County leaders, Sierra Northern say t...

County leaders, Sierra Northern say tourist train deal ready to go

There are 55 comments on the Santa Cruz Sentinel story from Oct 14, 2010, titled County leaders, Sierra Northern say tourist train deal ready to go. In it, Santa Cruz Sentinel reports that:

The Regional Transportation Commission has called a rare special session today where county transportation leaders are expected to finalize an overdue plan for tourist trains on the North Coast.

Join the discussion below, or Read more at Santa Cruz Sentinel.

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Greenerup

San Leandro, CA

#1 Oct 14, 2010
Excellent.
Future generations of bicyclists and hikers thank you.
A long-time resident

Santa Cruz, CA

#2 Oct 14, 2010
Mark this: Another big mistake in the making. It looks like we're in for the same tragic & expensive debacle other communities have suffered. Just look as San Diego's train disaster. We're a much smaller community less capable of surviving this misled experiment. I support hikers and cyclists. A trail is fine, but not a train. I don't know anyone who will be taking this proposed train on regular basis. Will you? I think not. Come on folks, our buses are practically empty now. If you think this will really reduce Hwy or byway traffic you're living in a fantasy world.
Reader remarks

San Francisco, CA

#3 Oct 14, 2010
Will the many writers on this topic please attend today's meeting at 2:30? There are more negative opinions on this site than have ever been expressed in the meeting room, about the tax bite we will have to swallow over the years to support this poor plan.
Go, complain loud and clear, because no one in power at the transportation group has heard you here..face them, get some of your opinions out in the public domain. Let them know they are being fools playing with taxpayers futures to support their myth about a future 32 mile hike/bike/train trail.
Soquel Local

Salinas, CA

#4 Oct 14, 2010
"County leaders, Sierra Northern say tourist train deal ready to go"

INTO BANKRUPTCY.
Soquel Local

Salinas, CA

#5 Oct 14, 2010
Let the lawsuits begin!
Huh

United States

#6 Oct 14, 2010
Boy, I can't wait to take the wife and kids up to the Beach Flats, pay $10 to park my car, pay what…$150-200 to take a 5 mph dinner train up to Davenport and back and find my way back to my car while avoiding various Hispanic gang bangers, hookers and drug users and drive home!

What a deal on a lovely experience! I can't wait!

Yea…. right!
Suntan Special

San Jose, CA

#7 Oct 14, 2010
A long-time resident wrote:
Mark this: Another big mistake in the making. It looks like we're in for the same tragic & expensive debacle other communities have suffered. Just look as San Diego's train disaster. We're a much smaller community less capable of surviving this misled experiment. I support hikers and cyclists. A trail is fine, but not a train. I don't know anyone who will be taking this proposed train on regular basis. Will you? I think not. Come on folks, our buses are practically empty now. If you think this will really reduce Hwy or byway traffic you're living in a fantasy world.
There are no plans for regular passenger service, only a recreational train that will run occasionally. The funds the county is receiving for the purchase of the rail right of way may only be used for freight and passenger service. Not a trail or bike path. Funds for a trail and bike path must be raised separately and a least $1M per mile will be needed. Significant portions of the rail right of way will not support an adjacent trail and bike path so you will have to use city streets to go from part of the trail and bike path to the next section.
Get Real

San Jose, CA

#8 Oct 14, 2010
Soquel Local wrote:
Let the lawsuits begin!
And what would they sue for?
ya right

United States

#9 Oct 14, 2010
A long-time resident wrote:
Come on folks, our buses are practically empty now. If you think this will really reduce Hwy or byway traffic you're living in a fantasy world.
Are you serious????????
ya right

United States

#10 Oct 14, 2010
Reader remarks wrote:
Will the many writers on this topic please attend today's meeting at 2:30? There are more negative opinions on this site than have ever been expressed in the meeting room, about the tax bite we will have to swallow over the years to support this poor plan.
Go, complain loud and clear, because no one in power at the transportation group has heard you here..face them, get some of your opinions out in the public domain. Let them know they are being fools playing with taxpayers futures to support their myth about a future 32 mile hike/bike/train trail.
While I actually want this deal to go through for many reasons, I completely agree!! If the "Majority" of Santa Cruz residents oppose this plan they sure have been quiet about it...!
ya right

