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SMART to buy more rail cars, increase schedule

By BOB NORBERG
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit officials Wednesday approved spending $6.6 million on an additional two-car train, improving service and raising the possibility of extending service to Airport Boulevard near Windsor.

With the extra cars, SMART officials said they will have enough trains to run passenger trains at 30-minute intervals to the Guerneville Road station in Santa Rosa, a station that will serve the most riders.

A SMART rail car under construction. (Photo from Nippon Sharyo USA)

It also makes it possible to extend service farther north, to Airport Boulevard, if efforts to get more funds for track work are successful.

“We will be able to serve a tremendous number of riders, and that is important,” said SMART Director Carol Russell, a Cloverdale councilwoman. “And it moves us a little bit farther north.”

SMART is now rebuilding track and preparing to start service between Guerneville Road in Santa Rosa and downtown San Rafael in late 2015 or early 2016.

The commute rail agency is also constructing a maintenance and operations facility at Airport Boulevard near Windsor, which now will be accessed over the existing freight line.

There is a request before the Metropolitan Transportation Commission by state Sen. Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, for $10 million to $15 million to rebuild the tracks from Guerneville Road to Airport Boulevard. MTC is expected to act on the request next month.

A station at Airport Boulevard would be a possibility if Evans’ funding request is granted. It would provide service to the Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport and 6,000 workers who are employed in business parks in that area.

The $6.6 million will be drawn from federal funds earmarked for projects to reduce congestion and improve air quality in Sonoma County.

The Sonoma County Transportation Authority approved the funds for SMART, even though it consumes two-thirds of the $9.9 million allocated to Sonoma County for such projects.

Those funds would otherwise have been spent on pedestrian and bicycle safety projects, such as bike and pedestrian paths, bike lanes, and Safe Routes to Schools programs.

SMART needed to submit its order for the additional cars this month to Nippon Sharyo USA to ensure they will be constructed alongside the initial order. Otherwise, the agency could face a higher price and see delivery delayed until 2018.

SMART has a contract to build six two-car trains at a total cost of $40 million, with a delivery date for the prototype in October or November.

Kevin Koyasu, chief executive officer and president of Nippon Sharyo USA, said Wednesday it takes time to get the raw materials and components for the cars.

“They want those two cars together with the existing order,” Koyasu said. “In that sense, we need the order as soon as possible. There are many, many long-lead items for those cars.”

A prototype two-car train is now being built at the company’s plant near Tokyo. Once completed, it will be tested, disassembled and shipped to the company’s new production facility in Rochelle, Ill., for reassembly.

Brown steps down as chair of SMART rail board

Valerie Brown stepped down as chairwoman of the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit district Wednesday, after leading the rail agency through some of its most tumultuous times.

Brown, who has also retired from the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, had been on the board since 2009.

She took over as chair of the agency when Marin County Supervisor Charles McGlashan died suddenly in March 2011.

Brown worked to unite the directors representing Sonoma and Marin counties, get the agency past an effort to repeal the underlying sales tax, through the sales of construction bonds and into the work of building the commute rail system.

“Today is the end of an era,” said Marin County Supervisor Judy Arnold, SMART’s vice chairwoman. Since Brown took over “it has been a well-oiled machine that is bringing trains to town.”





14 Responses to “SMART to buy more rail cars, increase schedule”

  1. GAJ says:

    If you think the city center light rail that works well in those other smaller cities have more in common with SMART than the failed San Jose project, then we’ll just have to agree to disagree.

    “Even light-rail systems in Minneapolis, Houston, Newark, N.J., and Phoenix operate less than the VTA but carry more passengers. Several U.S. cities that are smaller than San Jose – including St. Louis, Salt Lake City and Portland, Ore. – feature light-rail systems with more riders than VTA.”

    Read more here: http://www.sanluisobispo.com/2012/12/27/2339509/silicon-valleys-light-rail-among.html#storylink=cpy#storylink=cpy

    Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  2. Lets be Reasonable says:

    @GAJ – as the original story that you quote says, other smaller cities have higher performing systems. Of course there has to be a worst case, regardless of what you are comparing, but that says little about how our local train will actually perform.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 8

  3. GAJ says:

    Let’s see, Santa Clara County has almost 2million in population compared to Sonoma County+Marin County of about 750,000 and yet reports just released list the Light Rail system in Santa Clara an abject failure.

    Keep in mind Santa Clara County is VERY densely populated compared to Marin and Sonoma Counties, and has terrible traffic; those 2million residents reside in a County about half the size of Marin and Sonoma combined.

    The GOOD news for that system is that it won’t be the worst for long…SMART will surely surpass its dismal performance in the very near future.

    “A $2 billion light-rail system built to serve San Jose and some surrounding cities in Silicon Valley has become among the least efficient in the country and suffers from low ridership and high operating costs.

