Increased rail service a good idea

Regarding the possible expansion of passenger/commuter rail to Hollister and Salinas, I do feel the time has come.

Upgrading the historic Hollister Branch rail line for makes sense. Considering the heavy traffic on highways 101 and25 it is warranted.

In my opinion, the perfect train set equipment to use is called a Diesel Multiple Unit. Low-emission DMUs are currently in use by SMART (Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit) between San Rafael & Santa Rosa. SMART has enjoyed overwhelming success attracting riders and reducing traffic on this corridor. Also, expanding the current Caltrain from Gilroy is also very viable and may be the least costly alternative.

For those commuters frustrated with long drive times to and from Siilcon Valley, I urge them to contact their government representatives to support and lobby for increased rail service to our area.

Gary V. Plomp


  1. Editor: Here’s what I said about this lunatic idea 15 years ago, while serving on COG’s Citizens Rail Advisory Committee: See below. The only sustainable rail transport is in the private sector. Public sector transit, all modes, is Lenin on steroids. See Amtrack’s losses. See Caltrain’s losses. BART’s, etc. jpt JOSEPH P. THOMPSON
    Attorney at Law
    8339 Church Street, Suite 112, Gilroy, CA 95020
    Post Office Box 154, Gilroy, CA 95021-0154
    Telephone (408) 848-5506; Fax (408) 848-4246
    E-mail: [email protected]
    April 17, 2003
    FAX (831) 636-4160 FAX (831) 637-9015
    Hon. George Rowe, Chairman Mr. Rob Mendiola, Interim Exec. Director
    San Benito County Council of Government San Benito County Council of Government
    P.O. BOX 1420 481 Fourth Street
    San Juan Bautista, CA 95045 Hollister, CA 95023

    Re: COG Meeting April 17, 2003–Agenda Item #11 Caltrain Extension to Hollister

    Dear Mr. Rowe and Mr. Mendiola,

    Please refer to my previous letters to COG regarding this subject, and to the resolutions that I drafted while serving on the citizens rail advisory committee, and to the final RAC report that I drafted (copies enclosed).

    While everyone agrees that restoration of passenger service from Gilroy to Hollister would benefit SBC’s residents, I believe it is error to plan to fund it in the same manner as our sister counties do. It would be cheaper for local government and SBC’s taxpayers to buy Mercedes sedans for each SBC Caltrain rider. In fact, it would be cheaper to buy each one a median priced home in Gilroy than to pay the taxes to extend Caltrain to Hollister. Our County lacks the population and tax base to support public-sector passenger rail transportation, which would have a bigger annual deficit than County Transit bus service. Caltrain and VTA are so bankrupt that they are proposing to repeal Prop. 13's super-majority vote requirement to add new taxes to run their Soviet-style transit systems. Why would local government in a small, rural county like ours want to duplicate their wasteful mistakes? Instead, why not have restoration of rail passenger service in the same manner that it was brought here originally in the 1870's? Combining freight revenue with unremunerative passenger fares is how SBC should do it. Following the Caltrain funding model is a recipe for disaster, as I said to previous COG Boards, TAC and RAC. I urge you to plan private-sector solutions, and not damn future generations to suffer under public-sector, Soviet-style transit in any mode. Following the bankrupt ideas of VTA will earn COG’s Directors the condemnation of future generations of SBC’s residents. Thank you and caveat viator!

    Respectfully yours,

    cc: COG Directors JOSEPH P. THOMPSON
    cc: SBC County Supervisors
    cc: Hollister City Council members

    Consultants’ estimates reported to the SBC citizens rail advisory committee and to COG’s directors that restoring the Hollister Branch Line track to passenger carrying capacity would be between $20 - $40 million. Applying Professor Harvey Levine’s average cost over-run deviation of 50% for the previous 100 years of transportation project estimates makes it $40 - $80 million. Since San Benito County gets back only 11 cents for each dollar that we send to Sacramento, you must multiply it by 9.1 to get the amount of tax money that we must send to Sacramento to get back the money to pay the Union Pacific. In effect the County’s taxpayers would be giving $364 – $728 million just for the capital improvements needed, and does not include annual operating subsidies. If the present Caltrain farebox recovery rate (11% as last reported in San Jose Mercury News) remains the same for us, then taxpayers will need to contribute 89% of the annual operating expenses in addition to the capital improvement costs.

    Track Restoration 50% Average Cost Overrun $.11/dollar Return Factor
    $20,000,000 – $40,000,000 $40,000,000 – $80,000,000 $364 – $728 million

    Subsidy/Rider for Hollister Caltrain Riders Based on Usage

    Usage Rider’s Taxpayers Subsidy
    100 = $7,280,000
    200 = $3,640,000
    400 = $1,820,000
    800 = $ 910,000
    1600 = $ 455,000
    3200 = $ 227,000
    6400 = $ 113,750

    So, until ridership reaches 1600 daily riders, it would be cheaper for SBC’s taxpayers to purchase the median priced home for the Caltrain riders than to pay for restoration of passenger rail service as funded by the Caltrain Counties. Until it reaches 6400, it would be cheaper to buy them mobile homes in Gilroy. This does not include operating expense subsidies.

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