By Marlena Chavira-Medford
Soon, it will be cheaper to ride the Coaster and Breeze mass transit lines.
Starting Jan. 20, those fares are going to be temporarily reduced in an attempt to bolster ridership. The North County Transit District (NCTD) board unanimously passed a motion last week to roll back those prices for an experimental period that will last up to one year.
Solana Beach councilmember and NCTD board member Dave Roberts, who proposed the motion, said he thinks mass transit is part of the solution for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
"If we are going to realistically reduce roadway and freeway congestion and reduce our carbon footprint as mandated by AB 32 and SB 375, it is critical that we provide serious encouragements to convince folks to take advantage of our wonderful public transit system," he said. "Our trains and buses are state-of-the-art, and provide a great alternative to single occupancy cars."
The regional Comprehensive Fare Ordinance allows operators to set temporary, promotional, or experimental fares for 12 months or less. Because of that, the lower fares will be offered for less than one year. If the lower fares appear to be beefing up ridership, which has dropped 6 to 10 percent, the NCTD board may take steps to make the lower fares permanent.
Under the new price scale, Breeze tickets will be reduced from $2 to $1.75; Breeze ride tickets for riders who are seniors, have disabilities, or are on Medicare would be reduced from $1 to 75 cents.
Coaster monthly passes will be reduced by 10 to 22 percent; single ride fares will be reduced by $1, and roundtrip fares will be reduced by $2.
The Coaster fare structure will also be changed from four zones to three zones. That means riders in Del Mar, Solana Beach, and Encinitas will now be part of the North Coastal Zone, so they can ride all the way to Oceanside on one Coaster fare.
"This action is a great step forward for our North County region, and I am so pleased that our NCTD board of directors worked unanimously to take these steps," Roberts said. "Our NCTD board of directors is showing tremendous leadership during these fiscally-constrained times to start these new promotional programs."
NCTD is also in talks with Amtrak to restore the Rail 2 Rail program, which allows Coaster riders to pay a premium to ride Amtrak trains to Solana Beach or Oceanside, thereby giving riders a few more options to ride north and south.