Thursday, September 24, 2009

Famed California coastal town weighs LRT and BRT

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Monterey County, Calif., officials postponed a vote this week for a rapid transit line to serve the county’s namesake city, after a former Monterey mayor voiced concerns that the city council had never chosen a preferred mode.

The Transportation Agency for Monterey County was ready tochoose either Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) or light rail transit (LRT) for the Monterey Branch Line, linking Monterey and Castroville. The agency will next weigh the matter on October 28. Agency staff had recommended LRT for the route, which the agency has owned since since 2003.

Former Mayor Dan Albert argues that the city council should be given time to offer input to the project, and asserts that the route would travel through a "very sensitive area in Monterey." Albert's request for a delay was supported by other local area officials, including Del Rey Oaks Mayor Jerry Edelen and Marina Mayor Bruce Delgado.

But Monterey council member Frank Sollecito, the city's representative on the TAMC board, said the council had plenty of input into the project despite the absence of a formal vote. Sollecito said the council essentially left it up to him which way to vote on the alternatives. Albert countered that Sollecito's vote might not fully represent the views of the city.

The LRT option is projected to cost $211 million to construct, plus annual operating costs. It would accommodate about 100 passengers per car. BRT would cost about $195 million for all phases and, supposedly, would cost a little less per year to run, despite offering less passenger capacity per vehicle, at 60 per bus.