Frequently Asked Questions

Coast Connect is a vision to bring our community together through a modern and efficient transportation system that is environmentally sustainable and accessible for all. Coast Connect envisions a system for Santa Cruz County and beyond that includes innovative rail technology, an expansive and safe trail network, and integrated options to reach your final destination via METRO buses, bicycling, walking and ride sharing. Coast Connect is about economic vitality, greenhouse gas reduction, efficiency and wellbeing for all who live, work, visit and play here.

Coast Connect is a campaign powered by Santa Cruz County Friends of Santa Cruz Rail & Trail (FORT), a local nonprofit that has advocated since 2002 to serve and connect our entire county via an inclusive 32-mile paved bike trail from Davenport to Watsonville and adjacent passenger rail transit running from the City of Santa Cruz to Watsonville Junction in Pajaro.

Coast Connect is focused on building community interest in and support for a modern transportation system for the entire county, including a protected trail network, clean, quiet passenger-rail service, and integrated first and last mile options. Our primary focus is to shepherd and speed the RTC’s rail with trail project through to completion.

We envision a transportation system that includes reliable eco-friendly electric passenger rail,  a 32-mile rail trail connected with a neighborhood trail network, and safe streets built with room for people so we can walk, roll and ride freely. Bicycle lanes and sidewalks, rideshares, and synchronized bus-and-rail transfers will provide convenient safe connections to the places we’re going.

Construction began in 2019 and the entire trail should be completed by 2030.

After years of comprehensive study and public input, the RTC unanimously decided to move forward with a vision that includes both a trail and a transit system along the corridor. Further, easement access along the corridor is specifically established for a rail service. If the rail line were removed, landowners would certainly initiate expensive litigation, putting public access to the corridor at risk.

Local voter-approved Measure D funds are already allocated for a portion of this project. In addition, there is funding from the State of California available as part of the State Rail Plan and a variety of other future funding sources that could be explored and adopted to fund rail and other mobility improvements in our county.

A robust transportation system will create economic opportunities: Business opportunities will open up for new and existing companies. For existing businesses, reliable transportation options with defined schedules increase the likelihood that employees who commute across the county will get to work on time. Also, cross-county commuters are likely to see reduced commute times that result in a higher quality of life, and tourists can make their visit a car-free experience.

Our long-term goal is to transform the existing rail corridor into the backbone of a robust countywide transportation system. We foresee a modern, reliable, efficient and climate conscious system that provides maximum mobility, car-free travel options, easy access throughout the county, and serves as many people as possible while allowing them to enjoy coastal beauty. The trail can be completed by 2030. Rail service will follow.

The majority of the greenhouse gas emissions in Santa Cruz County are transportation-related. Public transportation reduces greenhouse gas emissions, with rail systems being seven times more energy efficient than buses, while buses are much more efficient than cars. An integrated network combining bus, rail, complete streets and rideshares will let us leave our cars behind. New rail technologies are becoming available that could utilize carbon-free electricity provided by Monterey Bay Community Power.

Level-boarding passenger rail service running parallel to a wide, flat, and level trail provides independent transportation options to more people, including those with mobility challenges. A high-quality integrated transportation network with smooth transfers makes it easy for people to get to school and work without needing the expense of a car.

The 32-mile trail will run from Davenport to Watsonville along the existing rail line. It will be within 1 mile of 92 parks, 44 schools and half of the county’s population. The 22-mile passenger rail service will be offered between Watsonville and Santa Cruz.

Passenger rail will run next to the trail on the existing Santa Cruz Branch Line tracks, serving stops from Watsonville Station at Pajaro junction to the Westside of Santa Cruz and points between. It will connect to the regional rail network at Pajaro junction, providing access to Monterey, Salinas, Silicon Valley, and points beyond. 

New technologies, such as battery-powered electric rail vehicles, have noise levels similar to a single car. Quiet zones eliminate the need for loud horns at crossings.

Creating a modern and efficient transportation system is a long-term vision and process. Construction of the trail is underway but establishing passenger rail service in our county will take years. Planning now for the future is forward-thinking and responsible.

There are a variety of ways to follow Coast Connect including social media (Facebook, Instagram and Twitter), the Coast Connect website and the Coast Connect email newsletter.

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