Rapid (San Diego)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
SloganOne Sweet Ride
ParentMetropolitan Transit System
Commenced operationJune 8, 2014; 5 years ago (2014-06-08)
LocaleSan Diego County, California
Service areaDowntown San Diego and vicinity
Service typeMixed BRT
Routes9 (201, 202, 204, 215, 225, 235, 237, 280, 290)
Stops30 (on request only)
HubsUTC Transit Center

America Plaza station

Santa Fe Depot
Stations34 in operation (Including Transit centers, CenterLine median stations and terminus stops)
5 planned
Fleet91 New Flyer Industries 60 foot Xcelsior buses (86 CNG and 6 Electric)

15 New Flyer Industries 40 foot C40LF CNG buses

26 Blue Bird Express 4500 motorcoaches
Fuel typeCNG (main Rapid network)

Biodiesel (Rapid Express)

Electricity (future)

Gas-Electric Hybrid (formerly)
OperatorOperation is split between Transdev (225, 280, 290) and directly by MTS (201, 202, 204, 215, 235, 237)

Rapid is the brand name given to a mixed bus rapid transit system in San Diego County, California. The system serves nearly half the county, operating mainly on the HOV lanes on Interstates 15 and 805, with most of the stops also served by other routes. In addition, there are stations, dubbed as CenterLine in the medians of Interstate 15, Park Boulevard in San Diego and on East Palomar street in Otay Ranch, that are designed in a similar manner to the light rail stations. The system operates with a dedicated fleet, although buses from the Mainline fleet are regularly substituted. The system is administered and managed by SANDAG and is part of the Metropolitan Transit System


Early Beginnings (1990-2006)[edit]

In the 1990s, an extension of the San Diego Trolley was studied along Interstate 15. However, projected low ridership, hilly terrain and high cost estimates shelved this proposal. It was instead decided to construct a HOV lane system with Direct Access Ramps and transit centers in proximity to these ramps. Construction on these lanes began by 2001 with the first phase (between SR 163 and Sabre Springs) opening for traffic in 2006. At the same time, another trolley proposal was studied in Otay Ranch, but it was also decided that a BRT system would be essential.

The SuperLoop experiment and Technology implementation (2007-2013)[edit]

To test the technology used on the system, in 2007, SANDAG selected a series of streets in University City to be fitted with Transit Signal Prioritization, in addition to building stations with real-time arrival screens. The agency also ordered Hybrid buses to serve those routes, These services, dubbed as SuperLoop, began by mid-2009.[1] The success of these routes resulted in the SuperLoop routes becoming permanent additions, and eventually led to SANDAG placing a large order of 60-foot CNG buses, and the start of construction of the rest of the network. All phases of the I-15 HOV investment project were finished by 2011. The Rapid branding was announced in 2013, with the new buses arriving in December of that year, with corridor testing and driver training beginning the following January.

In Service (2014-present)[edit]

On May 17, 2014, the buses were accepted for passenger occupation, and in-service testing began on route 20 during a record-breaking heatwave caused by the Santa Ana winds at the time.[2] These buses were wrapped with a vinyl sticker containing the official slogan, all in an effort to promote the upcoming service. MTS also registered the rapidmts.com domain around this time (since merged into the main site). It was also announced that the service would begin at the next service change on June 8, 2014.

The Interior of a Rapid coach

At the same time, the existing Premium Express routes would gradually be phased out. Former route 810 would become Rapid 235 and supplemented by Rapid Express routes 280 and 290, while former route 880 would be replaced by Rapid 237. The remaining routes would be discontinued altogether with June 6, 2014 being the final date of operation for the Premium Express network. Rapid service formally began the following Sunday, June 8, 2014, on schedule. Free bus rides were offered on that day.[3] Rapid Express service began the following day. It inherited the 26 already existing motorcoach buses.

On March 11, 2018, MTS placed the I-15 CenterLine median stations into commission. These were the first stations on the I-15 Rapid (Route 235) to feature light-rail style station platforms, shelters, and NextBus information displays, and the first to be implemented since the Mid-City Rapid guideway in 2014.[4]

By 2019, the full network was implemented and in operation.

