SMART to Delay Hundreds of Thousands of 101 Users

SMART will serve just 231 riders to Larkspur, yet it will delay 362,390 daily 101 users. Absurd? Help apply some common sense. Read More >>

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SMART Train and Downtown San Rafael Survey Results

San Rafael traffic may become significantly worse when SMART is extended to Larkspur. This survey captured residents’ attitudes to SMART and the impact on downtown San Rafael.



A Tale of Two Cities, And Their Trains

SMART and Toronto are using the same Diesel Multiple Units – Toronto is Turning into a success story, does that mean SMART will be a success too?

SMART Pricetag to Exceed $1 billion; Additional $622m Requested

SMART has announced new additional costs amounting to $622m, this is on top of the existing anticipated costs of $695. Together this takes the project to a cost of over $1.3 billion.  More >>

6 Tactics to Hijack California’s Suburban Way of Life

Vilification, subversion of language, truisms and California’s one party government are just some of the tools being leveraged to push a developer funded radical rapid housing growth agenda that would dramatically reshape California’s single family home neighborhoods While Donald Trump is accused of having the attention span of a goldfish, the same accusation could be made of California voters. Few read ballot measures, typically basing their vote solely whether the the “headline” is appealing, or perhaps deferring to the endorsement of the local newspaper – newspapers which are often not without bias. This fact has not gone unnoticed by those who can benefit from it. This has led to one small but highly vocal minority special interest group hijacking not just state government but local councils and committees to push through their ideology – an ideology called “transit oriented development,” blended with the goal of driving rapid housing growth to address California’s housing crisis, above all other priorities and irrespective of negative, unintended consequences. This special interest group has successfully hijacked the conversation using 6 key tactics: Tactic #1: Propagate Opinions As “Truisms” While Dilbert creator Scott Adams accuses Trump of using hypnosis techniques, the same techniques are being used very effectively by pro rapid-growth groups such as the YIMBYs, and some groups using the pretense of advocating for “sustainable” development (there are many groups that advocate genuine sustainability which the author has great respect for). This tactic manifests itself at local council meetings, discussions with state government and, of course, in online community discussion forums. I recently started a poll on asking the seemingly simple question, “Will building more housing in our neighborhood increase or decrease traffic congestion?”. I qualified this with “The change in traffic congestion may be on local streets OR on freeways”. For context, our […]

The Death Knell for California’s Single Family Neighborhoods

Unbeknownst to most Californians, changes to state housing laws are being proposed that substantially shift the balance away from development of single family homes and low density residential (duplex, triplex, etc.) to large scale high density development and they make it almost impossible for residents, councils or mayors to ensure quality development mitigating impacts on existing or new residents’ quality of life California’s Housing Accountability Act law, enacted in 1982, compels cities to take action on proposed developments. However legislation enacted by Governor Brown in September 2017 shifted the burden of proof that a development conforms to legal and zoning requirements to the local government. Now the judgment of elected city officials is replaced with that of any “reasonable person”, which can include the project developer who has a fundamental economic interest in the project. Should the city reject an undesirable proposal, until recently only the developer could file suit to appeal and overturn the decision. However in September 2016 this was also changed so that instead trade or industry groups, or housing advocacy groups could file suit with cities paying their legal fees. Developers are reluctant to sue cities when development proposals are blocked, because they are constantly negotiating with city officials over their projects. The new legislation allows developers’ surrogates to do the dirty work. There have been two suits filed in Berkeley and Sausalito by the housing advocacy group San Francisco Bay Area Renters Federation (SF BARF, which is now known as SF YIMBY), both for market rate, not affordable housing. In both cases the advocacy groups prevailed with the city paying the advocacy group’s costs. Effectively, if a new apartment complex is proposed that complies with local zoning and your city rejects the proposal for being poorly designed or creating adverse impact (for instance on traffic […]

