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PD Editorial: SMART’s self-inflicted wounds

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Allow us to suggest a belated New Year’s resolution for SMART: Don’t hand ammunition to your critics. That’s one of the first lessons in Public Relations 101, but it seems to have been missed by Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit, the two-county public agency that operates the North Bay’s 28-month-old rail system.

SMART has a pretty good story to tell if it could just get past its self-inflicted wounds. After leveraging millions of state and federal dollars to augment local sales taxes, SMART started service from Santa Rosa to San Rafael in 2017 — the North Bay’s first trains since 1958. In December, SMART added more trains to meet demand during busy commute hours, extended service to Larkspur, where riders can connect with the Golden Gate Ferry, and opened a third station in Novato. Windsor is next, with service starting as early as 2021.

Instead of basking in the glow, SMART created controversy by treating ridership data as if it was a state secret. When the numbers finally came out — it was inevitable — a solid increase in weekday ridership was overshadowed by the initial refusal to share records that other transit agencies routinely post online.

Forgive us a cliché, but let’s hope the light at the end of the tunnel is a new spirit of transparency at SMART.

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