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Euro-Style Rail Cars Touted for Transit

“There are still a lot of questions and a lot of moving parts, but I’m really pleased by the ‘oh, wow’ encouragement of a lot of folks." -- Chuck McMinn, president, Napa Transit Investors.

European-designed, clean-burning rail cars could some day carry locals and tourists alike up and down the Napa Valley along the route.

Making it happen is the aim of two Napa Valley businessmen – both known for realizing audacious visions – who are forming an investors group to bring light-rail transit to the county.

“We are out to figure out a way … to give everyone in the Napa Valley the ability to hop on and hop off a light rail line that runs from to St. Helena,” said Upvalley vintner Sept. 11 during his speech at the .

In an interview with Napa Patch, McMinn said the vehicles envisioned for the light-rail service are called “Sprinter” and made in Sacramento by Siemens under the “Desiro” brand.

Because they’re built to comply with European emissions standards, McMinn said, the Sprinters are “very clean burning, very efficient.”

The sleek, two-car rail vehicles are also “ultra modern and comfortable,” he added.

McMinn, the leading force behind the projected 44-mile north-south for bicycle and pedestrian use, is working with developer Keith Rogal, who turned a former RV storage facility into the high-end Carneros Lodge (with a pair of locally-popular restaurants, Farm and ) and has an ambitious proposal for the former property just outside city limits.

Rogal, who has long boosted light rail as a solution to Napa’s traffic woes, has been meeting with like-minded investors and citizens for the past four years, according to an announcement from the newly-formed Napa Transit Investors.

The announcement begins,

Napa Transit Investors has entered into formal discussions with the Napa Valley Wine Train regarding a plan to create a new, more environmentally responsible and enjoyable alternative for daily transportation in the Napa Valley, utilizing the rail corridor of the Napa Valley Wine Train.

Greg McManus, CEO of the Napa Valley Wine Train, has indicated his openness to the concept, and will be providing information needed for Napa Transit Investors to review the possibilities in detail during the next 90 days.

McMinn told Napa Patch, “I have agreed to be the President of NTI in the short term and help to secure an investor group that would be willing to help make this happen.”

McMinn said he intends to have at least one and potentially multiple public meetings within the next few weeks to gather input and opinions on the light-rail proposal.

“There are still a lot of questions and a lot of moving parts, but I’m really pleased by the ‘oh, wow’ encouragement of a lot of folks,” he said.

A similar rail system operates in San Diego, McMinn said.

Tim Thulin September 16, 2011 at 01:56 PM
I'm all for this, I'm all for giving people a cleaner way to travel in the Napa Valley. Can the slow, plodding Wine Train (slow and plodding is fine when you're eating dinner and you're enjoying the ambiance of the Wine Train and seeing the valley) and the sleek, faster, modern trains really use the same tracks? The story says using the same corridor, does that mean possibly building a parallel set of tracks?
Riccardo Gaudino September 16, 2011 at 04:00 PM
The railcar is always attractive to sell. But do any of you ride the Vine to work from Calistoga, Yountville to Vallejo? I know you don't because I AM often the only rider. The NPTA looses big money - but serves an at-risk population. They should get a grant from the wine auction. The Trolly fiasco lost one million per year. No elected official stood up to stop the waste. This herd mentality cancels any creativity for like the Santa Cruz Boardwalk - for parking at the Outlets to come to downtown Napa. The NV tourist attraction is ride the Sterling Vyds tramway. I saw this as a viable idea. But funding the idea with the local politicians lacking the expertise... I said forget it. But Pat Thompson did the trolley bus with federal "fat" funding to loose millions. It went right in front of my house empty daily. Great image! So, YES, the overhead tram is cost-effective as a community model.
Riccardo Gaudino September 16, 2011 at 04:03 PM
Also, when I live in Italy. This same rail unit is what I use to move. Often, I was the only rider, just like I am here on the bus. You guys are sweet - but train is just a category for NPTA to get a federal grant, charge admin fee, and loose money. Why not invest in the overhead tram in Downtown or on the River. Call me to learn more about the use of Transportation dollars - as you know - having just won the TE grant 2.5m for Vine Trail. Cooperation expands our "knowledge" capital and economy. Love your idea! But here are the facts from a rider. Why not extend the rails to Calistoga. "Rails and Trails Together!"
Louisa Hufstader September 17, 2011 at 11:55 PM
I've just learned that the organizers are holding a public input session for Napa Transit Investors on Monday 9/26 from 5:30-7PM at the Yountville Community Center Heritage Room. Bring your questions and observations.

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