SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The Santa Barbara County Association of Governments held a ribbon cutting in Goleta Friday afternoon to celebrate the first week of the new peak hour passenger rail service connecting Ventura to Santa Barbara counties.
You may remember the service was temporarily established when Highway 101 was shut down during the Montecito debris flow.
Despite some time delays causing hiccups for commuters; city, county and state leaders have been pushing for a permanent commuter route for years.
Senator Hannah Beth Jackson has been working to secure the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner commuter route since the early 2000’s.
“This is almost like giving birth, but it's been 18 years gestating which is too long for anything but we have this train now,” said Jackson.
For Jackson, it's an opportunity to demonstrate a commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and alleviating congestion on the 101.
City employees are all aboard.
“The city of Santa Barbara is paying 75% of the rail fare for our employees,” said Cathy Murillo, Mayor of Santa Barbara.
Even Santa Barbara County supervisor Das Williams is on board with the new route, along with local college students.
“It's convenient for me as a student at UCSB, I like to go home over the weekends,” said UCSB student Phoebe Morales.
That convenience factor has gone off the rails a few times during Route 759's inaugural trek from Goleta to Ventura.
“Sometimes it's really late, sometimes its an hour, sometimes it's just like 10 minutes,” said Morales.
State leaders are addressing the bumpy ride head-on.
“There were some start up issues that came up but today it was right on time so we're really happy. Going forward we expect reliability for this train, we're always working to improve rail service in the state. So there's a lot of things to do, not just reliability but ultimately we want more frequency for these trains,” said Brian Annis, Secretary of the California State Transportation Agency.
1,000 commuters have utilized the Goleta to Ventura route just this week.
Goleta’s Mayor says the route is such a success, they’re planning major renovations to Goleta’s Amtrak station.
Annis also addressed the construction near Carpinteria which is known to cause major traffic headaches on the 101. He says they always try to stage construction to minimize impacts, there will be great benefits when they're finished and he’s asking folks to be patient.