Nuvia Ortiz is a regular user of San Diego’s Metro Transit System MTS. She owns a car but doesn’t have a driver’s license because of the cost attached to taking driving lessons.

The 19 year-old, who has attended college for a year, says public transportation is a money saver; “I save money on gas and don’t have car payments.” She “loves the trolley because of the diversity it presents.”

She uses the trolley to only go from home in South Bay to school and work in the downtown area — a commuting time of about 30 — 45 minutes. Her journeys to these places are such that she only has to use the trolley and not the buses.

She hardly ever asks people she knows for a ride, because she doesn’t want to be at the mercy of others when moving around, though she sometime hitches rides to the trolley station.

Most of her activities are in Downtown San Diego and most people she knows with cars do not drive there. Further she, doesn’t like “asking for rides because I like to be independent.”

Nuvia says taking public transportation to and from City College on schools days has no negative impact on her, though she has to get to trolley stops in advance at all times. Her familiarity of the schedules makes this a minor issue.

She spends about 11-12 hours a week on San Diego’s trolleys. This saves her the alternative of buying “half a tank of gas a day” driving back and forth from Downtown to South Bay. Monthly all-access passes on the MTS cost about $72.

Nuvia, who is studying business marketing, concedes that driving is the more efficient way of saving time when one’s getting around, but adds that it’s not economical.

She has never been to other cities, though she has visited Puerto Rico, but says public transport there in no way compares with San Diego.

“The buses in Puerto Rico I would say are worst because there aren’t many and they don’t really go all over Puerto Rico. In Puerto Rico you must have a car.”

When she’s visiting Puerto Rico, she doesn’t use public transportation because the buses don’t go around her family home which is in Rio Grande. The closest bus stop is about three miles away.

More buses and shorter transit times are the basic changes Nuvia thinks the MTS has to introduce to make the service better.

Nuvia plays with her phone and listens to music on her iPod while waiting for the trolley. She’s not planning to end her use of the city’s public transportation system anytime soon.

Lamii Kpargoi is an international fellow working with He will be working on elections issues and media best practices in community relations. You can reach him directly at and 619.550.5671.

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