WatchSonoma Watch

SMART train seeks more federal money


Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit officials are seeking $6.6 million in federal funds to buy more train cars, money that otherwise would be used for local pedestrian and bicycle paths.

“SMART is committed to go to Cloverdale and to Larkspur and as you go farther, you need more vehicles,” said Farhad Mansourian, SMART’s general manager.

SMART’s request is drawing fire from bicycle advocates because the rail agency would be taking the lion’s share of $9.9 million that Sonoma County is getting for such projects as bike lanes, sidewalk improvements, traffic lights, Safe Routes to Schools programs and even construction of SMART’s own pedestrian and bicycle path.

“It would mean that most jurisdictions would have to put off implementing most of their bike-pedestrian plans for five years, at least,” said Sandra Lupien, outreach director for the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition.

The coalition has been a staunch supporter of SMART but is strongly opposing this bid.

“We don’t understand how it makes sense for one train set to take two-thirds of the funding for the entire network,” Lupien said.

The Sonoma County Transportation Authority board, made up of representatives from the county’s nine cities and the county Board of Supervisors, will make a decision Monday on SMART’s request.

Four of the authority’s 12 members also sit on the SMART board: County Supervisor Valerie Brown, Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Shirlee Zane, Rohnert Park Mayor Jake Mackenzie and Cloverdale Councilwoman Carol Russell.

Sonoma County has been allocated $9.9 million in federal money for congestion mitigation/air quality, meant primarily to fund pedestrian and bicycle projects.

The Transportation Authority has received requests totaling $38 million from the cities and county for the funds, including the Cloverdale Greenway, landscape improvements along Santa Rosa Avenue and Third Street in Santa Rosa, the Mark West Creek Trail, Windsor bike paths and lanes and Safe Routes to Schools programs throughout the county.

The proposals are being evaluated by the Transportation Authority. A recommendation for funding will be made next year to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the Bay Area’s regional planning agency.

SMART wants the county Transportation Authority to endorse its request now, ahead of all the other proposals, to meet a year-end deadline for buying the new cars at the current price.

SMART is buying six, two-car train sets from Nippon Sharyo USA, which is building them at its Rochelle, Ill., plant, for $40 million. The first train is scheduled to arrive next October.

If SMART orders the additional cars by the end of the month, the trains would be built at the same time as the current order, said Seana Gause, county Transportation Authority project analyst.

“Once the trains are completed, they retool the machinery for other trains,” Gause said. “There is a large order from Chicago. SMART’s request would go to the end of the line. They probably would not get the trains in time for when they start service and they wouldn’t get the same price.”

Alongside this request is one being made on SMART’s behalf by state Sen. Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa. She is asking the Metropolitan Transportation Commission to allocate $10 million to $15 million to rebuild the rail line from Guerneville Road in Santa Rosa to Airport Boulevard, where SMART is building an operations and maintenance facility.

SMART currently is rebuilding the rail between Guerneville Road and downtown San Rafael for passenger train service scheduled to start in early 2016.

The current track from Guerneville Road to Airport Boulevard is built for freight service and could be used to run SMART passenger trains to the facility at slow speeds.

Because that track eventually will have to be upgraded to passenger-train standards, rebuilding it now gets SMART closer to extending service to Windsor, which is next on its priority list.

Rebuilding the rail raises the possibility of building a train station at Airport Boulevard, which could serve the Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport and workers in the surrounding business park.

That would require the SMART board to change its policy because an Airport Boulevard station is not part of current plans.

“The board has not made a decision to put a station at the airport; that is not in the game plan,” said Brown, chairwoman of the SMART board. “If we are already going to have cargo going up there, why not upgrade that track now?”

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

24 Responses to “SMART train seeks more federal money”

  1. GAJ says:


    You are so correct; what could possibly go wrong in relatively lightly populated Sonoma and Marin Counties with Light Rail?

    “A quarter of a century ago, Santa Clara County’s first light-rail train left the station as excited supporters heralded a new wave of state-of-the-art transportation to match the region’s burgeoning high-tech industry.

    But there was no grand celebration this month as Silicon Valley marked 25 years of light rail.

    The near-empty trolleys that often shuttle by at barely faster than jogging speeds serve as a constant reminder that the car is still king in Silicon Valley — and that the Valley Transportation Authority’s trains are among the least successful in the nation by any metric. Today, fewer than 1 percent of the county’s residents ride the trains daily, while it costs the rest of the region — taxpayers at large — about $10 to subsidize every rider’s round trip.”


