A division of the Rogue Valley Council of Governments has launched a study to determine which kinds of alternative transportation would be most practical in the valley.

The Metropolitan Planning Organization’s yearlong travel demand study will analyze alternative transportation possibilities here, said Vicki Guarino, planning coordinator for the organization.

She attended Tuesday’s meeting of the Ashland Planning Commission, where commuter rail was a topic.

The organization hopes to begin to release data from the study this fall, and complete phase one of it by spring, Guarino told the Planning Commission.

Essentially, the future of commuter rail in the valley hangs on the population density findings of study, she said. The study will find out how many people would need to live or work in Southern Oregon to make commuter rail economical for the region.

In 2007, the organization conducted a commuter rail study and found that the rail network would cost $26 million to create and $3 million to operate each year.

Ashland is so optimistic that the city may one day be connected to other Rogue Valley cities by commuter rail, it’s saving space on the Croman Mill property plans for an extra rail spur to accommodate passenger trains.

However, commuter rail in Southern Oregon — which would likely use the existing railroad tracks and run from Central Point to Ashland — is little more than a dream right now, said Guarino.

“It wouldn’t be feasible now; what we’re looking at is for the future,” she said. “Something like this would take decades to make happen.”

— Ashland Daily Tidings