U.S. Representative Sam Farr, State Senator Bill Monning, Assemblymember Mark Stone, Supervisors, local dignitaries,
union representatives and Tony Souza break ground on METRO's new facility.
Sand Flies at Santa Cruz METRO’s
Judy K. Souza Operations Facility Groundbreaking
GROUNDBREAKING NEWS UPDATE, April 2013: Lewis C. Nelson Contractors has been selected by Santa Cruz METRO's Board of Directors for the construction of the Operations Facility. All Operations have been moved from River Street to other buildings in the area for the duration of the project. As of early April, the project was in the demolition phase.
U.S. Representative Sam Farr (D-CA) led with a golden shovel as Santa Cruz METRO broke ground October 26 on the $15 million Judy K. Souza Operations Facility, funded primarily with state bond funds, local sales tax and federal grants. Assemblymember Mark Stone and State Senator Bill Monning joined in, along with local Supervisors and Mayors, Board of Directors’ members, labor union representatives and a member of the Souza family.
The groundbreaking signaled the final phase of the transit agency’s MetroBase consolidated operations in Santa Cruz, which is expected to create over 300 much-needed construction jobs in the area over the next two years. MetroBase has been the largest of Santa Cruz METRO’s capital projects, consisting of the Administration and Mantainence buildings and garage, Bus Wash, and the natural gas Fueling and Storage Facility. Tens of millions in other federal funds have contributed to prior phases of MetroBase. The completed project, located in the Harvey West Park area of Santa Cruz on Highway 9/River Street will now finally include the new Judy K. Souza Operations Facility.
Contractor Lewis C. Nelson & Sons, Inc., was conditionally awarded the construction contract on December 7, 2012. The Judy K. Souza Operations Facility is named after the District’s first female bus driver and supervisor, who passed away in 2011. Her 32-year career started as a driver and she rose to become the first female Superintendent of Operations.
Judy Souza after a win at a “bus rodeo”
Grants in General
Santa Cruz METRO relies of several sources of funding for operational and capital support, including customer fares, state and local sales taxes, federal formula funding, and other competitive federal, state and local grants. However, with the passage of a new Surface Transportation Act, MAP-21 (Moving Americans Along for Progress in the 21st Century) in 2012, due in large part to the efforts of California Sentator Barbara Boxer, many programs have been consolidated or eliminated in the interest of getting the legislation passed in a challenging national pre-election political climate. MAP-21 sunsets in 2014, which means that savvy lawmakers are already discussing other potential infrastructure investments (including transit) to be made in the 113th Congress, seated in January 2013. It is not inconceivable that the new Congress will see that a compromise on infrastructure investment as both good for the nation’s crumbling systems, but also as a big job-creator as unemployment continues to drop. However, in March 2013, a giant monkey wrench known as the "sequester" took effect and its impact on transportation funding is already being felt in the airline industry and is expected to trickle down to the transit industry in ways not yet known in regard to federal funding going forward.
Currently, the national disretionary grant environment is bleak. Much of Santa Cruz METRO’s funding comes through formulized federal funds, but current legislation and the ban on infrastructure earmarks (not necessarily a bad thing, the country is finding out), which are not enough to provide for the replacement of fleet vehicles after the end of their useful life or to continue to buy new natural gas buses. Other solutions are being sought at the legislative level and will continue to be pursued.
Santa Cruz METRO has benefitted from a 50-cent-per-gallon-equivalent tax credit on natural gas during its fleet conversion to clean air buses. This credit expired on 12/31/11, but is currently in committee in the Senate. It was restored during the "fiscal cliff" negotiations and expires at 12/31/13, retroactive to 12/1/2012. This credit is worth approximately $500,000 - $650,000 per year to METRO as the fleet runs on natural gas. Santa Cruz METRO advocates for the extension of this credit indefinitely.
At the state level, the November 2012 passage of Governor Brown’s Proposition 30, according to the California Legislative Analyst, has set the state on the road to recovery and budget surpluses within a few years. During that time, transporation bonds provided by the passage of Propositions 1A, 1B and 1C (in 2006) will begin to sunset. As a result, other state funding for transit is being discussed, as many of the greenhouse gas laws and statewide caps on carbon emissions depend on public transportation as part of the solution (via AB 32 and SB 375). There will be much more to come on this issue in regard to the release of discretionary grant funding and/or proceeds from carbon-credit auctions, the first of which took place in November 2012 (all proceeds went to High Speed Rail). Future auctions will yield revenue to transit, what remains to be seen is how much.
