The 22 mile light rail line from Oceanside to Escondido that came on line exactly five years ago was held up as a great success in public transportation. The Escondido station is directly across the street from our office, and some of our employees who live along the line have been taking the train to work for years. The train relieves the overcrowded Highway 78 corridor and connects the cities of Escondido, San Marcos, Vista and Oceanside to the Amtrak station in Oceanside. You can ride the train from Escondido all the way to downtown Los Angeles and on from there.
Until now – that is.
The Sprinter was “closed down indefinitely” due to brakes wearing out faster than expected. Here is the article in the UT San Diego that describes the embarrassing fiasco.
People arrange their lives around public transportation. The train serves two major colleges, Palomar and California State University San Marcos. People find jobs near the train stations. People move to apartments close to access to the train.
The North County Transit District’s Sprinter line cost $477 million. This was way over budget and had many critics. Over five years, after lower than initially estimated subscription, ridership slowly increased. I was advocating for other lines, one from San Diego to Escondido and on to Temecula and Riverside, another heavy commuting corridor, all based on the apparent success of the Sprinter.
Now, during the week of the scheduled 5-year anniversary celebration the line is shut down “indefinitely.” Needless to say, they canceled the celebration.
To me, this undermines the public’s trust in public transportation. It just got harder to build another train line. Who will trust a train, when the service apparently can disappear overnight?
Could not the North County Transit District, over a five-year period, have had its maintenance department figure out that trains need brake jobs? The excuse that the brakes wore out faster than they thought does not hold up. They should have monitored this from the beginning, and had a program in place to periodically switch out brakes on 12 trains on a rotating schedule.
Overlooking something as fundamental as this just puts a spotlight on the utter incompetence of the North County Transit District.
The whole management should be replaced immediately. It is simply not acceptable for a train service to be suspended because of human oversight.
Out with the clowns!