United States

#11 Oct 14, 2010
Huh wrote:
Boy, I can't wait to take the wife and kids up to the Beach Flats, pay $10 to park my car, pay what…$150-200 to take a 5 mph dinner train up to Davenport and back and find my way back to my car while avoiding various Hispanic gang bangers, hookers and drug users and drive home!
What a deal on a lovely experience! I can't wait!
Yea…. right!
The station is at depot park silly. There's a parking lot there for you to leave your hummer in.
There's also going to be daytime trips up the coast to the beaches for more reasonable prices.
Max

Portola Valley, CA

#12 Oct 14, 2010
I'm reposting this again for anyone who thinks that a dinner train is a viable business option for this rail line. I would also like to point out that the rail line is about 12 miles from Santa Cruz to Davenport. The NVWT line is 21 miles long.

It would appear that the only real plan for this rail line, at this point, is a dinner train. People are saying a dinner train will bring tourists and money into our economy. For anyone who thinks this is a good idea I suggest that they do some research into a very cautionary tale about 100 miles north of here. The Napa Valley Wine Train.

There are some very interesting facts to take away from the NVWT. The entire venture was privately funded by a multi millionaire, Vincent DeDomenico, a San Francisco food purveyor who sold his Rice-A-Roni and Ghirardelli chocolate empires for an estimated $300 million. DeDomenico bought the 21 mile rail line for $2.5 million. He then sunk over $20 MILLION into the venture. Today, serving 100,000 riders a year, the train barely covers expenses. It runs 500 trips per year, or 200 passengers per run. The cost of riding the train is $125.

DeDomenico paid $2.5 million, and the county plans to pay over $20M?? He then sunk over $20M into the train. Has anyone ever seen a business plan from someone as to how much the proposed train will actually cost to get up and going? And the privately owned NVWT is barely covering expenses. Has any thought been made as to how our train would turn a profit and pay back the start up costs?

Let's face the facts. Napa Valley already had a built in very wealthy tourist base, with 100's of world class wineries, four star restaurants, and luxury world class accommodations to support that level of tourism. WE DONT!! If they can barely make the thing profitable with a built in wealthy tourist base, how can we be expected to turn a profit with the kind of people visiting the Boardwalk and The Mystery Spot??

The BOS should be required to submit an independently audited business plan for this venture before even considering the final purchase. If The Napa Valley Wine Train, and others like it, cannot turn a profit, how do they expect one here to do so?
Accounting 101

United States

#13 Oct 14, 2010
Suntan Special wrote:
<quoted text>
There are no plans for regular passenger service, only a recreational train that will run occasionally. The funds the county is receiving for the purchase of the rail right of way may only be used for freight and passenger service. Not a trail or bike path. Funds for a trail and bike path must be raised separately and a least $1M per mile will be needed. Significant portions of the rail right of way will not support an adjacent trail and bike path so you will have to use city streets to go from part of the trail and bike path to the next section.
This brings up the interesting point that building a small, paved bike path costs $1 million per mile. We are getting such a deal on this right of way. I'd be curious to know how much the county is poised to spend on the next installment of Highway 1 widening (which by the way, the voters have turned down over and over, and yet somehow is still happening) and see how that compares to the price tag on buying the branch line...
Max

Portola Valley, CA

#14 Oct 14, 2010
And for those who say that this agreement is a stepping stone to a commuter rail line, or light rail, I have to point something out. What is the big difference between the commuter rail service structure, and light rail service, offered in other cities and what we have. There's something big. Commuter rail lines have two tracks. One going one direction, another going the other direction. We have ONE track. There is the ability to run ONE train at a time on the track the way it is currently configured. If you're using the train to get from Watsonville to get to Santa Cruz, or the other way around, and you leave at 8:00am, if you miss that train you might have to wait almost two hours for that train to come back. And another hour to get to Santa Cruz. Commuter rail service can only be feasible if you run regularly scheduled trains every 15-20 minutes in BOTH directions. Just look at any other city with public rail transportation and you'll see this.

