To: The Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission
From: Santa Cruz County Business Council Board of Directors
RE: SCCBC Formal Position on Unified Corridor Study
Overview and Process:
The Santa Cruz County Business Council Board of Directors has been conducting our own analysis of the preliminary results of the Unified Corridors Study (UCS), including direct review of both the initial document and the revised dashboard that include the staff recommended preferred scenario. Our members and staff have also attended both public Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) meetings where the results were considered by the Commission, as well as a focus group put on by RTC staff. We have also heard directly from Commissioners who have attended our (SCCBC) meetings. It is through these conversations, analyses, and formal education efforts that we have come to adopt the following position as to how the SCCRTC should move forward in formalizing a comprehensive transportation investment plan through 2035.
- In considering the future of transportation in Santa Cruz County, the core priority for the local business community, and thus the defining performance metric that should be considered above all else, is which project most effectively and efficiently facilitates the transportation of people and goods. A secondary consideration are those projects that best maintain our community’s quality of life generally.
- Given this overarching goal, the SCCBC feels that the most appropriate performance metric defined in the UCS is the “peak time average speed” on Highway 1 because this is currently the most significant pain point for transportation (and people) in the County.
- And given the extraordinary cost of all of the projects considered, as well as the marginal effectiveness of each individual project per dollar spent, that overall cost considerations are less important that the opportunity cost of not aligning our preferred projects with the overarching goal of increasing the rate at which people and goods move throughout Santa Cruz County.
- Lastly, in consideration of social equity, the residents and businesses of South County disproportionately shoulder the burden of longer commute times — thus any project considered must in some way address this imbalance to warrant any investment.
- In recognition of these priorities and cost constraints, as well as the principle of opportunity cost, the SCCBC does not believe any of the scenarios outlined in the UCS, or the RTC staff recommended preferred scenario, should be considered a “preferred scenario” by the Commission. Instead, we believe that priority should be given to those projects that have already been funded by Measure D, and any other “shovel ready” projects that do not require any additional funding to be raised through other sources.
- We specifically do not support investing in either Passenger Rail Service, or Bus Rapid Transit on the rail corridor because of the extreme startup, and operations and maintenance costs associated with both projects.
- At this time we also do not support investing in an HOV lane on Highway 1 either, but recognize that this project would do the most to alleviate traffic on Highway 1, increase peak time average speed, and reduce bus transit times to 31 minutes between Santa Cruz and Watsonville during peak hours–the most significant improvement to increasing the viability of our existing transit system of any of the proposed projects identified in the UCS.
- For projects that do require additional funds, the SCCBC supports those projects that best meet the needs of bicyclists and pedestrians along the Soquel/Freedom Corridor, as well as the immediate development of a bike and pedestrian trail on the existing rail corridor.
- The Business Council would also like to expressly note that Santa Cruz County is currently ranked second-worst in the state for bike and pedestrian fatalities and injuries, and that this is likely directly rooted in the lack of separated bike infrastructure.
- In keeping with our principled understanding of opportunity cost, the Business Council also wants to expressly acknowledge that if the RTC were to invest in passenger rail service, that it would be at the expense of our Metro system, which is already underfunded and underutilized as a result of the significant financial hurdles it has had to overcome. All transit is subsidized, and therefore with the limited availability of public funds, any investment not in our existing system is a de facto disinvestment from that system.
- Lastly the SCCBC supports certain individual projects outlined within the UCS because of the inherent value they would add toward alleviating traffic bottlenecks, or in some cases directly supporting local businesses.
- The SCCBC supports investing in the widening of the Highway 1/Highway 9 bridge because of how severely that bridge backs up traffic well beyond the “fish hook” entrance, and creates an unsafe environment for drivers to make the proper maneuvers to get to where they need to go.
- The SCCBC also supports the continuation of freight service in South County, but only through the Pajaro Station, and not any further north into the rest of the County. Our position is based upon the stated economic advantage of those businesses to transport goods and services via freight, and the lack of major manufacturing or industrial uses throughout the rest of Santa Cruz County.