I’ve tried to track down more information in response to questions I’ve been hearing since we decided to delve into the transit topic. Some of you will remember I first pitched this subject to you in Survival-land in January, and got some great responses.

One of those was from a reader who’d noticed many of the region’s bus stops have signs telling potential riders what routes stop there (identified by the bus number), but no other information about what time the bus comes, where it goes, or how much the bus costs to ride.

Here’s what a Metropolitan Transit System spokesman, Rob Schupp, had to say:

“Clearly one of our objectives is to improve our signage at bus stops.” He pointed out that MTS has developed its website and online trip planners to help riders figure out how to get where they’re getting.

(One local graphic designer, Robert Palmer, doesn’t think the trolley site is very helpful, so he launched his own — bettertrolley.com. I’ll try to track him down next week to tell me more.)

Schupp said MTS has gone through some major route changes since last June, and they’re still working on posting those new schedules on some of the county’s 7,000-some bus poles. Since bus schedules are tweaked periodically, it’s expensive to keep every pole updated, he said.

Another question came in about route priorities: How do the transit deciders choose where the track should be laid? A big example is the decision to extend the trolley’s green line to Santee, while no trolley connects with the region’s airport at Lindbergh Field, or to Balboa Park and the San Diego Zoo.

Here’s what Schupp had to say about that:

When voters passed a half-cent sales tax called TransNet in 1987, the transit authority looked at various track-laying options, including a link to the airport. (Voters voted in 2004 to extend that tax for 40 years. More to come on funding next week.)

“There were several considerations, and cost ended up being the biggest one,” Schupp said. “The airport spur was very expensive” for a lot of reasons, he said, including having to cross over Interstate 5 and Pacific Highway, cut through property owned by a defense contractor, and skirt around access paths for the Coast Guard and Lindbergh.

For Balboa Park and the zoo, Schupp said it’d be “difficult to take the trolley up there.”

“That’s a tourist kind of operation,” he said. “And because it’s very expensive to build these lines, we have to be sure people are going to use them.”

Schupp said for both routes, the ridership projections computed by consultants weren’t enough to warrant building the lines. I’m going to do some more checking to find out how ridership is predicted on routes that haven’t existed before.

The decision to send the trolley out to Santee and other East County locales underscored the transit authority’s priority of making transit accessible to the county’s residents, he said. That’s why the trolley works well in Mission Valley, he said, with that neighborhood’s high-density housing and proximity to SDSU.

While Santee and El Cajon are hardly pictures of urban high-density living, “the cities are still set up in a way that lends itself to a trolley line,” he said, with enough parking for transit riders and grid-designed streets.

Schupp’s perspective is helpful, yielding the official responses to the questions that have come in. Still, I’m sure there will be some more points of view to add to the conversation when I’m out with trolley- and bus-goers on Monday and Tuesday.

Keep sending me your questions and comments, and let me know if you have anything you think I should ask people who use the systems.

Like, does your iPod have a trolley-specific playlist?


Friday, March 23 — 6:46 p.m.

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