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A recent North County Transit District (NCTD) Board Of Directors vote to expand bus service means more buses in Encinitas starting in February. Photo courtesy of NCTD
Photo courtesy of NCTD
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North County Transit District to replace half its fleet in 2021

REGION — The North County Transit District announced today it is updating its fleet with more than 100 new vehicles, with the first expected to arrive as early as next month.

According to the NCTD, 111 of the 200 vehicles for its Breeze, Flex and Lift fleets have reached the end of their useful life and require replacement. Many of the replacements will be zero-emission or reduced-emission models, district officials said.

Currently, NCTD operates 30 Breeze fixed bus routes and three Flex on-demand routes throughout North San Diego County.

In addition, the Lift ADA paratransit system delivers rides for eligible passengers during the same hours/days and within three-quarters of a mile of Breeze routes and Sprinter rail stations. The transit’s fleet is currently made up of 152 Breeze buses, eight Flex vehicles and 40 Lift vehicles.

The first Lift and Breeze vehicle replacements are scheduled to arrive in October, with the last arriving in early 2021.

With the delivery of the new buses and vans, the average age of the Breeze fleet will be reduced from 11 to 4.6 years. NCTD’s Lift fleet, which currently has an average age of 6.7 years, will be replaced with an all-new
fleet of vehicles.

“NCTD is focused on providing a fleet of vehicles that are in a state of good repair and fostering improved service reliability for our customers,” said Tony Kranz, NCTD board chair and Encinitas councilman.

“Our service provides essential trips for the many people that rely on Breeze, Flex and Lift to get to jobs, errands, medical appointments and daily activities,” he said. “NCTD is dedicated to strengthening the public’s
trust in transit and the rollout of these new vehicles, new services and more environmentally friendly technologies are just a few ways in which we plan to do this over the next few years.”

The Breeze buses will use compressed natural gas and will have bus operator protective barriers for added safety and protection of the drivers. Additionally, six battery-powered, zero-emission buses are scheduled to be delivered next June.

The purchase of the new buses was funded through a combination of federal and state grants and funding.

Of the 40 new Lift vehicles, 10 will be small buses known as “cutaways” that are able to seat up to 14 passengers, or four wheelchairs and four passengers. The remaining 30 Lift vehicles will be Ford Transit vans, which can transport up to nine seated passengers or three wheelchairs and three passengers. The vans are larger than the current minivans and will replace the minivan fleet.

Five of the cut-aways and nine of the transit vans were funded through SANDAG’s Specialized Transportation Grant Program. The grant was awarded in March 2019 and provided nearly $1 million toward the purchase of the vehicles.

NCTD has been partnering with the San Diego Association of Governments to implement an expanded micro-transit pilot program within the cities of Carlsbad and San Marcos, which will be unveiled — assuming the effects of COVID-19 have lessened — in October 2021.

The NCTD Board of Directors approved the purchase of 12 Flex on-demand vehicles to support the program at its September board meeting. Delivery of the vehicles is expected to be complete by February.

“Our customers expect us to continuously strive to improve the riding experience,” said NCTD Director of Customer Experience Brian Burkett.

“They’ve asked us for comfort and convenience, and to try new solutions to age-old problems. These new vehicles get us closer to providing that improved experience while looking towards the future of mobility.”