SMART Survey – How SMART Voters’ Views Have Shifted

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...
Survey Results – SMART Train in San Rafael

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...
A Tale of Two Cities, and Their Trains

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...
Trains Aren’t the Solution,  Cars Are

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: http://www.wsj.com/articles/californias-cap-and-trade-bubble-1464643546 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: http://www.itf-oecd.org/sites/default/files/docs/shared-mobility-liveable-cities.pdf 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...

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...

A Response to Global Site Plans’ Nick Danty

Every  now and then an article is published by those advocating rapid growth that is so poorly grounded on facts that one almost hesitates to respond. One such article is “Social Equity Or NIMBYism? Marin County’s Battle With Affordable Housing” on Global Site Plans written by Nick Danty, a recent CSU Chico graduate. I’ve known of this post for a while, but it has almost not seemed worthwhile responding due to the nature of its inaccuracy and because it has slide down to the depths of ad hominem attacks – typically a strong indication of a lack of defensible arguments. Writer Nick Danty responds to one commenter: please keep your posts mature and without offensive language Yet his article sets the tone by descending to name calling – labeling opponents NIMBYs. I find this offensive as it falsely simplifies a wholly complex and nuanced topic with a smear intended to distance observers. Such readers might otherwise read up on the topic, become informed and discover that Danty’s arguments are completely misplaced.  Inaccuracies – Where to Start? Moving onto the topic of inaccuracy, where to start? I shall endeavor to be precise and include citations. First let’s get the most obvious, and blatant inaccurate statement by Danty out of the way: ultra right-wing community groups continue to believe that Plan Bay Area is the extension of a global agenda to rob Americans of their freedom. Groups such as Citizen Marin… Danty might be surprised to learn that Citizen Marin was co-founded by Marin Democratic Central Party committee member Susan Kirsch: http://citizenmarin.org/about-us/ Frank Egger, former seven time mayor of Fairfax –...