Thursday, January 13, 2011

Only a bureaucrat could make this excuse

I took a look tonight at the City of Monterey's latest version of the new Waterfront Master Plan. My primary interest, as an advocate of rail transportation, is to see that the legal railroad right-of-way (which includes the historic passenger depot near Fisherman's Wharf) is properly used in accord with the city's agreement with Caltrans. This agreement requires the city to actively support the reestablishment of rail service between Monterey and San Francisco. To that end, the city must keep the former Southern Pacific railroad right-of-way available for that purpose, or other other transit uses, such as light rail.

I also have a strong interest in historic preservation. Fortunately the city is dedicated to preserving and restoring the passenger depot building. Unfortunately, Monterey has in recent years grown reluctant to fulfill its obligations to support the return of passenger rail service. This has become increasingly evident in Monterey's waterfront planning process.

When I read the last page of the waterfront plan, I was dumbfounded to find this explanation as to why city planners did not want to use the passenger depot as a terminal for TAMC's proposed light rail service. Under the category of Alternatives Considered (and rejected) it said:

"Light Rail Terminal Station at Passenger Depot: 
This location is too close to the gateway, too visually
prominent, and may detract from showcasing the
historic Passenger Depot."


Read that again. How exactly does using a passenger depot as a passenger depot "detract from showcasing the passenger depot"?

Sorry, Monterey Planning Department, but that just doesn't fly, not from a transportation perspective and certainly  not from a historic preservation perspective. Using the depot for its designed purpose would enhance its status as a historic resource. Indeed, any other use would detract from its historic function and remove the building from its historic context.

To be fair, the planners preferred to place the light rail station near the maritime museum. The alleged advantage here is that it would be slightly closer to downtown, but only by two or three hundred feet. As a practical matter, that's not significant.

If the city really wants to showcase the historic passenger depot, don't convert it to a restaurant, or make it into yet another lifeless museum. Use it as what it is, a passenger depot!


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