Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit

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Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit
Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit logo.svg
Owner Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit District
Locale North Bay
Counties: Sonoma and Marin
Transit type Commuter rail
Number of lines 1
Number of stations 14
Initial segment: 10
Headquarters Petaluma, California
Operation will start 2016
Train length 2–3 cars
System length 70 mi (110 km)
Initial segment: 43 mi (69 km)
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
(standard gauge)
System map
Cloverdale future
Healdsburg future
Russian River
Windsor future
Sonoma County Airport-Airport Blvd 2016
Santa Rosa-Guerneville Road 2016
Santa Rosa-Railroad Square 2016
Rohnert Park 2016
Cotati 2016
Petaluma-North future
Petaluma River
Petaluma-Downtown 2016
Petaluma River
Sonoma County
Marin County
Novato-San Marin/Atherton 2016
Novato-Hamilton 2016
San Rafael-Marin Civic Center 2016
San Rafael-Downtown San Rafael Transit Center 2016
Cal Park Hill Tunnel
Larkspur Landing Larkspur Landing Future

Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) is a voter-approved passenger rail service & bicycle-pedestrian pathway project currently under construction in Northern California, United States in Sonoma and Marin counties. The SMART District was established by state legislation in 2002.[1] When complete, it will serve a 70 mile corridor between Cloverdale in northern Sonoma County and Larkspur Landing in Marin County.

It is largely funded by a 0.25% sales tax, Measure Q, passed by voters in the two counties in 2008. It was initially planned to be fully completed by 2014, but the economic downturn resulted in a plan to build the project in phases, with the first phase opening a 43 mile segment between Northern Santa Rosa and Downtown San Rafael in late 2016.[2] Additional segments to be opened as funding becomes available.

Project details[edit]

The SMART District will provide passenger service on the historic Northwestern Pacific right-of-way, which roughly parallels US Highway 101[3] and is owned by the SMART District from Healdsburg to Larkspur.

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.


Trains will operate in both directions every 30 minutes during peak commute hours, with one mid-day trip and weekend service, which will primarily serve tourists and cyclists.


Many of the planned platforms are located near historic depots in city centers. However, SMART will not utilize any of the historic depots, instead using 48 inch platforms constructed adjacent to the historic depots. The use of platforms will allow level boarding onto and off of the train. 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 [4]

A total of ten stations will open during the initial operating segment (IOS).

Rail corridor[edit]

The historic Northwestern Pacific Railroad corridor will be utilized by both passenger (SMART) and freight (NCRA) services.[5] Freight operator NWP Co began to serve businesses along the SMART right-of-way between Lombard (at the Napa River) and Windsor in 2011.[6]

Bicycle and pedestrian pathway[edit]

$90 million was allocated in the original sales tax expenditure plan for a bike/pedestrian path along the line for recreation and to enhance connections between stations and the developing network of bicycle-pedestrian pathways.[7] 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.[8] 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.

Environmental Impact Report[edit]

Mitigation of environmental impacts was studied and summarized in a report issued in June 2006.[9] The recommended remedies, which were certified without challenge, included silencing of some train horns in quiet zones[10] and replacement of certain wetland ditches.

On October 10, 2013, SMART announced that it had obtained more than 56 acres 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 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.”[11]

Route, rolling stock, and construction[edit]


Station Name Status
Cloverdale (Asti Rd. & Citrus Dr.) Future
Healdsburg (Harmon St.) Future
Windsor (Windsor Rd. & Windsor River Rd.) Future
Sonoma County Airport (Airport Blvd.) Initial Operating Segment[13]
Santa Rosa - Guerneville Road Initial Operating Segment
Santa Rosa - Railroad Square (Wilson St. & 5th St.) Initial Operating Status
Rohnert Park (Rohnert Park Expressway)[14] Initial Operating Segment
Cotati (E. Cotati Av. & Santero Way) Initial Operating Segment
Petaluma - North (Corona Rd. & N. McDowell Rd.) Future
Petaluma - Downtown (Lakeville St. & E. Washington St.) Initial Operating Segment
Novato - San Marin/Atherton (Redwood Bl. & Atherton Av.) Initial Operating Segment
Novato - Hamilton (Main Gate Rd.) Initial Operating Segment
San Rafael - Marin Civic Center (Civic Center Dr.) Initial Operating Segment
San Rafael - Downtown (Tamalpais Av. & 3rd St., near San Rafael Transit Center) Initial Operating Segment
Larkspur Ferry (Larkspur Landing Cir. & Sir Francis Drake Bl.) Initial Operating Segment (based on expected Federal Transit Administration funding)

Rolling stock[edit]

SMART Trainset, Nippon Sharyo DMU

The SMART fleet will consist of 4 two-car and 3 three-car[15] Nippon Sharyo DMU trainsets. The diesel multiple unit trainsets were ordered from Sumitomo Corporation of America / Nippon Sharyo at a cost of $46.7 million, $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.[16] The first trainset arrived in Cotati, California on April 7, 2015.[17] 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.[18]

The vehicles, designed specifically for SMART and another transit service, the Union Pearson Express in Toronto, Canada, are slope-nosed and self-propelled by diesel engines that meet stringent "Tier 4" EPA requirements.[19] They run in pairs, with the ability to put a third, non-powered car in the middle for extra passenger capacity.[20]

IOS track rehabilitation[edit]

In January 2012, SMART completed final negotiations to start rebuilding the 43-mile (69 km) I.O.S. between Airport Blvd Santa Rosa and the Civic Center Station in San Rafael at a cost less than originally budgeted.[21] SMART announced that it was adding two stations to the Initial Operation Segment: in north Santa Rosa, near Coddingtown (making that the new north end of the I.O.S.), and in Novato at Atherton Ave.[22] The first phase of construction does not include the parallel pedestrian and bicycle path.[23]

