By DEEDEE BRIDGES and MARGY ELLER
For more than 20 years, the Leagues of Women Voters of Marin and Sonoma Counties have been among the strongest supporters of SMART.
We actively supported and campaigned for all of the proposed transit sales-tax measures since 1990, culminating in the successful 2008 tax measure.
Both leagues remain strongly committed to SMART as the key component to the North Bay’s multi-modal transportation system.
This commitment to SMART is based on the leagues’ transportation positions that specifically support the preservation of the railroad right of way as a public-transit corridor that would reduce the dependence upon the automobile and improve compliance with regional air quality standards.
The future of North Bay travel cannot be the car alone because of the congestion and pollution it continues to inflict on our environment and our citizens.
Instead, as our positions state, the future is regional and multimodal and includes train, bike and bus. SMART is integral to this plan, and its integration of a bike and walking trail provides benefits to a greater number of North Bay residents than just train riders.
We have no doubt that related transportation options will arise in the future, especially as the inter-county commutes are only going to grow and there is no expectation that the price of gas will drop to its previous lower levels.
The timing of the passage of the sales tax with the onset and continuation of the Great Recession nationwide, and the subsequent reduction of revenues from the tax and federal and state sources is unfortunate. The cutbacks SMART has been forced to make to the original plan passed by the voters in 2008 have been the result, as has occurred in similar projects throughout the country.
Phasing the implementation of the rail line is the only way to preserve the project for its key role in our future.
That should be the top priority of the SMART board, and that is what it is doing by ensuring the route from Santa Rosa to San Rafael is implemented as the first phase of the project.
The goal of SMART hasn’t changed, but the timing has. For that reason we believe that, after years of planning, the SMART solution remains the “train to the future.”
Despite the current financial setbacks, we continue to believe that it is.
DeeDee Bridges is president of the League of Women Voters of Sonoma County. Margy Eller is president of the League of Women Voters of Marin County.