Banners reading “Reimagine Pacific Station” were recently plastered onto Santa Cruz Metro buses in hopes of sparking conversation about the future of the metro station.
Santa Cruz Metropolitan Transit District (SCMTD) is partnering with the city of Santa Cruz to redesign the transit center on Pacific Avenue. Built in 1984, Santa Cruz’s transit hub serves as many as 10,000 people every day and has accrued expected wear and tear.
“A typical building’s lifespan is 30 years or 40 at the max,” said SCMTD grants and legislative analyst Tom Hiltner. “This building has served its useful life and needs to be rebuilt, or we need to keep pumping money into the maintenance.”
Maintenance would require $300,000 every fiscal year, and in addition to maintenance fees, the station has an extensive list of “functional inadequacies,” Hiltner said.
“We have to replace the shelters outside, and we have to replace the carpeting and the benches inside. It needs to be repainted inside and out, restrooms need repair, the [heating, ventilation and air conditioning] system needs to be replaced and rot and terrible termite damage needs repairs,” Hiltner said. “The clock is not working, there’s an awning over the front entrance that needs to be replaced.”
These are only some of the items on SCMTD’s to-do list. The cost to repair the deferred maintenance list comes out to $575,000, Hiltner said.
Although the main objective is to renovate the station itself, SCMTD is exploring additional uses for the facility.
“Our baseline scenario is a transit facility and everything else is up in the air and open for consideration,” said SCMTD general manager Les White.
As such, SCMTD is reaching out to the community for input in the planning process.
SCMTD already has one community engagement and plans on hosting two more events for the Pacific Station Redesign Project, where community members are able to voice what they want to see at the new station. In addition to their Facebook page, SCMTD has also made pages with Civinomics.com and Spotmojo.com, where users can offer suggestions and vote on ideas for the planned renovations.
According to Hiltner, suggestions have ranged from bike storage and Zipcars, to more landscaping and solar panels, to housing above the station and even an ice skating rink. The most popular suggestions, however, are to increase parking and to implement a park-and-ride function. Hiltner also stresses the importance of other recommendations the public suggested, such as more police patrol, better security and lighting, more shelter, assigned bus locations according to routes and better customer information.
“People coming down [to the transit center], especially those who ride the Highway 17 bus over to San Jose, really want some parking at the station so they can leave their car,” Hiltner said. “Many of them have people drop them off and we don’t even have an adequate drop and ride space, so parking was a very prevalent request.”
While increased parking is a popular request, Hiltner notes the SCMTD’s space is limited due to its small size. However, SCMTD is already listening to the public’s opinion and is seeking to expand construction space.
“[SCMTD] owns its current site,” White said, “and recently purchased the adjacent bus layover lot with funding assistance from the Federal Transit Administration and the California Transportation Commission.”
Thus far, $2.5 million has been spent on the project to buy the property adjacent to the station and clean it up, Hiltner said. He added that $1.1 million is going to the project’s consultant to come up with design and construction documents.
The second round of public engagement will occur in December, when community members will have another chance to contribute design ideas. Next February, the final round of public outreach will take place, and Santa Cruzans will be able to comment on the three different designs produced from the first two rounds of input.
In April 2014, the architect is scheduled to meet with the SCMTD Board of Directors and city council to discuss moving forward with a design. Once a design is agreed upon, the year-long drawing process will begin. The station will not see construction for another two and a half to three years, with an estimated completion date of 2018.
Santa Cruz councilman Don Lane said incorporating additional uses to the transit center will benefit commuters and non-commuters alike.
“I would just encourage more and more people to contribute their ideas through this public process,” Lane said. “We do want it to serve the whole community, and frankly not just the bus riders. They’re certainly very important in this calculation, but if we can do something that serves even broader needs, that would be great.”