I am an huge proponent of connecting airports to mass transit. If done properly, public transportation can streamline the arrivals and departure process for travelers (I love the bag drop at the Hong Kong central train station, for example). Even a mediocre mass-transit solution can help calm traffic and provide alternatives to taxi cabals, so I’m generally a fan.
Living in San Diego, the airport transportation situation is especially frustrating. While Southern California is progressive in many ways, airport transit is not one of them. Our airports were built for a different era, and Southern Californians love their cars, so while we have one of the most conveniently located airports, it’s annoyingly difficult to get in and out of.
- The rail line skirts the airport, but there aren’t any stations near the airport
- The lightrail/trolley follows the rail lines, but again — no stations near the terminal
You can of course take a bus, but most people end up in cars, and traffic on the one road going in and out of the airport is nearly always an adventure.
So when I saw on the news this morning that the San Diego Airport would soon have a connection to the trolley, I was really excited. “Finally,” I thought. “they’ve come up with a way to extend the trolley line to the terminal! Tourists will love that!”
Yeah, not so much.
The new “trolley” “solution” at SAN
Via the San Diego Union Tribune:
The key to the plan is making it easier for travelers to walk.
Well golly gee! That seems like what people are generally looking for in their airport transit. Walking!
The project includes walker-friendly improvements on Palm Street at the Pacific Highway intersection. It includes wider sidewalks, a handicap-accessible ramp, and a new crosswalk. A telephone pole will be removed, and road markings will be repainted. The project stretches a little more than a city block. [emphasis mine]
Okay, so…you can do a lot with a city block. This does not seem like a lot.
To give some context, here’s the area we’re talking about in comparison to the airport:
And here’s the imagery of the current setup:
And of course, the “new crosswalk” doesn’t actually take you to the terminal. It’s not like the epic skybridge at SeaTac that takes you between the light rail and the terminal.
Nope, it just goes to the new (read: under construction) rental car center:
From there, they can snag a free ride via a shuttle typically used to ferry people from the airport’s economy parking lot to the terminals. They can repeat the process in reverse when coming home.
That suggests this option is geared towards locals (which is laughable, no one I know takes the trolley other than to sporting events), but the process would look like this:
- Drive to the nearest Park and Ride location, as the trolley doesn’t actually go anywhere near where San Diegans live
- Pay $2.50 per person to take the trolley
- Walk a block or so
- Board the airport parking shuttle to the terminal
For business travelers going to the Convention Center (which is a large percentage), the process is similarly obfuscated. Is anyone realistically going to haul from their hotel, to the trolley, to the shuttle, when an UberX or Taxi is about $9, and will take half the time?
I won’t, and I want to take mass transit to the airport!
While I applaud the planners for trying to find creative solutions, this doesn’t seem like something particularly useable, especially for the $600k+ price tag.
I’ve walked to the airport before, but guarantee I’m in the tiny minority. The vast majority of San Diego tourists are families (with luggage) and convention goers (with luggage). I just don’t see how this is compelling to either group.
What do you think? Would this setup encourage you to take the trolley from San Diego airport? Or is it too little too late?