Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit

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Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit
Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit logo.svg
SMART trainset parked at SMART rail yard Windsor, CA, 2016
Type Commuter rail
Status Testing operations
Locale North Bay
Counties: Sonoma and Marin
Termini San Rafael Transit Center (IOS)
Sonoma County Airport(IOS)
Stations 10
plus 6 planned
Services 1
Planned opening 2016 (2016)
Owner NWP
Operator(s) Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit District
Character commuter rail on shared freight line with grade crossings
Rolling stock 9 Nippon Sharyo DMU two-car sets
Line length 70 mi (110 km)
Initial segment: 43 mi (69 km)
Number of tracks 1–2
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
(standard gauge)
Operating speed 40 mph (64 km/h) (average)
79 mph (127 km/h) (top)
Route map
Cloverdale Depot future
Healdsburg future
Russian River
US 101
Windsor future
Rail Operations Center
Sonoma County Airport Charles M. Schulz–Sonoma County Airport 2016
Zone Boundary
Santa Rosa Creek
Santa Rosa–Guerneville Road 2016
Santa Rosa–Railroad Square 2016
Santa Rosa Creek
SR 12 Zone Boundary
P&SR Interurban
Rohnert Park 2016
Cotati 2016
Petaluma–North future
US 101 / SR 116
Petaluma River
Petaluma–Downtown 2016
US 101
Sonoma County
Marin County
Zone Boundary
US 101
Novato–San Marin/Atherton 2016
Novato–Downtown future
San Francisco Bay Trail
SR 37
SMART right-of-way
Novato–Hamilton 2016
Gallinas CreekZone Boundary
Marin Civic Center 2016
Puerto Suello Tunnel
NWP Interurban
San Rafael Transit Center San Rafael Transit Center 2016
San Rafael Creek
San Francisco Bay Trail
Cal Park Hill Tunnel
Larkspur Landing 2018
to Larkspur Landing Ferry Terminal Larkspur Landing
NWP Interurban
to San Francisco Bay Trail
Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit
Chief executive Farhad Mansourian
Headquarters 5401 Old Redwood Hwy #200
Petaluma, California

Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) is a passenger rail service and bicycle-pedestrian pathway project currently under construction in Sonoma and Marin counties of the U.S. state of California. The SMART District was established by state legislation in 2002.[1]

When complete, it will serve a 70-mile (110 km) corridor between Cloverdale in northern Sonoma County and Larkspur Landing in Marin County. The first phase will open a 43-mile (69 km) segment between Northern Santa Rosa and Downtown San Rafael in late 2016.[2][3][4] Additional segments are to be opened as funding becomes available.


Environmental Impact Report[edit]

Mitigation of environmental impacts was studied and summarized in a report issued in June 2006.[5] The recommended remedies, which were certified without challenge, included silencing of some train horns in quiet zones[6] and replacement of certain wetland ditches.

On October 10, 2013, SMART announced that it had obtained more than 56 acres (0.23 km2) of an area in Novato known as the “Mira Monte Marina.” The purpose of this purchase is to restore the area and preserve tidal wetlands and habitat, which is all a part of SMART’s environmental mitigation program. According to SMART General Manager Farhad Mansourian, “This will not only address the 2.2 acres (8,900 m2) of project impacts that were determined through the environmental review process for the next stage of construction, but ensures a local source for potential future mitigation needs for the rail and pathway project.”[7]


The project is funded by federal, state, regional and local allocations (including bridge tolls), dedicated sales tax revenues, and fares (once operations begin).[citation needed]

Measure Q, a 0.25% sales tax, passed by voters of the two Northern California counties in 2008. This funding was initially thought sufficient to bring the line to completion by 2014, but the economic downturn resulted in a plan to build the project in phases.[citation needed]

In November 2006, Measure R, a proposal for funding though an increase in sales taxes, received a combined 65.3% "yes" vote in the two-county District, with 70.1% in favor in Sonoma County and 57.5% in favor in Marin County. Because it lacked the 2/3 majority needed for passage, that measure failed.[8]

Measure Q, similar to Measure R, was approved on November 4, 2008. It received a combined vote of 69.5% in the two counties (73.5% approval in Sonoma County and 62.6% in Marin County).[9] It provides funding for the project through a quarter-cent sales tax in both counties.

