Bus tour highlights transit needs in Carmel Valley area

The Carmel Valley Community Planning Board’s North West Transit Subcommittee held a MTS bus tour on Sept. 17.
The Carmel Valley Community Planning Board’s North West Transit Subcommittee held a MTS bus tour on Sept. 17.
(Karen Billing)

The Carmel Valley Community Planning Board’s North West Transit Subcommittee held a bus tour on Sept. 17, driving home the lack of public transit in the area.

Since February, subcommittee lead Sonya Solinsky has been heading up the effort to bring transit not just to Carmel Valley but to connect the communities of Del Mar, Torrey Pines, Del Mar Mesa, Torrey Hills, Torrey Highlands, Black Mountain Ranch and Rancho Penasquitos.

“We need transit in this area,” said Solinsky, who is also a local representative on MTS Elevate SD 2020’s Community Advisory Committee. Elevate SD 2020 is the Metropolitan Transit System’s public participation effort to develop a shared vision of transit in San Diego including finding viable alternatives to a car, making connections that make sense between residential areas and job centers, improving access to seniors and further reducing carbon emissions.

Solinsky planned the tour for MTS and other local representatives along with subcommittee members Lucas Kurlan and Karen Cody.

Denis Desmond, MTS senior transportation planner, was a rider on the tour along with representatives from San Diego City Councilmembers Barbara Bry and Chris Cate’s offices, and Ray Ellis, chair of the Del Mar Mesa Community Planning Group.

The tour started at Carmel Valley’s original transit stop at Del Mar Highlands Town Center. From 2006 to 2009, MTS ran a pilot route from the center that went to University Town Center but the route was discontinued due to low ridership and low population density at that time.

On the tour, Solinsky pointed out just how much the area has changed since 2009 with more housing, including several high-density developments, and the additions of One Paseo and the Village of Pacific Highlands Ranch mixed-use centers.

The tour traveled along the subcommittee’s proposed east-west and north-south bus routes for the area.

The proposed north-south line would start on El Camino Real/Via de la Valle and go south on El Camino Real through Carmel Valley, past SR-56 to Carmel Mountain Road in Torrey Hills toward Sorrento Valley, connecting with the Sorrento Valley transit station and possibly making the connection up to Genesee Avenue and the future Blue Trolley Line from La Jolla to Old Town that is set to open in 2021.

The proposed east-west route would go east on Del Mar Heights Road to Carmel Valley Road, through Pacific Highlands Ranch and on to Rancho Penasquitos, ending at the Sabre Springs transit station on Carmel Mountain Road.

The tour went down Via de la Valle and into the Del Mar village, which is a route currently served by North County Transit District (NCTD) buses. Solinsky pointed out that despite NCTD’s service to the area, there is no transit to connect Carmel Valley from Del Mar, noting people have to walk up the large Del Mar Heights hill from the bus stop to reach their destination.

A common theme emerged on the tour: no connection to the Sorrento Valley Coaster Station for those staying or working in Carmel Valley’s hotels, no transit for the large employment centers along High Bluff Drive or Carmel Mountain Road, no transit for students who travel from other parts of the city to attend Cathedral Catholic High School, no transit to the only car rental service in Carmel Valley in Piazza Carmel, no connections between the growing communities of residential homes.

While in Torrey Hills, Solinsky pointed out that she often sees people walking up and down Vista Sorrento Parkway from the hotels with their luggage to get to the Coaster Station.

In its Elevate SD 2020 campaign, MTS has acknowledged that the relatively low investment in public transportation over the years is catching up to them and new strategies are needed. MTS held workshops throughout San Diego this spring, including a well-attended one in Carmel Valley as they work to put together a plan for the future.

Projects and priorities identified in the outreach process could shape a potential funding measure, which is being considered by the MTS Board of Directors for 2020.

“I hope we are one step closer to getting both a west-east and a north-south bus routes into our area, not to mention, an Express along the SR-56,” Solinsky said.

Keep updated on Elevate 2020 progress at elevatesd2020.com. MTS will also be offering a Free Ride Day on Oct. 2, use the trip planner on sdmts.com