Extended bus route helps college students get to class

OCEANSIDE — NCTD recently made some impactful changes to its regional bus routes. One of those changes will save MiraCosta College students more than an hour of daily commute time.

Oceanside resident Jaime Figueroa heard about the need for a more direct route to the college from former students he served as past supervisor of the Vista Community Clinic Project REACH afterschool program. He said he felt compelled to bring the situation to NCTD’s attention.

Route 315 takes students in the Valley neighborhood of Oceanside to MiraCosta College. Instead of a direct 6-mile route, it drove students west to the beachside transit center, required them to make a transfer and meandered back east to the college.

The bus stop for students is on College Drive. MiraCosta College sits on the other end of that road.

“It was taking an hour and a half to two hours (each way) on public transportation,” Figueroa said. “It would be a direct shot if you had a car.”

Figueroa said the long daily commute was forcing students to drop classes or take a semester off.

Figueroa said he is a proponent of youth and higher education, and did not want a mismapped bus route to stand between students and the resources MiraCosta College offers. He said most students affected by the long bus ride were the first in their family to attend college, and already faced numerous challenges in pursuing a higher education.

He began discussions with NCTD last year. He also contacted MiraCosta College, Oceanside council members, city police, Oceanside Unified School District and the Oceanside Chamber of Commerce.

To further the cause former REACH students, who are now attending MiraCosta College, put together an informational video under the guidance of MadStrange Video Production to highlight the easy solution and benefits of adjusting the bus route.

Figueroa said he never encountered any red tape, and everyone he spoke to saw a route change as a positive solution.

“Everyone supported it,” Figueroa said. “It made sense to everyone.”

Last year NCTD was also addressing a decline in ridership, and told Figueroa funds were not available to change the route.

Then, nine months after his request, Figueroa was contacted and told the route change was a go. The change to Route 315 was possible after a large number of routes were dropped or adjusted. Overall changes were adopted by the NCTD board in April.

Route changes include combining Route 315 and Route 325 to create a one-bus trip for travelers from the San Luis Rey Transit Center to MiraCosta College.

“With the changes Route 315 has been extended to Carlsbad Village Station along the same routing as Route 325,” Kimy Wall, NCTD manager of marketing and communications, said.

Figueroa said the new route shaves 40 minutes off students’ ride each way, and shows students the community supports them in their strides to gain a college degree.

“Psychologically it does something,” Figueroa said. “It shows them ‘we’re investing in you.’”

The improvement to Route 315 also benefits Valley neighborhood residents traveling to Tri-City Medical Center.

An NCTD worker said route changes are routinely made to make service more efficient, adjust to changing demographics and address riders’ needs. The large number of changes that begin this month are considered a significant overhaul.

BREEZE route changes begin Oct. 8. For more information, go to www.gonctd.com/breeze.

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