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The other day I overheard a little back-and-forth between a trail-only advocate and a Rail Trail supporter. The trail-only guy had been to Europe in the summer and wanted great bike trails like the ones he rode there. The Rail Trail supporter had been to Europe too and she pointed out, “They have trains too, and big bike parking garages, because bikes and trains go together.” (Picture above is of the Amsterdam train station bike parking.)

I grew up in the south and wanted to add onto her sentence, like… Bikes and trains go together like peanut butter and jelly… ham and cheese… biscuits and gravy…. You get the idea.

They go together because the train allows bicyclists to go further than if they were limited to just traveling by bicycle – and the bicycle addresses the “last mile” issue for some users. This natural fit is something transportation planners know about, which is why the county’s Unified Corridor Study (UCS) looks at them together. (More on the UCS here.)

You don’t have to go to Europe to see how bikes and trains go together. The new Sonoma-Marin SMART train carried 12,000 bikes in its first three months. So many bikes that the local transportation commission is launching a pilot bike-share program – hoping to reduce the number of bikes carried on the trains.

Santa Cruz County has an approved plan to build a great trail alongside the rail line now.  The first segments are scheduled to be built in 2018 and virtually all of it could be completed in ten years. RTC staff says that scrapping the current plan and starting over will lead to a delay of 10 years or more. (See RTC’s estimate of the delay changing course will cause.)

Maybe you’re not a fan of trail and rail (or peanut butter and jelly), but building the trail as approved and underway is the fastest way to get the trail.

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Stephen Slade is the Executive Director at Land Trust of Santa Cruz County. He has more than 40 years non-profit experience in fundraising, communications, and management – and a deep passion for the lands that make Santa Cruz special. Find out more about Stephen Slade...
This Post Has 4 Comments
  1. Rail and Trail together serve far more needs than either alone. US Pedestrian fatalities are up 9% over last year, and lower income citizens are disproportionately the victims. Let’s do our level best to provide safer bike and pedestrian routes throughout the county and let’s use this invaluable permitted active rail line as originally intended and originally funded: for passenger rail transit.
    Three city councils, our board of supervisors, and countless groups and agencies agree: Build the Coastal Rail trail.
    Let’s catch up with the rest of the world and build the rail trail, now!

  2. There are a least two well-financed rail operators proposing to be the next operator for the Santa Cruz Branch Rail Line. The public will find out more after the RTC releases the proposals they receive by January 4, 2018. Both operators that I am aware of bring the talents and resources to create a viable rail operation. They are aware of the inclusion of the branch line in the state rail plan and how important it is to growth and success. I am very optimistic about the future for the Santa Cruz Branch Rail Line and the opportunities either of these new operators will bring.

  3. Like pb&j, what a great comparison. Rail and Trail is really a great combination as SMART, the new Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit has discovered. SMART started with capacity for 22 bikes per train and recently added a third car to accommodate all the cyclists. Rail and Trail together is a bigger better vision for our rail corridor !

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