Category Archives: Transportation

Bikes for fire victims

Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition

For many kids and adults, a bike is an important mode of transportation and/or recreation. A number of organizations have been working to obtain donated new and/or used bicycles for North Bay Fire Victims, and recently began launching their programs to distribute bicycles to individuals and families in need.  We hope that helping get bikes into the hands of those who lost so much will bring some joy and a sense of normalcy to the thousands of  families affected by this disaster.

Check this page for a list of bike giveaway programs: http://www.bikesonoma.org/bikes-for-fire-victims/

Filed under Transportation

Proposed Sonoma-Marin program envisions 200-bike fleet at SMART train stations

Kevin Fixler, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Plans are underway for the North Bay’s new commuter rail system to be outfitted with as many as 200 bicycles for use by SMART riders getting to and from stations and their final destinations.

A joint proposal by Sonoma and Marin counties netted more than $800,000 in grant funding last month from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. Once the money is disbursed, it will help launch the first large-scale, taxpayer-funded bike share program in the region — at train stops in Santa Rosa, Rohnert Park, Cotati and Petaluma, as well as Novato, San Rafael and the eventual Larkspur station now under construction.

The financial boost comes as SMART, now into its fourth month of operation between Santa Rosa and San Rafael, faces an unexpected surge in riders bringing their bikes aboard, straining space on some trains. The bike share program, which if everything goes smoothly will be ready in mid-2019, could help ease that crunch, according to local transportation planners.

“The direction that we’re looking at is really to add another first- and last-mile solution between SMART and nearby destinations,” said Dana Turrey, a planner with the Sonoma County Transportation Authority. “There’s been a larger number of bicycles trying to get on the trains than was expected, so we’re really seeing this as another way to get back and forth to and from the train and on short trips without using a car.”

Read more at: Proposed Sonoma-Marin program envisions 200-bike fleet at SMART train stations

Filed under Transportation

Ferries, trains and automobiles: a somewhat SMART way for Sonoma County to do a weekend in San Francisco

Robert Digitale, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

I love train travel. I’m no expert on the viability of SMART, but I can tell you I won’t soon forget that ride. After passing Rohnert Park, we looked out on a thin ribbon of clouds just below the thickets of oak that crown the eastern mountains. Between Petaluma and Novato, we passed among wetlands where birds great and small hovered and glided over and dipped into shallow green waters. Along the route we saw vineyards and ranchettes, farms and grazing lands — most of them unseen from the freeway to our west, and all of them beheld from a fresh vista.

Call me crazy, but for the past year I’d wanted to take the SMART train and Golden Gate ferry to San Francisco.

Readers may remember that last year I wrote about traveling there with my wife, Carol, cruising by motor scooter along the back roads of Sonoma and Marin counties and across the Golden Gate Bridge. We had loved that adventure, and we were ready to try yet another way to get to “Baghdad-by-the-Bay”, as famed newspaper columnist Herb Caen used to call his town.

The wildfires that struck Oct. 9 didn’t change our plans, especially when our home remained safe and the threats of evacuation had passed. If anything, by the third weekend of October I was all the more ready for a break after two weeks of breathing smoke and covering stories in the ashes of Santa Rosa’s Coffey Park neighborhood.

For anyone contemplating a “weekender” jaunt away from Sonoma County — for a Giants game, a concert, a bright-lights-big-city event — what we found venturing forth suggests both potential and some limitations of today’s North Bay public transit system.

We set out on a Friday morning for my maiden passage on SMART. The first challenge we faced was getting to the station. For that, I pulled out my smart phone and opened the Lyft ridesharing app. I’m not tech savvy, but I easily managed to request a ride. Within seven minutes we were seated in the back of a Kia sedan and on our way to the downtown Santa Rosa station. Cost: $11.96.

After stopping for a tasty hot chocolate at nearby Aroma Roasters, we walked past the historic stone train depot and climbed the platform. There we discovered that SMART was offering free rides that day due to the fires (normally the cost is $9.50 to San Rafael using a Clipper Card, which is accepted by all forms of public transportation in this story). A few minutes later the 8:31 a.m. train rolled up, and a highlight of our journey began.

Read more at: Ferries, trains and automobiles: a somewhat SMART way for Sonoma County to do a weekend in San Francisco

Filed under Sustainable Living, Transportation

SMART eyes eastbound rail extension toward Solano County

Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Up and running for less than three months on a portion of its planned 70-mile route, the North Bay’s new commuter rail line is pursuing a plan to branch out to Solano County, where it would connect with the national rail system running from coast to coast.

The Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit system already owns 25 miles of track from Novato to the north end of Vallejo and would acquire use of the tracks from there to an Amtrak station at Suisun City.

“You gotta have a vision so you can get places,” said Farhad Mansourian, SMART general manager. At Suisun City, North Bay passengers could “go anywhere in the country,” he said.

The proposed extension, known as the Novato-Solano Hub, is included in the 2018 California State Rail Plan drafted by Caltrans as a blueprint for boosting ridership on the statewide rail and bus system from 110,000 daily trips currently to more than 1.3 million daily trips by 2040.

Read more at: SMART eyes eastbound rail extension toward Solano County

Filed under Transportation

Trails Council sustains hardy volunteer corps for Sonoma County Regional Parks 

Glen Martin, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Sonoma County Trails Council

If you’ve hiked a newly built or reconstructed trail in one of Sonoma County’s regional parks, there’s a good chance Ken Wells had a hand in it.

Wells, director of the Sonoma County Trails Council, a key partner for the county park agency, is a connoisseur of the grunt work that goes into carving paths for hikers, bikers and horse riders in rugged terrain.He has been toiling in one capacity or another for the trails group for 25 years, building trails, supervising crews and goading people into volunteering for local parks.

“Most of my work consists of putting people together with projects that need doing,” said Wells, 63.

At one time, such public park maintenance was carried out by government crews — county, state or federal. These days, much of the burden falls on volunteers. And that’s not such a bad thing, said Wells, who thinks that support for regional parks has grown because local people are more heavily invested in stewardship.Indeed, most if not all of the park trail work in Sonoma County occurs either under the direct auspices or with the support of the Trails Council, which is also marking its 50th anniversary this year. Council crews regularly labor at Helen Putnam and Taylor Mountain Regional Parks, putting in new trail segments and rehabilitating existing ones. Overall, more than 150 miles of trail traverse county parks, with dozens of additional miles planned for existing and future sites.

Read more at: Trails Council sustains hardy volunteer corps for Sonoma County Regional Parks | The Press Democrat –

Filed under Sustainable Living, Transportation

SMART confronts crush of bike-toting commuters

J.D. Morris, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The North Bay’s new commuter rail line is proving popular among commuters with bicycles — so popular that SMART officials may eventually adjust the way they run trains to better accommodate passengers who bring their wheels on board.

Throughout September, SMART’s first full month of operations, trains usually carried about 250 to 300 bicycles daily on weekdays, and less than 100 daily on weekends, according to figures recently provided by the transit agency.

Those numbers scrambled expectations of some Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit leaders who thought more bicyclists would ride on the weekends and more commuters would choose to leave their bikes behind before hopping on a train.

“There are way more people riding their bikes than I expected,” said Deb Fudge, Windsor mayor and the chairwoman of SMART’s board of directors. “That’s a good thing. That’s exactly what we’re trying to do in Sonoma County, is get people out of cars. And they’re doing it. And they’re getting to the stations lots of different ways.”

Fudge expected to see more people use the system’s bike lockers, available at all 10 stations. But many of those lockers have sat empty as more commuters instead brought their bikes to use trains.

Read more at: SMART confronts crush of bike-toting commuters | The Press Democrat –

Filed under Transportation

Santa Rosa, Petaluma buses free for SRJC students

Staff, PETALUMA ARGUS-COURIER

Santa Rosa Junior College students can now ride any bus line, any time for free on Santa Rosa CityBus, Petaluma Transit, and Sonoma County Transit. SRJC students simply show their validated SRJC CubCard to the bus driver when boarding a bus, and they are set to go. SRJC students ride free for travel anywhere in Sonoma County, not just for trips to and from campus.

Riding the bus is a sustainable transportation alternative that improves health, saves money and helps the environment. SRJC’s Associated Students recognize the importance of sustainable transportation alternatives and voted in favor of assessing themselves a transportation fee to support this free-fare program. The SRJC transportation fee, in combination with individual transit agency funding, will cover the cost of providing these free and unlimited bus rides.

