The Metropolitan Transit System's new bus rapid transit service --aptly named Rapid -- will begin service along the Interstate 15 corridor on Sunday.
It is the area's first transit service of its kind, promising high-frequency, limited-stop service, and amenities for stations and vehicles that are more associated with passenger rail service.
MTS and the San Diego Association of Governments -- which facilitated construction for the transit service's infrastructure with Caltrans -- said the Rapid service will improve access to jobs, entertainment venues and other destinations.
Infrastructure used by the Rapid lines will include the 20-mile stretch of improved Express Lanes along Interstate 15; a series of new direct-access ramps connecting I-15 with Escondido Transit Center, Del Lago Transit Station, Rancho Bernardo Transit Station, Sabre Springs/Peñasquitos Transit Station and San Diego Miramar College Transit Station; and numerous upgraded transit stations.
The I-15 corridor Express Lanes project cost $1.4 billion, while costs associated with improvements made for the Rapid service total nearly $240 million.
Funding for the Rapid project came for federal and state sources, as well as TransNet, the local sales tax county voters approved in 2004.
MTS spokesman Rob Schupp said the 29 new buses designated specifically for the I-15 corridor Rapid cost about $920,000 each.
At 60 feet in length, the buses canhandle more riders and include large windows, cushioned seats and automatic electronic arrival information provided on a display.
They also are branded differently than other MTS buses so it's specifically be noticed as a Rapid bus.
As the city and region invest more in transit, the Rapid system was among the early improvements outlined by SANDAG's 2050 Regional Transportation Plan.
Schupp said he expects Rapid to have an initial impact on attitudes toward transit use, but that time will be the only test of how much the impact will be.
"We are anticipating an increase of a couple thousand people initially," Schupp said. "It takes time to build ridership for new services. Right now, we've got fairly robust services in the corridor, but nothing as fast and as frequent. We've got about five [thousand] to six thousand people riding on MTS buses in the corridor now."
During the coming years, SANDAG and MTS, in collaboration with Caltrans, plan to invest several hundred million more dollars to build a network of Rapid services region-wide.
Three Rapid routes opened up during the weekend, including the Rapid 235, Rapid Express 280, and Rapid Express 290 routes.
Route 235 runs between the America Plaza & Kettner America Plaza station in downtown San Diego and the Escondido Transit Center, while Rapid Express 280 runs between the Pacific Highway & Grape St. bus stop and Escondido Transit Center.
Rapid Express 290 provides service between the Pacific Highway & Grape St. bus stop and the Rancho Bernardo Transit Station.
Route 235, uses the I-15 Express Lanes and direct access ramps, will operate seven days a week from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m., with buses arriving every 15 minutes during weekday rush hours and every 30 minutes during non-rush hours and on weekends.
The Rapid Express 280 and 290 services, using the I-15 Express Lanes and state Route 163, are weekday, peak-hour operations, with 10 trips south in the morning and 11 trips north in the evening.
Future Rapid routes are planned to include Escondido to UCSD, via Mira Mesa Boulevard; San Diego State University to downtown San Diego, via El Cajon and Park boulevards; and Otay Mesa to downtown San Diego by way of Interstate 805.
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