The SMART Board has decided on a fare structure, and voters are having sticker shock over the high ticket prices:
Critics say the fares are too expensive and won’t entice the North Bay commuters who drive solo — SMART’s primary targeted customer base. Some also argue the charges are an affront to the financial sacrifices taxpayers in the two counties have made, and will continue to make, through the quarter-cent sales tax that supports the rail line through at least 2029.
“We failed miserably,” said SMART director Shirlee Zane, who joined fellow Sonoma County Supervisor David Rabbitt in voting against the approved fares. “What we’ve done, in effect — and I want to be clear, I didn’t vote for this — by approving these very high fares, the public has said, ‘We’ve been paying for this train for eight years. It’s public transportation, and now you’re going to turn around and charge us these really outrageous fares?’ ”
SMART director Zane should know better. She was on the Board when it approved the purchase of FRA-compliant DMU’s. These heavy DMU’s are more expensive to operate compared to light-weight DMU’s. The SMART Board had even done a study which quantified the extra expense. It was inevitable that the inefficient DMU’s would require higher fares. Even worse, though, is that they can only afford to run trains during commute hours. There will be just a single midday run, and
no weekend service only 6 weekend round-trips.
There is virtually no other transit operation using heavy DMU’s, which really tells you something. California’s two other DMU systems, eBART and the San Diego Sprinter, both use lightweight European DMU’s. Indeed, it is instructive to compare performance metrics of SMART vs. NCTD Sprinter:
(Click chart to enlarge)
One note about the data: Whereas NCTD provides extensive budget and operations data, it is difficult to obtain any numbers from SMART. Some metrics were calculated based on newspaper reports, so any clarifications/corrections are welcome.