The 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake was a tragic event for Santa Cruz County, especially, in terms of the community's potential sustainability. The destruction of a major portion of the Santa Cruz METRO's infrastructure left the bus system without adequate facilities to maintain, operate and fuel its fleet. The state of the art maintenance and operations facility in Watsonville could not be salvaged.
10 Years of Band-Aid Approaches:
The earthquake left the transit district with few options to run daily bus service. The Santa Cruz METRO scattered its remaining resources to seven different locations. Maintenance of the bus fleet has required much creativity for workers at a converted food processing facility in Harvey West Park that replaces the Watsonville facility. Fueling for every bus became a costly expense because the Santa Cruz METRO lost its own fueling capabilities and has had to purchase fuel at retail rather than wholesale prices. Most recently, parking has become a pressing issue as the bus fleet continues to grow in order to address service needs throughout the county. Instead of being parked in a central bus storage facility, many buses are parked in leased lots. The leased lots are contracted on a month-to-month basis. A decision by the landlord to cancel the lease would force the parking of up to 45 buses on the streets of Harvey West Park every night.
MetroBase - 10 years in the Making:
The MetroBase facility, funded through a separate set of local, state and federal funds, underwent an extensive site selection process completed in 1995. The study concluded that a Westside location for MetroBase would be the preferred site for full consolidation. However, at public hearings during 2000, the project's neighbors voiced their concerns about the proposal to the Metro Board. Based on those concerns, the Board re-examined the Westside location and determined it was an infeasible location for MetroBase. While Metro would rather not have to upset any neighborhood, the Metro Board of Directors has to provide public transit for the entire county. With that charge, the Board is moving ahead with an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) to develop MetroBase at the Harvey West site because it was determined as the best geographical location given the current service provided by Metro and future plans for route expansion to the University and over Highway 17.