    San Jose Mercury News reported Thursday that less than 1 percent of all Santa Clara County residents ride the trains daily and taxpayers subsidize 85 percent of the service, the second worst rate in the nation.

    “It is an unmitigated disaster and a waste of taxpayer money,” Tom Rubin, an Oakland, Calif.-based mass transit consultant said. “I think the original concept was very seriously flawed.”

    Read more here: http://www.sanluisobispo.com/2012/12/27/2339509/silicon-valleys-light-rail-among.html#storylink=cpy

    Thumb up 9 Thumb down 2

  4. Grapevines says:

    Like I keep saying, the only “Choo-choo” your going to be hearing from this train to nowhere is the “Chew-Chew” as it keeps swallowing more and more money.

    General Manager Farhad Mansourian salary, $750.00 A DAY!

    CFO Erin McGrath salary, $500.00 A DAY!!!

    $1,250 a day in salary for two people!!

    $456,250.00 a year!!!

    And the trains are not running, will not run where we were told they would (Cloverdale to Larkspur), and will not have the bike or pedestrian paths.

    Anyone but Valerie Brown and the BOS have a warm fuzzy feeling about all this??

    Thumb up 23 Thumb down 1

  5. Snarky says:

    I notice someone calls the “smart” train the DUMB train.

    I echo that sentiment.. but with a different angle.

    Is it “smart” to have a Santa Rosa Junior College “police chief” remain on the job who was so stupid that he allowed one of his officers to go around collecting CASH alone… which resulted in theft of public funds by that officer who is being prosecuted at the local court house ?

    Of course its not. But thats the way it is in Sonoma County… where government retains the stupid people.

    Its also “dumb” to have a duplicate “police dept” at the JC when the Santa Rosa Police Dept is just a mile or so down the road.

    We don’t need a duplicate, redundant, “police dept” at the JC… nor should the public put up with the “Chief” who was allowing thefts to go on while he sat in his office drinking coffee and chatting on the phone.

    Thumb up 6 Thumb down 9

  6. Marc says:

    It never ceases to amaze me that the Cloverdale and bike coalition people are shocked that the SMART is not going as planned. A lot of us tried to stop it as a pie in the sky dream but they would NOT listen and Voted it in and now they brought us in to suffer with them.

    Thumb up 23 Thumb down 1

  7. Lied To says:

    Why are they already purchasing extra rail cars when they refuse to go to Cloverdale like they promised the voter? Build it the way it was sold to the voters then see if the extra rail cars are needed.

    Thumb up 23 Thumb down 2

  8. RICHARD says:

    ” Sonoma County transit officials [ SCto ] Monday agreed to give $6.6 million that would have gone for bicycle and pedestrian projects to the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit ” – By BOB NORBERG THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

    Considering the many recent pedestrians and bicyclist hit by cars, SCto ought to recover and redirect these funds. If they don’t, the voter ought redirect those elected officials to other employment.

    Thumb up 21 Thumb down 1

  9. Paul says:

    Wait, it must be a real train because they have ADS on the local radio! Think about that; trains years away, but our money is being spent on advertising on the radio (a very expensive way to advertise to a select and small audience, given the fall of terrestrial based radio stations since the internet radio came to life). DUMB management is spending OUR TAX MONEY on advertising in an expensive format that reaches a very small local audience…for a train that doesn’t exist. I guess it’s easy when its OPM (OTHER PEOPLE’S MONEY).
    THANKS, DUMB management, for reminding us to stop at train intersections. What a waste of OUR MONEY.

    Thumb up 31 Thumb down 4

  10. James Bennett says:

    A big black hole of oppression and debt.

    Wonder if there’s any morals in there?

    HELLO-Hello-hello-hel……

    Nope.

    Thumb up 41 Thumb down 3

  11. Nora Gonzales says:

    More rail cars will do nothing to fix the roads, except take more and more funds away from the roads and put the money toward this circus train filled with political clowns in bad face paint.

    Thumb up 30 Thumb down 4

  12. Redsfanpetaluma says:

    Really. This DUMB train is going to be a debacle. To get to SF, you take a train to a bus station, then, the ferry. How many hours is this going to take? Ree-dick-er-rus. Why didn’t these idiots put together a train that crosses the Richmond bridge that ties into Bart. That would have been smarter and more time efficient. Waste of money here by a wide margin.

    Thumb up 30 Thumb down 3

  13. Elephant says:

    This $6.6 million still won’t allow DUMB to provide the service that they promised in the first place. My only question is if they’ll wait until 2014 for their ballot measure for an additional 1/4% on our sales tax (to make 1/2% total) that they need to come close to actually covering their costs.

    Anybody not completely irate over this debacle isn’t paying attention.

    Thumb up 34 Thumb down 9

  14. The Hammer says:

    If you could see me you see me shaking my head from left to right. Just can’t figure these guys out.

    Thumb up 32 Thumb down 8

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