SMART’s path forward starts with listening

My wife and I vacationed in the North Bay and dreamed about living here one day. When a recruiter contacted me about the general manager position at SMART, I was immediately intrigued.

Within a few days of that call, my wife and I flew in to check out the area and the SMART train. While here, I observed the system, looked at SMART’s schedule, reviewed SMART’s connectivity with local buses, read news stories, talked to locals about the train and listened to all the listening sessions previously hosted by the SMART board of directors. I was impressed by what had been built, but also learned the organization faced some significant challenges.

Instantly, I knew this was the ideal job for me as I believed my skill set was well suited to lead SMART into the future. Needless to say, I am thrilled to be SMART’s new general manager.

Since joining the team, I have had the pleasure of talking with many people and organizations in the North Bay. Through all my conversations, one thing is quite clear — everyone has an opinion about SMART — and to be honest, it is not always a positive opinion.

I have also heard a consistent set of questions including:

— What is SMART’s plan to increase ridership?

— What is the status of the pathway?

— When will SMART get to Windsor, Healdsburg and Cloverdale?

— Why is SMART taking on freight service?

These are great questions and highlight the areas the SMART board and I believe are most important to the agency.

My professional background includes working as the chief operating officer at the Utah Transit Authority as well a 20-year career in the Air Force. Throughout my professional career, I have had the opportunity to participate in multiple strategic planning and continuous improvement projects. This experience will prove beneficial as SMART plans for the future.

SMART’s planning for the future project is well underway. The board recently developed vision and mission statements and identified the agency’s strategic objectives, which are listed below:

Vision statement: Smarter transportation for a smarter future.

Mission statement: We connect communities.

Strategic objectives: Ridership, pathways, extensions and freight.

The next step is to hear from the public before beginning to develop goals and strategies. As a part of this initiative, we are inviting you to join the SMART team in a series of online listening sessions focused on our strategic objectives: ridership, pathways, extensions and freight. Each session will be topic-focused and last 90 minutes. They will be held on the following dates:

Ridership — Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.

Pathways — April 13 at 6:30 p.m.

Extensions — April 20 at 6:30 p.m.

Freight — April 27 at 6:30 p.m.

For the public engagement process to be successful, we need your participation. SMART wants to hear your voice. To sign on for a listening session, click here. If you are unable to attend, you can complete a survey from the same page and/or provide your written comments via email. This page will also provide additional information about the strategic planning process.

I truly believe SMART has a bright future. With people returning to the office, coupled with rising gas prices and our continued need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, SMART plays a critical role in the North Bay’s mobility network — now and into the future.

I am excited about SMART’s future and want to thank you in advance for participating in this important planning initiative. The ultimate goal is to ensure that SMART meets the needs of the community. As previously stated, I am well aware of the challenges facing the organization, but I am also extremely confident we can overcome these challenges. I look forward to hearing your thoughts and ideas.

Eddy Cumins is general manager of SMART.

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