The only way around this, on our line, is to build access loops on the side so that trains can pass each other. The width of this line does not allow for that. So the county would have to buy additional property to build these side tracks. They would also have to buy additional property in order to build stations and stops. And for anyone that thinks side tracks, so that one train can pull over while another one passes, just think of the potential for major accidents. What if a switch isn't completed and two trains run head on into each other. Don't think that can happen? It's happened quite a few time on older European lines where only one track is available. A few years back in England this exact incident happened and many people lost their lives.

This is no stepping stone towards commuter rail service. Unless the line is significantly overhauled, and additional property is bought to allow for a second line, there is no way it will work. In addition, Sierra has stated that freight service will need to be run on this line as well. It's a bad mix to have freight and commuter service running on the same track at the same time. Sierra will want to run freight service to make this project viable, and run dinner trains when not being used for that purpose. Commuter transportation, running a regular schedule, will not allow for slow freight service to take place.

Mark my words, no commuter service is going to happen on these tracks the way they are configured, unless significant investment is made. Have we ever heard about the cost of doing this?
Accounting 101

United States

#15 Oct 14, 2010
Max wrote:
I'm reposting this again for anyone who thinks that a dinner train is a viable business option for this rail line. I would also like to point out that the rail line is about 12 miles from Santa Cruz to Davenport. The NVWT line is 21 miles long.
It would appear that the only real plan for this rail line, at this point, is a dinner train. People are saying a dinner train will bring tourists and money into our economy. For anyone who thinks this is a good idea I suggest that they do some research into a very cautionary tale about 100 miles north of here. The Napa Valley Wine Train.
There are some very interesting facts to take away from the NVWT. The entire venture was privately funded by a multi millionaire, Vincent DeDomenico, a San Francisco food purveyor who sold his Rice-A-Roni and Ghirardelli chocolate empires for an estimated $300 million. DeDomenico bought the 21 mile rail line for $2.5 million. He then sunk over $20 MILLION into the venture. Today, serving 100,000 riders a year, the train barely covers expenses. It runs 500 trips per year, or 200 passengers per run. The cost of riding the train is $125.
DeDomenico paid $2.5 million, and the county plans to pay over $20M?? He then sunk over $20M into the train. Has anyone ever seen a business plan from someone as to how much the proposed train will actually cost to get up and going? And the privately owned NVWT is barely covering expenses. Has any thought been made as to how our train would turn a profit and pay back the start up costs?
Let's face the facts. Napa Valley already had a built in very wealthy tourist base, with 100's of world class wineries, four star restaurants, and luxury world class accommodations to support that level of tourism. WE DONT!! If they can barely make the thing profitable with a built in wealthy tourist base, how can we be expected to turn a profit with the kind of people visiting the Boardwalk and The Mystery Spot??
The BOS should be required to submit an independently audited business plan for this venture before even considering the final purchase. If The Napa Valley Wine Train, and others like it, cannot turn a profit, how do they expect one here to do so?
Max, The sierra already has a viable business plan in place, that's part of why the county has selected them as the operator over, say, Roaring Camp for instance. The Sierra already runs several shortline railroads, and has been in business since 1897. The Company has fingers in several pies- many of times you see trains in commercials or in movies, its the Sierra's equipment you're seeing. The bottom line is that they are not depending on this particular facet of their projects to be tremendously successful at first. They have lots of freight operations on their other railroads in addition to the Santa Cruz/Watsonville switching, and lots of other passengers buying tickets all over California. This is why they have been leasing the Branch Line from the Union Pacific Railroad- because they know what kind of money they could be making inthe future. The thing is Max, nowhere else can you ride a tourist-type train through this type of scenery (i.e. looking down at ocean waves crashing on rocks) This has money all over it. The company is also planning on running daily daytime excursions up the coast, much like what Roaring Camp does up to the redwoods. Roaring Camp has been doing this for almost 50 years and has been quite profitable. I don't see where you are getting your doom and gloom from, Max.
SCGuy

Portola Valley, CA

#16 Oct 14, 2010
Accounting 101 wrote:
This brings up the interesting point that building a small, paved bike path costs $1 million per mile. We are getting such a deal on this right of way.
Around $15M to secure the purchase. Then another $32M to pave the whole thing for a bike path, which would eliminate any possibility to make money by running any train service, freight or otherwise. You really think investing $47M into a bike path with zero return is responsible?
Accounting 101

