Featured Letters

Planning Ahead
The Press Democrat
Published: Wednesday, November 30, 2011 at 7:00pm

EDITOR: For more than a decade, the Leadership Institute for Ecology and the Economy has been educating leaders about sustainable development, of which regional rail transportation is a key element. We therefore continue to be strong supporters of the SMART train and pathway because it is the essential backbone of the multimodal transportation system the North Bay needs for the future.

SMART is the right solution for the North Bay’s transportation needs because:

It is an engine for economic vitality that will bring good jobs to the region — creating 900 new jobs in 2012 and spurring the creation of more good jobs in other sectors such as tourism, construction and light manufacturing.

It supports the North Bay’s environmental sustainability goals by reducing our dependence on fossil fuels. It will also create a stronger market preference for city-centered development, discouraging sprawl development and preserving our beloved open spaces.

We look forward to the day when North Bay residents can leave their cars at home and use SMART to sustainably travel to our programs.


Executive director, Leadership Institute for Ecology and the Economy

The Press Democrat
Published: Friday, August 19, 2011 at 7:00pm
Last Modified: Friday, August 19, 2011 at 2:38pm

EDITOR: A quote from author Neil Gabler, writing in the New York Times, says a lot about opposition to SMART: “It is no secret that we live in a post-Enlightenment age in which rationality, science, evidence, logical argument and debate have lost the battle in many sectors to superstition, faith, opinion and orthodoxy.”

SMART is a big, bold idea. When people with views as diverse as Bill Kortum and Sharon Wright worked together to make SMART a reality, you know it is a game-changing idea. It will take cars off our highways, improve air quality and give people alternatives, both trains and the bike/pedestrian path. SMART is about changing the rules of the game, not just the score.

We know this because the rules have already begun to change. Just talk to someone looking to rent or buy a house in Marin or Sonoma County — the closer to a station site, the higher the price. People are willing to pay more to live closer to train stations and bike paths, taking pressure off precious open-space, including an employee at my Larkspur solar company who just moved to San Rafael and now bikes to work on the SMART pathway.

I congratulate the SMART board for voting for a big idea. The future is SMART.


SMART transit
The Press Democrat
Published: Thursday, August 18, 2011 at 7:00pm
Last Modified: Thursday, August 18, 2011 at 6:09pm

EDITOR: I would like to encourage all of my North Bay neighbors to please have another look at the SMART train proposal. It really is a no-brainer. SMART is transportation for now and for future generations.

It is the only alternative to a very congested Highway 101. It provides green and sustainable transportation. It encourages cycling, reduces emissions, eases commuter traffic and fosters community spirit. And SMART has proposed a sound and balanced budget. It’s a win-win.


SMART offers a choice
Marin Independent Journal
Published: August 17, 2011

I am shocked to read the letters against the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit plan.
Future generation have so much to gain from SMART.
The SMART corridor provides the ultimate opportunity for creating livable communities where people can walk, bike and live without being shackled to their cars for basic needs.
The bicounty landslide victory in 2008 for Measure Q was a result of SMART meeting a multitude of needs for North Bay voters — each of the reasons that were relevant then are relevant today, including giving people of the North Bay a choice over the highly congested Highway 101 corridor.
Regarding the fact that the project is being phased, I think it’s great. It is better to find creative solutions for getting the system up and running than what opponents suggest, killing it.
The SMART board and staff will carry the project forward and we all will be celebrating the completion one day soon of the SMART train and multi-use pathway!!
Kathy McLeod
Mill Valley

SMART is worth it
Marin Independent Journal
Published: August 16, 2011

A small minority of outspoken people say they are outraged over plans to fund the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit train and path for pedestrians and cyclists. Some are especially incensed over the path. This is odd, because a sidewalk is hardly a radical concept. Neither is a train.
Logically, these critics should also be outraged over the chance to provide efficient public transit along the Highway 101 corridor for everyone — including youths and elders who do not drive, and people who cannot afford a car. They should be outraged about the chance to reduce car traffic and car crashes, curtail large ugly parking lots, and improve air quality.
But logic is not their strong suit.
Clay Mitchell of the “Repeal SMART” campaign protests that “Taxpayer money is being spent at an alarming rate.” But “alarming” is a relative concept. Large public works projects are expensive. Their cost is usually justified on the basis of public need.
Compare the SMART project’s estimated $380 million cost with the $921 million for six recent and pending improvements to Highway 101 in Marin and Sonoma.
Of that total, $154 million is either already spent or already funded, while the rest — $767 million — awaits funding.
SMART has already presented a sound, balanced budget. Let’s get moving.

