Monday, August 27, 2018

Economic analysis of the SMART train

SMART Train 2017 Santa Rosa.jpg
A few excerpts from An Economic Analysis of the SMART Train, by Mike Arnold, Ph.D. in The Marin Post.

Chair and Commission Members:

I am writing to provide a broader context to SMART General Manager Farhad Mansourian’s August 2 presentation in Watsonville. This memo is about what he didn’t tell you and about the many questions a public body should consider before deciding to employ tax dollars to provide passenger rail services.

I have reviewed the video and the PowerPoint that was presented to the RTC[Regional Transportation Commission]. Much of what he said was incomplete. Some information was inconsistent with data on SMART in the National Transit Database or in its own financial reports. My goal is to provide the RTC with this information so that it will understand that SMART is not the success touted by SMART’s Chairperson and General Manager.

Hopefully, after reading this memo, the Commission will learn that implementation of passenger rail service “within suburbia” (in that passenger rail wouldn’t serve a major employment center) comes at great cost to the taxpayers and carries relatively few transit passengers. 

As I demonstrate below, SMART’s ridership is paltry compared with rail transit systems that do serve major metropolitan areas. Indeed, to the extent the Commission views SMART as a “model,” I urge the Commission to careful study of what has actually transpired in the past 10 years in Marin and Sonoma counties, as opposed to what the General Manager claims has transpired...

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At 10:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Subsidy per trip, $27. SMART?

At 11:24 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

No, it's not smart. And it will probably get dumber when we learn what it really costs to operate and maintain the system. Only Marin and Sonoma counties are being directly taxed now to support this system, but when it becomes obvious that the 1/4 cent sales tax isn't enough to pay for the system, those counties will turn to the state and the federal governments to make up the difference.

It will be either that or raise ticket prices, which will reduce the number of people using the system. Like the state's high-speed rail project, the SMART system was sold to voters with exaggerated claims about benefits and downplaying the costs to build the system and to operate it after it was built.


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