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SMART: On Track but More Time and Money Needed

Interim director recommends increasing the cost of the rail line and pedestrian/bicycle pathway between San Rafael and Santa Rosa by as much as $69 million and delaying its construction.

The Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) district's acting executive director Farhad Mansourian today recommended increasing the cost of the rail line and pedestrian/bicycle pathway between San Rafael and Santa Rosa by $57 to $69 million and completing it one or two years behind schedule.

He also outlined $70 to $82 million in possible funding sources and savings measures to offset the increased costs.

The cost of the segment between Santa Rosa and San Rafael was initially estimated at $335 million when it was part of the originally proposed 70-mile rail line and pathway between Cloverdale and Larkspur.

The cost of building the line only between the downtowns of those cities -- the initial operating segment, or IOS -- is estimated at $395 million. Mansourian is now projecting the cost of that segment at $404 million and is forecasting $407 million will be available to build it.

His engineer's analysis of the costs and revenues of the IOS was to be completed by July 27, when the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) is scheduled to approve $21 million in funding for the project, half of it from Marin and Sonoma counties' transportation authorities.

Mansourian is recommending restoring three items that previously were deleted from the San Rafael-Santa Rosa segment in April to help save $88 million.

They include restoring $4.3 million for ticket vending machines, $3.4 million for a closed circuit television system on train station platforms and $5 million to replace the Novato Creek Bridge.

He also is recommending $56 million in cost increases and revisions that include an additional $10 million for engineering, professional services and administrative staff, $11 million for an operations and maintenance facility, $26 million for a "positive train control" signaling and communications system, $4 million for systems and grade crossing work between the Marin Civic Center and downtown San Rafael and $2.8 million for signals and sound buffer medians to create "quiet zones."

Mansourian said SMART can save between $12 and $24 million by delaying the completion of the Santa Rosa-San Rafael segment one to two years to allow time to restore the deleted items.

He also estimates SMART's 3 percent sales tax growth rate assumption is too low, given the current year growth rate of 6 percent.

"It is prudent for SMART to assume an additional 1 percent growth rate over the next several years only, which remains fairly conservative. This would result in an additional $22 million in sales tax revenue during this time period," Mansourian said in his analysis.

Mansourian also said his staff has identified $20 million in "repeated duplications and estimates of project costs, overhead and contingencies."

"This resulted from many different consultants working on separate components of the same project where overlapping cost estimate components were not discovered," Mansourian said.

Addressing and pathway, Manshourian said, "Long-time project opponents have claimed a promise was broken ... this is simply not the case.

"Decision makers in every sector are being asked to downsize, phase or reduce until the economic crisis is over," Mansourian said. "SMART critics recommend that your board simply fold. In my considered view, this is not a viable option," Mansourian said.

"Phasing the project with a reduced initial scope in response to the current economic downturn is the proper course," Mansourian said.

The SMART board of directors will accept and review the report at its Aug. 17 meeting in San Rafael.

