NCTD announces New BREEZE, FLEX and LIFT buses coming to North County San Diego

Sept. 23, 2020
The need to purchase new vehicles is based on the fleet reaching the end of useful life, converting to zero-emission technology and expanding a micro-transit pilot program.

The North County Transit District (NCTD) is updating its BREEZE, FLEX and LIFT bus fleets with more than 100 new transit vehicles.

Currently, NCTD operates 30 BREEZE fixed routes and three FLEX routes throughout North San Diego County. In addition, the LIFT ADA paratransit system delivers rides for eligible passengers during the same hours/days and within three quarters of a mile of BREEZE routes and SPRINTER rail stations. Service for these modes is operated with 152 BREEZE buses, eight FLEX vehicles and 40 LIFT vehicles.

The need to purchase new vehicles is based on the following considerations:

  • Approximately 111 of the 200-vehicle fleet (56 percent) for BREEZE, FLEX and LIFT have reached the end of their useful life and require replacement.
  • NCTD has committed to implementing zero-emission bus technology as part of its overall fleet management plan.
  • NCTD has been partnering with the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) to implement an expanded micro-transit pilot program within the cities of Carlsbad and San Marcos.

“NCTD is focused on providing a fleet of vehicles that are in a state of good repair and fostering improved service reliability for our customers. Our service provides essential trips for the many people that rely on BREEZE, FLEX and LIFT to get to jobs, errands, medical appointments and daily activities,” said NCTD Board Chair and Encinitas Councilmember Tony Kranz. “NCTD is dedicated to strengthening the public’s trust in transit, and the rollout of these new vehicles, new services and more environmentally-friendly technologies are just a few ways in which we plan to do this over the next few years.”

With the delivery of these new buses and vans, the average age of NCTD’s BREEZE fleet will be reduced from 11 years old to 4.6 years. NCTD’s LIFT fleet, which currently has an average age of 6.7 years, will be replaced with an all new fleet of vehicles. The delivery schedule for the BREEZE, FLEX and LIFT vehicles will vary.

BREEZE Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) buses

The initial delivery of BREEZE buses is expected to begin in October 2020 and be completed in 2021. These new buses will be delivered with bus operator protective barriers for added safety and protection of the operators. The purchase of these new buses was funded through a combination of Federal Transit Administration (FTA) grants and matching State Transit Assistance (STA) State of Good Repair, local Transportation Development Act (TDA) and STA Senate Bill 1 (SB1) funds.

Zero-emission buses

The six battery electric buses were approved by the NCTD Board of Directors at the July 2020 Board meeting and are expected to be delivered in June 2021. The purchase of these new buses was funded through a combination of FTA grants and matching local TDA and Caltrans Low Carbon Transit Operations Program (LCTOP) funds.

LIFT ADA paratransit vehicles

Delivery of the 40 LIFT paratransit vehicles is anticipated to begin in October 2020 and continue through January 2021. Ten of these vehicles will be small buses known as “cut-aways” and are able to seat up to 14 passengers, or four wheelchairs and four passengers. The remaining 30 LIFT vehicles will be Ford Transit vans, a new style for NCTD, which can transport up to nine seated passengers, or three wheelchairs and three passengers. These vans are larger than the current minivans and will replace the minivan fleet. Five of the cut-aways and nine of the transit vans were funded through SANDAG’s Specialized Transportation Grant Program. The grant was awarded in March 2019 and provided nearly $1 million toward the purchase of these vehicles.

FLEX on-demand vehicles

NCTD plans to implement a new pilot on-demand service in October 2021, assuming the impacts of COVID-19 have significantly eased, within the cities of Carlsbad and San Marcos that will provide commuters flexible and convenient shared transportation options to help reduce emissions and achieve a sustainable future as envisioned in SANDAG’s 2050 Regional Plan. The NCTD Board of Directors approved the purchase of 12 FLEX on-demand vehicles to support this program at the September 2020 Board meeting. Delivery of these vehicles is expected to be complete by February 2021.

“Our customers expect us to continuously strive to improve the riding experience,” said NCTD Director of Customer Experience Brian Burkett. “They’ve asked us for comfort and convenience, and to try new solutions to age-old problems. These new vehicles get us closer to providing that improved experience while looking towards the future of mobility.”