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MST Making Headway with SURF! Busway Plans

MST passengers may soon board zero-emission buses and bypass busy Highway 1 traffic, while enjoying six miles of scenic California coastline.

The proposed SURF! Busway and Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) route would connect Marina and Sand City, extending into Seaside and Monterey via the existing JAZZ BRT line. With exclusive bus-only lanes and traffic signal priority, the service offers a game-changing alternative to car expenses, commute-hour congestion and greenhouse gases.

“The Monterey Peninsula currently has no high-occupancy lanes and no way around highway traffic,” says MST Director of Planning and Innovation, Michelle Overmeyer. “When people see passengers traveling faster in zero-emission buses than in cars slowed by commute travel, they’ll understand that MST is an affordable, convenient, and environmentally friendly alternative to driving private vehicles.”

Rush-hour speeds on Highway 1 sometimes slow to just nine miles an hour. Passengers could save up to 15 minutes per trip on the SURF! line, says Overmeyer.
“Plus, that stretch of the Monterey Bay is one of the most beautiful bus rapid transit locations in the country,” she adds.

SURF! History: The proposed SURF! route will operate on the Monterey Branch Line (MBL), a Southern Pacific railway established in the 1800s. The Transportation Agency for Monterey County (TAMC) purchased the abandoned route from Union Pacific in 2003, acquiring a 16-mile corridor along Highway 1 between Castroville and Monterey. When potential light rail service on the MBL proved too expensive, planners instead considered affordable, efficient BRT options.

Route Basics: From the Marina Transit Exchange, the six-mile SURF! route will travel along Reservation Road and Del Monte Boulevard to reach a two-lane, bus-only roadway built on the MBL. Buses will stop at a new transit station on the former Fort Ord before continuing to Sand City Station. From there, passengers can take the existing JAZZ BRT line into Seaside and Monterey.

Project Timeline: After completing a 2017 multi-agency feasibility study, MST hired a consultant to assist with California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) reviews in late 2019. Project administrators expect to release an environmental document in early 2021, followed by board approval and a subsequent federal review. Kicking off construction by 2023 would put the SURF! line on track for a 2027 debut.

Funding: TAMC will provide $15 million in project support through Transportation Safety & Investment Plan (Measure X) funds approved by voters in 2016. MST will seek additional local, state and federal funds for the SURF! line for the estimated $52M project.

SURF! logo

“Rush-hour speeds on Highway 1 sometimes slow to just nine miles an hour. Passengers could save up to 15 minutes per trip on the SURF! line. Plus, that stretch of the Monterey Bay is one of the most beautiful bus rapid transit locations in the country.”

Proposed Features

  • SURF! passengers can save up to 15 minutes per trip when traveling the Marina-Sand City-Seaside corridor
  • Quiet, zero-emission buses will use clean battery electric or hydrogen fuel cell technologies
  • Traffic signal priority technology will swiftly move buses through stoplights between the Marina Transit Exchange and the SURF! busway
  • One mile of new pathways will boost safety and convenience for cyclists and pedestrians
  • Residents and individuals from California State University, Monterey Bay will enjoy a new transit center and park-and-ride facilities on the former Fort Ord