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TAMC October Meeting Report

Reported by Chris Flescher, RailPAC, Salinas
New developments from Soledad, the Coast Daylight, Castroville, and a Projects update.

Presentation from City of Soledad representatives
Soledad is planning to buy some land from the UP railroad for a future station. Soledad recently finished creating master plans for several issues, like parks and schools. One plan dealt with transportation.

There are many potential users of a Soledad train station. The two prisons there have about 3000 employees. The Pinnacles Park, the wineries, and the Mission Soledad are popular with tourists.

The city general plan, for transportation, includes pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods and an intermodal transportation center in the downtown area.

Four planning areas for future growth may allow 50,000 more residents than there are currently in the city.

The city planners are working on design guidelines for Transit Oriented Development (TOD), and infill development near a future train station. Some students of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo are creating a plan for downtown TOD.

There is an interest in slightly relocating the rails through downtown, which would free up about 10 acres for an intermodal station and TOD.

Coast Daylight Update
There is a possibility of having stations in Pajaro, Salinas, Soledad and King City. That would result in four Monterey County stations used by the train.

UP will perform a capacity study for this project. The previous study showed that with certain improvements, there would be capacity for the Coast Daylight train.

TAMC would like to tell the state about the problems with the proposed 6 month timeline for UP studies. The state could possibly pressure UP to reconsider the 6 month rule. The concern is that in government, it is hard to get any kind of project going in just 6 months.

Castroville Station Update
TAMC is now actively working on a design for a station at what is called Site 1. There was once a station in that location.

TAMC is now considering 4 parking lot layouts and 3 platform locations.

UP apparently wants a center platform station, and that would be somewhat more challenging to design.

Because of the Coastal Commission opposition, TAMC has decided to drop consideration of Site 2 for the station. There are only a few people living near Site 1, but that presents more opportunities for future TOD. There are some unused industrial buildings nearby. If those buildings are turned into housing after the station is built, then fewer neighbors will be around in the near future who might oppose such a project.

One significant thing about the location of Site 1 is that it is right at the junction with the Monterey Branch Line.

At Site 2, a station will not go there, but that is still the location of a proposed pedestrian undercrossing. That project is continuing to move forward.

Projects Specification and Estimates

TAMC could lose $2-4 million (in STIP money) if they don’t move ahead faster. This is money for preliminary engineering. There is a time limit on this money. The preliminary engineering is one step of a larger contract.

TAMC wants to change the timeline slightly, so the preliminary engineering is split apart from the rest of the contract. This would probably allow TAMC to get federal money for a larger fraction of the entire project.

TAMC was ready to use this money for several years, but there was a concern that spending it at a certain time would hurt the “local match.”

It appears that TAMC will soon move into the main engineering phase.

The TAMC RPC approved what the staff recommended, which is to extend the contract with Parsons and to have Parsons perform the preliminary engineering on the original schedule.

One member suggested using native plants, when possible, when doing landscaping around the future stations.

On October 20, TAMC will make a presentation to the Monterey City Council on the issue of bus versus rail for that area. This will give TAMC a better idea of how the Monterey City Government feels about this issue.

Reports

TAMC May Meeting Report

TAMC Rail Policy Committee meeting May 4, 2009.
Reported by Chris Flescher
TAMC is trying to find a consultant to write the environmental documents relating to the Monterey Branch Line (MBL) service.

TAMC released a request for proposals, but Parsons-Brinkerhoff was the only group that responded. Parsons has already performed some work on both the Caltrain to Salinas and MBL projects.

The current plan is to select the preferred alternative for the MBL in September. Between now and the end of August, TAMC will formally study phasing alternatives, such as not constructing certain stations for a while, in order to save money.

The expected start of service is now 2014 or 2015. There will be a “Town Hall” meeting in Monterey on May 14.

For the Caltrain extension, TAMC has submitted what they called a “Make the Case” document. It includes a map showing all the connecting bus services, and it is a requirement to qualify for Federal New Starts money. TAMC also finished a Cultural Resources Technical Report.

TAMC is trying to get a “Hardship Acquisition” finding with one property owner near the Salinas train station. The owner supports the project but wants to sell the property soon. Receiving such a finding would allow TAMC to buy the property now, even though the station area plans are not complete. The property is necessary for the future Intermodal Station.

In the future, Salinas Renaissance Partners (SRP) will make presentations to the Salinas City Council and Monterey County Board of Supervisors about their proposed downtown Salinas redevelopment plan. SRP is the group that recently had several planning sessions in Salinas to refine their ideas for redevelopment of a section of downtown that includes the train station, the library, the City Hall, and the police station. TAMC supports the idea of building a parking garage on top of what is now a parking lot, next to the train station.

