SMART Celebrates Larkspur Extension
Tomorrow, Saturday, regular service begins... with more frequent service to come
Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) held a ceremony today marking the completion of a 2.1-mile extension from San Rafael to Larkspur. Regular service begins Saturday/tomorrow. That brings the entire length of SMART up to 45.1 miles.
As Ray Tellis, Regional Administrator for the Federal Transit Administration, put it at the event, “It’s a mighty two miles.” That’s because, for an additional $54 million, it finally connects the train to the Golden Gate ferry service to San Francisco, giving the people of the North Bay their first traffic-free option to the rest of the Bay Area in over a half-century.
From the agency’s release on the extension:
The Larkspur station will also serve as a gateway for tourists wishing to visit Marin and Sonoma counties. SMART will be working with business leaders to attract visitors to travel by train for tourism and recreation to the beautiful North Bay.
An interim schedule goes into effect tomorrow/Saturday. You can access it here. A new schedule, with more frequent service, will go into effect in January. “The new 2020 service timetable is part of a coordinated effort with regional transit agencies to offer more efficient connections to the Larkspur ferry and bus service throughout Sonoma and Marin counties,” according to an official release from SMART. “Additionally, the increased frequency of trains will allow SMART to carry more passengers during peak commute hours and offer earlier train service on weekends.”
The event featured a dozen public officials, including Congressman Jared Huffman and the mayors of cities along the route. “This is the culmination of the work of hundreds of public servants,” said Gary Phillips, Chair of the SMART board of directors and Mayor of San Rafael. He also said the system will begin running through San Rafael under “quiet zone” status, meaning it won’t always have to blow its horns. “Welcome to Larkspur, the beginning of the line, not the end of the line,” said Catherine Way, Mayor of Larkspur. She boasted about the shopping centers and restaurants near the station.
Kevin Haroff, Vice Mayor of Larkspur, said he wouldn’t be opposed to extending SMART a little bit further, directly to downtown Larkspur. “But there’s a problem and it’s called money,” he said, adding that every time the subject comes up, the cost of bridging Corte Madera Creek ends the conversation.
Interested members of the public were also in attendance. Matt Weeder biked his electric-assist bike from Mill Valley, with his baby in the front. He’d like to see more SMART service, including to Mill Valley itself. “That would be amazing,” he said. He also wants to see more and safer bike paths connecting to the train.
“This is truly an exciting moment,” said Damon Connolly of the Marin County Board of Supervisors, in his address to the crowd. Connolly said he wants people to fight to extend the County’s half-cent sales tax for transportation so there can be more SMART service. “As a champion of multi-modal projects,” he said he wants more integration of rail and non-motorized transportation.
Brett Thurber, co-owner of the Newheel electric bike company, bristled at that. Connolly, a hit-and-run drunk driver, is also leading an effort to turn the newly opened bike path on the Richmond-San Rafael bridge into a motor-vehicle lane. “It takes 25 minutes from here to BART at Richmond by e-bike,” he said, adding that “it’s really frustrating” to hear Connolly talking about championing multi-modal connections while he’s doing exactly the opposite on the only bike connection to the East Bay.
Meanwhile, the celebratory events continued at the nearby Marin County Mart.
The next extension of SMART will be on the northern end of the line to Windsor, which is expected to be completed by 2021. After that, it will head east to connect to Amtrak’s statewide services, according to Chad Edison, Deputy Secretary of the California State Transportation Agency. “This is the spunky railroad that keeps on going,” he said.
SMART will hold a second ribbon cutting tomorrow/Saturday at the new station in downtown Novato (between Novato Hamilton and Novato San Marin stations).
More pics of the Larkspur event/station below: