ENCINITAS — To better link residents to their destinations, the City Council voted 4-1 to green light a transit study that’s been in the works for more than two years.
“I think it’s clear that we have transit needs in the community that aren’t being met,” Deputy Mayor Lisa Shaffer said.
The study will gauge the cost and potential demand for operating a shuttle service in Encinitas. If it’s determined a shuttle is financially realistic and sustainable over the long term, the study would also recommend viable routes.
The study will start by combing through past Encinitas transit surveys as a point of reference. From there, travel patterns, mobility needs and the level of interest in a shuttle would be measured
throughout the city. Then, a stakeholder group made up of residents, businesses and transit representatives would focus on specific goals and areas conducive to a shuttle.
For example, the stakeholder group could set its sights on encouraging rail ridership by bridging the gap between the Coaster station and other parts of the city with a shuttle. Additionally, the group
could specifically work on public transportation for those who are inland and want to make it to the beach, according to the city’s staff report.
The type of shuttle — hop-on, hop-off shuttles as a possibility — will also be addressed.
Shaffer said the study would also provide circulation information for the General Plan. As part of updating the General Plan, the city will have to identify its goals for traffic flow and transportation.
Funding for the study is coming from a $100,000 grant from Caltrans and up to $25,000 in city staff time.
Initially, the grant was awarded in 2011 to study the effectiveness of a shuttle along Encinitas Boulevard and El Camino Real. But now, the study could also tackle other parts of the city.
Councilwoman Kristin Gaspar, the sole vote against the motion, said the scope of the study is too vague. And she said the contract doesn’t include enough information about costs and how much city staff time will be required to complete the study.
“Staff time is certainly not free time, and when we’re pulling them off something else to work on this, that has a cost,” Gaspar said.
Mayor Teresa Barth said the study will draw upon data from FLEX 374, an on-demand bus in Encinitas, and other transit service to formulate a bigger picture of transportation needs in the city.
“There’s a lot of data that needs to be combined that will tell us the needs we have,” Barth said.
Next, city staff will return to council at a future date to firm up the terms of stakeholder involvement and council’s approach to the project. It’s expected the feasibility study will be completed by the end of June 2014.