Matt Stevens gave a presentation on the status of the SMART train , set to start operating late in 2016.
Matt Stevens gave a presentation on the status of the SMART train , set to start operating late in 2016.
The concept of rail service between Sonoma County and San Rafael has been talked about for many years. The last passenger rail service in Sonoma County was in 1958 and ran as far north as Ukiah.
In the early 1970s, the Northwest Pacific corridor of tracks was divided up and sold. A section of the track was acquired by the North Coast Rail Authority and extended from central Healdsburg to Eureka. A southern section going from mid-Healdsburg through Marin County and Corte Madera to Napa was also purchased for future development.
In the late 1990's the concept of a dedicated rail service for commuters was proposed. Numerous organizational meetings were held and in 2001, Mr. Stevens was hired as a consultant to help with development of the project. In 2002 a SMART Transport District was developed. A bond measure, to raise sales taxes to build the system failed in 2006 to gain two thirds of the voters of Marin and Sonoma counties. Two years later, in 2008, the measure passed with over 70% approval by the voters and the process of development began.
The goal of the system is to reduce the trip time from Santa Rosa to San Rafael to under 50 minutes. This has become a significant commuter corridor with traffic on Highway 101 flowing in both directions as Sonoma County has become the focus of numerous technologic industries and as more businesses are developing their corporate offices in San Rafael, rather than in the much more expensive San Francisco area. The net result has been a significant increase in the amount of traffic traveling in both directions, resulting in a transit time from Santa Rosa to San Rafael of 1 1/4-2 1/2 hours. Smart trains would reliably reduce that time to 50-55 minutes.
The initial 43 mile operating segment has been completed and will run from Airport Boulevard in Santa Rosa to the bus terminal station in San Rafael where connection to other Bay Area transit will be available. As funds become available the tracks will gradually extended northward first to Windsor, then Healdsburg and ultimately Cloverdale several years in the future. As part of the construction process, wetlands have had to be in reclaimed, and the SMART Transit District has purchased mitigation lands to restore to their native wetland status for that part of the track that needed expanding on either side to accommodate bicycle lanes or for safety measures for the tracks.
The current section has 43 miles of track and 10 stations. Trains will run approximately every half hour from 5 o'clock in the morning until 730 at night. Cars are designed to carry 160 passengers and 24 bicycles and can travel up to 79 mph, although the anticipated maximum speed will be slightly less than 70 mph.
Most of the riders are anticipated to travel between 2-3 stations on their trips underlining the conception that this will be a local commuter service for people with jobs primarily in Marin and Sonoma counties. 65% of people riding on the freeway currently have indicated a strong desire to ride the train. A Clipper Card system for fares will be instituted with a $1.50 transfer credit for those people coming to Santa Rosa to defray the cost of bus transportation to their final destinations. Similar credit systems are being developed with other local transit systems in Petaluma, Novato and San Rafael
The cars were designed by SMART, and have captured the imagination and interest of transit systems around the world. They are built in the United States. They are diesel powered engines with Tier 4 emission profile, making them the most efficient and least polluting of all diesel engines in the world. All trains will have a Positive Train Control system in place to automatically control the trains if speed or track conditions mitigate intervention. This will result in immediate stoppage of the train.
SMART developers are concerned about the "last mile problem". This involves considering how people are going to get from the train station to their final destination. Bicycles are a big part of this, which is why space is being made on the trains for this.
Construction has been a boon for the local economy with over $30 million of ancillary cash being spent by employees on housing, lodging, and other business support for the construction team. Also, local subcontractors are used for over 50% of the work.
In addition to the rail system, a parallel system of bicycle trails is being developed to facilitate transportation once the train reaches its station.