s
s
Sections
We don't just cover the North Bay. We live here.
Did You Know? In the first 10 days of the North Bay fire, nearly 1.5 million people used their mobile devices to visit our sites.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
Wow! You read a lot!
Reading enhances confidence, empathy, decision-making, and overall life satisfaction. Keep it up! Subscribe.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
Oops, you're out of free articles.
Until next month, you can always look over someone's shoulder at the coffee shop.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
We don't just cover the North Bay. We live here.
Did You Know? In the first 10 days of the North Bay fire, we posted 390 stories about the fire. And they were shared nearly 137,000 times.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
Supporting the community that supports us.
Obviously you value quality local journalism. Thank you.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
Oops, you're out of free articles.
We miss you already! (Subscriptions start at just 99 cents.)
Already a subscriber?
iPhone

The Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit Authority released a final train schedule Wednesday for upcoming passenger service that includes 34 trips on weekdays, four more than originally planned, and trains operating later in the evenings.

SMART’s schedule is a crucial element of its service that, along with fares, will determine to a large extent who uses the trains and who opts for other means of transportation.

The trips will run mostly on a 30-minute schedule operating along the 43-mile route from north Santa Rosa to downtown San Rafael.

SMART officials said they are planning more service during peak hours and to run trains later in the evening based on public feedback to earlier drafts of the schedule. But already there are grumblings about the final timeline as SMART moves to launch passenger service, possibly within a month.

Farhad Mansourian, SMART’s general manager, told the agency’s board of directors Wednesday that the schedule represents a “very good beginning,” one he said can be adjusted based on ridership. But he also acknowledged some will be disappointed.

“Every train, or bus, or ferry schedule you see leaves somebody out for some reason,” Mansourian said.

SMART faces the challenge of operating trains on a schedule that meets most riders’ needs and links with other public transit agencies. The rail agency will operate four two-car trains along what is mostly a single track, further complicating scheduling efforts.

The full trip, including 30-second stops at all 10 stations, is planned to take 67 minutes. In the past, SMART said the journey would take under an hour.

The agency in the past also said it would operate seven two-car units along the route — the sum total of equipment it has on hand. But a spokeswoman with the agency Wednesday said SMART needs more staff and approval from federal railroad regulators before it can put more trains into service.

SMART directors, who were not given advance copies of the final schedule, reacted with mixed reviews to the timeline Mansourian presented at the start of Wednesday’s meeting.

Director Daniel Hillmer, Larkspur’s vice-mayor and the newest member of the board, was critical of several longer gaps between trains on the schedule, including 90-minute windows during peak commute hours for riders arriving and leaving the downtown San Rafael station.

For instance, there will be no trains arriving in San Rafael between 7:26 and 8:56 a.m., and none departing that station between 4:59 and 6:29 p.m.

“It seems to me that if I have a 9-to-5 job, those are the times I would want to use the train,” Hillmer said.

Director Gary Phillips, San Rafael’s mayor, concurred, saying those windows are “the optimal time to arrive and depart, and we completely miss that.”

SMART officials said the gaps are because of a combination of factors, including the number of rail cars that will be in service and the need to leave some cushion for cleaning and maintenance needs.

Mansourian told directors that adjusting the schedule in any significant way would require major adjustments to the entire timeline, as it is all synced.

SMART Director Eric Lucan, a Novato councilman, said the difficulties setting a schedule are similar to what the rail agency faced in deciding fares.

“You don’t know what you don’t know. You have to pick something,” Lucan said.

And some directors felt the agency has gotten it right. They included Sonoma County Supervisor Shirlee Zane, who said the schedule accurately reflects commute patterns in the two counties.

“Absolutely this is a good reflection of the commute traffic,” she told the board.

Others made the case that riders will adjust to the schedule as time goes on.

“As people get used to it, they will work around the train, and the train not work around individuals,” Director Jim Eddie, an appointee of the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District, said.

But Neil Smith, a Petaluma resident who commutes to his tech job in San Francisco using Golden Gate Transit, is among those who say they won’t ride SMART based on the schedule.

Smith pointed out in an email following Wednesday’s meeting that no SMART trains will depart Petaluma between 6:55 and 8:25 a.m. He also noted the 90-minute gap in the evening in trains departing San Rafael to head north.

“How can this be? How will this take cars off the road?” Smith wrote.

Under SMART’s schedule, the first train departs the station at Airport Boulevard in north Santa Rosa at 4:49 a.m., and the first northbound train leaves downtown San Rafael at 6:29 a.m.

The last southbound train leaves the north Santa Rosa station at 6:49 p.m., and the last northbound train leaves downtown San Rafael at 8:35 p.m.

SMART officials say the weekend schedule, which includes 10 runs on Saturdays and Sundays, is designed to connect with Larkspur ferries leaving for San Francisco.

That could present a challenge for some riders, including for those hoping to make San Francisco Giants afternoon home games. The first weekend train arrives in San Rafael at 11:20 a.m., 20 minutes prior to the scheduled departure of the ferry.

SMART’s downtown San Rafael station is about 3 miles from the ferry terminal.

You can reach Staff Writer Derek Moore at 707-521-5336 or derek.moore@pressdemocrat.com.

Show Comment