Capdiamont\’s Weblog


SR:PD Editorial: Vote SMART
Tuesday 7 Oct 2008, 12:50
Filed under: Marin, Railroad, SMART, Sonoma, transit

Measure Q is about investing in North Bay’s transit future

Published: Sunday, October 5, 2008 at 4:40 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, October 5, 2008 at 6:02 a.m.

As the Chinese proverb goes, the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second-best time is today.
Related Links:

* Measure Q Smart Quarter Cent Sales Tax – Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit District

On Nov. 4, North Bay voters have a chance to plant a sapling of a train system known as SMART, a commuter rail line that would run from Cloverdale to the Larkspur ferry terminal in Marin County, with 14 stops in between. Measure Q calls for a quarter-cent sales tax to pay for the train as well as a 70-mile bicycle/pedestrian pathway that would run along side it.

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again. This plan makes sense — for environmental reasons, planning reasons and economic development reasons.

What doesn’t make sense is that in an era of heightened anxiety about greenhouse gas emissions and high fuel costs, the North Bay has a set of railroad tracks that sits unused. Sonoma County hasn’t seen a passenger train in nearly 50 years. It hasn’t even had freight train service since 2001.

Given that the region is looking for new means of economic development and new sources of alternative transportation, these publicly owned railroad tracks are a wasted resource. It’s time to put them to good use.

The biggest criticism of SMART is that it’s too costly given the number of people who will ride it and the state of the economy.

We won’t dispute that this is an expensive project and that many won’t — or don’t plan to — ride it. But three things are true:

The North Bay is not going to get any smaller: Even with urban growth boundaries, community separators and other sensible growth restrictions, the North Bay will continue to expand — if slowly.

Between now and 2025, Sonoma County is expected to add about 100,000 new jobs while Marin County is expected to add 35,000. How are those people going to get around? A train system will encourage communities to concentrate those jobs — and the housing to support those employees — along the rail line. Such transit-oriented development is the centerpiece of 21st-century “smart” urban planning.

Building a train is not going to get any cheaper: When voters had a chance to approve SMART in 2006 — but missed doing so by about 3,000 votes — the system’s cost was $387 million. Now, it’s projected to cost $450 million. The price of the bike path has increased from $80 million to $90 million in that same period of time.

Still, the train-bike system is a better deal than, for example, another highway widening. The cost of widening Highway 101 through the Novato Narrows is now projected to be $800 million.

The need for more environmentally friendly forms of transportation is not going to get any less: Even based on conservative ridership numbers, SMART would remove an estimated 31 million pounds of greenhouse gas emissions each year. Each North Bay resident who decides to ride SMART instead of taking their car would reduce their carbon footprint for that day by 70 percent. Given that 60 percent of greenhouse gases come from vehicles, this alone should be an attractive reason to support Measure Q — and get out of our cars.

Finally, it’s true that SMART will not be supported solely by fares and that the estimated 5,050 a day will be subsidized by taxpayers. But this is true of every bus and rail transit system that exists today in the Bay Area and across the nation. Plus those transit systems benefit from government grants and subsidies — our tax funds — every time they seek to upgrade or expand. The North Bay won’t have equal access to those funds until we have a rail system of our own.

The North Bay needs an alternative transportation system, which is why polls show so many young people are supporting it — including those in Sausalito and the southern reaches of Marin County who won’t even be served by it.

Why? Because it makes sense and because it plants something that doesn’t exist now — a new way of getting around and a new way of thinking.

The Press Democrat recommends a yes vote on Measure Q.

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2 Comments

The diesel train is a sham. Vote no on Q. Diesel fumes causes cancer in babies. The trains will only carry 5000 people per day at most. Less than 3% of the cars on 101 are expected to switch to the train. It is an environmental disaster. The diesel train will ruin Marin.

Comment by Noway Jose

old study for number of people. That study was done when gas was in the one to two dollar range. Now much more expensive. Translation, much more incentive to ride. Time and time again, you can look and see people are using more and more mass transit, plus people just prefer rail transit over buses.

You forget buses mostly use diesel, and trains are much more efficient use of diesel. Thus less polluting than buses.

Trains have at least twice the life of buses.

Rubber on road will never be as efficient as steel wheels on steel rail.

What about the rubber particles from the tires from buses, cars, and trucks?

Yet SMART will be an environmental disaster?

Comment by capdiamont




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