By Karen Billing
The newly formed Neighbors for a Transit Solution (NCTD) is fighting a proposed North County Transit District temporary train platform stop between 21st and 24th streets in the Del Mar beach colony.
A circulating petition is gathering steam, with 200 neighbors already signed on in opposition to the stop, which NCTD sees as servicing the seasonal needs of the Del Mar Fairgrounds. As there have been rumblings of the project and not much solid information given, Neighbors for a Transit Solution organized a meeting at a private home on Oct. 14.
More than 50 residents attended the meeting, where they asked questions of North County Transit District representatives and Del Mar City councilmembers Marc Filanc and Carl Hilliard. The message from the NCTD and city was that the project is still in its beginning stages, despite reports that the council wanted to see the temporary platform built before the start of the fair season in 2011.
Filanc said the goal is to find out what the residents do or don't want in their backyard and if anything can be done to make the platform more "palatable."
"Anybody can contact us," said Councilmember Hilliard, who also sits on the board of directors at NCTD. "Our objective is to come out to the community, get as much input as we can and see what mitigation can be done if this goes forward and see what we can do to solve this problem. We want to hear your issues, find solutions and come together like Del Mar does and spend the time necessary to have everybody's opinion heard. We will meet as much as is needed and thrash out all the issues."
By show of hands, not one of the residents in attendance was in favor of the temporary train platform. Residents said the word "temporary" is a misnomer, as the permanent solution is so far out. Many were opposed to placing this kind of stop in a residential neighborhood.
"I can't believe there aren't other, better alternatives," said beach colony resident Barbara Johansen. "Why can't you maintain our security and welfare in this neighborhood?"
North County Transit District officials look at the platform as temporary and seasonal - it will service about 22 trains a day during the racetrack and fair seasons, June through September. The drive for this project is to increase ridership of the trains, take cars off the road and help achieve regional goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Currently, trains stop in Solana Beach and riders are taken by BREEZE shuttle buses to the fairgrounds.
"If we provide better and more direct access to the fairgrounds, more attendees will take the train to avoid congestion," said Matt Tucker, executive director of NCTD.
The platform is part of a bigger, $80 million project to double-track the rail through Del Mar and raise the bridge out of the flood plain. This could involve moving the tracks closer to the Interstate 5 freeway or possibly tunneling. NCTD officials have stated they will not put a platform stop on a single track, which eliminates the option for a stop directly at the fairgrounds.