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  2. litebrite says:

    No matter how many cars the train will have or how many minutes are in between the train’s arrival times, the train IS going to help reduce the traffic on 101 and it WILL be a more eco-friendly way for people to commute to work. Yes, it may take a few years before the SMART train will be able to transport as many people as I think it has the potential to… but eventually I think people will forget why they had doubts about this train.

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  3. 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.

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  4. GAJ says:

    From today’s paper:

    Now think about this; where in the original plan was there any mention that trains were arriving MORE than 30 minutes apart??

    What kind of a transit system is SOLD TO THE GULLIBLE with that horrific level of service?

    Again, this project will fail as those trains that will now be arriving 30 minutes apart won’t be nearly full; you can count on it.

    “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.”

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  5. inside9 says:

    We know anything called “smart” is obviously flawed.

    Dump the choo choo after only absorbing horrendous losses. As time goes on, it only gets worse and worse.

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  6. elephant says:

    This particular forum is no longer being highlighted on the WSC front page.

    As I type this, there are 10 other stories highlighted there. They are supposed to be the “Top Pick ” stories. Of those stories only three are newer than this one. None of them have more than 5 comments and this one sits at 17. Five of their “Top Picks” are so interesting that they don’t have a single comment.

    Great way to serve the best interests of the public.

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  7. Federal Funds = Tax Money says:

    This is news only to the idiots who voted for the DUMB train. And let’s call “Federal Funds” what they are: TAX MONEY sent by us to the feds so they can dole it out to money pits like this stupid train to nowhere.

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  8. Frank says:

    Warning warning
    no need to fear moonbeam his here
    we will fund the little train

    does anybody remember? what was it, a animated or a book? “the Emperors new clothes”

    President of the United States Franklin Delano Roosevelt
    Dated: 5 April, 1933
    Presidential Executive Order 6102

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  9. Frank says:

    but hay
    here’s how to solve this Dum, oops smart train
    a trillion dollor coin
    California hasn’t hit bottom yet

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  10. Grapevines says:

    If your wondering where the money for this little Choo-Choo to nowhere is going look at these figures. Farhad Mansourian Smart’s general manager is being paid $750 a day! That’s right $750 A DAY! Wait it gets better.

    The CFO is compensated at $500 A DAY! And they are not even collecting fares yet? $1,250 A DAY to 2 people!

    365 day in a year equals $456, 250.00, almost 1/2 million a year to 2 people. Throw in the graft, and payoffs to the BOS and I’m surprised they can afford the paper to issue the checks to themselves with.

    I wonder if they’re using direct deposit to make it simpler and not use up paper checks?

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  11. Brown act Jack says:

    Well, well, well, so all of the leaders of our society have now found out that , as usual, they were lied to and are surprised that they were lied to!

    I am even more surprised that no-one commented on the fact that the 9 millions was scheduled for bicycle stuff, which is an even crazier use of governmemtal funds than buying railroad cars.

    You need not worry about bike lanes when the economy nosedives and the cars can not buy gas, then there will be all of the bicycle lanes you need.

    And if you don’t think that will happen, re-elect more of the same believers that think solar systems will provide everything we need!

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  12. Ricardo Sorentino says:

    As Gomer Pile used to say… “Surprise… Surprise… Surprise!”

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  13. Critic at Large says:

    Like all government welfare programs, this little train has no limit on the tax dollars it desires to grew and no limit on what the bureaucrats who run it are willing to spend.

    It is another fine example of the government using obsolete technology, to solve the wrong problem.

    A commuter train in a basically rural county makes as much sense as one public employee with a shovel does to solve the pothole problem on our county roads.

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  14. Kay Tokerud says:

    At some point, probably after it’s too late, many elected officials will be asking themselves why they went along with a UN plan that changes our government radically from what it was. Planning staff have known all along as they are members of the American Planning Association that is being used by the global operatives implementing UN Agenda 21. If our elected officials did their homework and took their oath of office seriously they would be putting their foot down and resisting attempts to circumvent our Constitution and instituting socialist policies. Saying socialist is being nice because the UN plan has a much more sinister element to it as well. Any student of history will recognize the threat of centralized big government in which the individual has no guaranteed rights.

