Reported By Chris Flescher, RailPAC Associate Director — The RPC will release a RFP (request for proposals) for legal services related to the easement negotiation. This is about the proposed water pipeline that would go underground, in the Monterey branch line row (around Marina). The water agency is doing an appraisal for the easement value, and TAMC wants a legal firm to prepare easement documents. The legal firm will then subcontract the services of an appraiser, and the two will prepare an appraisal for TAMC. The RPC approved sending this request to the TAMC board of directors.
Recently some RPC people met with FTA representatives. The FTA people suggested that TAMC should do analysis of two different alternatives, and this might allow us to qualify for more money. One is the express bus, which is already being studied. The other will be called something like transportation system management (TSM). TSM involves building park and ride lots in the same places where the trains are planned to stop, and running express buses between them. This would make it inexpensive to change the service to rail in the future. The first alternative, express bus, will involve a few highway projects, some of which are already planned for other reasons, and very little construction. One highway project is the Prunedale Improvement Project (separate from the Prunedale Bypass). The PIP involves building some overpasses on Hwy 101 and a median barrier, so there will no longer be left turns across the highway lanes. This is considered the “no-build” alternative. Everything in this paragraph relates to the service Salinas to San Jose (not the one to Marina/Monterey). A few weeks ago, some FTA people visited this area and observed the proposed station locations. They expressed optomism about our chances of getting money.
One thing that happened the day after the meeting was the failure of the countywide transportation sales tax, which would have provided some money for passenger rail. It appears likely that this will delay any future train service. The build alternative (for SJ to Salinas) is 2 round trips a day at first, then possibly going to 3 or 4. For vehicles, TAMC can use the existing Caltrain cars. At this time, VTA is negotiating for the rights to run 10 round trips per day between SJ and Gilroy, and on the existing Caltrain service, there are usually some empty seats south of Millbrae. Therefore, Caltrain has a significant amount of excess capacity around SJ. For the proposed bus services, there is a bus layover place being planned near Fort Ord, but it will not be large enough for the number of buses needed, so more property will have to be bought. For capacity, 2 trains are about the same as 25 buses. The plan is also to have the express buses make a few stops at Caltrain stations north of SJ. The fare schedule assumes that two zones will be added to the Caltrain system south of San Jose (for either buses or trains). It is expected that the ridership will be similar for the two services, because the buses will be in some traffic, and run more slowly, but the trains will travel a longer distance. The build alternative requires 4 bilevel cars, which TAMC can negotiate the use of from Caltrain, while the no-build alternative requires 60 buses. The capital costs for both services should be similar. TAMC expects that the track slot fee (from UP) will be about $5 million per train per year.
For the operating costs (SJ to Salinas), when ridership is relatively low, it is cheaper to run buses. When the ridership reaches a certain point (maybe 300 people per day, or above), then the operating costs for rail are lower. It is important to run a risk analysis, to see if there are other factors that might affect costs or ridership.
For the FTA grant, TAMC is applying for (‘New Starts’); the local funding counts about 50% and the planned transit oriented development (TOD) counts about 50%. TAMC expects to get money from several local sources, and TOD is planned at all stations, except Pajaro.
In contrast, for the Monterey branch line, BRT is likely to turn out as well or better than rail, so TAMC is going to study BRT from Castroville to Monterey very closely. Another thing they will study is some of the concepts presented at the BRT workshop two months ago, including having buses that run around local neighborhoods, and run partway along the BRT corridor. A planner from Eugene, OR, spoke at the BRT conference, and TAMC will look into having him return here to speak at the August RPC meeting.