which RAIL TRAIL best for people living in Santa Cruz County? Still time to tell the RTC what you think!

Which RAIL TRAIL best for people who live in  Santa Cruz County?

Do we want a wide TRAIL  that can handle electric bikes and wheel chairs and walkers or do we want  a narrow trail  along a high fence that preserves the rail tracks for a train that may never happen?

There’s still time for you to tell the Regional Transportation Center what you think.

Measure D — which passed in 2017  — preserves the current  rail tracks and permits only a narrow trail.

Maybe there’s a better solution?  Read and decide.

Click  here   for a comparison of the wide one versus narrow one.

Go to the link below to sign petition.


Thank you Dana Abbott, a gardener with Aptos Community Garden, for providing information.

written by  Cameron Jackson   drcameronjackson@gmail.com


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  • Corrections:
    1. The study’s Stadler GTW vehicles are light Diesel Multiple Units, not “diesel pushers”. See how quiet they are here:
    3. Caltrans State Rail Plan funds don’t require an additional local tax, if we don’t spend rail transit funds, other communities will.
    2. There is no plan for freight through residential neighborhoods.
    3. Rail is 4 times as efficient and much safer for passengers and freight, which is why the California Coastal Commission approves of the rail with trail.

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  • Jack Brown

    Cherry pick data as you wish Barry. The recommendation from the 2015 study showed that diesel pushers trains would most likely be used because of cost constraints.
    “$93 million gets us starter service” that has absolutely no impact to Highway 1 traffic. Anything even close would require a $600,000,000+ investment from a community of only 240,000 residents and even fewer contributing to the tax base, many of whom can’t afford the $7500 high speed rail investment/tax demand being asked of them to have another $2500+ to be taken out in additional taxes. This will not survive a vote.
    Our current rail corridor is “Class 1 Excepted”, the worst rating for track and Progressive has plans to start freight service for propane distribution along with pesticides, and other freight through mostly residential neighborhoods with limited buffers. It’s just a disaster waiting to happen.

  • Bruce K. Sawhill

    It should not be rail OR bus transit, it should be rail AND bus transit AND trail. Implementing truly rapid BRT is not so easy, as it requires dedicated lanes. Bus on shoulder is typically restricted to 15 mph faster than adjacent traffic (based on my research in other metros), which would mean it spends a lot of time going….15 mph, so a 16 minute transit time from SC to Watsonville is unrealistic. Besides, even with smooth and fast flow a bus needs to stop a lot to do its job. Building a dedicated lane for BRT plus the serious infrastructure of escalators, elevators, stairs and stations puts the price tag way above implementing rail on the existing line. It is most likely still worth it, but that doesn’t diminish the case for rail.

  • Will, the Monterey trail is not being widened to 26 feet. Only a short section along cannery row is, shorter than our boardwalk where our trail will also be this wide including all bike tracks and pedestrian ways.
    Highway one is unlikely to ever be widened as Caltrans is redirecting funds from highways to railways. See their plan.
    Greenway + a highway 1 based Bus Rapid Transit== Over $1 billion and increased GHG emissions.
    Rail + Trail = $150 million for the train, trail is already paid w D.

  • Will

    Westcliff multi-use path is not wide enough to function as a active transportation facility, period. At 10 feet wide it has built in conflicts for all user groups. This is why the Monterey coastal recreation trail is being widened to a width of 26 feet. 16 feet for the Bikeway allows for faster wheeled vehicles to pass in each direction. The separated 10 foot wide pedestrian sidewalk allows groups of two or more walkers walking side by side and pass each other. The plan is for the Greenway to use this same 16 + 10 formula wherever possible. The 26 feet needed for a proper active transportation facility does not fit over most of the rail corridor, particularly within the “Central Reach” of the system. From a Active Transportation perspective there is no comparison of the functionality of the bike and pedestrian facility embodied in the MBSST plan and what has been the proposed Greenway multi-modal roadway and walkway facility.
    As far as mass transit goes, the use of buses in a dedicated transit lane on Hwy 1 is three times faster than the headways predicted by the RTC for passenger rail between Santa Cruz and Watsonville (16 minutes vs ~42 minutes). Likewise for Santa Cruz and the Pajaro Station (20 vs ~60 minutes). There are over 220,000 trips daily on Hwy 1 today vs a prediction of 4,500 trips with the most ambitious plan described in the RTC’s rail feasibility study.
    Do the math.
    The Greenway + a highway 1 based Bus Rapid Transit could serve 10 times the number of users and goes to where people are going to today: Cabrillo College, the greater Dominican Hospital complex, UCSC, Santa Cruz City and County government buildings, downtown Watsonville and Santa Cruz, etc. The existing freeway corridor is more central to the major employment and population centers than the rail corridor. From the standpoint of “social equity”, reductions of GHG emissions, active transportation users, health, sustainability and recreation all favor the Greenway and the democratization of the freeway to support and prioritized bus transit.

