skip to main content

Listen

Read

Watch

Schedules

Programs

Events

Give

Account

Donation Heart Ribbon

North County Transit Cuts Prices To Get More Riders

Audio

Aired 1/24/11

The North County Transit District raised its fares four years ago then saw its commuter rail system, the Coaster, lose 2,000 passengers a day. But today the price of gas is going up and transit fares in North County are going down.

— The North County Transit District raised its fares four years ago and then saw its commuter rail system, the Coaster, lose 2,000 passengers per day. But today the price of gas is going up and transit fares in North County are going down. Transit district spokesman Alex Wiggins says it’s an experiment he hopes will pay off.

Coaster service would have to be improved before CALTRANS could expand I-5 under a bill sponsored by State Senator Chris Kehoe, Democrat from San Diego.
Enlarge this image

Above: Coaster service would have to be improved before CALTRANS could expand I-5 under a bill sponsored by State Senator Chris Kehoe, Democrat from San Diego.

“Our goal is to increase ridership at least five percent over the next 18 months,” he said.

North County Transit cut its fares last week. The cost of a monthly pass for the Coaster went down by 20 percent. Fares for North County’s “Breeze” buses dropped an average of 12 percent. Wiggins said North County has basically cut its fares back down to 2007 levels.

On the day of the price drop I visited the Solana Beach Coaster station to chat with some riders. There weren’t many of them. But it was an off-peak hour. Retired San Diego State University professor David Macky said it seemed like there was something different about the ticket price.

“I was surprised because last time we went up here it was something like $2.75 for senior folks and here it was $2.00,” he said, adding that his infrequent use of the Coaster meant the fare cuts wouldn’t likely change his use of the system.

“But if I were a regular rider and I needed to get there, it would be a big deal to have the price lowered,” said Macky.

San Diego transportation consultant Alan Hoffman said studies show that reducing fare prices typically has an impact on the use of mass transit, even in California. He once examined workplaces that offered employees free transit passes, and determined that making transit free doubled its ridership. He said other studies indicate a 10 percent decrease in fares normally leads to a three percent increase in ridership.

"So you would expect that by lowering the fares as much as (North County) is lowering them, you will see a fairly significant increase in ridership," said Hoffman.

People who live outside of North County will benefit from some of the price reductions. Coaster passes allow their users free use of all local transit systems, including MTS buses in San Diego and the San Diego trolley system. A Coaster pass that allows full use of the Coaster line has been reduced from $185 to $165.

One of the passengers I spoke with at the Solana Beach station was an ebullient middle-aged woman with a smoky voice who lives in Ocean Beach. Nancy Fields got off the Coaster with a male friend who used a wheelchair and who already owned a Coaster pass.

“This is wonderful!!” she said of the fare cut. “I thought it was pretty cheap to begin with if I don’t have to use my car. I have to drive and stuff. And now you say there’s a fare reduction? We’ll take it even more!”

It’s the kind of spirit the North County Transit District hopes will prevail. In addition to increasing ridership, Wiggins said North County is hoping the fare cut will lead to a five percent overall increase in revenues. At this point, the North County fare cut is a year-long experiment. But the cheaper fares will continue if they do their job and get more people out of their cars.

Comments

Avatar for user 'Greg Duch'

Greg Duch | January 26, 2011 at 6:05 p.m. ― 3 years, 11 months ago

Tom:
Having lived in Oceanside, when I first came to SD, my impression is that NCTD has an actual good-faith orientation towards the goal of providing transit service. Look at the relative speed with which the "Sprinter" train between Oceanside and Escondido was built. In contrast, here in SD, MTS, with the approval of City Council,--(the good old Golding years) transfered money set aside for the Mission Valley Trolley Extension. The $$$ was fund-gicied for the 1997 (immediately obsolete) refurbishment of Jack Murphy Stadium AKA, "THE Q",as per the Mssr. Spanos. So the trolley project was given a red light for a couple years, as a result.

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'Greg Duch'

Greg Duch | January 26, 2011 at 6:29 p.m. ― 3 years, 11 months ago

Tom: I don't make the ALLEGATION OF MONETARY TRANSFER --PLAYING MUSICAL COOKIE JARS-- in my preceeding post lightly.Enclosed are SAN DIEGO CITY COUNCIL MINUTES(PAGE 7) from the MEETING OF TUESDAY, Oct.10, 1995:--------
CITY MANAGER'S RECOMMENDATION:
Adopt the following resolutions:
Subitem-A: (R-96-15 Rev.1) ADOPTED AS RESOLUTION R-286429
Inviting bids for the Construction of the San Diego
Chargers Training Facility, Phase I on Work Order No.
341211; Authorizing a contract with the lowest responsible
bidder; Authorizing the City Manager to execute a contract
with Robbins Jorgensen Christopher Architects (RJC) for an
amount not to exceed $998,000 from Fund 10332, CIP-34-121.0,
San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium Improvements, for professional
services required for the design of the San Diego Chargers
Training Facility;********* Authorizing the transfer and
appropriation of $3,000,000 from Fund 10226, Trolley
Extension Reserve, to CIP-34-121.0, Fund 10332, San Diego
Jack Murphy Stadium Improvements, ******to provide interim project
funding with the transfer to be repaid from bond proceeds;
Authorizing the expenditure of $748,000 from CIP-34-121.0,
Fund 10332, San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium Improvements, for
a site preparation contract for the San Diego Chargers
Training Facility; Authorizing the expenditure of $808,000
from Fund 10332, CIP-34-121.0, San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium
Improvements, for professional services required for the
design of the San Diego Chargers Training Facility;
Authorizing the addition of CIP-34-121.0, San Diego Jack
Murphy Stadium Improvements, to the FY96 Budget in the
amount of $60,000; Authorizing a contract with the lowest
responsible bidder for the site preparation of the San Diego
Chargers Training Facility, based on the actual low bid
received for an amount not to exceed $1,300,000 from
CIP-34-121.0,

(end of citation of minutes from San Diego City Council MEETING OCT. 10, 1995).
GregD

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'radiofree'

radiofree | February 1, 2011 at 7:12 p.m. ― 3 years, 10 months ago

Requesting more news about public transportation. Why do we not have rail service to the airport? There must be a story there.

To GregD: Great comments. Keep up the good work.

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'brixsy'

brixsy | February 1, 2011 at 7:37 p.m. ― 3 years, 10 months ago

I would love to take the Coaster more, there's just nowhere that I go on a daily basis that I need it for. It's always fun to take it though, the view is great and who wants to drive anyway?

I usually take the MTS bus and trolley to get to school.

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'Tom Fudge'

Tom Fudge, KPBS Staff | February 2, 2011 at 9:05 a.m. ― 3 years, 10 months ago

The enduring problem with public transit in a city like San Diego is what you do once you step off the train/bus. Your actual destination is still a mile or two away. Do you walk? Do you jump on the bike your brought with you? Do you have to transfer to another mode of mass transit? I see a future blog post in this. Greg-- Your report above is very interesting. I'd be interested to know if what they did was illegal and whether it's still going on.

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'Greg Duch'

Greg Duch | February 2, 2011 at 8:16 p.m. ― 3 years, 10 months ago

TOM: SD HAD A "WEAK MAYOR+ WEAK COUNCIL +STRONG DEVÉLOPMENT LOBBY" FORM OF GOVT. DURING THE GOLDING YEARS. THE TERM LEGAL MAY HAVE BEEN APPLIED FLEXIBLY.

( | suggest removal )