The State Coastal Coalition wrote a letter to TAMC, saying they support Site 1 for the proposed Castroville Station, although TAMC greatly prefers Site 2 for several reasons. Around Site 1 is mostly industry, so creating pedestrian-friendly (residential and commercial) development next to it would be difficult. The problem with Site 2 is that developing it would cause some permanent loss of farmland. If the station goes on Site 2, TAMC may be required to replace the farmland loss in a 2 to 1 ratio. The City of Castroville is updating their general plan, and TAMC may end up applying for permission (from the Coastal Commission) to build the station separately from the Castroville application (to the Coastal Commission) to create the new city general plan.

Chairman Dave Potter recently met with the Amtrak president, Joseph Boardman, who said that Amtrak is interested in partnering with local cities and organizations to promote train travel. Potter and the president discussed the efforts to start the Coast Daylight train. They were in a business car attached to the end of the regular Coast Starlight train, and Pete Rodgers was there too.

Recently TAMC sent a letter to the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), asking the FTA to support the Caltrain extension. The letter was signed by all the Federal Representatives in districts that the current Caltrain line passes through, as well as both California Senators.

TAMC will look at the schedules to see if a Capitol Corridor extension to Salinas would be possible.

The Salinas Renaissance Partners has a long term plan to put a block of Market Street in a tunnel near the train station. This would encourage more people to walk between downtown and the train station, because they would not have to deal with crossing the wide and very busy street.

Reports

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.

    Uncategorized

    TAMC Rail Policy Committee meeting of Sep 8, 2008

    Report by Chris Flescher

    The first part of the meeting was news of passenger rail south of here.  The local transit agency in San Luis Obispo County offers free transfers from the Pacific Surfliner trains.  At this time, in Grover Beach, the passenger train platform is on one side of the tracks, but the stop for connecting buses is on the other side of the tracks.  There is an interest in changing the layout of the station, so that passengers making a transfer between trains and buses will not have to cross the tracks.  Recently, the Coast Starlight began to stop at Paso Robles.  Some other issues include: on the LOSSAN corridor, a study was done about service improvement projects, and about 20 improvements were found that can implemented quickly and relatively cheaply; Orange County wants to have mid-day stops on some long distance trains; soon there will be a single statewide timetable booklet, which will include the Capitol Corridor trains (whose schedule is not in the present timetable booklet); and about 50% of delays on Pacific Surfliner trains come from commuter or other Amtrak trains, so freight trains are not the biggest problem at this time. 

    Proposition 1B only provides $400 million for intercity passenger rail, while the existing services need about $80 million per year.

    The Coast Rail Coordinating Council (CRCC) did a capacity analysis most recently in 2005.  The group’s biggest objective is to get the Coast Daylight train started.  That train would need about $6 million per year in operating costs. 

    Caltrans/SLOCOG and TAMC have programmed $26 million for the service.  There will be $150 million from the state to purchase new railcars, but they probably won’t arrive until 2012.  There should be 20 refurbished Amtrak railcars coming to California in the near future. 

    One issue that needs to be studied is the clearance for the railcars in the Caltrain tunnels and the future Transbay Terminal. 

    If the new railcars are going to be ready in April 2011, then the state budget will need to be changed in 2009, in order to provide operating money for the Coast Daylight train, in the Fiscal Year 2010/2011. 

    Pete Rodgers (of SLOCOG) said that the state does not fund the Coast Starlight, so the associated infrastructure is not in great shape.  For example, at the Salinas station, there is an announcement system of the expected arrival times of trains, but it does not work well. 

    There has been discussion of having a bond or sales tax in Soledad, and the money would go towards paying to have Amtrak stop in Soledad, and staffing a station there. 

    It appears that the Coast Daylight train will stop in Pajaro, and it will also stop in King City and/or Soledad. 

    The statewide bond for high speed rail, if passed, will have some money for connecting rail services, and some of that could go towards the Coast Daylight. 

    Debbie Hale mentioned that she was in San Diego recently for a conference, and she rode the new Sprinter train in Oceanside.  She also said that inside the trains are large signs, describing the connecting bus lines for each station.  There is an interest in having people from TAMC take a tour of the Sprinter, along with the Orange Line bus rapid transit in Los Angeles. 

