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Mass transit derailed in San Diego County

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
May 22, 2008


Death by a thousand cuts is the best way to describe the plight of bus and rail service in the land of sprawl and crawl. I boggles my mind how as the price of gas is firmly ensconced at over $4 dollars a gallon, parking in coastal communities damn near impossible to find, and commuter rail ridership up, the North County Transit District (NCTD) is cutting service as it struggles to make ends meet and contend with $34 million in debt.

A devolution of public transit in San Diego County seems like a case of criminal neglect or purposeful mismanagement.

On the heels of Governor Schwarzenegger's brutal budget cuts and the dismissal of three top transit district managers, Peter Aadland, director of communications and business development, Deputy Executive Director Rick Howard and Maintenance and Bus Operations Director Brian Graham, North County Transit District, Executive Director Karen King announced her resignation at a board meeting where fare increases, route reductions, and future staff cuts were announced as well.

Yikes! Talk about a Lindy Englund moment.

Personally, I'm sure King's resignation is for the best, and the termination of the transit districts upper management a healthy dose of spring cleaning. There is still the issue of district leadership and a lack of vision to deal with on the Board of Directors.

Encinitas, a community effected by proposed service cuts, is represented on the NCTD Board by two -term Council member Jerome Stocks, who has served in that capacity for the past 5 years , and as alternate for the two previous. Stocks currently serves as the NCTD Board's Planning Committee chairman. Which begs the question "What exactly was this committee planning for?"

Looking at agendas and minutes of past NCTD board meetings it's clear providing adequate, and user friendly, service is not part of their plan. I did notice however that there is talk of terminating routes at Del Mar and discontinuing bus service on Highway 101 through to UCSD campus.

What I can't find is any mention of paving the long awaited B lot at the NCTD transit center in Encinitas, or a much needed coaster stop at the Del Mar Fair grounds or long term planing for lowering the LOSSAN rail corridor in Encinitas and moving if off fragile coastal bluffs as it passes through Del Mar.

It's clear the NCTD Board of Directors is unable to keep up with growth and changing needs of the residents and visitors in North San Diego County. As as with the layoffs of NCTD staff, it is clear there needs to be a change of direction and directors at the North County Transit District.

The world is changing are transportation patterns of Southern Californian commuters. As the price of oil and gasoline continue to rise along with population, the move to mass transit will become more and more attractive as residents seek ways to reduce their cost of living and increase their quality of life.

It's time for new leaders to take the helm at the North Country Transit District.

It's time for change.

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