TAMC to bite the bullet on Monterey-Castroville route.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
The Transportation Agency for Monterey County will soon choose whether to build a sleek train or extended bus lines between Monterey and Castroville. The coastline stretch could be outfitted with light rail or bus rapid transit, with commuter stops in Seaside, CSU Monterey Bay and Marina.
“Right now, Highway 1 is pretty overcrowded in the morning so this will be a nice alternative,” says Kristen Hoschouer, TAMC associate transportation planner.
Though construction is still years off, selecting an option will allow TAMC to proceed with an environmental impact report, followed by design and engineering. On Sept. 21, TAMC’s Rail Policy Committee will make a recommendation to the TAMC board, which will pick an alternative Sept. 23.
County Supervisor and Rail Committee Member Dave Potter says bus rapid transit could work in the near term, but he favors rail with connections to Santa Cruz. “If we could loop the Bay with rail, you could go to both wharfs in one day,” Potter says.
Light rail also has the potential to connect Monterey to San Francisco, like the old Del Monte Express.
The choice is too close to call for Monterey Councilman and Rail Committee Member Frank Sollecito. “Both models will be very good as far as greenhouse gas emissions and quiet engines,” he says. Light rail would run on diesel-electric engines, the buses would use compressed natural gas or the cleanest fuel available, Hoschouer says.
But Sollecito predicts more people would ride rail than bus, and rail is also more likely to attract developers since it’s more permanent. At the same time, bus rapid transit is more flexible.
Buses could run on a dedicated line along Highway 1 but not be tied to the tracks and could offer a one-seat ride between Salinas and Monterey. Buses are also a little cheaper: Bus rapid transit construction would cost $114.5 million and $3.6 million per year to run. Light rail would cost $128.5 million to build and $4.3 million to run. Funding would come from federal and local transit funds and a possible sales tax.
Service isn’t expected to start until 2014. Phase One would run between Marina and Monterey.
Sollecito says the project would be a good step toward getting cars off busy Monterey intersections. “We can’t widen Del Monte and some of our major thoroughfares,” he says. “We have to increase and improve our public transit.”