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NCTD is on the right track

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
January 24, 2005


Another obstacle has been cleared in reestablishing public rail transportation between Escondido and Oceanside. Using eminent domain powers the North County Transit District (NCTD) recently cleared the way for a short section of rail to for the Cal State San Marcos loop portion of the Sprinter light rail project. Voting 8 to 1, with Bill Horn absent, the transit district board took a giant step to wards regional mass transit.

By "extinguishing" public easements along Walnut Hills Drive and closing Sally Dr, NCTD is wisely adjusting transportation corridors to meet the future needs of area commuters. Restricting vehicular traffic in favor of rail infrastructure will pay off in the long run. I like to think of it as progressive devolution.

Passenger rail service to the communities of Vista, San Marcos, and Escondido ended 60 years ago as buses and automobiles gained prominence. Too much of a "good thing," the popularity of the automobile has proven to be unmanageable, and alternatives are now mandated. Too many people, and not enough room to park cars does not equate with quality of life. Providing rail service to Cal State San Marcos will pay dividends to the people of San Marcos.

For too long Nimby reactivists have thrown obstacles in the path of this much needed transportation upgrade. Failing to see future opportunity, opponents remain focused on outdated self-interest. Many object to at grade rail crossings, even though the alternatives require deeper pockets and considerable "redevelopment." Personally I have always advocated elevated, solar generated Maglev trains. Like Disneyland, only better.

Change is coming.

Unfortunately the funds needed to realize a comprehensive Maglev system is far beyond the reach of public coffers, restoring and expanding traditional rail service well have to suffice. Incremental advancement is better than no progress at all.

The city of San Marcos would be wise to drop its lawsuit regarding a cement bridge over Shelly Drive and allow rail engineers to decide the route best suited to topography of the area. Such an obstructionist action is out of character for a municipal entity that has promoted exponential growth over the past two decades. Political posturing does nothing to reduce traffic congestion in San Marcos and neighboring cities. Reducing traffic increases air quality. Improving air quality should be a commitment of all elected officials.

Mass transit is the future of Southern California, as the price of oil continues to rise and land values soar to the point where parking and parking lots are deemed a luxury, future generations will seek less expensive forms of transportation. Current enslavement to road building and the eternal Band-aid of road widening will only take commuters so far. Then what?

In the coastal communities of Oceanside and Carlsbad city planners have committed to developing affordable housing along the rail corridor. Where smart growth is no longer possible, wise growth is. Making room for commuter rail service is wise growth, folks in San Marcos should stop dragging their feet, and climb on board.

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