New Mid-City Rapid transit line from SDSU to downtown

by Adam Burkhart

Photo by Monica Linzmeier, Photo Editor
Photo by Monica Linzmeier, Photo Editor

Construction of a high-frequency bus route between downtown San Diego and San Diego State is set to begin this month and projected to last a year.

The Mid-City Rapid will run approximately 10 miles through the high-volume commuter corridor along Park and El Cajon boulevards for an estimated optimal run time of 38 minutes one way, according to the San Diego Association of Govern- ments, which is administering the project.

The new route will feature dedicated transit lanes, traffic signal priority for buses, limited stops, and more spacious stations along the route. Ticket machines and real-time updates on bus arrival times will streamline transit.

Currently, the Metropolitan Tran- sit System Route 15 functions as the direct bus between downtown and SDSU via State Route 163 and El Ca- jon Boulevard.

Upon completion of the Mid-City Rapid route next year, Route 15 will be discontinued, meaning bus riders will have to use the new route or other currently existing options, including Route 11 and the Green Line trolley.

Economics senior Mikaela Rhoads uses Route 15, which stops at the SDSU Transit Center every 12 to 15 minutes on an average weekday.

“This one’s pretty reliable. It goes straight downtown, so it’s pretty convenient,” Rhoads said, adding that she prefers taking the trolley when possible. “It’s faster … but it doesn’t go everywhere.”

With the Mid-City Rapid, SAN- DAG seeks to combine the speed of the trolley with the accessibility of buses.

“If you look at where the Green Line runs geographically, to where this route runs geographically along El Cajon Boulevard … there’s a good amount of area that needs to be covered,” SANDAG Senior Project Manager Eric Adams said.

Residents along the mid-city corridor construction have begun questioning the efficiency of the route.

Richard Rachel, an uptown resident since 2007, pointed to the relative lack of dedicated transit lanes in the proposed route, which may undermine its intent.

Plans show that dedicated transit lanes will be built in the median of Park Boulevard between University Avenue and El Cajon Boulevard, roughly half a mile of the proposed 10-mile route.

Previous designs of the planned route included dedicated transit lanes on El Cajon Boulevard, but the planned routes were taken down in response to community concerns.

Adams said that the new route can provide greater reliability on streets, where traffic signals are synchronized, as opposed to the unpredictability of traffic conditions on State Route 163.

SANDAG’s engineers wide im- provements to the route will be ben- eficial, cutting travel time by 20 to 30 percent.

International English student Fawaz Al Abdullah said he considers public transportation to be an investment on the part of the user, saving them money and helping the environment.

These benefits are enough to encourage Abdullah to utilize public transportation. Abdullah often takes the Route 15 bus and the trolley from downtown.

The project, now more than a decade in the making, is funded by a combination of revenue from the TransNet Extension Ordinance and Expenditure Plan—a half-cent sales tax approved by voters in 2004—and a grant from the Federal Transit Ad- ministration. The half-cent sales tax for transportation first approved by voters in 1988 will extend through 2048.

The TransNet Extension Ordi- nance included an expenditures plan for improvements to state and inter- state highways, local roads, public transportation, senior and disabled transportation services and environ- mental impact mitigation.

As the project construction begins,

SANDAG is setting the budget at $44 million, part of which will come from federal funding.