Read more at: Santa Rosa, Petaluma buses free for SRJC students | Petaluma Argus Courier | Petaluma360.com

Filed under Sustainable Living, Transportation

California lawmaker wants to ban gas car sales after 2040

Alexei Koseff, THE SACRAMENTO BEE

France and the United Kingdom are doing it. So is India. And now one lawmaker would like California to follow their lead in phasing out gasoline- and diesel-fueled vehicles.

When the Legislature returns in January, Assemblyman Phil Ting plans to introduce a bill that would ban the sale of new cars powered by internal-combustion engines after 2040. The San Francisco Democrat said it’s essential to get California drivers into an electric fleet if the state is going to meet its greenhouse gas reduction targets, since the transportation sector accounts for more than a third of all emissions.

“The market is moving this way. The entire world is moving this way,” Ting said. “At some point you need to set a goal and put a line in the sand.”

California already committed five years ago to putting 1.5 million “zero-emission vehicles,” such as electric cars and plug-in hybrids, on the road by 2025. By that time, the state wants these cleaner models to account for 15 percent of all new car sales.

But progress has been modest so far, as consumers wait for prices to drop and battery ranges to improve, or opt for large trucks and SUVs that are not available among electric offerings. Slightly more than 300,000 zero-emission vehicles have now been sold in California, and they accounted for just under 5 percent of new car sales in the state in the first half of the year.

Read more at: Ban on gas car sales proposed by California lawmaker | The Sacramento Bee

Filed under Climate Change & Energy, Transportation

California Air Resources Board eyes future ban on gas-powered engines 

Dale Kasler and Ryan Sabalow, THE SACRAMENTO BEE

Get ready to scrap your gas guzzler. And your gas sipper, too.California’s chief air-pollution regulator said this week the state is considering a ban on cars fueled by internal-combustion engines.

While the ban would be at least a decade away, Mary Nichols, the chairwoman of the California Air Resources Board, said putting California motorists in an all-electric fleet would help the state meet its ambitious targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Tailpipes generate more than one-third of all greenhouse gases, according to state data, and so far only a small fraction of California’s motorists drive electric vehicles.

Nichols made the comment in an interview with Bloomberg news, saying Gov. Jerry Brown has been asking her about a ban on gas- and diesel-powered cars announced recently by China.

“I’ve gotten messages from the governor asking, ‘Why haven’t we done something already?’ The governor has certainly indicated an interest in why China can do this and not California,” Nichols told Bloomberg.

Chinese leaders said earlier this month they plan to phase out internal-combustion cars at some point, although they haven’t set a date. The United Kingdom and France said in July they would ban such vehicles by 2040.

Read more at: California Air Resources Board eyes future ban on gas-powered engines | The Sacramento Bee

Filed under Climate Change & Energy, Transportation

Op-Ed: Rebuild State Route 37 to address sea level rise and traffic 

Fraser Shilling and Steven Moore, SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE

State Route 37 — which snakes across Solano, Napa, Sonoma and Marin counties in Northern California — is living on borrowed time.

At times, the highway appears to be impassable because of the 44,000-plus vehicles that travel portions of it every day. However, the effects of climate change will render this critical northern Bay Area crossing absolutely impassable during high tides unless we collaborate regionally on the best way to balance traffic needs and the valuable wetlands the roadway straddles.

The societal challenge we face is adapting to environmental changes in a resilient way while being ecologically sustainable. In the Bay Area, rebuilding State Route 37 to avoid its potential loss in the next 20 years because of flooding will be our first regional foray into adapting to sea level rise — an issue that will threaten most of our shoreline infrastructure, coastal ecosystems and population centers.

State Route 37 provides a critical “northern crossing” of the San Pablo Bay as it stretches from Interstate 80 in the east, to Highway 101 in the west, serving local residents, commuters and visitors, as well as freight haulers traveling between the Central Valley and the Santa Rosa area. Today the highway is built atop a berm, an outdated method of building roads across marshes and waterways that constricts the ability of the bay to improve water quality by filtering out pollutants, produce more fish and wildlife, and absorb floods.

The temptation may be to work on a quick, easy fix that reduces traffic congestion while ignoring long-term consequences. These consequences include traffic congestion returning to current levels in a few years, and the San Pablo Bay tidal marshes being cut off from the life-giving ebb and flow of the tides.

Read more at: Rebuild State Route 37 to address sea level rise and traffic – San Francisco Chronicle

Filed under Climate Change & Energy, Transportation, Water, Wildlife