231 Train Riders Benefit While 362,390 Highway 101 Users Suffer

Want to do some good at Christmas – how about helping to save over three hundred thousand people collective hours of their time by sending a short email to the right person appealing for common sense? It’ll take you 2 minutes – and you can copy and paste from the email below to Supervisor Damon Connolly (click on the link to bring up a mail compose window). Delaying Hundreds of Thousands to Benefit a Handful of  Train Riders SMART’s extension to Larkspur is likely to…  help 231 daily train riders by the year 2035 (official SMART number) cause significant delays to 362,390 users of highway 101 (official Caltrans / DoT 2015 number). How You Can  Help? Send a letter like the one below to Supervisor Damon Connolly, who is both our district supervisor and our county representative on the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. Damon can be reached at Letter to Damon Connolly Damon, Can you please look into having MTC conduct appropriate traffic analysis and mitigation planning around the SMART extension to Larkspur? The extension is likely to cause backups onto 101 that should be analyzed caused by: crossings of 2nd and 3rd street relocation of bus services to surface streets from the Bettini Transit Center It is really important that the train does not exacerbate 101 backups. 2015 official Caltrans traffic counts for highway 101 show peak daily traffic of 217,000 vehicles on 101 at Lincoln Avenue – with 1.67 occupants (US DoT average car occupancy) this translates to 362,390 people. By comparison to 362,390 people using 101 at Lincoln, SMART estimates in it’s Environmental Impact Report (page 264) that it will carry 231 riders with the extension to Larkspur, but not until the year 2035. These are SMART and MTC ‘s official numbers. See page 264 of the SMART Environmental Impact […]

SMART Survey – How SMART Voters’ Views Have Shifted

Several days ago we published the results of a transportation survey detailing Marin residents’ views on SMART and the potential impact it will have on traffic and transit center users in downtown San Rafael. You can find these initial results here. Next we wanted to focus on the attitudes and responses of people stating that they voted for SMART – or Measure Q – to see if there has been a shift as the reality of SMART has emerged. 34% Respondents Voted For SMART As of the time of writing responses were as follows: 476 people took the survey 163 of those respondents stated that they had voted in favor of SMART (Measure Q) when it passed in 2008 Respondent Locations SMART supporter’s locations reflected those of respondents as a whole, with the majority –  about 70% in both cases – living in San Rafael: The Big Revelation – Voters Have Turned Against SMART The big surprise is that of those respondents who said they had voted for SMART in 2008, 50% either believe SMART is no longer a worthwhile project or answered “don’t knonw”.  Specifically 28% said they no longer thought the project was worthwhile and 20% answered “don’t know”. This is a truly remarkable figure representing a significant reversal of support for SMART. Only 50% of those who voted for the train now believe the project is still worthwhile. This compares to a figure of 21% of all respondents believe SMART is still worthwhile. So whichever lens is used SMART is barely deemed a worthwhile project. SMART Supporters Prioritization of SMART and San Rafael Traffic Congestion When SMART Measure Q Supporters were asked about traffic congestion in downtown San Rafael the leading answer remained “Traffic congestion is unacceptable, fixing this is a higher priority than SMART” with 38%. […]

Survey Results – SMART Train in San Rafael

With the city of San Rafael facing potential disruption to downtown traffic congestion by the extension of the SMART train to Larkspur it seemed worthwhile to conduct a survey to understand people’s attitudes to the train and the relative costs and benefits of the exercise. The initial operating segment of SMART is from Santa Rosa to downtown San Rafael. The extension to Larkspur is likely to add significant  traffic congestion as crossings will close off 2nd and 3rd streets four times an hour during the peak rush hour. Adding Train Crossings to an Area Already Experiencing Severe Traffic Congestion In 2014, SMART staff, in the Environmental Impact Study (EIS) using the Metropolitan Transportation Commission ridership model, projected that the extension to Larkspur would generate an additional 131 riders/day for the year 2035. In the same EIS, AECOM did traffic modeling for downtown San Rafael for 2040 and concluded that traffic would be so bad, the train crossing 2nd/3rd on its way to Larkspur would not make a material difference. They used the Level of Service grade rating which runs from A to F with D normally being the margin of acceptable. The 2nd and 3rd Street grade were both F – it doesn’t get any worse. Downtown San Rafael traffic congestion is already off the chart. Moving a Transit Center Used Daily by 4,500 People The extension of SMART to Larkspur means that left in place San Rafael Transit Center users would disembark into the path of trains – which clearly is not going to work. Today, not in 2035, the transit center serves 9,000 daily drips – or roughly 4,500 daily riders. This in comparison to SMART projecting that Larkspur extension will generate just 131 riders – and that’s all the way out in the year 2035.  Moving the […]

