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

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...

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: http://marin.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?clip_id=7785 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...