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

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 dconnolly@marincounty.org (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 dconnolly@marincounty.org 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...
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...
Plan Bay Area 2040: More Theatre or Genuine Outreach?

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...
In the Heart of the High Density Housing Echo Chamber

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...