Our Reactions To SMART's FY23 Budget SMARTer by the Year
We dug into the FY 23 budget for SMART (Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit) and found a lot to like. We’re going to share the highlights and some of our thoughts on the agency’s direction (the budget, for the curious, is linked here in full).
First, we have had only good experiences with SMART’s new General Manager, Eddy Cumins (who Tarrell, our Executive Director, interviewed here). He has been willing to meet with us and discuss our priorities for the pathway, and led a series of listening sessions to get feedback from the public. This culminated in a strategic planning process, in which four pillars of the agency were outlined. “Pathways” is one of them.
We hope to see this vision for a complete pathway (long-missing from the agency) carried out with alacrity and vigor in the coming years.
Planning For the Future
Perhaps most excitingly, SMART has created a new Senior Planner position, whose primary job will be delivery and completion of the multi-use path. While the agency has engineers on staff, their training is typically in the nitty-gritty design and less on the big-picture. As of this writing, the position has been posted (you can find it on our website here) and we are told they are looking for someone with a keen eye for the bicycle and pedestrian experience.
SMART Finding its Way
Anyone who has tried to ride on the SMART Pathway for the first time knows that the connections between segments are either poorly signed, or not signed at all. Happily, funding was budgeted to develop a wayfinding (i.e. trail signage) plan to help users traverse the pathway and access nearby destinations. These plans take a while to develop, so while you won’t see new signage right away, know that they are working on it.
A Light At The End oF THe Tunnel
Until last year, SMART had only spent about 6% of its Measure Q sales tax revenue on construction and maintenance of the multi-use path, something MCBC has been pushing against for years.
This coming year alone SMART has budgeted $15.3M toward design and construction of the pathway (equivalent to 1/3rd of all funds devoted to the pathway between 2008 and 2021). This change was brought about thanks to the many supporters of MCBC and Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition that pushed for full design of the unfinished pathway segments last year.
While most of the upcoming ribbon-cuttings will be in Sonoma County, we are optimistic that the next several years could see substantial progress on the pathway here in Marin.
Though we are happy to see the direction the agency is moving in, our advocacy with SMART is by no means done. As a reminder to our readers, SMART will have to go to the voters again for a reauthorization of the sales tax (as it did unsuccessfully in 2020) sometime between now and the tax’s expiration in 2028. We look forward to working in partnership with the agency and you, our supporters, to try to ensure that SMART works well for all of its users, both those on the train and on the pathway.
members make it happen
We’re proud to be your voice, advocating for better bicycling in Marin. Please support our efforts by joining Marin County Bicycle Coalition today.