SMART Train -Smart People

Is there anyone out there who believes that rider fares will cover the cost of operating the Smart Train? Read on!  


Public transit systems will always require tax subsidies because the capital and operating costs will always exceed the price riders are willing to pay. For example, cost of capital equipment and operations will always rise faster than ridership as the system expands; and the employees of transit systems will likely be highly skilled members of labor unions that will aggressively push for higher wages and benefits- and employ their usual violent tactics when they are denied- the strike. Moreover, a Smart Train Program will be managed by government- and we know what happens when a government program thinks they have ‘angels’ called taxpayers and no competition.


An effective transit system is much more than track and train. Equally important are the indirect costs associated with the infrastructure between the rail station and the rider’s residence. The combination of indirect costs and revenue from rider fares and taxpayer subsidies to cover operations and debt service are unsustainable unless, perhaps, the taxpayer can substantially eliminate costs associated with the ‘insolent chariot’ including auto insurance, maintenance cost, and the square footage for the chariot’s garage and driveway. Do not forget to add the substantial cost of providing security to permit the rider to get to and from the destination at variable hours 24/7 safely.


I think most people would like and want a commuter train. But, more information is needed on costs before the taxpayer/rider can make an intelligent decision, in my opinion. That information must include two elements: (1) The Smart Train Plan needs to show the taxpayer/rider a comprehensive plan that includes connections between Sonoma County (including West and East County/Sonoma), San Francisco, the Peninsula, SFO, East Bay, OAK, Amtrak, and Sacramento- as well Eureka. All these elements need to be in the plan for a transit system to be perceived as practical, and, (2) The Smart Planners must detail the full costs, all costs, of the Commuter System and a conservative estimate of the ridership. The tracks are presently in place.


The SMART TRAIN PLAN submitted to date is incomplete, lacks connectivity, does not show ALL costs and underestimates the ridership. We need more a more competent plan and/or more competent planners.


Another interesting related initiative under considerations by city councils and expert consultants (the smart people) is building so-called live-work structures and ‘walkable neighborhoods. This is déjà vu all over again.


Jack Geary, Director

Sonoma County Taxpayers’ Association

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