By Dave Schwab
“The shuttle is designed to be a convenient, easy, efficient way for people to go to North Park, South Park, University Heights and Normal Heights,” said Omar Passons, volunteer board president of the North Park Community Association, about his Park-2-Park Shuttle Service being operated by Sustainable Entertainment. “We have a lot of great restaurants and bars, art and music venues, dance and yoga studios and local independent small businesses. Parking is just horrible and we thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just get to places easily?’ – and Park-2-Park was born.”
The park shuttle’s initial weekend service will depart Thurs., April 22, and run through Sat., April 25, and then again, Thurs., April 29, through Sat., May 1.
There will be seven to 10 yet-to-be-designated stops on the shuttle route with pick-ups every 20 to 25 minutes at a $5 cost for unlimited use during operating hours. Riders can purchase a bracelet online or at participating small businesses to indicate their eligibility.
Each bracelet is valid the entire evening, 6 p.m. to midnight Thursdays and 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
Passons said an innovative twist of his new shuttle service is the way it taps into increasingly popular Internet social networking sites. Unlike traditional public transit where there is no communication between rider and ride, Park-2-Park users can actually contact shuttles using cell phones.
“We’re going to encourage people to follow us on Twitter,” Passons said. “They’ll be able to send a Tweet to get real-time updates. Our hope is we will be better able to serve people who want to get on and off the shuttle by using that mechanism.”
Shuttle stops will be announced via the Park-2-Park Shuttle’s Facebook page and Twitter (@sdpark2park) account, as well as linked from the Web site (sdpark2park.com). Incentives will also be provided on the Facebook page to win prizes and giveaways, including $50 gift credits for use at businesses along the route as well as free shuttle passes.
The shuttle isn’t yet operational, but local residents and merchants alike are already encouraged about its prospects.
“This is one more way our community has set itself apart from the other dining/entertainment destinations in San Diego with a unique and practical way to tie the neighborhoods together,” said Ron Troyano, owner/managing partner of Alchemy, a South Park restaurant at Beech and 30th streets. “We are partnering to build a strong community, and the shuttle provides a way for patrons to experience many different establishments without worrying about driving or parking. We look forward to the relationships that are sure to materialize from the added connectedness.”
North Park community planner Lynn Elliott believes the new shuttle is worth a look. “Anything we can do to help, at least give it a try,” she said.
Elliott’s colleague on the North Park Planning Committee, Harry “Lucky” Morrison, agreed the shuttle concept is viable and worth exploring.
“It’s a business plan and like any business plan, it’s going to be a work in progress for a while,” he said, adding he likes the concept of creating connectivity between Adams Avenue through North Park into South Park.
“It is just a fantastic idea,” Morrison said. “It has the potential to take people who’ve drank alcohol off the street and will put people into the North Park parking structure, which is terribly underutilized. It’s a great community service – a true stroke of entrepreneurship.”
Something needs to be done to counteract parking scarcity and improve the public’s ability to circulate, said Michael Lunsford, general manager of Muzita Abyssinian Bistro at 4651 Park Blvd. in University Heights.
“Parking around here is ridiculous,” he said. “This definitely will be a convenient way for people in North and South Park to leave their cars at home and get around.”
Park-2-Park Shuttle Service is also going to be establishing a DUI Prevention program. Riders who’ve overindulged will be encouraged to leave their car in the North Park parking garage overnight and take a taxi home. The next morning, they’ll get a free breakfast in exchange for a validated taxi receipt.
“This offer is only available to our guests who have parked in the parking garage,” Passons said. “But at just $5 this is a lot cheaper than anywhere you might go downtown, and certainly smarter than getting a DUI and hurting yourself or someone else.”
Artist and young mother Amy Paul, owner of Pigment at 3827 30th St. in North Park, is on board with the shuttle service concept, but has some reservations about its being misused.
“I really hope it can be utilized to move people through the community and help with shops like mine that do all the different art walks and events,” she said. “I’m just leery it will become a booze bus.”
The shuttle program is also offering local small businesses a creative option to promote and advertise their businesses as a shuttle stop through an onboard DVD presentation, by direct communication with riders and in a variety of other ways.
“We live in the neighborhood, and we’ve developed neighbor-friendly promotions,” Passons said about his new venture.
Park-2-Park Shuttle will provide extended service for the Roots Fest on Adams Avenue (April 24-25 between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m.) from the North Park parking garage at 29th Street and North Park Way to help alleviate traffic woes and get event goers directly to the two-day music celebration.
“We are also in early discussions with the Masonic Temple in Normal Heights and Gala Foods in South Park to lease space for bicycle parking lots,” Passons said. “Sustainability and environmental friendliness aren’t just buzz words. We can be business owners and still care about clean air and less traffic. I’m committed to being an entrepreneur with a for-profit company on a mission that includes social responsibility.
“I hope all these communities see this as a way to attract more people to enjoy our small businesses and our arts and culture as opposed to other places,” he said.
For more information, go to sdpark2park.com, e-mail email@example.com or call 573-4102.
Update: Click here for a route map.