San Diego’s Metropolitan Transit System will soon offer complimentary Wi-Fi service on three of its Rapid lines, courtesy of a newly approved pilot program set to begin by fall 2015. The San Diego Association of Governments agreed to implement the year-long project on Dec. 19, 2014, and will spend $275,000 to install Wi-Fi on several buses serving Routes 215, 235 and 237.
MTS Rapid expanded its services to five total lines throughout 2014 and sought to implement additional amenities for improved ridership experience. According to SANDAG, Wi-Fi services was one of the most highly requested services from passengers.
In October 2014, MTS found that over 10,000 people were boarding the 215, 325 and 237 lines on average during weekdays. MTS Rapid 237 provides service from UCSD to Rancho Bernardo, Rapid 235 travels from Escondido to downtown San Diego and Rapid 215 loops from the San Diego State University to downtown.
After researching Wi-Fi programs launched by Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority and the Golden Gate Transportation District, both SANDAG’s Transportation Committee and Board of Directors approved their own pilot program. The budget for this pilot program is expected to come from diverted funds originally allocated for SANDAG’s Downtown Bus Rapid Transit Stations Project.
The program will consist of three stages. First, Wi-Fi will be installed on at least six of Rapid’s total 47 buses, allowing for sufficient hardware testing while limiting operating costs. After six months have elapsed, passengers will be surveyed to gauge their overall impressions of the coverage and usage. Then, after nine months, SANDAG and MTS will evaluate whether to implement Wi-Fi services on the entire Route 215, 235 and 237 fleet. Since the 237 stops at UCSD, students will have the potential to provide feedback on the pilot program.
Finalizing the plans requires a Regional Transportation Improvement Program amendment to be brought before the Transportation Committee in early 2015.
If the pilot program is deemed successful, full implementation would be completed in fall 2016, costing an estimated total of $654,000. This includes hiring a consultant with prior experience in similar Wi-Fi projects undertaken by the previously mentioned SCVTA and GGTD.
“WiFi is an amenity that many of our transit riders have requested,” Dave Schumacher, SANDAG principal planner, said. “By providing this amenity, along with other enhancements such as next arrival signs, new stations and new vehicles with bigger windows and more comfortable seats, our goal is to make public transit an attractive alternative to driving.”
Other general transportation improvements have also been outlined by SANDAG. These include widening Regents Road, an 11-mile extension of the MTS Trolley Blue Line and a direct access ramp from Voigt Bridge to Interstate 5.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article stated that the MTS Rapid 215 route traveled from the University of San Diego to downtown San Diego. It actually loops from SDSU to downtown.