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June 30, 2022

Felipe Hernandez and Greg Caput: Vote No on Measure D

Greenway’s Measure D is harmful to our community, especially seniors and workers. Measure D is not green and it is not the way.

Voters shouldn’t be fooled by Greenway’s expensive campaign. It’s important to understand that Measure D does two things—it rips out the railroad tracks between Watsonville and Santa Cruz and permanently ends all planning for passenger rail transit by Santa Cruz County.

Ripping out railroad tracks and ending the potential for light rail transit service is very bad news for our community. No trains, no buses, no public transit use of any kind on the rail corridor—only a trail.

Measure D would have a devastating impact on our community’s ability to connect between Santa Cruz and Monterey County by freight and electric passenger rail service. It would put Watsonville’s commuters, disabled and senior communities at the forefront of transportation inequity. Santa Cruz County would be isolated from the State’s Rail Plan that connects Santa Cruz County to the Central Coast, Bay Area, Caltrain and Amtrak system.

To convince voters that we should give up on the existing plan for rail with trail—which is already underway and benefits everyone, especially south county seniors and workers—Greenway created a confusing web of deceptive misinformation.

Greenway claims Measure D supports buses and better public transit. But Measure D provides exactly zero funding. This is despite the fact that the Regional Transportation Commission’s 2021 Transit Corridor Alternatives Analysis, done in collaboration with METRO, determined electric passenger rail is the best choice amongst all available options for the rail corridor, including several bus options.

As shown in the 2021 study, we know that adding light rail is the right answer for south county workers who spend hours stuck in traffic daily—time workers could be spending with their families and friends because light rail will significantly cut commute times.

The same study also determined public transit ridership overall will increase dramatically from 13,700 to 34,400 rides per day. That increase of 20,700 rides will reduce the number of cars on the road, delivering cleaner air and safer streets.

We have to defeat Greenway’s Measure D. It does nothing to address Highway 1 gridlock for Pajaro Valley residents traveling north in the morning to work in Santa Cruz. Measure D is bad for the environment. It will also lead to Santa Cruz County losing millions of dollars in freight and public rail transportation funding opportunities.

The Greenway campaign for Measure D makes many claims about “railbanking” as a way to ensure rail can happen in the future, after they have ripped up the tracks. But, according to experts that have researched the 23,000 miles of railbanked tracks nationwide, zero miles of track have come back into rail service after they have been ripped up and paved for a trail.

Greenway also claims Measure D protects Roaring Camp, including their popular Beach Train. The problem is that Roaring Camp is opposed to Measure D—they even have banners hanging from their trains that say No on Measure D. Roaring Camp’s CEO, Melani Clark, has publicly stated that if the tracks are pulled up anywhere along the rail line, Roaring Camp will be stranded from the national rail network. This will prevent them from replacing their locomotives and the Beach Train will fail, harming their business and causing job losses. This is all bad news for South County, too, since Roaring Camp operates freight service in Watsonville to support some of our largest employers.

Why isn’t Greenway “green?” The answer is best explained by the RTC’s 2019 Unified Corridor Investment Study. The study confirmed that a trail-only approach, as proposed by Measure D, will increase GHG emissions as compared to the existing plan that includes both rail and trail. This fact has gotten the attention of local organizations that are working to address climate change and are now opposed to Measure D, including Regeneración Pájaro Valley Climate Action, the Sierra Club, Santa Cruz Climate Action Network and Youth for Climate Justice.

Those organizations are not alone in opposing Measure D. Perhaps never before have we seen such a broad coalition standing together against a countywide ballot measure. In addition to environmental groups, Measure D is opposed by businesses and business organizations, labor unions, the Democratic party and local clubs, social and transit equity groups, and elected officials from throughout Santa Cruz County, including a Supervisor Caput and a majority of both the Watsonville City Council and the Cabrillo College Board of Trustees.

We’re opposed to Greenway’s Measure D. Please join us and vote NO on D.

Felipe Hernandez is Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commissioner, Alternate District 4. Greg Caput is the District 4 Santa Cruz County Supervisor. Their opinions are their own and not necessarily those of the Pajaronian.

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