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SMART could open a year early, and other SMART trains articles
Sunday 9 Nov 2008, 04:49
Filed under: bicycle, Marin, Railroad, SMART, Sonoma, trails, transit

SMART train could roll a year early

The Sonoma-Marin commuter rail project approved by voters Tuesday could start rolling a year ahead of schedule if it gets money from the next economic stimulus package contemplated by Congress, officials said Wednesday.

“We would love to do that,” said Lillian Hames, general manager of the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit agency, known as SMART.

The agency promised voters that diesel-powered trains would be running by 2014, but with federal help that could happen in 2013, Hames said.

Meanwhile, the agency will start shopping for at least 14 rail cars, expected to cost about $87 million and take three years to build and deliver.

PAC: SMART train measure passes

The result is about 3 percent higher than the two-thirds majority needed for approval and about four percent higher than 2006.

Measure Q led in results that rolled in throughout election night, ending with 73.5 percent approval in Sonoma County and 62.6 percent in Marin.

SFGate: North Bay rail plan OKd, BART extension losing

“What a turnaround,” said Hal Beck, executive director of the Windsor Chamber of Commerce. “We did it. We did it! We’re going to move forward. … I wish it had happened 10 years ago because it would have been much cheaper – probably half the price. But it’s going to happen.”

NA: Marin County ‘puts measure over the top’

SR PD:PD Editorial: Green light
Transportation gains with OK for SMART tax, new 101 lanes

MIJ: Marin vote was frosting on SMART’s cake

A super majority is not required in each county. The unofficial tally shows Q achieving a robust 69.5 percent overall.

Q was expected to do well in Sonoma, where it got 70.1 percent favorable support in 2006 when a similar tax measure fell short. This year, the train plan won a landslide 73.5 percent of our northern neighbor’s “yes” votes.

The frosting on the cake for rail backers was a substantial majority in Marin. Two years ago commuter rail achieved an anemic 57.5 percent positive Marin support. This year, despite all of the hoopla in Novato over freight trains that will share SMART’s tracks and balloting in the midst of a crashing economy, Measure Q captured a respectable 62.6 percent of the Marin vote.

Rail supporters were bolstered by favorable factors in both counties. The spike in gasoline prices convinced many that exclusively relying on the auto commute is a mistake.

They were aided by Democrats who turned out in droves. Demos are more likely to vote for tax increases and infrastructure improvements than Republicans.

The North Bay is solidly environmental. The message that public transit, and rail in particular, is a potential mitigation to global warming finally took hold.


SMART’s foes made two fatal errors.

First, the Marin-based anti-rail group drove up to Sonoma to spread its fundamentally anti-development message. It’s an axiom of North Bay politics that nothing turns off Sonoma voters more than being told how to vote by perceived Marin elitists. That’s just what happened when these pied pipers faced commuters desperate for any relief from “freeway” gridlock.

More profound were SMART’s opponents’ failure to propose any viable alternative to commuter rail. The sneaking suspicion always was that the “No on Q” coalition preferred the status quo. Some of the naysayers fear that major transit improvements spur unwanted growth.

Others are against all tax measurers.

For all of these factions, doing nothing significant to improve mobility remains the favored alternative.

All that, and SMART passed anyway

For the two counties to combine on 69.5 percent vote to approve the SMART tax despite the brutal economy and the return of $2.35 gas, said my friend, “I think you can call that a mandate.”

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