Lead Story News Old - DO NOT USE - The Coast News Rancho Santa Fe Rancho Santa Fe Lead Story

Changes in store for mass transit

CARLSBAD — Carlsbad and the rest of North County will be facing public transit changes over the next few years as a result of statewide and city budget cuts.
The North County Transit District, or NCTD, presented its Mobility Plan to City Council on Sept. 22, detailing its efforts to cope with a smaller budget.
“We thought we’d have $10 million,” said Julie Austin, director of policy and strategic planning. Due to a loophole in a state law, NCTD will be facing a 20 percent shortfall in its budget as the government makes cutbacks statewide.
NCTD will be redesigning the transit system for the first time in seven years facing the additional challenges of a smaller budget. The goal is to continue providing service to more than 12 million riders without having to eliminate service.
One of the major focuses of the redesign is to assess which routes that are currently serviced by 40-foot buses can use a smaller bus instead. NCTD is looking to have smaller buses comprise at least 25 percent of its fleet in the future.
“We’re trying to provide more with less,” Austin said. “This area is right for smaller buses.”
Mayor Pro Tem Ann Kulchin applauded NCTD’s work in providing clean and attractive buses and trains to the residents of North County. However, she suggested that many people are probably unfamiliar with the transit system and that more could be done to encourage people to try it out.
“It’s not just a bus,” said Kulchin, referring to a stereotype of public buses as an unappealing form of transportation. “The buses are good looking and the colors are nice.”
Carlsbad is currently served by seven bus routes, with transportation to Legoland, Carlsbad Village, business parks and the Westfield shopping plaza. Two Coaster stops connect Carlsbad residents to the Sprinter, Metrolink and Amtrak for long distance traveling.
NCTD is also looking to decrease its carbon footprint, increase partnerships with companies to provide shuttle services to business parks and to ensure that trips to San Diego and Los Angeles remain feasibly and easy for North County residents.
As NCTD works on its new plan, it is asking for input from the community to help provide the best service possible. Councilman Mark Packard, who serves on the NCTD board of directors, is encouraging people to get involved to help answer questions that have been posed to the community, like how to encourage ridership and identifying what areas need improvement.
“How do you provide mandated service with 20 percent less?” Packard asked. “We have to get these answers by budget time next year.”
NCTD has already hosted one round of public meetings where Austin said they received a lot of “good input” and “creative suggestions.” Four more public workshops will be held throughout the North County area in October to continue gathering outside input on the future of North County transit.
To learn more about the mobility plan or attend a meeting, visit www.goNCTD.com/mobility_plan.htm.