Elisabeth Thomas-Matej
Mill Valley

SMART is needed
Marin Independent Journal
Published: August 14, 2011

Marin and Sonoma counties need SMART.
We need more transportation choices.
To reduce traffic and the effects of climate change, we need people to drive less.
To encourage people to drive less, we need to provide better alternatives to buses — alternatives that are more efficient and fun.
Trains are both.
To preserve open space, we need to reduce sprawl and concentrate growth.
Trains do this. Cars don’t.
To promote our health — to create nicer pedestrian-oriented town centers, we need to walk and bike more. Trains encourage walking and biking. Adding traffic lanes don’t.
To promote our local economy, we need housing closer to jobs, so we have workers. Creating density around train stations makes housing units more affordable and work more accessible, without the need of a car or a long commute.
Most importantly, we must invest in building our future’s infrastructure.
The first segments of SMART may be expensive but it’s the beginning of a very necessary transportation system, which over time will be expanded and linked to other modes of travel.
For all these good reasons, I strongly support SMART, and will continue to. I have confidence in the smart people planning SMART.
I don’t have confidence in the small minority who continue to complain, who are shortsighted and offer little or nothing in the way of viable transportation alternatives.

Michael Rex, San Anselmo

SMART is smart planning
Marin Independent Journal
Published: August 10, 2011

The small but vocal anti-SMART forces seem to have decided to go with a conspiracy theory approach, painting a picture of dark conniving forces who have twisted land use plans in order to (gasp!) make a profit. These aspersions are provably false.
The state of California has mandated that every county will provide affordable housing.
The exact number required for all Bay Area counties has been finalized through negotiations with the Association of Bay Area Governments. The “regional housing needs allocation” adopted by ABAG in 2008 states that Marin shall provide 4,882 total units by 2014; about 1,800 of these must be affordable to those with “very low” to “low” incomes.
We can cluster this housing around transit — a concept embraced by most forward-thinking land-use planners in the U.S. and around the world — or we can spread it out over the hillsides, continuing the current auto-based land use pattern.
Which would you prefer?
If we build around transit (including SMART stations) at a bit higher density in these already developed areas, green space is saved, and single-family developments remain untouched.
But what about the profiteers? Providing affordable housing in Marin is not a nefarious scheme by real-estate developers or anyone else. If you live in a stationary structure, it was probably built by someone who made a profit.
As teachers teach and nurses nurse, so developers develop — in and of itself, not an evil profession.
I believe developers have gotten a bad name from eating up our beloved open space — exactly what the current SMART and transit-oriented development plans are designed to avoid.

Valerie Taylor, San Rafael

Novato Patch
Published: Wednesday, August 3, 2011 at 1:04pm

At present, Highway 101 is the only practical route for commuters between Marin and Sonoma Counties. It is congested now, and will be congested as soon as the widening to three lanes in each direction is completed. We have been working on that widening for at least a couple of decades, it is still not complete, the cost estimates have increased several fold, and the funds to complete that widening have yet to be identified. The widening to three lanes is mostly within the right of way. Finding the money to buy more right of way for a fourth lane is out of the question.
In comparison, SMART costs far less than the Highway 101 widening, is easily expanded to meet demand by adding trains and, if needed, double track. It greatly decreases noise, air pollution, and fuel consumption.
If we stop SMART, are we doomed to gridlock? The alternative of buses has been available for decades and has not worked in the past. Why would it work in the future? Rail startups have shown that people like to ride trains.

Will Richards

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