Construction of Larkspur–San Rafael segment[edit]

Southern portal of the Cal Park Hill Tunnel

Reconstruction of the Cal-Park Tunnel on the 2.2-mile Larkspur-San Rafael segment of the route was completed in 2008 at a cost of $25 million (shared by Marin County and SMART) in order to open the pedestrian-bicycle pathway. 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 told the city that by the time SMART planned to operate on the section, the city had to build and pay for a proper crossing. The estimated cost for that is now $6 million.[24]

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 wide, 25 feet tall, and 1,100 feet 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.[25]

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 24th, 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.[25]

The FY2016 Federal Budget included the funds to construct the Larkspur Extension under the Small Starts Program. Service to Larkspur is expected to begin about a year after revenue service on the I.O.S. begins.[26]


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.[27] 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.[28]

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.[29] 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.[30]


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.[31]

The average speed of the trains (including stops) is 40 miles per hour, with a top speed of 79 miles per hour. It is estimated to take less than an hour to get from the Santa Rosa station to the San Rafael station.[31]


The project is funded by federal, state, regional and local allocations (including bridge tolls), dedicated sales tax revenues (Measure Q), and fares.

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.[32]

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).[33] 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.[34]

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.[35]


  1. ^ "Assembly Bill 2224" (pdf). Retrieved 2011-12-05. 
  2. ^ "Project Overview" (pdf). Retrieved 2014-07-18. 
  3. ^ "What is SMART". Retrieved 2008-09-25. 
  4. ^ "SMART settles on more classic station design". 
  5. ^ "North Coast Railroad Authority Homepage". Retrieved 2008-10-01. 
  6. ^ "SMART White Paper #14: Freight Trains and Passenger Trains, July, 2008" (pdf). Retrieved 2008-09-28. 
  7. ^ "SMART White Paper #8: SMART is both Rail and Trail, February, 2008" (pdf). Retrieved 2008-09-28. 
  8. ^ "SMART Train & Pathway". Retrieved 2014-07-21. 
  9. ^ "Final Environmental Impact Report: Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit". Aspen Environmental Group of Parsons Brinckerhoff. June 2006. Retrieved 2012-11-17. 
  10. ^ "Final Rule on the Use of Locomotive Horns at Highway-Rail Grade Crossings". Federal Railroad Administration. Retrieved 2011-12-05. 
  11. ^ "SMART to preserve Mira Monte Marina". Retrieved 2014-07-18. 
  12. ^ "Board of Directors Regular Meeting Agenda" (pdf). January 19, 2011. Retrieved 2011-12-05. 
  13. ^ "MTC approves money to extend smart train line to Sonoma Co. airport and build passenger station". KTVU. December 18, 2013. Retrieved 2013-12-26. 
  14. ^ Eric Gneckow (February 15, 2012). "SMART OKs moving Rohnert Park station near State Farm site; Will be located at central city site vacated by State Farm". North Bay Business Journal. 
  15. ^
  16. ^ "SMART Passenger Vehicles" (pdf). September 21, 2011. Retrieved 2011-10-30. 
  17. ^ Schaub, Jeffrey (April 7, 2015). "Sonoma, Marin County Residents Get First Glimpse Of SMART Commuter Train In Cotati". CBS SF Bay Area. Retrieved 26 May 2015. 
  18. ^ "SMART obtains funding to purchase three additional cars". Trains Magazine. July 1, 2015. Retrieved 13 August 2015. 
  19. ^ "SMART Rail & Pathway Project Overview" (pdf). Retrieved 2014-07-21. 
  20. ^ Bob Norberg (February 19, 2013). "SMART passenger seating fails initial safety test". Press-Democrat. 
  21. ^ Douglas John Bowen (January 6, 2012). "SMART picks contractors for Phase 1 rail start". Railway Age. Retrieved 2012-11-06. 
  22. ^ Lois Pearlman (January 20, 2012). "As other cities add SMART stations". Argus-Courier. 
  23. ^ Derek Moore (January 12, 2012). "SMART skips bike path in first phase of construction". The Press Democrat. Retrieved 2012-04-01. 
  24. ^ Dick Spotswood (March 25, 2012). "San Rafael's mistake is keeping SMART from reaching Larkspur". Independent-Journal. 
  25. ^ a b Mark Prado (May 20, 2013). "SMART seeks funding for San Rafael to Larkspur train segment". Marin Independent Journal. 
  26. ^ "Funding for SMART Larkspur extension in congressional budget". Retrieved 2016-01-05. 
  27. ^ "PD Editorial: New SMART". Press Democrat. January 26, 2011. Retrieved 2011-12-05. 
  28. ^ 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. 
  29. ^ Dick Spotswood (September 4, 2011). "SMART chief's eye-popping pay package". Marin Independent Journal. Retrieved 2011-12-05. 
  30. ^ Judy Arnold; Valerie Brown (September 3, 2011). "SMART on pay, hiring of new GM". Press Democrat. Retrieved 2011-12-05. 
  31. ^ a b Matt Brown (December 22, 2013). "Sonoma-Marin commuter rail plan chugs along toward 2016 start". The Press Democrat. 
  32. ^ "Sonoma County Ballot Measures". Retrieved 2014-07-21. 
  33. ^ Jim Doyle (November 6, 2008). "North Bay rail plan OKd, BART extension losing". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2011-12-05. 
  34. ^ Ted Appel (November 16, 2011). "SMART authorizes sale of $191 million in bonds". Press Democrat. Retrieved 2011-12-05. 
  35. ^ "SMART progresses on several fronts". Press Democrat. May 30, 2012. 

External links[edit]