Current services[edit]

Currently, there are 9 routes, three of which run on the I-15 corridor. Route 235 operates all day serving all stations along the corridor from Escondido to San Diego and then to Downtown San Diego, ending at the Santa Fe Depot. Service operates every 15 minutes during peak hours and every 30 minutes at all other times. The Rapid Express service operates from selected bus stations to Downtown San Diego, bypassing City Heights and Kearny Mesa. Route 280 serves the two northernmost stations (Escondido and Del Lago) while Route 290 serves the Rancho Bernardo and Sabre Springs/Peñasquitos stations. Route 237 serves Miramar College Transit Station and then to UC San Diego via Mira Mesa Blvd and UTC Transit Center. Route 215 is the mid-city line providing service to downtown through SDSU, while Route 225 is the South Bay route, connecting Downtown with the South Bay communities. Additionally, Routes 201, 202 and 204 provide SuperLoop service between UC San Diego and Westfield UTC mall.

Numbering Scheme[edit]

All routes are in the 200 series, as allotted by SANDAG, The second digit indicates service area and type:

20x = SuperLoop routes

21x = Within San Diego city limits, but entirely on city and county streets

22x = South of Downtown (South Bay)

23x = North of Downtown

24-26x = Unused

27-29x = Rapid Express routes

The third digit denotes the exact routing:

0 = No specific routing information, Currently used on Rapid Express routes

1-4 = Supplementary routes, currently only used on SuperLoop routes

5 = Enters Downtown and terminates at America Plaza and begins at Santa Fe Depot.

6 = currently unused

7-9 = Avoids or bypasses Downtown

I-15 Rapid[edit]

The I-15 Rapid (Route 235) saves up to 45 minutes from local MTS Route 20, which continues to operate along the corridor to serve locations not served by the Rapid network. It also eliminates a transfer at Del Lago Transit Center between Route 20 and Breeze Rapid to central Escondido.[5] Rapid Express service replaced the Premium Express service which formerly operated along the corridor, The new system now only calls at Transit Stations. Biodiesel powered intercity coaches operate this service. Much like the network it replaced, Rapid Express operates peak-hours only, inbound in morning peak and outbound in afternoon peak, without reverse-commute services. Rapid Express services also terminate at the County Administration Building instead of the Santa Fe Depot.

Initial cost[edit]

The cost for the initial operating segment is approximately $238 million, consisting primarily of transit centers at City Heights, Del Lago, Escondido, and Rancho Bernardo; parking structures at Miramar College and Sabre Springs; and new 60-foot buses. This is in addition to the investment in the I-15 HOT lane project, which cost approximately $1 billion for four new lanes and direct access ramps. Taxpayer advocates have supported the Rapid due to its lower cost compared to rail extensions at the time.[6]

Mid-city and University City[edit]

On October 12, 2014, the Mid-City Rapid (Route 215) service commenced operations from San Diego State University to Downtown San Diego via Balboa Park, North Park, Normal Heights, and City Heights. The buses used on this route are vinyled into the Rapid livery, but feature regular local-style transit bus seating instead. The next day, a peak hour rapid route, Route 237, commenced operation from the UC San Diego area to Rancho Bernardo, via San Diego and the I-15 HOT lanes. These routes have been described as "diet trolleys", but critics claim that the limited amount of spending on BRT compared to highway spending shows SANDAG's emphasis on highway and automobile-based transportation.[7]. Eventually, Route 237 was shortened to Miramar college due to an increased amount of transfers there, essentially making the route a school-to-school route, having colleges on both ends. This change was incorporated into the Transit Optimization Plan (TOP) in 2017.[8]

On September 6, 2015, the MTS SuperLoop (Routes 201, 202 and 204) were incorporated into the network. MTS markets the routes as a sub-brand and called SuperLoop Rapid.

In 2015, the SuperLoop system was formally incorporated into the Rapid network and began using the XN60 buses for added capacity

Routes 201 (anti-clockwise) and 202 (clockwise) connect UC San Diego and Westfield UTC on a loop that passes through La Jolla Village, north University City, and the Jacobs Medical Center complex, while Route 204 serves the office parks and apartment complexes due east of UTC in a clockwise loop. In Addition, it inherited the 12 Gas-Electric Hybrid buses that originally provided the service. These buses were re-vinyled into the Rapid livery, and also began serving Route 237 in addition to their native SuperLoop routes. In April 2018, these buses were retired from service and replaced by re-vinyled C40LF buses from the Mainline fleet.

