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Need a ride to the airport? Free shuttle service kicks off between SAN and Old Town Transit Center

Free Old Town shuttle bus.
One of the free shuttle busses that will ferry passengers between the San Diego International Airport and Old Town Transit Center.
(San Diego County Regional Airport Authority)

Shuttles will run seven days a week. The region’s Airport Authority is still planning how to bring mass transit directly to the airport.

Free shuttle buses began ferrying passengers between the San Diego International Airport and the Old Town Transit Center this week in a bid to alleviate the longstanding need for public transport to and from the airport.

Six shuttles will run seven days a week from about 4:45 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. each day, stopping at Terminal 1, Terminal 2 and the transit center. These buses will come and go every 20 to 30 minutes on a schedule synced up with the trolley, Metropolitan Transit System buses, and Coaster and Amtrak trains that routinely drop off passengers at the Old Town Transit Center. The electric shuttles shouldn’t be hard to spot, as they bear plane images along their sides, an airport logo and the word “Flyer” in orange.

“The San Diego Flyer will provide a seamless connection between the airport and the Old Town Transit Center,” said Kimberly Becker, CEO of the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority. “This is one of the many ways the Airport Authority is working to improve passenger access to SAN (the airport) and we hope passengers coming or going from the airport will take advantage of this complimentary service.”

But things got off to a slow start on Sunday. Only 29 passengers took the shuttles, according to Airport Authority spokesperson Sabrina LoPiccolo. She added that the agency expects usage to pick up with Thanksgiving just days away.

The shuttle program is a short-term and partial fix for a deep and long-running problem: San Diego, the eighth-largest city in the United States, doesn’t have a mass transit system that connects to its main airport.

In 2019, the airport served more than 25 million passengers. While travel has dipped during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s been gradually rebounding and is eventually expected to return to pre-pandemic levels as business and international travel gradually pick up. In the meantime, the Airport Authority started construction this month on its $3 billion expansion and overhaul of Terminal 1.

California Coastal Commission OK’s the project, but wants assurances of a on-airport transit station, free shuttle from Old Town and a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

The California Coastal Commission approved the project in September after the Airport Authority promised it would launch the free shuttle line.

In the long run, the Airport Authority, San Diego Association of Governments and San Diego Metropolitan Transit System are working on a high-speed transit connection to Terminals 1 and 2. The Coastal Commission is requiring that the airport specify where it will locate its onsite transit station, which will generally be on the west side of the Terminal 1 parking structure. The Airport Authority has obliged, setting aside space for a station that could easily serve both terminals.

SANDAG has begun the environmental review process for a central mobility hub, marking a pivotal step in the agency’s quest to develop a transit center with an airport connection at the Navy’s Old Town Campus

For additional information about the Flyer shuttles, visit the public transportation page of the San Diego International Airport’s website, www.san.org, or call 619-694-7427.


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