Coast Connect is a new transportation vision for Santa Cruz County that is committed to the principles of People, Planet, and Prosperity. The vision starts with a modern rail service connecting the City of Watsonville to the City of Santa Cruz and points between and beyond. At each stop, synchronized bus connections provide access to various county destinations. Alongside the tracks, a wide, paved, multi-use trail runs the full 32 mile length of the rail corridor from Watsonville to Davenport. A network of trails, paths, and complete streets that serve all members of the community connects to the corridor. Wheelchair users, skateboarders, cyclists, pedestrians and rideshares can all access the system safely and easily. The combination of active transportation routes, rail service, and synchronized bus connections will provide our community with a modern, robust transportation system that benefits people, the planet and our shared prosperity. 

Best for People:

In our current transportation system, residents of Mid County and South County who travel north to school or work are trapped in stop-and-go traffic on the highway every morning and evening. Many people who rely on public transit have inadequate service, and cyclists and pedestrians face dangerous conditions on our roads. We believe that everyone in Santa Cruz County should have access to an efficient, modern, and sustainable transportation system. We envision workers, families, students, and visitors of all ages and abilities having more freedom of movement, better access to resources, and a higher quality of life. With passenger rail, we can travel between Watsonville and Santa Cruz in 41 minutes, Santa Cruz and Aptos in 18 minutes, or Capitola and Santa Cruz in 11 minutes, even during peak travel times. Level boarding lets strollers, wheelchairs, bikes and walkers wheel on and off, so we can all ride comfortably while enjoying the view, reading a book, or just resting after a long day of work. Alongside the tracks the Rail Trail provides a wide, protected, and level path for active transportation and exercise. People can walk or wheel to the corridor using a connected network of safe routes on complete streets. Buses arrive alongside each train, connecting at rail stops with an integrated fare system that makes longer-range connections easy. The result is that more people can leave their cars behind, for a healthier and more equitable transportation system. 

Best for the Planet:

Right now more than half of Santa Cruz County’s greenhouse gas emissions are transportation related, and we’re not on track to meet state targets for reduced emissions.  By implementing rail in the corridor, adding synchronized bus connections, and building the trail, we can double public transit use in Santa Cruz County and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. If we add a network of safe routes on complete streets, those numbers can be even better. Rail in the corridor would be energy efficient. Electric rail powered by carbon-free electricity from our local Monterey Bay Community Power would be zero emission. Santa Cruz County can become a rail and cycle tourist destination, freeing tourists from the frustrating search for parking and freeing the county from some of the impacts of tourist traffic. Finally, keeping the tracks that are already laid would prevent the environmental impacts of demolition. An integrated system combining active transportation routes, rail service, and synchronized bus connections can provide the efficiency, convenience, and accessibility that will allow people to leave their cars behind and get Santa Cruz County closer to meeting greenhouse gas reduction targets.

Best for Prosperity:

Businesses and people will thrive with a more reliable, efficient transportation system that allows car-free living, working, and travel. Passenger rail travel will also open up new destinations and help local businesses all along the coast. Residents can save money by owning fewer cars, while.businesses can save money by needing fewer parking spaces. Businesses and employees both benefit from reliable transportation that doesn’t leave people stuck in traffic on their way to work.  Better transportation can reduce the need for residential parking spaces, lowering housing construction costs and supporting affordable housing development.  The Coast Connect transportation model supports prosperity for all the residents and businesses of Santa Cruz County.  

Best for People, Planet and Prosperity

We envision transforming our rail corridor into a combination modern rail service and wide multi-use trail. The rail stops are served by synchronized bus service, and the trail is connected to a braided network of safe routes for active transportation. This combination will provide our community with a modern, robust transportation system that benefits people, the planet and our shared prosperity. We believe implementing the Coast Connect vision will make Santa Cruz County a better and more equitable place to live, work and play. 

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