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2011-10-06 16:51:08.258534+00 by Dan Lyke 3 comments

Sonoma: Is there any forum where there's good critical thinking discussion over the claims made on the SMART train web site and whitepapers?

[ related topics: Machinery Community Trains ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2011-10-06 23:05:27.542373+00 by: Dan Lyke

For lack of anything better, maybe I'll toss a bunch of notes in the comments here and see if I can troll Twitter to draw people over here. First up:

EPA says that burning 1 gallon of gasoline releases 8.788 kilograms of CO2, and 1 gallon of diesel releases 10.1kg of CO2, referencing the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The SMART whitepaper on clean diesel presents an amazingly apples to oranges graph comparing the emissions per seat-mile of their proposed trains with the emissions per mile of an automobile, claiming over 400 grams of CO2 per mile for the automobile. Looking for numbers, BTS says that cars in 1999 had an average 28 MPG, which would suggest CO2 emissions of closer to 314 g/mi.

The use of a seat-mile in this table seems incredibly suspect. shandrew: Caltrain is causing more deaths than driving claims 180 million passenger miles per year, where this presentation on preparing for FY-2012 suggests 300 million passenger miles per year.

Caltrain's adopted budget says that Caltrain is spending between $11 and $14 million a year on fuel.

I have no idea what the cost of diesel per gallon is, but if we say $3.50, that says that Caltrain is somewhere between 1¼ to 2½ times as efficient per passenger mile as a single passenger automobile. Caltrain would have to be paying $14 a gallon for the numbers to work out where it was actually the 8x more efficient than an automobile that SMART seems to be claiming.

According to the SMART FAQ, "SMART will run trains north and south every 30 minutes during both the morning and evening commute hours." If a SMART train can hold 200 people, that's 400 people an hour, or less than ¼ of the number of cars carried by a lane of traffic. This at a cost per mile that well exceeds the cost per mile of the current 101 widening projects. I love the notion of a good bike route (and separate bike and pedestrian paths, rather than just a MUP, would rock), but at that price why are we bothering to keep the rails in place?

I voted for Measure Q. I actually like the idea of a train, and think that a train will add value to Petaluma. Given the option between taking a car into the city and taking a train to the ferry and thence to the city I'll do the latter, even though the ferry is horrendously environmentally irresponsible. I am, however, concerned about two things:

  1. Why won't SMART quote real reasonable numbers for things like fuel efficiency and ridership. Use real numbers, like actual automobile occupancy (probably not 1.5, but not 1), and real projected passenger miles for the train (because there are projected passenger counts).
  2. For most of its history, rail has historically been mostly a very effective way to funnel public dollars into private pockets. Who's the beneficiary here?

As I said, I'm not against the train, but why aren't we having an honest discussion about the pros and cons here?

#Comment Re: made: 2011-10-07 19:45:13.912704+00 by: jeff

Dan--what would you expect a roundtrip train ride from Petaluma to a ferry would cost per person? How many stops would it make and how much time would it take?

#Comment Re: made: 2011-10-07 20:48:59.682803+00 by: Dan Lyke

A bus ride to Larkspur Landing would cost $5.25 out of pocket, $9.25 into the city. The ferry is $8.75 in cash, or $5.70 on a Clipper card.

Something I read on the web site suggested that they were going to try for $.10 a mile for the train fare, so a subsidized fare will probably run from $3 to $6 each way. I think there would be 5 stops between Petaluma and Larkspur. Somewhere I read 90 minutes from Cloverdale to Larkspur, which seems really fast, but let's give 'em the benefit of the doubt and assume 35-40 minutes.