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Goleta Shows Unanimous Support for Commuter Rail Program

Goleta city officials get behind Santa Barbara's proposal to bring commuter rail to the region by improving existing Amtrak systems.

Santa Barbara City Council members walked out of Goleta CityHall Monday evening with unanimous endorsementfrom the Goleta City Council for their proposed rail and transit program. 

“I like this plan,” said Goleta City Council memberJonny Wallis.

The presentation was part of an effort by the city of SantaBarbara and the Santa Barbara Council of Associated Governments to elicitsupport for On-TRAC: A Plan of Transit/Rail Action for Commuters, a programintended to improve transportation in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. Theprogram has its roots in SBCAG’s 101 in Motion report, finalized in 2006, whichcalled for another freeway lane and commuter rail.

With the failure of MeasureD renewal and its ¼-cent increase, however, funds for the rail portion of theplan dried up, leaving rail proponents to find alternative ways of bringingcommuter trains to the region.

“We’re talking about in many ways the economic future andvitality of the area,” Santa Barbara City Council Member Roger Horton, who,along with members Grant House and Helene Schneider comprise the Council RailSubcommittee. Horton pointed out the difficulties of recruiting and maintaininga workforce that must commute because of the high housing prices in the area.

“Wehave concluded that only by making the commute easier and safe and moreconvenient and inexpensive will we be able to retain the economic vitality andgrowth in the economy our cities need,” he said.

Among the steps included in the On-TRAC program are the revisingof existing Amtrak train timetables to complement commuters’ schedules andtrack improvements for more efficient operations. Increased bus service isanother component of the plan.

While questions about the total cost of the project couldnot be easily answered, the idea, said Jim Kemp, SBCAG executive director, wasto build the project up in increments while gauging support and effectiveness.

The committee is looking at federal and state sources, as well as a renewed andrestructured Measure D for funding.

Schneider said because of the necessity of getting variousagencies together over such a far-reaching project, the programcan take more than a year to get rolling, but the reception to the proposal hasbeen “really enthusiastic” nonetheless.

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