Greenway Input to UCS

Date: November 14, 2018
To: Commissioners of the RTC,
Cc: City Councils of Watsonville, Scotts Valley, Capitola and Santa Cruz; METRO
Fr: Santa Cruz County Greenway
Subject: Greenway Input to UCS

Dear Chairman Leopold and Commissioners,

Thank you for all the time and resources you have invested in identifying the right transportation choices for our community. Greenway has also spent a large amount of hours examining the UCS. We request that you carefully consider the following due to the complexity of the study’s data and the fact that whatever is decided will impact the lives of all county residents for years to come:

  1. Allow the RTC’s new Executive Director, Guy Preston, to have an adequate amount of time to evaluate the UCS findings and make his recommendations.

  2. Do an objective Alternatives Analysis of the options on the rail corridor which includes input from METRO (see METRO memo pages 223 - 231: and fully complies with Measure D’s language of studying “transportation uses of the corridor through an open and transparent public process.”

  3. Authentically seek community consensus to ensure fair and equitable outcomes.

As a justification for delaying any further action on the UCS, we have taken the liberty to outline some of the main issues with the study for your review.

A close look at the benefits of each Scenario shows they are nearly identical and within the study’s margin of error, thus making them essentially useless for comparison purposes.

When Greenway examined all the benefits, including; total collisions, mean auto speed, person trips, economic vitality, tax revenue, cost associated with collisions, vehicle miles traveled, criteria pollutants, CO2 emissions, household transportation costs, and equity considerations, the benefits do not vary much from Scenario to Scenario. In fact, there isn’t much difference from the Baseline or No Build Scenarios.

The RTC staff’s “preferred scenario” is recommending we spend 76% of capital on projects in the rail corridor which will not benefit Watsonville residents for 20 years.

South County will bear the brunt of the cost to maintain these projects via a regressive sales tax, which is already close to the statutory limit (and requires approval of 2/3s of all county residents). In fact, the UCS shows only 3,698 roundtrip passenger train riders per day countywide and the previous Rail Transit Feasibility Study showed only 300 of those coming from Watsonville. In addition, in the area in which South County residents have the most pain--Hwy 1—the UCS predicts there will be NO change in average mean auto speed from now until 2035. So the RTC staff is recommending no improvement for South County residents in their daily struggle to go north in the morning and south in the afternoon.

The “preferred scenario” recommendation is even more perplexing when you look at the cost per user over the next 30 years.

Greenway has calculated the cost per user of the four different modalities included in the study; passenger train, Hwy 1 HOV lane, Trail Only, and METRO. The analysis looks at a 30 year period since this is a reasonable timeframe for an investment of this type and the time period of a needed sales tax to fund the operating expenses of a train. All the data comes from the UCS except for METRO, where we are using publicly available capital, operating expense and ridership data.

The calculations show that a train user is 16 times more expensive than an incremental user of an HOV lane, 16 to 34 times more expensive than a trail user, and 1.6 times more expensive than a METRO user. The use of “battery electric trains,” even if available in the next twenty years, will not change this calculation significantly since ridership forecasts are so low.

Transportation Capital Cost &
Opex Over 30 Yrs
Users/30 Years Cost/User
Passenger Train $1,321M 81M $16
Highway 1 HOV $615M 548M $1
Trail Only $116M-$240M 246M $0.47-$0.98
METRO $1,533M 156M $10

All capital and opex data is taken from the UCS, all METRO data, is taken from published METRO sources (see Appendix below for further detail)

The RTC is proposing locking up the corridor for 10 years North of milepost 7 to preserve the tracks for a passenger train in 20 years if ever. At the same time, it is providing no relief to Hwy 1 commuters.

South County commuters will bear the greatest harm to their health and well being.

No change in commuter time will inevitably lead to increased stress and poor health caused by sitting in hours of traffic. CO2 emissions don’t change dramatically in the four scenarios, so more emphasis should be paid to short and medium-term health, personal time loss and real business costs to those stuck in traffic. Not to mention the lost opportunity for a healthy lifestyle provided for by the use of a Greenway for safe, active transportation and an affordable means of exercise and important community building that could have a profound impact on South County residents.

