City Council Meeting on Sept. 5. Staff photo by Madeline Yang.

The Coronado City Council on Sept. 5 approved a $600,000 electric mini shuttle pilot program, and the Tijuana sewage crisis that recently attracted hundreds of protesters on the community’s central beach was a major topic of discussion.

The electric shuttle pilot program originally was brought to the attention of council on February 21 by Councilmember John Duncan with Circuit, a company designed to provide eco-friendly and low-cost accessible rides.  

Circuit currently operates in multiple neighborhoods of San Diego as a pre-approved vendor with SANDAG’s flexible fleet program.

Program would start in a few months

This pilot program would have a six-month period starting in early 2024 and would run from Thursday to Sunday. It will run 10 a.m. to 9 p.m on Thursday and Friday and from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekends.

Circuit projects that the service would result in around 50,000 trips in six months with a total cost of just over $600,000. 

There would be three different vehicles used.

One would be similar to a golf cart, which can hold up to five passengers. Another would be a car such as a Tesla, Kia or Hyundai that can hold up to four passengers. And there would be a van that holds up to 15 passengers. 

All vehicles would be electric, with two of them having configurations for individuals with disabilities. 

Electric shuttle options were presented to the Coronado City Council on Sept. 5. Staff photo by Madeline Yang.

Door-to-door service

It would provide door-to-door service through Coronado with stops down the Silver Strand for the Cays neighborhood. 

“From staff’s perspective, the anticipated benefits are reducing the amount of vehicle trips on the roads, the resulting improvements in air quality, reduced parking demands and reduced greenhouse gas emissions,” said Community Development Director Richard Grunow.

Coronado Councilwoman Carrie Anne Downey supported spending $600,000 on a pilot shuttle program with electric vehicles. Staff photo by Craig Harris.

Four council members agreed to approve the pilot program, stating that it would be helpful especially with parking challenges in Coronado. Mayor Richard Bailey opposed this program. 

Councilwoman Carrie Anne Downey, meanwhile, vouched for its ADA arrangements, and other council members said it was worth the money.

I think this is something that for $100,000 a month, I’m willing to give it a shot.”

-Councilman Casey Tanaka.

“I think our residents would be supportive of their tax dollars giving them this opportunity to get from where they live, 10 blocks away, to their destination on Orange Avenue,” said Councilmember Casey Tanaka. “So, I think this is something that for $100,000 a month, I’m willing to give it a shot.”

Mayor Bailey opposes program

However, Mayor Richard Bailey disagreed, saying that the rideshare app Uber could work just as well to get around town without having to spend $600,000 worth of taxpayer money on the program. 

I’m not sure what problem we’re trying to solve. Of all the problems presented here, there seem to be much more viable alternatives.”

-Mayor Richard Bailey.

“I find myself struggling to support this program, because I’m not sure what problem we’re trying to solve. Of all the problems presented here, there seem to be much more viable alternatives,” Bailey said, pulling up Uber on his phone to demonstrate the accessibility of cars already on the road to get individuals around the city. 

Sewage crisis part of discussion

Also discussed was the ongoing sewage issue between Tijuana and San Diego. 

Duncan mentioned that both California U.S. Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla, who he said had been relatively quiet about the sewage issue, “came out demanding for the remainder of the (federal) funding,” for construction projects slated to stop the tens of millions of gallons of raw sewage flowing from Tijuana into the Pacific Ocean.

Duncan also noted that the senators supported a, “a supplemental bill” for additional funding.

Hundreds of people attended a “Stop the Sewage” rally on Friday, Sept. 1. Staff photo by Sofie Fransen.

Duncan also applauded Friday’s Stop the Sewage rally for its efforts in continuing to be vocal about this problem. 

“I’m very proud of the work with Imperial Beach and Coronado together to keep the pressure on all levels of government to move this forward,” Duncan said. “I really do think we’re at a tipping point…and everybody is focusing on this issue now, so it’s always incredible to see everyone come together.”

The recent rally, moves by California’s U.S. senators and collaboration between Coronado and Imperial Beach have come after The Coronado News earlier this year did a five-part investigation on the sewage crisis.

The newspaper found that nearly 100 years of broken promises by U.S. and Mexican officials have resulted in an environmental crisis that has hurt the economies of Coronado and Imperial Beach while sickening locals, tourists, U.S. Border Patrol agents and Navy SEALS.

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Madeline Yang is a reporter for The Coronado News, covering the City of Coronado, the U.S Navy and investigating the Tijuana/Coronado sewage issue. She graduated from Point Loma Nazarene University with her Bachelors in Journalism with an emphasis in Visual Storytelling. She loves writing, photography and videography and one day hopes to be a filmmaker. She can be reached by phone at 916-835-5843.