Rail Service Studies

Rail Service Studies

Transit Corridor Alternatives Analysis (2019-2021)

The Transit Corridor Alternatives Analysis (TCAA) is evaluating public transit investment options that provide an integrated transit network for Santa Cruz County utilizing all or part of the length of the rail right-of-way as a dedicated transit facility. One of the outcomes of the Unified Corridor Investment Study, completed in January 2019, was to reserve the Santa Cruz Branch Rail Line (SCBRL) for high-capacity public transit adjacent to a bicycle and pedestrian trail. This analysis a being conducted by the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) in partnership with Santa Cruz Metropolitan Transit District (METRO). Visit the TCAA webpage for more information.

Santa Cruz County Passenger Rail Study (2015)

In conjunction with agreements made as a condition of acquisition of the 32-mile Santa Cruz Branch Line and to maximize transportation uses of the rail corridor, the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) is assessing the feasibility of commuter and intercity passenger rail service. The RTC was awarded a Transit Planning grant by Caltrans to evaluate the feasibility for phased passenger rail service including estimates of capital and operating costs, an analysis of varying service scenarios and technologies; and connectivity to other bus and rail services.

Visit the Passenger Rail Study page to see details of the study as well as the survey results.

The objectives of the Santa Cruz Passenger Rail Study are to:

  • Provide the community with practical recommendations for implementation of passenger rail service, in accordance with forecasted ridership demand and funding
  • Identify, evaluate and compare passenger rail service options that are cost effective and provide additional transportation options, thereby increasing capacity for movement
  • Improve people’s access to jobs, schools, recreation, goods/services, and other activities
  • Meet sustainable communities, greenhouse gas emission reduction and natural environment protection goals.
  • Identify short, medium and long term passenger rail service scenarios that are coordinated with freight and recreational rail services, trail use and connecting transit services

To receive information on this study, please visit the rail study page, and sign up for Rail eNews.

Past Studies

In the past, the Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) has undertaken the following efforts to analyze, test, maintain and improve rail service in Santa Cruz County:

  • Due diligence documents
  • Studies for potential passenger rail service analyzed potential service between Watsonville and Santa Cruz and to Monterey and the San Francisco Bay Area.
  • Demonstration trains tested interest in rail service
  • Secured state funding approval on January 19, 2011.
  • Recreational rail service analysis for which the RTC completed a draft environmental document in 2005 for service between the City of Capitola and Seascape in Aptos
  • The “Around the Bay” rail study completed in 1998 in cooperation with the Transportation Agency for Monterey County for potential service between Santa Cruz and Monterey with linking service to the San Francisco Bay Area and the Salinas valley.
  • The Major Transportation Investment Study (MTIS) for service between Watsonville and Santa Cruz to UCSC was completed in 1998 and analyzed potential

Capitola and Aptos Recreational Rail (2005)

Demonstration Trains

The RTC hosted or co-hosted three different rail demonstration programs in 1996: the Return of the Sun Tan Special; the Coastal Cruzer/Flexliner; and, the First Night Trolley/RegioSprinter. The purpose of these events was to showcase various kinds of modern rail vehicles and explore their suitability for Santa Cruz County. In addition, these events have provided residents with a chance to experience not only different types of trains, but also transportation on the railway corridor. These first-hand experiences helped residents understand more about future mobility options in Santa Cruz County.

train operating on the branch line








RTC Contact

Luis Mendez
Deputy Director
(831) 460-3200