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Coaster, Amtrak service in San Diego reduced amid ridership decline, COVID-19 concerns

NCTD said "significant declines in ridership" due to the COVID-19 pandemic prompted the reductions. Amtrak will also be implementing service reductions.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — The North County Transit District announced Thursday 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 buses will continue to run as normally scheduled. The only thing changing for Breeze is the school trippers - which transport children to school. School trippers have been halted while schools are closed. 

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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, non-essential 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 an 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."

Editor's Note: A previous version of this story indicated Breeze services had been completely eliminated. We regret the error.