North Bay Area passenger rail is back, BIG time – 2

The wait has been long but a wait well worth it.

The Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit District, or SMART for short, has announced that beginning on Aug. 25, 2017 SMART passenger train service will commence, stating that it has been granted the all-clear from the Federal Railroad Administration in regards to rail passenger service being good to go. (See: the “SMART receives final approval from the Federal Railroad Administration: Full service to begin August 25” press release dated Aug. 17, 2017 here).

“‘We are proud to say that we are ready to roll,’ said SMART Board of Directors Chairwoman Debora Fudge. ‘This is the result of years of hard work from SMART’s staff, its team of contractors and consultants, and Federal Railroad Administration Regional Administrator James Jordan and his team. Successfully opening a new transit system is a major accomplishment—and we will remember this day for generations to come.’”

Board of Directors Chairwoman Fudge can sure say that again! The concept was no doubt born out of a need to provide a worthy alternative to traffic on the busy California State Route 101 freeway between the cities of Santa Rosa in Sonoma County and San Rafael in Marin County. Call it a relief valve.

California SR 101 on Cotati Grade

“‘This is truly historic. … This system will bring relief to commuters stuck on Highway 101 and provide a stress-free way to travel. It will also provide a major economic boost for both Marin and Sonoma counties,’ said SMART Board Vice Chairwoman Kathrin Sears.”

The physical plant is constructed using the most modern construction techniques incorporating continuous welded rail (CWR) with extensive use of concrete crossties on a total 43 miles of track. With CWR rail joints are eliminated, which means, no clickety-clack, clickety-clack sound, nearly all of which is built upon or sitting on a track bed of concrete ties, both of which together provide for a smooth ride. Train running speeds of up to 80 miles per hour will be typical. Quite an accomplishment considering this pike has literally come back from the brink.

According to SMART, there will be 34 trips made daily on weekdays and 10 trips per day on both Saturdays and Sundays.

From north to south, stations are as follows:  Sonoma County Airport, Santa Rosa North, Santa Rosa Downtown, Rohnert Park, Cotati, Petaluma Downtown, Novato San Marin, Novato Hamilton, Marin Civic Center and San Rafael. Planned stations north to south include Cloverdale, Healdsburg, Windsor, Petaluma North, Novato Downtown and Larkspur.

The rolling stock is manufactured by Nippon Sharyo of Japan in what is referred to as a Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU) configuration which means that the equipment is powered by a diesel-electric prime mover and individual sections are coupled together. The trainsets meet strict U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Tier 4 emissions standards. Although the trains will consist of two powered railcars, they can be lengthened to three-car trainsets.

For much more information, visit: and

In other California passenger rail news, meanwhile, the Altamont Corridor Express (ACE) service connecting Stockton in the San Joaquin Valley with San Jose in Silicon Valley is going to grow. It is being extended from the Lathrop, Manteca, Tracy tri-cities area south to Modesto, this newest portion expected to be ready for service in two years and there are plans to link Merced farther to the south.

In an Apr. 7, 2017 release the company wrote: “Due to the hard work of California State Senator Anthony Canella (R-Ceres), California State Assemblyman Adam Gray (D-Merced), and California State Senator Cathleen Galgiani (D-Stockton), the Altamont Corridor Express (ACE) will be receiving $400 million for service expansion as a key component of the Transportation Funding Measure (SB 1) which was approved by the legislature last night.”

“The funds are necessary to make improvements to expand ACE service, including new track, stations, and trains. ACE is expected to extend to Ceres by no later than 2023. The ACEforward environmental process has cleared various near term projects and is in the process of clearing the remaining sections of the project expansion.”

State Senator Galgiani was quoted in the release as having said: “‘The passage of SB 1 [California Senate Bill 1], the Transportation Bill, and the funding agreement to expand ACE Rail to Modesto and Merced is a ‘Big Win’ for San Joaquin, Stanislaus and Merced Counties.’”

With these two endeavors being what they are, along with the fact state high-speed rail construction is already in the works, means the California passenger rail outlook just got a whole lot brighter. Taking commuters off of area highways by providing a suitable alternative while, at the same time, contributing to an improving area air quality, is what these systems are all about.

To learn more about ACE, see: and

Train at Santa Rosa in 1911

Upper image above: Stephen Gold

– Alan Kandel

6 thoughts on “North Bay Area passenger rail is back, BIG time – 2”

  1. Are those units EPA certified or CARB verified? If not then as great as it seems, it would also seem really unfair to US manufacturers who go through the rigorous process at their own expense. I’m not talking about GE or a Caterpillar or a subsidiary thereof because they have deep pockets– I’m talking about small companies who risk it all to comply and achieve emissions reductions.

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