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North County on Rails

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
North County Times
November 26, 2002


Things are looking up for passenger rail service in North County. Most impressive is the progress being made to bring the Oceanside-to-Escondido line in on schedule. It is no small task to re-establish service to a region that has grown astronomically since the last passenger train left the Escondido station in 1945.

The San Diego Association of Governments predicts a 29 percent increase between CSUSM and Palomar College. This long overdue transportation service will improve access, reduce auto traffic and alleviate parking shortages at both campuses. San Marcos is the real winner here

Also impressive are plans being discussed for the Solana Beach station. If the $40 million Sedona Pacific project receives a green light, it will be a splendid example of mixed-use development and smart growth. The plans call for 38,000 square feet of commercial space and more than 100,000 square feet of apartments and condominiums. Affordable housing next to a rail station, two blocks from the beach is truly smart growth.

I hope North Coast Repertory Theater will find a home on North Cedros Avenue. It would be a nice addition to the design district. Drawing theater patrons to the area will be made easier, as the in North County's population by 2020, and CALTRANS has no plans to widen Highway 78 because of to environmental constraints and problems in land acquisition, so it is no surprise that ridership is expected is to increase by 74 percent by 2015.

To meet the needs of commuters, North County Transit District is planning 13 stations between the transit hubs in Oceanside and Escondido. Most notable, and most expensive, is the Cal State San Marcos link. Once this station is open, students can commute Sedona Pacific project includes three stories of underground parking and 15,000 square feet of landscaped plaza complete with fountains. In a perfect world the Sunday farmers market will be allowed to stay.

Oceanside residents can look forward to 6 new commuter stations. One of which will serve the Rancho Del Oro industrial park. Located adjacent to arterial roads, there will be plenty of opportunity for housing to spring up along Oceanside Blvd. Walkable communities are possible when urban amenities are close and convenient. The restoration of Alta Loma Creek could also be accomplished, as part of a larger project. There is no rule saying suburbia has to sprawl, or that we have to base our lives around the automobile.

Wise civic planning can redefine growth in a region nearing build-out. I see the redevelopment along the rail corridors as a form of new Urbanism. By expanding mass transit and placing people close to transportation hubs, we improve the quality of life for the people already here. If we are lucky, those responsible for creating these urban villages will have the vision to include solar generation in their developments.

Giving people alternatives to sitting in traffic benefits everyone. Smart growth entails smart choices, and reducing pollution is a smart choice. So is streamlining travel between where we work, live and play.

This is the kind of smart growth I could learn to live with.

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