We Oppose the Greenway Initiative

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on July 21, 2021, and has been updated to reflect current events. 

On July 21, 2021, Santa Cruz County experienced a complete traffic standstill due to an emergency on Highway 1. Traffic was stopped for hours with no movement in any direction. This was a vivid illustration that when the highway is blocked it massively disrupts our ability to move around the county because we lack a good alternative for traveling north-south. On the same day that traffic came to a standstill, local organization Greenway began collecting signatures for a countywide ballot initiative to block rail transit, thus blocking the only project in the county that will let us bypass traffic to travel north-south across Santa Cruz County. 

In December of 2021, Greenway announced they have collected enough signatures to qualify for the ballot. Meanwhile, we have received repeated reports from our neighbors that canvassers from Greenway have deceived them by saying their initiative would help build the trail while preserving our rail future. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth!

Greenway has collected signatures by hiding what this initiative would do

Hidden in the Greenway ballot measure* is language that would delay our Coastal Rail Trail, remove all rail planning from the county general plan, and demolish our publicly-owned rail infrastructure. 

Greenway Measure endangers Rail Trail Development

This initiative claims to build a trail, but actually delays and de-funds trail construction:

  • It would put the existing railroad right-of-way easements at risk of litigation. 
  • It would force us to start over from the beginning with a new trail design, costing at least 8 years and millions of dollars for new environmental review and engineering work.  
  • It would incur millions of new expenses in rail demolition and environmental remediation work. 
  • It would remove the Multi-Modal Transportation designation from the project, causing the loss of grant funding opportunities.   
There are 18 miles of Rail Trail under development right now. The ballot initiative language would stop progress on these active projects for at least 8 years and possibly much longer. Some parts of the 32-mile Coastal Rail Trail project might never be completed because of lost funding opportunities.
Greenway Measure Strips All Rail Planning from County General plan

This is an anti-transit initiative. Although claiming to preserve the future of rail transportation, the fine print of this initiative calls to:

  • Tear up the tracks on our Santa Cruz Branch Line
  • Cross out all rail transportation planning from the County General Plan.

This one-two punch would take away the existing rail infrastructure and also prevent the county from planning to ever bring it back.

Greenway Uses Railbanking to Hide the True Goal: Removing the Tracks

The Greenway Ballot Measure claims that options for future rail service would be preserved through a process called railbanking, but then also calls for ripping out the existing tracks we would need for rail transit. Railbanking is a legal maneuver that can be used for various reasons, but also allows the tracks to be removed. 

Ripping out the tracks would be a terrible deal for our county.  We already have standard gauge tracks that can be renovated and used for passenger rail. Restoring the Santa Cruz Branch Rail line is a bargain compared to road building or laying new tracks sometime in the future. Realistically, if Greenway succeeds in removing the tracks, we won’t ever be able to implement passenger rail. Railbanking almost never results in rail service actually being restored once the tracks are removed because re-laying track, restoring the line, and re-building the trail in a new alignment become prohibitively expensive

We need both Rail and Trail to beat traffic and reduce emissions

Everyone agrees that we need the Trail to provide safe active-transportation infrastructure. We also need to use our publicly owned rail line to provide an affordable and traffic-free way for essential workers and students to travel across Santa Cruz County. Investing in public transportation on the rail line is the only way to relieve the 90-minute commutes we currently experience. On passenger rail, Watsonville to Santa Cruz would take around 40 minutes, Aptos Village to Santa Cruz around 18 minutes, and Capitola Village to Santa Cruz around 10 minutes, even during peak commute times. 

Connecting our county with zero-emission light rail is also a vital tool for us to address climate change and provide equal access to opportunity. The Greenway ballot measure would destroy our opportunity to make these positive changes.

The Community Says No to this Deceptive Anti-transit Initiative

Greenway’s anti-transit activists are using misinformation and deceptive messaging to try and defeat the popular Rail and Trail projects at the ballot box.  The community is responding with a campaign committee called No Way Greenway to defeat the Greenway Initiative and protect our multi-modal transit projects (both Rail and Trail) on the Santa Cruz Branch Rail line. 

We must prevent the Greenway ballot measure from passing. Our county residents value the environment, support essential services and access to opportunity for all, and want to be able to freely move around the bay. We want better transportation options that will save us time, money, and emissions. We oppose this deceptive initiative. 

If you join us in caring about these issues, please visit the No Way Greenway campaign website where you can endorse the campaign, donate, and volunteer. 

We will need every voice to spread the word about the deceptions hidden in the Greenway initiative. Please consider sharing this post and following No Way Greenway on social media. It’s essential that we let our friends and neighbors know about the negative impacts of this ballot measure. 

It will take all of us to defeat the Greenway measure in the June election. We need your help to ensure we can compete with Greenway’s well-funded messaging machine. Please share and donate if you are able to.

In solidarity,

Faina Segal, Board Chair, Friends of the Rail & Trail.

*You can read the full text of the initiative here: Greenway Ballot Initiative.

Friends of the Rail & Trail has a policy of being factual always. As an all-volunteer organization, it will be difficult to compete against a well-funded organization that is known for using misinformation in its messaging. Please check back here for updates as we work to get third-party fact-checkers to review the ballot language and Greenway’s messaging. 

More Santa Cruz Community voices again Measure D

You know Friends of the Rail & Trail is against Measure D, but if you’re tired of hearing from us here are many other diverse community voices urging the people of Santa Cruz County vote No on D:

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