The North County Transit District has started writing tickets for people who illegally cross their railroad tracks. The enforcement carried out by the San Diego County Sheriff’s Dept. covers all train tracks from the Orange County line, south to the Santa Fe Depot in San Diego, and the Sprinter tracks from Oceanside to Escondido.
For almost 150 years, coastal North County residents have been crossing the tracks to reach businesses and beaches. Pedestrian problem areas with trains are in Del Mar, where there is only one legal crossing — where one’s feet may step over the tracks — at the old 15th Street train station; and along Encinitas’ six-mile corridor, which offers only four legal crossings — Chesterfield Drive, Leucadia Boulevard, and at the transit station at D & E streets.
For years, Leucadia parents on the west side of Coast Highway have walked their kids illegally across the tracks to get to Paul Ecke Central Elementary School. Surfers in Cardiff avoid the crowded parking on Coast Hwy. at the Pipes surf spot and park east of the tracks and walk across; there are clearly worn trails that cross the tracks.
Sheriff’s Sgt. Jason King said on May 21 that for over a year, his five transit-district-contracted deputies have mostly been issuing warnings. But the district’s plan for double tracking to allow for more Coaster, Amtrak, and freight trains has become more of a safety issue in consideration of the walkers, joggers, shoppers, bar-hoppers, and surfers who cross the tracks .
“Trains travel through at 35 to 73 miles per hour,” said Sgt. King. He relayed an experience he had when he started patrolling under the contract with the transit district: “I was watching a northbound Coaster train approaching when all of sudden a southbound Amtrak flew by me. I didn’t hear it or see it coming.”
Sgt. King advises his deputies to use their judgment and discretion when giving out the misdemeanor citations, of which his department issued 29 recently. “We not trying to ruin someone’s day, but we’re about education. Sometimes a ticket educates.”
For Encinitas residents who are accustomed to using the trails along the side the railroad tracks, while still in the transit district’s right of way, most walkers and joggers are far enough away from the tracks as to not to be a concern.
However, for those crossing the tracks trying to use a back gate to access the restaurant and bars of Coast Highway’s Lumberyard shopping center, that gate is supposed to locked. Deputies find it reopened every few weeks and have to seal it back up again.
With limited parking in the area, those that take advantage of parking off the street on Leucadia's Vulcan Avenue, and Cardiff by the Sea’s San Elijo Avenue, which both run parallel next to the tracks, even though posted with “No Trespassing” signs, so far Sgt. King said that his department has not been asked to enforce to parking violations. The district is in the planning phase of offering some type of low-lying barricade that would legally allow parking by ensuring vehicles couldn’t mistakenly drive onto the tracks.
On May 20, the Encinitas city council received its first public comments, and initial funding from state agencies, to begin planning for their city’s portion of the “Coastal Rail Trail” project. When completed, it will safely connect Del Mar to Oceanside via a walking and bike path along the train’s corridor.