  • drcameron

    Jack, your comments are posed sepatately on Monterey Bay Forum 3/11/18

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  • Update from the RTC:

    The trail only idea also diverts to surface streets, see the latest map.

    Trains will be electric, the 2015 study proved feasibility with 2013 technology, we’ll be using 2024 technology. Caltrans will not widen highway one, even the $100 million 3.5 mile aux lane project has no final Environmental Impact Report, but either way Caltrans is committed to moving from highways to rail.
    $93 million gets us starter service all the way to Pajaro!

    High Speed Rail has nothing to do with our already permitted branch line, except that we will be connected to it! 🙂
    Our rail line is presently certified for freight and allows passenger trains up to 15 miles per hour, we can easily upgrade the line to faster speeds of 45 and 60 mph.

    —Coastal Commission letter: http://tiny.cc/CoastalCommission
    —Regional Transportation Commission: why a greenway will delay construction by 8+ years and cost $32million just to change our mind: http://tiny.cc/RTCTrailOnlyDelay
    —The Rails to Trails Conservancy warning to the RTC about the “Great Santa Cruz Trail (Greenway) report”: http://tinyurl.com/FaultyTrailStudy

    The letter points out errors in the Nelson Nygaard study that Greenway still uses today without correcting the mistakes.
    “…these comments are incorrectly attributed to our Americas Rails with Trails report.”
    “…90% of rail-trails are in trail only corridors… This is accurate, but should not be taken to mean the trail-only projects are inherently preferable.”
    “…the number of rail with trail projects around the country has grown significantly.”
    “…it should be noted that there are numerous examples of trails located immediately adjacent to light rail corridors…”
    “…we look forward to supporting this effort as the development of the trail continues.”

    The conservancy supports the Rail with Trail design which is what we are building now. They do NOT support Greenway.


  • Jack Brown

    Unfortunately most of the other commenters are part of the trail advocacy groups that spread misinformation about the trail and have couldn’t care less if the trail is built at all. They are rail advocates plain and simple. For those of us that do ride know that the the trail design advocated by the rail group is substandard. A good percentage of the trail would be diverted back onto the road where the trail will not fit with a train. Their train (unfunded and not scalable) takes priority. Also note that all of us of that support a trail only on the rail corridor are not seeing it as an ‘end all’ solution. We know a trail by itself will not solve Santa Cruz County’s transportation crisis. A trail will not solve the problem, but a train definitely will not solve the problem. Those of us on the Trail only in the corridor would like to see Bus Rapid Transit along Soquel Avenue, Bus on Shoulder on Highway 1 along with onramp metering and other transportation technology improvements to improve flow between all parts of our county. A train that is unfunded will not be of the most expensive electric one noted by others on this thread. It will be a noisy, dirty diesel. Most of the rail advocates are now pushing for Progressive Rail to take over and to start moving frieght and hazardous materials through the corridor. A trail will best protect our environment and keep commuter and freight traffic where it is already allocated, but moving at a higher speed. This has a far greater impact than trying to place a commuter train where there simply is not the width, nor the population to support it. The cost for rail will be astronomical with no relief to current traffic. The current proposals run well over $100M to $600M and history of rail projects are massively overshooting their budgets. A simple example is the California High Speed Rail project where it was sold to the people as only costing $33B with the federal government paying a third and private business investment covering the rest. Today the cost if esitmated at $77 to $98B with the federal government only proviiding $3.5B in grants and no private investment. Rail in Santa Cruz is a sham. There are better, more efficient ways to solve the problem and it’s time we stop spending more good money on a bad idea for Santa Cruz.

  • Bruce K. Sawhill

    If you’ve ever walked or ridden across Arana Gulch, that trail is 8 feet wide. The Westcliff ped/bike path varies a great deal, but averages about 10 feet. So 16 feet (The Measure D Trail) is a pretty hefty trail! Battery electric trams could operate smoothly and efficiently on the line, right-sized and quiet, with low floors so wheelchairs and bikes could roll right on board. Two way traffic is handled with passing sidings, one set of rails is plenty. Check out http://www.railandtrail.org for more information.

  • Scott Thomas Miller

    The “train that may never happen” argument is misleading and manipulative, and, frankly, makes no sense. You could also say “a wide trail that may never happen.” If the rail-with-trail plan includes a train, the plan includes a train.
    Rail with trail makes the most sense to me.

  • Steve

    I really hope that the tracks will be utilized with quiet, efficient, electric trains that us disabled folks can ride. I would love to be able to ride down to Pajaro Station, where I can ride the rails anywhere in the country. The wife and I have long ago decided to find a new home close to a train station. Exciting times ahead.

  • Clearly, a wider trail won’t help commuters so we need the train to happen ASAP and let the county continue building the trail, which is already going to be 12 to 16 feet wide.

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