Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) is a plan to restore rail service on former Northwestern Pacific ROW between Cloverdale in Sonoma County and Larkspur in Marin County. SMART will serve all the communities on the ROW between these cities. It will connect to Santa Rosa CityBus, Sonoma County Transit, Petaluma Transit, and Mendicino County MTA in Sonoma County, and Golden Gate Transit Buses in Marin County as well as High-Speed Ferries to San Francisco at Larkspur.
BayRail Alliance backs SMART, because it will provide a fast alternative for commuters going between Sonoma and Marin Counties, as well as to San Fancisco on the congested US-101 Corridor. Both Marin and Sonoma Counties have considered widening US-101 and adding carpool lanes within Sonoma County, but also at “Novato Narrows” in both counties. We prefer to see SMART instead.
The rail corridor that SMART will use can be seem from various locations in Marin and Sonoma Counties, including the Transit Center in Downtown San Rafael, along Highway 101 in Novato, and at the Historic Northwestern Pacific Depots in Downtown Petaluma and Santa Rosa.
SMART will use diesel multiple units instead of locomotive hauled trains. The DMUs will be FRA compliant (similar to the WES Commuter Rail south of Portland) and will have level boarding via high platforms. With rolling stock being FRA compliant, freight trains will be able to share tracks with passenger trains at the same time and will not be restricted to night operation. However gauntlet tracks will be installed at stations because the high platforms for SMART trains will not provide the legal clearance needed for freight trains.
After the passage of Measure Q sales tax in 2008, SMART began final planning to prepare for construction. However, with the reduction of sales tax revenue, the initial project was reduced from Larkspur – Cloverdale to Downtown San Rafael – Santa Rosa. After a failed attempt to qualify a ballot measure to repeal the tax, the SMART agency sold bonds and broke ground for construction in February 2012. Trial service began in the summer of 2017. Full service is pending federal approval of the positive train control system which was installed as part of this project.
Also in 2017, SMART commenced construction of extension from San Rafael to the Larkspur Ferry Terminal.