    A representative from Santa Cruz County mentioned that the county is doing well in negotiations with UP to buy the rail line (that runs from Watsonville to Davenport).  He expects that the sale will happen in the near future

    Uncategorized

    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.

    Uncategorized

    TAMC Rail Policy Committee meeting

    Transportation Agency for Monterey County Rail Policy Committee
    Meeting Report for June 2, 2008
    By Chris Flescher, RailPAC Associate Director

    TAMC is still studying alternatives for the Monterey Branch Line

    There are three being considered.

  • 1. Enhanced bus service. This has a capital cost estimate of $46 million.
  • 2. New combination of bus rapid transit (brt) and rail. This would have for phase 1, brt from Monterey to Marina, and for phase 2, intercity rail from Marina to San Francisco. The total capital cost estimate is $185 million, with about $135 million for just phase 1.
  • 3. Light rail and intercity. This would have for phase 1, light rail from Monterey to Marina, and for phase 2, light rail from Marina to Castroville and/or intercity rail from Monterey to San Francisco. The capital cost estimate is $217 million.
  • The previous combination of light rail and intercity had a capital cost estimate of $327 million, which would make it ineligible for New Starts funding. That requires a cost of less than $200 million. These three “new” alternatives all seem to be federally competitive, meaning that they are similar to projects that have received federal funding under New Starts.

    TAMC had considered two different processes for choosing the mode, which involved doing intermediate EIR studies for modes at different times in the process. It previously appeared that TAMC would use Method 2 to pick the travel mode, but now it looks like TAMC will use Method 1. These two methods have been described in the minutes of earlier TAMC meetings.

    Using Method 1, the LPA (locally preferred alternative) will be chosen in Jan 2009. Method 1 will require less time to study the different modes, and because of that, the cost of producing studies will be less.

    The federal government provides a significant amount of funding for light rail and commuter rail, but not for intercity rail. The desire in the past of TAMC (from 1992 to 2001) was to have intercity rail between Monterey and San Francisco. In the last few years, TAMC has been closely studying commuter rail between Monterey and Castroville, as well as light rail and brt on the same corridor.

    There are different interests between the governments of Seaside and Marina. Seaside would like a direct line between Seaside and Castroville. Seaside opposes having brt from Seaside to Marina and then rail from Marina to Castroville, requiring a transfer. One person from Seaside asked “why build brt only as far north as Marina?” Another consideration is that having both brt and rail in the same row will be very expensive, which means that the chances of getting federal funding for it are low. Marina supports having brt from Monterey and Seaside to Castroville, but built in two phases, with Monterey to Marina first.

    It appears that the main part of the agenda for the following meeting will be to discuss building brt in a single phase, from Monterey to Castroville, and what the cost of that project is.

    The TAMC committee members want to discuss the scope of work for Woodside (a consulting agency) to negotiate a deal with the JPB for Caltrain service to Salinas. TAMC expected the total consulting cost to be a certain amount, but now the expected cost is turning out to be significantly higher.

    There will be a bicycle/pedestrian undercrossing in Castroville, and there is an interest in finishing this project before the future Castroville station opens nearby.

    Some of the cost will come from slightly moving the tracks in that area. TAMC will apply for a grant to fund part of the project, from the “Safe Routes to School” program. I think this is a state program.

    TAMC is currently trying to get a local match for federal money in this project. The local money would go towards paying to hire a consultant, who would help to write all the required documents for the project.

    This kind of pedestrian crossing project usually costs around $5 million, but this particular project is turning out to be much more complicated and expensive. One reason is that the tunnel will be high enough to allow a fire truck to drive through in an emergency.

    For the Caltrain extension to Salinas, TAMC expects to receive a letter from Congress soon, which will ask the FTA to move faster on approving the project. TAMC has reached a memorandum of understanding with Monterey Salinas Transit (MST) for allocating funds to operate the future rail service.

    TAMC is still working with the FTA to develop a ridership model to predict how many people will use the train service. TAMC is trying to use a model that the San Jose area transportation agency (SCVTA) uses. When TAMC received a copy of the model (computer program) at first, it did not work well, because the computers TAMC uses did not have enough speed and memory. TAMC now has an upgraded computer, which allows the model to work properly. TAMC is currently trying to add a category to the model of land use near stations, as well as to test the sensitivity of the model to changing various parameters. TAMC expects to finish using the model in 1 or 2 months.

    Later this year the Rail-Volution conference will be held in San Francisco. There is an interest in doing a “mobile workshop” as part of the conference, which would involve taking participants from San Francisco to Monterey County on a bus. The workshop would show MST-owned property on Fort Ord, and would discuss proposed Transit Oriented Development in Marina, Sand City, and Seaside.

