San Diego faces yet another proposed alcohol ban in public spaces – and your help is needed to push for alternative public safety solutions.
The North County Transit District (NCTD) Board of Directors has scheduled a vote for December 18th on a proposal to completely ban alcoholic beverages on Coaster trains. This is not the first time this issue has been raised. Last year, NCTD staff and transit enforcement officials cited excessive alcohol consumption as a problem, contributing to train crowding, fights, noise, littering, and underage drinking, particularly during the baseball season. In response, a total alcohol ban on Coaster trains was proposed, but was quickly tabled after the NCTD received “robust public feedback” on the issue, including a U-T San Diego editorial which denounced the proposal as “overkill.”
The current proposal would rescind NCTD’s alcohol policy, “Ordinance No. 2,” which allows open containers and alcohol consumption on trains until 9PM. The proposed ordinance changes can be found online here, and more information can be found here. In their recommendation for rescinding Ordinance No. 2, District staff state that “NCTD’s most compelling concern remains the attendant liability and risk to passengers and crew associated with the safety concerns created by consumption of alcohol on board COASTER.” The proposal follows a Board evaluation of the recent “Civility Rules” public awareness campaign on Coaster trains, as well as increased transit enforcement.
As a Coaster rider, I understand the alcohol-related concerns for public safety, particularly during baseball season. Still, an outright alcohol ban is excessive, overreaching, and negatively impacts San Diego’s growing craft beer industry. A ban penalizes the responsible adults who occasionally enjoy a beer or glass of wine while riding on the train. It hurts small businesses that host beer or wine tastings on trains, such as San Diego Beer & Wine Tours. The prohibition on “open containers” may also jeopardize growler sales at local breweries and tasting rooms. It is important to note that a dozen breweries, brewpubs and tasting stores are located within walking distance or a short bike ride from a Coaster train station.
Reasonable alternatives can be effective in preventing unwanted alcohol-related misconduct. For example, Amtrak’s alcohol policy prohibits private stock alcohol consumption while allowing beer and wine sales on trains. This approach allows Amtrak to limit public alcohol consumption, prevent underage drinking (IDs are checked at the time of sale) and stop public intoxication (it is illegal to serve intoxicated individuals). It also allows for local craft beer to be showcased to locals and the thousands of visitors who use our train network each year; Stone IPA and Arrogant Bastard Ale are available for purchase on Amtrak trains departing to and from San Diego (see photo).
Your help is needed to halt the proposed alcohol ban, which is only days away from a public vote! More time is needed to work with stakeholders on a compromise solution to address public complaints of unruly behavior, which are valid and require attention. Addressing safety concerns with a more measured approach can also promote one of San Diego’s fastest growing industries. However, if nothing changes, craft beer enthusiasts and responsible adults won’t have a chance to be heard.
There are three ways you can take action right now to protect personal freedoms in San Diego and ensure local craft beer enthusiasts can enjoy beer responsibly on Coaster trains:
Voice your opposition to the Coaster alcohol ban to NCTD by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. You are welcome to use or modify the suggested template below for your email.
“Re: Rescinding Ordinance No. 2
To the North County Transit District Board of Directors,
I respectfully oppose the rescinding of Ordinance No. 2. A total alcohol ban on Coaster trains is an excessive and overreaching response to a narrowly defined public safety problem. I strongly urge the board to explore alternative ways to strengthening public safety on Coaster trains while also allowing responsible adults to consume alcoholic beverages.
The deadline for sending comments to the Board is December 17th, 5PM.
Tell your friends about the proposed Coaster alcohol ban, and encourage them to send an email to the North County Transit District. Share this article on Twitter and Facebook. Get the word out to your local brewery and brewpub, and ask them to share their opinions and perspective with the NCTD.
There is an informational workshop on this issue, along with other proposed changes affecting transit passengers, on Thursday, December 4th, 6-8PM at the NCTD General Administrative Offices, 810 Mission Avenue, Oceanside. You can learn more about the proposal from NCTD staff, and offer your opinions.
The public hearing where the NCTD Board will vote on the Coaster alcohol ban will be held on Thursday, December 18th at 2PM at the same location, 810 Mission Avenue in Oceanside. You are encouraged to give your public comments before the Board.
This article was written by West Coaster contributor Vince Vasquez. He is also a Senior Policy Analyst for the National University System Institute for Policy Research and has published reports on the economic impact of craft beer in the region.