Carlsbad Commuters Have New Last-Mile Solution – KPBS

Carlsbad Commuters Have New Last-Mile Solution - KPBS

Carlsbad Connector shuttle service launched for train station commuters

Above: North County Transit District board chair and Encinitas Councilman Tony Kranz, Carlsbad Mayor Pro Tem and NCTD Priya Bhat-Patel and Carlsbad Councilwoman and SANDAG Board member Cori Schumacher cutting a ribbon on the Carlsbad Connector, a shuttle service that serves commuters arriving on the Coaster trains.

Commuters to and from Carlsbad that use the Coaster train now have a quick and easy way to bridge the gap between the Poinsettia station and the rest of the city.

The Coaster commuter train began service between Oceanside and San Diego in 1995. But like any rail or bus mass transit system, theres been the challenge of whats called first mile – last mile,” how to get from the station to your home or destination and vice versa.

App-Based Shuttle to Connect Coaster Riders to Carlsbad Offices

“We want folks to be able to get from the Coaster to their place of work, to leisure spots in our cities without having to use their car,” said Carlsbad City Council member Cori Schumacher.

With the cutting of a blue ribbon Monday morning, the five shuttle buses making up the Connector fleet were ready for the Coaster train carrying their first riders.

Calling a Carlsbad Connector is easy. If you know how to use Uber or Lyft, you already know how to do it. Its all app-based.

“Just makes it that much easier to get here without having to drive,” said Kirk Leopoldo. He commutes to Carlsbad from downtown San Diego every day.

“Usually I would walk the last mile, about a 25-minute walk or grab an Uber from here to the office… for me, its just to not be in the car for an hour in the morning and an hour in the afternoon,” Leopoldo said.

“One of the things that our local businesses really desire is for their folks to be able to move in from different cities where they live and be able to really quickly connect to the workplaces rather than getting stuck in traffic,” Schumacher said.

Coaster riders who have monthly or daily passes can ride the Connector for free. Or, itll cost you $2.50 for a one-way trip.

The service represents a $650,000 dollar investment split between the City of Carlsbad, the North County Transit District and SANDAG.

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The city of Carlsbad has launched a new rideshare-like program that will help connect Coaster passengers to their final destinations via shuttle.

The Carlsbad Connector will utilize to transport people from the Carlsbad Poinsettia Station Coaster Station at 6511 Avenida Encinas to their workplaces in the Palomar Airport area on 12-passenger shuttle vans. 

Riders will be able to use an on-demand app to book a ride during prime commuting hours — between 7 and 9 a.m. and 3 to 6 p.m. — and during lunch hours from noon to 3 p.m.

The program aims to improve convenience and timeliness for working commuters; Shuttles will drop employees off within a five-minute walk from their workplace, according to the city. 

Kirk Leopoldo was one of the first people to use the app when it launched on Monday. He uses the Coaster a few times a week from his home in San Diego but, once in Carlsbad, struggled to get the last mile to his job at WalMart Labs. 

Before the app, he would walk for 25 minutes from the Carlsbad Poinsettia Station or book a rideshare for a few dollars each way. 

“It connects me from home to work pretty seamlessly with the app and just not having to worry about getting a Lyft, an Uber or walking,” he said. 

As a recruiter, Leopoldo said a question many candidates have is about the commute. He feels Carlsbad Connector is something new he can promote to prospective employees. 

“Talking to candidates about their commute, if they do live near downtown or in that area, you know, they really would prefer not to drive to Carlsbad and the commutes just not attractive,” he said. “So when they have something like this I can talk about, it makes a lot of sense for them.”

The ride is free for those with a daily or monthly Coaster pass. Those without can purchase a one-way ride on the shuttle for $2.50. There is also an option for businesses to partner with the Carlsbad Connector program to cover the cost for their employees. 

The app developed by RideCo and operated by WeDriveU is available on both Android and iPhone and those that without a smartphone can call (760)407-6080 to book a ride. 

According to the Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce, the idea for the app came after they heard from businesses in their city that it was difficult to retain or recruit employees that wanted to live downtown. Existing commuters often said they found the existing transit system insufficient. 

The program, in partnership with the North County Transit District and the San Diego Association of Governments, is part of the city of Carlsbads goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 by reducing the number of solo drivers. 

The city contributed $250,000 to the project and NCTD and SANDAG contributed $200,000 each. The program is in its testing phase for one year but the plan is to make the Carlsbad Connector a permanent transportation option in the city. 

 More information on the Carlsbad Connector program can be found through their website. 

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