SMART announces start date

The much anticipated SMART Train will begin service Aug. 25 between Santa Rosa and San Rafael after many delays and postponements.

SMART announced on Thursday it has received the green light from the Federal Railroad Administration for full passenger train service.

“We are proud to say that we are ready to roll,” said SMART Board of Directors Chairwoman Debora Fudge in a statement. “

SMART train service will be free of charge on opening day, and will host a community grand opening event at 9 a.m. at its Santa Rosa Downtown Station, at 7 Fourth St. at Historic Railroad Square, and will begin running the full service schedule at 12:49 p.m.

After opening day, SMART fares for everyone will be 50 percent off the regular price through Labor Day, Sept. 4. Regular fares will be in place on Sept. 5.

Initially approved by voters in 2008, SMART officials had hoped to start service before 2016 was over, but the discovery flawed engine design required all 14 SMART engines to be rebuilt by the manufacturer, Indiana-based Cummins Inc.

SMART face other daunting technical problems including communication between cars.

Residents living near the train also complained about noise from train horns, calling for quiet zones along the track.

Along the way, the train has had some other bumps in the road that included an initial startup schedule that drew criticism for not meeting commuter needs, and a pricing structure that raised eyebrows.

Cost to ride the train is $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. The maximum daily fare is $23.50.

Overall costs for the commuter train hit nearly half a billion dollars. The public rail system’s $30 million annual budget is funded largely by sales tax revenue from a 2008 measure.

Cynthia Sweeney covers health care, hospitality, residential real estate, education, employment and business insurance. Reach her at or call 707-521-4259.

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