Bond issues[edit]

In late 2011, the SMART Board authorized the sale of bonds, with the proceeds to be put into an escrow account until the fate of the effort to repeal the sales tax was decided.[10]

In May 2012, SMART issued nearly $200 million in bonds to fund construction. The bonds will be paid off with the Measure Q quarter-cent sales tax revenue.[11]

IOS track rehabilitation[edit]

In January 2012, SMART completed final negotiations to start rebuilding the 43-mile (69 km) Initial Operating Segment (IOS) between Airport Blvd Santa Rosa and the Civic Center Station in San Rafael at a cost less than originally budgeted.[12] SMART announced that it was adding two stations to the Initial Operation Segment: in north Santa Rosa, near Coddingtown, and in Novato at Atherton Avenue.[13]

One tunnel located in San Rafael was rehabilitated for service in the IOS: the Puerto Suello Hill Tunnel.[14]

The first phase of construction does not include the parallel pedestrian and bicycle path.[15]

Construction of Larkspur–San Rafael segment[edit]

The cost to San Rafael of the Andersen Drive crossing of the Larkspur-San Rafael segment is significant. The street was extended by San Rafael in the mid-1990s to cross the tracks on a "temporary road." In July 1997, the California Public Utilities Commission informed the city that by the time SMART planned to operate on the section, the city had to build and pay for restoring the crossing. The estimated cost for that was $6 million in 2012.[16]

In 2010, the agency received a federal earmark of $2.5 million for technical, environmental and engineering design on the segment. Later in 2010, the revamped Cal Park Hill Tunnel, 30 feet (9.1 m) wide, 25 feet (7.6 m) tall, and 1,100 feet (340 m) long, was opened. The revamping was done at a cost of $28 million, paid equally by Marin County and SMART. The tunnel is partly used for the rail right of way between Larkspur and San Rafael, and partly for bicycles and pedestrians.[17]

In May 2013, the SMART board approved a resolution designating the San Rafael to Larkspur link as its "preferred alternative." The agency submitted a letter to the Federal Transit Administration and on September 24, 2013, SMART was successfully accepted into its "Small Starts" program, which funds new projects and extensions to commuter rail, light rail, heavy rail, bus rapid transit, street cars and ferries.[17] The FY2016 Federal Budget included the funds to construct the Larkspur Extension under the Small Starts Program.[18] Construction on the extension is planned to begin in summer 2017, with service to Larkspur expected to begin in summer 2018.[19]

System details[edit]

Rail corridor and freight[edit]

Further information: Northwestern Pacific Railroad
The station at Sonoma County Airport

The SMART District will provide passenger service on the historic Northwestern Pacific right-of-way, which roughly parallels US Highway 101[20] and is owned by the SMART District from Healdsburg to Larkspur. There are 63 at grade crossings in the segment from San Rafael to Santa Rosa, with the possibility of adding more.[21] A positive train control system is being implemented for the length of the passenger corridor for customer and pedestrian safety.[22]

The capital cost of track rehabilitation, signals, railcars, etc. was estimated in 2008 to be about $500 million. From Airport Blvd to Downtown San Rafael, the cost of the project is about $428 million.

The historic Northwestern Pacific Railroad corridor will be utilized by North Coast Railroad Authority (NCRA) freight services in addition to SMART passenger service.[23] Freight operator NWP Co began to serve businesses along the SMART right-of-way between Lombard (at the Napa River) and Windsor in 2011.[24]

In December 2014, rains washed away some of the train track beds near Petaluma at Ely Road. A photo of the spot on December 11 showed the tracks hidden beneath feet of water. A spokesperson for SMART said that "Trains are not running yet, so this is something we will pay attention to."[25]


