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SMART: resurrecting abandoned rail north of San Francisco

With the rising cost of gas, car commuters are returning to the rails. Amtrak and light rail are experiencing record numbers of riders and are looking to expand service wherever possible.

In the counties north of San Francisco, communities are trying to get trains running again on abandoned tracks that haven’t seen passengers for decades. Those behind the SMART (Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit) project argue that getting people back on their rails is a relative bargain: while it’s costing taxpayers $20-30 million per mile to add a lane to the local freeway, SMART’s 70-mile track will cost $6 million/mile.

In this video, we talk to SMART’s Chris Coursey about how the train will take the equivalent of a million and a half cars off the road every year (cutting greenhouse gases by 124,000 lbs/day) and will provide the impetus for transit-based dense urban development.

* In November of 2008, voters passed a sales tax increase to help fund the project. Construction should begin in 2011 and train service in 2014.