Tag Archives: SMART

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

North Bay bike share program seeks $1 million grant 

Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Getting to and from local rail stations could one day be as easy as riding a bike if Sonoma and Marin counties win a $1 million grant to set up a regional bike sharing program.

Transportation planners from both counties are hoping that funding from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission will allow them to build a network of about 180 rentable bicycles.

The bikes are viewed not only as a way to help people shift to a low-impact form of transportation, but also to make it easier for Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit riders to get from rail stations to their next destination.

“Bike share programs offer the option for that last mile that makes transportation trips even more appealing,” said Suzanne Smith, executive director of the Sonoma County Transportation Authority.

The SCTA and its counterpart to the south, the Transportation Authority of Marin, are jointly applying for about half of the approximately $2 million the MTC has made available for such programs in suburban areas, said Derek McGill, planning manager for the Transportation Authority of Marin.

While bike share programs have been very effective in urban areas, there is interest in seeing if they can be successfully rolled out in smaller cities, McGill said.

Read more at: North Bay bike share program seeks $1 million grant | 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

SMART to build second commuter rail station in Petaluma

Matt Brown, PETALUMA ARGUS-COURIER

A deal stuck last month between commuter and freight rail agencies could lead to the development of an east Petaluma rail station and a downtown mixed use project.

The Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit authority, which is preparing to launch commuter train service from Santa Rosa to San Rafael later this year, reached the deal with the North Coast Railroad Authority, which operates freight trains on the same stretch of tracks.

As part of the sweeping operating agreement, the NCRA agreed to vacate the downtown rail yard adjacent to the train station on Lakeville Street. NCRA had an easement to park freight trains on the property, complicating SMART’s efforts to develop the land.

“It’s a positive step and a victory for Petaluma,”said Supervisor David Rabbitt, a SMART board member. “It does clear the way for things to move forward.”

With NCRA ceding its interest in the property, SMART is now free to pursue a deal with a developer to sell the downtown land in exchange for construction of a second Petaluma commuter rail platform at Corona Road. The long envisioned second station was promised to voters who approved the commuter rail agency in 2008, but was removed from the initial plans as the agency faced budget uncertainty during the recession.

Read more at: SMART deal could lead to second Petaluma station | Petaluma Argus Courier | Petaluma360.com

Filed under Land Use, Transportation

SMART prevents more deliveries of gas-filled cars to Schellville 

Derek Moore, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit Authority prevented a North Coast freight operator from delivering a dozen more rail cars filled with an estimated 396,000 gallons of flammable gas to a storage site south of Sonoma, escalating tensions between the rail agencies.

The squabble is increasing uncertainty for freight customers along the Highway 101 corridor, where Northwestern Pacific Railroad delivers the bulk of malt barley to Petaluma’s Lagunitas Brewing Co., along with grain feed and lumber to several other local companies.

The dispute centers on Northwestern Pacific’s storage of millions of gallons of liquefied petroleum gas in a dairy pasture in Schellville.

On Sunday, SMART denied Northwestern Pacific’s request to transport 18 rail cars, including 12 filled with gas and 6 loaded with grains, from American Canyon to Schellville, where the freight operator already is storing 80 rail cars filled with 2.6 million gallons of liquefied petroleum gas.

In response, Northwestern Pacific was planning to file a petition Tuesday with the federal Surface Transportation Board seeking an emergency order allowing transport and storage of the hazardous material.“SMART basically is not the freight police,” said Mitch Stogner, executive director of the North Coast Railroad Authority, the public agency that oversees freight service on the line.

SMART officials contend the gas tankers represent a major public safety threat, and that the rail agency has the authority to restrict shipments and storage of such materials along its right-of-way.

Read more at: SMART prevents more deliveries of gas-filled cars to Schellville | The Press Democrat

Filed under Climate Change & Energy, Transportation

SMART seeks input on bike parking planned at train stations 

Derek Moore, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

View the report here. Input on where there should be more bike parking scan be submitted to LMeckel@SonomaMarinTrain.org.

In the not-too-distant future, the phrase “bike-to-train” will be introduced to the North Coast lexicon for the first time.

But as the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit Authority ramps up for the start of passenger service later this year, there are concerns whether the rail agency has enough parking for those who will get to and from stations on two wheels.

Under current plans, SMART will offer parking for up to 100 bikes along the entire 43-mile route extending from north Santa Rosa to downtown San Rafael. Each of the 10 train stations will have five inverted “U-racks,” with each rack accommodating two bikes, a total of 10 bikes per station.