Many of the planned platforms are located near historic depots in city centers. However, SMART will not directly utilize any of the historic depots,[26] and will instead all use 48-inch (120 cm) platforms constructed adjacent to the historic depots. High-floor platforms will allow level boarding onto and off of the train and provide accessibility. Platforms will typically include a traditional shelter with a peaked roof and a bench for seating. They will also have light poles, signs, and garbage cans.[27]

Original plans called for ten stations in the initial operating segment (IOS) with five more in a second phase. A further station is being planned in Novato's downtown district.[28]

Rolling stock[edit]

Nippon Sharyo DMU in SMART livery parked in Fulton.
Main article: Nippon Sharyo DMU

The SMART fleet consists of nine two-car Nippon Sharyo DMU trainsets. The vehicles, designed specifically for SMART and another transit service, the Union Pearson Express in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, are slope-nosed and self-propelled by diesel engines that meet stringent "Tier 4" EPA requirements.[29] They run in pairs, with the ability to put a third, non-powered car in the middle for extra passenger capacity.[30]

The diesel multiple unit trainsets were ordered from Sumitomo Corporation of America / Nippon Sharyo at a cost of $46.7 million, or $6.67 million for each two car set. They were delivered to Rochelle, Illinois for assembling, and then sent to the Transportation Technology Center, Inc. in Pueblo, CO for testing. Under the contract, additional railcars may be ordered at a cost of $2.9 million per individual car.[31] The first trainset arrived in Cotati, California on April 7, 2015.[32] The original order was for fourteen cars in seven two car trainsets, but on July 30, 2015, the state of California announced an $11 million grant to SMART to finance the purchase of three additional cars to be added to the fleet, allowing for three trainsets to be run with three cars, with an increase in capacity of 130 passengers over a two car trainset.[33][34] In April 2016, SMART's general manager negotiated with CalSTA and Nippon Sharyo to adjust the order so SMART will receive two more full trainsets in place of the extra cars, bringing their fleet size to the required nine trainsets needed for service to Cloverdale.

Bicycle and pedestrian pathway[edit]

Southern portal of the Cal Park Hill Tunnel

In the original sales tax expenditure plan, $90 million was allocated for a bike/pedestrian path along the line for recreation and to enhance connections between stations and the developing network of bicycle-pedestrian pathways.[35] As a result of the down turn of the economy in 2008, SMART has phased the construction of the bicycle-pedestrian pathway as well as the commuter rail project. Current SMART pathway construction focuses on bridging gaps between existing bicycle-pedestrian pathways, providing access to stations and serving potential high-use areas.[36] A number of segments are being constructed in partnership with local jurisdictions. For example, SMART has obtained a grant for pathway construction in Rohnert Park and is seeking grants to fund additional segments. By April 2016, 9.95 miles (16.0 km) of trail were at or near completion.[37]


In December 2013, the agency said that it intends to run trains in both directions every 30 minutes during peak commute hours, with a mid-day train and weekend service.[38]

Sample schedules showed southbound service starting at 4:49 A.M. with morning commute trains followed by afternoon and evening services. Northbound trains would begin running at 6:29 A.M. from San Rafael with similarly large headways midday and an evening service.[3] There will be fifteen trains in each direction on weekdays and six in each direction with short turn service on weekends and holidays.

The average speed of the trains (including stops) is 40 miles per hour, with a top speed of 79 miles per hour. It was estimated to take less than an hour to get from the Santa Rosa station to the San Rafael station.[38] Sample schedules show a 1-hour 7 minute transit time.


The system will operate with fare zones and a proof-of-payment system with Clipper card serving as the only payment method. There will be five zones in the initial opening segment, expanding to seven when service to Cloverdale is completed.[39] Zone ticketing requires little infrastructure at the stations but can be expensive for passengers making a short trip that crosses a zone boundary.

