Coast Futura Demonstration – A Huge Success!


 | November 2, 2021
Demo generated enthusiasm and positive response from passengers and onlookers in Watsonville and Santa Cruz    

SANTA CRUZ, CA—Coast Futura today announced the free demonstration of a clean-energy, affordable, accessible streetcar on the Santa Cruz Branch Rail Line in Watsonville and Santa Cruz, presented by Roaring Camp Railroads, was a major success and proof of concept.

Coast Futura by the numbers:

Runs: 68

Miles traveled: 433

Passengers: approximately 2,100

Volunteers: 120 

The Coast Futura demonstration was produced with support from a collaboration that included local volunteers, Roaring Camp Railroads and TIG/m. The demonstration is not a proposal for rail service and was presented as a concept intended to inspire a community discussion about the future of rail transit in Santa Cruz County.

Implementation of an innovative streetcar such as the Coast Futura would help in the fight against climate change, producing zero emissions and powered by batteries and hydrogen —and recharged with clean energy sourced from Central Coast Community Energy. The demonstration also provided a proof-of-concept about what car-free commuting would look like, an important step in discussions about transportation equity for hardworking commuters who are getting to work via a car.

“Over the last couple days we’ve been able to ride and watch the demo train cruz the Boardwalk to Capitola and back! We are incredibly impressed with all the passion, education, good energy, and overall community building vibe the leaders of Coast Futura have displayed. Thank you!” Capitola resident Joe Downie shared on Instagram.

What an amazing way to see Santa Cruz! Pretty stoked to see some alternative clean energy transportation,” Aaron Bistrin of Santa Cruz shared on Instagram.

The Coast Futura demonstration rail vehicle was manufactured by California-based TIG/m, LLC. TIG/m’s ViaTran Streetcars are battery-dominant hydrogen fuel cell hybrids and are wireless. During the demonstration event, the streetcar moved quietly through neighborhoods alongside the Rail Trail, portions of which have been completed or are moving forward. 

The Santa Cruz Regional Transportation Commission authorized the demonstration as an opportunity for the public to see an example of a modern electric rail vehicle on two sections of the Santa Cruz Branch Rail Line track.

The Watsonville route ran from the intersection of West Beach and Walker Streets to Harkins Slough and back, about 5.2 miles. The Santa Cruz route ran from the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk to Capitola and back, covering 7 miles.

Learn more at or on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Get on board the Coast Futura!

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  1. The Regional Transportation Commission (RTC), which did not sponsor the TIG/m demonstration, issued its staff report October 28, 2021 and provided the following information (quotes from staff report):

    TIG/m Demo: “It did not provide information that would make commuter rail easier or less expensive to implement. RTC did not sponsor the event and is not responsible for the information disseminated at the demonstration, either orally or in writing.”

    No funding available: “A viable P3 relationship (Public Private Partnership) requires clear legal and political support for a well-defined project, including a strong commitment of public funds. At this time, the RTC does not have the funding commitment for either the TCAA vision of electric commuter rail between Pajaro to Santa Cruz or TIG/m’s vision of excursion trolly service between Capitola and Davenport.”

    New taxes for passenger rail are required: “Although there are different mechanisms to generate local revenue, an approximate 30-Year, 1⁄2-cent county-wide sales tax would be needed to leverage the remaining State and Federal funding needed to implement the LPA and then help subsidize its operations and maintenance.”

    Public investment benefiting a private company: “The model ignores an initial required investment of $50M to $65M Million by RTC and any other annual maintenance cost, beyond normal wear and tear, which would be borne by RTC.”

    No Watsonville service in TIG/m proposal: “This new proposal eliminated the commuter passenger rail service between Watsonville and Santa Cruz and focused on using TIG/m heritage cars for recreational service between Capitola and Davenport.”

    RTC Staff does not recommend TIG/m: “RTC staff does not recommend pursuing this or any other potential P3 proposal for passenger rail service at this time.”

    [Statements in quotes are from the RTC Staff report, page 19-1 or PDF page 61.]

  2. The false popularity of this event contrived by the Coast Futura Propaganda Team is laughable. 2100 riders on 68 runs means that just about every seat was filled on each run yet there were quite a few instances where trains were seen running mostly empty or in several cases where Friends of the Rail Trail volunteers radioed in to get ‘reinforcements’ where Greenway was protesting, they were told that their volunteers were on the train (filling seats). The entire reservation process was also hyped with limited availability for reservations. Friends of the Rail and Trail limited reservations to create a false “Sold Out” situation only to beg for riders on the day of the events during fair weather in Watsonville due to low turnout.
    What this demonstration proved was very forth telling. The organizers happily waved at traffic as they rode past, the problem was, they were the cause of the traffic. If such a system was in place, over 2100 traffic interruptions would occur at local intersections waiting for the trolley to pass. Ridership was actually lower by the public than reported. Friends of the Rail and Trail padded numbers, ridership and reservation systems to create good PR. The vehicle showed it is not a good solution for public transit. This is a rail car hand built by theme park engineers. In 16 years they have built 10 cars for 9 implementations, 6 of which are already dismantled and the 3 that remain operate at average speeds of less than 9 mph and distances not even 1/10 of the distance required in Santa Cruz. They are used at malls and tourist attraction, not for public transit.
    This simply was a deep pocket, dark money carnival show hoping to dupe Santa Cruz County residents into thinking this solution is ready for prime time. As the RTC clearly noted, it is not and should not be acted upon. It’s time the rail enthusiasts stop grabbing at straws while the community is paralyzed with poor public transit. Let’s fix Metro, create a Bus on Shoulder System and build the Greenway on the unused freight rail corridor.

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