SMART train ridership has good start

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Today marks the first official day that the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit system will be operating with full ride fares, and officials throughout the region will be eager to see how many ride the rail system. The train started giving out free rides last week to get riders hooked on the new SMART system that allows passengers to travel from the Sonoma County Airport all the way to San Rafael. 

The cheapest ticket to ride is $3.50 and allows passengers to ride from Rohnert Park to Downtown Petaluma. A trip from the Sonoma County Airport back to campus would cost a regular passenger $7.50 and comes with a free bus ride courtesy from Sonoma County Transit. The Cotati station, which is the closest station to Sonoma State University, is about a 30-minute walk or a 10-minute bike ride to campus. Bikes are welcome on SMART trains, with each two-car train providing spaces for up to 24 bikes.

SMART officials redirected discounts that would be available to college students but, according to the SMART website only discount for students is through the form of an Eco Pass, an unlimited, flat-rate pass available only to employers, colleges or institutions to load onto Clipper cards which as of now Sonoma State has no access to. 

The SMART train’s first six days of paid operations saw weekday ridership that was shy of projections, but weekend traffic that far exceeded target numbers, according to preliminary figures provided to The Press Democrat by Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit.

Officials were full of optimism at the official rail system kick-off in downtown Santa Rosa on Aug. 25.

“The long-awaited day has arrived. We are about to make history here,” said Debora Fudge, mayor of Windsor and chair of the SMART board of directors just minutes before the SMART train’s ribbon-cutting.

In regards to the almost 60 year absence of a rail service in the North Bay, and the nine year wait after voters approved Measure Q to fund the SMART system, Fudge said, “We thank you for your patience.”

Also in attendance at the SMART train ribbon-cutting ceremony was State Sen. Mike McGuire, who spoke on the impact the system will have on greenhouse gas emissions in facing climate change. 

“SMART embodies the bold steps that we have taken as a region and as a state to tackle one of the toughest challenges of our time, and that is climate change,” said McGuire.“ If Washington, D.C. won’t tackle climate change, California will. The biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions is the automobile. And one of the best things that we can do is ditch our cars, watch the brake lights as we travel on the SMART train.”