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August 2001

Supervisors Need To Get A Grip On Marin Transportation

By Kevin E. West

The Marin County Supervisors are at it again, no thinking ahead! They are now considering spending 6 million dollars to repair the train tunnel for bikers and hikers only. The Supervisors are ignoring the need to get trains to Larkspur landing, (the only way to get commuters to San Francisco.) Somehow the bikers are getting all the attention. From what I have read over the years, bike supporters are implying that spending millions on bike lanes and tunnels will solve the traffic problem. The truth is that only a few enthusiastic bike people will ride their bike to work, and then only in good weather and when they feel like it that particular day. Being able to ride a bike to work requires a very cooperative employer and a shower at work. Also it requires someone with a lot of extra time and no family. It makes no sense to spend 6 million dollars on a tunnel for a few dozen bikers. By the way, ever question how bikers got this much political power? This is because they are not only supported by bike manufactures, but they are also financially supported by the Oil Industry and the Auto Industry! The reason is obvious. Bikers drive to where they are going to ride their bikes! This is especially true with mountain biking. More biking means, more driving and more crowded freeways and roadways!

If the reason running a train to Larkspur landing is being ignored is because San Rafael paved over the railroad track, then San Rafael should be sued again and forced to put the track back. From what I remember of the first suit against San Rafael, the judge said San Rafael is supposed to put the track back when there is a train in operation (or words to that effect). If San Rafael does not replace the track then they are going to be solely responsible for the failure of getting passenger and freight trains into Marin. We do not what LA type freeways in Marin, which is what we are looking at without trains. We need to get trains to Larkspur landing for trains in Marin to be a success.

Car-pooling does not work in Marin. Get CalTrans to do a survey (counters in the HOV lane) to confirm this. Spending millions for an alleged "High Occupancy Lane" that is only going to be used by "single men in expensive cars", is ludicrous and even more ludicrous is to have these persons to pay to use the HOV lanes because they are a failure. (The few times I have driven on the freeway during commute time, the HOV lane was essentially unused. I rarely saw any cars with more than 2 riders. And too often single persons in expensive cars. A reminder, HOV lane and car-pooling is mass transportation, the car is at capacity or near capacity, thus getting cars off the road. Two people in one family in a car, is not car-pooling. The reason CalTrans lowered the minimum occupancy for the HOV lane from 3 to 2 was because no one was using the HOV lanes and it made "CalTrans's HOV lanes look silly"!

If the people of Marin will not pay for fixing the tracks then get the businesses that will benefit in being able to ship by train to invest (or give a loan) in the repair of the right of way. Look at Marin Sanitary Service right next to the track and the Novato dump is also next to the track! They could ship their garbage right to the dump! Marin Recycling can also ship their cargo via train. Auto dealers and lumber companies also would benefit from freight train service "to their door". Golden State Lumber was the last customer to receive a load by train; they could use the train again. This would also get some of the big dirty air polluting trucks off the road. Freight service is provided by the Railroad Companies. All they need is a usable track and will welcome clients. See if they will invest in fixing up the tracks, because it is potential money for them!

Eventually trains will be come back with the coming permanent oil shortages (oil will not last forever) and current power shortages and the need to eliminate the dirty diesel trucks. The cost of shipping by truck will increase tremendously with the gas increases. At the same time the cost of shipping by train will stay the same or drop do to the increase in demand to ship by rail. Those localities (like Southern Marin cites) who removed their right of way's will be sorry! For those who do not know this, a diesel locomotive is really a diesel-electric locomotive. The diesel engine runs an electric generator that powers the electric motors in the wheels. Any large engine can run the electric generator including the clean new technology turbines, fuel cells and even natural gas or propane and (cold fusion is not dead). All of these are much cleaner than diesel but because of space are not practical in trucks. Only trains have the room.