    Reports

    TAMC Rail Policy February Meeting

    Reported by Chris Flescher, RailPAC Associate Director, Salinas
    The TAMC Rail Policy Committee met on 2-25-08

    For the Caltrain extension to Salinas, the capital budget is fully funded through phases 1 and 2. There is some funding for some of the needed ROW purchases and funding for some of the needed construction. TAMC is applying for New Starts Funding, which would provide some funding for construction. There is a possibility of Federal funding to help pay for the bus facility part of the Salinas Intermodal Center. The ITC would have a bus transit center and a Greyhound bus station next to the train station.

    Two weeks ago, the Federal government allowed funding to go to intercity rail matching for the first time ever.

    One question was: should TAMC request $5 million from the state as a match for $5 million Federal?

    The Rail Policy Committee agreed on a scope of work for the consulting firm to negotiate with the Caltrain JPB and the UP railroad. The (main) TAMC board will vote on the scope of work at their next meeting.

    There is a possibility of a special train running from San Francisco to Salinas, in September, and a desire to have a steam train and/or vintage railcars. It will be called the Steinbeck Special. One member of the public suggested trying to move the date to mid-August, in order to coincide with the Steinbeck Festival.

    If the train run happens, it will be a useful demonstration of a passenger train running between Gilroy and Salinas. The demonstration would be significant because at this time, the Coast Starlight is the only passenger train running there, and it is very unreliable.

    If the proposed transportation sales tax passes, then 20% will go to transit. Then 75% of that transit funding will be used to create bus rapid transit. Several corridors for BRT are being studied, including Fremont/Lighthouse, the Monterey Branch Line, and Marina to Salinas. TAMC has not decided yet if the Branch Line will have BRT or some kind of rail service.

    It appears that BRT on the Fremont/Lighthouse corridor might cost $3 to $5 million, while light rail on the Branch Line would be much more expensive.

    Reports

    TAMC Rail Policy Committee meeting

    Transportation Agency for Monterey County
    Rail Policy Committee,
    September 10, 2007. Salinas
    Reported for RailPAC by Chris Flescher

    There is a strong interest in trying to reduce the cost for the Branch Line Project (the light rail and/or bus rapid transit from Castroville to Monterey). Parsons has come up with a list of options to consider:

    1. Make the project go from downtown Monterey to the northern end of Marina, instead of Monterey to Castroville.

    2. End the line in Monterey at Washington Street instead of Portola Plaza. This would shorten it by a few blocks. It would also place it near the historic building that was once a train station. There is also a possibility that the Monterey bus transit center will be moved there in the future (that is currently a few blocks away in a different direction).

    3. Defer construction of stations at Canyon Del Rey Blvd and 1st Street (these are both in Seaside).

    4. Reduce the size of the park and ride lot at 8th Street in Marina. Also, defer creating a park and ride lot at Casa Verde Way in Monterey.

    5. Reclassify the MST transit center proposed for 8th Street as a bus project instead of a rail project. This will reduce the cost of the rail/bus rapid transit project making the rail/bus rapid transit project appear cheaper, although the money will need to be made up elsewhere.

    6. Defer construction of a second light rail platform at Beach Road (in Marina).

    7. Defer construction of a second light rail track in 3 locations.

    8. Reduce the width of the bus rapid transit guideway from 12 feet to 11.5 feet and the shoulder width from 4 feet to 2 feet.

    9. Reduce the station amenity package. I believe this means doing things like making smaller, more plain benches at the stations, fewer ticket vending machines, and a simpler roof over the platform.

    10. For light rail, create shorter platforms which will only allow for 1-car trains, instead of 2-car trains (which is now planned).

    11. Use lower cost bus rapid transit vehicles.

    12. Remove the combination bus rapid transit/light rail transit alternative from further consideration. This means, study having just light rail and study having just bus rapid transit, but don’t study a system that uses both modes (which was considered earlier).

    TAMC will apply for the money under the Small Starts program, so having a low cost is very important. The limits for Small Starts are a total capital cost of $250 million or less, and a total federal grant of $75 million or less.

    One thing to consider is that the city of Monterey would like to have a transit center next to the historic train station (by Washington Street, as mentioned earlier).

    Another consideration is to avoid large parking lots near city centers, if possible, and only have such lots on the edge of cities, or outside them. This would allow for more transit oriented development in the city centers, and more pedestrian friendly areas next to the city center stations.