    People think UN Agenda 21 is only about the environment and that “sustainability” is a good thing. The propaganda sounds pretty good but when you look into the fact that it represents a completely different philosophy, communitarianism, individual rights are no longer guaranteed. Rather the amorphous “community rights” take precedence over yours. So how do you like them apples?

    Elected officials are for the most part unwittingly going along with the “transformation”, “change”, moving forward, etc. that the change agents are pushing. “Change has come to America” Obama’s declaration should scare the heck out of people. Why does the most successful, most powerful, most free nation on earth want a radical transformation? I sure don’t. We need to get rid of the change agents, the infiltrators, the corrupt politicians and go back to the rule of law and individual guaranteed rights.

    Agenda 21′s “social equity” element is completely inconsistent with the US Constitution yet just about every town in America lists this as something to implement in their local General Plan. This is how they’re doing it. The American Planning Association was paid by the Feds to write a book called “Growing Smart: Legislative Guidebook with Model Statutes For Planning and the Management of Change”. Did you get that? Model Statutes (new laws) and Management of “Change”? Planning Departments across America are all doing it. They put the UN Agenda 21 policies right into your local general plan.

    Even when a city relents and drops their ICLEI membership, it doesn’t really matter if they’ve already adopted the UN’s model statutes in their General Plans. Denying Agenda 21 isn’t working anymore so now they are trying to smear everyone who has concerns about it. That won’t work for long though because anyone with half a brain can see that their lives can and will be radically changed for the worse when UN Agenda 21 Sustainable Development is fully implemented. UN Agenda 21 perpetrators will not finish the job without a fight as no American will lay down and give up everything they’ve worked for in order for their assets to be redistributed around the world to achieve Social Equity. Sorry, but elected officials will have a lot of explaining to do when the proverbial s— hits the fan.

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  15. BigDogatPlay says:

    @Vinyl Rules… there is no abandoned rail on the lower deck of the Golden Gate Bridge. You are thinking of the original purpose of the San Francsico Oakland Bay Bridge which had two tracks along with two dedicated lanes for truck traffic on it’s lower deck up until the mid 1950′s.

    Google is your friend on this. Plenty of historical record on point. The GGBHTD nixed a second deck in the 1960′s when it decided to go into the transit business….. http://goldengatetransit.org/researchlibrary/history.php

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  16. James Bennett says:

    This is a big part of what “Smart” is about.

    It’s not a transportation plan.

    It’s a land use plan. An excuse to impose high density, transit oriented, stack ‘n pack gulags.

    Everyone does know that by now, right?

    Talk to friends or relatives in other places, a miracle, same “vision”.

    The deliberate crashing part is just…
    an added bonus.

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  17. Phil Maher says:

    Hahahahahahahahahaha!!!! Yep.

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  18. elephant says:

    Graeme – I hope that you are being facetious.

    This news comes as absolutely no surprise to those who have learned the truth over the years about the DUMB train. We know that DUMB failed passage at 1/2% on our sales tax. 1/2% would actually pay for most of what this white elephant would cost. The 1/4% was just a foot in the door and shenanigans like this are just the tip of the money canyon (not pit). Shoot, DUMB’s own numbers spell out a $40+ million per year in operating deficit.

    I sincerely hope that this action opens the eyes of the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition and helps them see the truth. The ultimate goal of DUMB has nothing to do with trains or trails anyway. It’s all about the housing that we neither need nor have the infrastructure for to be built around the train stations.

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  19. Snarky says:

    Your typical government “planning.” LOL

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  20. Graeme Wellington says:


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  21. Skippy says:

    The sinkhole expands; the race to bankruptcy proceeds.
    How do you say “I told ya so” in even smaller words so that Democrats can understand them?

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  22. Vinyl Rules says:

    When the train finally arrives, the naysaying and doubts will be swept away. We will wonder why we took such a beautiful thing away. It will bind Sonoma and Marin together in a way that has never existed. They sorely need to be more unified, as evidenced by recent political campaigns. And maybe someday, we will reactivate the train track that still lies on the bottom deck of the Golden Gate…

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  23. GAJ says:

    Tip of the iceberg for this money pit.

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  24. John Pendergast says:

    Well well well. Back for more milk so soon? As the years go by each story for more funding will be more and more entertaining. We didn’t account for problem X, we didn’t account for how expensive Y would be….

    It will go on and on. That’s because this project is first a scam to make political insiders rich, second, a project to employ people, and only third an ill conceived transportation project, destined to fail.

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