South Bay[edit]

The South Bay Rapid (Route 225) began limited peak-hour service on September 4, 2018 between East Palomar Park and Ride in Chula Vista and Downtown San Diego.[9] This route, along with the Mid-City Rapid are designed to be converted to light rail in the far future. The route initially operated in the Rapid Express pattern, headed Northbound (into Downtown) in the Morning peak and Southbound (return) in afternoons with no reverse-commute opportunities or weekend service. This route expanded to full daily service on January 26, 2019 and now operates operate along a 21-mile (43-kilometer) route between the Otay Mesa Transit Center near the Otay Mesa Port of Entry and Downtown San Diego.[10][11] With this opening 5 new stations were also opened, these are located at Heritage Park, Lomas Verdes, Santa Venetia, the Otay Ranch Town Center, and at the recently developed, mixed-use Millenia community in Eastlake. It mostly follows the median on East Palomar St, before running alongside Olympic Parkway and Eastlake Parkway to serve Otay Ranch. Throughout its planning, the route sparked controversy mainly by HOAs due to its bisection of the Otay Ranch and Eastlake through this median which was strictly reserved and signposted for this route.[12] The buses used on this route feature intercity coach-style seating, but have silver-coloured destination displays on the outside compared to the rest of the fleet, which have amber ones. As with the opening of the original route, free bus rides were offered on the first week of operation on this route only.


Operation of Rapid is split, with Transdev operating 3 routes under contract to MTS (225, 280 and 290), and directly by MTS for the remainder.[13] This is because buses from different divisions are used on certain routes.

The fleet is maintained at the system's Imperial, Kearny Mesa, East County and South Bay divisions. The latter two are under maintenance contract to Transdev, which also includes routes assigned to these divisions.

In Downtown, the Broadway Rapid stations are patterned after the nearby Trolley stations on C Street, with stops at Horton Plaza, Civic Center/Courts, and at America Plaza.


Below is a summary of the fleet, past, present and future:

Current Fleet[edit]

Image Model Year Make/Model Routes Served Propulsion Entered Service Fleet Numbers
Division Notes
2007 Blue Bird Express 4500 All Rapid Express routes Biodiesel 2007 8501–8526
(26 coaches)
East County
  • As of 2016, last Biodiesel powered vehicles in MTS fleet.
  • Last coaches not updated with passenger information Displays
  • Only motorcoaches purchased by the agency
  • Currently being re-vinyled into the Rapid Express livery
2009 New Flyer C40LF 201, 202 ,204 ,237 CNG 2010 341–355
(15 coaches)
Kearny Mesa
  • Converted and re-vinyled from Mainline buses
  • Retirement is scheduled for 2020.
  • Replaced the 12 Gas-Electric Hybrid buses
  • Operating as a temporary fix until the XcelsiorCHARGE units arrive
2013/2014 New Flyer XN60-ER 201, 202, 235, 237 CNG May 2014 1101–1130
(30 coaches)
Kearny Mesa
  • First buses to feature passenger information displays on delivery
  • 1101-1115 are 2013 models, remainder are 2014 models.
  • First coaches constructed specifically for Rapid
  • First Xcelsior coaches for MTS and second Xcelsior order by SANDAG
2015 New Flyer XN60 215 CNG October 2014 1201–1218
(18 coaches)
  • Used Exclusively on Mid city route
  • Feature regular Mainline seating instead
2016 New Flyer XN60 201, 202, 215, 235, 237 CNG 2015 1301-1313
(13 coaches)
Kearny Mesa
  • These buses are painted in the Mainline scheme, but regularly assigned to Rapid routes.
2019 New Flyer XN60-LR 225 CNG September 2018 7501-7525
(25 coaches)
South Bay
  • Used only on South Bay Rapid
  • As of 2019, all have arrived on property and in service

Past Fleet[edit]

Image Model Year Make/Model Disposition Propulsion Division Fleet Numbers
Year Retired Reason(s)
2009 New Flyer GE35LFR Auctioned off, possibly scrapped or exported. Gas-Electric Hybrid Imperial 501-512(12 coaches) 2018
  • Mechanical problems, maintenance difficulties and labour union disputes

Future Fleet[edit]

Image Model Year Make/Model Routes Served Propulsion Division Fleet Numbers
To Enter Service Notes
2020 New Flyer XcelsiorCHARGE Full Network Electricity Copley Park TBA
(6 coaches)
August 2019
  • First Electric Buses to enter revenue service on the Network, pending full electrification.
TBC New Flyer XcelsiorCHARGE TBA Electricity TBA TBA
(11 coaches)
  • Option order

The Fleet is maintained across all of the system's divisions

Future plans[edit]

The following is a summary of future plans as described below:

Fare Hike[edit]

On February 8, 2019, SANDAG voted in favor of a proposal that will increase the 1-way cash fare on routes 201, 202, 204, and 215 to $2.50, the same fare as the other Rapid routes. The Rapid Express fare will remain at $5.00 as part of the proposal.[14][15] This is in an effort to simplify the fare structure. The new fare structure is set to take effect on September 1.[16]

Routes and Extensions[edit]

With all of the originally-planned BRT routes now in operation, a new route currently has not formally been announced.

