Tag Archives: commuters

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

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

Commuters find joys, pains of using new SMART rail system 

Robert Digitale, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Five days a week, Wally Walston rides his bike less than 2 miles to the Cotati SMART station and rolls his two-wheeler aboard the train for a 32-minute trip to southern Novato.

In the past month Shaun Ralston has cycled to and from SMART stations in Sonoma and Marin counties. He also has combined his train trips with bus and ferry rides and been shuttled by Lyft, a ride-sharing service paid for by his employer, Sutter Health.

And Sharon Bringel last week said she was going to take her first SMART trip to her job in San Rafael. The decision came after watching a northbound train with a coworker on board zip by her car as it sat stuck in afternoon freeway traffic.

“When she passed us, I said, ‘Okay, we need to at least try this,’” said Bringel, who stopped by the Petaluma station on Thursday with her husband Don to purchase a Clipper Card, the payment method accepted by SMART and other regional transit services.

The Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit agency attracted nearly 53,000 riders in its first three weeks of service, surpassing projections for the period of 46,800 passengers.

The biggest surprise has been the 15,000 weekend patrons, which is more than seven times greater than first anticipated.Even so, the majority of passengers still ride during the week, and interviews with a half-dozen commuters offered overwhelmingly positive reviews.

Read more at: Commuters find joys, pains of using new SMART rail system | The Press Democrat –

Filed under Climate Change & Energy, Transportation

SMART reports higher-than-expected ridership over first three weeks of paid service 

J.D. Morris, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

For more information about SMART schedule and fares, click here.

The first three weeks of operation for the North Bay’s new commuter train showed the rail line has continued to attract weekend riders in far greater numbers than initially anticipated, while the concentration of passengers with bicycles is prompting SMART officials to ponder how they accommodate those commuters going forward.

Trains carried nearly 53,000 passengers in the weeks after paid service began Aug. 26, well beyond the roughly 46,800 passengers the agency projected for that period, Farhad Mansourian, general manager of the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit agency said Wednesday.

More than 15,600 of those riders were on weekends, Mansourian told SMART board, whose members reacted with clear surprise. The agency’s early projections foresaw just 300 daily riders on weekends.

Mansourian, in an interview after the board meeting, said during weekdays, when up to 3,000 daily riders were projected, the agency so far sees “no pattern” for ridership.“Some days are higher, some days are lower,” he said, declining to provide specifics. “Weekdays haven’t settled down yet.”

Read more at: SMART reports higher-than-expected ridership over first three weeks of paid service | The Press Democrat –

Filed under Transportation

Sonoma County adds bus routes designed to serve SMART train users

Derek Moore, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

With the start of North Bay passenger rail service expected to be just around the bend, public transit planners across Sonoma and Marin counties are busy trying to link up connections to the trains.

One of the more recent efforts involves Sonoma County Transit — operator of the county’s bus system — which on Monday unveiled new routes and a number of changes to existing ones to coordinate with Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit trains.

The new “50-series” routes include connections to SMART stations from all corners of the county, as well as two “last-mile” shuttle buses for employees at the Airport Business Park, Kaiser Permanente Medical Center and the county’s administration center. Shuttles also will be available for Santa Rosa Junior College students.

Read more at: Sonoma County adds bus routes designed to serve SMART train users | The Press Democrat

Filed under Transportation

SMART revises passenger rail service after facing criticism 

Derek Moore, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Facing public backlash over its announced schedule for passenger rail service, Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit scrambled to release a revised version Tuesday — one that officials say shortens wait times during peak commute hours, though gaps of an hour or more still exist during some of those periods.

The updated schedule — released less than a week after SMART unveiled the earlier version — still includes 34 trips on weekdays, with the same number of trains. It shortened some 90-minute waits to hourlong gaps and retained 30-minute intervals across most of the peak hours of operation.

The additional arrival and departure times are geared to appeal to more commuters, planned to be the rail line’s key group of users. The new timetable, for example, includes a new 7:30 a.m. southbound departure from downtown Santa Rosa and a new 5:29 p.m. departure northbound from San Rafael.

