CARLSBAD — One of the first steps into addressing the county’s transit system is here.
The Carlsbad Connector officially launched on Aug. 19 as a pilot program between the city of Carlsbad, North County Transit District and the San Diego Association of Governments. The program addresses the first-last mile issue to shuttle people to and from the Poinsettia Train Station to workplaces across the Palomar Airport Road corridor.
Some of the goals are to increase ridership, address first-last mile challenges and reduce single-occupancy vehicles, thus reducing carbon emissions and traffic congestion in line with the city and county’s climate action plans, said Cori Schumacher, a Carlsbad city councilwoman and the city’s representative to SANDAG.
The city approved the pilot program on June 11.
“Most importantly, it’s about quality of life, environment and transit,” Schumacher said. “Fifty percent of the vehicles (on the first day) were already off and running. So, people are aware of it and are using it.”
Schumacher, Priya Bhat-Patel, a Carlsbad city councilwoman and NCTD board member and NCTD chair and Encinitas Councilman Tony Kranz spoke about the program and a new vision for North County.
Admittedly, Schumacher said the program is a small first step, but it’s an important one. She said the entities will collect data and re-assess the state of program, making adjustments or expand as needed.
The program is also in concert with SANDAG’s “5 Big Moves,” which is a robust vision of re-addressing the county’s transit system. Schumacher said the Carlsbad Connector incorporates all five of areas of the vision, which consist of complete corridors, transit leap, mobility hubs, flexible fleets and the Next Operating System.
Kranz said another goal is to fill the gap in the transit system to make easier for people to get to work. He noted, though, the time element is critical as it must be an efficient method to get from the station to work for people to want to use transit.
“It addresses that big conundrum we have, the first and last mile,” Kranz added. “It’s an important path.”
Representatives from Thermo Fisher Scientific, one Carlsbad’s largest employers, said they are optimistic the popularity of the program will grow. They said they are hopeful it could mean bringing a rail line from Orange County to the Poinsettia Station, as a sizable percentage of their employees live in Orange County.
Commuter Kirk Leopoldo, 28, of San Diego and who works at Walmart Labs about a mile from the station, said the program is a benefit to the city and employers. Prior to the program, he took the train two to three times per week from downtown San Diego.
However, the last mile was the challenge as Leopoldo said he’d either have to take an $8 Uber ride or walk, which would take about 25 minutes. With the Carlsbad Connector, the cost is more affordable and is another selling point for businesses and out-of-town commuters.
“When I was first looking for a job, my first thought was I don’t want to drive to Carlsbad every day,” Leopoldo said. “Having this option just makes it easier to get here.”
The cost is $650,000 with Carlsbad paying $250,000 and SANDAG and NCTD each contributing $200,000. The entities entered into a contract with RideCo for the mobile app (riders can also call), which will subcontract the shuttle service to WeDriveU, which features five shuttles to start.
The cost is $2.50 for one-way rides, $1.50 for seniors, disabled and Medicare riders and free for Coaster riders with a monthly or RegionPlus day pass.
Service is from 7 to 9 a.m., noon to 3 p.m. for lunch pickups and drop-offs and 3 to 6 p.m.
Photo Caption: Carlsbad City Councilwoman and North County Transit District board member Priya Bhat-Patel shows off one of the shuttles for the Carlsbad Connector. The pilot program between Carlsbad, NCTD and the San Diego Association of Governments launched on Aug. 19. Photo by Steve Puterski