SANDAG Spends $21 Million on High Tech Bus Stops in Downtown San Diego - NBC 7 San Diego
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SANDAG Spends $21 Million on High Tech Bus Stops in Downtown San Diego

The bus stops have 16-foot tall electric pylon signs, built in lighting, security cameras, video screens, and custom made shelters

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    NBC 7's Artie Ojeda reports an investigation into the cost of 11 bus stations around San Diego that are part of a plan to increase ridership. (Published Friday, Aug. 11, 2017)

    In November 2016, SANDAG spent $21 million on 11 high tech bus stops along the Broadway corridor downtown. It was an effort, in part, to increase ridership on the MTS Rapid lines.

    The bus stops have 16-foot tall electric pylon signs, built in lighting, security cameras, video screens, and custom made shelters.

    "I think it's worth the investment when you make public transportation more attractive to people," said Robb Schupp with the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (MTS).

    But since November, overall bus ridership is actually down nine percent, according to MTS. Ridership for the Rapid lines is down three percent.

    Schupp said ridership levels are cyclical--overall ridership reached a record high in 2015 with more than 96 million trips. But he added the numbers have dropped ever since.

    MTS points to outside factors, including the impact of ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft.

    Car registrations are also up in California.

    Schupp agreed and said trying to get people out of their cars and onto a bus is a tough sell.

    So why, then, spend $21 million on 11 bus stops?

    "It's a little unreasonable to expect that there's going to be large changes or noticeable changes in ridership based on the improvements to 11 stations," said Dr. Sherry Ryan, a transportation export with the San Diego State University School of Public Affairs.

    Ryan, who has worked as a consultant for SANDAG on other projects, said the money pales in comparison to the cost of other future projects.

    "You have to put $21 million in context. SANDAG has a 30-year plan that's going to cost $100 billion," said Ryan.

    The figure is actually $100.1 billion. Projects include the $2.2 billion Mid Coast Trolley, scheduled to begin service in 2021. The $128 million South Bay Rapid lines are set to begin next year.

    But Colin Parent of Circulate San Diego, a non-profit transit advocacy group, questions spending $21 million on bus stops. The focus, he said, should be on the frequency of service and faster commutes.

    "It's not that these bus shelters aren't useful, it's just that they're not--shouldn't be the top priority for an agency like MTS," said Parent.

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