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Passenger Trains > Marin Transportation Authority reneging on a promise

Date: 05/30/11 22:52
Marin Transportation Authority reneging on a promise
Author: GenePoon

Forwarded from North Bay Rail News, which is not linkable:

*Marin Voice: Transportation Authority of Marin is reneging on a public promise*

by Mike Arnold
Guest op-ed column

> THE VERB "renege" means, according to the dictionary, "to go back on
> one's word" or "break one's promise."
> The Transportation Authority of Marin is considering whether to renege on a promise made to Marin voters in 2008.
> In order to assuage voters' concerns during the 2008 Measure Q campaign, TAM and Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit promised voters that
> none of Marin's discretionary transportation funds would be used to fund the passenger train.
> None.
> At its June 2 meeting, TAM will consider writing a check for $5 million to SMART in violation of its promise to the voters.
> The money would come from Marin County discretionary transportation funds. Five million dollars that had been
> committed to worthy Marin transportation and transit improvement projects will be diverted to help fund a rail boondoggle that achieves little.
> Which Marin projects won't get funded?
> The public has no idea, because TAM Chairman Steve Kinsey has created an "ad hoc" (as in non-public) committee to consider the issue.
> The public will only learn of what the committee recommends late in the day, providing little time for public input.
> SMART has reported it has a $20 million funding gap. This figure understates its red ink because it ignores another secret kept from the public.
> The Metropolitan Transportation Commission has told SMART, Marin and
> Sonoma transportation officials that it will not reallocate $22 million in bridge-toll surcharge funds SMART was counting on unless SMART
> eliminates the funding gap.
> So, SMART's funding gap is really $42 million.
> In the same closed-door meetings, the MTC has promised that if Marin and Sonoma each cough up $5 million for SMART, the MTC will pony up
> not only the $22 million, but an additional $10 million, closing the $42 million gap and allowing SMART to issue the construction bonds this summer.
> Confused? You ought to be, as these financial shenanigans with taxpayer funds are happening outside of public scrutiny.
> SMART backers have argued that its financial problems are a consequence of the Great Recession. Just like all previous financial
> claims made by SMART supporters, the claims don't square with the facts. SMART is in a hole dug with its own shovel of financial PR.
> Construction costs and interest rates are lower than in 2008. SMART's cost overruns are not a function of the economy and had we not had the
> recession those overruns would be more, not less.
> While the sales tax forecast has been adjusted downward due to the recession, much of the adjustment was caused by the rosy forecast the
> SMART board adopted in 2008 that was built on false hopes, not careful analysis.
> A quarter-cent sales tax was never sufficient to fund construction and subsidize rail service from Cloverdale to Larkspur. But the SMART
> board knew it couldn't pass a half-cent sales tax, so it ended up misleading itself and proponents. SMART officials successfully sold voters a
> pig-in-a-poke. Taxpayers are now paying for their failure to act responsibly.
> It is no surprise that SMART has broken yet another promise.
> After all, what promise has it kept? There is no service to the ferry. Atherton (Avenue, Novato) station is indefinitely delayed.
> Weekend service and shuttles are in doubt. Ridership will be a pittance for a train that goes no farther south than San Rafael, and
> that's if they get the riders they have forecast.
> Once the bonds are issued, rail service will likely need to be further reduced to pay for the bonds, because paying for debt service
> comes before paying for rail operations.
> Throwing more money down this financial black hole is throwing good money after bad.
> If TAM reneges on the promise made repeatedly to Marin voters in 2008, voters won't forget how they were misled by
> TAM's false promises next time TAM comes looking for money from local taxpayers.

(Mike Arnold of Novato is an economist and a critic of the SMART train.
He is a former public member of the Independent Journal editorial board.)


Mike Arnold further comments, in an Internet discussion:

> TAM staff is (actually) asking for $8 million from Marin...

> Trains add value in lots of places, but not EVERY place. There are some locations where the population density doesn't justify the
> investment. The social returns are simply too small for the cost of building the thing. SMART is such a case.

> Besides, you know and I know, they were told by the engineers in 2005/6 that a quarter cent sales tax was unlikely to cover
> construction and operations. Ah, but they had a poll that showed they couldn't get a half-cent passed, so they opted to manipulate the
> financials. Conned themselves and the voters into thinking you can turn a sow's ear into a silk purse.
> They were wrong.

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 05/30/11 22:53 by GenePoon.

Date: 05/30/11 23:01
Re: Marin Transportation Authority reneging on a promis
Author: Bullringer

Here is a link to an Independent Journal editorial that appeared on Sunday, May 29th.



Date: 05/31/11 05:36
Re: Marin Transportation Authority reneging on a promis
Author: billio

Bullringer Wrote:
> Here is a link to an Independent Journal editorial
> that appeared on Sunday, May 29th.
> http://www.marinij.com/opinion/ci_18157905

Bet someone in the Marin tranzit authority took the editor to lunch, in exchange for which came the editorial.

Date: 05/31/11 09:31
Re: Marin Transportation Authority reneging on a promis
Author: Lackawanna484

The voters have a way to respond to this apparent bald-faced lying by the authority. Vote out the county commissioners who won't call the transportation authority to account.

However, the voters of this left leaning (Dems outnumber Repubs by 2 to 1, and Hillary crushed Obama in the 2008 primary)) county voted for the provisions of prop 91 (2008), which allows transportation money to be shifted among the highway and rail etc accounts. So, it's possible the authority is reading the will of the voters correctly.

Date: 05/31/11 10:08
Re: Marin Transportation Authority reneging on a promis
Author: GenePoon

More commentary about SMART by Mike Arnold, who wrote the quoted piece in the first post:

> 1) It's $600 million for maybe 2,500 daily weekday riders. Weekend
> service is in doubt because it is not known what all the costs are.
> 2) That's a ridiculous sum to pay for that few riders.
> 3) They promised a 70 mile train that connected to the ferry based
> on rosy based scenarios. What they got was a piece between downtown
> San Rafael and downtown Santa Rosa. That's a pretty significant
> difference from what was sold to the voters.
> 4) No one thinks they would get a 2/3 vote to support this
> boondoggle, ever again.
> They need to shut it down.

Date: 05/31/11 11:29
Re: Marin Transportation Authority reneging on a promis
Author: peh934

Mike Arnold has been a SMART Rail opponent since at least 2004 (http://www.pressdemocrat.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?p=3&tc=pg&AID=/20041206/NEWS/412060303). I make no comment on whether is points are accurate or not, just that be has a very strong (and very well documented in past Marin IJ op-ed's) point of view. Just search for Mike Arnold on www.marinij.com...

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