Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) is a regional rail service between Santa Rosa and San Rafael in Sonoma and Marin counties. It runs on that former Northwestern Pacific ROW that stretches from Cloverdale in Sonoma County to Larkspur in Marin County. The system opened in August 2017. BayRail Alliance backs SMART, because it provides a fast alternative for commuters on the congested US-101 Corridor.
The system uses modern diesel multiple unit (DMU) rail cars, featuring onboard restroom, interior bike racks, and concession stand offering coffee, beer, and wine for sale. The DMUs are FRA compliant and have level boarding via high platforms.
With rolling stock being FRA compliant, freight trains are able to share tracks with passenger trains at the same time and not be restricted to night operation. Gauntlet tracks were installed at stations because the high platforms for SMART trains will not provide the legal clearance needed for freight trains.
SMART is being extended to Larkspur Ferry Terminal to provide direct connection to Golden Gate Ferry to San Francisco. SMART had to build this portion as a separate phase due to limited funding available for the initial segment.
Eventual plan is to extend SMART further north toward Cloverdale.
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.