Over the past years despite negative messaging from public transportation opponents we continued to believe that Santa Cruz County residents favor improving public transportation and would support adding passenger rail. Now that the RTC has officially chosen clean-energy passenger rail as the Locally Preferred Alternative for transit in the rail corridor, and is developing a business plan, we thought it was important to hear from voters county-wide and to find out whether the public will support this plan. Today we’re writing to share the news with you. The results are in, and they blew us away. It turns out that when asked, 74% of active voters in Santa Cruz County support electric passenger rail service.
We knew that Santa Cruz County supports reducing pollution and that the need for better transportation options is clear to everyone. Despite that, we were surprised by both the depth and breadth of this support. The results are overwhelmingly positive across all five Supervisorial Districts. Depending on the district, 68% to 86% of survey respondents said they are in favor of the plan to provide clean energy light rail between Watsonville and Santa Cruz. This county-wide result is a watershed moment for transportation planning in Santa Cruz County.
The idea to tear out the track and replace them with only a trail is deeply unpopular, as is the notion of pausing rail service planning. Faced with a direct choice among continuing with the current plan for both the trail and passenger rail, continuing to build the trail but pausing the plan for passenger rail, or removing the tracks and converting the entire corridor to trail only, the survey found just 17% are in favor of tearing out the track and only 19% support a pause in planning. The majority of the county prefers continuing with the current plan for both trail and passenger rail.
Who Did the Research?
To conduct the survey, we chose California-based FM3 Research, a highly respected and independent public opinion research firm with a nearly 40-year track record of accurate, statistically valid research for non-profit organizations and local governments across the state and the U.S. A total of 618 interviews were conducted in mid-February. Participants were a randomly selected representative sample of our county’s active voters. They were contacted via email and/or phone numbers provided by the Santa Cruz County Registrar of Voters. The composition of the sample aligned with the characteristics of local voters including political party, age, gender, race/ethnicity and Supervisorial District. According to FM3, a sample of this size is commonly used for accurate analysis of the opinions of residents in an area such as Santa Cruz County and is consistent with research the firm did in advance of the successful passage of Measure D in Santa Cruz County in 2016.
We’re so excited to share this news with you. We’re pleased to know that transforming public transportation in Santa Cruz County has such overwhelming public support. Thank you to our donors both large and small. It was your support that enabled us to fund this research.
Our 2021 mission is clear. We must step up our efforts to reach out to all the residents of the county and to share the Coast Connect vision for public transportation: building the Rail Trail, adding clean energy light rail, and improving neighborhood streets for biking and walking.
We didn’t plan it out this way, but like a great transit connection, this good news synchronizes beautifully with our Spring Fundraising Challenge. This means that right now is a great time to celebrate the survey results and help us get ready for our 2021 effort by making a donation. If you would like to support our work, please click here and have your donation of any amount doubled until we reach our $40,000 match challenge. Thank you for your support!
FEBRUARY 18, 2021—SANTA CRUZ, CA—Santa Cruz County Friends of the Rail & Trail (FORT) today announced the election of a new Board Chair, Faina Segal, who will serve for the next year.
Faina grew up in Watsonville and is especially passionate about improving access to opportunities for students in South County. Faina joined the Friends of the Rail & Trail Board of Directors in 2019, and brought her impressive organizing and partnership-building experience from her career in Silicon Valley to enhance the processes, systems and tools needed to grow FORT’s membership and impact .
“FORT has been instrumental in advocating for expanded public transportation in Santa Cruz County, which I believe is a keystone investment to building a more equitable and sustainable future for our county,” Segal said. “I am honored to have this opportunity to give back to my community by being a part of this movement.”
Faina is a big believer in public transportation, and has commuted via METRO to Cabrillo, UCSC and San Jose throughout her life. After graduating from UC San Diego, Faina worked for many years building global partnerships in Silicon Valley. Now she brings her experience to work toward equitable access to transportation resources throughout the county. Her background in engineering and technology also puts environmental issues at the forefront of her community involvement. Faina is committed to creating sustainable transportation options to contribute to an environmentally tenable plan for our community.
“Faina brings her impressive organizational and marketing experience to Friends of the Rail & Trail, which has allowed us to modernize our use of technology and improve our communication with the community,” said Sally Arnold, who served as FORT Board Chair Chair for 2019 and 2020. “I look forward to seeing where her leadership takes FORT in 2021."
FORT is currently working to promote the Coast Connect vision of a robust, modern, and efficient transportation system in Santa Cruz County through advocacy and educational programs.
“We believe the transportation infrastructure in our county should reflect our shared values of inclusion, equity, sustainability, and economic opportunity for all,” Segal said.
On February 3rd, 2021 we wrote to the RTC over concern of a misleading infographic being circulated by Greenway. This was our letter.
