Trapped in Scripps Ranch

Beata Piehl wants buses closer than 3/4 mile

Bus route 964 between Alliant University in Scripps Ranch and Miramar College transit center
  • Bus route 964 between Alliant University in Scripps Ranch and Miramar College transit center

Beata Piehl learned that mass transit won’t come to her neighborhood when her disabled son began going to Miramar Community College. For him to catch a bus to his 8:00 am class, she had to drive him to the Scripps Ranch Library by 6:30 am.

During those driving years, she learned about how San Diego’s Metropolitan Transit System works – and where it doesn’t. She came to believe that MTS had carved holes in the maps with SANDAG’s blessing – particularly north outlying areas including Scripps Ranch and North Miramar Ranch, where she lives, in a way that freed the transit agencies of their obligation to provide transportation “to seniors, the disabled and people with low incomes.”

“If you aren’t within three quarters of a mile of a transit stop, they don’t have to pick you up,” she said.

MTS spokesman Rob Schupp confirmed the three quarters of a mile limit. Scripps Ranch does have a bus route that operates on weekdays from 6 am to a little after 8 pm. The route starts at Alliant University south of Pomerado Road and winds up the east side of the 15 until Mira Mesa Blvd., where it crosses the freeway westbound and arrives at the Miramar College transit station. It continues north through Mira Mesa. And it doesn’t run on weekends.

That’s the only bus route in the neighborhood. The rest of Scripps Ranch and North Miramar are a transit desert. (there is a bus line that runs on Miramar/La Jolla Village Drive and express buses go up and down the 15.)

Because of a growing population of seniors aging in place and disabled people who can’t drive, Piehl would like to see better access for MTS services in her neighborhood.

Months ago, she floated an informal survey of the area’s transit needs and found that half the people were elderly people who had given up driving. The other half were people with disabilities. “It’s just a nightmare,” she said. “I have elderly neighbors who can’t drive anymore and they feel they are trapped in their homes.”

She has drafted a letter that calls on SANDAG and MTS to expand paratransit services.

SANDAG doesn’t actually do transit, spokeswoman Jessica Gonzales said in an email. That’s MTS’s jurisdiction. But the regional group does have a advisory council that works to increase access to transportation for seniors and disabled people. And SANDAG does award grants to a number of groups and agencies that provide transportation for seniors and disabled people – the current round of grant applications have just begun.

An outlying infirm commuter who contacts SANDAG is sent to a website which links people to rides through social services agencies. But individual agencies have individual missions. Some transport seniors but not disabled people. Others transport only people with disabilities and some are for people with very specific disabilities or medical issues. There’s service focused on serving the blind and another that serves people with ALS – Lou Gehrig’s disease. Many require scheduling a week ahead.

(The cities of Vista and La Mesa have their own ride services.)

But Piehl is not satisfied with a patchwork network – many drivers are volunteers. She’d like to see MTS expand its area and argues that under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the agencies are obligated to provide the service.

Her petition asks the SANDAG committee “to recommend and promote the development and use of accessible transportation services within the 92131 zip code area of San Diego.”

She has the endorsement of the Scripps Ranch planning group, and she expects to have Miramar Ranch on board at its next meeting.

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If you want to use mass transit then move to an area close to mass transit. One should not expect that they should be accommodated.

So anyone who unexpectedly becomes disabled should be forced by circumstance to move out of their home?

There are a lot of specialized transit options in the county - I know of at least one called Rides and Smiles by JFS - that fill in that gap. I don't think you realize how expensive paratransit is for MTS to operate. Yeah, it sucks that we've built out neighborhoods that literally demand you buy a car to go to work or get groceries. What a terrible way to be forced to live.

I googled it and there are lots of articles that explain the cost of paratransit and why agencies have to farm that service out. https://usa.streetsblog.org/2016/09/20/how-transit-agencies-can-offer-better-paratransit-service-at-lower-costs/

Your linked article describes the very limitations to the current approach. As ever, Streetsblog wants the government to turn to and subsidize the free market (Uber and Lyft) to solve those problems without recognizing that the free market is how the problems were created.

There are restrictions on who the patchwork of services will transport, including the JFS program you mention. They transport seniors who are ambulatory, so forget about bringing the grandkids. They also require a week's notice. Others transport only people with specific disabilities and illnesses - not mixed groups. A blind 40 year old with a mom who is a senior might be able to strike a deal outside those restrictions, but not reliably. Many rely on volunteers and their personal vehicles, so whether or not they can transport someone in a wheelchair comes down to the volunteers' vehicles. All those services are incredibly valuable and clearly needed, but can accurately be described as a patchwork.

Keep in mind that there are 1,100 households in Scripps Ranch alone (not including North Miramar Ranch) that have incomes of less than $40,000, and 4,500 people who are 60 or older - with 2,300 over the age of 70. They've spent a lifetime paying taxes for services too.

The county's highly promoted 'Aging in Place' is supposed to be a positive choice, not a trap.

And you expect the taxpayer supported MTS to accommodate your needs?

My name was used in Marty Graham's article without my permission. I did not agree to an interview with her and I did not provide any comments for this article. The sentences quoted in her article and attributed to me are not true. Please withdraw your article, my name, and comments falsely attributed to me.

Scripps Ranch is a transit desert for a reason. A route there would likely attract 1 boarding an hour, if that. We've built extremely car dependent communities and then choose to live there. We can't blame MTS for focusing their limited resources where they can serve more people. If SR wants a route they'd have to show that they'd use it. (What are the chances that people in SR would agree to increasing taxes to fund a transit line? The chances that they'd laugh in your face are high).

Piehl's best bet is to utilize those specialized transit non-profit services. The SR Planning group could help advertise them.

We can expect more of these stories. The excuse of "transit-oriented development" to allow greater density projects throughout the city (including across from Scripps Ranch) is predicated on having a half-mile access to transit (the "maximum length people are willing to walk to transit," not able to walk). Yet MTS, the entity this planning is based on, operates with a three-quarter mile limit. Add bikes into it, and it's three miles. None of these are options for the elderly or handicapped.

As the above map shows, there are lots of ways to slice up the geographical pie to give developers and bureaucrats what they want, without having to share much more than crumbs with the larger community.

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