--Bay City News Service

John Parnell August 08, 2011 at 06:06 AM
Robert - Per SMART's own reports, the Great Recession is responsible for only $95 million of what was a $370 million deficit, which has now gone up to $475 million (but the extra $105 million is only cost overruns to build the Half Train). Our deficit to build this train is pretty much more than they said it was going to cost in the first place. That isn't the recession. Now, they like to call it "rosy projections", but when we voted for it, they called their projections "conservative & reasonable". Personally, I call it VOTER FRAUD. They were told that a 1/2 cent tax wouldn't pass, but a 1/4 cent would. They didn't change the construction plan. They only changed the tax, so it would pass. And then they had the gall to tell us that they didn't know all these antiquated bridges & tunnels needed major work? They are talking now (quietly) about going back for ANOTHER TAX in a few years to pay for what our previous tax was supposed to cover.
John Parnell August 08, 2011 at 06:15 AM
With all this talk about extra costs, in case not everybody is aware, these are for building only HALF of the train we originally voted for, and not for the 70 mile line. One more reminder - another SMART broken promise. They told us that all money spent would be spent only in Marin & Sonoma. In fact, it was even on their ballot argument. Maybe it is time for an audit. We know most of the consultants are outside of our counties. We know that the $57 million contract to build the trains is being done by Sumitomo in Japan. But we don't know how much they have actually spent in Marin/Sonoma, other than for all their salaries. Now they are scamming people's land away from them. Instead of pulling an eminent domain, they have been telling everyone that they are going to do so, and have forced these poor people into foreclosure; just so they can get it on the cheap. If you still support SMART, please read this recent article from the Press Democrat & then tell us what you think: http://www.watchsonomacounty.com/2011/08/transportation/smart-land-owners-at-odds-over-petaluma-station-site/
Sylvia Barry August 08, 2011 at 06:16 AM
June - if you drive 101 at night, you will be amazed by how many construction trucks and workers are out there working (I was surprised when I first saw all that lights). They don't work during the daytime to minimize disruptions to commuters, but they come out full force at night. I would love to have more frequent and expanded bus schedule for express buses from Novato to the city for the commuters. People are not using the bus because the hours are short and far in between - the last bus pretty much requires a person to leave work at around 5:30PM, which does not accommodate people who might be in meetings or want to stay in the city for a bit longer - many people work long hours now a days. A lot of high school or college students would be able to go to the city for jobs or internship if there are better public transportation - in the form of bus. There are so many great opportunities out there. My nephew and niece who live in Fremont took advantage of great internships in the city but it's much difficult for Novato students to do that because of the lack of public transportation. We just can't wait another 10 years for that to happen!
Alex Zwissler August 08, 2011 at 09:13 PM
Thanks everyone for weighing in on the issue. The various comments are a perfect example of the confirmation biases we all hold so dear. Those fundamentally opposed to SMART find all that is wrong with the project in the data presented..while those of us who support the project, which I wholeheartedly continue to do, find reasons for continuing the implementation of a north bay transit option. Same data, different conclusions. In a funny way, both sides are probably right, at least to a degree. The problems come in when we get sidetracked (..no pun..) by debating the details. There will always be legitimate debate on issues of missed cost or revenue projections, sound wall locations, and supposed broken promises. The bigger issue is that, while inevitably, public works and transit projects are large , cumbersome and impossible to perfectly predict, we need to stay focused on is the long term outcomes we as voters sought when we overwhelmingly approved the project ...Smart alternative transit options for our community. After SMART is completed the details will be lost to the mists of time, but the public will be served, and the will of the majority of the people recognized.
Phil Maher August 08, 2011 at 10:19 PM
Alex- I very much appreciate and respect your balanced comments. I do want to take this opportunity to point you toward the original ballot arguments posed in support and opposition to Measure Q. As a part of RepealSMART's executive committee, I obviously hold those biases you speak of, but at the same time, the pragmatic side of me can't help but weigh those arguments and come to the very clear, and what I hope I'm still capable of ascertaining as a reasonably objective conclusion, that what's clearly come to pass are the predictions of the opponents, and what's clearly been dis-proven are the contentions of the supporters....and the project has yet to even leave the planning stages. I think this bodes poorly for the long-term viability of the project, and I also believe that now is absolutely the time to revisit this in the light of what we know now vs what we were presented then. We have the benefit of hindsight to a large degree, and that hindsight is, as they say, 20/20. http://www.smartvoter.org/2008/11/04/ca/sn/meas/Q/#text
