Pacific Beach

Pacific Beach's free shuttle, the Beach Bug, serves 9K+ riders in first weeks

“Where to next? We want the community to tell us,” Krystal Ayala with the city of San Diego’s Sustainability and Mobility Department said

NBC Universal, Inc.

In its first few weeks, the city of San Diego’s free Beach Bug shuttle in Pacific Beach has served more than 9,000 people.

“It’s a really great service to help decrease parking demand and make it easier to move around the community,” Krystal Ayala, with the city of San Diego’s Sustainability and Mobility Department, said.

Four all-electric shuttles, run in partnership with Circuit and funded by SANDAG, make up the Beach Bug service. Since the program’s launch on July 12, a spokesperson told NBC 7 that the top reported uses for the bug include social/recreational trips, errands and connecting to transit.

“You can leave your car at home and hop on the Beach Bug and still make it to your favorite restaurants, to the beaches,” Ayala said.

The shuttles run primarily in the beachside business and residential area of the Pacific Beach neighborhood, but it also takes riders to the Balboa Avenue Transit Center to connect to the UC San Diego Blue Line Trolley.

“We are experts in first to last mile micro-transit, so we connect to other forms of transportation and fill in those gaps that fixed routes probably can’t do,” Mark Iannon, a partner success manager at Circuit, said.

Data collected from the shuttles in Pacific Beach so far indicate that the average wait time is 10 minutes. NBC 7 spoke with a shuttle driver, Aaron Tredo, who said that in his experience, the service has been well-received among riders.

“They talk about how convenient it is not having to drive around and find parking,” Tredo said. “I help people with their laundry, their groceries. Instead of walking x amount of blocks or miles, they call us, and we take them right to their door.”

While the service is free for now, Iannon told NBC 7 that it will cost riders $2.50 starting in October.

Ayala also added that the city of San Diego has a similar service, also in partnership with Circuit, downtown called F.R.E.D. It stands for Free Ride Everywhere Downtown. It launched in 2016 and helped pave the way for the Beach Bug.

“It really helped illustrate how the neighborhood electric vehicles are really great models, especially for the short trips within a community,” Ayala said.

An electric shuttle that will offer free rides has made its debut in Pacific Beach.

Ayala added that while the launch has been positive and exciting, the Beach Bug is still in a test-phase.

“Part of the two-year pilot is going to be to really understand ridership, interest, demand and lessons learned from this pilot to explore how to bring this to other parts of the city,” Ayala said.

The Beach Bug’s high-demand has been a good thing and a challenge, according to Iannon. The peak times for the shuttles are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. That is a wide range, and they’re looking into ways to best prioritize resources.

Ayala added the city of San Diego is open to seeing similar services expand to other parts of the city.

“Where to next? We want the community to tell us,” she said. “We’d love to bring the solution to other parts of the city.”

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