Let’s create a vision for an Optimal Use Scenario (OUS) that benefits all including South County residents!

There is broad consensus on most of the individual projects delineated in the UCS. These include those that provide real transportation value the county can afford, can implement in a reasonable timeframe and positively impact South County residents. Why not implement an Optimal Use Scenario that includes:

  • Freight operations serving Watsonville businesses

  • Bus on Shoulder on Hwy 1

  • Additional Auxiliary Lanes from Rio Del Mar to Freedom Blvd.

  • Ramp Metering

  • Mission Street Intersection Improvements

  • Soquel and Freedom Intersection Improvements

  • Protected Bike Lanes throughout the county

  • Bus Rapid Transit on Soquel/Freedom

  • Trail Only on the Rail Corridor

The above projects would result in TWO north/south public transit options with optimized traffic flow, one on Hwy 1 and one on Soquel/Freedom. These projects are affordable and nearer-term public transit options for Watsonville residents, who will come to learn that they will pay a disproportionate share of the cost of any sales tax to fund a train, with few of them able to leave their cars at home due to the high cost of train fares, inconvenient schedules, first mile/last mile connections, and need for flexibility.

All of the projects listed above cost about $450M, and together with Measure D funds and state/federal grants, we have a realistic chance of implementing them ALL in the next 10 years and maintaining them thereafter.

Bring the community together by making the right choices for our transportation future.

Thus far, the Capitola voters have been the only Santa Cruz County residents able to express their opinion about the use of the corridor by way of Measure L. Greenway believes that ALL Santa Cruz County residents deserve the right to express their preference at the ballot box on these important transportation choices.

“Do residents of Santa Cruz County want to spend $1.3 billion over the next 30 years, inclusive of an additional 3⁄4% sales tax to fund passenger rail between Santa Cruz and Watsonville?”

This is the question that Greenway will seek to answer moving forward. Please join us in ensuring that ALL residents are considered in the transportation decisions our community faces, and that your decisions have real impact in our lives in the next 10 years!


Passenger Train

An electric train has a capital cost of $550M, and $13.2M per year in operating costs or $396M over 30 years. Additional buses for transit connections have a capital cost of $11.7M, and annual operating costs of $12.1M or $363M over 30 years. So total cost of ownership for a train and additional buses is $550M + $396M + $11.7M + $363M = $1.321 billion over 30 years. (Table B-10 and Table 39)

According to the UCS, a train on the rail corridor has estimated ridership of 7,396 people per day, or 2.7M per year. Over 30 years total ridership would be 81M. (Table E-2)

Highway 1 HOV Lane

An HOV lane on Hwy 1 has a capital cost of $453M, and $5.4M annual operating and maintenance expense times 30 years = $162M. So total cost of ownership for an HOV lane for 30 years is $453M + $162M = $615M. (Table B-2)

Hwy 1 accommodates about 100,000 cars per day in each direction, most with single drivers, so to be conservative, let’s say Hwy 1 currently delivers to their destinations about 100,000 persons per day or 36M per year. One additional lane has the capacity to deliver about 18M persons per year, or 548M people over 30 years.

Trail Only

We strongly dispute the UCS cost estimate for Trail Only of $222M and have provided documentation from Alta Planning and Design with an estimate of $98M. To be fair, let’s use these two numbers as the range for the capital cost and add the $606K annual operating expense, which totals $18M for 30 years. So total cost of ownership over 30 years is $98M + $18M = $116M up to $222M + 18M = $240M. (Table B-13 and Alta memo 10.18.18)

Per the UCS, Trail Only can accommodate about 22,518 people per day, which translates to 8.2M annually or 246M over 30 years. (Table E-1)


The capital budget of METRO in FY18 for revenue producing buses was $9.4M or $282M in capital over 30 years. The FY18 operating budget is $46.7M per year less approximately $5M for ParaCruz = $41.7M, or $1,251M over 30 years. METRO has ridership of about 5.2M people per year. Over 30 years, METRO carries 156M passengers at an operating cost of $1,251M + capital cost of $282M = $1,533M total cost of ownership.

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