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Launch: Park-2-Park Shuttle eases on down the road

SAN DIEGO – The new Park-2-Park Shuttle service was launched Thursday night.

For six hours, two 36-seat passenger buses ambled along the streets of Normal Heights, University Heights, North Park and South Park, picking up passengers and dropping them off at designated stops along the scheduled route.

Although the threat of more of the day’s intermittent downpours probably kept most people inside, those that did take the risk were met with clear skies and a comfortable, spring evening.

For those who did venture out, the Park-to-Park Shuttle’s maiden voyage did not disappoint. 

Overseeing the route, staying on top of the arrival and departure times and occasionally jumping off to do a bit of self-promotion, was Omar Passons, managing partner of Sustainable Entertainment, the owner/operator of Park-2-Park Shuttle.  While juggling all those things, Passons still managed to tweet each arrival location and personally greet each passenger with a warmth that was talked about long after they left the vehicle.

“Omar was so sweet,” said Ali, a hair stylist at Gila Rut in Hillcrest, from her bar stool at Sea Rocket Bistro.
Ali had surprised her friends that evening with the four Park-2-Park wristbands she’d bought earlier in the day at Grant’s Marketplace in South Park.  They had dipped into Alchemy for a drink while waiting for the northbound shuttle, then made their way to Sea Rocket Bistro before ending up at the Bar Pink Elephant in North Park to meet other friends.

Kelsey, also in the group and a fellow hair stylist, agreed with Ali’s assertion. “Omar made me feel at home the minute I stepped on board.”

One of the ladies giggled as she wondered aloud the name of the driver, prompting the other three to answer her in unison, almost as if on cue, “Thomas! We love Thomas!”

“It’s going to blow up,” Ali continued, regarding the new shuttle service. “[It’s] getting the local neighborhoods flowing again.”

Passons’ intent is to get cars off the street, get more people out into the neighborhoods, boost up the local businesses and keep everyone safe at the same time.  He has LCD screens running in both vehicles, showing advertising for restaurants, clubs and local bands that play along the route.

In preparation for the big launch, Passons did his homework.  For the last few months he has been “pressing the flesh” at businesses along the current shuttle route (he has plans to expand once this route is up and running itself) to get them excited and on board (pun intended) with the idea.  Many have signed up with drink and dining specials while others have agreed to support service stops; still others are selling the $5 and $10 wristbands.

“I have been really looking forward to this,” another male rider said. “I was just thinking recently that someone needs to start a rickshaw business up and down 30th, but this is even better.”

His girlfriend then jumped in. “When I first found out about it, I said ‘April 22nd is too far away!’ but now it’s here, and I couldn’t be happier.”

Later, at Ritual Tavern, a north and southbound shuttle stop at the corner of Polk and 30th, David and his wife were thrilled to find out of the shuttle’s existence. Having ducked into the Tavern for an after-dinner beer on their walk back home from another neighborhood eatery, they saw a shuttle schedule that had been left behind on the bar.

Dave immediately saw the advantages. “We live right down the road and walk and bike everywhere around here.  This will be great.”

Another group of riders on the maiden voyage had taken advantage of the shuttle’s “driver rides free” option.  If you park at the North Park garage, the driver rides the shuttle free, making the parking fee a wash.  This is to encourage carpooling and also use of the garage.

When SDGLN boarded the final bus of the evening in front of The Blind Lady Alehouse in Normal Heights, we were greeted by Erin Passons, Omar's wife and business partner, who had just returned from a business trip an hour before. She went straight from the plane to one of the buses, taking over as personal greeter and overseer.

This weekend is a big one for the shuttle, because in addition to their regular nightly service they will be offering “Express Service” from the North Park parking garage to Roots Fest on Adams Avenue every 20 minutes.

Next Thursday is Dining Out for Life San Diego and Passons is offering a “two rider for one” deal to anyone who participates that evening and rides the shuttle to their dining destination.

If you plan to be out and about in these areas this weekend, try jumping aboard the Park-2-Park Shuttle.  More details, including schedules, stops, where to buy wristbands and a downloadble map, can be found at www.sdpark2park.com.