Anyone who’s walked around UCSD knows that public transportation is a necessity, but students can also attest to the difficulty of exploring San Diego via bus. We’re all for saving money on gas and being environmentally friendly — but not if it takes half a lifetime to get from UCSD to Old Town. So when the news broke out that UCSD and the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System would be extending the MTS Blue Line, we were naturally thrilled about the plan to create more efficient routes and convenient stops — and not at all bitter that current students will most likely not be here to see the fruits of their labor. But this is where the praise stops.
Over the summer, UCSD struck a $30 million deal with MTS to change the name of the trolley line to “UC San Diego Blue Line” and to name three of the stations. Additionally, UCSD will have the right to advertise on rail bridges over Interstate 5 and Genesee Avenue. University Community Planning Group Chair Janay Kruger asserted that this was a “backroom deal” with no community input.
According to Kruger, San Diego displays few signs because it can seem “cluttered,” and UCSD is failing to take that into consideration. MTS Spokesperson Rob Schupp rebutted that there will be little exposure to the San Diego community — so UCSD wants to advertise to UCSD? That makes sense. San Diego Community Planners Committee Chair Joe LaCava affirmed the lack of communication and stated that there was a “disconnect” between his committee and MTS. The deal happened alarmingly fast. It sounds like yet another case of UCSD not taking its constituents’ interests into account — and even beyond that, UCSD is not being a good neighbor. Apparently this is MTS and UCSD’s world, and we’re just living in it.
Besides the fact that UCSD and MTS have been extremely shady, they are also potentially confusing bus riders. Kruger and some MTS board members have expressed concern over the renaming of the bus stops. For example, part of the deal mandates that the Old Town stop will be renamed to “Old Town UC San Diego Health Campus South.” UCSD is miles away from Old Town, and this name change will confuse passengers, especially since there are multiple stops between Old Town and UCSD. Also, could that station name be any more wordy?
To “appease” the natives, MTS has agreed to make a presentation at a board meeting explaining the details of the signage, including showing sketches and models. Note that there doesn’t seem to be any intention of listening to the community’s interests. LaCava admits that “…when you’re excluded from the conversation, you imagine the worst. Then you’re forced to participate in a board meeting, which is the wrong place to have a conversation.” MTS and UCSD are trying to placate already-disgruntled (and rightly so) residents and board members.
Again, it just sounds like administration is making decisions without caring about the people it serves. Here’s UCSD logic: Let’s make decisions, then when we’ve angered everyone, let’s vaguely show people what we’re doing. It doesn’t really matter that they’re showing us because we’re just going to see it in five years when this project is complete.Also, let’s not ignore the enormous price tag on these naming rights — $30 million is a ridiculous amount to pay, though this money comes from the UCSD Health marketing budget, not public funds. UCSD is pulling a Snoop Dogg and dropping it — money — like it’s hot. As students, we are curious about how our university is spending its money and hope that it is doing so wisely. However, this does not seem like a worthwhile investment. Rather, it seems like an attempt to brand and sell ourselves. You shouldn’t play hot potato with $30 million, and hopefully UCSD will realize that eventually.
Although the UCSD Guardian Editorial Board welcomes the Blue Line trolley extension project, MTS and UCSD’s shady behavior makes us question their decisions. Going forward, we hope that UCSD and MTS will make wise decisions about this project and that student and community needs will be taken into account. Believe it or not, UCSD does not exist in a bubble, and it’s time that the powers that be recognize this and act on that fact.