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MIJ: Marla Fields and Annan Paterson: Hamilton train station – for the kids’ sake
Tuesday 6 May 2008, 06:35
Filed under: Marin, Novato, Railroad, SMART, trails

Staff Report
Article Launched: 05/06/2008 12:23:30 AM PDT

Marla Fields and Annan Paterson

A SONOMA-MARIN Area Rail Transit train and trail station in Hamilton will benefit children in the following important ways:

– A Hamilton SMART station will reduce local car traffic. Many of Hamilton’s 8,000 residents are within walking and biking distance to the proposed rail station. That means fewer cars will pass by the schools on their way out of the neighborhood to enter the freeway.

Additionally, nearly 2,000 employees are located about a half mile from the station site. A survey by Q&A Research Company determined 41 percent of employees would commute to work by SMART three or more times per week. The number of new cars added from outside neighborhoods is a small fraction of the total station user base, so the net effect will be to reduce traffic near the schools.

– Reducing neighborhood car traffic increases safety for children. Statistics from SMART’s environmental impact report reveal the biggest threat facing our children who walk and bike is being hit by cars. In the United States, from 2000 to 2007, roughly 4,000 kids under 15 were killed and 300,000 injured by cars and trucks while walking or riding their bikes. During the same period, there were zero deaths to children under 11 by all U.S. commuter rail. (National Highway and Traffic Safety Analysis Administration and Federal Rail Association Office of Safety Analysis database.)

– Children will have a safe route to school. Hamilton children need never cross railroad
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tracks when going to school. Due to the existing neighborhood design, the Safe Route to School plan will take children over a small bridge.

– SMART will greatly improve cycling conditions. SMART’s 70-mile pedestrian and cyclist pathway will take kids off dangerous shared road paths and encourage more kids to safely participate in a healthy, zero-emission lifestyle.

– SMART rail is clean. The SMART train will lead to net reductions in criteria pollutants and greenhouse gases due primarily to the decrease in car traffic (EIR 3.5.5). The new clean diesel technology that these European railcars will employ is described by Scientific American as “nearly as green as hybrids.” SMART trains will use ultra-low sulfur fuel and highly effective particulate traps, resulting in the same amount of particulate matter as a single car, as described in SMART’s “clean train” white paper No. 6.

– A Hamilton station means trains move slowly through the Hamilton neighborhood. Instead of passing through quickly, trains would slow to 20 mph as they approach the station.

– A Hamilton station will allow teachers and some families to arrive to school safely and reliably. The Novato Charter School in Hamilton draws families from Southern and Central Marin, Sonoma County and Northern Novato. They will be able to use rail or the bicycle pathway to commute. Additionally, many teachers commute daily from Petaluma and points further north. Federal Rail Association Office of Safety Analysis statistics prove that riding in commuter rail in the United States is 67 times safer per passenger mile than riding in a car.

Kalvin Platt, acclaimed green-community architect and former director of Harvard’s Land Development Graduate School of Design, has endorsed the Hamilton SMART station “as a unique opportunity to transform a major portion of Novato into a sustainable community providing benefits of reduced auto trips, less traffic, reduced greenhouse gas emissions and energy use.”

The IJ editorial board and the Greenbelt Alliance also have endorsed the Hamilton SMART station as the logical choice.

We encourage Novato families to let their council members and school administrators know that they want a Hamilton SMART station – for the kids’ sake.

Marla Fields is a task force leader for Safe Routes to School, chairwoman of the Curb Your Carbon Global Warming Educational Program and a Hamilton resident. Annan Paterson is a Novato mother, grandmother and educator who has worked at Hamilton area schools as a school psychologist. She is active in local government and nonprofit boards.

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