Also serving the communities of De Luz, Rainbow, Camp Pendleton, Pala and Pauma

NCTD expects cuts to affect Camp Pendleton

The current beliefs are that the North County Transit District will have to implement additional service cutbacks to adjust for reduced revenues, that NCTD’s Route 306 between Fallbrook and Vista won’t be affected by the cuts, that the NCTD routes serving Camp Pendleton will be affected by the service reductions, and that the United States Marine Corps will provide some sort of transportation service within the base to help alleviate the NCTD cuts.

Those predictions were expressed by NCTD representatives during a California Department of Transportation media day Feb. 9, which included NCTD chairman of the board Bob Campbell, Metropolitan Transit System director of marketing and communications Rob Schupp, Caltrans District 11 director Laurie Berger, San Diego Association of Governments executive director Gary Gallegos, and California Highway Patrol Border Division chief Gary Dominguez.

“We’ve had massive cuts as everybody else has,” Campbell said.

The loss of $10.5 million in state transit assistance has forced NCTD to make previous cuts, including the 2008 elimination of the FAST flexible bus service in Fallbrook and three other North County communities. The majority of NCTD’s $87 million operating budget is funded by local TransNet or state Transportation Development Act sales tax revenue, and the decrease in sales tax revenue has reduced NCTD’s funding.

While NCTD’s annual $15 million capital budget cannot be used to subsidize operations, it can be used to acquire buses or other equipment which would reduce operating costs. “We need to right-size our buses,” Campbell said.

NCTD was also able to obtain a $2 million federal grant for sustainable energy projects, which are expected to reduce some operating costs for the transit district.

“We’ve come up with a lot of cost-saving measures,” Campbell said.

A public workshop in March will allow for input on how NCTD can weather additional revenue reductions, although the NCTD board will make the final decision. The NCTD board consists of representatives of eight city councils and County Supervisor Bill Horn, who represents unincorporated North County on the NCTD board. Campbell is the mayor pro tem of Vista.

Because ridership is a significant criteria, cuts are not anticipated for Route 306 which serves passengers along East Vista Way as well as on State Route 76, South Mission Road, Main Street, and Fallbrook Street. Service on Route 306 is hourly except for peak morning hours, when it departs every 30 minutes.

Two NCTD routes currently serve Camp Pendleton. Route 315 serves the central and eastern part of the base and runs hourly. Route 395 runs through the western part of Camp Pendleton and connects to two Orange County Transportation Authority bus lines; it has limited service every three hours Monday through Thursday, runs every three hours Friday mornings, leaves hourly on Friday and weekend afternoons and evenings, and runs every 90 minutes on weekend mornings.

Cuts are possible on the Camp Pendleton lines due to low ridership, although NCTD has been working with the United States Marine Corps to see if alternate transportation service can be provided.

Campbell and NCTD staff are also working with other private, non-profit, and tribal organizations to provide service in the absence of NCTD funding. “The private side is going to have to step up, no question about it,” Campbell said.

NCTD had operated an express service to Qualcomm Stadium for football games. That service was stopped not due to funding cuts but because of the enactment of a federal regulation which prevented federally-funded public transit systems from operating “charters” except under limited circumstances. If private companies were interested in providing such service, NCTD was prohibited from operating such special routes.

Several Indian reservations provide bus service directly from a transit center to the reservation casino, although riders under 18 are prohibited from using that transportation. The Federal Transit Administration has a Tribal Transit program which funds operations of routes which serve reservations and bring tribal members to stores and services outside of the reservation.

Tribal Transit grants allow a tribe or consortium to contract with existing transit operators, and ridership is not restricted to tribal members. In January 2009, NCTD utilized a Tribal Transit grant to turn Route 388 into a loop with a direct connection from the Pala Indian Reservation to the Escondido Transit Center (the line also serves four other reservations and the town of Valley Center). The grant was requested by the Reservation Transit Authority, a consortium of 20 member tribes in San Diego and Riverside Counties, which worked with NCTD to operate the expanded Route 388 service.

The Tribal Transit grant amount was less than requested, and the application for the full amount also called for service between Ramona and the Santa Ysabel reservation (which would also serve the Mesa Grande reservation), from Ramona to the El Cajon Transit Center through the Barona reservation, between the Viejas and Campo reservations, and from Viejas to the El Cajon Transit Center through the Sycuan reservation. (Most of the starting/ending points were Indian health centers rather than reservation casinos.)

Campbell is hoping to expand Indian transit as part of the “private-public” effort. “There’s a win-win hiding in there somewhere. We’re just trying to figure it out,” he said.

Campbell noted that any private-public partnership would require that the public be informed about the benefits of using the transportation service. “I think it’s a matter of marketing it as well,” he said. “You need riders to make the whole thing work.”

The Marine Corps, Indian nations, Ramona community groups, or others participating in private-public partnerships will likely join NCTD in the marketing efforts.

“I’m willing to do anything anyone wants to help support,” Campbell said. “Somehow we’ll come up with some solutions here.”

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