Thursday, December 18, 2014

Two Perspectives on Marin's SMART Train

The SMART financial plan is built on a Mountain of "Ifs"

It’s spin and built on a mountain of “ifs”.

If sales tax revenues grow every year and never declines
If the unions agree to contracts where workers get no real pay increases for 14 years
If oil prices don’t return to higher levels.
If there is never a significant recession
If ridership doesn’t decline when there is a recession
If trains operate perfectly without delays
If they get federal funding to extend rail south of 3rd st (to larkspur)
If there is other funding available to move the transit center.

In the land of SMART, revenues always grow and costs do not.  

We’ve got reserves to “shore up our budgets,” that is – if we don’t spend them on
a bike path, because after all, we promised the bikers we’d build one.

All in attendance blessed an incredibly optimistic financial plan
based on a mountain of ifs that are highly unlikely to occur.

No one, despite me giving them analyses raised a single issue
that was raised at Marin Coalition, like the contractual growth in
the debt service.  In fact, no one mentioned debt service.

Rabbitt at least mentioned operating expenses and then deferred
to Erin – who me worry – McGrath who babbled about controlling
expenses.   The labor unions are coming and do you really think
they’re going to sign up for NO REAL WAGE INCREASES OVER 14 Years?

But here’s the bottom line:  they don’t control sales taxes.  When
the recession hits, if they haven’t planned for it, the cuts in services
and loss of the tiny ridership they have will be even worse. 
Unless they can fight off the interest groups that want them to
expand north/south and complete the pathways, it’s hard to
see how they’ll make it without serious cuts in operations.

Funny, that’s what all the transit agencies do when recessions

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