'Polar Express' gets final approval for holiday service

Polar Express holiday train in Capitola closer to reality

CAPITOLA, Calif. - UPDATE 8/18/16 4:55 PM: The Polar Express will run as scheduled. On Thursday, the Santa Cruz Regional Transportation Commission approved the holiday excursion train between Santa Cruz and Capitola for a five week period this November and December. 

The hour-long Polar Express excursion offers round-trip service from the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk to a "North Pole" located near Capitola.

ORIGNAL STORY: Although it's only August, the Capitola City Council is already meeting to talk about holiday plans, and not without controversy. The "Polar Express" holiday train was on the agenda Thursday night. The issue: whether it could run through the city.

Despite noise and environmental concerns, the city council unanimously gave support to the train.

Final approval lies with the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission.

"They do remember North Pole, so I like this idea. As adults, sometimes we have to put up with a few things because kids matter," council member Jacques Bertrand said.

And those few things that Capitola adults have to put up with include, "the safety, the noise, the dirt, the pollution, the impact on the whole quality of life," resident Jaku Kinst said.

If approved next week, the one hour "Polar Express" ride will be taking Central Coast kids from the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, through Capitola, to meet Santa in the North Pole.

While it may be a once-in-a-Christmas adventure, the holiday joy will not be shared by those living near the tracks.

"Two trips a day, we will hear that horn 20 times a day, and once we hit four trips, we will hear that horn 40 times a day," a resident told the council.

Some residents were excited and wrote to the council to express their support.

"The rail line has been kind of dead for the last three or four years. So this would put some kind of service back on that line," council member Dennis Norton said.

"Our marketing people are forecasting 25,000 to 30,000 passengers for the five or six week Christmas season," said Kevin Busath of Iowa Pacific Holdings, the company that operates the holiday trains.

Iowa Pacific Holdings will meet with the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission next Thursday, and company officials say they are confident that they will get the final approval to move ahead.

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