Friday, April 15, 2016

We'll soon know exactly how dumb SMART will be

Posted by a skeptical commenter

Whenever the Marin Independent Journal has a story on the new Sonoma/Marin SMART train system, the comments are fun (SMART begins talking rail schedule as service set to begin later this year), as the project's critics and supporters hammer each other.

This story gives critics some ammo: "The cost of fares has not been announced." 

That is, the folks at SMART have no idea how much to charge an unknown number of future passengers. They also don't know how much the system itself is going to cost to operate, a crucial factor when calculating ticket prices. 

Our Muni system here in San Francisco collects only 25% of its operating costs from fares. How much better than that will SMART do? The problem: If ticket prices are set too high to offset operating costs, ridership and revenue decline. 

One of the comments makes the obvious point:

So soon enough we will be able to document the failures of this boondoggle. The low ridership. The subsidized tickets, which will be in the thou$ands for EACH single ticket. The added traffic problems due to back ups. Of course, there will be excuses offered at every failure, but never accountability. Oh, yeah, probably another tax hike, too. But, don't expect to be able to vote on it this time.

And this from the story:

SMART officials are promising rail service will deliver people to destinations faster than taking Highway 101, in particular those coming southbound on the freeway in the morning. “The alternative and options trains will be providing is[sic] tremendous,” said Farhad Mansourian, SMART’s general manager.

He would say that, wouldn't he? A comment raises the question of how people will get from the rail stations to their "destinations":

SMART's computer simulations don't take into account the time it would take to drive to the SMART station, find parking, pay for parking, pay the train fare, find a ride to one's ultimate destination (bus, cab, ferry?) and pay for that ride. Sounds like the plot for 'Final Destination 6.'

Another comment on that issue:

Is San Rafael going to build massive parking structures at its SMART stations? Or is the theory that all the riders will take public transport, ride-sharing and bikes to the stations.

With traffic congestion, commuting by car is a pain the ass, but the great advantage those wicked cars have over trains: they provide door-to-door transportation.

Speaking of train stations, the Novato station issue here and here. Be sure to read the comments to the latter story.

Later: How Many Riders Will SMART Really Have?

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