Councilmember Maienschein Helps

Preserve DART

I am proud to announce that I successfully persuaded my colleagues on the Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) Board to join me in voting to preserve the Direct Access to Regional Transit bus program. DART is a door-to-door transportation system for seniors.

The program serves approximately 200 seniors weekly in the Scripps Ranch and Rancho Bernardo communities. DART had been proposed for elimination due to budget cuts. I have been working for months to find a way to save the program. The Oct. 18 vote will keep the program in operation through April 2008. In the meantime, I will continue to work with MTS, nonprofit groups, and community stakeholders to develop a viable transportation alternative.

I am thrilled by the outcome. Many senior citizens rely on the DART bus as their only means of transportation to and from doctors’ appointments, grocery stores, and the post office. The elimination of this program would have stripped many of these individuals of their ability to live independently.

Patrons of the DART bus can schedule low cost rides throughout the week by calling a toll free number. The transportation is safe and reliable and is especially necessary in Scripps Ranch and Rancho Bernardo due to the lack of accessible mass transit.

The issue of senior mobility in San Diego is one that I have and will continue to focus on. Ensuring that every resident has the opportunity to maintain an active lifestyle is vital to the health and well-being of our communities. The preservation of the DART bus is an important step in that direction.

Councilmember Brian Maienschein

[Editor’s note: The following two letters were written prior to the DART vote on Oct. 18. We include them because the information remains relevant.]

October’s SRCA Newsletter Dialogue section contained articles regarding the threatened elimination of DART services to Scripps Ranch and Rancho Bernardo. A mere two weeks from notice to public hearing–which was on September 27–doesn’t provide sufficient time to educate and gather support for community input into the process. Several Scripps Ranch residents and DART riders wrote to, appeared before, or emailed the Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) Board.

Then in early October we received word that MTS Board members recently decided not to eliminate DART service. However, no further details were given. The most recent MTS Rider Alert of Oct. 3 continues to note the MTS Board will consider reduction/elimination of DART services. Those of us who depend on DART need confirmation from the MTS Board and our representatives of DART’s continued existence.

DART is a long-standing, unique service for Scripps Ranch residents and businesses, Alliant University students, and people who serve our community–for example, caregivers, home service workers, and business employees. Alliant International University advises of local plans to build assisted living units whose residents would benefit from DART services.

With sound MTS marketing and inclusion into Scripps Ranch Transportation Master Plans, DART ridership would inevitably increase, eliminating any excuse of claimed underutilization.

Please email your comments on this proposal to [[email protected]] or Councilmember Brian Maienschein at [[email protected]]. You can also send a letter to: MTS Public Hearing Comments, 1255 Imperial Avenue, Suite 1000, San Diego, CA 92101.

Please help by joining us hold our representatives accountable and providing a vision that preserves a public transportation system that truly serves the public.

Jim Masingill and Monica Fejer, SR Residents and DART Riders

MTS Response

On Sept. 27 MTS staff recommended the discontinuation of DART services to the MTS Board of Directors. Based on public comment and participation, the MTS Board of Directors agreed to postpone voting on the proposal until its board meeting and public hearing on Thursday, October 18.

In the meantime, the board directed MTS staff to work with community and organizational stakeholders to resolve the DART issue. Those efforts are ongoing, as MTS has agreed to work with local groups to secure funding for new vehicles and services to replace DART.

The mission of MTS is to provide the best possible service to everyone in its service territory. Due to budget constraints, it must carefully allocate resources to programs that serve the most riders. MTS cannot afford to operate services that are not well utilized.

Earlier this year, MTS was notified that it would receive $9.2 million less in sales tax revenue than had been estimated–this figure later rose to more than $11 million. In order to balance the budget, MTS enacted a hiring freeze, reduced staff benefits, adjusted internal operations, and is evaluating a fare increase. Because of these actions, MTS only has to reduce $2 million worth of transit services, instead of $9 million. Discontinuation of DART services would save more than $145,000 a year.

DART is being recommended to be discontinued due to its cost inefficiencies. The subsidy per passenger on the DART system is $14.92, compared to $1.69 per passenger on the fixed-route services. For each round-trip on DART, MTS is subsidizing each passenger nearly $30. The fare-box recovery rate–fare revenues as a percentage of total operating costs–for DART is only 8.8%, compared to 34% across the fixed-route services. Consequently, MTS staff recommended discontinuing DART services rather than cutting back other needed services.

Only a greater commitment to public transportation from the people of the San Diego region will allow our system to grow. In transit rich communities, one cent of sales tax is devoted to public transportation. In San Diego County, it is only one-sixth of a cent. Further, at the state level, funds previously dedicated to public transportation are being used to pay for other state services. We encourage you to continue communication with your elected representatives to show the importance of public transportation.

For further comment on this issue, please call the MTS planning hotline at 619-595-4912. Sincerely,

Brent Boyd, MTS Senior Transportation Planner

Drivers: Be Courteous

I am sending this to make a strong point to all parents who drive their children to and from school. I have lived in Scripps Ranch for 23 years. We choose this area for many reasons, including the schools and the community feel.

We also chose to live near one of the elementary schools. We liked that our kids could walk to school. We also realized that traffic might be an issue.

Until now, I never felt the need to say anything. However, recently I was trying to leave my house in the afternoon and found that a car had parked halfway across my driveway, blocking me in. I was a bit annoyed at the thoughtlessness.

I waited for the woman to get back to her car and suggested that possibly she not block the driveway in the future. Her response is what prompted me to send this letter. Instead of saying, “Gosh, I’m so sorry,” it was, “I have a sick child, and I’m doing the best I can.”

She apparently did not think that possibly I also had a sick child to pick up or I had someplace to get to. It didn’t seem to bother her that I was stuck in my driveway. And she never apologized.

Parents, please be considerate of neighbors. Do not double park. Do not make illegal U-turns. Drive the way you would like to see your children drive when they come of age. Please, be nice. Be courteous. Be aware of your actions. Someone is always taking note.

Joanne Gimbel, Scripps Ranch Resident

Attention, Dog Walkers!

We installed sod for the first time in our newly landscaped front yard. Unfortunately, brown dead spots are beginning to appear, the result of dog urine. We know dog urine, since our dog uses our backyard as her bathroom. We can live with brown spots in our backyard.

For those of you who don’t want your dog to use your yard, please don’t allow your pet to use other people’s grass. Across the street there is a dirt area that won’t die from dog urine. And please pick up what your dog leaves behind.

Jim and Diane Hinrichs