Oceanside approves downtown shuttle service for tourist season

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Oceanside has approved electric vehicle shuttle service for visitors and downtown residents for six months beginning on Memorial Day weekend.

“With most COVID-19 restrictions lifted…this summer will be busy for tourism,” says a staff report from economic development manager Michelle Geller.

“A shuttle service will move passengers faster and more efficiently, reduce parking congestion and introduce fun new amenities for Oceanside residents and visitors,” Geller said in the report.

The city worked with FordX, an experimental arm of Ford Motor Co., to provide a pilot six-week commuter program at no cost to the city in 2019. The program received “overwhelmingly positive feedback,” but did not been repeated in 2020 and 2021. because of the pandemic.

Earlier this year, city employees reached out to Circuit, a company that operates electric vehicle shuttles in San Diego, Huntington Beach and Anaheim, to offer another program in Oceanside.

In San Diego, the Circuit service is known as FRED, for Free Ride Anywhere Downtown. The program there started in 2011 and peaked at 275,000 passengers in 2019, before the pandemic kept people at home and reduced mobility everywhere, but now ridership is on the rise again.

San Diego’s four-person environmental committee unanimously approved a one-year, $1.2 million contract extension last month with Circuit. The company operates 20 of its six-passenger, open-top specialty vehicles around the city.

The same type of vehicles will be used in Oceanside, Circuit’s Daniel Kramer said at the Oceanside City Council meeting on Wednesday.

Oceanside City Council on Wednesday unanimously approved a contract with the company to operate a six-month, seven-day-a-week, 12-hour program from May 16 to November 15.

“We really need to make this happen this summer,” Mayor Esther Sanchez said. “The big problem is traffic. He’s trying to cut traffic and get people downtown and maybe South Oceanside. Finally, I would like to see this all year round. We have great weather all year round and visitors all year round.

The $321,361 cost will be paid for with a share of the city’s COVID-19 relief money from the US Federal Bailout Act. Oceanside received $16.2 million in ARPA Money in May 2021 and expects a second installment of the same amount this year.

A fleet of five on-demand shared vehicles will operate west of Interstate 5 between Vista Way in the south and the Port in the north. Initial hours of operation will be 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., although hours may be adjusted based on demand.

People will plan rides using a phone or computer app like those used for ride-sharing services Uber and Lyft.

One detail that remains to be decided is whether the Oceanside service will be free, like in San Diego, or whether it will be operated at a minimum fare of $1 to $3 per passenger, officials said.

Advertising space will be sold inside and outside the vehicles and, under the contract, the city will receive half of the net advertising revenue. Products to be advertised will be prohibited from including adult products such as tobacco, alcohol and cannabis.

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