Credit: Courtesy

Santa Barbara commuters may actually get the train to go with the lane one of these days. “A Lane and a Train” was the slogan for Measure A in 2008, when the transportation tax was on the ballot and passed with 79 percent of the vote. The money generated by Measure A is looked after by the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments (SBCAG), and on Wednesday its South Coast Subregional Committee learned more about two new additions proposed for rail service, possibly as early as this October.

For the new morning service,  a train would leave Moorpark at 6:38 a.m. to come through Ventura by 7:12 a.m., Santa Barbara by 7:51 a.m., and Goleta by 8:03 a.m. Since it starts in Moorpark, this new train service would avoid the congestion on the tracks to the south in Los Angeles, said Aaron Bonfilio, director of multimodal programs with SBCAG.

That train would then head back south, leaving Goleta at 10:35 a.m., passing through Santa Barbara at 10:47 a.m., Carpinteria at 11:02 a.m., Ventura at 11:30 a.m., and on to Moorpark at 12:11 p.m. and Union Station in Los Angeles at 1:30 p.m. The addition of this train would create service from Santa Barbara to Moorpark that would run about every two hours. In the other direction, Moorpark to Santa Barbara, four-hour gaps of service will remain in the afternoon.

The new service north and south would be with Metrolink, a commuter rail service that serves much of Southern California. Metrolink, the Ventura County Transportation Commission, and LOSSAN, which runs Amtrak, are part of the ongoing negotiations, Bonfilio said.

Table of proposed services | Credit: Courtesy

The total cost for the first year is estimated to be $4.4 million. While funding exists for the first year’s pilot demonstration through Measure A, Ventura County’s SB125, and ticket revenue, Bonfilio said that the state budget, which is still up in the air, is making the second year a challenge. By the third year, federal grants become available to the program.

The last time the fares for additional commuter rail came up was 2018-2020, when a roundtrip ticket was projected as $10 per passenger, at 200 riders in each direction, Bonfilio said. The options at the time included a 10-trip ticket at $50, and monthly passes for $150. (The roundtrip between Ventura and Santa Barbara is currently $17.) Mutual ticket acceptance now exists between Metrolink and Amtrak, as well as with the trains and the Ventura bus service, both of which Bonfilio said they wanted to keep. Their minimum revenue projection from the new service is about $500,000. “Adding an additional trip south could result in possible substantial revenue,” he added.

More times for the southbound train have long been an issue. A train leaves Goleta in the afternoon at 4:25 and 6:30 p.m., heading out of Santa Barbara about 15 minutes later. Santa Barbara Mayor Randy Rowse noted that his workforce at City Hall wanted to take the train, but it leaves before their day ends. County Supervisor Das Williams wondered if governments needed to do what private employers were already doing, allowing employees to come and go earlier.

Goleta Mayor Paula Perotte, who confessed she’d had nightmares that her city built its “beautiful new train station” and then there was no train, noted the train’s Wi-Fi service, which allowed people to work and ride. She asked if Union Pacific, which owns the tracks, wanted the additional service, to which Bonfilio said UP was paid fees for every train that ran, and, yes, UP was open to more revenue.

Another Measure A fund was approved by the group earlier on Wednesday. Goleta received $8.4 million through to 2027 for the city’s Project Connect, which improves Hollister Avenue in Old Town — the restriping project kicks off at the end of May — rebuilds San Jose Creek bridge, adds two roundabouts, and extends Ekwill Street and Fowler Road, ambitious projects expected to take three years to complete.

Correction: The $10 roundtrip fare was part of talks several years ago, and an updated version of this story adds other fare considerations.

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