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Home / Railroads & Locomotives / Coaster


By Matt Van Hattem | June 30, 2006

The commuter railroad serving San Diego, Calif.

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Coaster trains operate on a 42-mile route between the Oceanside Transit Center and the Santa Fe depot in downtown San Diego, serving 8 stations.

The tracks, once part of Santa Fe’s Surf Line, have long hosted intercity passenger trains between San Diego and Los Angeles. Today, Amtrak runs Pacific Surfliners on the route, linking San Diego, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo.

Coaster – short for Coast Express Rail – began operations in March 1995. The service is managed by the North County Transit District (NCTD), a commuter agency that provides public transportation in northern San Diego county. Amtrak had been the operator for the Coaster service until July 2006, when the contract to supply the crews and operate the service was awarded to TransitAmerica, a division of Herzog Transit Systems Inc.

In San Diego county, the former Surf Line is jointly owned by NCTD and the Metropolitan Transit Development Board (operator of the San Diego Trolley) as the San Diego Northern Railway. NCTD operates and maintains the line; Amtrak and BNSF have trackage rights.

Coaster service is heaviest Monday through Friday during peak periods. Most trains depart Oceanside during the morning rush hour, and leave San Diego in the evening. Limited reverse commute and midday service is also provided on weekdays. Coaster operates a limited number of trains on Saturday. There is no service on Sunday or major holidays.

On occasion, Coaster fields special trains for events such as San Diego Charger opening games and Street Scene, downtown San Diego’s annual music festival.

Coaster Connection shuttle buses at the Encinitas and Sorrento Valley stations take commuters to nearby office parks and employment centers.

Motive power for the trains is supplied by F40PH-2C’s built by Morrison-Knudsen (equipped with a Cummins head-end power engine) and F59PHI’s from General Motors.

Trains operate push-pull, with bilevel coaches from Bombardier.

At San Diego’s Santa Fe Depot and the Old Town Transit Center, passengers can connect to the San Diego Trolley Blue Line linking Qualcomm Stadium and San Ysidro/Tijuana. Tickets can also be purchased at Coaster stations for frequent connecting bus service from the Santa Fe Depot to San Diego International Airport.

At Oceanside, passengers can connect to Metrolink Orange County Line trains to Los Angeles.

North County Transit District
810 Mission Avenue
Oceanside, CA 92054
1-800-COMMUTE (266-6883); 1-800-COASTER (262-7837); (760) 966-6500
Teletype: (619) 234-5005, and (888) 722-4889
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