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Elimination of North County bus stops delayed to address concerns, post notices

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Passengers board a breeze bus at the Oceanside Transit Center.
(Union-Tribune file photo)

North County Transit District has postponed the removal of about 90 bus stops, saying it needs more time to address concerns and to post notices at each of the locations to be eliminated.

“We are unfortunately behind schedule in deployment of signage at stops slated for removal,” said NCTD communications officer Kimy Wall.

Notices must be posted at each stop at least 30 days in advance, she said. As a result, the service that had been scheduled to end April 7 will now end April 21.

NCTD has 30 bus routes with 1,800 stops. Plans call for the elimination of 27 stops in Oceanside, 18 in Escondido, 13 in Encinitas, 11 in Carlsbad, 10 in Vista, seven in Solana Beach and three each in San Marcos and San Diego.

Each city is represented by one of its city council members on the transit district’s board of directors.

Feedback from the city of Solana Beach resulted in the retention of four bus stops there that were previously proposed for elimination, Wall said.

Carlsbad and at least one individual also had questions about some of the stops, she said.

Jason Haber, assistant to the Carlsbad city manager, said there was some “back and forth” between Carlsbad and transit district officials, but the city did not plan to dispute any of the proposed removals.

“It’s just been requests for additional information,” Haber said.

An Oceanside planning official last week did not object to the closures there and said speeding up service could be an incentive to get more people to ride buses.

Bus ridership has declined across the country for at least the past decade, as people turn to online ride-hailing services such as Uber and other transportation alternatives.

More than 6.4 million bus trips were taken on the district’s Breeze buses in 2018, a drop of 26 percent from the 8.7 million trips taken in 2009.

NCTD sent letters in January to all the cities in its service area announcing the “optimization program” and the specific stops to be eliminated. The program was outlined to the NCTD board in February.

“The truth of the matter is we’ve got to make transit a lot more competitive and a lot better,” district Executive Director Matt Tucker told the board. “To do that, this is the easy step.”

He also suggested that more cuts could be coming.

“If you squirm over this, you are really going to squirm later in the process, as we get down to the consolidation and the optimization so we can raise that quality,” Tucker said.

No one from the public or on the board objected to any of the closures at the Feburary meeting.

Stops to be eliminated are under-used, have other stops nearby, and have limited or no facilities such as benches and shelters, district officials said. Most have five or fewer riders per day and don’t comply with the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Other factors considered included proximity to schools, medical services and disadvantaged communities.

The closures announced for April are the first phase of a program that could include additional eliminations in the second phase. In the third phase, the district plans to add amenities to the most heavily used remaining stops and making them ADA compliant.

“The timeline and potential implementation of future phases will largely be addressed based on the results of comprehensive studies that will begin this year,” Wall said.

A full list of the stops to be eliminated is posted on the district’s website, www.goNCTD.com.

NCTD also has announced it plans to increase fares for the first time in 10 years.

The new fares would be coordinated with changes by the Metropolitan Transit System in San Diego as part of an effort to ease passenger transfers between the two systems.

NCTD’s basic one-way bus fare of $1.75 is expected to increase to $2.50, but so far no date has been announced for the new ticket prices to take effect.

— Phil Diehl is a reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune


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