By Alex Z. Wiggins
OCEANSIDE–The North County Transit District received top honors from the San Diego County Taxpayers Association (SDCTA) for the agency’s commitment to sound fiscal decision making. Recipients were announced at SDCTA’s annual awards dinner held in San Diego on May 19.
Upon receiving the Grand Golden Watchdog Award, the highest award presented during the ceremony, NCTD Board Chair, Chris Orlando expressly thanked his colleagues on the NCTD Board of Directors, former Board Chair Bob Campbell, and the employees of NCTD for their leadership and commitment to delivering the best value for San Diego County taxpayers.
“In 2009, the North County Transit District faced a projected five year deficit of nearly $80 million due to the recession and the loss of state transportation dollars. To close the gap, the District implemented a comprehensive program to make its operations more efficient, including transitioning bus and paratransit operations to the private sector,” said NCTD Chair Chris Orlando. “By transitioning bus operations to First Transit and paratransit service to American Logistics Company, we are on track to save San Diego taxpayers in excess of $50 million over the next seven years.”
“Today, the District’s budget is balanced. We’ve added service, reduced fares and increased ridership,” Orlando went on to say.
The leadership provided by current and former members of the Board of Directors enabled NCTD to close a significant operating deficit and avoid reducing service, raising fares, or eliminating jobs as the vast majority of NCTD employees were offered positions by private sector partners.
As a result of this bold action, NCTD has been able to stabilize its finances and focus on improving services. Over the last year, NCTD has been able to lower fares and increase service on its rail lines. NCTD recently added additional Sprinter light rail service hours and expanded Coaster service to seven days a week during the summer months. Coaster ridership is up more than 18% as compared to April 2010. Sprinter light rail ridership has increased by 17.7% and Breeze bus ridership is up by 5.7% over the same period.
“NCTD thanks the Taxpayers Association for the Grand Golden Watchdog Award, and we look forward to continuing our efforts to provide our customers and taxpayers with safe, reliable, and efficient public transportation services,” said Orlando.
The North County Transit District is a public transportation agency providing 12 million passenger trips annually throughout North San Diego County and into downtown San Diego.