At approximately $1.5 million, this is the cheapest station to build and it is located on an existing local bus route. Additionally, the combination of local demographics (33% Hispanic) and high population growth (Dixon grew 54% in the 1990’s) fit the findings of a meta-study, which determined that public transit hubs located in rapidly growing areas, as well as areas with a large and growing Latino population, have a proven track record of success, with high ridership numbers.
The Dixon site promotes development in the rural north part of the county, helping to balance the jobs/housing mix and reduce commutes. According to the STA, "approximately 76 percent of existing daily vehicle trips in Solano County have origins and destinations within the county". Clearly, the present imbalance is a major contributor to traffic problems and, thus, to pollution. With low rents and open land a mere 9 miles from UC-Davis’ Amtrak station, Dixon is ideally positioned to provide significant jobs growth and bring substantial employment to the underdeveloped northern portion of the county, thereby providing bonuses in easing county traffic by geographically balancing jobs with housing.
This station would be located on the only bus route that serves Travis (route marked in red). There are two options: The rail crossing on East Tabor near Clay Bank Road. Or the industrial park near where the railroad passes under Airbase Parkway. Either site can serve both Fairfield and Travis AFB equally well. Military retirees outside of the county, who utilize David Grant Medical Center, will boost ridership for this site. Senior citizens, particularly if they have health problems, often can no longer drive a car, and use public transit instead. This site is also in an existing commercial and residential area, thereby promoting both public transit and a walkable community.
The opportunity cost for this site, due to its nearness to the existing station, is the creation of one ‘skip stop’ with reduced (50%) service. However, Solano County’s own ridership study showed that the proposed Fairfield-Vacaville site (4.9 miles from existing station) would ‘steal’ existing ridership, thus reducing need for service. Overall, creation of a skip stop seems to be a negligible cost compared to the risk of losing Travis Air Force Base -- the county’s single largest employer (with more than 7000 jobs), worth more than $1billion per year -- due to encroachment. According to an article in Air Force Magazine: 'Encroachment has become a part of the base closure debate,' and 'The best way to help military bases [remain open] is for communities to help them solve their problems.'
In place of the existing plan’s Benicia Site, the alternate plan chooses a site which serves Vacaville. Vacaville has 88,000 residents versus Benicia’s 26,000. Additionally, Vacaville lacks the growth constraints that box-in Benicia. Since rail stations are very expensive and geographically fixed capital expenditures, they must be planned with a strong future orientation. The potential for growth in and around Vacaville clearly exceeds the potential for growth in and around Benicia.
Vacaville is not presently built out to the railroad tracks. This means there is no single, clear cut ‘winner’. One possible site is in Elmira, a tiny community between two discontinuous sections of Vacaville, on a street that runs directly into downtown Vacaville. However, the political history of the rail plan and environmental contamination at this site may mean it is politically ‘dead’. GIS analysis suggests a stretch of rail further south, fairly near existing development and as close to existing Vacaville bus routes as possible.
Further study would be needed to select a site for Vacaville, making this the last rail site that would be built. Choice of a site for Vacaville should be made cognizant of the fact that development follows transit: where this station gets placed will influence the future direction of growth for Vacaville. Therefore, it should be chosen to direct growth where growth is desired.