A Tale of Two Cities, and Their Trains

SMART and Metrolinx Toronto could be considered to be sister train systems – together they clubbed together to buy trains, or Diesel Multiple Units (DMUs) from Japanese manufacturer Sumitomo Nippon Sharyo. This unit has been in widespread use in Japan as an Electric Multiple Unit, but its’ use in Toronto and Marin is the time it has been coupled with a tier 4 diesel engine – in this case the diesel is made by Cummins. While this is a proven diesel unit the DMUs and this engine have never before been paired – so SMART and Metrolinx are taking risks using this combination. The Toronto line runs 41 miles from Toronto’s Pearson Airport to downtown Toronto. It is called the Union Pearson Express. Metal Fatigue on the Union Pearson Express, Toronto Metrolinx Toronto hit the Marin news lately as a result to metal fatigue in a crankshaft of its’ Cummins diesel engine causing a catastrophic engine failure. Toronto, which has a double tracked line, was able to continue operations. Both train systems are having Cummins replace the crankshafts for all of their diesel engines – Toronto is doing this without disrupting operations, but for SMART this is one reason given for delaying launch. A letter from LTK Engineering in the SMART Board of Director’s 19th October meeting packet (page 85) highlighted the differences between the Union Pearson Express and SMART in the light of the Cummins engine failure: The Toronto line is a double track line, SMART is 85% single track line If a SMART train breaks down there is no way to bypass the failed train. A bus bridge would need to be organized; yet it appears that there is no plan in place for instituting such a bus bridge at short notice. SMART requires 6 trains for operations, it has […]

Trains Aren’t the Solution, Cars Are

The secret’s out! Trains aren’t the solution, they’re the problem. On May 30th 2016 the Wall Street Journal published this article stating how California’s cap and trade increases gas prices by 1/2c to fund projects like high speed rail that DON’T reduce emissions and yet cost us 1/2c per gallon on gas: According to the state’s Legislative Analysts Office California high speed rail won’t reduce emissions for over 30 years, during that time it will actually increase emissions! Just like SMART. Many have just about had enough of being spoon-fed by self-declared authorities on “sustainability” pushing expensive, ineffective rail projects costing billions. Authorities like Governor Brown, State Assembly leader Kevin DeLeon and rail advocates across the state. The true story is now emerging that rail doesn’t fight climate change, it encourages it by increasing CO2 emissions even over the car journeys it displaces! Then authorities have the audacity to charge 1/2c on gas to bankroll encouraging climate change (all in the name of supposedly fighting it). So What’s the Answer? Autonomous Shared Car Services Meanwhile planners ignore the real solution: autonomous cars. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a group made up of 57 member countries including the United States, has published this report on how autonomous shared car services like Uber Pool and Zipcar can solve many problems: For rail advocates this report clearly shows that the time has now finally passed for this 19th century solution. The report is based on a traffic and transit simulation based on the city of Lisbon in Portugal. Note that autonomous cars work in conjunction with transit which serves higher traffic corridors. Here’s an excerpt from the findings: “Congestion disappeared, traffic emissions were reduced by one third, and 95% less space was required for public parking in our […]

Plan Bay Area 2040: More Theatre or Genuine Outreach?

