WatchSonoma Watch

County shifts $6.6 million to SMART



Sonoma County transit officials Monday agreed to give $6.6 million that would have gone for bicycle and pedestrian projects to the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit District to buy additional cars.

With the extra cars, SMART officials said they can run passenger trains at 30-minute intervals, providing better service, and possibly even extend service to Airport Boulevard north of Santa Rosa.

“We must all be focused on pushing this train north, and this move today will help that,” said Mike McGuire, a county supervisor and member of the county Transportation Authority.

In making the 10-2 vote, McGuire and other members of the Transportation Authority who approved the SMART request said they did so reluctantly because bike and pedestrian safety projects are sorely needed but SMART is more important.

“How do I explain this to people who will not let their child ride a bike to school because they don’t feel it is safe?” asked Cloverdale Councilwoman Carol Russell, who also is a SMART director and who voted to shift the funds.

SMART’s request for $6.6 million was two-thirds of $9.9 million in federal funding that Sonoma County is receiving for congestion mitigation and air quality projects, which largely are such items as bike and pedestrian paths, bike lanes, safety improvements for bikes and pedestrians and Safe Routes to Schools programs.

Bicycle advocates have been SMART’s staunchest supporters.

“They are taking it on the chin and that part really sucks,” said county Supervisor Shirlee Zane, a SMART director who voted for the money.

SMART was criticized for not making the request until last week and for asking to have its funding bid approved first.

“This threatens the safety of people who bike and walk in Sonoma County, and submitting the request at the last minute isn’t really fair play,” Sandra Lupien, outreach director for the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition, told the Transportation Authority board.

Petaluma Vice Mayor Tiffany Renée and Windsor Town Councilman Steve Allen voted against the money shift.

“The issue boils down to taking money from local jurisdictions,” Allen said. “It is being spent on buying rail cars elsewhere, it is taking money away from the local pot.”

While the county is getting the $9.9 million, the county and its cities have submitted requests to the Transportation Authority that total $38 million. The requests will be evaluated by the authority staff and selected next year.

SMART asked that it be given $6.6 million now so it can buy another two-car train from Nippon Sharyo USA, which has a contract to build six two-car trains at a total cost of $40 million.

SMART chief engineer Bill Gamlen said if SMART didn’t get the order in by the end of this month, the price probably would increase and delivery probably would be delayed until 2018 because Nippon Sharyo has orders from other agencies.

State Sen. Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, is seeking $10 million to $15 million to rebuild the tracks to passenger service standards from Guerneville Road, the current planned northern terminus, to Airport Boulevard.

Rohnert Park Mayor Jake Mackenzie, who’s on the SMART, Transportation Authority and Metropolitan Transportation Commission boards, said the MTC would tie Evans’ funding request to the ability of SMART to have enough trains for full service.

SMART is building its operations and maintenance facility at Airport Boulevard, but the site also could be used as a passenger station serving the Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport and 6,000 workers in the area’s business parks.

You can reach Staff Writer Bob Norberg at 521-5206 or bob.norberg@pressdemocrat.com.

12 Responses to “County shifts $6.6 million to SMART”

  1. Johnny says:

    What an absolute scam. Bicyclists get the shaft again.

    I voted for the tax increase but I didn’t know I’d get half of the train, no bike/pedestrian lanes and that I’d inadvertently supported the Smart Director’s salary of $300k.

    Not to mention the shortsightedness of those involved, the mis management of funds, and the apparent ego-lovefest for a train that will be hardly used, yet fully subsidized by us.

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  2. homegirl says:

    The station proposed for my neighborhood will not have parking, the feeder bus line does not exist and it is too far to walk. If, by some miracle I do get to the station, wait less than 30 minutes for a train and take the ferry (how long is the ferry ride?, what will the ticket cost and how many hours will it take? We certainly bought a pig in a poke.
    A better deal would have been to lease the track right of way and run express buses in a reserved 101 lane onto the GG Bridge.

    Thumb up 19 Thumb down 0

  3. Snarky says:

    You all quit your whining, now.

    There are plenty of public employees and bureaucrats who are quite happy with the train that guarantees lifetime employment… even if it never rolls.

    Thumb up 15 Thumb down 1

  4. Paul says:

    Just a little going away gift to us peasants from Valerie Brown.
    “Ever get the feeling you’ve been had?” – Johnny Rotten/Sex Pistols…last words from the stage at their final show, Winterland, SF.

    Thumb up 22 Thumb down 1

  5. MOCKINGBIRD says:

    They need to shift at least $500,000 to the Santa Rosa City Bus so they don’t have to eliminate and cut services to the poor, the disabled, the elderly and students WHO HAVE NO OTHER WAY OF TRAVELING.

    This is pretty stupid, and that’s the only word for it, to cut city bus services when commuters on the SMART train will need to come downtown to CATCH THAT TRAIN. There is no parking downtown for commuters. They should be encouraged to use the bus. The city council should be using some of the SMART funds to upgrade services and buy new, energy efficient buses like the Sonoma County Transit has. VERY POOR OVERALL PLANNING FOR YEARS FROM THE CITY MANAGERS. They have a nice new transit mall but broken down buses that are expensive to repair and unreliable and inaccessible buses for commuters who are likely to be driving after February when the cut down services are to begin.

    But “managers” are managing this and it’s all about productivity, not about needs, the needy, the poor, the elderly, students and the disabled. Just numbers on charts. It’s not about common sense, future transit needs for the city and surrounding areas, and encouraging more ridership of working people.

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  6. Just Me says:

    Maybe its just me but I cant see that anyone will ride this thing….

    Thumb up 25 Thumb down 4

  7. Phil Maher says:

    And the parasite feeds a little more. Hey SCBC, you could’ve had it all, but instead, you’re only just beginning to understand that you’re nothing more than SMART’s once useful idiots. Get used to it, because it’s now bikes vs trains, and you’re standing in the way of a “vision” that clearly doesn’t include you.

    Thumb up 27 Thumb down 4

  8. Joe says:

    Can you say Black Hole! $$$$$$$>>>>>>>>>>O

    Thumb up 26 Thumb down 4

  9. Critic at Large says:

    The bike riders who have supported this fisaco have waited years for their first train ride on this Rolls Royce of trains.

    What is a few more years so they can wait an hour for that late train coming out of Cloverdale?

    Thumb up 22 Thumb down 4

  10. elephant says:

    The 1/4% on our sales tax won’t pay for even half of DUMB train costs and their own figures prove this. This money grab is the tip of the iceberg. DUMB is a money canyon.

    The ultimate goal of DUMB has nothing to do with trains or trails anyway. It’s all about the housing that we have neither the need nor the infrastructure for to be built around the train stations.

    Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition – Have you opened your eyes to this travesty yet? I would love to read a response here from one of your people. It’s not too late to see the truth

    Thumb up 25 Thumb down 3

  11. GAJ says:

    Did those voting for this money pit realize that the proposed wait times between trains was well over 30 minutes unless money was stolen from bicyclists and pedestrians?

    Thumb up 34 Thumb down 7

  12. Grapevines says:

    The only choo-choo we’ll be hearing from our little train to nowhere is the CHEW-CHEW of it eating more and more funds, and going nowhere.

    Hey Cloverdale, has anyone thanked you for supporting this fiasco? Just think, you can travel 25 miles south (by car or bus) and you’ll get to ride it.

    Thumb up 35 Thumb down 8

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