We at SMART ask that you don’t be misled by what is now a privately funded $1.7m campaign against our fledgling train. Facts are constantly being distorted by No on Measure I, as they’ve been doing since before the train was even on the tracks.
We ask that you listen to your public agency, who has your local elected officials representing you as SMART board members. The SMART board holds public meetings that you can view at any time online, has a website with audited ridership numbers and financial documentation and has a Citizens Oversight Committee which reviews our expenditure plans (the chair of this committee is the president of the Bank of Marin).
So it appears to come down to who you trust: Your own public agency or one wealthy family with an apparent axe to grind?
The documented real facts:
SMART lost $100 million in sales tax receipts not received during the Great Recession after your vote for Measure Q. That hampered not only our initial construction on the entire 71-mile line, but also our operations budget. How soon we forget the Great Recession that was so serious that people lost homes? That financial disaster affected your train, too.
Measure I is not a tax increase. It is an extension of your current 1/4 of one percent sales tax. That’s 25 cents for every $100 you spend. Yes, the tax renewal is early, but that is so we can refinance our bond debt now while we have the lowest interest rates seen in 10 years to save $12.2 million in interest costs.
Your Measure M sales tax extension for roads and highways is also going to be on your ballot this November, years earlier than it expires. SMART is not setting any precedents.
SMART’s ridership is going through the roof. February 2020 numbers show weekday ridership up 26% from February 2019, and an 86% increase on weekends. A rider noted standing-room-only trains this past Sunday to Larkspur. People are climbing on board with our new enhanced schedule of four additional trains and two new stations in higher numbers than we ever expected right away.
SMART is under construction to Windsor, with an opening date of late 2021. Nine miles of additional bike paths are also under construction, bringing our total to 32 miles. And we are eligible for another grant for a path. SMART staff stretches every penny you’ve invested to its limit, every day.
So don’t you think it’s “smart” to protect your $650 million investment? Or would you rather vote no, and see the train schedule reduced, new station construction stopped, bike path construction stopped? Without Measure I, we cannot refinance our bonds, and we then become not eligible for construction grants to Healdsburg, Cloverdale and someday eastward to connect with Amtrak.
I do not write these words lightly — these are things that the board will have to start talking about in March if Measure I fails.
SMART is just a baby at only 2.5 years old. Given the financial hand we were dealt on day 1, we think we’ve done an amazing job building 45 miles of track and connecting you to San Francisco via the ferry system. Have we been perfect? No. Do we constantly try to improve every day? Yes, we do.
Measure I is an investment in your future and in the future of the younger generations. Please don’t stop SMART in its tracks. Get on board and see why every rider is enthusiastically voting Yes on I.
Debora Fudge is a Windsor town councilmember and a SMART board member.