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New buses too big for Imperial Beach?

Noisy, view-blocking, street-clogging – and almost rider-less

The high-frequency transit is blocking coastal views, driveways, and the businesses in Pier Plaza, say foes.
The high-frequency transit is blocking coastal views, driveways, and the businesses in Pier Plaza, say foes.

The new rapid electric buses seem to check all the boxes when it comes to transit: no long wait times to get a ride, limited stops, lots of elbow room.

But to many Imperial Beach inhabitants, the 30-foot long articulated buses are noisy, view-blocking, street-clogging misfits in the small city – with hardly any riders. "Ghost buses," they call them.

"Ghost buses," they call them.


Rapid Route 227, launched on Oct. 15 by the Metropolitan Transit System, is part of the agency’s efforts to transition to an all zero-emissions bus fleet by 2040. It connects riders in Otay Mesa, Nestor, and Imperial Beach to the Iris Avenue Transit Center. The buses travel along Imperial Beach Boulevard, 3rd Street, Palm Ave., and Seacoast Dr.

Now, though, the city has managed to reroute the rapid route off 3rd Street, but MTS is proposing 9th Street – a collector road with an existing bus route – as an alternative.

That route too faces opponents.

Nov. 8 neighborhood meeting on new buses


It all began after encroachment permits were processed in the city, yet residents complained about not getting notice; the buses just arrived. And often. The high frequency transit (every 15 minutes) was blocking businesses in Pier Plaza, coastal views, and driveways and bringing safety concerns while the buses often appeared to be empty.

"It's a shame to see the buses go by with nobody," said 3rd Street landlord David Neering, who dislikes the noise and disrupted parking for his tenants.

Transit officials expect to have ridership data by the end of this month.

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The whole route runs from I.B. to Otay Mesa.

The city and Metropolitan Transit Services, which determines bus routing, stops, frequencies, and hours countywide, held a community meeting in late December to address the concerns. They decided to move the rapid route off 3rd St. and eliminate queuing in front of Pier Plaza.

The possible addition of 9th Street had neighbors speaking out at last week's city council meeting.

Officials said it would only run northbound from Imperial Beach Boulevard to Palm Avenue, and no new bus stops are planned. Notices of the proposed rerouting will be sent to those living along 9th Street, inviting comment.

One local suggested getting rid of the bus altogether, before the city is "in too deep." Moving it to 9th will just end up in its being moved to 13th, because the one-lane street, which is getting new bike lanes, and now buses – will mean traffic bottlenecks on side streets, and a whole new fight.

Others said outreach to locals regarding the 9th Street reroute should extend to those who live south of Imperial Beach Boulevard who have to travel 9th Street regularly.

No bus riders, who might not yet be familiar with the new rapid buses, spoke at the meeting. Mayor Paloma Aguirre said the city would try not to preclude them getting to their destinations.

The city council in their advisory role as planning commission still has to review the proposed 9th Street route before seeking changes.

Beverly Neff, transportation planner with MTS, explained that there are only three service change periods every year, so the city will have to move quickly on it or wait till September.

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The high-frequency transit is blocking coastal views, driveways, and the businesses in Pier Plaza, say foes.
The high-frequency transit is blocking coastal views, driveways, and the businesses in Pier Plaza, say foes.

The new rapid electric buses seem to check all the boxes when it comes to transit: no long wait times to get a ride, limited stops, lots of elbow room.

But to many Imperial Beach inhabitants, the 30-foot long articulated buses are noisy, view-blocking, street-clogging misfits in the small city – with hardly any riders. "Ghost buses," they call them.

"Ghost buses," they call them.


Rapid Route 227, launched on Oct. 15 by the Metropolitan Transit System, is part of the agency’s efforts to transition to an all zero-emissions bus fleet by 2040. It connects riders in Otay Mesa, Nestor, and Imperial Beach to the Iris Avenue Transit Center. The buses travel along Imperial Beach Boulevard, 3rd Street, Palm Ave., and Seacoast Dr.

Now, though, the city has managed to reroute the rapid route off 3rd Street, but MTS is proposing 9th Street – a collector road with an existing bus route – as an alternative.

That route too faces opponents.

Nov. 8 neighborhood meeting on new buses


It all began after encroachment permits were processed in the city, yet residents complained about not getting notice; the buses just arrived. And often. The high frequency transit (every 15 minutes) was blocking businesses in Pier Plaza, coastal views, and driveways and bringing safety concerns while the buses often appeared to be empty.

"It's a shame to see the buses go by with nobody," said 3rd Street landlord David Neering, who dislikes the noise and disrupted parking for his tenants.

Transit officials expect to have ridership data by the end of this month.

Sponsored
Sponsored
The whole route runs from I.B. to Otay Mesa.

The city and Metropolitan Transit Services, which determines bus routing, stops, frequencies, and hours countywide, held a community meeting in late December to address the concerns. They decided to move the rapid route off 3rd St. and eliminate queuing in front of Pier Plaza.

The possible addition of 9th Street had neighbors speaking out at last week's city council meeting.

Officials said it would only run northbound from Imperial Beach Boulevard to Palm Avenue, and no new bus stops are planned. Notices of the proposed rerouting will be sent to those living along 9th Street, inviting comment.

One local suggested getting rid of the bus altogether, before the city is "in too deep." Moving it to 9th will just end up in its being moved to 13th, because the one-lane street, which is getting new bike lanes, and now buses – will mean traffic bottlenecks on side streets, and a whole new fight.

Others said outreach to locals regarding the 9th Street reroute should extend to those who live south of Imperial Beach Boulevard who have to travel 9th Street regularly.

No bus riders, who might not yet be familiar with the new rapid buses, spoke at the meeting. Mayor Paloma Aguirre said the city would try not to preclude them getting to their destinations.

The city council in their advisory role as planning commission still has to review the proposed 9th Street route before seeking changes.

Beverly Neff, transportation planner with MTS, explained that there are only three service change periods every year, so the city will have to move quickly on it or wait till September.

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