Marla August 08, 2011 at 10:31 PM
To SMART objectors- Did you look at the cost overruns for the 101 highway expansion project which as I understand it will cost close to $1 billion when completed (if fund are ever found to complete it). Studies show highway expansion fills up again within two years. So was wondering, if you don't like SMART rail because of cost, do you just prefer status quo, traffic issues, no alternative to rising gas prices or do you have an different idea for lessening traffic, lowering our emissions, cleaning up our air quality, increasing our home values (yes people pay top dollar for homes with easy access to convenient passenger rail transit), and providing a fun way to travel where you can relax, talk to neighbors, meet friends etc.? Oh and please bear in mind that freight trains are already rolling on the track North of 37, so a dedicated bus is not compatible or possible. Imagine being able to leave the car at home, work on your computer or chat with neighbors while riding rail to the Marin County Fair at Civic Center, to wine Country, to San Rafael for a vist to Sol Food etc. As you pass by the traffic on 101 and the gas stations boasting prices of $5.00 gallon, you will quickly forget all the controversy that went into the start up. The ferry also was very controversial with many of the same arguements against it (cost overruns, ridehsip etc.). Now it is hard ot imagine life without it and that's how it will be with SMART.
Mark Schoenbaum August 08, 2011 at 10:50 PM
Sorry Marla but the proposal is only for a couple of trains in each direction each day. This is not BART. Unless you are planning on grabbing a bit at Sol Food in the morning and cooling your heels until you can get a train back I don't even think you will ride it. There are already plenty of wine country tours available and we do not need to spend $500 million for another wine train and the countless millions in subsidies that it will take to make the choo choo affordable to ride. Anyone commuting to SF is out of luck. I already leave my car at the park and ride and enjoy the existing bus service into the city. The buses are clean, on time, and reliable, and I can ride from Novato to my job in San Francisco without having to change transit. SMART is a tremendous waste of public funds that will benefit few but will provide for those who proposed it and are profiting from it now. Face it, people drive because they want to, or because the transit available is not convenient. A train is even less convenient than the bus service. The train will zero impact on traffic or polution. None of your arguments have any backing.
Phil Maher August 09, 2011 at 12:43 AM
Marla- Imagine staying at home with your car, or real transportation solutions that involve a radical upheaval in how we view our local needs and expectations. Who's to say that in 20 years the idea of commuting to work won't be as outlandish a proposition as you now consider the automobile, or, in turn, the 1950's idea that trains were equally outlandish. None of us seem to have all the answers, but going in a circle with an outrageously expensive guess is not an exercise in anything but chasing our tails. And excuse me if I'm so cynical as to not believe for a second that our resident crop of elected officials who depend on whipping the masses into a frenzy of idealism and false hopes are less than qualified to plan any more than two years out. Someday, somewhere, someone may begin to think outside the box. But in the realities of too many ideas vs too little money, wouldn't it be tragic to know that we frittered it all away betting on the wrong horse? Regardless of what the future holds in store for us, I think that prudence and an honest inventory of the pros and cons will always be the best way to meet it, and SMART offers us nothing in terms of demonstrating either.
Alex Zwissler August 09, 2011 at 03:25 AM
Hang in the there Marla...Mr. Schoenbaum claims two trips per day...here's what is in the SMART plan..I count 11 round trips coming through San Rafael... the plan will no doubt will be modified, but that's the nature of these things... 1.1 Passenger Rail Service The proposed project would provide weekday and weekend passenger rail service. Weekday service would include four daily round trips between Cloverdale and Larkspur, two daily round trips between Healdsburg and Larkspur, three daily round trips between Windsor and Larkspur, two daily round trips between Petaluma and Larkspur, and two daily round trips between Healdsburg and Petaluma (see Table 1 for total station stops). Weekend service would include four roundtrips per day, spaced throughout the dayduring daytime or early evening hours. The weekday and weekend running speed, including stops, would generally be the same as posted speeds on adjacent roadways in urban areas and would average approximately 46 miles per hour (mph) from Cloverdale to Larkspur.
