If you have the time…

If you have the time, bandwidth, an interest in transportation, and a sense of humor, the “Transit Corridor Alternatives Analysis” survey may be just the ticket! It’s online until May 11 at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/TCAA_Virtual_Meeting and is sponsored by the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission. [Unfortunately the only saved version of the survey after the RTC May 11 2020 deletion is this un-formatted version: https://laselva.us/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/TCAA-Virtual-Open-House-Input-Questions-3.pdf ]

The survey largely deals with proposed uses of the rail branch line, the 32 miles of right of way that wends through the county, and would make a perfect active transportation corridor.  Instead, you will see no reference to walking or biking or running or skating in the survey, but you will be offered the choice of gondolas or hyperloop and other transit alternatives.  Even the Regional Transportation Commission’s straw man, the so-called “Rail Trail”, has been thrown under the bus or maybe into the hyperloop.  Nary a mention of the Rail Trail, much less a real trail.

Meanwhile, over a year ago, on March 13 2019, RTC Executive Director Guy Preston appeared before the California Transportation Commission to explain his bureau’s approach to the rail branch line.  The Commissioners were not gentle with Preston.

Commissioner Jim Ghielmetti: “I guess I’m the only one up here that’s here long enough for the start of this project in August of ‘03.  I applaud you for trying to get this thing back on track.  My concern is I don’t see a business plan in front of us nor a schedule for passenger rail. Have you developed that yet?”

Preston replies: “We don’t have a business plan for passenger rail commuter service at this time”

Commissioner Ghielmetti: “Well let’s see, 2003 to 2019, we can’t wait much longer; is there any way to expedite this?” … “Can you give the Commission a timetable or schedule of when we’re going to see something?”

Commission Chair Fran Inman: “I don’t know, if it’s not operational it sounds like the short line really isn’t able to fulfill their agreements.”

Commissioner Ghielmetti: “Well I guess my question is ah it’s really a community decision, you know.  Proposition 116 was to provide rail service and that’s why the money went to the community. Now if the community wants to get together and reimburse the state for that acquisition, that’s really a community issue, not an issue before this commission, so they need to figure that out.”

Right. In lieu of a business plan from Executive Director Guy Preston or RTC Commission Chair John Leopold here are some ideas.  In RTC-speak they might be called preferred local alternative analysis alternatives. Let’s take a shot. 

Alternative A: Allocate the eight percent Measure D money devoted to the rail corridor to a fund to repay the state its $11 million.  It would take four or five years on layaway.

Alternative B: Seek relief from the legislature in a bill recognizing the three failed good faith attempts to meet the proposition 116 requirements and to forgive the debt.  Many legislators would recognize that Prop 116 was a poorly drafted one-size-fits-all solution and that Santa Cruz County is held hostage to this “solution”.

Alternative C: Engage counsel to explore whether or not the county has satisfied the requirements of Proposition 116.   As Commissioner Paul Van Konynenburg suggested: “Maybe at some point in the future we can get an opinion as to what requirements have been met and what haven’t.”

It has taken wallowing leadership to get us to the place of gondolas and hyperloops as solutions.  An additional alternative that deserves analysis:  It is time for RTC Executive Director Guy Preston and RTC Chairman John Leopold to go. 


Excerpted and published in Good Times Santa Cruz, May 6, 2020. https://goodtimes.sc/santa-cruz-news/opinion/opinion-may-6-2020/