By Mona Rios
It’s been a big year for transportation in the San Diego region. Major transit lines have opened up, the public has been exploring new transportation technologies, and our transportation governing agencies have been overhauled for the better.
The year started with a bang as Assembly Bill 805 went into effect in January. This bill, authored by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher and signed by Governor Jerry Brown, brought needed changes to the Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) and the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG). It’s made our agencies more democratic, more representative of voters, and it provided more oversight of our tax dollars.
At MTS, it required the chairperson to be a democratically-elected official. The Board of MTS selected city of San Diego Councilmember Georgette Gomez as Chairperson and myself as Vice Chair. It’s been an honor to serve National City and the region as Vice Chair of MTS.
We’ve had an exciting year with new transit stations, regional service, and improved bus routes:
• We rolled out the Transit Optimization Plan which increased bus frequencies in communities with the highest transit demand;
• We opened a new trolley station for the Orange Line;
• We completed the Mid-City Centerline Stations for the Rapid 235;
• We were awarded $40.1 million in State funding for new transit improvements;
• We secured $14.6 million for a new Rapid line from Otay Mesa Border Crossing to Imperial Beach;
• We organized Free Ride Day on October 2nd which lead to a 17% ridership increase;
• We launched the South Bay Rapid connecting eastern Chula Vista to Downtown, with full service coming this January;
I’m proud of the progress we’ve made. But to adequately address our infrastructure issues, to create a transit system that is competitive to driving, to build streets that are safe for all, and to fight climate change we must do more. We need to think big, work together, and protect the transportation infrastructure funding we have.
Unfortunately, the transportation infrastructure and transit operations funding from Senate Bill 1 is under attack by Proposition 6. That’s why the MTS Board of Directors voted to oppose Prop 6. It’s important we protect this funding for bridge and road safety and better transit.
SANDAG is currently updating their Regional Plan for what our transportation future will look like from 2019 – 2050. I encourage everyone to get involved with this process at SDForward.com.
As Vice Chair of MTS, I will be urging SANDAG to restore plans for a new trolley – the Purple Line — to connect South Bay to Mid-City and Kearny Mesa. I’ll be advocating for the Blue Line Express which will allow for faster trolley service, more frequent trolleys, and 24-hour transit service to the border.
If you’re one of more than 100,000 people who cross the border into Tijuana or San Diego daily, you know the border crossings continue all day and all night. Yet, for four hours every day there is no trolley service at all. If you miss the last trolley heading south from Downtown at 11:48 p.m., you’ll have to wait five hours for the next one. As Trump moves forward with wasting resources to physically divide our mega-region it’s important that we explore the potential of 24 hour transit from the border that ought to strengthen border trade, improve the economy, and enhance quality of life.
I’m proud of the progress we’ve made together and am committed to making even greater strides forward.
Mona Rios is a National City Councilmember and MTS Vice Chair