TAMC Rail Policy Committee Meeting Report

Transportation Agency for Monterey County Rail Policy Committee
August 4, 2008 Meeting
Reported by Chris Flescher, RailPAC Director, Salinas

For the Monterey Branch Line service (Castroville to Monterey), there are questions about building the busway or light rail line in two phases.

There are two alternatives and each seems to be very competitive for receiving federal funding. Either one will have an intercity connection in Castroville. They are bus rapid transit (BRT) and light rail (LRT). Three other options have also been considered: enhanced bus service, no-build, and a combination of BRT and LRT.

The no-build would involve a few freeway improvements to help bus service and more service on MST route 20 (which connects Salinas, Marina and Monterey).

The enhanced bus service would cost $46 M, and provide slightly faster trips between Marina and Salinas.

The BRT and LRT combination would cost $327 M, and the TAMC committee thinks it is a bad idea, because the cost is too much to qualify for federal small starts funding.

BRT service and LRT service are the two options that the TAMC committee is most interested in, and either one would have two phases of construction.

The first phase of BRT would be a busway between Monterey and Marina, and buses would use regular streets between Marina and Castroville. The cost would be $143 M. The second phase would be a busway from Marina to Castroville. The cost would be $36 M, with a large part going towards rehabilitating a bridge over the Salinas River.

The first phase of LRT would be light rail from Monterey to Marina, and a shuttle bus would connect Marina to Castroville. The cost would be $175 M. The second phase would be light rail from Marina to Castroville, with a cost of $42 M.

If the two-phase LRT or BRT plan is adopted, then Marina Green Road would be the location of the northernmost station in the first phase.

Some potential funding sources for construction include the Federal government, the one-half cent countywide transportation sales tax which will be on the ballot in the fall, and Fort Ord Reuse Authority (FORA) fees on future construction of buildings on land that FORA controls.

The TAMC committee will hold public meetings on the modal choice this fall, then conduct an alternatives analysis in December. It will choose a Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA) in January 2009.

The expected service plan (after both construction phases are complete) will involve many trips between Monterey and Marina, with just a few going from Monterey all the way to Castroville. Some of those trips will connect with Caltrain in Castroville. Based on current bus ridership, there appears to be a large demand for Monterey to Marina travel, but not very much for Monterey to Castroville travel.

One question raised in the meeting was: how will the buses or light rail vehicles turn around in Monterey? The buses will have to go around the block to turn around, and the light rail vehicles will be double-ended, so they will not need to turn around.

At a recent workshop, a lot of interest was shown in having the line go all the way to Portola Plaza in Monterey, rather than terminating at Fisherman’s Wharf or the existing Monterey Transit Center.

Either mode will require buying a small amount of land, mostly to create a few park and ride lots.

The TAMC committee wants to encourage people to get to the transit stations by bicycling or walking, so the lots will not have very many spaces. Most of them will be on land that TAMC already owns.

The TAMC committee received a letter from Ron Pasquinelli, who is the president of the Monterey County Taxpayers Association. In his letter, he asked the TAMC committee to choose the BRT mode. His reason was that during the first phase, the buses would travel on regular streets between Marina and Castroville, going slowly, but not requiring a transfer, while LRT would require a transfer to a bus in Marina, until the second phase is completed. Transfers increase the amount of travel time and ridership is likely to be smaller when more transfers are required.

If the BRT option is chosen, then the entire right of way north of Contra Costa Avenue is wide enough for two busway lanes. One plan for the busway south of there is to have just one lane with passing lanes in several locations. Along the “Window on the Bay” park, having two lanes may be a problem. One idea being considered is to turn one lane on the adjacent street (Fremont) into a busway for travel in the opposite direction of the other busway. Monterey Salinas Transit (MST) is currently studying the idea of a busway on Fremont.

One important question is: Will buses stay on the busway for their entire trips, or will they travel on surface streets along with using part of the busway? The answer could help determine how much of the busway needs to be two lanes. It appears that a separate study session, to address this issue, may be necessary.

The TAMC committee voted to drop the “combination BRT and LRT” mode from further consideration. Therefore, the end result might be a busway and it might be light rail, but it will not use both modes.

The countywide sales tax measure will be on the ballot in November and it will be Measure Z.

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