A decades-long squabble between a commercial property owner and San Diego’s transit agency may impact how thousands travel at the U.S.-Mexico border.
San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) got a court order this week to block a doorway that allows commuters to walk to a bus terminal through the McDonald’s trolley station building in San Ysidro.
If the doorway is boarded up, MTS trolley riders headed to the bus terminal will have to walk around the large building property and around a parking lot.
The building offers the only elevator to get to the second level and bus terminal. The bus terminal walkway is also the only current pedestrian pathway into Mexico. The public access is a busy road with no sidewalks.
Small bus company owners with storefronts inside the McDonald’s building are complaining that cutting off access to the terminal unfairly disadvantages their business and steers more business to the bus giant Greyhound.
MTS owns the land and leases it to SYPS, LLC. Greyhound Lines, Inc. is a subsidiary of First America which has a major ownership interest in SYPS, LLC.
Greyhound has ticket kiosks outside at the north and south side of the bus terminal, but none inside the building. Operators of the smaller bus companies fear cutting off their customer’s access to the outside terminal gives Greyhound an unfair advantage.
An MTS spokesman said because the matter is part of ongoing litigation, the government agency could not comment. A spokeswoman for Greyhound also said she could not comment because of the ongoing litigation.
In October 2012, MTS sole-sourced the lease to SYPS LLC. The company has never paid rent to MTS for the bus terminal property.
Instead, it put in improvements like shade, benches and restrooms, spending $500,000 on the renovations.
Consultant Steve Padilla, who is working for the building owners and helping the small bus companies, said the work is not up to standard.
“Part of the deal was that this company would build improvements out here: covered places to rest with shade, restrooms, and benches, but if you look around at what the public got for half-a-million dollars spent, there’s a technical term for it: It’s crap,” Padilla said.
The restrooms are a metal cage with open stalls the company is charging travelers 50-cents to use.
“They look very cheap and they look temporary. I don’t think it’s appropriate to build restrooms for the public that have a portion of the door open where you can look in and see someone using the restroom from the ankles down,” Padilla said. “I don’t think these facilities would be accepted in other parts of the county, but for some reason because it’s a border community, it’s OK. I’m offended by that."
Andrea Skorepa, the president and CEO of San Ysidro nonprofit Casa Familiar, sent a letter to MTS' chairman, calling the changes to the terminal "archaic at best."
"Outdoor bathrooms, without complete privacy, open to the elements is unacceptable, offensive, and open disregard for decency for the hundreds of thousands of travelers that fill up the coffers of your controlled transportation operations..."