A bus rapid-transit system to take people from all over the county to downtown San Diego and back is moving fast through the regional government planning process.
Whether they're workaday commuters or going downtown for shopping, dining or entertainment, residents of North County, East County and South Bay will be riding a speedier fleet of buses starting in 2014, according to transportation planners for the San Diego Assn. of Governments.
But a small speed bump is taking shape on Broadway, where $30 million in TransNet tax funds is being invested in streamlining traffic over a 16-block span by way of new bus rapid-transit (BRT) vehicles stopping at new stations to be installed along a 16-block stretch from Park to Kettner Boulevards.
There's pushback from owners and admirers of the historic, 211-room Sofia Hotel, whose Broadway frontage between 1st Avenue and Front Street would encompass a bus rapid-transit station that figures to make hotel life and lodging less appealing to guests and 'al fresco' diners.
The Sofia has generated $4 million dollars in room taxes for the city over the past five years, with an annual guest count approaching 100,000.
But will 'BRT' make this economic engine sputter?
Judi Winslow, whose family has owned the Sofia since 1986, is convinced that the hotel's business will be badly hurt.
"If you bring the kind of numbers that you're talking about to this block," Winslow said in an interview Thursday, "you take away all the business and commercial dropoffs, taxis, shuttles, Convention Center buses -- our operations are going to change."
Critics of the Sofia Hotel station suggest it be moved a block to the west where the old County Courthouse stands, to be replaced by a new justice center on another site in 2016.
Winslow said SANDAG officials have told her that the BRT stations need to be spaced three blocks apart -- and unfortunately, the Sofia's block is one of those locations.
"The engineers and planners have their mission, and it is to make it simple and predictable," Winslow explained. "It's Engineering 101: 'Let's put it every three blocks'."
Along with civic leaders and employees of the Sofia and its Currant restaurant, Winslow appeared at a news conference outside the hotel Thursday morning, and outlined the situation bluntly.
"We can't afford to go backwards," she told news crews.
Second District City Councilman Kevin Faulconer had this message for SANDAG: "Open your eyes a little bit. Talk to the folks that you're going to impact. Listen to them. Listen to us. And find a better solution."
sandag planners say they are, in fact, evaluating the County Courthouse site -- but point out that it has issues of its own.
The transportation committee of the agency's policy board, made up of elected officials from around the region, will take up the plan April 20.