Notes about the map above
(Click on the map to enlarge it. A pdf of the map, along with a detailed note on how this map was prepared, is available here.)
Here's the question: Is our population density great enough to support passenger rail service along the Santa Cruz Branch Line?
The map, which we created in July 2012 using census tract data from the 2010 Census, shows population densities for the southern parts of Santa Cruz County. Although successful passenger rail service depends on several factors, experience from similar operating rail lines shows that feasible rail service requires a population density greater than 4000 to 5000 per square mile in the vicinity of the rail line.
Our map shows that many parts of our urbanized area have densities in excess of 4000 per square mile, with a significant fraction of these lying within a ten-minute walk (half a mile) of the rail line. The highest densities in Santa Cruz County occur for three census tracts in Watsonville, with Tract 1103 having a density in excess of 14000 per square mile. Ten census tracts in Santa Cruz and Live Oak have densities in excess of 7000 per square mile.
Our population densities are similar to those in the San Jose area, or in the area of the southern San Francisco peninsula, where passenger rail service has proven to be successful.
As seen from the map, the Capitola Mall is less than half a mile from the intersection of 41st Avenue with the rail line. Cabrillo College is even closer, although separated from it by the Highway 1 freeway.