has increased 11.6 cents over the past 13 days.

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From KPBS, you’re listening to San Diego News Now. Stay with me for more of the local news you need.

San Diego's biggest expansion of public transit in more than 15 years is now up and running. The Blue Line trolley now offers a one-seat ride from the border to UCSD and University City. KPBS metro reporter Andrew Bowen examines the impact that extension could have — and the work that's still left to do.

AB: Service on the extended UCSD Blue Line began on Sunday. But last week, MTS offered the media a preview ride.

AB: It was fast and smooth, with some excellent views you can't get while driving. Full disclosure: I've been looking forward to this trolley ride for a long time. And it's hard to understate just how big a deal the project is: Nine new stations and 11 miles of new tracks — that's a 20% increase in the MTS trolley network.

SH: We are so excited about this project!

AB: Sharon Humphreys is the bubbly Director of Engineering and Construction at SANDAG, the regional transportation agency that built the trolley extension. She says the project has been planned since the 1980s.

SH: I myself have worked on the project for the last 10 years. So if you are interested in instant gratification, civil engineering is not the field for you (laughs).

AB: One of the key decisions made early on was to build the tracks next to the I-5 freeway. That made the project cheaper and easier to build by limiting the amount of land SANDAG had to acquire.

SH: Nobody wants to part with their personal property, their land. So by running most of the project through public lands, we were able to avoid impacting property owners and impact personal property.

AB: The downside to that decision: Half the land that surrounds many of the stations is taken up by the freeway, where there's no chance of building new housing or commercial development. Even where the city does have plans for transit-oriented growth, they'll likely take years to come to fruition.

KC: When we look around, we don’t see the kind of dense housing here that we might hope for.

AB: Katie Crist is a postdoctoral researcher at UCSD. The campus has two new stops along the Blue Line. She's starting a study of how the new trolley changes the transportation habits among university staff.

KC: And what we expect is that we'll see an increase in physical activity, an increase in biking, walking, transit trips, and a decrease in vehicle miles traveled among those people who live near to a trolley stop versus those that live further away.

AB: Crist plans on riding the trolley to campus a couple times a week. She lives in Normal Heights — miles and canyons away from the nearest trolley stop. But she's a gung-ho cyclist and transit rider eager to get to the trolley however she can. The extension starts at Old Town and runs north between Pacific Beach and Clairemont before reaching UCSD and University City.

Crist and I rode our bikes up and down Balboa Avenue, the third stop on the trolley extension. Massive trucks zoomed by us like it was a freeway. Many of the new stations are downright hazardous to access by foot, wheelchair or by bike. And Crist says most people who live far from these stations won't go out of their way to ride the trolley. There are plans to improve bike and pedestrian infrastructure around the stations… but there's no clear timeline on when they'll be complete. And they may require taking a lane or two away from cars. Crist says she doesn't see another option.

KC: We’ve set some really ambitious targets with our Climate Action Plan. We know transportation is the biggest contributor to greenhouse gases that are warming the planet and causing public health harm. So I think that is a tradeoff we have to be willing to make.

AB: So the benefits of the new trolley may take a while to reach most San Diegans. But UCSD Chancellor Pradeep Khosla says he thinks the trolley will really catch on with students within a year.

PK: We have passes for all of our students. It's part of their student activity fees. ... So the students will have complete access to San Diego without a car.

AB: Or rather, access to the parts of San Diego you can easily get to via public transit. Andrew Bowen, KPBS news.

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Ocean Beach residents are asking questions about plans to cut down some of their iconic palm trees. The airport authority says some trees need to come down because they pose a potential hazard to aviation.

kpbs reporter john carroll reports.

the palm trees that line newport avenue have been there for more than a century. but last month, homeowners on the upper part of newport got a letter from the airport authority saying the trees do, or soon would pose a hazard and must come down. local homeowner tracy van de walker says she’s tried to get answers from the airport and the city about what information was used to make that decision, but has been frustrated at every turn.

“we asked for the calculations they’re using for this… and we were just getting the run-around back and forth with no one having any information for us.”

even though the city already cut off the top of one tree, they told us in a statement that there is currently no date for removal of the palms. they say they’re engaging with the faa and the airport to determine next steps. jc, kpbs news.

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California has a projected 31 billion dollar budget surplus for the coming fiscal year. But the legislature is restricted on how that surplus gets spent. and some of it may not be able to be spent at all. CapRadio’s Nicole Nixon tells us about a law, passed in the late 70s, called the Gann limit.

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If you are planning to travel for the holiday, KPBS Reporter Melissa Mae has some travel tips for you.

MM: For the holiday, the roads are expected to be extra crowded. There are an expected 4.4 million total travelers from southern California and of those, 3.8 million will be going by car.

MM: The Automobile Club of Southern California says the Tuesday and Wednesday before Thanksgiving are the worst times to travel. If you have to leave on those days, leave as early as you can.

MM: Marie Montgomery is a spokesperson for the Auto Club… They anticipate their roadside assistance will respond to over 52,000 calls for help this week…

MM: To avoid any delays in your road trip.

MM (:15) “You want to make sure that your car is checked out before you take that road trip. Check the air in their tires, check that the condition of their tires was good. Check their fluid levels, check their battery to make sure it doesn’t die. Those are our top types of maintenance problems.”

MM: Gas prices have been at record highs… To maximize your gas, make sure you’re not carrying any extra-heavy cargo… utilize your car’s fuel economy feature, and try to anticipate and ease out of stops. Melissa Mae KPBS News.

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Coming up.... Thanksgiving is this week and California public health officials have been raising concerns about covid-19 vaccine equity. We’ll have more on that next, just after the break.

There is a push in California to get more people vaccinated … both first-time shots and with boosters … prior to Thanksgiving.
Vaccine equity continues to be a significant concern during this period.
Asian Americans in California are outpacing their Black, Latino, and white counterparts when it comes to getting the shots … with nearly 82 percent fully vaccinated
While Black and Latino Californians hover around 50 percent.
Doctor Rohan Radhakrishna is the Deputy Director of the Office of Health Equity at the California Department of Public Health.
He spoke with CapRadio's Randol White.

Doctor Rohan Radhakrishna is with the California Department of Public Health. He was speaking with CapRadio's Randol White.

That’s it for the podcast today. Be sure to catch KPBS Midday Edition At Noon on KPBS radio, or check out the Midday podcast. You can also watch KPBS Evening Edition at 5 O’clock on KPBS Television, and as always you can find more San Diego news online at KPBS dot org. I’m Annica Colbert. Thanks for listening and have a great day.

The Blue Line trolley extension is now open -- it could be a lifeline for UCSD students and others who already live and work near a trolley stop. But many of the new stations remain difficult to access by foot, wheelchair, or bike. Meanwhile, The Airport Authority says the palm trees in Ocean beach are, or will soon be, a hazard to aviation and must come down. Homeowners in the area say the airport isn't giving them adequate information as to how the decision was reached. Plus, a deputy director at the California Department of public health explains concerns about vaccine equity ahead of the holiday season.