San Diego was not built for public transit, and public transit is having a hard time building itself for San Diego. Those buses, trolleys and trains have even been losing riders lately. But we’ve learned that a little-known but crucial component of local public transit — a special service for seniors and the disabled — is facing the opposite problem: a big crunch.
As our Maya Srikrishnan reports, ridership for the MTS Access service is up by a third over the past three years. “The problem is that the service is extremely expensive. The smaller buses essentially take people from door to door, costing the agency upwards of $30 per trip, compared with $1.51 per passenger if they use the fixed-route system.”
San Diego’s transit has decided on a fix: Try to make it harder for people to be eligible. It’s now conducting “in-person interviews with everyone who applies to use the paratransit service before signing off. Before, a would-be Access rider could get through the process with an application, a doctor’s sign-off and a phone call.”
Advocates and users aren’t thrilled. That’s not surprising considering that the new rules require trips by people who have trouble getting around and may, in some cases, find it mentally overwhelming to go anywhere.
Dumanis: I’m Out … at Some Point
District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, one of most durable local Republican politicians, has decided to step down. When, though, she won’t say. What’s definite, it seems, is that she won’t run for re-election in 2018, meaning her current fourth term will be her last.
She wouldn’t comment to the U-T about indications that she has a hand-picked successor in prosecutor Summer Stephan. If she quits before her term is up, the County Board of Supervisors will choose a temporary replacement.
“I have other things to do,” she told the newspaper, although she also said she doesn’t have any of what the U-T called “concrete plans.”
“I’ve been in public service now for 42 years and, you know, I just thought the timing was right,” Dumanis said.
• In other indecisive politician news, nobody knows whether Sen. Dianne Feinstein will run for another term in 2018. She’s now 83, just got a pacemaker and is the oldest senator. Democrats, meanwhile, are swarming. (L.A. Times)
• In actual political decisiveness news, local Rep. Juan Vargas has decided to join many other Democratic representatives and boycott the inauguration. Other local Dems are going. (L.A. Times)
• In other law enforcement news, “despite toughening its rules over when police agencies can keep cash or property seized from criminal suspects, California received poor marks in a national report card issued Tuesday by a Washington D.C. nonprofit law group,” the U-T reports. The grade: D.
Opinion: Stormwater Coverage Misses Mark
In a VOSD commentary, David Gibson, executive officer of the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board, responds to our stories that chronicled massive failures in the enforcement of stormwater pollution laws.
The series, he writes, “paints a picture of disarray and vast noncompliance when it comes to regulating stormwater runoff in and around San Diego businesses. This could not be further from the truth.”
In fact, “our goal is not to shut down businesses or extract monetary fines, but to bring businesses into compliance,” he writes. “Not all enforcement results in monetary penalties. We are getting results that matter — cleaner sites that are good for business, the community and better water quality for areas like Chollas Creek, Otay River and the San Diego Bay.”
Opinion: When the Chargers Turned Against S.D.
Tony Manolatos, a local publicist who served as the spokesman for the mayor’s stadium task force and the recent No on C campaign, blasts the Chargers in a new VOSD commentary. He writes that he knew they were turning against San Diego two years ago, when Chargers point man Mark Fabiani gave “rigid deal points” to the media before presenting them to the task force.
“That was our first meeting with the Chargers and it set the stage for everything else,” Manolatos writes, “including last week’s announcement that the team was moving to Los Angeles.”
Will The Rey Be King of the Castle?
• The Rey, a new 22-story, 478-apartment luxury complex downtown that could grow even bigger, offers nice views at high prices. “Its opening comes as national trends appear to show a major slowdown in rent growth for luxury units,” the U-T reports, “but most local experts say San Diego will not suffer the same fate because the need for more apartments is so high.”
• Airbnb says taxes on its rent-a-room services added $7 million to San Diego’s coffers in 2016. The smaller cities of Portland, Ore., and San Francisco got $4 million and $19 million, respectively.
Border Report: Gas Protests Heat Up
The Border Report, our news digest about the border and Mexico, highlights the continuing protests against spikes in gas prices.
A local crossing is making big news. “The gasolinazo protests have roiled Mexico, but the El Chaparral border crossing has become an unexpected flashpoint in the demonstrations,” writes VOSD contributor Brooke Binkowski. (For more, check our photo coverage last week.)
“The United States has repeatedly closed the crossing at Mexico’s behest in response to crowds gathering there and taking over the checkpoints to let cars into the country without inspections,” Binkowski reports. “Smaller groups have also converged at the Otay crossing.”
Culture Report: New Chief at Chinese Historical Museum
Among many other topics, this week’s VOSD Culture Report checks in with the new boss at the San Diego Chinese Historical Museum.
She reached out to locals via offers and free admissions and discovered this: “We found that people really wanted a more dynamic museum that explored in-depth themes and things that tied to everyday life.” So a new exhibit looks at Chinese technology from the past to today.
Several years ago, I explored San Diego’s hidden Chinese history in a VOSD Q-and-A with the museum’s curator.
As I wrote, “for about a century, several blocks of downtown were home to hundreds of Chinese people and their families. Banned from citizenship and forbidden from crossing north of Market Street, they created their own community next to a red light district of brothels and saloons.” I followed up with another story here.
Sports Podcast: The Bolts Have Bolted
Sports podcast The Kept Faith, a member of the VOSD Podcast Network, digs into the deep and dark agony of the loss of the Chargers with guests Nick “Padres Haiku” Burmeister, VOSD’s Andy Keatts and comedian Jono Zalay.
• So about that stadium. Yeah, the one in Mission Valley. Q-something-or-other. Ring a bell? In a word: Eh.
Wait. Maybe it still has a purpose other than a reminder of boondoggles past. U-T columnist Logan Jenkins raises the prospect of doing something unheard of in a city devoted to build-build-build: shrinking the stadium formerly named for sports writer Jack Murphy. “San Diego is in a position to watch the Q shed its ugly growth spurts and let The Murph re-emerge with one helluva view of the mountains,” he writes.
But isn’t the place, you know, a dump? Not so, says a guru who “believes people overreact to chipped tile or ‘Coke stains on concrete,’ cosmetic flaws easily fixed. As for dated amenities like the scoreboard, you can always ‘unplug old stuff and plug in new stuff.’”
Maybe we won’t even recognize the “M” once they get done with the makeover. That could be really great just as long as it doesn’t look permanently surprised like some other facelift veterans around here.
Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. He is also immediate past president of the 1,200-member American Society of Journalists and Authors (asja.org). Please contact him directly at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/rdotinga.