When NEED California Director, Barry Scott, moved to Santa Cruz County in 2014, he learned how terrible the congestion is on coastal Highway 1 and how few alternatives there are to sitting in traffic. He also learned that the county owned a 32-mile long railroad that runs parallel to the highway, connecting several cities along the way. Seizing on this opportunity, Barry began looking for anyone who could bring a modern operational service to town, if only for one day.

Finally, in 2018 a company in Southern California, TIG/m, expressed interest in bringing one of their modern battery-electric streetcars to the rail line for a demonstration. The TIG/m vehicle runs for 16 hours on battery power without recharging and that can be extended to 20 hours by using the on-board hydrogen fuel cell.

With the help of local partner Roaring Camp and Big Trees Railroad and other local sponsors, the Coast Futura demonstration took place this month. On Friday, October 15, the Coast Futura began a three day hourly service from downtown Watsonville out to scenic Harkins Slough and back. On Thursday, October 21 the streetcar provided hourly service through Sunday, October 24 from the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk to Capitola, giving people a chance to see what it’s like to get from city to city without a car, free from congestion. Learn more at www.coastfutura.org.

Rail transit is not only super-efficient, the Coast Futura TIG/m MRV3 tram runs entirely on zero-carbon electricity provided by Central Coast Community Energy, one of the sponsors of the demonstration. Even the hydrogen can be generated this way, so it’s all carbon free! Most importantly, reliable public transit expands opportunities and connects people to schools and jobs while saving them money. You can introduce students to hydrogen as an important energy carrier – both as a transportation fuel for distributed generation and as a transportation fuel with NEED’s suite of hydrogen and transportation curriculum, always available for free PDF download or as an e-publication. NEED is currently working on some fun updates and expansion of our H2 curriculum so be sure to keep an eye out!

Kevin Hill, one of Roaring Camp’s operators, trained to run the spiffy new streetcar, sent the following message to our State Director right after his second day of operating the demo:

Hey man, I had a REAL experience on my way home today! I went to the 7/11 in Watsonville to pick up a few copies of today’s Sentinel because we’re in it on the front page.

When I set the papers on the counter the cashier pointed to the picture of Tiggy (the tram) on the front page and got exited, had his coworker come over and said something in Spanish to her.

I explained that it was me running it and he asked if it was going to be permanent, I explained that we hoped so in the not so distant future, he said he doesn’t own a car and that would allow him access to higher paying jobs in Santa Cruz. That’s what this thing is all about! I just thought I’d share that with you I thought it was pretty amazing because the very point we’re trying to get across came to life in front of my eyes.

Above photo: Barry Scott in front of the streetcar.

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