As summer approaches, the City of Coronado is planning for festivities and an influx of tourists, and recently announced that they are bringing back the free summer shuttle service on Orange Avenue. This year however, the city decided to discontinue the free shuttle service for the Coronado Cays. Mayor Richard Bailey explains, “The primary reason the shuttle service was discontinued was because it received very little usage that did not justify the high cost per rider. The City Council will continue to explore other, more sustainable, transportation options for Cays residents.” The City of Coronado records indicate the service in 2017 “resulted in a total cost to the City of $9,298 and received a ridership of 899 unique riders (round trips). This yielded a cost per round trip of $10.34 per rider. Given the limited number of riders and cost, staff does not recommend continuing this program in 2018.” (for full transcript read pages 123-125 of this report). This decision is causing frustration for some residents of the Coronado Cays who are voicing their concerns to local leaders and investigating alternative options for service in the Cays.
Coronado Cays resident Lance Rogers is working hard to bring solutions and low-cost or no-cost options to the City. “The Cays is underrepresented on the City Council,” Rogers said. “We are part of the city and we have more need to get transportation into town and not add to the congestion because we don’t have the option to bike or walk. We want to support the local businesses as well. If our tax dollars are paying for this service we should have input into how they are spent.” Mr. Rogers has sent a proposal to the Mayor and City Council that would incorporate a free Cays shuttle at fewer intervals than in past years, but still provide an option for the residents. His proposal reroutes the Orange Ave free shuttle a few times a day so it should come at no extra cost. As of press time he hasn’t had a response from the Mayor or City Council.
Cays resident Elsie Hammond said, “If our taxes are going towards this service, I want my kids to have the option of going to the village using this shuttle. People who live in the village don’t really need a shuttle because they walk or ride their bikes, so who are we really providing this shuttle for with our tax money?”
Another resident who asked not to be identified said, “Cays residents would love the opportunity to have reliable service without having parking concerns during the busy summer season. We appreciate and want to support businesses in the Village. In addition, this service is great for teens and older adults who may not drive.”
While many residents shared their concerns and frustrations, others were not surprised by the change. Kristi Walton said, “It was very underutilized. In two summers I only used it once and my teenager only used it twice last summer. It was much easier to jump on when the shuttle circled the Cays, but I remember it being an empty lot.”
The cost for the city for the Orange Avenue free summer shuttle is $135,000 for the summer, and according to the city website it “offers the free shuttle service to reduce vehicle trips along the Orange Avenue corridor during the peak summer season. The Free Summer Shuttle program is sponsored by the City and Discover Coronado.”
Councilman Bill Sandke provided comment and options for Cays residents now that the Free Cays Shuttle is no longer available. “Over the past several years the city has struggled with incorporating an even mildly popular and financially viable shuttle to and from the Cays. All of these attempts have been met with low utilization and excessive per-rider subsidies at times in the $20.00 per passenger range. It has become apparent after several attempts that a Cays shuttle is simply not able to be operated at a level of financial viability. Options include the MTS 901 bus service that is now ticketed through the MTS Mobile app Compass Cloud. A day pass for $5.00 is available. The proliferation of TNC operators like Lyft and Uber are also fulfilling a service niche for on-demand transfers outside of the frequent AM and afternoon bus service.”
Some Cays residents are questioning how ridership was accounted for in years past that led to the City’s cost per-rider estimates. Last year the Coronado Loews service that was provided didn’t ask if riders were a guest of the Loews or a resident of the Cays. They may have accounted for those that used the golf cart service to bring residents to the shuttle, but that was not always available, and not always used by residents who preferred to walk or ride their bike to the shuttle.
There is an online Facebook Group that is coordinating an effort to bring back the Cays summer shuttle, believing it is well worth the cost (especially since their tax dollars contribute to paying for it). The Cays Free Summer Shuttle would also offer the opportunity for Village residents and tourists alike to visit the Silver Strand State Beach. As proposals for an alternative Cays shuttle service move forward this story will be updated.