The adjusted timetable resulted from work over the weekend by SMART officials and representatives of regional transportation agencies following a deluge of complaints since last week on the rail agency’s social media sites. Debora Fudge, SMART’s board chairwoman and the mayor of Windsor, said it became clear that what the rail agency put out originally was not going to work.

Read more at: SMART revises passenger rail service after facing criticism | The Press Democrat

Filed under Transportation

Bike to Work Day just another day for two Santa Rosa men 

Derek Moore, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

May 11 is Bike to Work Day in Sonoma County: Refueling stations will be set up across the county. Click here for more information.

With supplies for his kindergarten class strapped to his bicycle and a pacemaker keeping things orderly in his chest, Steve Bush leaves his home in Santa Rosa’s junior college neighborhood for his morning commute.

The 54-year-old schoolteacher pedals north on Old Redwood Highway before crossing over Highway 101 on Airport Boulevard. The 7-mile journey to Sonoma Country Day School near Windsor is one Bush has made daily for years, rain or shine.

He has few alternatives. About a decade ago, Bush and his wife, Meredith, sold their car. It’s been two-wheels traveling for the couple ever since.

“It’s nice to wake up in the morning with a bike ride and to relieve all the tension in the evening on the way home,” Bush said this week. “It makes my life better.”

Thursday is Bike to Work Day across the Bay Area. But for some, like Bush, it’s just another day to keep doing what they do as a matter of routine and passion.

In recognition of Bush’s dedication, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission named the Santa Rosa man Sonoma County’s bike commuter of the year.

Bush shares the honor with Shaun Ralston, regional program manager for Sutter Health, who cycles to work from his home in the McDonald Avenue area to Sutter’s hospital at Mark West Springs Road, a one-way trip of about 4.5 miles.

Read more at: Bike to Work Day just another day for two Santa Rosa men | The Press Democrat

Filed under Sustainable Living, Transportation

Close to Home: Plans to fix Highway 37 need public support

David Rabbitt, Jake Mackenzie & Susan Gorin, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

To stay informed:

Follow Highway 37 on Facebook: facebook.com/route37/

Sonoma County Transportation Authority documents: http://scta.ca.gov/projects/highway37/

UC Davis Road Ecology Center: https://roadecology.ucdavis.edu/

Highway 37 was closed for nearly half of January. This 21-mile east-west corridor carries 44,000 vehicles each day and provides a critical link for commuters, weekend trips and freight hauling.

The recent news stories and editorial (“A glimpse of Highway 37’s flooded future?” Jan. 26) about flooding, correctly point out that local policymakers are working hard to figure out how to make the much-needed improvements happen quickly. It is not a simple nor easy task, but work is underway.

Two key facts have been established:Initial studies conducted by Caltrans and UC Davis provide preliminary analysis about how sea level rise will impact the corridor. It is dramatic information that shows complete inundation by the end of this century.

Traffic counts and analysis have been conducted to identify who is using the corridor at certain locations. The results show an even split among the four counties, but the direction of travel is very dependent on the time of day, with commuters going west in the morning and east in the evening.

There are five areas where action is underway:

1. Caltrans is pulling together plans and resources to raise the roadway where flooding occurred and pumping was needed.

2. The Metropolitan Transportation Commission has a contract already in place to analyze alternatives for all the problems facing the Highway 37 corridor — traffic congestion, flooding during storm events and other approaches such as bikeways, buses and rail. The $1 million evaluation of design alternatives will be completed in December.

3. Decisions on if and how a proposal to privatize a portion of the roadway — from Sears Point to Mare Island — fits into the solution.

4. Community outreach through public meetings, websites and social media have begun and will ramp up in 2017 as we have more detailed concepts related to environmental impacts, design ideas and funding options.