Fares start at $3.50 for a ride within one zone, with an additional $2 added for entering each new zone. Once a daily fare of $23 is reached (the maximum round-trip fare), no additional fares will be assessed for further travel. Transfers from Santa Rosa CityBus, Sonoma County Transit, Petaluma Transit, and the Golden Gate Transit will receive reduced fares. A specialty transit card, the SMART EcoPass, can be purchased in bulk by businesses, schools, and other agencies and will provide a discount of up to 50% for children, senior citizens, and people with disabilities.[40] An increase in fares was forecast to arrive about a year after operations commence.[41]


The Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit District is a special-purpose district consisting of Sonoma and Marin Counties. A twelve-member appointed Board of Directors represent the various cities and transit agencies served along the main line.[1]

In January 2011, General Manager Lilian Hames, who had led the project for a decade, resigned amid ongoing concern about the project's financial challenges and the necessity to build it in phases.[42] David Heath, the Chief Financial Officer, took over management duties until the appointment later that year of Farhad Mansourian as acting General Manager. In August 2011, Mansourian was appointed permanent General Manager, assuming both financial and general management responsibilities for the project.[14][43]

For many years, Mansourian was Director of Public Works for Marin County, and his combined annual compensation from SMART ($346,000) and Marin County pension ($148,000) raised some questions initially.[44] SMART board members said that the threat of a SMART repeal effort made bringing a general manager from an out-of-state rail system to the San Francisco Bay Area even more costly. They concluded that Mansourian's demonstrated abilities during his temporary assignment coupled with his knowledge of California's permitting requirements and successful delivery of complex public works projects in Marin County made him the best candidate.[45]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Assembly Bill 2224" (pdf). Retrieved 2011-12-05. 
  2. ^ "Smart Train & Pathway Project Overview" (pdf). February 2016. Retrieved 2016-02-11. 
  3. ^ a b Quackenbush, Jeff (25 March 2016). "Santa Rosa to San Rafael in half-time on SMART". Sonoma Media Investments. The North Bay Business Journal. Retrieved 16 April 2016. 
  4. ^ Prado, Mark (14 April 2016). "SMART begins talking rail schedule as service set to begin later this year". Marin Independent Journal. Retrieved 16 April 2016. 
  5. ^ "Final Environmental Impact Report: Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit". Aspen Environmental Group of Parsons Brinckerhoff. June 2006. Retrieved 2012-11-17. 
  6. ^ "Final Rule on the Use of Locomotive Horns at Highway-Rail Grade Crossings". Federal Railroad Administration. Retrieved 2011-12-05. 
  7. ^ "SMART to preserve Mira Monte Marina". Retrieved 2014-07-18. 
  8. ^ "Sonoma County Ballot Measures". Retrieved 2014-07-21. 
  9. ^ Jim Doyle (November 6, 2008). "North Bay rail plan OKd, BART extension losing". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2011-12-05. 
  10. ^ Ted Appel (November 16, 2011). "SMART authorizes sale of $191 million in bonds". Press Democrat. Retrieved 2011-12-05. 
  11. ^ "SMART progresses on several fronts". Press Democrat. May 30, 2012. 
  12. ^ Douglas John Bowen (January 6, 2012). "SMART picks contractors for Phase 1 rail start". Railway Age. Retrieved 2012-11-06. 
  13. ^ Lois Pearlman (January 20, 2012). "As other cities add SMART stations". Argus-Courier. 
  14. ^ a b Prado, Mark (18 March 2015). "Puerto Suello Hill Tunnel for commute rail delayed". Digital First Media. Marin Independent Journal. Retrieved 11 June 2016. 