Early concept maps of the South Bay Rapid revealed the possibility of additional CenterLine stations in the medians of I-805 and SR 94. These will be located at Hilltop, National City/East, 47th Street trolley station, 28th Street and in East Village. No concept art was initially drawn or published, but on January 26, 2019, this project was officially announced in a dedication ceremony and concept art was unveiled. Construction is due to start in 2020.

New shelters are due to be installed at the three Kearny Mesa stops, located at Ruffin Road, Overland Avenue, and at the Kearny Mesa interchange. The first shelter was installed on the inbound side of the Ruffin stop in 2017, next to the Kaiser Permanente San Diego Hospital. The remaining shelters are still in the final design stages.[17][18]

In late 2018, ABC 10News reported that rumors are speculating on a new route, possibly a Borderlands Rapid route, that would be the first new-built all-electric route.[19] SANDAG didn't confirm or deny the rumors, and has not released any further details about the project.


On November 30, 2017, MTS announced its procurement of all-electric buses.[20] This makes MTS the fourth agency to place electric buses of any propulsion method into revenue service, only behind Muni, Antelope Valley Transit Authority, and Anaheim Resort Transit. Electrification is set for Summer 2019, when the XcelsiorCHARGE pilot units arrive. This Demonstrates MTS committed to be in compliance with Initiative Clean Transit, a proposed California law that could result in full electrification by 2040.[21] These new buses will be placed into the system's Copley Park division and replace the C40LFs.

A grant for 11 more buses has been awarded to MTS.

Transit Facilities[edit]

On June 22, 2018 SANDAG announced that it has seized control of a block of land currently occupied by an auto maintenance facility, a law firm and a car park. The agency plans to construct a Downtown layover facility for buses. Its perimeter will be bordered by A Street, Union Street, State Street and B Street. It will not serve passengers, but act in a similar manner to a yard, but without maintenance bays. SANDAG plans to begin construction in 2021 and the resulting facility being commissioned in Summer 2023. [22]

Works Cited[edit]

  1. ^ "San Diego launches SuperLoop to University City". www.metro-magazine.com.
  2. ^ 1MTSRider. "MTS_2013 New Flyer XN60 New "Rapid" #1114 - Route 20, First Day In Service" – via YouTube.
  3. ^ "New 'Rapid' Bus Service Opens Sunday on I-15 Corridor". 5 June 2014.
  4. ^ "How to use the I-15 CenterLine stations". SANDAG.
  5. ^ "New "Rapid 235" Bus Line Launches". NBC 7 San Diego.
  6. ^ Chris Nichols (4 June 2014). "New MTS Rapid bus service to launch on Sunday connecting North County with downtown San Diego. - SanDiegoUnionTribune.com". The San Diego Union-Tribune.
  7. ^ "Meet Mid-City's New 'Diet Trolley' - Speak City Heights".
  8. ^ "Transit Optimization Plan". San Diego Metropolitan Transit System. 12 August 2016.
  9. ^ Smith, Joshua Emerson. "South Bay Rapid bus opens with limited service through early 2019". sandiegouniontribune.com.
  10. ^ "South Bay Rapid Introduction". www.keepsandiegomoving.com. Retrieved 2018-07-29.
  11. ^ https://www.sdmts.com/sites/default/files/attachments/225_1.pdf
  12. ^ Chris Nichols (25 July 2013). "South County bus project that sparked outrage up for vote". The San Diego Union-Tribune.
  13. ^ http://transdevna.com/Transit/Bus/Case-Studies/San-Diego.aspx
  14. ^ https://www.sdmts.com/inside-mts-current-projects/regional-transit-fare-ordinance
  15. ^ "SANDAG Fare Ordinance Results" (PDF). SANDAG.
  16. ^ "New Fares Effective September 1, 2019".
  17. ^ "Rapid Projects".
  18. ^ "New Kearny Mesa Rapid Station Shelters" (PDF).
  19. ^ Aarons, Jared (20 December 2018). "Switch to electric buses could cost MTS hundreds of millions of dollars". 10News. Scripps Broadcast Group. Retrieved 17 March 2019.
  20. ^ "It's Electric (Boogie Woogie)". San Diego Metropolitan Transit System. 30 November 2017.
  21. ^ "Zero Emissions Bus Pilot Program". San Diego Metropolitan Transit System. 11 July 2018.
  22. ^ "Downtown Bus Layover Facility". www.sandag.org.