Pacific Beach gets a new way to get around: On-demand Beach Bug shuttle launches as weather heats up

A miniature shuttle bus drives down a leafy street.
The city unveiled the Beach Bug on Wednesday.
(K.C. Alfred/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

The Beach Bug aims to make it easier to use public transit to get to the ocean from the new trolley line extension connecting Old Town and La Jolla.


Getting around congested Pacific Beach got a little easier Wednesday when San Diego launched a new on-demand shuttle called the Beach Bug.

“Pacific Beach residents and visitors can catch a quick, easy ride on a fleet of cool new neighborhood electric vehicles,” Mayor Todd Gloria said. “People can hop on and off to go to the beach, restaurants, bars, shops and other popular locations.”

While the shuttle is expected to reduce traffic congestion and open more parking spaces near the beach and businesses, the city’s primary motivation is making it more convenient to take mass transit to the beach.

The new Blue Line trolley extension connecting Old Town to La Jolla and University City stops 2 miles from the beach at the Balboa Avenue station — not close enough for most people to walk the rest of the way.

Two bus lines, routes 8 and 27, run from the Balboa Avenue station to the beach. Beach-bound trolley riders can already get a free transfer to those buses. City officials said they want riders to be able to get to the beach more easily than that.

New line brings mass transit closer to San Diego’s beaches, but critics worry about distance, safety

Nov. 20, 2021

“I can’t help but think of all the residents in my district who can’t get here — the young people who have never been to the beach and the families who are not able to enjoy the bay if they don’t own a car,” said City Council President Sean Elo-Rivera, who represents City Heights and Kensington.

Elo-Rivera, who serves as vice chair of the county’s regional planning agency, said the shuttle is a small piece of economic justice for the region.

“There are people throughout the county who rarely get to come out to the beach, enjoy the cool ocean breeze and take a dip in the water — the things that many of us believe make San Diego what San Diego is,” he said.

The shuttle will be free for the first three months and then cost $2.50 for most riders, which will give them all-day access. But even after three months, it will remain free for riders 18 and under and for those coming to and from the Balboa Avenue station.

Like the popular FRED shuttle that has served downtown for nearly a decade, the Beach Bug will respond to requests made on a smartphone app. The four Beach Bug shuttles can also be hailed down for a ride as they drive by.

“This shuttle is a game-changer for our community,” said Sunny Lee, executive director of the Discover Pacific Beach business improvement district.

San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria and Councilmember Joe LaCava take a ride in a Beach Bug on Wednesday with the shuttle's launch.
(K.C. Alfred/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Councilmember Joe LaCava, whose district includes Pacific Beach, said he expects the shuttle to boost the neighborhood’s small businesses. LaCava also vowed to make changes to the shuttle based on early results.

“Over the summer, we will watch, we will learn, and we will fine-tune to make sure we maximize the value the Beach Bug will bring to Pacific Beach,” he said.

The shuttle is a two-year pilot project funded by both the city and the county’s regional planning agency, the San Diego Association of Governments.

Goals are increasing use of new trolley to access beach, easing parking congestion, boosting access to coastal attractions

June 22, 2023

The shuttle is being funded by $175,000 in parking meter revenue and a $359,000 federal grant being directed to the project by the county’s regional planning agency, the San Diego Association of Governments.

The parking meter money will come from new meters planned for much of PB’s coastal business district, Garnet Avenue between the beach and Fanuel Street and adjacent areas on Cass Street, Bayard Street and Mission Boulevard.

Hundreds of new meters will be installed to encourage more frequent turnover of vehicles in prime parking spots. Those spots now have two-hour restrictions that historically have been only loosely enforced.

The shuttle will serve all of Pacific Beach, from Crown Point in the south to the border with La Jolla and Bird Rock in the north. It will not serve Mission Beach or Clairemont. Users are encouraged to download the Circuit app to find a shuttle.

The shuttles, which can’t travel faster than 25 mph, will have space for beach gear, including body boards. But full-length surf boards are too large. Surf boards under 6 feet long can, however, be carried on MTS buses.

Mayor Gloria said the city wants people to have a hassle-free way to use transit to get to the beach.

“It’s a way to help make our public beaches more public,” he said. “This is an example of how we can all work together in San Diego to come up with creative and simple solutions to help chip away at some of our city’s biggest challenges.”

The shuttle will run from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays, from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturdays and from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sundays.