Federal Transit Administration (FTA) "State of Good Repair" Grants
In October 2011, Santa Cruz METRO received $2,814,538 in FTA "State of Good Repair" competitive, discretionary funds for the purchase of 42 mobile data terminals for installation on the ParaCruz vans and the purchase of 4-5 additional clean air buses. With the required local matching funds, total cost for this project is $3,391,010 and bid documents are currently being researched and prepared.
For more information about MAP-21, the full legislation is here on the FTA website.
Sustainable Communities Strategies Sub-Awards
Santa Cruz METRO is partnering with the County of Santa Cruz, the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission and the Association of Monterey Bay Area Governments in the implementation of Senate Bill 375, which is part of the "greenhouse gas law" that made California famous and was preserved on the November 2010 ballot through Proposition 23. As sub-recipients on these three grants, Santa Cruz METRO will participate as the transit partner on the ongoing strategies to meet the state's emissions reduction goals. This work is ongoing.
Monterey Unified Air Pollution Control District AB2766 Grants
In September 2011, Santa Cruz METRO was awarded a $160,000 grant from the Air District to replace two non-revenue staff cars (gasoline powered) and two large diesel service trucks. Santa Cruz METRO thanks the Air District for its ongoing support of our emissions reduction projects and is enjoying the two new natural-gas-fueled staff cars. CNG-fueled trucks will be ordered soon. Specifications are being prepared.
Santa Cruz METRO was awarded a $200,000 AB2766 grant from the Monterey Unified Air Pollution Control District in Summer 2010. The grant will cover part of the cost of installing a second 15,000-gallon natural gas storage tank to Santa Cruz METRO's existing Fueling Station. This project is now underway as part of MetroBase.
Santa Cruz hopes to continue to partner with the local Air District on projects that keep the Monterey Air Basin a good place to breathe.
Downtown Pacific Station and Watsonville Transit Center
Discussion of the expansion of the downtown Pacific Station project on Pacific Avenue to some sort of community hub including transit and possibly other uses, which stalled in 2009 due to the economy, has been resumed. In addition, changes and upgrades to the Watsonville Transit Center are needed. Due to the lack of reliable funding streams on all fronts, Santa Cruz METRO was only able to remediate the old Greyhound station site in the downtown area (between River and Pacific Streets), and make security changes and improvements to both stations. Now that the economy has improved, Santa Cruz METRO will be re-starting these discussions with stakeholders and the community as to what are the best uses of these sites and seeking grant and other funding to implement these projects.
Other Grant-Funded Projects (Ongoing and Nearing Completion)
Through the State of California and other local funds (derived from sales tax revenue and administered through the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission), Santa Cruz METRO is implementing the following grant activities: new radio and surveillance equipment to improve the safety of bus stations and improve communications systems district-wide and in the case of emergencies (through Cal-EMA funding);107+ bus stop repairs and improvements (Caltrans’ funding); various planning activities (local funds).
State Planning Certification(s) and Documentation
Santa Cruz METRO participates in a regional, ongoing comprehensive planning process with the Association of Monterey Bay Area Governments (AMBAG), the designated Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) for Monterey, San Benito and Santa Cruz counties. Public transit projects receiving federal and state funding are programmed through a coordinated process with other local and regional transportation planning organizations in the region and become part of the Metropolitan Transportation Improvement Program (MTIP).
To view Santa Cruz METRO’s projects currently programmed to receive federal or state funding within the complete MTIP document, please use following web link (please be patient, as of April 2013, AMBAG's new website was still under construction):
AMBAG 2010 MTIP
Please contact AMBAG (www.ambag.org) with other questions regarding regional planning. You may also contact the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission for detailed information about transportation funding related to roads, bicycle trails, sidewalks, handicapped (ADA) access, etc. (www.sccrtc.org)
Artist's rendering of Judy K. Souza Operations Facility on River Street facing downtown Santa Cruz.