San Diego Wins Transit Award. No, Really

City recognized as tops in North America

The city's Metropolitan Transit System is about to get an award for excellence. Seriously.

The MTS is about to be recognized as North America's outstanding transit system of the year by the American Public Transportation Association. Local officials are set to pick up their award Thursday at a ceremony at 10:30 a.m. at MTS headquarters on Imperial Avenue. Presiding over the festivities will be APTA president Bill Millar and the MTS chairman of the board Harry Mathis, but San Diego's Mayor Jerry Sanders and County Supervisor Ron Robers are expected to be on hand as well.

The award may come as a surprise to local riders who have watched transit schedules be trimmed and bus routes get axed in recent years while prices have risen dramatically. MTS spokesman Rob Schupp said the MTS has done more with less. The MTS's operating budget is $40 million less now than it was three years ago, but ridership continues to increase, Schupp pointed out.

MTS officials said the "MTS [is being recognized because it] has demonstrated excellence among its peers by increasing ridership, reducing complaints, improving efficiency and more."

The award is for 2006-08; during that time, ridership increased 12.3 percent, from 77.6 million up to 87.2 million.

A monthly pass at the start of 2006 was $60 and rose to $68 by January of 2009. It is now $72. Schupp said those hikes are due in part to California eliminating state transit-assistance funding.

Two-thirds of the award was based upon performance categories, including on-time performance, fare revenue and driver-related complaints, among other things, while the balance of the entry is based upon a five-page report submitted by the MTS.

San Diego was up against other cities with 30 million or more riders, pitting it against "the largest transit agencies in North America."

So, yes, despite not being able to get a train after 1 a.m. and having to share a bus with some of San Diego's more odiferous citizens, you, San Diego public-transit rider, are the envy of such cities as New York, Chicago, Boston and Washington, D.C.

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