On August 25, Deb Fudge, a board member since 2005 of the Sonoma-Marin Rail Transit (SMART) system, gave an update on that system to the Windsor/North County Democratic Club. Ms. Fudge was first elected to the Windsor Town Council in 1996 and is running for another term in this November’s election.
SMART is currently expected to begin service on 43 miles of track, stretching from Airport Blvd., north of Santa Rosa, to central San Rafael, in December. Final testing of the transit system’s signaling and scheduling is being completed. Interestingly, the inception of service could have been earlier, but has been delayed due to the difficulty of finding engineers, because other area transit systems, including BART, are competing for skilled operators.
The train will provide the first passenger service in Sonoma County since 1958. To date this massive infrastructure project has infused roughly $300 million into the North Bay economy. Ms. Fudge projected that train service will be extended to both Windsor and Larkspur within two years. Funding for the Larkspur expansion is in place and issues related to construction are being resolved; grant funding requests for Windsor have been submitted and are seen as having a good probability of success.
SMART is working with Golden Gate Transit in an effort to expand weekend ferry service to Larkspur, to provide better connections for tourists from San Francisco who want to continue on to Sonoma County by train. The first northbound weekend ferry does not leave San Francisco until 12:40 p.m., arriving in Larkspur at 1:30 p.m., which makes weekend travel to Sonoma County using SMART with the ferry much less unattractive. (The last weekend ferry from Larkspur departs to San Francisco at 4:45 p.m.)
Ms. Fudge discussed the SMART fare structure, which is based around five zones in the system. Travel from Santa Rosa to San Rafael will cost the traveler $9.75 one-way, or $19.50 for a round trip. A 50% discount will be available to seniors, youth, students, veterans, and the disabled. Those transferring from other public transit systems, like buses, will get a $1.50 fare credit. Eco-passes at discounts ranging from 23- 44% will be made available to businesses and other organizations, although such passes are annual and must be pre-purchased. Special trains will be scheduled for Giants games and other Bay area events. Ms. Fudge emphasized that the fares and transit schedules are a work in progress; what the SMART Board has approved is only a starting point, with adjustments to be made as progress is assessed.
Ms. Fudge made it clear that every effort has been made to provide riders with a reliable, fast trip in a pleasant environment. Attention was given to the comfort and aesthetics of the train cars, which all have free WiFi service. The cars are all ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant and are equipped with storage for bikes and wheelchairs.
— Barry Hirsch