The Carlsbad City Council has approved a pilot project for a shuttle service that will transport commuters between the Poinsettia Train Station and the city’s primary industrial and commercial cores, located west of Interstate 5 and in the McClellan-Palomar Airport area.
The service will run using an app-based technology developed by RideCo, and will work like Uber and Lyft ride-share programs, allowing commuters to book trips between the train station and their workplaces.
The pilot project, which is expected to launch in August, is a partnership among the City of Carlsbad, North County Transit District and the San Diego Association of Governments. The council approved the $650,000 project unanimously on June 11. The City of Carlsbad will contribute $250,000, and NCTD and SANDAG will contribute $200,000 each to initiate the program.
RideCo, which has experience running such programs, will operate the one-year pilot project using WeDriveU as its on-the-ground operator. Commuters will ride in 12-passenger vans that will shuttle them between the Poinsettia station and business parks near Palomar Airport and along Avenida Encinas. The service will drop employees within a five-minute walk of their workplace.
The project will serve commuters arriving on Coaster trains between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m., and departing between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. It will also provide service from noon to 3 p.m., to accommodate people who took the train to work and need a ride for lunch.
Commuters who have Coaster passes will ride free, and anyone else will pay $2.50 for a one-way ride. Businesses may arrange with RideCo to cover the cost of their employees’ trips.
City of Carlsbad Economic Development Manager Christie Marcella said that the pilot project is designed to address an issue raised by local businesses who have said they face recruiting and retention challenges for employees who want to live closer to downtown San Diego but don’t want to sit in traffic.
“We have been hearing from businesses that employees would take the COASTER if the connection from the train were quick and efficient,” Marcella said. “RideCo and WeDriveU’s service offers the city the opportunity to test if a new transit market is sustainable.”
This problem is not exclusively Carlsbad’s, but is common in cities that lack a dense urban core.
Marcella said that feedback from business leaders and information gleaned from surveys revealed that more than 850 commuters would be interested in using transit.
“That begged the question, ‘If we fix the last mile, will they come?’” she said.
The pilot project coincides with the City of Carlsbad Climate Action Plan, which aims to reduce the number of commuters who drive solo to jobs within the city, and with the city’s Transportation Demand Management Program, which seeks to reduce emissions by decreasing the number of employees who drive to work alone.