This month, the Board of Directors for the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) will consider allocating funding for the acquisition of expansion COASTER rail equipment. This would support increasing COASTER frequencies from 22 to 42 trips during weekdays and result in trains arriving every 30 minutes during peak periods and 60 minutes during non-peak periods.
Currently, the North County Transit District (NCTD) COASTER service includes 22 round trips every weekday and four additional round trips every Friday night with headways between 45 minutes to one hour during the peak period and 3.5 hours during the off-peak period. It is NCTD’s goal within the next five years to increase service frequencies on COASTER to 30-minute headways.
The 2004 ballot language extension for TransNet specifically identified the need to improve and expand COASTER services as part of the improvements that would be funded to support congestion relief. Based on achieving the 2/3 voter approval required to extend the TransNet sales tax measure, SANDAG and NCTD have advanced more than $767 million in projects that leveraged a combination of local, state, and federal funding. When the Mid-Coast Project is finalized in 2021, rail infrastructure projects will be sufficiently complete to allow NCTD to increase its service frequencies on an average weekday from 22 trains to 42 trains if SANDAG provides the needed funding to purchase the expansion train equipment.
Per the National Transit Database, the COASTER totaled 38,461,097 annual passenger miles in FY 17 based on 1.45 million boardings/trips. Annual passenger miles on the COASTER directly reduces vehicle miles traveled on Interstate 5 which supports state-wide goals to reduce emissions. If SANDAG approves funding for the expansion COASTER vehicles, NCTD projects an additional 1,290 daily riders in the first year of service, steadily increasing to an estimated 4,060 additional daily riders in the final year of service along with further reductions in vehicle miles traveled on the I-5.
The NCTD Board of Directors strongly supports the allocation of the funding to support the purchase of the two new trainsets. NCTD Board Chair and City of Encinitas Councilmember Tony Kranz stated, “Taxpayers have invested more than $767 million to improve the railroad tracks and have set aside funds to operate increased COASTER frequencies. The additional funding needed from SANDAG to invest in these two COASTER trainsets will deliver upon the promise that was made in 2004 when voters approved an extension for TransNet. On behalf of the NCTD Board, I strongly encourage the SANDAG Board of Directors to allocate the funding required to support increased COASTER frequencies.”
NCTD estimates that it can implement new services within the next three years if the funding is approved by SANDAG.