Monday, October 5, 2009

Put trains, not busses, on the railroad tracks!

On October 28th the Transportation Agency for Monterey County will decide how to develop the Monterey Branch Rail Line between downtown Monterey and the junction with the Union Pacific Coast Line at Castroville. The choices are to restore the tracks as a light rail corridor, or pave it over for a dedicated bus rapid transit line.

I cannot stress strongly enough that we need to support the rail option. The original reason TAMC purchased the Monterey Branch Line was to restore intercity rail service between Monterey and the San Francisco bay area. Frankly, I have grown dismayed that TAMC has strayed so far from this goal, favoring mere enhancements to existing local transit services. I never hear people asking for more bus service, or local rail service, but I hear many people wondering when they'll be able to ride a train to San Francisco.

Only the light rail option would eventually allow for intercity rail service, so there should be no question on this matter. The rail right of way should be developed as a rail line and not a bus line.

California has some of the best and most popular regional rail services in the country. Three popular regional rail corridors, Caltrain, the Capitol Corridor and Altamont Commuter Express, converge just 60 miles from here in San Jose. Connections from Monterey would provide local travelers with a wide variety of destinations from that hub, including San Francisco, Sacramento, Auburn, and Stockton, along with planned service extensions to Redding and Reno. It would also connect to the future high-speed rail corridor between San Francisco and Los Angeles. It goes without saying that tourists from all over California could also ride to Monterey.

It would be pure foolishness to pave the right of way for buses and eliminate the possibility of linking Monterey to the state's growing intercity rail network!

Rail also has significant advantages for local service. Additional capacity can easily be added by adding cars to a rail vehicle, without increasing labor costs for additional drivers. A rail vehicle is also more comfortable and provides a much smoother ride than buses, making rail more attractive to a wider range of potential users.

If this concerns you, please contact TAMC and urge them to adopt the rail option. Also contact the TAMC representative from your city, and your county supervisor before they vote.


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