5. Funding is the most significant challenge. State and federal transportation money will be needed for a project of this size. Estimated costs far exceed $1 billion. And, at the same time, it is not the only large highway project we need to work on. In Sonoma County, we need to finish Highway 101; plus there are important projects on Interstate 80 at 680 in Solano County, on Highway 101 at 580 in Marin County and on Highway 29 in Napa County.

The funding challenge has led to an exploration of charging drivers like a toll bridge. In other corridors where this approach has been used — such as the Golden Gate Bridge — the user fees help provide the funds for improving and maintaining the corridor.

As the three Sonoma County representatives on the four-county policy committee, we ask for your help to find the best solutions.

The authors are members of the State Route 37 Policy Committee. Sonoma County Supervisor David Rabbitt is chairman of the Sonoma County Transportation Authority and chairman of the State Route 37 Policy Committee. Rohnert Park Mayor Jake Mackenzie is incoming chairman of the Metropolitain Transportation Commission and a member of the State Route 37 Policy Committee. Sonoma County Supervisor Susan Gorin is a board member for the Transportation Authority and is also a member of the State Route 37 Policy Committee.

Source: Close to Home: Plans to fix Highway 37 need public support | The Press Democrat

Filed under Transportation

SMART settlement paves way for bike, pedestrian path

Derek Moore, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Cycling advocates say a last-minute agreement hammered out with Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit officials will prioritize a bike and pedestrian path that voters demanded in 2008 when they approved construction of the commuter rail line.

The agreement, brokered by Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, calls for establishing a list of higher priority pathway segments and identifying funding sources for those projects.

Cycling advocates had been threatening to sue SMART over a section of pathway planned in San Rafael, a dispute that more generally speaks to concerns the rail agency is failing to meet its obligations to build the promised network. The agreement, for now, appears to have addressed those concerns.

“Overall, this is a very, very positive development. It increases hope that the path will actually be built,” said Gary Helfrich, executive director of the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition.

Read more at: SMART settlement paves way for bike, pedestrian path | The Press Democrat

Filed under Land Use, Transportation

SF Bay Area commuters make big shift away from cars

Dan Walters, SACRAMENTO BEE

Workers in the San Francisco Bay Area made the nation’s most dramatic shift from commuting via automobile to using alternative transportation between 2006 and 2013, according to a new Census Bureau report.

Commuting by private car in the densely populated region, including carpooling, dropped from 73.6 percent of workers in 2006 to 69.8 percent seven years later, giving it the nation’s third highest level of alternative commuting.

Commuters in the New York City-centered metropolitan area were least likely to use private cars to get to their jobs in 2013, but even so, a majority – 56.9 percent – still did. Ithaca, NY, had the second lowest use of cars, 68.7 percent, followed by the San Francisco Bay Area.

Except for No. 7 Boston and No. 13 Chicago, other regions with relatively low auto commute rates were small communities, many of them dominated by colleges and universities, such a Boulder, Colo., and Corvallis, Ore.

Overall, 76.4 percent of the nation’s workers drove alone to get to work in 2013, the Census Bureau’s survey found, followed by those who carpooled, 9.4 percent; used public transit, 5.2 percent; worked at home, 4.4 percent; walked, 2.8 percent; or used “other means of travel,” 1.3 percent.

Bicycling was the least popular method of commuting, used by just six-tenths of one percent of workers.The Census Bureau report did not include a state-by-state breakdown of commuting modes, but a 2006 report by the Public Policy Institute of California said that 71.8 percent of California commuters drove alone to their jobs. Including carpools, California’s auto commuting rate was 86.4 percent, 1.5 percentage points below the national rate.

The PPIC report said that San Francisco alone, excluding the rest of the Bay Area, by far, had the lowest rate of auto commuting, with just 40.5 of it workers driving alone. With carpooling, San Francisco’s rate climbed to 51.3 percent.In Los Angeles, meanwhile, 85.5 percent of workers commuted by private car, either alone or with others, roughly the same rate as the state as a whole.

Source: SF Bay Area commuters make big shift away from cars | The Sacramento Bee

Filed under Transportation