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Transit pilot program coming to Carlsbad

Above: The Carlsbad City Council approved a transit pilot program with the San Diego Association of Governments and North County Transit District centering on the Poinsettia Station. Photo by Steve Puterski

CARLSBAD — A new transit program is coming to the city.

The City Council unanimously approved a memorandum of understanding June 11 with the San Diego Association of Governments and North County Transit District on a first-last mile pilot program. Service will begin in August.

The yearlong program will operate out of the Poinsettia Station to ferry workers from the Coaster train to business parks to determine the sustainability and feasibility of a long-term program. It is addresses the city’s Climate Action Plan and Transportation Demand Management Program, approved in February, according to Christie Marcella, Carlsbad’s economic development manager.

“Measure K of the city’s Climate Action Plan specifically focuses on reducing the number of people driving alone in the city,” she said. “According to 2015 data, approximately 85% of all people who work within the city’s boundaries are commuting inside the city.”

Marcella said feedback from businesses shows it may help with employee retention and recruitment, although the existing transit system is not efficient or flexible despite workers wanting to explore other transportation options.

The challenge, she added, is fixing the last mile problem, which provides options for workers to get to work from a transit station.

“It’s known as the first-last mile problem,” she added. “If not convenient, it will deter use of transit altogether. Our business visits provided predominantly qualitative feedback that there was an untapped employee market willing to ride transit.”

The cost is $650,000 with Carlsbad paying $250,000 and SANDAG and NCTD each contributing $200,000. Carlsbad will also brand and market the program, which is why its cost is higher; however, the $400,000 balance will be reimbursed to the city.

The MOU is with RideCo for the mobile app which will subcontract the shuttle service to WeDriveU. The city conducted a survey with nine employers, including the city, which found 852 people are interested in transit options.

Poinsettia was chosen due to its proximity to large business parks and employers, such as Viasat and the airport. The Carlsbad Village Station and Oceanside Transit Center were also considered, but didn’t make the cut due to low ridership and longer travel times, respectively, according to the staff report.

“It will solely run out of the Poinsettia station,” Marcella said. “The agencies have set a goal of approximately 100 new transit boarding’s per day throughout the pilot. We are transit optimistic.”

The service will run from 7 to 9 a.m. and from 12 to 6 p.m. to pick up and drop off passengers riding the Coaster.

Marcella said service includes Legoland, Car Country, hotels, the outlet mall, business parks on Avenida Encinas. There are also six other virtual stops east of Interstate 5 and lunch stops to Carlsbad Village, she added.

WeDriveU will provide four 12-person shuttles, one of which is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the system creates virtual stops so riders are within a five-minute walk from the destination.

If all 12 people request the same location, they will be group in one shuttle.

Customers can pay and book rides from the app, or if they don’t have a smartphone, can call to reserve rides. Businesses, meanwhile, can offer free rides to their employees or customers, with RideCo billing the companies directly. The cost is $2.50 per ride.

However, SANDAG and NCTD are funding up to 300 “Try Transit” passes outside the program to entice people to use the service. It includes a free Coaster and shuttle service for one month.