Dear RTC Staff,
An infographic that includes false and misleading information concerning rail in Santa Cruz County has been circulated among our community and to the RTC Commissioners. We are all aware of the great dangers that fake news and false equivalencies can do in a democratic society. We urge the RTC Staff to address these false claims publicly, especially for the benefit of the commissioners, who will be responsible for voting tomorrow. We have addressed some of these falsehoods below that are easily verifiable based on the RTC’s current studies, however we urge the professional RTC staff to clearly address this false information to prevent the community being misled by unverified sources and individuals.
1) $242/month as the cost is FALSE – the price of an all-access transit pass has not been established and will likely not exceed $150 as evidenced by the fact that METRO currently offers an Amtrak/Hwy17 Express monthly pass for $145 which includes unlimited use of both METRO and Santa Clara County’s VTA systems. https://www.scmtd.com/en/fares/fares Even the much larger VTA offers an all access transit pass to their entire light rail and bus system for only $180/month.
2) Trail-only completed in five years is FALSE – pursuing a trail-only idea would delay the construction of ANY trail for at least 8 years as evidenced by RTC staff report titled “Options for use of the rail corridor” presented at the December 8, 2016 public meeting of the RTC. RTC Agenda
3) Stating that children will be at risk is FALSE – this is an utterly baseless and dangerous claim; in fact, as supported by the RTC’s own studies, adding rail transit will reduce injury accidents throughout our community. This safety information is contained in the performance metrics in the 2019 Unified Corridor Investment Study indicating that the Rail with Trail Scenario B will result in 118 fewer accidents per year than the Trail Only Scenario A all while saving us more than $26M per year. Final UCS
When one or more claims are plainly false, the entire package must be rejected and the source should be called into question moving forward. Friends of the Rail and Trail trusts that the commissioners will rely on their staff and consultants for facts and reject the deceptive infographic and related content submitted by Greenway’s Mr. Colligan.
FORT has faith that the commissioners will trust the science and facts behind the current TCAA study outcome, which was carefully prepared by a project team consisting of RTC and METRO staff capably supported by a team of nationally recognized professional consultants and with the full participation of the entire community in a transparent public process.
In 2016, the RTC reviewed and rejected the error-filled and misleading “2016 Great Santa Cruz Trail” document submitted by Mr. Colligan, before The Great Santa Cruz Trail Group changed their name to the more politically advantageous “SCC Greenway.” These new and similarly-misleading materials should be handled in the same way. When false information is inserted into our governmental processes we are all responsible for calling it out and refuting it.
Thank you for your continued commitment to our County.
Board Chair, Santa Cruz County Friends of the Rail & Trail
Happy new year!
2020 is drawing to a close. I am amazed as I reflect on all that has changed in these 12 months.
We kicked off 2020 in January by hosting a public groundbreaking party for the westside trail construction and almost a year later, in December, we are following all the Covid restrictions while celebrating a virtual ribbon cutting for that same completed trail. What a way to bookend this strange year.
The westside trail is open and you can play with us this week!
20 years of citizen advocacy finally came to fruition with the opening of the westside trail this month. If you’ve been on the trail you have probably noticed all the many wonderful features. Wide, flat, level, it is the quickest way to cross the westside of town. Crosswalks and crossbikes make street crossings easy. At busy streets, pushbuttons turn on warning lights for cars to encourage them to yield. There are always friendly people out just enjoying the space or using it to run their errands as many businesses are right along the trail.
Between December 26 and January 3 there will be another dimension to enjoying the trail. Friends of the Rail & Trail are sponsoring a scavenger hunt along the 1.2 miles. Bring your whole family for some socially distant fun. Find the clue cards posted on the fence, answer the trivia questions, post on social media, and enter to win a prize.
The completion of the westside trail is one of our important accomplishments this year. But it’s not the only one. Despite the many challenges we faced this year, we have adapted to the times and moved ahead.
When Covid hit in March we were ready with a strong tech team who helped us move seamlessly to shared documents and remote meetings so our education and advocacy could continue without pause.
Good thing too, because 2020 has been the year of the Regional Transportation Commission’s (RTC) Transit Corridor Alternatives Analysis (TCAA). This comprehensive study comparing high capacity public transit options for the rail corridor has included many opportunities for public input and FORT has been present every step of the way to make sure our voice for passenger rail service is heard. A matter of fact, throughout the TCAA, public comment has been running between 80-90% in favor of passenger rail service! That’s YOU. That’s the emails you’ve sent. That’s the surveys you’ve taken. That’s your comments at RTC meetings.
In June we launched our Coast Connect vision and we’ve leveraged it to increase engagement. Many organizations, businesses and individuals have endorsed the vision already. If you haven’t endorsed yet, it’s easy to do. We launched 2 new websites, new social media channels, improved our newsletter and expanded our capacity to connect to our supporters. The Coast Connect vision has been a powerful tool for public outreach bringing hundreds of new people to Friends of the Rail and Trail.
