Monterey County TAMC meeting report

TAMC Rail Policy Committee 2-2-2009
Reported by Chris Flescher RailPAC Associate Director, Salinas
For the Monterey Branch Line (MBL) project, the alternatives analysis is happening. All alternatives will connect with the future Caltrain extension in Castroville.

Two alternatives appear to be the most viable, and the service could start operation in 2014/2015. The alternatives being studied are:

  • Enhanced bus: this needs to be studied, but is unlikely to happen.
  • Bus Rapid Transit (Brt) option 1: Monterey to north Marina on MBL.
  • Brt option 2: Monterey to Castroville on MBL.
  • Light Rail (Lrt) option 1: Monterey to north Marina on MBL (plus a shuttle bus from Marina to Castroville).
  • Lrt option 2: Monterey to Castroville.
  • Some Brt benefits include the ability to drive off the guideway, and having a one-seat ride from Monterey to both Salinas and Castroville.

    Some Lrt benefits include the greater appearance of being permanent than the busway, the likelihood of drawing more “choice” riders (those who can drive), and the possibility of someday having an intercity train all the way to San Jose or San Francisco.

    Some cities are interested in having Transit Oriented Development (TOD) near the stations. TAMC and MST each own land at 8th Street and would like to have TOD on that land in the future.

    At this time, the ridership on MST route 20 along the MBL corridor is 2,200 per day. There are now predictions for ridership in 2015 using each alternative.

  • No build: 2,500
  • Enhanced bus: 4,000
  • Brt 1: 4,700
  • Brt 2: 4,775
  • Lrt 1: 4,675
  • Lrt 2: 4,750
  • Some capital costs may be funded by FORA (Fort Ord Reuse Authority) fees and regional transportation impact fees.

    TAMC expects to select the preferred alternative in April 2009. Next month, there will be a full report available of the complete results of the Alternatives Analysis Study.

    Also described were some other transit lines that TAMC members recently visited. The Orange Line in Los Angeles carries about 25,000 people a day. It has an adjacent bike path for part of the way. The length is 14 miles and $15 million was spent on landscaping. The doors on the vehicles swing out, so there is a small gap between the bus floor and the raised curb. The Sprinter in San Diego County is mostly single track and it carries 8,000 – 9,000 people per day. It is mostly single track, and it serves two colleges. However, there are very few destinations within walking distance of the stations.

    The Executive Summary of the (TAMC) alternatives analysis will go out to the cities that the line will serve.

    Brt 1 and Brt 2 have very similar expected riderships, and so do Lrt 1 and Lrt 2. These figures all assume that the Caltrain service will not be running yet, even though that is expected to start a few years before the Branch Line service is running.

    The ridership estimates do not take into account the idea that light rail tends to be more attractive to riders than any bus service.

    A lot of “transit dependents” currently travel between Salinas, Marina and Monterey. Because of that, enhancing part of the service (between Marina and Monterey) might not produce a large increase in ridership.

    The cost per rider on certain segments of the San Jose light rail is higher than the light rail TAMC is proposing here. TAMC believes that the ridership estimates may be quite a bit lower than what will actually occur, because currently no fixed guideway line exists here.

    Tom Rowley (who was the head of a traffic and transit advisory committee in Monterey) spoke.

    In 1985, his group came to the conclusion that the endpoint of any transit line
    needs to be within sight distance of Fisherman’s Wharf, to help out tourists. Trying to put rail next to the Window on the Bay is a very bad idea, and so is requiring a transfer. Tourists to Monterey should be a large part of the ridership.
    Light rail may be very expensive, so it is a bad idea.

    At a recent Transportation Research Board conference, climate change/environment seemed to be a big issue, and it is likely to get bigger in the future. That could lead to more money for passenger rail projects.

    In December 2008, the 4 step ridership model (for the Caltrain extension to Salinas) was finished. The first estimate was based on Altamount Commuter Express (ACE) ridership, but the FTA wanted it based on Caltrain ridership.

    One important feature of Caltrain ridership is that it dropped significantly for the segment of San Jose to Gilroy, between 2001 and the present. Three factors could explain the decline. In June 2003, the 101 freeway was widened south of San Jose. In August 2005, there was a Caltrain service reduction between San Jose and Gilroy. In January 2008, the Gilroy to San Jose express bus started running.

    The results of the Caltrain extension ridership model are as follows: opening year – 2,016 riders, and 2035 – 5,400 riders (per day). For comparison, the express bus to Gilroy carries 1,030 riders per day.

    This year, TAMC will be completing the New Starts Application for the Caltrain Extension. TAMC will also develop thematic maps, an environmental assessment, and circulation studies (I think this refers to the areas around each station).

    It is likely that the design and engineering phase will start this year.

    The state High Speed Rail bond allows $950 million for passenger rail that would connect with the future rail line. There is a desire to use some of the money to start the Coast Daylight train, and that would provide improvements to the rail line between Gilroy and Salinas.

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