9/1/19: Let’s Improve Our Coaster Train Service Now!

At the SANDAG board next Friday we’ll be discussing, but not voting on, a five-year, forward-looking transportation funding proposal. A total of almost $600 million is proposed for projects, some new and some already underway.

One of the projects I’m the most excited about is the proposed purchase of new Coaster trains to create more frequent connections between North County and downtown San Diego. The purchase would be for two locomotives and 10 passenger coaches, costing $58 million, for the North County Transit District’s Coaster service. The Coaster travels 41 miles across eight stations on its north-south route. Currently, there are seven locomotives and 28 bi-level cars, serving 4.1 million riders each year. 

Like me, you may be one of the many people who loves the Coaster, but is frustrated by the inconveniently infrequent service. There’s a compelling need for more Coaster trains to provide a true alternative to driving.

For example, Mondays through Fridays, no southbound train leaves Encinitas from around 10 a.m. to around 1:30 p.m. Headed the other direction, no trains head northward from downtown San Diego between around 9 a.m. and almost 1 p.m. This is clearly not providing great accessibility for many people. If you miss the train, you might be waiting two-and-a-half hours.

Onboard surveys show that passengers want more frequent departure times and longer operating hours – a demand that NCTD isn’t able to meet with its current equipment.  

The Encinitas train station and railroad tracks in the late 1800s. (Fun fact #1: for the last half-century, our former railroad station shown in the right foreground has been the Pannikin Coffee & Tea building, relocated a couple of miles north on the Coast Highway in Leucadia. Fun fact #2: the Old Schoolhouse on the bluff at the upper left is still a part of the Pacific View school site. To have two buildings from this photo still in use in Encinitas 140 years after they were constructed is impressive!)

Almost $800 million has already been invested by local and state taxpayers into double-tracking the rail corridor, making it possible to run trains both directions at the same time. Now all we need is the equipment. NCTD would like to be able to run trains every 30 minutes in each direction during peak times (5-9 a.m. and 3-7 p.m.) and every 60 minutes in each direction during the mid-day, which will be possible with the new train sets as part of the inventory. 

To me, this is a top priority. It’s a very real thing we could do now to make convenient transit in North County a reality for more people!

Please help support this effort by communicating with your elected officials (besides me; I’m already a supporter!) about the importance of this funding. Big decisions are being made at SANDAG!

If you live in Encinitas or throughout North County, the two other voting members of the SANDAG board who represent you are Supervisor Jim Desmond(jim.desmond@sdcounty.ca.gov) and Supervisor Kristin Gaspar(kristin.gaspar@sdcounty.ca.gov). Please send them emails supporting the new trainsets. I havn’t heard them express support for the train equipment investment.   

Encinitas Parks Master Plan update

Pictured at top is a selection of the new Encinitas trail guides, and below is the now-completed pointsettia-shaped playground canopy at Encinitas Community Park.

This week the City Council heard an update on the investments made over the last three years in our Parks, Recreation and Cultural Arts Department, after we created a “Parks Master Plan” in 2016. Some highlights of progress made in the last three years include:

  • Organically managing eight Encinitas city parks.
  • Shade structures added to Encinitas Community Park, Maggie Houlihan Memorial Dog Park, Leo Mullen Sports Park, and Sun Vista Park.
  • Pickleball court overlays added to the tennis courts at Moonlight Beach andCottonwood Creek Park.
  • New trails are being designed, Trail 82 – along Rancho Santa Fe Rd., Trail 95 – El Camino Del Norte and Adams Run Connector, Trail 79 – along and near Manchester.
  • New trail maps (shown above) were designed – they’re available at City Hall or online, and an “Easy To Hike” App will launch in mid-September. Trails have been officially named and new signage ordered.
  • Procurement of a new dance floor at the Senior and Community center.
  • $45,993 in sponsorship dollars and almost $100,000 in donations have been received from individuals and groups.
  • We divested 54 programs that were no longer popular and added 33 new programs.
  • New tracking of volunteer hours showed 18,157 hours since November 2016, a $453,925 value to our city.
  • Public art has been added to K Street Pocket Park, J Street Overlook and Moonlight Beach.
  • New additions: the Coastal Rail Trail, Harbaugh Seaside Parkway, Cardiff Living Shoreline trail on Highway 101 in Cardiff, and Lone Jack Road Trail segment.

Sometimes a government agency creates a plan that sits on the shelf gathering dust, wasting time and taxpayer money. It’s been part of our mission at city hall to ensure that doesn’t happen. If we invest in creating a plan, then we’ll also invest in following through on the action items.

The public spaces we maintain are some of the most cherished parts of Encinitas, defining what makes this such a desirable place to live and recreate.

The city spends about $1.75 million annually for landscape maintenance at our parks, beaches, trails, parkways, medians and city-owned facilities. This pays for trash and recycling removal, and the cleaning of bathrooms, playgrounds, fire pits and barbecues, sport courts and sidewalks, along with all the plant maintenance.   

Free small business workshop

And here’s an opportunity for our community’s small business owners – if you operate or are considering starting a business, please join us for a free workshop focusing on small business accounting, finance and bookkeeping.

It’s Tuesday, Sept. 24, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Encinitas Community Center. This is a partnership being provided by the City of Encinitas and the San Diego Law Library. For more information and to register, click here or email Paul Brencick at pbrencick@encinitasca.gov.

Learning from cross-border friendships

And finally, this week I had an enlightening meeting with Carlos Gonzalez-Gutierrez, the new Consulate General of Mexico, who helped add to my understanding of border policy and politics in this region. He’s an advisory member of the SANDAG board, and I look forward to spending more time with him in the interest of strengthening our binational partnership.

Have a great Encinitas Labor Day weekend!

In service,