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The dream of making excursions to San Francisco from the North Bay aboard a train, or venturing north from the city to Wine Country, is closer to reality with the looming start of passenger rail service, but current timetables for the train, ferry and a connecting shuttle indicate riders will have to be adaptable.

While the focus since Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit released its schedule last week has been on commuters — the rail agency’s bread and butter ridership — another key component of service is linking people to San Francisco via the Larkspur ferry.

North Bay residents and others across the Golden Gate, have been looking at SMART’s new timetable to see if it will work for them.

“I’m excited about the SMART train for recreational outings,” Matt Gustafson of Windsor said in an email responding to a Press Democrat query about the train schedule. “I’d rather use the ferry and the train than drive in traffic, deal with SF parking, etc.”

SMART and Golden Gate Bridge officials say they designed the train schedule to be in sync with the ferry. But they also acknowledge the connections leave little time for dilly-dallying.

Commuters will have four minutes to make the short walk to the San Rafael Transit Center from the SMART train stop in downtown San Rafael. That’s to catch the Route 31 shuttle bus, which, at certain times of the day, will arrive at the Larkspur Ferry Terminal with only a few minutes to spare.

“The schedule has been set to allow riders enough time to make their connections, while not delaying them any longer than necessary,” said Priya Clemens, a spokeswoman for the Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District. “As a new service, we’ll be watching the connection carefully and will adjust as needed.”

The shuttle service, which is free for riders, is required because the 43-mile rail line originating in north Santa Rosa currently ends in San Rafael, less than three miles away from the ferry terminal. Extension of rail service to the ferry terminal is slated for 2019, provided that federal funding comes through.

To begin with, there are 14 scheduled shuttle trips connecting the ferry and rail terminals, split evenly between the southbound morning commute and the evening return home. In the mornings, the shuttle will arrive at the ferry terminal between 5 and 20 minutes prior to the boat leaving for San Francisco.

For Duncan Meech, a Rohnert Park software engineer who commutes daily to San Francisco driving Highway 101, the train and ferry link, while imperfect for his schedule, is still something he is looking forward to.

His plan is to make the 7:42 a.m. train departure from Cotati, which will put him in San Rafael at 8:26 a.m., in time, hopefully, for him to catch the 8:45 a.m. ferry and arrive at the Pier 9 for his job with Autodesk by 9:30 a.m. That’s later than Meech’s official start time, but still within the window, he said, of “slacker tech workers like myself.”

In the evenings, Meech will have to make the 4:30 p.m. ferry to catch the 5:29 p.m. train that arrives at 6:17 p.m. in Rohnert Park.

He said the hassle of making connections will be worth it to avoid driving or taking the bus.

“Try opening a laptop on a GGT commute bus with the seat in front reclined!” Meech said in an email.

SMART is still working to secure funding for the $48 million Larkspur extension. President Donald Trump’s preliminary budget for 2018 seeks to restrict approved project funding for a federal transportation program that was set to deliver $20 million to SMART for the project.

A spokeswoman for the Federal Transportation Agency this week said SMART and the city of San Rafael are making “strong progress as they advance toward funding,” and that if things continue along their current pace, the federal agency anticipates a funding agreement could be signed this fall.

A SMART spokeswoman said that timeline will not delay construction of the 2.1-mile Larkspur link.

For now, with a $200 monthly pass for SMART, the cost to use the train, bus and ferry service an unlimited number of times would cost $430 monthly. That amount includes a $1.50 transfer credit.

Those prices are for Clipper, the sole form of making payment to ride SMART. On July 1, one-way ferry rides using Clipper increase by 25 cents, to $7.50.

Golden Gate Transit is subsidizing weekday bus connections in Larkspur at a cost of $391,500, and SMART is doing the same for weekend bus service at a cost of $85,000 to the rail agency.

Petaluma accountant Kristen Decker said she’ll wait for SMART to finish the rail line extension to Larkspur before she considers using the link for excursions to the city.

“I wouldn’t use the bus transfer because it adds a level of hassle, and also a chance at missing another connection,” Decker said in an email. “I like to think the trains will run on time, but I expect 5-10 minute delays here and there won’t be uncommon and the buses aren’t perfect either. The stress of the home-to-train, train-to-bus, bus-to-ferry connections would be too much for me.”

On the weekends, those hoping to attend early afternoon San Francisco Giants games should also be aware that the first SMART train arriving in San Rafael at 11:20 a.m. is too late to make the designated ferry going directly to AT&T Park, which departs at 11:20.

For Sebastopol’s Marty Roberts, that’s disappointing. She said she and several of her baseball-loving friends had been looking forward to riding the train and the ferry to games.

“We’ve been looking forward to it for a really long time, plus, we were excited to ride the train,” Roberts said.

Another option for Giants fans hoping to make 1:05 p.m. weekend games is the regular 11:40 a.m. ferry, but with the shuttle bus scheduled to arrive at the ferry terminal at 11:35 a.m., that will be cutting it close. And since that ferry goes to the Ferry Building, getting to stadium will require a 2-mile walk or finding another ride.

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