Alex Zwissler August 09, 2011 at 03:36 AM
Thank you Phil...I took the time to re-read the text of the ballot initiative that was approved by 69.2% of the voters in Sonoma and Marin, which you provided above. The voters approved a sales tax increase to exclusively fund a rail service between Cloverdale and Larkspur...while there were and remain arguments on both sides of the issues, I don't feel hindsight in this case changes the broader objective of providing such service which the vast majority of folks want. It may take longer, cost a bit more and be a bit different than was originally envisioned, but as I continue to point out, these are not reasons in my judgment to abandon the project.
Mark Schoenbaum August 09, 2011 at 05:17 AM
I never said 2, I said a couple. $500 MILLION dollars for four round trips per day. Unless the train takes you where you want to go, when you want to go, then it is just a folly. Meanwhile, a handful are collection salaries and pensions and crying poor. The public approved a proposed plan for a train, thanks to a special election dictrict. They did not vote for a concept of a train to be achieved whenever convenient and at any cost. The plan has changed, the costs have changed. It is time to ask the public if they still think it is worth the investment.
Alex Zwissler August 09, 2011 at 12:55 PM
My mistake...I assumed a couple meant two...can you outline for me under what conditions you would vote yes for a SMART transit proposal?
Phil Maher August 09, 2011 at 04:39 PM
Alex- I know you directed your question to Mark, but I wanted to respond and , in turn, ask you a question as well. First- I am the only core member of my group to have never voted for SMART. To me, the financial plan and service areas never fleshed out sufficiently enough to appear viable. From the fact that the measure was twice brought to a vote with a request for 1/2 cent sales tax and as separate measures for each county, only to fail, to SMART's contrived polishing of the measure to make it more palatable with only a 1/4 cent tax and what essentially amounted to rigging the vote by creating a combined district vote that again failed to pass in Marin, but was carried with the inclusion of a stronghold in Sonoma. As a voter, I resented such political posturing and manipulation on the part of SMART. As we should be doing now, they learned from their previous failures and crafted a solution to fulfill their agenda, be that arguably right or wrong. SMART knew at that time that the amount they were requesting was insufficient, yet as you can see from the earlier ballot arguments I linked, still presented the amount as sufficient to fully cover the operational costs of the train for the full term of the tax. In addition to other currently proven financial oversights or wildly optimistic projections, I consider this fraudulent. It wasn't a matter of is a train as a transit solution a good idea or not, it came down to whether THIS particular train was a good idea or not.
Phil Maher August 09, 2011 at 05:03 PM
...cont'd- We then go on to the issues of development and the densities required to sustain such a system. There was no mention of this by proponents in the ballot arguments, but very specific and prescient mention by the opponents. I consider this a hidden agenda, again disingenuous, at best, and again, I believe that the proof goes to the opposition. Then we have the wildly exaggerated arguments that SMART would alleviate GHGs and traffic. Given that SMART will only alleviate from 1-2% of either, I not only believe the claims were patently false, I believe that the cost benefit analysis points to no solution to either of these whatsoever. Let's now go to subsidization- using SMART's own projections, the estimated fare box recovery is about 23%...abysmal. On top of that, the suggest one-way trip cost is currently estimated at $4.50-$5.00 per rider. Again, using SMART's own numbers, that translates to a per trip taxpayer subsidy of $16.75. Not only is that outrageous, it's dysfunctional and unsustainable in what appears to be perpetuity. Finally- my question for you. In light of the current bus system's [mass transit] cutting of services due to lack of ridership, what makes you think that adding yet another level of similarly potential failure is a solution, and, what elements of the existing system are obviously not meeting the needs of the users? How would a service with even more limited range of service not be subject to the same outcome, but at a much higher cost?
Alex Zwissler August 10, 2011 at 12:43 AM
Thanks...I'll answer your question when you answer mine.
Mark Schoenbaum August 10, 2011 at 01:16 AM