Everyone I talked to loves trains and wants them back. Look at the popularly of Thomas the Tank Engine. Trains will be used and will take cars off the freeway! Maybe the County should purchase or lease an old steam engine to get things started. Maybe one of the old steam locomotives used in Marin could be found. An example is the Skunk Train in Fort Brag it is very popular. I also agree that the old train trestle in Larkspur should not be destroyed. When a train runs to Larkspur landing it will need a turnaround spot at the least (that could also be a freight and passenger pick up). There is no room for a turntable except on the other side of the creek. . Too bad Larkspur, Corte Madera and Southern Marin "burned their bridges" by paving and building over the right of way. They will be cursed with traffic jams from now on!

Destroying the train right of way (a vintage trestle) for one car lane, amazing! It is clear that the Supervisors prefer to accommodate cars.

Trains are not the only answer to the transportation problem, just part of the answer. We need to consider all methods of transportation to alleviate the bottlenecks. Here are a few.

Passenger trains. Amtrak, or a county owned passenger train to Larkspur landing. They could go to Sausalito if the right of way still existed!

Encourage employers to hire persons who live in Marin.

Encourage persons to find work where they live! Some people actually commute from Sacramento! I know of teachers that have given up teaching because they could not find a job in Marin not to mention credentialed teachers working in day cares! At the same time teachers from outside of Marin like Belmont are being hired in Marin Schools! Is this because people outside of Marin will work for less? If so then some kind of changes need to be made. It is not that simply that housing is expensive in Marin it is that jobs outside of Marin do not pay enough for people to purchase houses where they live, so they get jobs Marin! You live where you love. I love Marin so I work and live in Marin. Anyone purchasing a home out of Marin should work where they live and can not blame high housing costs in Marin for their commute problems. Housing in Marin is expensive because of the decision to keep Marin from becoming a San Franciso or now a Santa Rosa, and because people want to live here. If you want to own a home in Marin, you can if you work at it. If I did it, anyone can!

Encourage employers to allow offset shifts or long days and 4 day weeks. If _ of the work force went to work later or earlier it would cut down on the freeway congestion considerably.

Encourage employers to allow employees to work at home once in a while.

The State of California's idea of a 40-ferry transportation system in the Bay needs to be supported. If necessary these boats can be cleaned up using different fuel i.e.; natural gas, propane, new technology etc.

Consider a new ferry terminal at San Quentin. With a train to Larkspur Landing a shuttle would solve the transportation to the ferry. Encourage the State to close San Quentin or at least turn over the point so that it can be made into a ferry terminal. By the way with the problems with the rock quarry in San Pedro, San Quentin can become a rock quarry! Rock is not inexpensive and I suspect that there is millions of dollars of rock in "them" walls!

Yes, we need to consider bikes and walkers but not at the expense of trains. The San Rafael Greenbrae tunnel can be made to accommodate a train and a pedestrian/bike lane, which is needed.

Busses need to be more reliable, convenient and more frequent. Golden Gate Transit's sole purpose is for transportation to San Francisco not for transportation within Marin. It is set up for commuters. Internal Marin transportation is "just a side effect". That is why it is so inconvenient. It is timed for SF commuters! More bussing within Marin needs to be considered. All forms of transportation need to be used to take cars off the road.

There is going to be a trade off between ferryboat pollution, wave damage and the pollution of cars with more ferries running. The balance needs to be made.

Growth control can prevent uncontrolled growth when trains are running which could encourage building near right of ways. Open space and the wetlands around the right of way need to be purchased or prevented from being developed. There is not going to be any one answer that everyone likes. We have to try all of the transportation methods NOW before things get too bad and out of control and too expensive. We do not want LA freeways in Marin!

Is there a group or organization dedicated to improving transportation in Marin? I feel that the possibly of getting trains both freight and passenger. I also feel that getting trains back to Marin is now or never and not as expensive as projected if all sources of money are investigated. I do no feel that a "light rail" is the option. Passenger trains exist at lower cost. As I mentioned maybe Amtrak would consider running a train. I am not an organizer or do I have the patience for research but to get trains to Larkspur I would be willing to help. I am a Network/Computer Technician at College Of Marin and am a license electrical and Alarm Company Contractor (www.electrawest.com). I am a good problem solver and troubleshooter (that is my main job) and am loaded with ideas. If you know of any organizations that are trying to get trains in Marin please send me to them.

 

 

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