Of course all this growth costs money and this year we had a successful fundraising year despite all the challenges. Our donors realized that in times of crisis, yes one must deal with the immediate needs, but one must also take advantage of the moment to create a better future. This positive visionary leadership is what Friends of the Rail and Trail provides and we are honored that so many of you have chosen to be part of it.
This year we launched our first campaign for monthly donors called the Coast Connect Club,. Many of you stepped up, joined the club and became monthly donors. That regular income is helping us plan for even more growth in 2021!
Whether it’s a one time donation, or a monthly commitment, we invite each of you to make a contribution to our successes yet to come in 2021.
Action Alert for Jan 14
After months of study and public input, the RTC staff are recommending that electric passenger rail be the Locally Preferred Alternative for transit on the corridor. Now we need the commissioners to affirm that in 2021.
There will be a public hearing held remotely on January 14 to hear the public’s response to this recommendation. Attending a public hearing remotely is not hard, but to participate meaningfully requires some special instructions. So if you’d like to stand up and be counted at the RTC meeting, please let us know. We’ll contact you closer to the 14th with directions to help you have an easy and satisfying remote RTC experience. It's your chance to tell your representatives on the RTC that you want a complete transportation system including passenger rail service.
I think we are all hoping that 2021 will be a better year. You can be part of creating that better year by volunteering with Friends of the Rail and Trail. Do you like Social Media? Video? Photography? Writing? Researching? Talking to others? Data bases? Web design? We have so many ways you can help – most from the socially distant safety of your own home. Visit our Take Action page at CoastConnect.org to volunteer. One of us will call you and we’ll find just the right way to connect you with our fun group of citizen activists.
See you on the trail in a happy 2021!
Friends of the Rail & Trail
Do you love the Coast Connect Vision of a modern, reliable, equitable, and climate-conscious transportation system that provides accessible and car-free travel options throughout the county? Then please click here to join the people who support this vision with a monthly donation!
Members of our Coast Connect Club provide Friends of the Rail & Trail with predictable income, even in unpredictable times, which means we can focus on doing what we do best: educating and advocating for a wide and safe trail system, innovative rail technology, and integrated options to reach our final destinations via METRO buses, bicycling, walking and shared mobility options.
Our goal is to get 32 new monthly donors to join the Coast Connect Club. As an added incentive, a generous donor has agreed to donate $1,000 when we reach our goal! YOU can be part of this community-based effort to ensure our transportation system services the people, our planet and prosperity.
Join the Coast Connect Club today!
Friends of the Rail and Trail is excited today to be announcing the launch of Coast Connect, a new campaign to transform the County's transportation system for the future. The Coast Connect vision is committed to the principles of People, Planet, and Prosperity.
The vision starts with a modern rail service connecting the City of Watsonville to the City of Santa Cruz and points between and beyond. At each stop, synchronized bus connections provide access to various county destinations. Alongside the tracks, the wide, paved, multi-use Coastal Rail Trail runs the full 32 mile length of the rail corridor from Watsonville to Davenport. A network of trails, paths, and complete streets that serve all members of the community is connected to the corridor. Wheelchair users, skateboarders, cyclists, pedestrians and rideshares can all access the system safely and easily.
The combination of active transportation routes, rail service, and synchronized bus connections will provide our community with a modern, robust transportation system that benefits people, the planet and our shared prosperity.
A transformed transportation system will make Santa Cruz County more equitable. Convenient, reliable and accessible transportation options will allow all workers, families, students and visitors to travel freely across the county and to access opportunities for work, education, and recreation without needing a car.
A transformed transportation system will help fight climate change by giving us attractive, convenient alternatives to car travel that will help our community reduce greenhouse gas emissions, cut air pollution, and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.
A transformed transportation system will give both employees and customers improved access to local businesses, make Santa Cruz County accessible to rail and bicycle tourists through the rail connection at Watsonville/Pajaro junction and the coastal trail, and enable residents to forego car expenses.
Coast Connect is about how quality transportation can create a better, more connected future for the people of Santa Cruz County. We believe implementing the Coast Connect vision can transform our county for the benefit of generations to come.
We’re excited to share this launch with you today. With the Coast Connect vision, we hope to inspire everyone to see how we can transform transportation together and build a better future for our County. To join us in our advocacy efforts, please visit us at CoastConnect.org and add your name today.
A generous donor has pledged to match every dollar raised for our work, up to $40,000. FORT supporters have already contributed $32,000. We need your help to raise another $8,000 by June 1st to complete the match and reach our goal. Your gift of any size will fund our campaign to encourage the RTC to make the right choice -- rail transit on the rail corridor. Invest in the future here.
To give off-line:
Friends of the Rail & Trail
Post Office Box 1652
Capitola, CA 95010
Thank you for your support
From Sally Arnold, Chair of the Friends of the Rail & Trail
Wishing you a clear 2020 vision of transportation in Santa Cruz County!