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What you need to know

Monthly passes will cost $200 and $100 for youth, seniors and disabled riders.

A one-way trip from Santa Rosa to San Rafael will cost $9.50, or $19 round-trip without discounts.

Free rides for passengers will start at the launch of service in late spring and run through July 4. After that, passengers will pay half the normal fare rate through Labor Day.


This story originally appeared on PressDemocrat.com at pressdemocrat.com/news/6510307-181/smart-to-offer-free-rides.


Directors of the North Bay’s commuter rail line supported plans this week aimed at spurring public interest in the service, including offering reduced-cost monthly passes and free rides for a time once trains start running.

The period of free rides aboard trains operated by the Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit authority will run through July 4 under the policy adopted Wednesday by the agency’s board of directors. After that, passengers will pay half the normal fare rate through Labor Day.

“We’re really excited to make the start-up as smooth as possible for as many people as possible,” said Deb Fudge, who was voted in Wednesday as chairwoman of SMART’s board of directors and who also serves as Windsor’s mayor.

Fudge said SMART is on track to start passenger service in late spring.

The rail agency had been hoping to launch by the end of 2016 but in October announced a delay tied in part to engine problems on the trains.

Four train engines out of a total of 14 have been replaced, with the work scheduled to wrap up in March. The replacements are the result of a design flaw with crankshafts built by Cummins, Inc. that potentially could cause the trains to lose power.

The green-and-gray trains are being tested along the initial 43-mile rail line from north of Santa Rosa to downtown San Rafael.

With testing now underway at higher speeds and with more frequency, flaggers have been added at some rail crossings to enhance safety, an agency spokeswoman said Thursday.

She said SMART also is making plans to begin testing trains on the timetable that will be used for regular passenger service.

According to SMART‘s draft schedule, trains will pass through public at-grade crossings 30 times a day on weekdays and a dozen more times daily on weekends.

Also Wednesday, SMART’s directors approved a monthly pass that will cost $200 and be good for up to 31 days after activation.

Youth, seniors and disabled riders would pay a reduced monthly rate of $100.

The $200 monthly pass would amount to $10 a day for a person who commutes five days a week using SMART.

That’s well below the maximum daily rate of $23.50, and lower than the average $15 for round-trips.

Directors in July approved a $3.50 base fare and $2 charge for each zone line crossed, which equates to an average overall fare of $5.25 with discounts factored in. Without discounts, the average fare is $7.50.

A one-way trip from Santa Rosa to San Rafael will cost $9.50, or $19 round-trip without discounts.

Fudge, who has served on the SMART board since 2005, was the unanimous pick of her peers Wednesday to serve her second term as the board’s chairwoman.

The Sonoma County Mayors and Councilmembers Association has yet to weigh in on Fudge’s request to be re-appointed to the SMART Board for another four-year term. The association will make that determination Feb. 9.

Fudge, who has lobbied elected officials in cities across the county in recent days seeking re-appointment, expressed confidence Thursday that she will earn enough support for another term on the SMART board.

Fudge faces competition from Santa Rosa Mayor Chris Coursey, who also submitted an application seeking a seat on the SMART board.

What you need to know

Monthly passes will cost $200 and $100 for youth, seniors and disabled riders.

A one-way trip from Santa Rosa to San Rafael will cost $9.50, or $19 round-trip without discounts.

Free rides for passengers will start at the launch of service in late spring and run through July 4. After that, passengers will pay half the normal fare rate through Labor Day.


This story originally appeared on PressDemocrat.com at pressdemocrat.com/news/6510307-181/smart-to-offer-free-rides.

Santa Rosa has sought direct representation on the board for years to improve communication with the rail agency. The largest city along the rail line is slated to have two stations, one downtown in Railroad Square and another on Guerneville Road near Coddingtown Mall.

“For many reasons we would like to be a part of SMART’s governance,” Coursey, a former spokesman for the rail project, said Thursday.