November 24, 2023
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Area governments hire consultant to develop commuter rail


Area governments are moving full steam ahead in hopes of creating commuter rail service from Ventura to Santa Barbara.

The Santa Barbara County Association of Governments voted unanimously on Thursday to spend $50,000 on a consultant to evaluate several possibilities for implementing rail service.

Commuter rail service has been a dream for local officials and transportation activists for nearly two decades. In a perfect world, Amtrak would run its Pacific Surfliner from Ventura County to Santa Barbara County in the early morning, with arrivals into Santa Barbara before 8 a.m. and departures out around 5 p.m.

The plan, however, has been tangled in turmoil for years, with a morass of agencies refusing to budge to create a deal. Amtrak has long been concerned that retiming trains earlier into Santa Barbara County would disrupt it’s Ventura-to-Los Angeles market, which is one of the busiest corridors in the state.

Officials have also attempted to add a new train to serve the South Coast, but Union Pacific, which owns the tracks, has been reluctant to add another train line.

In the meantime, traffic is regularly clogged from Ventura to Santa Barbara during morning and evening commute times, with no sign of relief. Santa Barbara’s expensive housing market has forced many people to live in Ventura County and commute to jobs in Santa Barbara.

Members of SBCAG approved the $50,000 without discussion on Thursday.

“The consultant will assist SBCAG staff with information and data requests and coordinate communication between stakeholders to support development of the plan,” planner Scott Spaulding said in a staff report. “Consultant shall schedule an in-person kick off meeting and schedule and host conference calls as needed.

• Contact Joshua Molina at