A Look Back
The Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) system has seen significant progress in its bid to provide efficient and eco-friendly transportation solutions for the region’s inhabitants. Since its inception, the rail system has achieved remarkable milestones, including extending its reach and enhancing connectivity.
The significant accomplishment of extending the rail service to Larkspur marked a pinnacle in SMART’s ongoing efforts to improve and expand. This milestone highlighted the potential of SMART to seamlessly integrate towns and cities within the region.
Bridging Communities: SMART’s prior commitments, like the separated bike lane on Rowland Boulevard completed by Novato and the path segments between Rice Drive and Second Street finished in 2019 and 2020 by San Rafael and SMART, have continually worked towards making the region more connected and accessible.
This year, there’s a renewed sense of energy and enthusiasm for what the future holds:
Pathway Projects: The train system isn’t just about carriages and tracks. SMART’s vision extends to the bicycle and pedestrian paths that run alongside it. This summer will witness the inception of a $4.5 million project to close a gap in the bicycle and pedestrian path in northern San Rafael. Not only will this connect neighborhoods to the parks and the Civic Center train station, but the introduction of a new pedestrian bridge over Las Gallinas Creek is also a testament to SMART’s commitment to holistic urban mobility.
Financial Planning: SMART’s proposed budget reflects its commitment to pushing forward with growth. The $110 million earmarked for the 2023-2024 fiscal year is a notable jump from this fiscal year’s projected $77 million. A majority of this increase ($41.6 million) is allocated for imminent rail and path construction projects.
The Future Vision
While celebrating its past and being keenly engaged in the present, SMART has an eye on the future:
Extensions on the Horizon: The train line’s vision of a 70-mile rail line from Larkspur to Cloverdale is getting closer to realization. With the Windsor extension about 30% complete, SMART is actively sourcing funds to ensure its completion by 2025. Beyond Windsor, the goal to stretch to Healdsburg is also well underway with $78 million already secured.
Boosting Ridership: A reflection of its success, SMART’s general manager, Eddy Cumins, has set ambitious targets to not just match but surpass pre-COVID ridership numbers. The aspiration is to elevate the annual ridership to 717,000, a goal rooted in optimism backed by recent performance.
Expanding Scope: Beyond passengers, SMART also recognizes the importance of freight, even though there are financial challenges in this segment. The agency’s efforts to seek flexibility in using state grant funds and exploring ways to secure new freight customers underscore its commitment to ensuring the freight line’s viability.
In conclusion, the SMART system, in its drive to connect communities and offer sustainable transport solutions, continues to evolve. The past achievements set a solid foundation, the present projects showcase its commitment, and the future promises innovations that will further reshape the transportation landscape of the Sonoma-Marin area.