For more than a decade, Monterey County has been studying a new passenger rail service from Salinas to San Jose. Proposed rail service would make one or two round-trips a day. Stations are planned in Salinas, Castroville and Pajaro en route to San Jose and San Francisco. A state Environmental Impact Report for the project was completed in 2006.
Estimated cost: $90 million
Secured funding (Jan 2007): $30 million
Projected ridership: 530,000 riders/year
Transportation Authority of Monterey County (TAMC) is the lead agency for the rail project. For a long time, TAMC has envisioned the service as an extension of Caltrain from Gilroy. However Caltrain has been lukewarm about the idea as its priorities is to electrify and increase service between San Francisco and San Jose.
Caltrain is not keen to operate the service, for many reasons. Running a service to a far-flung locale like Monterey introduces a number of logistical and operational headaches to deploy personnel and equipment — and worse — additional subsidy for what is most likely a small number of riders. The track is owned by Union Pacific and currently in poor condition. TAMC has yet to resolve issues with Union Pacific that have plagued other operators. Given these problems with UP, Caltrain is worried about being able to operate a safe and reliable service.
In February 2013, TAMC and CCJPA approved an agreement (page 17) to have the Salinas rail service be operated as an Capitol Corridor extension. According to the agreement, an initial service of 2 round trips will begin in 2017 if operating funds has secured and required infrastructure improvements are completed.
Capitol Corridor is considered to be a better fit for the planned service due to the vast experience of CCJPA to operate trains and build track improvements within the UP owned corridor. Through service to Oakland and Sacramento will also help build ridership. Nonetheless, agreement with Caltrain is needed to serve existing Caltrain stations south of San Jose.
Since August 2006, Monterey-Salinas Transit has operated express bus service (Route 55) from Monterey to San Jose. The bus service is part of the Amtrak Thruway system (although it can accept riders won’t be transferring to Amtrak) and has timed connections with the Capitol Corridor.