    For the Caltrain extension (Gilroy to Salinas), people from TAMC met with a FTA official, who said that the FTA wanted a more detailed modeling analysis (for the expected ridership). In November, people from TAMC will meet with a ridership modeler who works for the FTA, in order to learn more about creating a better model.

    A capacity analysis of the rail line appears to show that most of the capacity problems come from the proposed Coast Daylight train (San Francisco to Los Angeles), not the Caltrain extension.

    On September 18 and October 2, there will be meetings with Salinas City Council members, where TAMC will ask the Salinas council to pick either layout 17 or 18 for the station and surrounding area, and with some owners of property next to the station. The layouts 17 and 18 are nearly the same, but one has a garage, while the other has entirely surface parking.

    The proposed High Speed Rail could impact the Caltrain extension, and TAMC officials testified in favor of the Pacheco Pass alignment for the HSR line. The state cut a lot of money from the transit budget, but it cut less than expected from the HSR planning group.

    The Bay Area has created regional rail plans, describing what rail lines are planned to be running in the next 20 to 30 years. The planned Monterey County projects are now mentioned in the Bay Area regional plans.

    If Caltrain is electrified, the cost could be about $470 million (this is not counting electric powered locomotives). The project would go from San Francisco to San Jose. Trains starting in Salinas would probably run from Salinas to San Francisco, with no change of locomotives, so they would be diesel powered, under the overhead wires, north of San Jose. The project might start in 2008, and then it would be completed in 2014.

    Reports

    Monterey TAMC October Meeting

    Reported by Chris Flescher, RailPAC Associate Director — The detailed study report of the Caltrain extension (alternatives analysis) was printed out and brought to the meeting (although I did not take a copy). It was also posted on the TAMC website a few weeks ago.

    One of the conclusions is that a Caltrain extension would be more cost effective for Monterey County than an express bus. This study only addresses the Salinas-Gilroy-San Jose-San Francisco service, not the Monterey Branch Line (Monterey-Marina-Castroville-Gilroy-San Jose-San Francisco) service which is being considered separately, and where express buses may turn out to be cost effective.

    For serving Salinas, running buses would cost Monterey County quite a bit more because TAMC would have to buy a large number of buses, and buy land in order to have a place to store them. For train service, TAMC would just pay the incremental cost for running two existing trains between Gilroy and Salinas.

    The FTA will be the lead agency (not TAMC) for performing the environmental impact analysis. The TAMC committee would like to wait about a month, so that people from the FTA (and the TAMC staff) can read the alternatives analysis and comment on it.

    In the past, MTS ran buses numbered 25 and 26, which went between Monterey or Salinas and Gilroy. The buses had relatively low ridership, and they were not considered a success. One reason is that almost everyone who rode the bus wanted to travel to somewhere north of Gilroy. This required a transfer, which added 18 minutes of time, and was inconvenient.

    Although trains are very expensive to buy and run, to start the Caltrain extension, TAMC would not have to buy any trains, because there is existing capacity on the trains running to Gilroy. Since the trains already run to Gilroy and are funded by Caltrain, TAMC would just pay the cost of running trains beyond Gilroy. For an express bus to work well, it would have to go all the way to San Jose, and TAMC would have to pay the entire cost to run the buses on that route.

    Parsons conducted a study of train vs bus service, using state and federal guidelines, in order to estimate the total impact of each service on society. Many factors were analyzed, such as amount of pollution, number of deaths from collisions on the rails or on the highway, and change in the amount of traffic on the roads, then assigning a dollar amount to each result. The Caltrain extension was estimated to have a net positive impact on society, while the express bus service was estimated to have a net negative impact on society. The positive impact from Caltrain is very important, because many transit projects being proposed for federal funding have overall negative impacts.

    One result of the study is that Caltrain would benefit society by reducing traffic on the roads and saving people money (the fare is less than the total cost of driving), among other results. However, it would not have a significant impact on air pollution.

    The TAMC committee members asked for a summary that would define and explain some of the terms used in the above study, which would allow them to do a better job of communicating with the general public the study results.

    The federal funding guidelines for new transit projects give the highest priority to how much the project would reduce congestion. This seems very positive for the Caltrain extension, because the average trip length is expected to be about 74 miles, while the average trip length on Bart is currently about 12 miles. Because of that, one Caltrain rider would have about the same impact on traffic as six Bart riders (the number of car miles driven per day reduced by the transit).

    Reports

    TAMC Rail Policy Committee

    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.