It’s been over a decade since my last visit to San Diego — and that was for a conference so it doesn’t count. (Especially if I leave out the part where I spent time at the beach and visited the zoo.)
Today I arrived in San Diego for a little post-Christmas vacation. Stepping off the bus from the airport, the very first thing I saw: someone had flipped a Bird (of the scooter variety) next to a fire hydrant. Does that count as two parking violations in one?
Turns out electric kick scooters now dominate the sidewalks of San Diego. It’s a little hard to blame the scooter riders for hogging sidewalks as bike lanes still aren’t a thing in Southern California, despite the bike-friendly weather year round.
One aspect that feels all too familiar from back home in San Francisco is the obvious inequality spilling out onto into the physical landscape. On the one hand you have new buildings springing up everywhere, an indicator of a healthy economy; but on the other there’s a noticeable homeless population, many of which clearly aren’t getting the help they need.
It’s strange to me as a lifetime Californian that we keep ignoring homelessness. I can’t think of a major city in the state where it’s not a serious issue. I know it’s complicated, but statewide problems need statewide responses.
There is an aspect of visiting San Diego I found pleasantly surprising. Just like in Los Angeles, the public transit exceeded my (admittedly low) expectations. I’d intentionally booked myself an Airbnb near a light rail station.
Yet at the airport when I went to buy a light rail pass I was immediately confused by the ticket machine. So I turned around and asked a woman at the information booth about the machine, and she was just as confused as I was! Not a good first impression to say the least.
After figuring out together how to buy a Compass Card and load a multi-day pass on to it, I noticed the machine is identical to the ones we have at San Francisco Muni stations. Sure enough it’s also from Cubic Transportation Systems. Ugh.
Once I’d purchased a multi-day pass I found San Diego’s transit network shockingly nice. Adult day passes are only $5 currently, and multi-day prices are available for much less. The transit times predicted by Google Maps are often much more pessimistic than warranted. Wait times aren’t bad and there’s usually more than enough empty seats on the buses and trains.
I’ll have to see if this trend continues, but so far I’m impressed with San Diego’s pubic transit network. It’s worth noting they have a light rail station right at the border of Mexico for tourists planning on heading south of the border — or the opposite. Most of the on board announcements are in both English and Spanish.