Aug 25, 2017
by David Abbott
Hundreds of spectators, dignitaries, and SMART Train employee family members crowded a bunting bedecked Railroad Square Depot on Friday, Aug. 25 to celebrate the kickoff of the first passenger rail service in Sonoma County in six decades.
“This is going to change the [North Bay region] forever,” SMART General Manager Farhad Mansourian said.
Mansourian, who has often been at the receiving end of sharp criticism during his seven-year tenure leading the agency, was one of many speakers throughout the morning. But on this day there was nothing but praise for the efforts of political will that brought the project to fruition, and many thanks for the voters that made it possible.
“This is a moment for looking backward and forwards,” former Second District Assemblymember Wes Chesbro said. “A viable rail system is a great beginning for the future of Sonoma County.”
Chesbro was not among the speakers, but like many local political figures was on hand to bask in the sound of train whistles in the area once again.
“The voters should be proud,” he said. “The electeds are here taking credit, but it’s the voters that did it.”
Among the day’s speakers was Windsor mayor and chair of the SMART board of directors, Deb Fudge; Congressmen Jared Huffman; ever-optimistic Senator and former Healdsburg councilmember and Fourth District Supervisor Mike McGuire and long-serving Rohnert Park mayor and council member and chair of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission Jake Mackenzie, resplendent in his kilts and knee-high socks.
Mackenzie has long been a proponent of smart growth and is an avid cyclist. He said the kilt was in memory of his family members who spent their lives working for railroads in Scotland.
“The lessons are clear,” he said. “Our traffic problems cannot be eased by building more roads. There is going to be transit-oriented development all up and down this corridor.”
A large contingent of Cloverdale SMART supporters were on hand for the festivities as well, and it was a popular applause line for the speakers to mention Cloverdale at every opportunity. Carol Russell, former mayor, city council-member (and Gazette community columnist), has been instrumental in getting the train rolling, so you know she's going to get SMART to her community as soon as she can.
The initial service will cover 43 miles of track from Santa Rosa to San Rafael. Mansourian said that they will “rest for two hours” on Sunday and get back to building the full 70 miles of serviceable rail line first thing next week.
He added that the Larkspur portion of the train service will begin soon and should be completed by sometime in 2019.
Service to Downtown Windsor and Cloverdale should be completed by the following year.
“This represents a generational shift in how we travel outside of the single-passenger automobile,” Fudge said. “It looks certain (construction to Downtown Windsor), but it’s a matter of when we can start construction.”
There are seven stations from the Sonoma County Airport to San Rafael, with stops including Novato and the Marin Civic Center.
Fares run from $3.50 to $11 for adults, dependent on number of zones traveled. Discounts are available for seniors, youth and passengers with disabilities. Tickets must be purchased with a Clipper card, which can be purchased at www.clippercard.com or at machines at each station and desgnated retail locations. For information about fares and schedules, go to sonomamarintrain.org, or call 707-794-3330