Downtown Carlsbad. Photo by Chris Stone

Service on the Carlsbad Connector will be suspended Friday while a new pilot program is developed to sustain the shuttle, officials said Tuesday.

The program, managed by the North County Transit District, San Diego Association of Governments and the city of Carlsbad, launched in August 2019 as a solution to the challenge of transporting commuters to and from major transit hubs to their final destinations.

More than 400 riders per week were transported on the Carlsbad Connector at its peak in February 2020, shuttling between the Carlsbad Poinsettia COASTER station and workplaces in the city, transit officials said. The service logged more than 10,000 rides.

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in service reductions on COASTER trains, but NCTD staff anticipate that the agency will assume operations and funding for a new pilot micro-transit program once the service is re-launched.

“In addition to serving companies and employees who commute to Carlsbad, the pilot service provided invaluable data and insight that has far- reaching applications to further long-term sustainable transportation projects and support continued economic growth in our city and region,” Carlsbad Mayor Matt Hall said. “We are excited about NCTD’s plan to advance a new pilot program that will continue to include key service features that were used in the Carlsbad Connector.”

The proposed NCTD pilot program will be aligned with that agency’s new service and operational plans that are anticipated to be finalized in the coming months.

“NCTD has an exciting multi-year plan to significantly improve transit services,” NCTD Board Chair and Encinitas Councilmember Tony Kranz said. “I look forward to seeing increased COASTER and BREEZE bus frequencies that will be complemented with flexible, user-friendly on-demand services that are being developed by NCTD.”

NCTD plans to implement a new pilot on-demand service in April 2021 — assuming the impacts of COVID-19 have significantly eased — within the cities of Carlsbad and San Marcos that will provide commuters shared transportation options to help reduce emissions.

— City News Service

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