French trolley at beach
The tram by the beach in in Le Havre, France, sets an example for San Diego. Photo by Daniel Smiechowski

San Diego neglected beach access when building the Blue Line trolley thirty years ago and it happened again with the new $2 billion extension of that line to University City.

There is currently much lamenting over the trolley’s minimal access to San Diego’s beach communities. As a local planning board member thirty years ago and as recently as five years ago, my pleas in rectifying this problem went unheard and ignored.

Common sense did not prevail in America’s Finest City, and in retrospect community leaders were overconfident and made the wrong decision. As English mathematician and philosopher Bertrand Russell explained, “The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.”

Four years ago, I ran for San Diego City Council to represent the beach areas and parts of Clairemont, and pitched the idea of a trolley to the beach. I frequently travel to my family home in Le Havre, France, where the beach is easily reached via a tram.

It’s a great idea for San Diego, but nobody cared, nobody listened, and I was shunned as a nobody or worse. But this French tram makes our trolley look obsolete.

Traffic is at a breaking point with intersections at the beaches among the busiest in San Diego County. And it’s getting worse. The sad thing is that this vehicular dysfunction could have been avoided by installing a trendy beach tram.

Americans are attracted to trends. It would have been a viable solution. But SANDAG said they could not afford it, the city said likewise and the planners followed their usual instincts. Now we are in the midst of a transportation catastrophe.

I’m an endurance athlete and walk everywhere in San Diego. Doing so adds insult to injury when I see all the bloated car traffic. But getting San Diegans’ out of their cars will entail a sea change in social thought.

We are not the French where public transportation is seen as acceptable to all classes of people. We are too proud in San Diego to sit next to a stranger on a public bus or trolley.

Our leaders ought to lead by example, but they don’t because it’s beneath them. The voters basically vote on the perception of a winning candidate.

This is why we have no trolley to the beaches, and it’s a symptom of bigger problems in our San Diego government and local electoral process.

Daniel Smiechowski is a Bay Ho resident, prolific writer on education issues, and former candidate for San Diego Unified School District Board of Education and San Diego City Council.