Am I opposed to the existence of the SMART Train? Certainly not! I simply believe SMART needs to live within the constraints of their own budget.
I will not allow County general fund money or road repair funds to be taken, or diverted to help SMART keep their budget in balance.
And SMART does have a serious budgetary problem. They have their own sales tax measure, which is a two-county quarter percent sales tax which they are expected to renew. They also have modest revenue from ticket sales. The sales tax is bringing in something like $40 million per year, while ticket sales are something like $7 million according to one source I’ve seen. Their annual operating expense is high and growing. I expect their operating expense to surpass the combination of their sales tax revenue and ticket revenue in the not too distant future. Therein lies the problem. So how will they fund expansion of the rail line, to Windsor and further north if revenue is barely meeting operating expenses?
Additionally the bike path that was supposed to be put in alongside the rail line was supposed to be paid for by SMART. I’ve heard estimate that $140 million would be needed to complete that alone.
I expect SMART to look for additional sources of funding to help them out. It should not come at the expense of the county’s general fund or road repair budget though.
The County Measure M Transportation Tax is slated to be renewed in about a couple years. This is a quarter percent tax that is entirely separate from the SMART two-county tax. Measure M funds have primarily been used to widen the 101 freeway to three lanes. Now that the freeway widening is largely complete, a renewed measure M will be an excellent source of funds for local road repair. I feel it is important that when measure M is renewed the funds are targeted to road repairs, and not diverted to things like the rail line bike path or to help subsidize SMART. Measure M could mean $25 million annually for repairs of roads in the county, and cities.
Some of my neighbors have not seen repairs to streets they live on for 40 years. This is not right. With proper setting of budget priorities and especially with the commitment of funds from a renewed Measure M this situation can change for the better.