Alex, The SMART proposal did not originate from the idea of relieving traffic. It was started by those who saw the tracks and thought that they could reuse them from profit. I do not see any circumstances under which I could support SMART, since it it not a solution for anything. There is no overwhelming Santa Rosa to San Rafael commute that needs to be addressed. It will have absolutly no impact on traffic or the environment. Most of the traffic coming out of Sonoma County into Marin County is destined for points East over the San Rafael Bridge, or points South over the Golden Gate Bridge. While it may address a small group of intercounty Sonoma commuters, it does not offer much of anything in the way of benefits to the public at large. Phil has done a great job of highlighting the fictitous projections, the blatent misleading of the votors both before and after the election and also raises the more than valid point the costs far exceed any perceived benefits. All we are asking is that since what they are proposing now is not what they promised to the voters that they have an obligation to go back to the voters for approval instead of deciding that they alone have authority to deliver less than what was promised at a far greater cost then projected. They do not want to do that since they have already proven themselves to have been less then honest, and now opponents can voice new concerns about cost overruns and future sustainability.
Mark Schoenbaum August 10, 2011 at 01:18 AM
contd, The hope to delay any revote as long as possible so that they can continue to collect their salaries, benefits, pensions and consulting fees for as long as possible.
Alex Zwissler August 10, 2011 at 03:31 AM
Thank you for answering the question Mark. In essence, you are unequivocally opposed to SMART under any circumstances. That's fine. What's not fine is what I find to be the disingenuous position that your group espouses on the RepealSmart website..there you claim that "...repealing Measure Q will provide a “strategic timeout” for SMART to re-evaluate their plan and come back to the voters with an accurate, effective and fully funded plan." As you plainly say above, there is no such plan in your opinion...this makes me question both your sincerity and your motives...sorry.
Mark Schoenbaum August 10, 2011 at 05:12 AM
I have nothing to do with the repealSMART web site nor the message posted. I simply support their efforts. You can question my motives all you want, but I think that you are the one with a hidden agenda. My only concern is that as a taxpayer being forced to fund this boondoggle that I want those behind it to be upfront and forthcoming with the voters who are funding their folly. Google me. You will find I was one of the most vocal opponents before the election, and continue to voice my opinions in opposition. As I have pointed out, this measure had absolutely nothing to do with the message the backers sold to the public. It does nothing about traffic congestion. It does nothing about greenhouse gases. It does nothing for the bicycle coalition. It was all about profits. It was about money for the promoters and administrators. It was about money for the consultants and contractors. It was about money for the developers of the project and the unmentioned ABAG housing associated with it. It was clear from the start that the project could not be completed with even the rosiest of projections. It was clear that the cost would exceed 500 to 600 MILLION dollars for construction, and once built it would not be able to operate without more taxpayer money to subsidize it. Now, why don't you explain your sincerity and motives for us...
Phil Maher August 10, 2011 at 06:06 PM
Alex- That's somewhat of a cop out answer on your part. I felt that I did a fair enough job of arguing at least a few of the reasons for my lack of support, but you offered nothing in return in support of yours...just as so many advocates repeatedly do, aside from rehashing the same old, discredited fantasies of this boondoggle being somehow different than all the others. Over the course of my last 50 years, I like to think that I've generally honed two very important skills- 1. Knowing when something makes no sense at all, and 2. knowing when to cut my losses and move on in order to be left whole and ready for the what's yet to come. Whether you choose to answer my question or not, do you remember a time when the tracks ran all the way into downtown Tiburon and through Mill Valley to Sausilito? It was a complete system that was developed by an actual railroad, and one that made sense, but that was butchered up and reallocated to other uses by the same people who now find themselves left to make do with what's left over (Ask Tiburon or Mill Valley if they're willing to ditch what they've put in place of the NWPRR for the common good). SMART is a compromise and a political creation, not a seamless transportation solution borne of common sense, realistic expectations, or fiscal responsibility.
Phil Maher August 10, 2011 at 06:49 PM
