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).

SMARTer By The Year

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.

SMARTer by the Year

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. 

SMARTer By The Year

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.

SMARTer By The 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.

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We’re proud to be your voice, advocating for better bicycling in Marin. Please support our efforts by joining Marin County Bicycle Coalition today.

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Big Wins for the SMART Path

Ever since we learned back in February that SMART was sitting on a substantial financial surplus, we’ve been working to raise up your voices, pushing for the bulk of that money to be allocated to the pathway. Our work has included direct outreach to board members, taking them on a bike tour of the pathway’s gaps with Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition, as well as a request for our members to write the board. Between MCBC and SCBC, the SMART Board received nearly 500 emails!

Explaining Our Position on SMART

As a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, Marin County Bicycle Coalition has the ability to take positions on ballot measures. After much deliberation, we have made the difficult decision not to endorse Measure I, which would extend Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit’s (SMART) 1/4-cent sales tax for 30 years. We remain highly supportive of the SMART rail and pathway project, but were disappointed by the agency’s refusal to commit savings resulting from the passage of Measure I toward the pathway. We are hopeful that SMART will address our concerns and work to complete the pathway in a timely fashion as promised to voters in 2008.