Updated: Jan 25
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 same 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. Here’s the link to the most recent RTC study, the Transit Corridor Alternatives Analysis.
Why does some media say that rail is “unfeasible”? Unfortunately, at last April’s RTC meeting, District 5 representative Commissioner McPherson stated that rail is ‘unfeasible’ because 100% of the funding wasn’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 commission 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?
We find it unfortunate that since April’s meeting Greenway and the local media outlets that support Greenway continue to parrot the ‘unfeasible’ message. 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.