Monterey County Rail Meeting Report

The Transportation Agency for Monterey County Rail Policy Meeting, held on January 7, 2008
“Progress is being made on the Monterey Branch Line service!”
Reported by Chris Flescher, RailPAC Associate Director

During public comments, one person said that he had rode the Sprinter once, and he was impressed at how high quality the train was. After the project manager for the Sprinter spoke at a recent TAMC meeting, the person drove down to San Diego and rode the Sprinter when it made a test run for the public.

A second person said that he was looking at a website about passenger rail in Romania. He saw a description of a railcar which was very similar to the Sprinter vehicles. According to the website specifications, the dmu railcar can run in regular service as fast as similar vehicles powered by electric catenary.

Progress is being made on the Monterey Branch Line service. Representatives from TAMC have met with city councils, for most of the cities along the route.

A noise study for the trains has been done, and an aerial photo survey has been done. At this time, a topographic survey is in progress, as well as a study to predict ridership for different kinds of bus and rail service. The ridership study should be finished in May, in time for some more community meetings. After the community meetings, the last analysis of alternatives could be done in July.

There are two possibly timelines for performing the Alternatives Analysis, the Environmental Reports, and determining the Locally Preferred Alternative.

The Option 1 was used for the San Jose-Gilroy-Salinas plans. This worked well because the rail service was clearly superior to bus service, and it was good to choose the mode early in the planning process.

The Option 2 process allows more public comment before picking a mode. This may be better for the Monterey Branch Line service, because there isn’t one mode that is clearly better to the others.

A predicted timeline for the service is shown below:

  • Engineering and Design 2009-2011
  • Construction 2012-2013
  • Start of Revenue Service 2014
  • Some comments about the service.

    In Monterey, the location of the service is important. That is, should the vehicles run in a median on the street, in the curb lane, or next to the street?

    2. Some Monterey City Council members seem to be interested in having the line go all the way to Portola Plaza, if it is a rail line.

    3. The Monterey City Council decided that the kayak rental store (and the other two businesses next to it) would stay in the same location, which seems to be on the Catellus parcel of land. This decision would free up some space to restore the old train station building, using part of it as a train station. There is an interest in having the other part of the building used as a visitor center, a museum, and tourist-oriented businesses, like a coffee shop.

    4. A trip to ride the Sprinter would be a very good idea, especially for the members of the Marina City Council.

    The TAMC committee decided to use Option 2 for choosing the mode used on the Branch Line.

    TAMC officials met with the JPB (the group that manages Caltrain). For the San Jose to Salinas Caltrain service, the JPB agreed to send a letter of support to the FTA. Some concerns of the JPB are the availability of rolling stock and crew members to handle the service. TAMC discussed the same issues with the operators of the Capitol Corridor, and ACE trains. It looks like there may be a way to share some vehicles with the Capitol Corridor.

    There was a ridership report for the VTA which was delayed. This caused delays in creating a TAMC ridership model. The TAMC committee expects to have the New Starts Application (for Caltrain, San Jose to Salinas) submitted in June.

    Recently a track capacity study was completed by the UP Railroad. The study showed that with just a few improvements, there should be no impact of Caltrain to Salinas on the UP freight trains.

    The Salinas City Council picked option #18 for the Salinas Intermodal Transportation Center. This plan involves some surface parking, rather than a parking structure, and is much cheaper. This option also involves adaptive re-use of the existing Freight Express Building.

    It appears that the operating costs for Caltrain to Salinas would be $1.2 million per year.

    Santa Cruz County is planning a transportation sales tax, and it looks like their funding distribution will involve using some of the money to improve the Pajaro train station.

    The Monterey County sales tax will not use any money for passenger rail, but it looks like TAMC will be able to get enough for the Caltrain service from other sources.

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