Kevin Fixler, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
“We need to look at how we’re going to make our train public transit for everybody, because I think it is not affordable for some people,” said Sonoma County Supervisor Shirlee Zane, who has served on the SMART board for nine years. “We’re seeing that our numbers are still primarily white men working at good paying jobs who can afford the fares. I do want to talk about diversity in terms of ridership and what we’re doing to achieve that.”
The North Bay’s commuter rail service has been in operation for a year and a half, with a stable ridership, slightly higher-than-expected fare revenues, and work continuing on extension of the line to its southern terminus in Larkspur.
But a key dilemma remains unaddressed: How to diversify its passenger base beyond the current set of predominantly white, well-off riders?
Some board members of the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit agency last year publicly speculated on whether system’s pricing structure was impacting the makeup of riders, serving as a detractor for low-income commuters.
The SMART board had previously committed to re-evaluating the fare structure after the first year of operations. But now 18 months since it began service, the agency has yet to bring the matter forward for a public discussion.
Farhad Mansourian, SMART’s general manager, has been noncommittal this year and last on when exactly that step would come.