news A Conversation with Eddy Cumins, S.M.A.R.T.’s New General Manager

Eddy Cumins started as Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit’s new general manager in November. Prior to SMART, he served 20 years in the US Air Force in Vehicle Management and most recently, he oversaw 2,234 employees as the Utah Transit Authority’s Chief Operating Officer.

Our executive director, Tarrell Kullaway, was honored to serve on the Community Stakeholders Panel during the interviews of final candidates for the position. She was impressed with Mr. Cumins’ commitment to the SMART Multiuse Pathway and Active Transportation in general. She was also encouraged that Mr. Cumins and his wife Vivian regularly ride bikes for fun and transportation. Mr. Cumins welcomes regular meetings with Tarrell and Warren Wells signaling what we expect will be strengthened relations between SMART and the cycling community in the years to come.

Tarrell spoke with the new general manager on February 17, 2022.

TK: Do you ride bikes? What kind of riding do you do?

EC: In Utah, my wife and I used to love to spend a weekend day riding the train to a location where we could get off and ride our bikes to lunch or a coffee shop, then ride home. We also rode to the farmer’s market. It’s such a great way to spend the day and great for families. And this area is SO beautiful. My wife and I have new e-bikes. Seeing all the hills out here, we knew we’d need them. My wife and I bought a home in Fountaingrove (Santa Rosa) and we have been riding around the neighborhood.

TK: What is the role of biking and walking in creating healthy communities? 

EC: It’s a green way to travel. The pathway is a great first and last mile solution. How do people move around without a car? That’s the bottom line, right? Bikes MUST be part of that solution. The train by itself cannot accomplish everything – it must be part of a system. The pathway is an important part of that system. 

TK: What is your past experience creating places for people to walk and bike?

EC: The D&RGW Trail [The Denver and Rio Grande Western Rail Trail] is wonderful. It’s known throughout the country. The path was already built when I got to the Utah Transit Authority (UTA) but my team helped maintain the path. UTA also installed bike lockers, bike repair stations, 3-position bike racks on buses, and partnered with a local nonprofit organization to bring bike share to the area. We had a bike car on commuter rail in Utah and this may be something that would be good for SMART. We’ll see how the numbers work out. I get the numbers every morning and this morning, for instance, 19% of the people on board rode bikes. It’s shocking to me the number of bikes on our trains!

TK: What are the biggest challenges for SMART? 

EC: That first and last mile is SMART’s Achilles’ heel. The train does a great job getting people from point A to point B, but we need to better align with bus, bike, and pedestrians to be more effective. It really bothers me that the building I’m in right now (our office) is not on the rail line. I’d love to ride the train to work or at least ride part of the way, then bike the last mile. It’s just not great riding out here [the SMART office is in North Petaluma]. I want to lead by example. I’d like to have a video of me getting to work on a bike.

TK: What would you like MCBC members to know about you?

I want people to know that I want SMART to be known as a community partner and a viable transportation alternative to driving a car. I know we can’t be everything to everyone, but I want the agency to be transparent and accessible.

Another thing that people might not know is how top notch the staff is at SMART.  I don’t know if the public really understands the quality of the people we have working at the agency.

I’m just so happy to be here. It’s not every day that you get called to work in a place you regularly visit for vacation. My wife and I love it here. For me – and I’m not just saying this – I want to be viewed as a partner in the community. I want to be visible. And I want people to know that I will listen.

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