Tag Archives: SMART

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

Congress on track to approve SMART funding for Larkspur ferry link

Derek Moore, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The planned rail link to a Marin County ferry terminal, envisioned as a key part of a new SMART passenger rail service set to debut in 2016, appears to have secured the funding it needs to advance.

Congress is expected to approve a $1.1 trillion federal spending bill as early as Friday morning that includes $20 million for the rail link from downtown San Rafael to the Larkspur ferry terminal.Officials with the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit authority had been working with regional partners for three years to acquire the federal funding, which adds to $20 million already secured for the Larkspur project through local toll money.

“The extension from San Rafael to Larkspur is going to happen. That’s a big deal for the system,” said Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael.

Connecting rail passengers to regional transportation hubs is a critical component of the SMART project, which initially is set to debut in late 2016 along a 42-mile segment from near the Sonoma County Airport to downtown San Rafael.

Read more at: Congress on track to approve SMART funding for | The Press Democrat

Filed under Sustainable Living, 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

Bay Area’s disjointed public transit network inspires a call for harmony 

Patricia Leigh Brown, THE NEW YORK TIMES

SPUR report transit map

Source: Metropolitan Transportation Commission, SPUR Report

There is much to relish about the Bay Area, from the intoxicating landscape to the blissful lack of humidity.

One thing is not perfect, though: the daunting nature of the region’s public transportation system, a patchwork of more than 20 operators spread across nine counties and 101 municipalities that have yet to spawn a cohesive map.

As housing costs here continue to escalate, with growing numbers of people moving farther afield in search of affordability, the disjointed nature of the region’s transportation fiefs, each with its own fare structures and nomenclature, has become the topic of increasingly intense debate among transportation policy experts.

A study released this year by SPUR, a Bay Area urban planning and policy think tank, encapsulated much of the public frustration on the subject and has been widely discussed on blogs and in public forums, including one at the venerable Commonwealth Club of California.

“Ninety percent of the people in the Bay Area are essentially tourists when it comes to transit,” said Ratna Amin, SPUR’s transportation policy director. “They don’t use it.”

The study recommends a variety of changes, from better trip-planning tools to smoother transfers. But there are roughly two dozen transit agencies in the region, and each operates and plans its system independently, with its own funding sources, which makes any uniform change difficult.

Read more at: Bay Area’s Disjointed Public Transit Network Inspires a Call for Harmony – The New York Times

Filed under Transportation