ANYTHING BUT TRAINS? The Case for SMART
Ph.D. Jack C. Swearengen, Ph.D.
First published in 2008
At yesterday’s Friends of SMART meeting I mentioned the White Paper that I wrote during the Measure Q campaign in 2008. Here it is (below) — along with the associated Power Point presentation:
ANYTHING BUT TRAINS? A COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS OF ALTERNATIVES PROPOSED FOR THE SONOMA MARIN AREA RAIL TRANSIT PROJECT
JACK C. SWEARENGEN, PH.D. Emeritus Professor of Engineering, Washington State University Author of Beyond Paradise: Technology and the Kingdom of God
Changing America's commuting habits may be the most difficult part of becoming a sustainable society, if the struggle to establish passenger rail service in San Francisco's North Bay is representative. Even by California standards the region is heavily automobile-dependent. Highway 101 presently the only north-south transportation option—is the fourth most congested freeway in the Bay Area. Moreover, over sixty percent of the greenhouse gases in the two counties are emitted by highway vehicles. Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) hopes to begin moving passengers by 2010, using self-propelled diesel-hydraulic rail cars that are bio-diesel capable.
Critics of the project have suggested numerous alternative technologies, which they claim to be less costly or more beneficial than a rail system. Simple NIMBYism cannot explain their opposition; a mindset of technological optimism—even determinism—is manifest. This study was conducted in effort to move the discussion to a more holistic level by incorporating environmental, social, and aesthetic variables in addition to economic ones. The results validate the technology originally chosen for the project, but without precluding new technologies that may become viable in the future. The assessment procedure should be useful for other sustainability projects that generate opposition from lobbyists and self-interest groups.