What do you find "disingenuous" about asking to remove the funding mechanism necessary for SMART to proceed, regardless of just as many uncertainties on the part of an increasing number of voters who would now like an opportunity to revisit the matter at the polls, just as SMART has had to revisit its own concepts? What we have is a train that may or may not make sense in its current configuration, but a board, staff, politicians and a small group of fervent advocates that hang their mandate on ideology, not functional facts. The train itself is merely an aside. What's become a runaway is the people behind it. If it is such a good idea, why not reaffirm that supposed 70% mandate? What do they fear from the electorate that they claim is still overwhelmingly in favor of the project? Honestly, isn't one of the first rules of success in reaching such lofty, long-term goals the ability to adjust? SMART proves to us time and time again that they're very good at doing just this, but at the same time, don't afford us the same luxury. We have an element of hypocrisy and a double-standard in that that should be not only a red-flag, it flies in the face of how we should expect our leaders to manage and consider our voices in our future. As an analogy- if you order and expect steak, and I hand you a burger and promise to fulfill your order sometime later, do you accept the burger, or do you reject it and either walk out or ask for another look at the menu for an alternative?
Alex Zwissler August 10, 2011 at 08:56 PM
My question was can you outline for me under what conditions you would vote yes for a SMART transit proposal? As you note, you only continued to outline your reasons for opposition. Further, I'll stand by my comment that Repeal Smart, which I believe you are associated with, is being disingenuous when is says "... repealing Measure Q will provide a “strategic timeout” for SMART to re-evaluate their plan and come back to the voters with an accurate, effective and fully funded plan." Based on your and Mark's comments, I don't believe that is really what you are asking for. You are seeking to kill the project, not re-evaluate it. Finally, and this will be my last comment on the topic, as you note this is all up to the will of the people. I will follow with interest your efforts to obtain the 40,000 signatures needed to place another vote on the ballot. You have every right do do so, as I and the majority of folks who support SMART have to oppose such an effort. I wish you all the best.
Mark Schoenbaum August 10, 2011 at 09:37 PM
Ok, Alex. Let me ask you the same. What conditions would cause you to change your mind and vote in favor of repealing the tax? Go ahead and list all the benefits you see from continuing with this folly. It has no impact on traffic, no impact on greenhouse gases, will requires continued taxpayer subsidies. I want to understand where you see an upside to this project? Is it all just whistful nostalgia? I have explained the reasoning behind my opinions yet. Looking through your posts here I do not see any reasoning behind your conviction. As opponents we can raise a multitude of valid and indisputable points why this train should be stopped in its tracks. Explain to us why you think that we should sink over half a Billion dollars to build a train with little ridership and will continue more funding to operate it.
John Parnell August 10, 2011 at 09:54 PM
Alex - I get why you think we are being disingenuous, but let me try to explain why I disagree. SMART, as it is currently funded, is unable to provide the service which we voted for in 2008. Plain & simple, we're getting maybe about half. I think it's safe to say that we agree on that, and that this project really needed the 1/2 cent tax to build it properly. SMART has indicated that it is hoping to come back in a few years (about 12 years too soon) to ask us for more money to build what we thought we were getting the first time. That is what I find to be disingenuous. Personally, I would love to make our initiative more of a multiple choice ballot: 1.) Up the tax to 1/2 cent & build it properly as previously promised 2.) Stay with status quo 3.) Stop the train, but save the path 4.) Stop it all I can't tell you how I'd vote, but right now, I'm torn between the three that don't include the status quo. I would be happy if the outcome were any of the three Now we don't have that luxury - only the SMART Board does. All that we can do in order to get some kind of ballot to the people to ask them again is a straight repeal of Measure Q. Our lawyers advised us that anything else would get us sued by SMART & wouldn't reach the ballot. We feel it is important that we are all given the chance to be heard again, since this project is so radically different from that which we voted. So we must repeal Measure Q, in order to let the SMART Board ask us properly. Understand?
Phil Maher August 10, 2011 at 11:30 PM
Alex- I would have thought that by delineating some of my biggest grievances with the current proposal, it would have been easy enough for a man of your obvious intellect to see that by addressing those and closing that gap, that that would be the point at which I would offer my support. Without knowing where I stand, and why (which I tried to convey honestly and in good-faith), nor in me knowing where you stand, and why (which you didn't convey in any way), how could we ever hope to move beyond our impasse and debate the merits, or lack thereof? This is an issue based initiative, and the devil is in those details. Aside from feeling as though the voters, kindly put, were misled ( a major and factual sticking point for me and many others) the problem is: I see many of those details as unbridgeable functionally and fiscally, and as of yet not properly, effectively and viably considered by SMART. This gap that grows wider and wider in effective execution, as well as increasingly and unmistakably evident in the eyes of the voters, is why we feel that SMART is no longer able to lay claim to representing the will of the majority.
