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Mid-City CAN Blog

In my own words: Transit a critical need

On July 17, a group of Mid-City CAN members, resident leaders and Youth Opportunity (bus) Pass recipients asked the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System Board of Directors to discount passes so more students could be part of the free bus program during the coming school year at Crawford, Hoover, Lincoln and San Diego high schools.
At the meeting, Richard Barrera, San Diego Unified School District board trustee, praised the speakers.
He also said a discount from the transit system would be critical to the program's success.
"We think the transit system benefits, because the more that you ride public transit, the more you are going to feel comfortable with it as you grow up," he said. "We think it is the right thing to do for the school district and the transit system to cooperate, but the main thing is if we do cooperate we can bring more students into the program."

By Cristian Vaquero, 17

Cristian Vaquero, 17, testifies at the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System Board of Directors meeting July 17.
Cristian Vaquero, 17, testifies at the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System Board of Directors meeting July 17. Photo by Adam Ward

As a result of the Youth Pass, I now attend school every day and don't have to have that doubt in my mind about how I'm going to get to school – [trying to figure out if I'll be] walking, [going] with my parents, [or on a] bike.

In my first year at San Diego high, to get to school I used to take off around 6:30 and bike around 5 miles. The road is not really paved - not safe. There is not a bike lane around here.

On a Monday, I was on my way to school, and I was crossing intersection. The light was green for me, but a car hit the front part of my bike anyway. It was a road bike with skinny wheels. I fell off and landed on my chin and collarbone. I didn't go to hospital, because I didn't have health insurance. After that I walked home and to school. My bike got totaled.

The bike was a gift from my dad. The car didn't stop. It was a hit and run. I had to take the bus home with money meant for buying lunch. My chin was all cut up. I have two big scars on my collarbone. My collarbone was broken and healed unevenly. I don't have any major [lingering] health issues, but when I go to the beach people point it out. They ask "Hey, what's wrong with that?"

Before the Youth Pass was offered to me, I would work with my father as a salesman at the flea market. That would detract from school. On Saturday and Sunday and sometimes Fridays, I had to wake up at 2 a.m. to travel to the market. Basically, I worked on commission and had to try to earn enough money to buy a bus pass. Before the program, I was a 3.0 [grade point average] student. [After I got it,] my grades went up to 4.0. The first month I had the pass, I got a 4.25 – my highest ever. I took honors history, with a weighted grade. Now, I have more time for homework and projects on the weekend. I can finish my projects and relax.

Once, when I was walking home from school I passed an apartment complex with a lot of gang members. Four or five of them pulled a knife on me. Ever since then, I'm frightened to walk that way. Now I feel more secure. I take the bus and trolley. I can take a different route. It removes the sense of danger and gives a sense of security -- rather than the constant doubt that you might be hit by a car.

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