This Friday, August 25, the Sonoma Marin Area Rapid Transit or SMART train will finally commence services. After a lengthy delay SMART received approval from the Federal Railroad Administration for its Positive Train Control system, which is designed to prevent accidents. There will be an opening ceremony at the downtown Santa Rosa SMART station at 9 a.m. with full service to begin at 12:49 p.m. All trains are free that day and then fares will be 50% off through Labor Day.
SMART runs from San Rafael to the Sonoma Airport, which is just northwest of the Luther Burbank Center for the Arts, which you probably know if you’ve done the Wine Country Century. Eventually the system will run to the Larkspur Ferry Terminal and all the way up to Cloverdale. A trip from one end to the other should take 67 minutes and cost $11.50. There are 34 trips per day planned for weekdays and 10 per day on weekends.
And yes, bicycles will be allowed on SMART but how many will depend on how crowded the cars happen to be. There are up to 24 spaces for bikes per train but some of those slots are also designated for wheelchairs or have fold-down seats. In other words, there isn’t as clear a policy on bicycle access as there is for BART. For the details, go here.
The importance of SMART for us is that it gives cyclists another option to get out of the central Bay Area and ride in northern Marin and Sonoma counties without having to drive up there. Instead of biking from SF to Healdsburg, Guerneville, or Calistoga–all of which would be lengthy, day-long trips–you can ride to San Rafael and board the train and take it to Sonoma Airport to begin your northerly explorations. You can view the weekend schedule here. Note that the first northbound train from San Rafael on weekends is at 11:52 a.m. and it arrives at the airport at 12:59 p.m. That’s a bit late for a big ride up north but still reasonable for shorter club rides. And of course if you’re not going that far up, then the time you debark is even earlier. Weekday trips are much better connection-wise: there are more trains and they run earlier. Also, the northbound trains shouldn’t be crowded since commute traffic will be heading south to SF and the reverse will be true in the afternoon too.
And once the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge has a bike lane a truly intriguing East Bay to Sonoma County multimodal ride becomes possible. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.