SMART released a draft plan about 10 days ago outlining the need for additional bike parking. But some SMART board members, as well as cycling advocates, fear those proposed upgrades won’t happen in time to meet initial demand.

“We feel that it’s critically important that what’s proposed in the investment plan is on the ground at the start of train service,” said Alisha O’Loughlin, executive director of the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition.

Read more at: SMART seeks input on bike parking planned at train stations | The Press Democrat

Filed under Transportation

Railroad Square development draws support, questions 

Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Affordable housing and parking emerged Monday as two key issues that the developer of an $85 million Railroad Square project will need to carefully navigate to win approval from city officials and the transportation agency that owns the Santa Rosa property.

The first public hearing on the plan by Santa Clara-based ROEM Corp. to build 268 units of housing, retail shops and a public plaza on 5.4 vacant acres west of the city’s downtown rail station featured plenty of praise for the proposal.

“What you’ve put before us is what this community has been looking for for a long time,” Santa Rosa City Councilman Chris Coursey said.

But it was also clear debates that bogged down previous efforts to develop the site are already re-emerging, potentially threatening swift approval of the project.

How many units of affordable housing would be included in the project? How affordable would those units be? How much would the city or county be asked to subsidize construction of those units? All were questions raised but left unanswered during Monday morning’s well-attended presentation at City Hall.

Read more at: Railroad Square development draws support, questions | The Press Democrat

Filed under Land Use, Sustainable Living

SMART line revives plan for transit village hub in Santa Rosa

For more than a decade, the leaders of Sonoma County’s largest city have dreamed of transforming a cluster of vacant properties along the railroad tracks in downtown Santa Rosa into a vital new village filled with people opting for lower-impact urban living.

Time after time, proposals to develop the western side of Railroad Square have fallen apart, victims of political infighting, neighborhood opposition and economic slumps.

But the impending arrival of a $428 million regional rail system is breathing new life into efforts to create high-density housing around the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit platform in Railroad Square.

SMART has narrowed its search for a development partner as it prepares to start trains rolling through Santa Rosa later this year. Next month, SMART and the finalist in its quest for a development partner will present a detailed plan to build out the property.

As early as next summer, construction could get underway on a complex of market-rate and affordable apartments, retail spaces focused on food and wine, and a public plaza on a 5.4-acre site just west of the Railroad Square station.

Read more at: SMART line revives plan for transit village hub in Santa Rosa

Filed under Land Use, Sustainable Living, Transportation

Construction to start on SMART bike, pedestrian path

Staff, NORTH BAY BUSINESS JOURNAL

The Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit District, or SMART, received federal environmental clearance on April 6 for a portion of the planned bicycle and pedestrian pathway, stretching from north San Rafael to north Santa Rosa.

The 36-mile portion of the path from the San Rafael Civic Center Station to the Santa Rosa North Station near Charles M. Schulz–Sonoma County Airport cleared National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, review.

The Petaluma-based transit agency said this federal green light is one of the most significant environmental approvals to advance bicycle and pedestrian projects in the Bay Area. It also makes the approved portion of the path eligible for federal funding, the train authority said.

Read more at: Construction to start on SMART bike, pedestrian path | North Bay Business Journal

Filed under Transportation

Santa Rosa SMART Jennings Avenue Railway Crossing

Teri Shore, GREENBELT ALLIANCE

On February 1 at a public hearing in Santa Rosa, a standing room only crowd of about 100 neighbors, advocates, and elected officials came together to speak out in favor of a safe at-grade crossing over the SMART tracks at Jennings Avenue for walkers and bicyclists. No one spoke against the City of Santa Rosa’s application to build the at-grade crossing.

The hearing held at Helen Lehman School was convened by an administrative law judge for the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), which claims that a super-sized bridge over the railway is the only solution. A final decision won’t be made until later this year, perhaps too late to build the crossing before the SMART commuter service starts running in December.

The CPUC recently blocked off the historic railroad crossing at Jennings, forcing people to walk or bike an extra half mile each way along busy thoroughfares such as Guerneville Road, where “you can reach out and touch cars going by” according to Janet Barocco, a 16-year resident of Jennings Avenue.

Before it was blocked off, as many as 91 people and 25 bicyclists a day typically crossed the tracks here, according to the City of Santa Rosa. Now they must walk another 15 to 30 minutes or get into cars. The CPUC claims that some 170 elementary students who go to school nearby might cross the tracks at Jennings if the at-grade crossing is permitted.

Read more at: Santa Rosa SMART Jennings Avenue Railway Crossing

Filed under Transportation