Serenaded by violins and guitars and stirred by Master of Ceremonies Hanna-Beth Jackson, a jubilant crowd at the Santa Barbara Depot celebrated the fifth annual Train Party on Thursday hosted by the Coalition for Sustainable Transportation.

Representatives of all South Coast governments attended, including county Supervisor Salud Carbajal; Santa Barbara council members Roger Horton, Grant House, Helene Schneider and Das Williams; Goleta council members Michael Bennett and Ed Easton; and Carpinteria Councilwoman Kathleen Reddington.

The 2009 recipient of the Barry Siegel Award, COAST’s most important recognition, was former county Supervisor Naomi Schwartz.

Schwartz was chairwoman of the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments in 1993 when Caltrans presented plans to widen Highway 101 south of Milpas Street with a standard design that would have transformed the scenic corridor into a concrete channel. Schwartz convinced her colleagues at SBCAG to conduct an in-depth traffic analysis of the corridor and to establish an advisory “Highway 101 Task Force.”

From that process emerged a series of “Operational Improvements” (some completed, some under construction) to add a third highway lane at the most congested locations and to enhance local circulation (including alternative modes of transportation) as a way to reduce trips on the mainline. At Schwartz’s encouragement, a new set of design guidelines were established by the county and the city to guide the aesthetics of all future highway improvements.

During her three terms on the county Board of Supervisors, Schwartz was a knowledgeable and determined advocate for sustainable transportation. Barry Siegel was her top public adviser on the subject. Schwartz changed the way projects were planned and funded by dramatically improving public participation in processes previously controlled by Public Works directors.

COAST also honored Horton and Santa Barbara Mayor Marty Blum, whose terms will end this year, for their dedication to bring commuter rail from Oxnard to Goleta. Tracey Willfong Singh was recognized for her leadership in Safe Routes to School activities.

COAST, a local nonprofit organization,promotes pedestrian, bicycle, bus and rail transportation in Santa Barbara County. The Barry Siegel Award — named after one of COAST’s founders — is presented annually to individuals for their outstanding contributions to alternative transportation.

A video of the party soon will be available on Public Access TV and on the COAST Web site. For more information about the organization or to join, click here. A basic membership begins at $30 annually.

— Eva Inbar represents the Coalition for Sustainable Transportation.