Capdiamont\’s Weblog

Monday 2 Mar 2009, 11:31
Filed under: bicycle, Marin, Northwestern Pacific Railroad, Railroad, SMART, Sonoma, trails, transit

Novato’s interest in SMART is encouraging

SMART OFFICIALS no doubt are shaking their heads over Novato’s growing interest in local train stations.

During planning efforts, before November’s vote on the Marin-Sonoma commuter train, the Novato City Council was reluctant to even commit to any specifics about two station locations. The council even balked at taking a position on the SMART sales tax.

Now, with the tax passed and that debate in the political rearview mirror, the council is looking forward and displaying far more enthusiasm about the task of getting more exact about locations for SMART stations in Novato.

In fact, city officials are now talking about three stops, possibly adding a downtown station to plans for stations near Fireman’s Fund, at the north end of town, and at Hamilton Field, at the south end of Novato.

Officials seek Railroad Square funds

SANTA ROSA – Funding was the primary obstacle left in the way of the mixed-use Railroad Square project in Santa Rosa getting under way, and it looked to be closer than ever, but a new wrinkle has appeared: the federal economic stimulus bill.

Study of Hwy. 101 overpass advancing

Santa Rosa bike enthusiasts and city officials are moving forward with a study for a new bicycle and pedestrian bridge over Highway 101 that could link Santa Rosa Junior College and a proposed westside commuter rail station.

Upfront: Ticket to ride

The Muir Woods Shuttle, started as a pilot project, will run this year as a full-fledged member of the Marin Transit District family. The shuttle is accomplishing more than carrying visitors to the national park; it’s proving that alternative modes of transportation can succeed. And the success of the Muir Woods Shuttle can offer insight into how shuttle systems could carry Marin residents in a transportation system that connects towns to towns and Marin residents to the SMART rail system.

Advance wrong about SMART trains

The Advance’s editorial last week, “SMART should pick heavy trains,” got its priorities exactly backwards.

It would be a giant step backward to order heavy, FRA-compliant vehicles – not to mention the financial risk of ordering the first model of an unproven design. Who wants to buy the first model of a new brand of auto?

In short, European light vehicles will cost less, be more reliable, be less expensive to operate because they are not hauling around dead weight, and are available with off-the-shelf, proven designs.

It is obvious to us that a brand-new rail agency doesn’t need the headaches and worry that come with an untried design.

Novato has made rail freight a far bigger issue than it deserves to be. Trains ran through town long before Novato became a city. In 1969, three trains a day went through Novato. It wasn’t a big deal then, and will be less of one now.

The small amount of freight traffic expected in the early years of SMART can easily be handled without late-night trains. In later years, we can expect regulatory approval for the mixed operation of SMART light vehicles and freight trains, under a major new safety system, Positive Train Control. That operational flexibility will completely eliminate the issue of late-night trains.

David Schonbrunn

President Transportation Solutions Defense and

Education Fund

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