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Sonoma County Gazette
Folding Bike and SMART Train

A SMART Vision Realized

Oct 23, 2017


By Geoffrey Smith

The vision of a passenger rail service has been growing since the last century. The Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit System (SMART) district was established by state legislation in 2002, and subsequent ballot measures established sales tax funding for SMART -- both the train and the pathway. On Friday, August 25 at 9 am at the Railroad Square, Santa Rosa station, SMART will be officially dedicated, with regular passenger service beginning later that day. 43 miles of what will ultimately be a 70-mile passenger rail service between Larkspur and Cloverdale will be a reality. The following is a day in the life of a typical SMART train commuter...

The morning begins with some juice and fruit at home in Santa Rosa’s Junior College Neighborhood. It is important to hydrate! I grab my folding bicycle which I keep by the front door and step out into the sweet morning air. Unfolding the bike and donning my helmet, I am on my way in less than 60 Seconds. It’s a few short blocks from where I live to the SMART Pathway at College Avenue. I head south on the quiet, smooth, car-free ‘Class 1’ pathway, running alongside the tracks. In a few minutes I arrive at the historic train station in Railroad Square. I grab a cup of fresh roasted coffee at The Flying Goat, then walk up the ramp to the boarding platform and swipe my pre-paid Clipper card on the scanner. I quickly fold my bike and take my position behind the yellow line. It’s a beautiful morning!

At precisely 7:30 am the gleaming SMART Train pulls into view. I quickly hop on and take my seat. On this day all 24 of the bicycle racks are taken by other savvy commuters, but this is not an issue for me – my folding bike goes where I go, neatly stowed next to me at my seat. As the train smoothly and quietly glides down the tracks I enjoy the scenic wonder of Sonoma County as we traverse wetlands, oak savannas, and scenes heretofore unknown to me. I head over to the food and beverage counter to order a light breakfast. The travel time to my stop in San Rafael is 55 minutes, plenty of time to pop open the laptop (free WiFi) and catch up on the daily news and communications from the office -- my employer lets me count one hour of my daily commute as paid work time. Arriving in San Rafael I disembark, unfold my bike and ride the mile to my office. Refolding the bike and heading upstairs I stow the bike under my desk for safekeeping. No lock needed!

I’m pumped up from the ride this morning so my morning goes quickly. At lunch I grab the bike for a quick jaunt on the SMART Pathway, through the Cal Park Hill tunnel to Larkspur to do some shopping. It’s always good to see San Francisco Bay.

On the way home after work I disembark in Petaluma to have dinner downtown with some friends. The train stop is some distance from the downtown area, but with my folding bike it’s a snap getting there. We have a great time, and I enjoy some adult beverages. No designated driver needed as I take the 9:06 train back to Santa Rosa.

I enjoy the last mile of my commute on my bicycle, with my bright flashing headlight and taillight, breathing in the fresh night air, and reflecting on the day.

Later in the evening, as I settle into bed for a good night sleep, I think back on those old days when I was a slave to my fossil-fueled automobile. Those days are gone, and I am thankful.

Geoffrey Smith owns Folding Bikes Shop in Santa Rosa. By day he manages the Solar Sonoma County program for the nonprofit Center for Climate Protection. He does not really work in San Rafael but it makes for a good story.


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