Despite all the efforts in place to keep the SMART train construction moving, there has been residual opposition to building the new rail network, claiming that it would not benefit commuters living beyond the rail line, forcing them to drive to the nearest station and cause more traffic on the roadways. More importantly, the projected cost of building the new system has been overshadowed by a weak economy, forcing the project managers to delay construction, with many fearing budget overruns. Let’s face it, though: can an economic doldrum and financial hardship really cause public opposition, resulting in transportation projects being abandoned completely? Remember that during the Great Depression of the 1930s, San Francisco managed to build two impressive, heavily-used bridges that have become workhorses of the region today: the Oakland-San Francisco Bay Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge. And now, the SMART train is an equivalent of building the Golden Gate Bridge, if not larger and better.
The railroad right-of-way that the SMART train will use has been abandoned since the 1930s by the Northwestern Pacific Railway because Marin and Sonoma Counties were connected by the Redwood Highway that eventually crossed into San Francisco through the Golden Gate Bridge. Over the decades, the only line connecting the two counties has been dormant, with no rail service provided at all, and it was neglected by city, county, and regional planners because they were more reliant on Highway 101 as the principal corridor connecting the North Bay with San Francisco. It was not until the 1990s when plans to revive rail service in the North Bay were discussed, although ballot measures in the early 2000s failed, citing not enough approval from voters in both counties. It was only in 2008 that both Marin and Sonoma Counties — with Sonoma having a larger approval percentage — approved Measure Q to fund and build a new rail service.
- A faster and more relaxing commute as travelers can read, sleep, or chat with friends instead of keeping one’s eyes on the road
- Creating more local jobs that will ultimately benefit communities along the railway, from San Rafael to Santa Rosa
- A more environmentally-friendly way to commute as rail travel produces less carbon emissions per passenger than driving
- Encouraging better zoning and development focused on the railway stations, allowing residents to walk, bike, or even skate to the station rather than sitting in traffic
- Improved transportation circulation as buses and shuttles will be focused on serving nearby communities, rather than focusing on just one transportation hub
With continued public support and a recovering economy, the SMART train will, hopefully, bring a SMARTer solution to the traffic woes in the North Bay and make traveling easier and more pleasurable for everyone.
(Later on, I will write my opinion about what sacrifices several North Bay transit agencies have to make when the SMART train is completed)