Ribbon cutting for the Carlsbad Connector on Monday. Courtesy of the city

Carlsbad Connector, an on-demand shuttle service that takes commuters between the Poinsettia train station and workplaces in the city, began operation on Monday.

As the first program of its kind in San Diego County, the pilot service is designed to increase COASTER ridership by providing a flexible and convenient solution to bridge the gap between the station and the city’s primary industrial and commercial centers.

The innovative project is operated as a partnership of city of Carlsbad, North County Transit District and the San Diego Association of Governments.

The Carlsbad Connector functions via a smartphone app developed by RideCo with shuttles operated by WeDriveU. Commuters can book trips on 12-passenger vans that will shuttle them between the Poinsettia station and business parks near Palomar McClellan Airport and along Avenida Encinas.

Employees will be dropped off within a short walk from their destination. The app optimizes routes for commuters to minimize the travel time to their destinations. The Carlsbad Connector app is available for both iPhone and Android users at CarlsbadConnector.com.

Commuters who cannot access the app through a smartphone can book a ride by calling 760-407-6080.

“We are delighted to offer commuters an easy and affordable option to book Carlsbad Connector service and get away from having to drive to work alone every day,” said Carlsbad Mayor Matt Hall.

The shuttles will serve commuters from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. To accommodate lunchtime transportation, Carlsbad Connector will also provide service from noon to 3 p.m. from employment centers to local restaurants.

COASTER monthly pass holders and those with a valid RegionPlus or COASTER Regional day pass can ride for free. One-way rides are $2.50 or $1.25 with a valid SDM (Senior, Disabled, Medicare) card for riders without one of these passes. Employers may coordinate with RideCo to cover the cost of employee trips.

“The Carlsbad Connector is a great example of how the SANDAG 5 Big Moves can work together to enhance connectivity, increase sustainability and improve quality of life in the San Diego region,” said SANDAG board member and Carlsbad City Councilmember Cori Schumacher. “Through this partnership with the SANDAG iCommute program, commuters can use smartphones to secure a ride on a Flexible Fleet between an emerging Mobility Hub at the Poinsettia transit station and nearby employment centers.”

Carlsbad Connector was launched in response to recruiting and retention challenges raised by local businesses that have employees who live further south and want to avoid freeway traffic. SANDAG iCommute employee surveys conducted in Carlsbad revealed more than 850 commuters expressed interest in using transit.

Carlsbad Connector is a $650,000 investment, with the city of Carlsbad contributing $250,000 and NCTD and SANDAG each providing $200,000.

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