Another complaint of many people is that there is no bus service in most locations after 10:30 at night. Someone who wants to go to the Gaslamp Quarter for a little nightlife must take a $30 taxi ride home. They might just want to avoid driving after having drinks. And Lugo maintains that the situation causes lost revenues to downtown businesses.
Further, maintains Lugo, there has been a “gradual and constant erosion over the years of frequency of service and shortening or discontinuing routes.” For example, last year the transit system was going to discontinue Route 923 going out of Ocean Beach and along Harbor Drive to downtown. That one finally turned Lugo into an activist, he says. He began informing all the establishments that might be affected. Although the transit system argued that the route didn’t carry enough passengers, it was going by Point Loma High School, the airport, the Ocean Beach and Point Loma hostels, and many other businesses along the way. Lugo’s activism forced a compromise with transit. Instead of discontinuing the route, officials cut its frequency in half. On weekends, it runs only every hour. “I don’t think any buses should run hourly,” says Lugo, “because if one breaks down, a person could stand there waiting for close to two hours.”
The transit system’s general thinking about weekends perplexes Lugo. Buses going to the beach, such as Route 30, are often reduced in frequency from every 15 minutes to every half hour. “But many people go to the beach on weekends,” he says. “And every year, transit changes to a reduced winter schedule on Labor Day, apparently because they think fewer people will be going to the beach. In fact, some of our hottest days come after September 7 [this year’s Labor Day], and loads of people get on the bus heading for the beach. They include many tourists, such as young Europeans.”
Does the transit system, I ask Rob Schupp, take passengers’ views into consideration when hiking fares and making route changes? He assures me it does, that many meetings were announced for public comment before both last January’s changes and those of 2007. Lugo has been to them. They are so crowded you can hardly get in, he says. Even then, many are held during most people’s working hours.
After my meeting with Lugo, I walk the block from the Taylor Branch Library to Grand Avenue, where I wait for the bus I need to get home, Route 30. I am pleased that it comes in a reasonable time. But I get onto a bus with standing room only, a human sitting in every seat or looming over every square foot of the aisle. Several stops disgorge enough passengers for a few of us to sit down. Several more stops and a new passenger boards. As the bus lunges forward, he falls backward and lands on my lap.
Route 30 is likely to become even more crowded. Last week, the transit system announced, among other cuts in service, that Routes 8 and 9 would start running less frequently.