-- Michael Ludwig
On Saturday, June 24, Dana Gabbard, Charles Powell, and I traveled all the way to San Diego on local bus routes. We all woke up before 5am (Dana boarded his first bus at that time) so that we would have as much time in San Diego as possible before coming back on Amtrak.
Each of us took one or two bus routes from near our respective homes to the Santa Ana Transit Terminal to arrive just before 7:00am. There, we all met and took OCTA routes 85 and 91, which were both moderately busy but never got full. This got us to the San Diego County line around 9:20. We had breakfast at Carl's Jr. before getting on NCTD route 305 for the trip through Camp Pendleton.
Right after boarding, we noticed that the bus had a special machine to give out and verify transfers; the business-card sized transfers have a magnetic strip for machine-readability and computer printing so that people can check its information. The driver told us that NCTD had installed the machines on all of the agency's buses fairly recently (at about $4,000 each). I noted that they were similar to, if not the same as, transfer machines that OCTD (predecessor of OCTA) tested about four years ago (and obviously rejected, though I never heard why).
Due to a Vietnam War reunion, the route 305 bus had to enter the Marine base through a different gate than normal. On the detour, the driver didn't think a certain dip in the road would be very bad (normally, route 305 never travels on the stretch of road I'm referring to, and the dip was unsigned). But it was quite nasty - even though I was sitting down, I got thrown one or two feet in the air! The five or so of us passengers on the bus at that time were joined by enough others during the journey through Camp Pendleton to fill up the bus before we got to Oceanside at about 10:55.
We had over a quarter hour to explore the Oceanside Transit Center before our next bus, so we picked up schedules, bought our Day Trippers ($5 day passes that are accepted on all transit routes in San Diego County), and looked at a few different things before getting on NCTD route 310 (the only express bus route we all took besides OCTA route 85). The lightly-patronized bus took us to University Towne Centre in the University City/La Jolla area.
At UTC, we found out that San Diego Transit route 34 had undergone some major changes on the La Jolla part of its route just two weeks earlier. Even though one of the changes meant it only operated every 30 minutes to UTC (it was a 15 minute frequency before), the bus still came about when we had expected when planning the trip. The bus got very packed before reaching Downtown La Jolla (where the 15 minute frequency now starts) and stayed packed almost all the way to Downtown San Diego.
Upon arrival downtown at 2:00pm, we first went into the Santa Fe Station (San Diego's equivalent of Los Angeles' Union Station) to pick up new schedules for the other routes that had changed. Then we decided to take route 901 to Coronado and look around the Hotel Del Coronado. After about three-quarters of an hour there, we boarded route 904 to the Coronado Ferry Terminal, where we caught the Coronado Ferry (the only transportation service completely owned and administered by a private company that accepts the Day Tripper) back to Downtown San Diego.
After dinner at Kansas City Barbeque, we didn't have much time before the 6:55 Amtrak train left. So the only thing we did was ride the Bayside branch of the San Diego Trolley to the 12th & Imperial station and back. However, we did get to see the trolley yard and notice that they had gotten new trolleys recently (we had only seen trolleys with scroll-type headsigns before, yet the new ones had electronic headsigns). Finally, we boarded the San Diegan train for a quick ride back to Downtown Los Angeles from our long yet enjoyable trip.