TAMC Rail Policy Committee meeting

Transportation Agency for Monterey County
Rail Policy Committee,
September 10, 2007. Salinas
Reported for RailPAC by Chris Flescher

There is a strong interest in trying to reduce the cost for the Branch Line Project (the light rail and/or bus rapid transit from Castroville to Monterey). Parsons has come up with a list of options to consider:

1. Make the project go from downtown Monterey to the northern end of Marina, instead of Monterey to Castroville.

2. End the line in Monterey at Washington Street instead of Portola Plaza. This would shorten it by a few blocks. It would also place it near the historic building that was once a train station. There is also a possibility that the Monterey bus transit center will be moved there in the future (that is currently a few blocks away in a different direction).

3. Defer construction of stations at Canyon Del Rey Blvd and 1st Street (these are both in Seaside).

4. Reduce the size of the park and ride lot at 8th Street in Marina. Also, defer creating a park and ride lot at Casa Verde Way in Monterey.

5. Reclassify the MST transit center proposed for 8th Street as a bus project instead of a rail project. This will reduce the cost of the rail/bus rapid transit project making the rail/bus rapid transit project appear cheaper, although the money will need to be made up elsewhere.

6. Defer construction of a second light rail platform at Beach Road (in Marina).

7. Defer construction of a second light rail track in 3 locations.

8. Reduce the width of the bus rapid transit guideway from 12 feet to 11.5 feet and the shoulder width from 4 feet to 2 feet.

9. Reduce the station amenity package. I believe this means doing things like making smaller, more plain benches at the stations, fewer ticket vending machines, and a simpler roof over the platform.

10. For light rail, create shorter platforms which will only allow for 1-car trains, instead of 2-car trains (which is now planned).

11. Use lower cost bus rapid transit vehicles.

12. Remove the combination bus rapid transit/light rail transit alternative from further consideration. This means, study having just light rail and study having just bus rapid transit, but don’t study a system that uses both modes (which was considered earlier).

TAMC will apply for the money under the Small Starts program, so having a low cost is very important. The limits for Small Starts are a total capital cost of $250 million or less, and a total federal grant of $75 million or less.

One thing to consider is that the city of Monterey would like to have a transit center next to the historic train station (by Washington Street, as mentioned earlier).

Another consideration is to avoid large parking lots near city centers, if possible, and only have such lots on the edge of cities, or outside them. This would allow for more transit oriented development in the city centers, and more pedestrian friendly areas next to the city center stations.

For the Caltrain extension (Gilroy to Salinas), people from TAMC met with a FTA official, who said that the FTA wanted a more detailed modeling analysis (for the expected ridership). In November, people from TAMC will meet with a ridership modeler who works for the FTA, in order to learn more about creating a better model.

A capacity analysis of the rail line appears to show that most of the capacity problems come from the proposed Coast Daylight train (San Francisco to Los Angeles), not the Caltrain extension.

On September 18 and October 2, there will be meetings with Salinas City Council members, where TAMC will ask the Salinas council to pick either layout 17 or 18 for the station and surrounding area, and with some owners of property next to the station. The layouts 17 and 18 are nearly the same, but one has a garage, while the other has entirely surface parking.

The proposed High Speed Rail could impact the Caltrain extension, and TAMC officials testified in favor of the Pacheco Pass alignment for the HSR line. The state cut a lot of money from the transit budget, but it cut less than expected from the HSR planning group.

The Bay Area has created regional rail plans, describing what rail lines are planned to be running in the next 20 to 30 years. The planned Monterey County projects are now mentioned in the Bay Area regional plans.

If Caltrain is electrified, the cost could be about $470 million (this is not counting electric powered locomotives). The project would go from San Francisco to San Jose. Trains starting in Salinas would probably run from Salinas to San Francisco, with no change of locomotives, so they would be diesel powered, under the overhead wires, north of San Jose. The project might start in 2008, and then it would be completed in 2014.

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