The Coast News Group
A Coaster train pulls away from the Encinitas Coaster Station. Amtrak’s Surfliner trains previously sped by the station, but they now stop there as a result of a new agreement. More and more are boarding the Surfliner, numbers show. Photo by Jared Whitlock
During the closure weekends, Amtrak Pacific Surfliner and Metrolink will not service the Oceanside Transit Center. Photo by Jared Whitlock

With new agreement, more hopping on Amtrak’s Surfliner

REGION — Passengers are increasingly boarding the Pacific Surfliner following an agreement that expanded its service.

Previously, riders wanting to pick up Amtrak’s Surfliner had to travel to Solana Beach or Oceanside. But this past October, six Surfliner trains began stopping daily at all of the eight county Coaster stations.

That’s because NCTD (North County Transit District), which operates the coaster stations, signed a passenger-sharing deal with Amtrak and Caltrans.

With the deal, Coaster riders with valid fare can board the Surfliner and travel between the Coaster stations at no added cost. However, Coaster passengers going north of Oceanside have to buy a separate ticket through Amtrak.

According to Amtrak counts, the agreement resulted in the Surfliner gaining 3,881 riders in October, 4,657 in November, 4,751 in December and 5,249 in January.

February numbers won’t be released until the end of March.

“The month-over-month increase is encouraging,” said Frances Schnall, marketing representative and interim public information officer with NCTD.

Given the increasing trend, Schnall said NCTD believes the number of Surfliner riders will keep growing as more become aware.

She noted NCTD has promoted the agreement with digital and print advertisements, press releases and handouts at Coaster stations.

The Surfliner travels from San Diego up to Los Angeles and then to San Luis Obispo.

The agreement is for two years, with the option to extend the deal for up to two years should the various transportation agencies sign in. After that, the agencies could consider another contract.

Per the agreement, NCTD, along with SANDAG, pay Amtrak $4.28 per passenger riding from Oceanside to San Diego, and less for shorter trips.

Schnall said the agreement allowed NCTD to “plug in” service holes without adding trains or crews. Caltrans and Amtrak officials have stated they inked the deal to bring in revenue without adding to costs.

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