Transit on Our Rail Corridor is Vital
Congestion and carbon emissions in the county are growing. The need for improved north-south transportation and increased transit use is critical. Using the corridor for an integrated public transportation service is the only avenue available to address so many needs simultaneously:
The TCAA Study:
The RTC has launched the Transit Corridor Alternatives Analysis study to choose a transit option for the rail corridor between Watsonville and Santa Cruz. The study will assess each transit alternative by scoring how it does on measures of Economy, Equity, and Environment. We believe rail scores best in all three areas. We invite you to send an email to the RTC at email@example.com! Here are some suggested talking points:
The Rail Trail
The Rail Trail is the common name given to the paved,
12 to 16 foot multi-use, walking and biking path being constructed in Santa Cruz County alongside the existing railroad tracks. It is the central spine of the trail network described in the Monterey Bay Sanctuary Scenic Trail (MBSST) Network Final Master Plan MBSST Master Plan.
The Rail Trail is the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission's current flagship trail project and is under construction now. For more information on the project, see the Project Website.
Where does the Rail Trail go?
The Rail Trail will be within a mile of 92 parks, 44 schools and half the county’s population. The Rail Trail runs approximately 32 miles along the coast from Davenport through Santa Cruz, Live Oak, Capitola, Aptos/Seacliff, La Selva, Watsonville to Pajaro. In addition to the 32 mile Rail Trail, the MBSST Network Master Plan includes 18 miles of spur trails connecting the Rail Trail with other destinations. Including these spur trails brings the total length of the MBSST trail network to about 50 miles of total trail length. Also, our local Rail Trail will connect to the Monterey Coastal Trail Network, both of which are part of a much larger California Coastal Trail.
What’s the Fastest Way to Get the Trail Built?
The current trail design alongside the tracks is part of an already approved master plan and environmental impact report. Keeping to this plan is the fastest way to build the trail.
Powerful Currents are Flowing Together to Make this Vision Attainable
Safe Streets Initiatives
Safety is fundamental to our communities’ willingness to adapt alternative approaches to mobility. Access to our new Rail Trail segments, in addition to our county-wide investments in safe streets initiatives, address safety concerns for pedestrians and riders of all levels.
Expanding First Mile / Last Mile Mobility Options
New forms of personal transport including eBikes and eScooters make it possible for more people to use these for short trips. New sharing platforms make them more accessible, and reduce cost barriers, concerns about security, and the necessity of round trips. Integrating these with an easy roll on / roll off experience with light rail expands public transport adoption and reduces our dependencies on automobiles.
CA State Rail Plan
The $144B plan represents a strong commitment to shift miles traveled from highway to railways as part of our planned 80% reduction in GHG emissions from 1990 levels by 2050. Passenger rail on our branch line is an integral part of this plan with specific line item funding. An integrated rail & transit network is expected to achieve a world class 15-20% share of all passenger miles in California by 2040.
New Rail Technology
Rail is already recognized as the most efficient mode of transit. Electrified trains using zero emission power from a growing supply of clean alternative sources make rail even greener. These trains are also lighter, reducing loads and maintenance on infrastructure. Finally, these trains are quieter reducing impact in neighborhoods adjacent to rail lines.
Early 2021: The Choice Is Ours
The conclusion of the 2018 Unified Corridor Study (UCS) found that a rail solution was the best overall option for the corridor. After the release of the study, the Regional Transportation Commission voted to build the trail and keep the rail for a high capacity transit solution. As part of this process, the RTC also commissioned a more detailed study, the Alternative Analysis, to examine the full range of transit options in the corridor.
We believe that rail is the only transit choice that can provide the foundation of a truly integrated multi-modal transportation system. Rail is the only option that is immune to traffic congestion, provides true accessibility for all users, preserves the easement, and ensures the continuing construction of the trail.
Rail is projected to increase transit ridership and associated revenue, representing a win for our community and a more viable future for local public transportation.