  15. ^ Derek Moore (January 12, 2012). "SMART skips bike path in first phase of construction". The Press Democrat. Retrieved 2012-04-01. 
  16. ^ Dick Spotswood (March 25, 2012). "San Rafael's mistake is keeping SMART from reaching Larkspur". Marin Independent Journal. 
  17. ^ a b Mark Prado (May 20, 2013). "SMART seeks funding for San Rafael to Larkspur train segment". Marin Independent Journal. 
  18. ^ Mark Prado (December 16, 2015). "Funding for SMART Larkspur extension in congressional budget". Marin Independent Journal. Retrieved 2016-02-11. 
  19. ^ Mark Prado (February 9, 2016). "SMART Larkspur extension begins rolling toward summer 2018 opening". Marin Independent Journal. Retrieved 2016-02-11. 
  20. ^ "What is SMART". Retrieved 2008-09-25. 
  21. ^ McCallum, Kevin (15 September 2016). "Santa Rosa's gamble on Coddingtown rail crossing pays off". The Press Democrat. Retrieved 19 September 2016. 
  22. ^ "SMART Train Looking for a Windsor Stop". KSRO. 14 April 2016. Retrieved 15 June 2016. 
  23. ^ "North Coast Railroad Authority Homepage". Retrieved 2008-10-01. 
  24. ^ "SMART White Paper #14: Freight Trains and Passenger Trains, July, 2008" (pdf). Retrieved 2008-09-28. 
  25. ^ Freedman, Wayne (December 30, 2014). "Rains expose possible issue along SMART tracks". ABC 7 News. Retrieved July 30, 2016. 
  26. ^ Brown, Matt (23 September 2014). "SMART platform designs generate little fanfare". Sonoma Media Investments. The Press Democrat. Retrieved 10 June 2016. 
  27. ^ "SMART settles on more classic station design". 
  28. ^ Prado, Mark (8 April 2016). "SMART OKs rail stop in downtown Novato". Digital First Media. Marin Independent Journal. Retrieved 9 June 2016. 
  29. ^ "SMART Rail & Pathway Project Overview" (pdf). Retrieved 2014-07-21. 
  30. ^ Bob Norberg (February 19, 2013). "SMART passenger seating fails initial safety test". The Press Democrat. Santa Rosa, CA. 
  31. ^ "SMART Passenger Vehicles" (pdf). September 21, 2011. Retrieved 2011-10-30. 
  32. ^ Jeffrey Schaub (April 7, 2015). "Sonoma, Marin County Residents Get First Glimpse Of SMART Commuter Train In Cotati". KPIX-TV CBS SF Bay Area. Retrieved 26 May 2015. 
  33. ^ Guy Kovner (June 30, 2015). "SMART secures $11 million grant to purchase three more rail cars". Marin Independent Journal. Retrieved 2016-02-11. 
  34. ^ "SMART obtains funding to purchase three additional cars". Trains Magazine. July 1, 2015. Retrieved 13 August 2015. 
  35. ^ "SMART White Paper #8: SMART is both Rail and Trail, February, 2008" (pdf). Retrieved 2008-09-28. 
  36. ^ "SMART Train & Pathway". Retrieved 2014-07-21. 
  37. ^ Moore, Derek (8 April 2016). "Feds environmental signoff spurs SMART path project to get underway". The Press Democrat. Retrieved 16 June 2016. 
  38. ^ a b Matt Brown (December 22, 2013). "Sonoma-Marin commuter rail plan chugs along toward 2016 start". The Press Democrat. 
  39. ^ Mark Prado, Mark Prado (22 February 2016). "SMART to have zoned fares when service begins in 2016". Marin Independent Journal. Retrieved 25 April 2016. 
  40. ^ SWEENEY, CYNTHIA (1 June 2016). "Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit fare to be $3.50 plus $2 per zone". Sonoma Media Investments. The North Bay Business Journal. Retrieved 8 June 2016. 
  41. ^ SWEENEY, CYNTHIA (6 June 2016). "Employers set up shuttles for workers to SMART train". Sonoma Media Investments. North Bay Business Journal. Retrieved 9 June 2016. 
  42. ^ "PD Editorial: New SMART". Press Democrat. January 26, 2011. Retrieved 2011-12-05. 
  43. ^ Mark Prado (November 16, 2011). "SMART board OKs plan to seek $171 million in bonds for rail project". Marin Independent Journal. Retrieved 2011-12-05. 
  44. ^ Dick Spotswood (September 4, 2011). "SMART chief's eye-popping pay package". Marin Independent Journal. Retrieved 2011-12-05. 
  45. ^ Judy Arnold; Valerie Brown (September 3, 2011). "SMART on pay, hiring of new GM". Press Democrat. Retrieved 2011-12-05. 

External links[edit]