So here we are with the second Newsletter of 2020. There is hardly any news to talk about-just drone attacks on an Iranian terrorist, Iranian missiles fired at our soldiers, Epstein didn’t hang himself, stock market keeps surging, impeachment games being played by Dems and GOP, Santa Rosa City Council interviewing 19 candidates on 1-7-20 for the Julie Combs’ seat and choosing Dick Dowd, homeless encampment is growing, stock market keeps surging, sales tax measures coming up on ballot in March, people leaving California, Ricky Gervais lambasts the Hollywood elite at the Golden Globes, and our economy keeps surging.
Deep breath. I did not pick any of those to write about.
I choose the SMART Train sales tax extension, called Measure I, that Sonoma and Marin County voters will be voting on in March, 2020.
In October, the ECA Board of Directors voted to support the proposed SMART sales tax extension. We endorsed it.
I am not going to sugar coat this; the support of this sales tax measure is not without controversy. There have been several newspaper articles claiming ridership of SMART is down, and the expenses per rider are too high so therefore, the logical negative conclusion is, don’t give SMART any more money. The latest article is from the SMART Board Meeting held yesterday, January 8, 2020-and here is the link to the Press Democrat article—
I do not care about the current ridership numbers. This is a new system (a little over two years in existence), and people that do ride it, like it. Weekday ridership has increased year over year, and although there was a slight decrease in weekend ridership (Hello-Sonoma County had fires, floods, and tourism took a huge hit-not surprising some weekend riders of SMART decided not to come!!), I am very confident the weekend numbers will be increasing steadily. One main reason, the “Sail and Rail” promotion that gets you a train ticket plus Ferry ticket for $12!!! That is the type of promotions that SMART is just starting, and I believe it will have a big effect on ridership. Also, the train just added a station in Novato, and more importantly, added and opened the extension to Larkspur to complete the Southern leg that allows riders to get into Vallejo and San Francisco. All good!
Ridership will come. Some people will choose SMART over $5/gallon gas prices, $8 bridge toll, and $35 parking costs (not to mention traffic jams and the nightmare of driving in San Francisco!).
I also hear complaints about how SMART fares do not cover much of the expense of running the train. I don’t care about that either. The reason I do not care about that, is because all transportation is subsidized. ALL OF IT. How much does the Highway 101 “fare box” contribute to the building and maintenance of Highway 101? ZERO. There is no “fare box”. The funding comes from a complicated formula of fuel taxes, Federal and State subsidies, bridge toll revenues, auto registration and licensing fees, and other sources. But not from a “fare box”. If I never drive on Highway 101, I am still paying for it through fuel taxes, registration fees, and bridge tolls. Why is that any different than SMART being subsidized? So what if SMART is 100% subsidized? I could argue that you could take the fare box to zero! Free rides. If you did, I guarantee you ridership will go up.
Why is SMART good for us in the long run?
SMART provides options for people. Hey, we are all doing pretty well with our incomes, our equity positions in our houses, and our retirement funds. Yes, the cost of living here is high. But make no mistake about it, our ECA firms have been doing quite well and so have their employees.
We can afford 25 cents for every $100 we spend.
By doing so, we provide options like a multimodal pathway for 40 plus miles, a train system that runs every 32 minutes from Larkspur to Windsor, and less pollution per rider than that of any other vehicle except electric vehicles. Whether you believe in “Global warming” or not, it is hard to argue with a mode of transportation that is more efficient than a gas or diesel car/truck.
I may not have convinced you, but I keep hearing and reading the “boo birds” about SMART. I support it, I donated my own money towards this Measure I tax extension, and I urge you all to go to the website, STAYGREENKEEPSMART2020, and look for the “Endorse” section, look for the “Donate” section, and look into the new “Sail and Rail” Pass for $12 that will cover your train ticket and Ferry ticket! Hell, that is cheaper than the Ferry ticket by itself! I also want to thank Mike Brown Electric for kicking in some money to the cause, as well as Ghilotti Brothers and hopefully, Ghilotti Construction will also help the cause to get Measure I passed. If your firm supports the SMART train, or you do personally, you can donate right on the website STAYGREENKEEPSMART2020-LINK IS HERE—
ECA Members work on the infrastructure, good jobs have been created by SMART, and we will see high density housing being built near the train stations into the future. We need that housing. And by allowing and enabling people to ride the train as an OPTION, the SMART option will help move people from north to south without adding to the Highway 101 traffic commute.
I can just hear Randy Parker, Rick Downey, and Brett Wilmes screaming at their screen as they read this. Believe me, I was doing the same thing in 2008 when the first tax was passed. I have completly changed my opinion since 2008 when I was down on the SMART train. I have drank the KoolAid.
Maybe with cannabis and microbreweries and wineries attracting folks, we will see a “Sip and Trip” package soon! It could give new meaning to a “smoking car”.
Vote Yes on Measure I and keep a Green option!
That’s All Folks!