United States

#17 Oct 14, 2010
Max wrote:
And for those who say that this agreement is a stepping stone to a commuter rail line, or light rail, I have to point something out. What is the big difference between the commuter rail service structure, and light rail service, offered in other cities and what we have. There's something big. Commuter rail lines have two tracks. One going one direction, another going the other direction. We have ONE track. There is the ability to run ONE train at a time on the track the way it is currently configured. If you're using the train to get from Watsonville to get to Santa Cruz, or the other way around, and you leave at 8:00am, if you miss that train you might have to wait almost two hours for that train to come back. And another hour to get to Santa Cruz. Commuter rail service can only be feasible if you run regularly scheduled trains every 15-20 minutes in BOTH directions. Just look at any other city with public rail transportation and you'll see this.
The only way around this, on our line, is to build access loops on the side so that trains can pass each other. The width of this line does not allow for that. So the county would have to buy additional property to build these side tracks. They would also have to buy additional property in order to build stations and stops. And for anyone that thinks side tracks, so that one train can pull over while another one passes, just think of the potential for major accidents. What if a switch isn't completed and two trains run head on into each other. Don't think that can happen? It's happened quite a few time on older European lines where only one track is available. A few years back in England this exact incident happened and many people lost their lives.
This is no stepping stone towards commuter rail service. Unless the line is significantly overhauled, and additional property is bought to allow for a second line, there is no way it will work. In addition, Sierra has stated that freight service will need to be run on this line as well. It's a bad mix to have freight and commuter service running on the same track at the same time. Sierra will want to run freight service to make this project viable, and run dinner trains when not being used for that purpose. Commuter transportation, running a regular schedule, will not allow for slow freight service to take place.
Mark my words, no commuter service is going to happen on these tracks the way they are configured, unless significant investment is made. Have we ever heard about the cost of doing this?
Max, have you ever compared the cost of building a mile of new highway to the cost of building a mile of new railroad?
Ever thought about the ecological and environmental implications of roads?
Reader remarks

San Francisco, CA

#18 Oct 14, 2010
There can not be a bike path until they decide to abandon the train which cannot be done until and unless the commercial business uses, for which this spur was designed many years ago, agree to stop getting shipments by rail car. That's not going to happen in our life time, and were it to happen imagine the many semi trucks on squashed lanes of Hwy 1 with lumber and other supplies designed for those businesses along the spur.
Then, were an abandonment be applied for with the US Government agency which has control over all railroads, the usual remedy is to return the small line of property to the property owners of record on each side of the track. Hmm...anyone consider how the US gov't works in this type of situation?
There are too many dreamers in charge in Santa Cruz County who have yet to investigate the full cost of their dream for a rail/hike/bike trail.
Stinger

Portola Valley, CA

#19 Oct 14, 2010
Accounting 101 wrote:
The thing is Max, nowhere else can you ride a tourist-type train through this type of scenery (i.e. looking down at ocean waves crashing on rocks) This has money all over it.
If I'm not mistaken, you can only view the ocean from about 25% of that stretch between Santa Cruz and Davenport. And it's in the distance. Most of the time that track runs in sunken rail beds and passes fields. Max, on the other hand, has offered up an example of a train running along a track of unbroken vistas in a beautiful valley surrounded by stunning mountains and world class vineyards. And that train is not making a profit.
Accounting 101

United States

#20 Oct 14, 2010
SCGuy wrote:
<quoted text>
Around $15M to secure the purchase. Then another $32M to pave the whole thing for a bike path, which would eliminate any possibility to make money by running any train service, freight or otherwise. You really think investing $47M into a bike path with zero return is responsible?
No, and I'm not sure you have a clue whats going on here. The railroad tracks are there. Period. If you had been paying attention you'd know that the county can only buy it if they not only leave the rails, but also ensure that trains are running on them. The right of way is sixty feet wide in some places, thirty in others eighty in a few places and twenty in some. So on and so forth. That leaves ample room for a bike path AND the railroad. Thats the idea.
Please people, educate yourself, and then formulate your opinions.

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