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

Read all of the PD's fire coverage here

SMART officials on Wednesday agreed to issue 10,000 temporary special passes that will allow certain riders to use the trains free of charge as part of an attempt by the transit agency to provide relief to those affected by last month’s disastrous wildfires.

The passes will be evenly split among two groups of recipients: individual fire victims, provided through their employers; and customers of participating local businesses who spend at least $25 during the two weekends after Thanksgiving.

The individual passes for fire victims will be programmed on Clipper cards and can be used for an unlimited number of free rides through the end of the year. The 5,000 businesses relief passes approved by SMART will come as specially-designed tickets good for a single one-way train ride over the same time period.

Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit board members approved the special passes at their meeting Wednesday afternoon in Petaluma, praising the move as a way to help people whose lives were upended by the historic wildfires and businesses facing a tough economic landscape in the wake of the disaster.

“This is the perfect solution, I think, for both of them, and especially during the holidays, to be able to sort of boost everybody’s experience and get them on the train if they haven’t been on the train,” said Deb Fudge, the Windsor mayor and chairwoman of SMART’s Board of Directors. “It’s a great partnership with the community.”

Farhad Mansourian, SMART’s general manager, said he couldn’t estimate the cost of the relief passes because he didn’t know whether the people who receive them would have used the trains anyway and, if so, where they would normally get on and off.

He was unable to provide a cost range in a follow-up interview Wednesday evening. SMART officials will monitor the use of the relief passes and report back later, he said.

“The honest truth is, we don’t know,” he said. “SMART is doing the right thing for the right reasons, and thanks to the strong ridership and the fact that we have met our financial goals so far, SMART is able to provide this. So people who have been riding us have put us in that strong position to be able to now help those in the community at their hour of need.”

The agency has reported 15,300 average weekly passengers from when service began in late August through October, and average weekly fare revenue of $74,362, above the $68,023 average weekly fares needed to make budget.

Service was free for two weeks after the fires began.

SMART hopes to issue the 5,000 passes for individual fire victims today so employers — who will have discretion over which fire victims receive the passes — can distribute them for use beginning Monday, according to Mansourian.

Participating employers include the Sonoma and Marin county governments, Kaiser and Sutter hospitals, the Sonoma and Marin county education offices, the Santa Rosa Metro Chamber of Commerce and The Press Democrat, according to SMART.

Mansourian told board members that fire victims who want a pass but don’t work for any of the participating employers can be referred to SMART staff, who will verify the need of such individuals.

Read all of the PD's fire coverage here

“There will be some process that we need to go through, but it’s a fast process,” Mansourian said.

SMART will provide the 5,000 one-way business relief passes to the Santa Rosa Metro Chamber of Commerce. Companies who receive the passes from the chamber will in turn give them to customers for every $25 spent during the weekends of Nov. 25 and 26 and Dec. 2 and 3, according to SMART.

The idea behind the business passes is to help companies that may be struggling after the fires, affecting local employees, including some displaced by the fires.

Carol Russell, a Cloverdale City Councilwoman who sits on the SMART board, said the relief passes fulfilled board members’ desire to see the transit agency help North Bay communities respond to the unprecedented disaster.

“You came up with a wonderful, practical way to have SMART help,” she told Mansourian. “And it’s not only the organization of SMART ... All of us who ride SMART have somehow contributed to this and continue to.”

You can reach Staff Writer J.D. Morris at 707-521-5337 or jd.morris@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @thejdmorris.

Show Comment