Del Mar Councilman calls for end to COASTER route

DEL MAR, Calif. (KGTV) – There is growing debate on what to do with Del Mar train tracks situated on top of unstable cliffs.

Recent bluff collapses forced temporary repairs including installing piles and concrete, expected to last a decade, according to SANDAG.

Del Mar Councilman Dan Quirk thinks the tracks should go away altogether.

“When I look at the ridership numbers I’m asking the question is the train even worth saving at this point?” Quirk said.

The SANDAG 2019 State of the Commute report shows the COASTER had the lowest ridership of all the rail lines and over the past five years has slightly decreased ridership on average.

“Ridership numbers and freight numbers are incredibly low and we’ve got technology with Tesla and Uber with self-driving cars. It’s not here today but in 10, 15, 20 years, that’s the time frame we’re talking about for a potential tunnel, I think that technology is going to be pretty advanced,” Quirk said.

“I think you could make the case today that you could terminate the train and no one would really notice,” he added.

While average ridership is around 5,100 people a weekday, that’s minimal compared to nearly 60,000 people who ride the UC San Diego Blue Line Trolley each weekday.

Quirk thinks ridership will be even lower after the pandemic, due to more people working remotely.

SANDAG continues to work in the planning stages of rerouting the rail, either through a tunnel or bridge. That would cost millions of dollars.

The North County Transit District does not know of any plan to eliminate the COASTER route.

NCTD sent ABC 10News a statement about the proposal to eliminate the train tracks. It reads in part:

“Factually, railroad operations cannot be discontinued due to regulatory and legal considerations. Additionally, discontinuing freight and passenger rail operations would have negative impacts on our region’s economy and quality of life. Adding more trucks and automobiles to our freeways is inconsistent with the transportation plans being advanced at all levels of government. I am not aware of any agency that is undertaking this as a consideration towards supporting future prosperity.”