DATA SHOWS RAIL TRANSIT IS FEASIBLE
Some recent press coverage has stated that rail transit is unfeasible. The data shows otherwise. All of the past studies conducted by the RTC found that rail transit in Santa Cruz County is both feasible and fundable. The studies found that rail transit combined with the Rail Trail is the best option to expand our transportation network, because it will provide the most freedom of movement, reduce the most traffic, and lower greenhouse gas emissions the most.
Rail Transit Feasibility Study -- Final Report
The county’s population density is one of the highest in California, with approximately 90,000 people living within one-half mile of the rail line. Areas along the rail line have population densities similar to Berkeley/Oakland and cities along the San Francisco Bay Peninsula. The number of people per square mile in the City of Santa Cruz and the Seacliff area are approximately 4,000; Live Oak ranges from 5,300 to 7,100 people/square mile, and the City of Watsonville has over 7,500 people/square mile.
The Rail Transit Feasibility Study final report can be found here.
Here’s the link to the most recent RTC study, the Transit Corridor Alternatives Analysis, which had the same findings.
Do Media Outlets Say that Rail is “Unfeasible”?
Unfortunately, at the April’s 2021 RTC meeting, District 5 representative Commissioner McPherson stated that rail is unfeasible because 100% of the funding isn't immediately available. This was a classic ‘straw man’ argument. No infrastructure projects start out 100% funded. With that said, the funding landscape for public transportation has completely changed since then. We encourage Commissioner McPherson to revisit this issue. Not only is there more federal and state funding for rail than ever before, but Santa Cruz County is also well placed to apply for these funds because we have a local match in Measure D. These funds that can be leveraged to apply for grants to repair our corridor and fund the EIR. In fact, the rail project has around 50% of funding already identified. This is an unusually high number for a project of this size.
We urge the Regional Transportation Commissioners to take the next steps towards passenger rail service: drafting and approving an accurate Business Plan, with cost estimates for ultralight rail vehicles, rather than heavy diesel commuter vehicles, and applying for grants for an Environmental Impact Report (EIR).
What Do We Value?
Since the April 2021 meeting Greenway and the local media outlets that support Greenway continue to parrot the ‘unfeasible’ message. However, at the end of the day this is a question of community and values. Do we value the essential workers and service workers that form the backbone of our economy? Do we want to provide transportation options that save families money and time? Do we want safer streets and traffic-free transportation options? Do we want to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions? We believe the answer to these questions is “YES”. If so, then we can fund expanded public transportation in Santa Cruz County, including rail. We are inspired by the creative options put together to finance public transportation by community groups in Portland, which were unanimously adopted by the Portland City Council. We hope that Santa Cruz County leaders will learn from their innovative example.