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Rail and Trail—The Environmentally Friendly Transportation System That Our Community Needs

As a UCSC student and fellow bus-dependent community member, I can’t help but notice a bit of hypocrisy present in Santa Cruz. Constant complaints about the public transportation system combined with a common environmental consciousness should lead to the support of innovative transportation efforts, right? Let’s put those sentiments to work and start supporting the Coastal Rail Trail and Electric Rail Transit systems in Santa Cruz County. Traffic-less high-speed railway systems that would decrease greenhouse gas emissions—what could be better than that?

Why You Should Support Rail and Trail

The combination of rail and trail would offer active transportation and public transportation that would be environmentally friendlier, faster, and more effective. Commuter times would be cut almost in half by offering an option other than Highway 1. (It’s beautiful, but wow it takes forever!) Imagine the trek to Watsonville without the inevitable traffic-filled conglomeration of emission-heavy vehicles? I can practically smell the fresh air. 

Also, accessibility! Offering this option for people without cars would free spots on METRO busses, bypass rush hour completely, and create a more welcoming community for seniors, youths, and people with disabilities. Public transportation systems would work synchronously to increase connectivity; and yes, they would reach campus.  

As for trail: bike and walking paths that would reduce pedestrian traffic—and subsequent accidents—would contribute to busier businesses, safer neighborhoods, and a happier climate. Stroll around the neighborhood, anyone?

What’s The Current Status?

Despite high tensions among local political activists, rail and trail is slowly inching its way toward becoming a reality. Segments 7 and 18 of The Coastal Rail Trail are currently accessible to the public and construction plans for over half of the trail have been drafted. Even though projections expect a decade-long building process, the work is happening now! It’s imperative to support the rail corridor in tandem with the pedestrian trail to create the most accessible, environmentally friendly, and effective community possible. And your voice can make a difference!

Get Involved!

Want to beat the traffic? Dream of actively contributing to a healthier planet? Getting involved has never been easier—now you don’t even need to leave campus. The new organization Slugs4CoastConnect offers Santa Cruz students hands-on participation opportunities related to obtaining rail and trail. Join other Banana Slugs in their mission to see this vision become a reality. Only have five minutes? Volunteer opportunities range vastly in contribution size, so find the right one for you. Anything is appreciated! 

Looking to dive head-first into climate activism and public transportation development? Visit Coast Connect itself to see what opportunities lie ahead. This is happening now; Santa Cruz needs your voice. 

Whether your focus is environmental conservation, accessibility and disability justice, time efficiency, or any other areas that Coast Connect promotes, action is waiting to be taken. Even reading to the end of this article is helping spread awareness about the rail and trail lines, so good job! Our community thanks you. 

Serena is a student at UCSC pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Literature with a love for creativity, storytelling, and learning.
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