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MTS proposal could create "Bus-Only" lanes for popular route on El Cajon Boulevard

Would be test project for wider use
Posted at 8:49 AM, May 29, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-29 11:49:54-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - The San Diego City Council will look into creating "Bus-Only" lanes along a 2.7 mile stretch of El Cajon Boulevard.

The lanes would go from Park Avenue to Fairmount Street, an area commonly known as "The Boulevard."

MTS Route 1 and the 215 Rapid Route are the most frequent buses along that stretch. Route 1 runs along El Cajon Boulevard from La Mesa to Fashion Valley. The Rapid 215, which launched in 2014, goes from Downtown to San Diego State University, offering fewer stops than traditional bus lines.

"When it was originally designed, it did have these exclusive lanes," says MTS Spokesperson Rob Schupp. "That's really what makes Bus Rapid Transit work, is when you can zip by all the cars."

Combined, the 215 and 1 carry more than 10,000 passengers per day along El Cajon Boulevard. That makes it the second busiest stretch of road in the MTS system.

Schupp says dedicated bus lanes would take up to 5 minutes off the trip, which could lead to more passengers.

"We're hoping this pilot will show us that a dedicated lane along a long stretch of road can build ridership and get people out of cars," he says. "The buses come faster, you get another 5 minutes from the dedicated lanes, and now your trip is competitive with a car."

A recent study by the city's Transportation Engineering Operations office details three options for a bus-only lane. One option would separate the right lanes of traffic from the other lanes with a solid white line and markings that say "Bus Only." Another option would paint the entire right lane red and designate it for buses. A third option would make "pass by zones" in the most congested parts of the street, painting them red and allowing buses to bypass cars at intersections.

Business leaders along "The Boulevard" say adding bus-only lanes would make the area safer, providing a buffer between the sidewalk and traffic. They also feel the change would lead to more people spending more time in the area.

"There's definitely a sentiment of wanting to make El Cajon Blvd a safer business district," says Beryl Foreman from the Boulevard Business Improvement Association.

Foreman also says it will help with parking problems in North Park and City Heights, as better bus service will lead to fewer people driving in the area.

City Council President Georgette Gomez and Council Member Chris Ward both sent a letter supporting the idea. The full Council will have to approve the project if they decide on the entire red lane option. That's unlikely since the Federal Highway Administration prohibits red Lanes without a special experimental exemption. The other two options do not need City Council approval.