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...
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...
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...
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...