MAKING THE RAIL CORRIDOR A BETTER NEIGHBOR

Before I was elected to the Encinitas City Council, the Coastal Mobility and Livability Working Group (CMLWG) -- consisting of representatives of all five communities and many of our civic organizations -- to advise Council on how to make the rail corridor a better neighbor. There have been many CMLWG meetings and I am pleased that they are finally being given the opportunity to get to the crux of the issues: pedestrian and bike mobility, rail crossings and parking evaluation. This meeting was an informational update for Council, so if you feel passionately about something, the next CMLWG meeting is Monday, October 2 at 5:30 pm at City Hall and will focus on active transportation (pedestrian and bike connectivity).

PARKING
The City commissioned a parking study and to be honest, I was disappointed with the draft results. The baseline seemed lacking and the thresholds were unclear, which means any conclusions were tenuous. Council gave much feedback and hopefully the final version will be much more robust. My own two cents revolved around finding long-term plans for our downtown. One innovative idea I heard about at a Planning Commissioner Academy was that for approximately the same cost of a parking study, other cities about our size have installed parking sensors with real time data. This data then means staff has ongoing real data to evaluate when a certain threshold is reached.

But more interestingly, that sensor data can be fed to a real-time parking app, reducing driving and time to find parking. Wouldn't that be great? Also the other aspect I raised was for staff to consider time of parking demand. For example if Third Street is primarily residential, then maybe we don't want commercial parking there all night and limited permitted parking from, say, 10 PM - 4 AM might be an option. In order to evaluate permitted parking, the study will need to come back with more information.

 The Draft Rail Corridor Vision as presented to the CMLWG. Changes from this include a suggested pedestrian crossing at Sunset Street/A Street. This plan does not approve any crossings, but considers what the ideal connectivity could be.

The Draft Rail Corridor Vision as presented to the CMLWG. Changes from this include a suggested pedestrian crossing at Sunset Street/A Street. This plan does not approve any crossings, but considers what the ideal connectivity could be.

RAIL CROSSINGS
My favorite part of our Council meeting was reviewing the CMLWG feedback on rail crossings. Using solid expert recommendations, they looked at what the ideal, near-to-mid-term vision for the rail corridor looked like. Recommendations were made from the working group to start at every 1/2 mile and then add in later additional crossings to end up with 1/4 mile separation. While that is very ambitious, it is important to realize this is a vision. The CMLWG still needs to refine details, but this is the most comprehensive we have taken on the rail corridor and I'm excited about the next steps. 

Of course, like every North County Coastal City, the long-term vision is to trench the tracks and it is my hope that we can work with state and federal partners to get the funding and ability to trench the tracks from Oceanside to Del Mar.

 Undercrossing design for Verdi Street with connectivity to the Coastal Rail Trail. Crossing on Coast Highway 101 puts pedestrians and bicyclists at Pipes.

Undercrossing design for Verdi Street with connectivity to the Coastal Rail Trail. Crossing on Coast Highway 101 puts pedestrians and bicyclists at Pipes.

CROSSING IN CARDIFF
Due to the fast-pace of the Coastal Rail Trail construction, moving forward with a community accepted plan for a pedestrian crossing in Cardiff is a priority. The discussion has centered around two decision points: 

  • Should the pedestrian rail crossing be at Montgomery Avenue (where a vehicular crossing used to be in the 50s) or at Verdi Street (slightly higher rail elevation)?
  • Should it be an at-grade crossing (fully funded, potentially faster, potentially louder, less infrastructure) or an undercrossing (previously planned, requires grant funding, potentially takes longer, quieter, more infrastructure)

With little discussion the CMLWG asked Council to move forward with an undercrossing at Verdi Street. The plans look good and seem vetted by the community. The Mayor wanted to have an opportunity to speak with some of the Cardiff members before weighing in, which seems logical given the impact of this project and the cost of the decision.