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Sonoma County Gazette
SMART Train Conductor Arand

The Other Side of Hwy 101 –
Relaxing on the SMART Train

Jan 22, 2018


By Jane Rogan Dwight

SMART train interiorThe time is 1:01 pm on a Friday. We board the train with childish excitement, and we’re not alone in that. All around us are smiling people: Families, Millennials racking their bicycles, Seniors with their grandchildren. We all get settled to the announcement that we are about to leave the Santa Rosa Downtown station - Railroad Square. Next stop Rohnert Park. We are seated in the comfortable, clean and cheerful cabins chatting away as we glide into motion, gaining speed past Flying Goat and Carlisle Macy.

“The train travels between 60 – 79 MPH, depending upon the grade,” Conductor Aranda tells us. The SMART staff is friendly, helpful and professional. They are efficient in the nicest way. When asked, Conductor Aranda tells us about his Federal government certified training, and the critical engineering and safety emphasis. SMART includes a focused curriculum on customer service. At the end of the day each cabin and restroom are detailed for cleanliness.

At Golf Street the train crosses under the freeway to the east, whizzing by landscape that isn’t visible on 101. The romance of travelling by train starts to kick in. Rocking gently and quietly through rolling hills – now a vibrant green – we gaze at the meandering wetlands filled with egrets, seagulls, geese and ducks. The scenery on our run isn’t all bucolic. We pass junk yards and the back lots of autobody shops too, something for everyone. The 3 -year old behind us, on his grandparents’ laps, gleefully points to the heavy machinery.

SMART train deliBefore we know it, we are pulling up to the Downtown San Rafael stop, where we deboard. We walk a few blocks to our lunch destination at Sol Food, a culturally authentic Puerto Rican restaurant with delicious food and fun atmosphere. After a digestive stroll around town, including a tour of the renovated Rafael Theater, it’s time to catch the train for home.

The time is 3:59 pm. This time we decide to sit in the café area, and are joined by more commuters. They queue up for a Scrimshaw beer or a glass ofLa Crema Chardonnay, even hot chai tea. They push their seats back to a decent 25% recline, take a sip of their beverage and gossip about their day. A man deals cards to his elderly mother. The train is packed during this weekday commute time, but there is a seat for each rider. As Conductor Aranda told us, “On January 8, SMART added a third car to the train to accommodate the 3,100+ day riders. People love looking at the brake lights on 101. I’ve never seen people so excited at 6:00 am or 5:00 pm.”

View from the SMART TrainSMART uses Clipper cards, the same payment system used by other Bay Area Transit providers. You can get an adult card at any SMART fare machine, online at, or at SMART’s main office. Discount Clipper cards are available for youth, seniors and passengers with disabilities. For more information about getting a Clipper card, SMART train schedules, stations and more, go to or call SMART Customer Service at 511 or (415) 455-2000. Customer service is available from 7:00 am to 6:00 pm on weekdays.


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