To read and see the media reports, the new San Diego trolley blue line extension will transport you to within footprints of Mission Bay and Pacific Beach, where all you have to do is step off in your flip flops and have your toes between the sand.
In reality, that’s not the case at all. In fact, the Mission Bay and PB stations are on the east side of the 5 freeway. That’s two miles from the beach and while Mission Bay is within sight of the station, you have to go up and over a car-heavy bridge and through a freeway offramp to get to it.
Trying to find a way around this, I spent an entire afternoon on the trolley extension’s opening day doing pretty much what the Baja 1000 drivers to before that race: conducting a “pre-run” to scout out the best and safest options to get to the finish line. Which in this case is the Mission Bay bike path and the main fun areas of Pacific Beach.
Here’s what I discovered in my journey.
Getting To Pacific Beach From The Balboa Ave. Trolley Station
Okay, I did not expect the trolley to drop me at Crystal Pier and straight onto the sand. Apparently many local PB residents did, tho.
I’ve been reading accounts of how dumb it is to have the station on the difficult-to-access east side of the 5 and then not offer any shuttle buses to the beach and through the community.
But that last part is simply not true. There are two bus lines the 27 and the 8, which go to PB. The 27 goes straight down Balboa Ave. The 8 goes to PB and then onto Mission Blvd., cuts up at Belmont Park and the rollercoaster and continues onto the Old Town station.
This is far better than getting off the trolley in Old Town and then taking the 20-something minute bouncy ride to PB. This bus runs until 11 p.m., while the more direct 27 only goes until 5.
So it’s not perfect – and there’s talk about adding some type of shuttle bus – but it works. Talk of building a pedestrian/bike bridge to connect to the PB bike trail is just that now, talk. It’s something that should have been a part of the original plan but at least the buses will get you to the beaches.
Getting To Mission Bay From The Tecolote Road Transit Center
First of all, calling this a “transit center” is a Public Relations creative stretch, for the only transit there is the trolley. There is a small parking lot for cars and that’s it. Really this is simply a platform.
This is actually the most frustrating part of the entire new line. I mean, you can see Mission Bay from the trolley stop. It’s right. There! Unfortunately, there is a busy freeway and on-and-off ramps between you and it.
Why did they just not swing the trolley line across the freeway and create a stop at the actual park? There’s plenty of space and they could have done an elevated platform. The same applies to the new Claremont stop.
Instead, you have to do this, either by bike or on foot:
• Exit the platform to the light and cross the street (note: there is no crosswalk button in front of the Lamps Plus store).
• Take that to the next block and make a left
• Go another block and at the light, turn left to get onto the bridge. Fortunately, there is space to walk on the bridge and a narrow bike lane
• Go straight through the off-ramp intersection
• Follow this into Mission Bay Park
To return to the trolley, do this process in reverse order.
When I first heard of a Tecolote Road station, I was excited. I thought – naively, as it turned out – that I could put my bike on the trolley and simply roll off onto the bike path.
Heck an even better idea would have been to have the trolley go to Sea World. A big PR push from MTA and SANDAG has been about getting people out of their cars and this would achieve that by the thousands, as well as providing an excellent service to the city’s many tourists who go to Sea World.
That is the way it should be but that is not the way it is in reality.