SMART needs a third optionBy John McCarthy
The current debate over the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit commuter train appears to be either a "do it" or a "do not do it" choice. With rising gasoline prices and a looming need to tighten personal spending maybe it is time to consider at least a third choice for SMART.
The basic premise of SMART is to get people onto public transportation and out of individual cars on Highway 101.
A third choice is to build SMART in three phases.
The first phase is to build the Cloverdale, Healdsburg, Windsor, Santa Rosa, Rohnert Park, Cotati and Petaluma portion. This already has the necessary two-thirds voters support of Sonoma County residents.
Building it first would be a tremendous help for the general public to have local public transportation and for shopping; for students to get to Santa Rosa Junior College in Santa Rosa and Petaluma and Sonoma State University in Rohnert Park.
On weekends, the train could be competion to the Napa Wine Train based on the wine and restaurant success within Sonoma County. It would serve as a good case study for the actual construction and operating cost of the train(s).
The second and third phases would involve extending the line from Petaluma to Novato and from there to Black Point or Port Sonoma Marina and to the Concord BART Station.
At Black Point or Port Sonoma Marina the Golden Gate Bridge District could open a third ferry terminal with a direct connection to the Ferry Building. In the past, the district has been able to acquire modern boats which are largely paid for by local and federal funding.
This location would also give Sonoma and Novato residents a shorter commute to a ferry terminal.
It would also reduce peak parking demands at Larkspur Landing. Although this writer expects ferry ridership will increase due to rising gas prices.
The third phase would be to run SMART to the nearest BART station in Solano County which is the Concord BART Station. That way, people from Marin or Sonoma going to work in the East Bay and San Francisco, would have a true connection to a proven public transportation system.
Plus with wireless access on both SMART and BART travel time could be used in a productive manner.
Which of these is Phase 2 or Phase 3 would be a function of public approval of the project, performing the necessary preliminary engineering and the environmental assessments, and the raising of the funding.
Since Sonoma County, Novato and Solano County all appear to be pro-growth, this approach may be of great economic interest to each of them.
For the rest of Marin, it should result in fewer vehicles originating from Sonoma or Northern Marin and feeding into an already overwhelmed Highway 101.
John McCarthy of San Rafael is a civil engineer who has lived in Marin County for over 30 years. He regularly rides the Larkspur ferry.
Copyright ©2008 Marin Independent-Journal. Published 06/18/2008.