As our community continues endless “trail vs transit” debates, we advocate that the best possible transit system would be overhead, coexisting with any potential use of the railroad corridor. And PRT can be a form of rail, possibly meeting easement restrictions and Prop 116 conditions regardless of whether tracks are maintained on the ground.
One possible vision for busy sections of the rail corridor is to include PRT guideways overhead, ensuring that the transit system is readily available to walkers and cyclists using the trail, to easily return to their starting location.
The transit guideway could be installed with a wide canopy of translucent solar panels (perhaps similar to the ones at Santa Cruz City Hall) providing shelter for walking and cycling paths below. In addition to generating power, the solar canopy could also be designed to harvest rainwater, providing extra resilience during drought years.
A wide solar canopy would ensure that walkers and bicyclists can use the paths comfortably, even on hot or rainy days. It can also provide optimal lighting at night, and screens for emergency announcements.
But that’s just one possibility. If the community prefers unsheltered trails, with or without railroad tracks, there are other places to build a robust Personal Rapid Transit system that serves corridors from Santa Cruz to Watsonville.
The rail corridor could also be provisioned for Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), for use until the PRT system is built, and also for use whenever the PRT system becomes unavailable for any reason.