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North County leaders looking to boost train ridership, prevent future track closures

A Metrolink train approaching Oceanside in this undated photo.
A Metrolink train approaching Oceanside in this undated photo.

Mother Nature brought lots of closures to North County rail lines this year, and local leaders say that pushed ridership down. Now, officials are planning on how to secure the rail line and boost ridership in 2024.

Why it matters

The 351 mile long rail line known as the LOSSAN rail corridor runs from San Luis Obispo through Los Angeles and south to San Diego.

But landslides and cliff collapses brought major interruptions to the rail corridor along San Diego’s coast this year.


Passengers taking rail disruption in stride as landslide closes tracks in San Clemente

State Senator Catherine Blakespear is the chair of the LOSSAN rail corridor resiliency subcommittee and said those interruptions decreased ridership.

"The track around San Clemente was not functioning for almost 9 months," she said. "And so that means that people who wanted to take that that route were on a bus bridge which went from Irvine to Oceanside."

By the numbers

After the rail interruptions, ridership dropped by half— from 8 million passengers a year to 4 million, Blakespear said.

"Someone's on a train trip. They don't want to get onto a bus, get off the train, get in line, get on a bus, get on the freeway, sit on a bus for an hour, get back on the train," she said. "It really cut dramatically the ridership."


Even after the rail line reopened, ridership has not recovered.

Looking ahead

Blakespear said it’s challenging to bring those ridership numbers up again, partly because there are so many parties involved and they each have different interests.

There are five different owners of the track, seven different operators, and multiple freight companies that are also owners of the track.

But parts of the track require immediate attention and investment to keep the rail line running uninterrupted, she said.

"We need to have strategic planning that's looking at the entire corridor," she said. "So for the state to say, 'this is the second busiest corridor in the nation, we want it to function better, we want it to carry more passengers more frequently, more reliably.' So how do we get there?"

Figuring out how and who oversees all the different owners and operators involved is the next plan of action for the LOSSAN rail corridor resiliency subcommittee.


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