A small group of homeowners, bankrolled by a former Apple executive, has qualified their Greenway Initiative for the June ballot in Santa Cruz County. This group, whose motivation appears to be preventing trains from running near their homes, are seeking the public’s support for a measure that would eliminate the County’s policies calling for building a commuter rail system on the Santa Cruz Branch Line. It would instead tear out the tracks to build an extra-wide multi-use pathway they call the Greenway.
TRANSDEF is committed to rail as the low-carbon approach to organizing transportation and land use in the era of climate change. Given the County’s lack of other options to deal with its severe congestion on Highway 1, TRANSDEF is very opposed to any effort to remove existing tracks. When the County Board of Supervisors had a report written by its staff, prior to voting to place the Initiative on the ballot, TRANSDEF wrote a detailed critique of that report, pointing out its inaccuracies. TRANSDEF was especially concerned that the report did not properly inform the public about the Initiative’s central deception: its characterization of the measure as approving an “interim” trail on the rail right-of-way. In reality, it is extremely unlikely that the County would ever rebuild the rail line and build a new pathway (a second time!) after tearing out the tracks. TRANSDEF is unaware of any significant rail line that exited from railbanked status to become an operating rail line once again.
The Board, whose Chair had previously led the Greenway Initiative campaign (!!) and did not recuse himself, did nothing to correct its staff report.
TRAC, TRANSDEF’s sister organization, ran an important article on prospects for rail in Santa Cruz, as well as one on the sticky legal issue of rail easements.