Clark Mason, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Healdsburg is on the verge of becoming the first city in Sonoma County to offer a bike-share program to make it easier for people to get around on two wheels.
Described as a fun, low-cost, low-impact transportation alternative, the program was given the green light this week by the City Council.
The 30 short-term rental bikes spread among five “docking stations” is targeted at residents and workers for short trips, not tourists who want to head out to nearby valleys for scenery and wineries.
It’s envisioned for use by employees who might park at the train depot and take a bike into downtown, or for those who might want to use a bike to go to lunch from their workplace to the Healdsburg Plaza.
Vice-mayor Brigette Mansell described it as a “culture shift,” and a way to get people out of cars.
Read more at: Bike-share program coming to Healdsburg | The Press Democrat
Casey Tolan and Katy Murphy, THE MERCURY NEWS
The grant had divided California’s congressional delegation. Republicans opposed it, arguing it would help the state’s high-speed rail project while Democrats vocally supported the grant.
In a stunning reversal, the Federal Transit Administration said Monday that it will approve a $647 million grant to electrify Caltrain tracks, nearly doubling capacity on the overburdened San Jose to San Francisco commute route.
The approval comes after months of delays and worries by Caltrain officials and Bay Area leaders that the Trump administration would cancel the grant. If the funding hadn’t been approved by June 30, the $2 billion track electrification project would have lost key construction contracts.
The electrification work will mean faster and more reliable trains on a 51-mile stretch of the Caltrain corridor along the Peninsula, offering more than 110,000 rides per day, up from 60,000. The project will also create 10,000 jobs in California and around the country. The first electric trains are expected to be in service by early 2021, if not sooner, and construction on the project should start in 60 to 90 days.
“This news, quite clearly, is electrifying,” said Silicon Valley Leadership Group CEO Carl Guardino. “This is all the major holidays wrapped into one with a beautiful Caltrain bow around it.”
Bay Area officials have been advocating for the electrification project for decades, and the federal grant was near its final approval under the Obama administration. But after Donald Trump took office, Transportation Sec. Elaine Chao declined to sign off on it.
Read more at: Caltrain electrification grant approved by feds
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
Juliet Eilperin, THE WASHINGTON POST
The railway shuttles 65,000 people a day between San Francisco and San Jose, its cars crammed with Silicon Valley workers tapping on sleek laptops and hoisting bikes into designated cars. But the signs of aging are unmistakable — 1980s control panels devoid of digital technology, the dusting of sea-green foam that has escaped from the seat cushions and settled on the floor.
All of that was supposed to change with the launch of a $2 billion upgrade, underwritten in part by a $647 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration approved days before President Barack Obama left office. But then the Trump administration arrived, and within a month the FTA informed Caltrain that it was “deferring a decision.”
The delay has infuriated California officials, who had hoped the long-awaited project would mesh nicely with President Trump’s call for fresh spending on the nation’s aging infrastructure. But in this era of distrust and polarization, an otherwise popular initiative has become a GOP target, seen as a pet project of the former president.
The move to shelve the grant is reverberating far beyond the Golden State, alarming officials in cities across the nation. The White House wants to slice nearly $1 billion from the transportation budget this year, with the cuts aimed primarily at urban transit projects such as the Purple Line in Maryland’s Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.
Read more at: Though shovels are ready, Trump officials delay grant for Caltrain upgrade – The Washington Post
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
Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
If approved by the City Council next month, the changes would likely take place in November, [city transit planner Rachel Ede] said.
Santa Rosa hopes to boost flagging bus ridership numbers by making its CityBus service faster and more convenient along the city’s busiest corridors.
But it also wants to maintain a system that offers convenient service for residents across the city, including lower-density neighborhoods.
Just how daunting a challenge it is to strike a balance between those two goals became clear Tuesday when city officials unveiled their nearly complete plan to revamp the city’s bus routes.
Bus riders, many of whom rely on bus service as their primary source of transportation, are distressed by some of the changes.
Click here for ReImagine CityBus final recommendations
Read more at: Santa Rosa unveils plan to revamp city’s bus routes | The Press Democrat
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