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Morning Commuter Surfliner Train Expected to Hit South Coast on April 2

Under the plan, Santa Barbara MTD would provide 'last-mile' bus service to get people to their jobs

If all goes as planned, an Amtrak Surfliner train will soon begin rolling through Ventura, Santa Barbara and Goleta, above, during peak morning commuter times. April 2 is the tentative start date for the new service. Click to view larger
If all goes as planned, an Amtrak Surfliner train will soon begin rolling through Ventura, Santa Barbara and Goleta, above, during peak morning commuter times. April 2 is the tentative start date for the new service. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

If all goes as planned, an Amtrak Surfliner train will soon begin rolling through Ventura, Santa Barbara and Goleta during peak morning commuter times — a goal long elusive to those on the South Coast.

The Santa Barbara County Association of Governments plans to spend up to $2.5 million of Measure A money to fund the service, which would require starting a northbound train earlier from Union Station in Los Angeles.

The exact cost is unknown, but SBCAG will test the service over a 2-year pilot period.

“We are very much looking forward to this opportunity,” said Goleta City Councilman Michael Bennett. “We are looking forward to a successful kickoff.”

Bennett made the announcement at Monday’s Town & Gown Standing Committee meeting involving Goleta and UCSB officials.

The Santa Barbara Metropolitan Transit District would provide "last-mile" service, picking up travelers at the train stations and dropping them off at employment centers, such as Deckers, Yardi, Cottage Hospital and others.

Trains would depart going south about 4:35 and 6:30, roughly, Bennett said.

As it stands now, the service would begin on April 2.

The agencies involved are still working on the details, including the times, but Bennett said an early train would be scheduled to arrive at the Goleta Amtrak station between 7:30 and 7:40 a.m.

The plan must still get approved by the Los Angeles – San Diego – San Luis Obispo Rail Corridor (LOSSAN), SBCAG and others, but it is on track, said Gregg Hart, SBCAG deputy executive director.

SBCAG's South Coast Subregional planning committee is expected to recommend approval of the funding agreement along with a memorandum of understanding with MTD on Wednesday.

The commuter train comes after nearly 15 years of talk of "a lane and a train" referring to the widening of Highway 101 and adding commuter rail service.

Timing of the trains out of Union Station has always been the issue, but it appears now that agencies along the transportation corridor are close to agreement on retiming the first Union Station Amtrain to depart, so that the Pacific Surfliner will roll through Santa Barbara and Goleta during morning commute hours. 

The importance of regular train service was thrown into the spotlight in January after the Montecito debris flows closed Highway 101, forcing many commuters in Ventura and Carpinteria to ride the train or take a ferry into Santa Barbara.

Goleta officials said more than 300 people were waiting to get on and off the train at the La Patera station when the highway was closed, proving that the demand was great. 

Monday’s Town & Gown Standing Committee included from UCSB: David Marshall, executive vice chancellor; Joel Michaelsen, interim vice chancellor; Renée Bahl, associate vice chancellor, design, facilities & safety services; Willie Brown, associate vice chancellor, housing, dining & auxiliary enterprises; George Thurlow, assistant vice chancellor, alumni affairs, special assistant to the chancellor on IV; Chuck Haines, interim assistant vice chancellor, budget and planning & director, capital development; Kirsten Deshler, director, governmental relations; and Monica Solorzano, assistant director, governmental relations.

From Goleta: Bennett; Mayor Pro Tempore Stuart Kasdin; Michelle Greene, city manager; Carmen Nichols, deputy city manager; Vyto Adomaitis, director, neighborhood services and public safety; Peter Imhof, director, planning and environmental review; Jaime Valdez, economic development coordinator; Valerie Kushnerov, community relations manager;  Bob Woodward, M6 Consulting, Inc.

The officials also talked about Deltopia planning. The unsanctioned Isla Vista street party is currently planned for April 7.

Large crowds, even riots, in previous years have forced the city and UCSB to partner to get a handle on things.

Goleta once again plans to restrict parking and ticket or tow away vehicles that are illegally parked. Neighborhood residents will be given temporary parking permits for three days.

“We have been taking this approach now for a number of years and it has worked fairly well,” Adomaitis said.

Even though things have been calm in recent years, Adomaitis said Goleta is prepared.

“You never quite know if this is going to be the year this is going to get crazy or not," he said. "We always plan for the worst and hope for the best. In my world, hope is not a verb so we take steps to ensure there is a good outcome.”

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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