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|Marin County, CA||November 7, 2006 Election|
SMART Questions Must Be Asked (Marin IJ 03/23/06)
By Pat EklundCandidate for Supervisor; County of Marin; Supervisorial District 5
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I support rail as an additional mode of public transit where it makes sense - environmentally, economically, and socially. However, the current SMART proposal does not make sense for Marin County since the Final EIR shows that it will not relieve traffic congestion and has low ridership from Sonoma to Marin County.CONGRATULATIONS to my colleague, Mayor Carole Dillon-Knutson, on her appointment to the Transportation Authority of Marin and Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transportation boards.
I look forward to working closely with the mayor, as I continue to work to bring more federal and state transportation dollars to Marin County through my work on the National League of Cities Transportation and Infrastructure Steering Committee.
As a 37-year commuter, I have relied on public transit - bus, ferry and vanpool - to commute to San Francisco, where I work.
I am a strong believer in the importance of our current public transit system and am more optimistic than ever about our prospects for improving public transit in Marin County.
As reported in the Independent Journal, our citizens appear willing to tax themselves to pay for commuter rail, if - and this was reported as the most important issue - it reduces traffic on Highway 101 by getting people out of their cars.
I believe this strong support for public transit is good news for our county. But I also believe we must be careful to make sure that our policy decisions and investments are based on real numbers and facts, not by politics and the desire of politicians to show they have accomplished something.
That's why I continue to ask questions about future transit investments that must be answered for our citizens to make informed choices about how our tax dollars are to be spent. While I support rail as a public transit option, voters need to know if SMART makes sense for Marin County - environmentally and economically.
For example, will the rail line as currently planned actually reduce traffic on Highway 101? The draft environmental impact report estimates that 191 Sonoma residents will take the seven trains each day to Marin during the morning peak hours. These studies also project that, with or without rail, bus and carpool lane traffic through Novato will be at "Level F" - essentially a parking lot - by 2025.
Are these numbers accurate? Proponents and opponents of SMART have complained that the draft environmental report is inadequate, and SMART is in the process of responding to the public comments.
In addition, voters deserve to know what the alternatives are, before deciding whether to spend hundreds of millions of tax dollars. Are other alternatives more likely to reduce freeway congestion and be more cost effective than the investment in rail?
Golden Gate Transit carries about 30,000 bus riders a day between Sonoma and Marin to San Francisco and within Marin County - riders that presumably would otherwise be traveling by car. Would expansion of this service be a better investment to accomplish the reduction in traffic that voters want?
I don't know the answer to these important questions. But it is my job as a public servant to ask them, and to work with the transportation experts to get the answers. Only then will voters be able to make an informed choice when asked how to spend our limited public transit dollars.
The good news is that Marin voters are ready to make investments in our public transportation infrastructure, if they are shown to be cost-effective.
Position Paper 2
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