Richard Rachel steps out of the front lobby of the Egyptian residential mid-rise where he owns a condominium and walks ten feet to the bus stop at Park Boulevard and University Avenue. Buses stop at every corner of this busy Hillcrest intersection.
"I'm all for public transit," Rachel says. "There already is an effective, efficient system in place. This proposal is disingenuous, onerous, and completely wasteful."
The Mid-City Rapid Transit project, estimated to cost $43 million, is a new ten-mile rapid bus route between San Diego State University and downtown. Instead of entering downtown via the 163, the bus route will run down Park Boulevard. Along Park is where most of the major changes will occur.
The proposal calls for tearing out medians and putting in dedicated bus lanes along Park Boulevard from El Cajon Boulevard to University Avenue. The proposal also calls for closing the intersection of Polk Avenue at Park Boulevard to allow the bus a free ride.
While it is estimated that the number of riders will increase by 11,000 people the day the bus hits the road, which San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) project manager Miriam Kirshner called "optimistic" in a September 14 email, dozens of residents like Rachel say the new transit station on Park and University will also deliver gridlock, graffiti, public urination, and exhaust to one of the busiest transfer stations for MTS buses in the city.
Looking to deflate the air on the project, residents living along Park Avenue have lobbied council representative Todd Gloria and contacted project manager Kirshner. The response: the project is a done deal.
"That's what makes this disingenuous," says Rachel. In his hand, Rachel holds the timetable for the present Route 15 run from the MTS website.
"Depending on the time of day, it currently takes anywhere from 30 minutes to 44 minutes to get from SDSU to downtown and Mid-City Rapid will take 38 minutes to get there. So, that means they are spending $43 million to gain six minutes? They have an efficient system now, the fact is that people don't use the system."
Uptown residents now believe they have found the bump in the road that could derail the Mid-City Rapid Transit Line.
In an October 8 email, chair of the Uptown Planning Group Leo Wilson informed councilmember Gloria's office that due to the loss of 35 parking spaces along Park and having to close Polk, SANDAG is required to submit an Environmental Impact Report subject to public review — all that has been submitted so far was the Mitigated Negative Declaration, back in the summer of 2008, which failed to mention the loss of parking and closing of Polk.
"At the Land Use and Housing Committee hearing on September 29," reads Wilson's letter, "a SANDAG representative indicated the Mid-City Rapid Bus proposal could move forward without any further discretionary review. He based this unsubstantiated opinion on the issuance of a Final Environmental Initial Study/ Mitigated Negative Declaration dated October 2008. I strongly disagree."
Continued Wilson, "No aspect of the Park Boulevard section of the project should move forward, including any modifications to existing parking, until additional environmental study is completed, and a revised [study] has been prepared and subject to public comment and review."
Representatives from SANDAG did not respond in time for publication.