A Coaster train heading north on the Del Mar bluffs. Photo by Chris Jennewein

The North County Transit District on Thursday announced it will temporarily reduce service for its Coaster commuter trains starting Monday until further notice amid a drop in ridership tied to the coronavirus outbreak.

Weekday train service will be reduced by about 50%, particularly around the noon hour, when several northbound and southbound trains will be suspended. Likewise, just one evening train in either direction will continue to run, 5:41 p.m. southbound and 7:13 p.m. northbound.

Morning commuters will have more options, but not many. Southbound commuters will have to be on the 7:40 a.m. train or wait until 2:42 p.m. Northbound commuters can leave as late as 9:18 a.m.

Weekend Coaster service will be suspended entirely beginning March 28.

Breeze bus service* will continue as scheduled with the exception of school bus trips, which have been halted while schools are closed.

In addition to the Coaster trips which will remain active, riders with a valid Coaster Regional day or monthly pass will still be able to ride the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner. Amtrak will also be implementing service reductions.

NCTD said “significant declines in ridership” due to the COVID-19 pandemic prompted the reductions. Ridership has dropped by 79%, the district said in a statement.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in the declaration of a national state of emergency that has emphasized the need for social distancing. Accordingly, nonessential businesses and schools have been closed, and employers have been encouraged to allow employees to work from or remain at home,” said Matthew Tucker, NCTD executive director.

“NCTD understands the importance of having vital transportation like our buses and trains remain in service during this time of uncertainty for many San Diegans. However, due to declining COASTER ridership during this pandemic, NCTD will implement temporary service reductions.”

According to a Amtrak Pacific Surfliner statement, “based on current ridership levels, we expect to move to a temporarily reduced schedule on Pacific Surfliner trains on Monday, March 23rd. However, this is a dynamic situation, so adjustments could happen sooner if, for example, there are not enough crew members available or if public health conditions change in the area.”

New southbound schedule

COASTER No. Oceanside Departure Time Active/Suspended
630 5:03 a.m. Active
634 6:02 a.m. Suspended
636 6:33 a.m. Active
638 7:15 a.m. Suspended
640 7:40 a.m. Active
644 9:37 a.m. Suspended
648 11:08 a.m. Suspended
654 2:42 p.m. Active
656 3:32 p.m. Active
660 5:11 p.m. Suspended
662 5:41 p.m. Active

New northbound schedule

COASTER No. Santa Fe Depot Departure Time Active/Suspended
631 6:15 a.m. Active
635 7:39 a.m. Active
(may run up to 5 minutes late)
639 9:18 a.m. Active
645 12:49 p.m. Suspended
651 1:56 p.m. Suspended
653 3:36 p.m. Suspended
655 4:21 p.m. Active
657 4:53 p.m. Active
661 5:38 p.m. Suspended
663 6:26 p.m. Suspended
665 7:13 p.m. Active

Riders with a valid Coaster regional day or monthly pass will still be able to ride the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner, the transit agency said.

Amtrak also is telling service reductions. Riders may visit PacificSurfliner.com or call 800-872-7245 for the latest information regarding Amtrak travel advisories.

Northbound Coaster train schedule. Image via NCTD
Southbound Coaster train schedule. Image via NCTD

The temporary Coaster reductions, along with the temporary elimination of Breeze bus school trippers, represent responsible fiscal decisions to ensure effective management of taxpayer funding, NCTD said.

Breeze school bus trippers generally only operate on school days during the regular school year to support the heavy ridership generated by students.

At this time, no additional service changes or reductions are planned.

“NCTD continues to monitor this dynamic situation and will make adjustments as necessary,” the agency said.

For information regarding service alerts and changes, visit GoNCTD.com/service-alerts or call NCTD Customer Service at 760-966-6500.

Updated at 3:06 p.m. March 20, 2020

*Correction: An earlier version of this report wrongly said Breeze service was temporarily being eliminated.

— City News Service contributed to this report

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