March 2024

Is Local Railroad Track Already Off Course Before It Starts?

I need you to tell me the truth about something. If the county follows through and builds a half a billion dollar train line from Watsonville to Davenport, will you take it regularly?

Will you commute on it? Will you send your kids to school on it? Will you go shopping on it?

Please let me know that if we reach deep into our overtaxed pockets to come up with a boatload of money it will in fact take cars off our miserably crunched roads.

My own take is that I don’t believe it will take any cars off the road, or a few at best. And keep this in mind. I love trains. I always have. When I was a preschooler, my mother would park us by the tracks at lunch time and I’d eat my bologna sandwich and wait for the daily train to pass.

I’ve ridden the rails across the United States, Europe and Asia. But when I look at my life, with kids and shopping and three jobs, I know the only time I would take it is if I had visitors and wanted to take them to the Boardwalk. So, I’d get on a few times a year. And even then, with no place to park at stations, I doubt it would get me out of a car.

The way the line is structured, along the coast to the Boardwalk and inland to Davenport, it doesn’t go anywhere I need to go. It doesn’t go near Cabrillo, UCSC, the County Building, Downtown or the mall. It doesn’t go by schools, even though its proponents claimed it does. A mile or more from a school isn’t going to get parents not to drive their kids.

If you think I’m wrong, let me know. Just tell me when and where you will use it.

I believe in mass transportation, but the definition implies that there is a mass of people who need to be transported out of their cars. I think it works as a fantasy, sure, we’ll leave our cars behind and take this miracle train, but in reality, it’s a pipe dream.

For comparison, how many times do you take the bus now? The buses actually go directly to where we need to be, but I see so many of them empty and the train lovers claim more people will ride a one-track rail than a bus. I don’t believe that either.

The alternative to a rail/trail would be just a trail, which families could bicycle on, pedestrians could run and walk on and wheelchairs could navigate on safely.

The rail people claim the trail they are building alongside the tracks will suffice, but I submit that it won’t be as wide or safe as a trail without the train. It also won’t be attractive with sound walls and fences they will put up and the hundreds of trees they will cut down to make way for both.

I suspect we’ve been railroaded by big business interests, not true environmentalists. But again, if I’m wrong and many of you would actually take the train regularly, I’ll be happy to be wrong.

But if I were betting, I’d say we are spending millions and millions of dollars on a fantasy. I suspect we’ve been railroaded by big business and blindsided politicians who in their heart of hearts know they won’t be commuting on those rails either.

And they are showing again they have no clue about how to spend the public’s money–our money.

PS: Of those running for County Supervisor on March 5, the only one who was against the rail was Manu Koenig and even he’s tempered his opposition after 70 percent of the public voted for a rail over a trail.

But he’s the only one who’s shown he understands the economics and practicality of this rail fantasy. I’m not in his district, but if I were, I’d vote for him.

Thanks for reading,

Brad Kava,
Editor and Publisher


  • Hallie

    Segment 10 and 11 are undergoing threats from RTC to vacate the mobile homes along this section due to encroachments on the rail for facilitating the setbacks required for construction to proceed. My client had been notified by a letter that she will loose a 1/3 of her house to satisfy RTC setbacks.
    The issues encompass prescriptive easements, eminent domain and a slew of legal ease in CA. Law.
    So unfair, because this threat does not indicate the number of homes backing up to supposed Rail Trail, nor is there any mapped plans or surveys submitted. Not fair, to disturb residents, owners and others to this drama. Can the RTC IMAGINE relocating these people. Stop and think how development can proceed. Many properties must relocate section 8, low income residents under the law here in SC county and CA statues before permits are issued.

    • Nana

      Hallie, the people who have mobile homes on PUBLICLY OWNED land do not have permission to be there. The land owners are at fault for allowing the residents to build beyond their own land lines. So your neighbors built their houses on your property where you have plans for that land to build a future house. Would you just let a bunch of people keep their homes on your property and forget your plans? That is exactly what you’re asking the public to do.

      There are only about 10 houses on the ROW. The land owners should bare the responsibility and the cost of moving these mobile homes and ensure those people are taken care of IF they were lied to about the rights of the houses on the land! The land owners have been making $Money off of squatting on our publicly owned land. Land owners that were fully informed that they purchased a home next to an active rail line have little excuse for crying foul when the rail line is in the process of being activated.

    • Barry

      The mobile homes that are too close to the RTC right of way need to blame the park managers, realtors, and title companies that allowed the encroachments in the first place. The RTC wants to help residents work to find solutions that don’t involve having to spend thousands or having to move someplace else.
      The park managers should have insurance, the title companies definitely have insurance.

      In fact, recently the SMART bike path lawsuit by nearby property owners was settled by the title company, not by the SMART transit service.

      The rail corridor is publicly held property, building fences into public property is not allowed. In this case it’s not the homeowners or resident’s fault.

  • Barry Scott

    I would use rail service to attend meetings in Santa Cruz, and Watsonville every week, visit restaurants, and attend events in Capitola and other cities. With the passenger station Monterey County plans for Watsonville Junction, I would take rail trips to Sacramento and San Diego and anywhere else in the world.
    Because Metro connections will connect with the rail stops, and Metro will probably be the operator, I will be able to go to many other places. Because bikes will be allowed on board, our first and last-mile problems are less severe.
    Students and workers will be able to use the system daily and once service is established new services, businesses, and homes will be built near rail stops and thousands will be able to give up driving altogether.

  • Victoria Nobles

    It’s wild and disheartening to me that folks are pushing back against the development of infrastructure because it takes time to build and because they personally would not use it. Perhaps not everything is about YOU or ME, specifically. Perhaps it’s about the future and the folks who will inherit that future. Perhaps it’s about the fact that loads and loads of studies have proven we cannot keep relying on single passenger vehicles. Widening freeways and adding more cars has been proven ineffective at best, and physically and environmentally harmful at worst.

    To answer your specific question, I would use it regularly, just like I use rail regularly whenever I am visiting my family overseas, just like I use it regularly when I’m in the Bay Area. If rail were here I’d be able to get rid of my car, reducing my overall living costs, and rely primarily on my bike and public transportation for travel, whether for pleasure or work. While I do regularly ride the bus in town, we need something more robust to support more folks. Not everyone can ride a bike or walk a trail so we must be thinking of accessibility for *as many people as possible* when developing infrastructure. A cyclist and nature lover, I love trails and use them regularly. As a community member focused on not just the present, but the future of our community and its members’ well-being, I value robust and diverse infrastructure that accommodates travel in a more environmentally conscious, sustainable, and meaningful way.

  • Nana

    What a shame that the author of this article posed a question and then deleted all of the responses above! This is quite surprising since the comments really exposed good information.

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