1974 San Diego guide to longest bus rides

Route O is the longest

Since the fare was lowered to 25 cents, the bus population has doubled.
  • Since the fare was lowered to 25 cents, the bus population has doubled.
  • Image by Bob Eckert

Whether the Downtown Association likes it or not, $an Diego bus routes are losing their predominant downtown orientation. Many local buses either end up or wind through downtown now, mostly because a lot of the present routes were laid down on top of old street car routes. In many cases two street car routes, each of which ended downtown, were hooked up to form one long bus route. But now San Diego has an area (1500 square miles) not much smaller than Los Angeles’ (2300 square miles) to service, and it is beginning to see more development of crosstown, non-radial routes.

Route O (31.4 miles), one of these radial routes that comes from one outlying area (Ocean Beach) and goes through downtown to another (the Border), is the busiest in San Diego County and one of the busiest in the country. Lots of students going back and forth from their homes in O.B., lots of Mexicans going from their homes to their jobs as maids and gardeners. Though the San Diego Transit hour-long bus ride (25c) makes the shorter Greyhound express from downtown to Tijuana ($1.00) competitive, Greyhound says they’ll file an injunction to keep San Diego Transit from having a Border express from downtown. San Diego Transit has negotiated an agreement with Greyhound to set up service to 19th and Coronado in Imperial Beach. This service, with an easy transfer at 19th and Coronado to a Border bus, will for all practical purposes kill the Greyhound service.

Route G (26.35 miles) is a suburban San Diego commuter’s dream. A middle-level executive can leave his $80,000 home in Rancho Penasquitos at 7:08 on weekday mornings and arrive safely at his office tower on 5th and Broadway at 7:38. Unfortunately for the bus company, these routes are not the most economical for them. The Transit company is getting many fewer customers per mile travelled than on a normal city route.

Route 5 (25.85 miles), one of the city’s older routes, and one that passes from a certain type of neighborhood (white-collar University City) to a very different other one (blue-collar southeast San Diego and College Grove).

Route J (25.3 miles) now runs between Pacific Beach (Felspar and Mission Blvd.) and Kearny Mesa (Convair/ Montgomery Airport), but it will soon be extended on its western end through Mission Beach, Ocean Beach to Naval Electronics Laboratory in Point Loma where a nice chunk of the 165,000 Navy jobs in San Diego are held. A large number of people at the beaches are also expected to be traveling to jobs at the Rose Canyon industrial complex, and a huge inter-beach crowd is expected during the summer.

Route 4 (25.2 miles), like the 5 Route, it goes from a blue collar area (Lomita Village), through downtown San Diego and ends up in the land of station wagons and garage-roof basketball hoops, semi-suburban Clairemont.

Route R (24.3 miles), along La Jolla and the beaches to downtown, has the mildest weather and is thus given the buses without air conditioning during the summer months. It is one of the most scenic routes in spite of what the bus drivers tell you about North Mission Beach.

It is one of the most travelled in San Diego. On this bus you will meet not only kinky-haired blond surfers, but blue-haired La Jolla grandmothers, and stringy-haired UCSD scientists.

Route 40 (20.4 miles), an express route scheduled to go into operation in December, will link the middle-class burghers of El Cajon and La Mesa even closer to their work downtown. Hopefully, the run from Parkway Plaza in El Cajon to downtown will be cut from 1 & to 1 hour.

Route 80 (19.9 miles) is probably one of the most significant in the trend away from downtown orientation for the bus system. Starting at Mission and Opal Streets, it picks up San Diego State students in time to make their 8 and 9 o’clock classes and Grossmont Center and Fashion Valley shoppers in time to stand in line for the most recently advertised linen sale at the May Company. In case anyone was wondering why this “Express” stops at all the same stops the regular buses do, San Diego Transit says it’s because beach citizens have torn off the special “express” stickers on the bus stop signs. The bus drivers, not knowing which stops are actually “express,” and trying to avert any and all complaints, stop at all the stops just in case.

Route 11 (19.8 miles), another old, old bus route that was made up of two old street car routes joined at downtown, services the two types of areas which are the most important for federal funding of bus companies like San Diego Transit— senior citizen areas (Kensington is its northern terminal) and Model Cities areas (Lomita Village is its other end). A lot of the Southest San Diego residents use this bus to visit Pill Hill in Hillcrest to see their doctor or dentist or visit Mercy or University Hospital.

Route 30 (19.3 miles), like Route 40, is suppose to begin service in December. It will be an express version of the R, carrying passengers picked up along the R Route in La Jolla and northern Pacific Beach out Grand Avenue to the freeway to downtown. It is supposed to cut 20 to 25 minutes off the La Jolla commuter’s trip to downtown.

The number of people riding the bus in car-dominated San Diego is still not very high; the best the Transit Company can come up with is 11 per cent who say they ride the bus at least once a month. But since the fare was lowered to 25c in September, 1972, the bus population has doubled, and Transit officials expect it to do the same the next two years.

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