Yes on Measure I: San Francisco North Bay needs an alternative to the automobile
What do the 2004 Sonoma County voter-approved transportation tax Measure M and the SMART Measure I tax extension on the ballot March 3 have in common?
First, they both have or will facilitate critical regional infrastructure investments.
And, secondly, just as Measure M was used as leverage to unlock tens of millions of dollars in federal and state funds that otherwise would not have been available for highway improvements, so does Measure I stand to pay dividends for the train and beyond.
Extending the quarter-cent sales tax for SMART to 2059 — the Measure M tax was for 20 years — will put SMART on stronger financial footing, allowing it to reduce debt payments from $18 million to $6 million annually. Those dollars can instead be invested in additional services or reserves.
Meanwhile, having a longer runway for the tax gives SMART more leverage — just as Measure M did on highways — to attract regional, state and federal dollars to build out the system to Cloverdale.
Here are four other reasons to support Measure I:
As the North Bay moves into the future, it must have an alternative transportation source to the automobile. SMART is providing that alternative on the congested 101 corridor.
And, SMART is in the early stages of investigating if it can do the same along the traffic nightmare known as Highway 37.
The rail line is a unique regional asset connecting the economies and communities of Marin and Sonoma to each other and to the San Francisco Bay Area. It would be a tragedy to waste it.
SMART is increasingly been seen as a critical resource to move people out of danger’s way during wildfires or other natural disasters.
SMART can help solve the housing crisis. State and federal funding for urban infill and affordable housing is increasingly dependent on a community’s ability to demonstrate how it is reducing greenhouse gas emissions. SMART makes the North Bay more competitive for these critical funds.
In its first two years of operation, SMART has served more than 1.7 million riders including teachers, police officers, students and employees. I recently heard of a grandmother who takes the train to Novato to care for her grandchild. The train is hitting its targets.
And, SMART tax funds have been reinvested locally, with $92 million being spent with 182 local businesses.
The North Bay is a unique place. It is a trailblazer on so many fronts. People here understand that they must invest in their local communities, just as they did in 2004 with Measure M. The results speak for themselves. Measure I is an opportunity to do so again.