[Originally published in the Marin Post on June 1st 2016] This Saturday, June 4, starting at 8:30am an Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s public workshop will review an update to Plan Bay Area – called Plan Bay Area 2040. The venue is Corte Madera Community Center at 498 Tamalpais Drive. This time around ABAG/MTC are presenting us with three scenarios to choose from: Main Streets Scenario places future population and employment growth in the downtowns in all Bay Area cities. This scenario would expand high-occupancy toll lanes and increase highway widenings. It would also assume some development on land that is currently undeveloped. Connected Neighborhoods Scenario places future population and employment growth in medium-sized cities and provides increased access to the region’s major rail services, such as BART and Caltrain. It would place most of the growth in areas that cities determine as having room for growth, with some additional growth in the biggest cities. There would be no development on open spaces outside the urban footprint. Big Cities Scenario concentrates future population and employment growth within the Bay Area’s three largest cities: San Jose, San Francisco and Oakland. Transportation investments would go to the transit and freeways serving these cities. There would be no development on open spaces outside the urban footprint. When you want to control the outcomes a great method is to limit the choices. All three likely pack in the same number of new residents (this is not yet clear). There may be some redemption in scenario 3 for Marin, but the growth still gets packed in the region somehow… Here’s an assessment of the way things are shaping up… (1) The Scenarios Appear to be a Way to Control the Conversation, Again: The Plan Bay Area update’s approach looks like an attempt to […]

In the Heart of the High Density Housing Echo Chamber

Sometimes the best way to deal with an adversary is to go behind enemy lines and find out what they’re thinking. So today, together with Susan Kirsch, I attended the ABAG and MTC hosted event “Calling the Bay Area Home: Tackling the Affordability and Displacement Challenge” at the Oakland Marriott. The Marriott is an impressive venue, attendees were provided with muffins, cake and Starbucks coffee for breakfast and an assortment of lunch boxes – this was no Plan Bay Area public meeting. Our regional transportation and housing planning bodies, MTC and ABAG had truly rolled out the red carpet for this select audience. While not up to Oscars standards, in regional political terms the cast was star studded. The north bay was well represented with Jake Mackenzie, ABAG vice chair and Rohnert Park Vice mayor resplendent in a Famous Grouse rugby shirt just in case his strong Scottish accent was insufficient to drive home his characterful identify. Also in attendance were Marin Supervisor Steve Kinsey, Napa County Supervisor and former ABAG president Mark Luce, Novato Mayor Pat Eklund and supervisor candidate Susan Kirsch with whom I carpooled to the event. So Where’s ABAG’s Forum for Homeowners? What Susan and I found most remarkable was how special interest groups of affordable housing advocates and developers had their own dedicated forum laid on at a 4 star hotel. Where, we asked, was the forum for the other major stakeholder – the homeowners and residents whose taxes paid ABAG and MTC’s salaries and office rent? Where we asked was our forum also paid on our dime – the one that might be called “Calling the Bay Area Home: Preserving our quality of life and protecting local control”? All we the residents can look forward to is another Plan Bay Area cattle call where we line […]

SMART Pricetag to Exceed $1 billion; Additional $622m Requested

On October 21st SMART published a new document outlining an additional $622m required to complete the SMART train project: SMART RTP2017 AttachmentA_Detail These asks can be broken down as follows: $178m – Extend from Santa Rosa to Cloverdale. This was promised to be delivered to voters within the original Measure Q funding request. $42.53m – Extend from San Rafael to Larkspur Again this was promised within the original Measure Q. $53m – Add additional ‘C’ cars (third middle carriages) SMART’s ridership numbers do not merit this additional expense as covered in this Marin Voice piece that I co-authored with Mike Arnold. $40m – Rail freight improvements Why are taxpayers being asked to foot the bill to help commercial freight operations? If there’s a return on investment for taxpayers we’ve yet to see this articulated. $29m – Rail operations capacity enhancements – handling freight, Positive Train Control (safety system) maintenance. Positive Train Control is a foreseeable requirement – this should have been in Measure Q. $11m – Petaluma, add a second station and “associated amenities” Before adding stations it would be better for SMART to understand if it will generate sufficient ridership to justify adding stations. This station by itself will hardly tip the balance. $124m – Construct the SMART bike path This was originally promised to be delivered by Measure Q; costs were projected to be $91m in 2009 $120m – Add facilities to stations …including station furniture, ADA features, landscaping, bike and car parking and sharing, real time transit signage, “intermodal improvements”, security enhancements and programs for car sharing $24m to cover operational costs for local partnerships with bus operators …these are the shuttles that were again promised to be provided by Measure Q What this means is that the price tag of SMART, as promised to voters in […]

