RailPAC Participates! Dyson and Dukakis in Santa Barbara

Meeting Report for March 1, 2008, in Santa Barbara
dukeanddenniscrop.jpgCOAST is a Santa Barbara County regional organization promoting environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable transportation and reduced dependency on automobiles. The following report is from the COAST newsletter. RailPAC Director, Dennis Story, (shown with Gov. Dukakis) is a COAST member

The Steel Interstate By Grant House

Why the folks inside the beltway don’t get it is beyond me, said the former Governor of Massachusetts, 1988 Democratic Presidential candidate, recent Amtrak board member and current UCLA professor, Michael Dukakis. He was speaking to a packed Faulkner Gallery gathered to consider the future of tyransportation on the Central Coast. The event was sponsored by ASERT, Alliance for Sustainable and Equitable Regional Transportation, a McCune Foundation-funded joint project of Santa Barbara- based COAST and Ventura-based CAUSE.

Making a case for telling Washington to end the war and build a viable passenger and commuter rail network, Dukakis decried the current administration’s lack of support for rail and proclaimed it’s time to get started on the “Steel Interstate.”

ASERT project director, Carmen Ramirez, welcomed the crowd assembled in Faulkner Gallery and urged people to take action at the local level. Rail Passenger Association of California ( president, Paul Dyson, began the session with a vivid description
of the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead on the way to beginning a commuter rail system.

Ventura County Supervisor, Linda Parks spoke for a renewed commitment to transit and rail in a time when reliance on the single occupant vehicle is breaking the family bank. Citing the pitfalls of continuing the status quo, Parks launched into a passionate and well-informed pitch for Maglev trains to revolutionize interregional transportation in the longer run.

On-TRAC, the Transit and Rail Action for Commuters program initiated by the City of Santa Barbara was next on the agenda. Councilmember Grant House outlined the widely endorsed plan. On-TRAC begins with Amtrak trains between Oxnard and Goleta rescheduled for commuter-friendly service during the morning and evening peak periods. The service will grow to include three dedicated commuter trains, Surfliners, Vista buses,feeder service in Ventura and Oxnard, and distribution service by MTD and private

A fully integrated transit/rail system benefiting Ventura County residents working in Carpinteria, Santa Barbara, and Goleta could provide an alternative to many years of construction-related congestion. House urged those in attendance to support the extension of Santa Barbara County’s ½ cent transportation sales tax. Measure A (formerly Measure D) is set to
include $25 million for commuter rail and dedicated funding for MTD.

Governor Dukakis acknowledged COAST, CAUSE, and ASERT for taking their commitment to alternative transportation, the environment, and social equity into action. Later, over refreshments at Stateside, Kitty Dukakis revealed that she often brings a book to read while Michael lectures. Today, she exclaimed with a smile, the program was so interesting, she left the book in her bag.

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