The Mid-City Rapid will be a high-frequency, limited-stop bus service between San Diego State University (SDSU) and Downtown San Diego, operating along El Cajon and Park boulevards. The line will provide North Park, City Heights, and College Area residents, students, and workers with a fast and reliable service in a key transit corridor in the region.
Construction for the Mid-City Rapid is scheduled to begin in spring 2013 and last approximately a year. While the bus line is about ten miles long, construction will focus on 4.6 miles of El Cajon Boulevard between Park Boulevard and College Avenue and 0.5 mile of Park Boulevard between El Cajon and University avenues. Thatís where new stations will be built, and street improvements will be made. Further construction details will be posted on KeepSanDiegoMoving.com as they become available.
Rapid bus services achieve faster travel times by using measures such as transit signal priority, dedicated bus lanes, and limited station spacing. Mid-City Rapid is among the first of a new breed of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) services that SANDAG is building in collaboration with the Metropolitan Transit System (MTS). The project is an integral part of a regionwide strategy to create a BRT network, so residents have travel choices that are attractive alternatives to driving.
The Mid-City project is included in the TransNet Extension Ordinance approved by the voters in 2004. TransNet, a regional half-cent sales tax for transportation, funds half of the cost of Mid-City Rapid. The other half of the funding comes from a federal grant. The budget for the project, including buying new buses, is about $44 million.
The project will benefit both existing transit riders and serve to attract new riders by transforming the existing MTS Route 15 into a Rapid service with faster travel times, enhanced customer experience, and more frequent service. Specific improvements include:
Faster Travel Times: Improved travel times will be achieved by consolidating transit stops, building transit-only lanes on Park Boulevard, synchronizing traffic signals on El Cajon Boulevard, extending green signal phases for buses, and low-floor boarding.
Enhanced Customer Experience: The customer experience will be improved through the creation of transit stations with distinctive shelters branded for the Rapid service, next bus arrival signs, and new articulated vehicles with a unique look. The project also will improve the pedestrian environment and safety in and around station areas through better crosswalks and hardscape/landscape enhancements.
Frequent Service: Service frequency will be upgraded on the Rapid to every 10 minutes in the peak period, and every 15 minutes in the off-peak.
The Mid-City Rapid route runs through several of San Diegoís older, densely developed urban communities that are identified as smart growth areas in the Regional Comprehensive Plan. New development continues to occur along the route, with an emphasis on residential in-fill and walkability. In addition, El Cajon Boulevard has been enhanced with landscaped medians to improve its image and appeal. The Mid-City Rapid project will continue this trend and support the revitalization of El Cajon Boulevard.
Frequently Asked Questions
What will make the transit service rapid? Low-floor vehicles and raised curbs at the stations will allow for faster boarding. Transit signal priority will enable buses to move through intersections a bit faster. The transit-only lanes on Park Boulevard will expedite travel.
What will be the travel time? Approximately 38 minutes from end to end.
What will be the hours of operation?† Approximately 5 a.m. to 1 a.m.
What vehicles will be used? New, articulated vehicles will be purchased and branded with a special paint scheme.
When will this happen? Construction is scheduled to begin in spring 2013 and last a year. Service is expected to start in 2014. The start of service depends on when construction is finished.
How will parking on Park Boulevard be affected by the project? In response to community input, SANDAG has redesigned the median transit-only lanes along Park Boulevard to minimize parking impacts. While seven parking spaces will be eliminated from Park Boulevard, 24 additional parking spaces will be added on nearby streets so there is a net gain of 17 spaces.
On Park Boulevard south of University Avenue, will there be a loss of on-street parking or restrictions on turning movements? A bus pocket will be added for buses running in the northbound direction, but there is no loss of parking or restrictions on turning movements.
Will Rapid bus stations be shared with local bus stops? Some stations will be shared by local and Rapid bus vehicles. Each location varies, depending on right-of-way availability, driveway conflicts, and street configuration.
What is the rationale for moving the traffic signal from Polk Avenue to Lincoln Avenue? There are a number of reasons. First, the city plans to install a traffic signal at Lincoln, so the project design accommodates this addition. The Polk intersection forms a strange angle, making it difficult for drivers to see oncoming traffic. Removing the signal also allows through traffic, including buses, to flow more smoothly. However, a pedestrian crosswalk will be added, and pedestrian crossings will be protected by a flashing or solid red light during the pedestrian phase.
Will left turns be allowed at Howard Avenue? Left turns will be allowed from Howard onto southbound Park Boulevard. However, drivers going north on Park Boulevard will not be allowed to turn left or make U-turns at Howard. They will have to go one block north to El Cajon Boulevard to make a U-turn.
Is it possible to move the Park Blvd/El Cajon station to El Cajon Blvd? This was investigated and rejected because the eastbound turns from Park and Normal are somewhat blind, and may result in vehicles turning into the back of a stationed bus. Also, El Cajon Boulevard has a fairly steep grade at this location, making it difficult for passengers to board.
Is it possible to move the route to Florida Street? In order to maximize ridership, the bus route needs to stay on high-volume, non-residential streets.