Friday, March 24, 2017

A not-so-smart rogues gallery

Richard Hall comment
Click on graphic for larger view

Click on "Smart train" below for more on this misbegotten Marin/Sonoma County rail project, a miniature version of the state's high-speed rail project. 

See Corte Madera apartment complex mired in delays, fingerpointing and litigation and Whose Fault Was the Win Cup Disaster?

Speaking of rail follies, people in Hawaii are learning that their foolish rail project will cost twice as much as promised.

John Pritchard

See Richard Hall's blog, Planning for Reality.

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At 10:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

SMART is going to kick ass. The 101 corridor in Marin/Sonoma is as bad as US-101 on the Peninsula.

Hall just hates it because once it's up and running - it's going to attract employers. The Fireman's fund building and Birkenstock buildings in Novato are woefully underutilized, when the train starts running it will be premium real estate, attractive to high tech firms wanting a nearby locale to put workers who make 100k+ but can't afford Peninsula housing.

And Richard doesn't want those people moving to his enclave.

At 1:31 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

The 101 corridor in Marin/Sonoma is bad, but there's no evidence that the SMART train will help much, if at all.

Not clear what your idea is here. Are those workers going to live in the Fireman's Fund and Birkenstock buildings or are they going to be occupied by future employers?

Otherwise, what makes you think workers who can't afford the Peninsula can afford Marin County? Or are they going to all live in Santa Rosa? And what makes you think there will be enough of those workers to have any impact on traffic one way or another?

Like with the dumb high-speed rail project, no one really knows how many people will ride this system or how much it will cost to operate. (The same is true for the high-speed rail project, but it will never be built.)

SMART is shaping up to be the Wine Train without the wine.

Hall is pointing out these and other shortcomings of the SMART system, including how it will create traffic congestion in San Rafael. During busy hours, traffic is already backing up on the 101 downtown San Rafael entrances. The train crossings and the stop at the downtown terminal will make congestion there a lot worse.

At 2:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Are those workers going to live in the Fireman's Fund and Birkenstock buildings or are they going to be occupied by future employers?"

The employers. Then they move there.

"Otherwise, what makes you think workers who can't afford the Peninsula can afford Marin County?"

San Rafael and Novato are substantially cheaper than Palo Alto and Mountain View. Workers in the South Bay currently commute from places like Pleasanton in order to afford housing. If they can live in Novato or San Rafael and have a short train commute instead of an intolerable drive, they'll do it.

And Hall doesn't want that. He wants Marin to shrink. not grow. The train bothers him because it will drive growth. Worse yet, it will drive growth in populations of people who don't think like him. The horror!

At 11:17 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Your notion about the affordability of Marin is dubious. And your opinion of Hall needs some supporting evidence. I read his blog and his comments to the Independent Journal stories on the dumb SMART project, and I essentially agree with everything he says about it. It's like a small test run of the same assumption under the even dumber high-speed rail project: downplay construction costs, exaggerate future ridership, and ignore what it will cost to run the system after it's built. That's the formula rail supporters follow to get these silly projects started. Once started they're hard to stop. Good money has to be thrown after bad so that the original investment isn't wasted!

See Megaprojects and Risk. The authors analyze a lot of big, dumb projects all around the world that followed that pattern: "Cost underestimation and overrun cannot be explained by error and seem best explained by strategic misrepresentation, namely lying, with a view to getting projects started" (page 16).

That the stupid SMART system will actually encourage growth in Marin is fanciful. Where exactly, for example, do you think more housing can be built in Marin? More likely: it will discourage growth in San Rafael and central Marin, since it will surely make traffic congestion there even worse than it is now.

At 7:59 AM, Anonymous Richard Hall said...

Thanks @Rob Anderson. As a product manager expected to provide ROIs and justification for the high tech projects I work on I scrutinize decisions. SMART simply doesn't pass the sniff test or any test for that matter.

I highly recommend watching this video of Mike Arnold, PhD in Economics and UC Berkeley Professor, completely tear apart the viability of SMART in a Marin Coalition Luncheon just last week:

It makes for eye-watering viewing. The project really is that bad.

Please also do visit my blog where I analyze SMART:


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