Alex Zwissler August 11, 2011 at 01:27 PM
Gentlemen, My previous promise that it would be my last comment in this thread notwithstanding, I feel I need to make a couple of closing points. First, I sincerely commend you for your passion and commitment regarding this issue. You guys are clearly very smart, articulate, and admirably display the strength of your convictions. John, I take you on your word that the tack taken by Repeal Smart is driven by legal requirements and withdraw my claim you are being disingenuous. Phil, I'm afraid I'm going to disappoint you because whatever limited intellect I may have left to me, tells me that a debate around the details is not going to get us anywhere. As I said in my opening post, the data and details are only serving to confirm our biases on the topic. We see them differently, assign different weight to various aspects and come to differing conclusions. I don't seek to change your conclusions. At the end of the day, it comes down to an issue of judgment. As with all complex issues, we sift through a blur of data, analyses, reports and opinions. We weigh the merits, check the sources, confer with colleagues and arrive at a conclusion. New facts and circumstances may change our judgments, or they may not. My judgment is that SMART continues to merit my support. Only time will tell which of us is correct.
Phil Maher August 11, 2011 at 05:39 PM
Just to reiterate what John says- the legal issues behind this have been extremely complex and limiting. For example: Within our core group, it was a very difficult decision to proceed knowing that we would have no choice but to jeopardize the future of the MU path, when our primary issues are with the train and the management of the district. We see this as a tremendous community asset, but one that we weren't able to practically or lawfully isolate. Believe me, we tried our best during the process, and would have no problem supporting any future efforts to bring this aspect back for consideration by the voters as a fully funded and beneficial stand-alone project. From this standpoint, when the MCBC and SCBC take an errant aim at RepealSMART, they also line up their sights on themselves. We're not the ones who created this mess, just the ones who are trying to give the people the ability to clean it up. SMART offers you an ever-shrinking island of diminishing returns, but with a little patience, pragmatism and foresight, maybe what we're proposing could actually give you a seat to go along with the post you have now.
Scott August 11, 2011 at 08:52 PM
As an outside observer to this very interesting, and fairly civil, debate, I think it can be boiled down to one side that has been opposed to the project from the beginning and are looking for more reasons to support their views. Fortunately for them, the SMART administrators are giving them plenty of such support. The other side is populated by ideologues who believe rail is a panacea for many of the transit, environmental and etc. problems that exist despite practically no evidence to support it other than their own view of what should be logical expectations. In reality, it should be clear that this project is like so many other government sponsored big idea projects that have come before it. It will deliver far less and cost fare more than promised. This is an indisputable fact as they've already admitted as much. The question is how much worse will it get. History suggests a lot. In recent memory, I doubt there are many, if any, examples of a similar project that was completed on time, on budget and on scope. Worse, I doubt there are many public rail systems in this country that are sound fiscal footing. Justifying this one is what therapists would call 'magical thinking.'
Phil Maher August 12, 2011 at 02:10 PM
Scott- I largely agree with your take on the framework, and I guess we'll enjoy the civility while we can. What's interesting though is that many people who once supported SMART with their vote have now come to find themselves against it. The founder of RepealSMART, John Parnell, is one such person, and as you point out, SMART itself is responsible for this entirely. I will say this though in defense of the opponents (of which I'm firmly one of)- It's not so much that we're looking for more reasons to support our position, it's that what was wrong before is still present and relevant to the core objections. In fact, not only have the original arguments against SMART been proven to the largest degree, those problems have become exacerbated, not so much as a function of the economy (a widely held misconception being touted by gov't agencies that simply spent beyond their means), but as a result of gross underestimating of costs, mismanagement, and yes, 'magical thinking'.
Austin Morris August 12, 2011 at 03:19 PM
Gentlemen: Scott & Phil, Great exchange, well said my compliments !!

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