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In-Depth: Report offers solutions to make MTS bus rides faster

Circulate San Diego releases 'Fast Bus!' report
MTS Fast Bus
Posted at 6:05 AM, Oct 06, 2022

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - A new report from Circulate San Diego lists a dozen simple ideas to make Metropolitan Transit System bus trips go faster.

The "Fast Bus!" report, published Thursday, says MTS could use these ideas to make the bus system more convenient and attractive to riders.

"There's a lot of things we can do through public policy to allow those buses to get where they're going much faster," says Circulate San Diego Executive Director Colin Parent.

He says the recommendations in the report are mundane changes that could be implemented quickly and in a very cost-efficient manner. But they would pay off almost immediately when it comes to cutting minutes off of commute times.

"Like allowing people to pay for their fares by scanning their cards on the back entrance to the bus, not just the front entrance," Parent explains. "So you get more people on the vehicle faster, and then it waits for less time."

Other suggestions include more dedicated "Bus Only" lanes on major thoroughfares and freeways, eliminating stops on some routes, giving buses priority at transit signals, longer hours of operations, and letting riders scan cards at bus stations instead of on board.

"None of them by themselves are going to make you know the trips much faster but together in aggregate, they're going to make a lot of difference," Parent says.

A recent report found commuters in San Diego spend an average of 26 minutes getting to work by car, but 52 minutes if they take the bus. Parent says shortening the bus commute time would lead to more people using MTS. That can help San Diego reach the region's climate goals.

"If we're going to meet our climate goals, if we're going to meet our housing goals, we're going to have to give people opportunities to get around without having to drive a car and without having to burn fossil fuels and without having to store that car," he says.

MTS has already begun implementing a number of the changes. In 2019, they rolled out the "Transit Optimization Plan." As part of the plan, MTS eliminated some stops and increased frequency on the most popular routes.

They also introduced the "Pronto" technology for faster boarding and paying.

Circulate San Diego says their new "Fast Bus!" report will supercharge the ideas and keep them at the forefront of the transit discussion in the region. The full report can be viewed online here.

"Many San Diegans tell me they would take the bus regularly if it were faster and more convenient. Let's give them what they want," San Diego City Councilmember Stephen Whitburn told ABC 10News in a statement. "The City of San Diego is implementing several of the strategies in this report, and I thank Circulate San Diego for offering recommendations on how we can do even more."

Parent says these are easy solutions that can make an immediate difference.

"There's so much talk about these hyper loops and high-speed rail and all these other sorts of fantastical things that no one expects to happen for decades," he says. "Increasing the speed of the bus is something that we can do today."