Coaster route map (with other commuter
San Diego Coast Express Rail, or
Coaster, is a commuter
rail service that operates in the Central and Northern coastal
regions of San Diego County, California, United States.
Coaster F40PH-2C #2103 at Encinitas
The service is operated by
on contract with
North County Transit
(NCTD). The service has eight stops, in San Diego, Solana Beach, Encinitas, Carlsbad, and Oceanside.
Service operates primarily during weekday
peak periods, but limited weekday midday, Friday evening, and
Saturday service also exist. Special evening service is provided
when the San Diego Padres
Monday-Thursday evening home games.
San Diego Northern Railway
(SDNR) purchased the
tracks used by Coaster from the Atchison, Topeka and Santa
in 1994. NCTD created the subsidiary San Diego
Northern Railway Corporation in 1994 and dissolved it in 2002.
Revenue Coaster service began February 27, 1995. Money for
right-of-way acquisition and construction costs came from TransNet
, a 1987 measure that imposed a 0.5%
on San Diego County residents
for transportation projects. NCTD originally contracted Amtrak
to provide personnel for Coaster trains. On
July 1, 2006, TransitAmerica took over the day-to-day operation of
the commuter train, based on a five-year, USD
45 million contract with SDNR.
TransitAmerica is a subsidiary of Missouri-based
The Coaster carried 700,000 passengers during its first year of
operation. By 2004, it was carrying 1.4 million passengers
annually. Approximately 40% of weekday commuters detrain at
Sorrento Valley. NCTD owns of mainline track, as well as the
Escondido Branch that is served by the Sprinter
, which began serivce in March
2008. The Coaster commuter train runs on of the mainline.
NCTD maintains two rail yards. One is shared with the San Diego Trolley
at 12th & Imperial
in Centre City San Diego. It is used to store trainsets during the
midday. The other, located north of Oceanside at
Stuart Mesa on Camp
Pendleton, is shared
where the main maintenance facility is located.
Consumption of alcoholic beverages is allowed onboard the Coaster
for riders who are of the legal drinking age. This policy has led
to some minor incidents of drunkenness.
been revived interest in rebuilding the station at Del Mar to serve
the racetrack and fairgrounds.
The cost of Coaster tickets is based upon the number of zones traveled
(see map). Tickets must be
purchased before boarding, and will occasionally be checked by
roving fare inspectors
(often between the Solana Beach and Sorrento Valley stations).
Discounted ten-ride tickets and monthly
are available. All tickets and passes include transfer
agreements with regular NCTD buses (the "Breeze") and Metropolitan
Transit System (MTS) buses and Trolleys. As of January 2009,
regular one-way fares are as follows:
- Within one zone: $5.00
- Within two zones: $5.50
- Within three zones: $6.00
- Within four zones: $6.50
With proof of eligibility, senior citizens (ages 60 and over),
people with disabilities, and Medicare cardholders receive a 50%
discount on the above fares.
While tickets are not checked on all trips, penalties for riding
the Coaster without a valid ticket include a penalty fare
of up to $250. Riders cannot
purchase tickets onboard the train. Monthly passes are available
for between $144.00 to $182.00. With proof of eligibility, youth
(ages 6–18) monthly passes are $91.00, while senior, disabled and
Medicare monthly passes are $45.50.
In September 2008, SANDAG
introduced a new
contactless "Compass Card", made possible by Cubic Transportation Systems,
. The "Compass Card" allows passengers from MTS
to store regional transit passes and cash value on
a rewriteable RFID
card. Customers can purchase
passes and add cash value on the Internet or at any ticket vending
machine. When a customer boards a bus they simply tap their Compass
Card on the "Validator", usually located near or on the farebox.
display then lights up with lights
resembling that of a stoplight, and the LCD
display shows text regarding the passenger's fare account. When
boarding rail vehicles the Validators are located on the platform,
and the same process is performed to board the train. This program
is still in the pilot testing phase, and SANDAG
hopes to have all bus passengers using the
Compass Card by the end of 2009.
Coaster Cab Car #2306 at Santa Fe
Trailer numbers are 2201-2208 (1994), 2401-2406 (1997), 2501-2504
Cabcar numbers are 2301-2308 (1994), 2309-2310 (2003)
Most trains run with 5 coaches. However, as of July 2008, a 6th
coach has been added to half of the weekday trains due to an 8%
jump in ridership from the previous year.
Bike rider information
2401-2406 series coaches have space for 6 bikes (4 on north end, 2
on south end).
2501-2504 series coaches have space for 6 bikes (all in the south
end of the coach).
Connecting rail and bus transit services
The Coaster connects with Amtrak at Oceanside, Solana Beach, and
San Diego. It also connects with Metrolink at Oceanside. The
Coaster connects to the Trolley at Old Town and Centre City San
of March 2008, the Sprinter
light rail line connects Oceanside to
For an additional $1.00 fare, riders can use shuttles at Sorrento
Valley to access employment centers in Sorrento Valley, Sorrento
Mesa, Torrey Pines, and University City. Coaster Connection
shuttles also provide residents with access to the Coaster in
Carlsbad. The VA Hospital, University of California, San
Diego, and area employers also provide shuttle service to
the Sorrento Valley station.
Unfortunately, train schedules
connect with shuttle buses to those employment centers in Sorrento
Valley/Sorrento Mesa run very early in the mornings, with cutoff at
Sorrento Valley at about 8:30 am. Later Coaster arrivals are not
met by shuttles.
City and Old Town, commuters can connect with MTS Trolleys and
buses, including The Flyer from Centre City to Lindbergh
NCTD provides "Breeze" bus service
connecting with the Coaster at all North County station
The Coaster remains stable for the foreseeable future. San Diego
County voters extended the TransNet sales tax through 2038, which
includes some funds for track upgrades. A new station is planned
for the University City area, at Nobel Drive in the Golden
Triangle. NCTD and other public agencies have expressed interest in
tunnelling through Golden Triangle to avoid the circuitous route
through Miramar. Plans to double track more of the NCTD-owned
mainline are also being considered.
- Coaster Connection