Dear Street Smarts,
Q: One thing not mentioned in your discussion of the Eastern Access to UCSC issue was the study conducted by the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission under then director Linda Wilshusen.
The study was called the Major Transportation Investment Study and was performed by the consulting firm Parsons Brinkerhoff. One of the options studied was rail access to the university following the Encinal route.
Now that it is looking very likely that the county will soon own the Union Pacific rail line, it’s time to think about rail options again. Lightweight streetcars can ‘make the grade’ to UCSC and could use existing trackage as far as Harvey West, perhaps using the river levee for much of the way to connect the Depot with UCSC.
Other options might including running a streetcar line from the Union Pacific crossing at California and Bay up Bay Street, which was originally a horse-drawn rail line up to the quarry at UCSC in the 19th century. A rail line is less disruptive to build than a road and does not encourage increased single-occupancy vehicle use.
And, of course, there should be a bike path next to it.
Bruce Sawhill, Chair of the Santa Cruz County Friends of the Rail Trail
A: Meanwhile, Len Beyea, of Santa Cruz, supports building a gondola to link downtown with the university.
“The RTC some years back floated the possibility of an aerial cableway to provide eastern access, Beyea wrote. “It would run from the center of the UCSC campus to Harvey West and then extend via a separate link to downtown. The cost of construction of an aerial cableway is much less than that of building a road on a hillside, and it’s quieter and much more energy efficient.”
These two ideas were among others studied in the commission’s Santa Cruz Fixed Guideway/Rail Corridor Refinement Study, released in May 1993, said Karena Pushnik, RTC spokesperson.
“This report compared six alternatives for the Watsonville-Santa Cruz-UCSC corridor,” she said. “Most of the alternatives included bus transit for the segment between downtown Santa Cruz and UCSC. One of the alternatives included a rail car using a cog and another alternative included a cable or gondola technology to get up the hill to UCSC. The study analyzed travel and mobility, environmental impacts, finances and economics, equity and community consistency.”
The cog rail option was found to provide the highest level of projected ridership and best cost effectiveness score,” said Pushnik. Detailed analysis is in the commission’s Major Transportation Investment Study and Santa Cruz city’s Master Transportation Study, finished in 2003.
“At each decision point, the process is for elected bodies to make decisions about next steps in noticed public meetings, generally with public input,” Pushnik said.
If you support these transportation options, reach out to your local leaders.