SMART asks Marin for $10-12m to Fund and Complete Each Station

SMART is asking to divert “astounding” amounts of money from genuinely cost effective and green transportation programs in Marin, in the words of Transportation Authority of Marin Executive Director Dianne Steinhauser. Watch from the 59m 30s mark of the October 22nd  Transportation Authority of Marin board meeting to see this outrage unfold: In the last week SMART has revealed at the Transportation Authority of Marin board of directors meeting that each SMART station in Marin will need $10-12m in funding. (Jump to the 59m 30s mark). There are 4 stations in Marin, 5 if Larkspur is included. This request is truly preposterous and should not be honored by TAM, let alone even entertained. Voters gave SMART the money it stated it would need to build the entire line from Cloverdale to Larkspur, including stations and a greenway path for bike and pedestrians connecting all the stations and shuttles – the funding was the 1/4c sales tax. SMART is breaching agreements by diverting funds from truly cost effective and green transportation projects into its boondoggle – a boondoggle without ridership projections, just a leap of faith. This is yet another broken SMART promise. SMART is now doing exactly what was foreseen – cannibalizing transportation project funding.

The Flawed Concept of “Workforce Housing”

Listening to the Marin County Supervisors we would be led to believe there is no higher priority than to provide “workforce housing“. “We can reduce the impacts of in-commuting by…building workforce housing would enable people working in Marin to live closer to their jobs.” Supervisor Sears, Feb 21st 2014 Facebook page “It’s important that we build healthy and sustainable communities by allowing those who work in Marin to also live here,”  Supervisor Arnold, Sept 2011 “To increase the stock of affordable housing, especially workforce housing, the Marin County Board of Supervisors enacted the Affordable Housing Impact Fee.” This is a $5 or a $10 per square foot fee imposed on new builds and remodels. An existing 1,800 square foot house with a 700 square foot addition or conversion will be assessed $2,500. Source. The concept of providing workforce housing underpins stated policy not just from Marin County Supervisors but also the Association of Bay Area Governments’ Plan Bay Area: “The job growth forecast was adjusted based on the difficulties in supplying sufficient housing in the Bay Area to meet the needs of workforce housing within reasonable commute times. ” Source: Plan Bay Area, page 15, Employment Forecast Workforce Housing – The Premise & Alleged Benefits The concept presumes that by building affordable housing in a county: more county workers who used to live outside the county will be able to live in the county traffic congestion will be reduced greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced. A quick Google search constrained to the Marin County website references the term “workforce housing” in 340 separate documents. The same term appears in 160 documents on the Association of Bay Area Governments website. Restated the premise of workforce housing is woven deeply into planning and policy across the region. It is frequently used to justify housing […]

Supervisor Kinsey Dodges Richmond Bridge Questions

Many may know that Marin County Supervisor Steve Kinsey is taking credit for fast tracking the restoration of the Richmond Bridge third car lane – a project that will address acute traffic back ups on the bridge that go back onto 101 during the northbound evening rush hour. Supervisor Kinsey has been insistent that millions are spent to progress his vision of completing the “Bay Trail” – a bike / ped trail that encircles the bay. Recently this exchange occurred. The issue at hand is that to restore the 3rd car lane requires relocating an unused bike path in Point Molate (the eastern side of the bridge) at a cost of $15m and likely further delaying the project’s completion date. Supervisor Kinsey appears defiant in defending the expenditures, and evasive on the issue of the Point Molate bike lane relocation cost and project timeline impact. He appears unconcerned with expenditures of millions of dollars, or transportation projects with more acute needs. [From Steve Kinsey] I am not prepared to encourage BATA to ignore the State Highway Code, and they wouldn’t be able to do so even if I did. As a State mandate, it would be up to State legislative members to consider whether a change is warranted. In reading the Code sections cited, I doubt State legislators would be interested in making a revision, because the intent of it is to insure that highway projects don’t eliminate existing non-motorized facilities. The Code also commits the State to include parallel non-motorized facilities as part of highway projects when the alignment is part of an identified route, which is certainly true in this situation. The segment leading between Richmond city streets and Point Molate has long been of interest to that community, to Bay Trail advocates, and to the Contra Costa […]

