SMART trains to debut with free rides for all

Rides on the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit train will be free through July 4 and half-price through Labor Day, SMART’s Board of Directors announced Thursday.

Train service between Airport Boulevard and San Rafael is scheduled to begin in late spring, and regular fares will kick in on Sept. 5, SMART spokeswoman Jeanne Mariani-Belding said in a news release.

SMART’s Board of Directors also approved a monthly 31-day pass with unlimited use for $200. Seniors, youth ages 5-18 and passengers with disabilities will get a 50-percent discount on the monthly pass.

Windsor Mayor Debora Fudge, who was selected Chair of the SMART’s Board of Directors, said the Board is looking forward to offering the new, limited-time free rides:

“Once people experience what the SMART train has to offer — a safe and congestion-free transportation option — we’re confident they’ll get on board.”

SMART fares are based on the distance riders travel. The regular one-way fare is $3.50 plus $2 for each additional zone traveled. The one-way fare between Santa Rosa North and San Rafael would be $9.50, and the daily maximum for all trips on SMART would be $23. The half-price discounts for seniors, youth and people with disabilities still apply.

Voters in both counties approved a quarter-cent sales tax in 2008 for the 72-mile train, and bike and pedestrian path project between Cloverdale and Larkspur. The project was scaled back to the 43-mile Santa Rosa-San Rafael segment because of revenue shortfalls. SMART hopes to get the train to Larkspur then to Windsor and ultimately Cloverdale in the near future.

2016 was a rough year for SMART. The train was supposed to be running between Santa Rosa and San Rafael in December 2016, but a flaw in the crankshaft of the trains’ diesel engines pushed the proposed start date into Spring 2017.

The District also said it needed more time to test the warning devices at the 63 grade crossings along the 43-mile route.

Residents living near the rail line also complained about the train’s loud horn during the frequent tests at the grade crossings.

Several city councils in the two counties say they want to explore establishing quiet zones that limit the use of the horns at the crossings unless there is someone or something on the tracks or the crossing gates malfunction.