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North County Transit Seeks Ridership Boost With ‘Flex’ Plan

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Aired 8/30/11

Travel around North County figures to become more convenient this week, but the improvements will cost customers more.

Getting around on public transit is not always easy, but the North County Transit District starts a new “Flex” service this week that hopes to make it more convenient.

But it comes at a price.

NCTD is trying to cut the number of empty buses plying among outlying communities while increasing ridership on the rail lines.

The new flex service means people in Ramona won’t have many regular bus routes, but can call for a ride anytime. However a ticket now costs $5 instead of 75 cents.

Melba Novoa of NCTD said that along the coastline, people in parts of Carlsbad can now call for a ride to the train station -- and it’s free.

“A lot of people, especially elderly, who never had any public transportation options, will be able to benefit from the flex service,” Nocoa said. "Whether they need to go to a doctor’s appointment or catch the Coaster to downtown San Diego ... whereas before they had to go to the closest bus stop, now they have this option to call and it will come get them.”

The flex service is part of a major change that eliminates six bus routes, but adds two new routes connecting directly with the Sprinter light-rail line.

Novoa said that after making cuts last year, the district projects it will have a balanced budget for the next five years. Its budget for fiscal 2012 is $85 million, up from $80 million in 2011.

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