The “Transportation Cloud” is Coming

Many are familiar with “the cloud” – that imaginary place up there in Internet “heaven” where companies and people can access file storage, computing power, movies or music instantaneously – on demand – whenever they need it. The computer cloud has disrupted conventional computing: Companies no longer need commit to buying dedicated servers that they may only fully utilize a few times a year. People no longer need to buy bigger disk drives to store their email – we have services like Gmail that seem to offer endless storage for mails we never seem to get around to deleting. We no longer buy movies or music, instead we subscribe to on-demand services capable of instantly gratifying us like Netflix and Spotify The Internet cloud, while seemingly imaginary and ethereal has transformed the computer industry – and the number are staggering: Research firm IDC estimates that businesses spent over $100 billion on cloud computing in 2014 (Source: The Economist) Amazon’s cloud services report year on year growth of 90% Netflix is estimated to use 34.9% of all downstream Internet traffic during peak periods on North American Broadband networks, closely followed by YouTube with 14% (Source: Variety, Nov 2014) Just as “the cloud” has disrupted and revolutionized business computing, communications and media consumption – so the coming “transportation cloud” will have similar radical impacts on the world around us. What is the Transportation Cloud? The short version: think Uber, add car-pooling then throw in Google self-driving cars. The longer version – imagine next time you need to leave your house to go shopping, go to work, get to the airport you’ll click on a mobile app. Your location and intended destination will be transmitted to a central service and a self-driving car, that may already have passengers traveling along a similar route, […]

Save Taxpayers Money – Offer Limousine Shuttles for Cyclists

MTC’s response to Planning for Reality’s Public Records Request for the costs of the Richmond Bridge bike path includes a remarkable expense. As most folks know the bike path will cost $68m – but will likely be used by fewer than 156 cyclists over a 3 hour commute if usage is consistent with Marin bike paths (source: Walk Bike Marin, see table on page 23), meanwhile restoring an already built third car lane will cost $15m: The remarkable item appears on page 9: Relocation Assistance (Shuttle for Bikes) $1,095,000 Escalated value 2015: $1,161,685.50 Further into the breakdown it clarifies: Relocation Assistance Assume 8 hours a day Shuttle operation, 365 days a week, at $75/hr for 5 years $1,095,000 This appears to be a temporary shuttle bus that for five years will drive cyclists back and forth across the bridge! The ~156 cyclists don’t even have to wait for construction to complete, unlike the tens of thousands of motorists who will remain stuck in traffic until the work is completed. Limousines Cheaper than $1.2m Bike Shuttle It would be cheaper to taxpayers to rent limos for cyclists. You could rent a limousine for less than $75/hour, even before negotiating a discount for 5 years of service! Here is a list of multiple San Francisco limo services in SF that cost less than $75/hour (even before negotiation): Note: Planning for Reality anticipates receiving MTC’s response to its second records request on Richmond Bridge bike path costs by Feb 10th 2015. This original MTC response provided Nov 6th 2014 clearly showed the bike path cost of $68m, yet MTC’s spokesman Randy Rentschler stated on CBS TV News on Jan 26th that the bike path cost was just $30m. Full Records Request Response from MTC, Nov 6th 2014:

