The City cares about the Coronado Cays. But after several years of pilot programs failing to generate sufficient ridership to justify the cost of providing the service, the City Council decided to no longer offer the shuttle service to the Cays.
By way of background, the Council initiated Free Summer Shuttle service in coordination with the Metropolitan Transit System in 2013. The pilot transit program was created to help alleviate traffic and parking issues in downtown Coronado during the busy summer months. MTS also serves the Cays via regular 901 bus service along the Silver Strand from the Cays to the Village and vice versa. Over the years, City Council and staff have piloted several programs to extend shuttle service to the Coronado Cays:
- In 2015, the City offered free Compass Card bus passes to Cays residents to ride the MTS 901 bus to summer Sunday concerts and Fourth of July festivities. Due to a discounted MTS rate, the City was required to purchase the passes in advance. The passes cost the City $2,692 but, due to the discount, no refunds were issued for unused passes. The program was well-received on the Fourth of July. However, at the end of the year, there were many unused passes and rumors swirled that the passes were being used by non-Cays residents. MTS did not offer the discounted rate again despite the City requesting it.
- In 2016, the City opted for a different route. The City contracted with Loews Coronado Bay Resort to provide a Silver Strand Shuttle pilot project via the Loews shuttle. This provided bus service from 9 am to 9 pm every 30 minutes from three stops in the Cays to Adella Avenue in the Village. This resulted in 4,040 trips from the Cays at a cost to the City of $60,000. The City's cost for a round-trip was $14.85 per rider.
- After hearing that there weren't enough stops in the Cays during the 2016 shuttle season, the City altered the program in 2017 to try to increase ridership and make it more convenient for Cays riders. The City implemented "Cays Curbside Service" in 2017. The program allowed people living in the Cays to be picked up at their door using a system that transported them to the Loews Shuttle service into the village and back seven days a week. This cost the City $9,298. Broken down, there were about 450 one-way trips at a cost to the City of $10.34 each trip. A regular full-day MTS bus pass is currently $5. Given the limited number of riders and cost, the Council discontinued the program in 2018.
- The City marketed the program in the Cays via the Coronado Cays Homeowners Association, door hangers, ads in the local newspaper, Cays-sponsored A-frame signs letting people know about the service, press releases announcing the special Cays service, and notices in the City Manager's Weekly Update. In three years, none of the pilot programs spurred any demand for the free service.
- As a point of comparison, the Free Summer Shuttle carried approximately 150,000 people in the 2017 season at a cost to the City per rider of 90 cents.
- Ridership has remained very high on the Fourth of July. The City will provide a free Fourth of July shuttle between the Cays Fire Station and the Community Center in 30-minute intervals from 8 am to 11 pm