MTC Caught In the Act on Richmond Bridge Bike Lane

On January 26th MTC’s spokesman on CBS TV Bay Area news contradicted documents previously provided to Planning for Reality as recently as November 6th 2014 that showed that the cost of the bike lane across the Richmond San Rafael Bridge is $68m – more than double the $30m referenced by MTC’s spokesman Randy Rentchsler (jump to the 1 minute mark). Given that according to Walk Bike Marin the average bike path in Marin has 53.5 riders per hour at peak and declining (see page 23 of the Walk Bike Marin figures that are referenced in a US Congress on Nonmotorized Transportation report), spending $68m on a bike path across a 5.5 mile bridge is a terrible waste of taxpayers money.  Given its location, length and the regular high crosswinds the bridge will likely have far fewer riders than the average Marin bike path.  MTC – Bike Path Cost “Just Part of the Program” Meanwhile tens of thousands of Marin County travelers in cars, the ones picking up the tab for the bike path via gas taxes and bridge tolls, are affected by failure to address acute traffic issues at the 101/580 connector in San Rafael (estimated cost $125m), the Greenbrae interchange and the Novato Narrows (cost $225m) – projects that would address acute issues affecting tens of thousands of people that to date remain unfunded while this $68m bike path helping less than 156 riders is funded. MTC’s spokesman tells us in this news report “we say the issue of the cost is just part of the program“! Apparently spending for a handful of bikers goes unquestioned, the rest of us paying for this development can apparently just sit and suffer in traffic – while our gas taxes and bridge tolls bankroll these projects our priorities come last when MTC is making decisions. Assuming peak traffic lasts […]

The Great sprawl of China (The Economist)

IN ANCIENT times, Beijing built towering city walls that helped to prevent undefendable sprawl. These days it builds ring roads, stretching built-up areas ever outwards..         Read full article >>

How Many Riders Will SMART Really Have?

There has been a great deal of speculation about how SMART will reduce 101 congestion or greenhouse gas emissions. But these claims all pivot on the assumption that SMART will attain a certain number of riders. Previously the author has run figures and worked out that to breakeven on CO2 emissions SMART will need something north of 60 to 80 average riders. But how many riders will SMART really get? Could this be realistic? A Look at Other Hybrid Rail Ridership Numbers 2012 is the most recent national data available from the Federal Transit Administration; here is a table showing average train ridership for the four operators that reported “hybrid rail” data for that year. The New Jersey “River Line”, opened in 2004. This line is 8 years into operation before it attained am average of  as many a 46.8  riders. This line connects Trenton and Camden, going down the East Side of the Delaware River.  There are connections to New York City (long commuter rail) and Philadelphia which is pretty much right across the River. While stations along the River Line do not directly serve a major business district, New Jersey is this most densely populated state in the nation. (i.e. far more dense than Marin, so it would be near impossible for SMART to hit a ridership of 46.8). North San Diego County doesn’t go into the major city of San Diego, but it does serve the city center of Oceanside, population 172,000 – that’s over 3x the population of San Rafael, along with a number of other smaller cities and college campuses. It commenced operation in 1995 – 17 years before it attained a ridership of 41.2. Portland’s WES service runs from Wilsonville to Beaverton, where you can get a connection to downtown Portland on MAX, Tri-Met’s light rail service. The […]

Whose Fault Was the WinCup Disaster?

Today WinCup has become famous as a disaster to both sides of the housing debate: Measured growth advocates point to a monstrosity that is a major departure from the architectural character of Marin, will impose major traffic impact and provides barely any (just 18 units) affordable housing Fast growth new urbanists recognize that it is the highly visible monument that lost them the hearts and minds of mainstream Marin residents. It is right next to 101 where on a peak day as many as 591,000 people drive by according to Caltrans 2013 traffic counts. Some blame the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) which imposed housing quotas on Corte Madera that the city had to plan for – failing which it was sure to be sued by housing advocates for “failing to deliver its fair share” of afforable housing. Others lay the blame on the Corte Madera city council. Both are both partially right a, but they overlook an entity that was fare more responsible for the fiasco that was WinCup. The Real Story of WinCup While it will be impossible to completely join the dots here is the real story behind WinCup that I’ve learned: 1) ABAG gave Corte Madera a ludicrously high target that it must plan for 244 housing units.This was preposterously high for a city that councilors tell me is near completely built out. The city already had identified locations for about 60 units, but there was very limited remaining land available that wasn’t in a flood plain. Later into the process Corte Madera objected and ABAG dialed the quote back to about 70 units, but that point the developer had locked in WinCup and it was too late. 2) A former mayor of Belvedere, who understood how land deals worked, was retained by the land […]

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