Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit officials have reversed course and announced the commuter rail system would add a fulltime, downtown Novato stop as a regular part of its schedule. The change is expected to be in place by end of this year.

According to reporting by the Marin Independent Journal, SMART had planned to alternate stops between downtown platform and a station on San Marin Drive, arguing that adding a stop on all runs would slow the system.

At the Novato City Council meeting this week, SMART General Manager Farhad Mansourian said downtown would be a regular stop on the 43-mile rail line which operates from Santa Rosa to San Rafael. The downtown station at Grant and Railroad Avenue in the historic train depot location would be a third station for Novato, after San Marin and Hamilton.

The downtown station, completely funded by Novato and regional transportation grants, is two blocks from the new Marin Transit and Golden Gate Transit bus facility on Redwood Boulevard, completed in September 2017.

City officials said stopping regularly in downtown Novato would work to benefit nearly 500 businesses at that city’s core.

“We’d like to thank the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, Transportation Authority of Marin, and SMART for helping to bring this important city station and full stop service to downtown Novato and our community,” said City Manager Regan M. Candelario.

“This is huge news for Novato,” said Mayor Eric Lucan. “Having a full, regular stop serving our downtown station gives all residents more convenience and flexibility. It also makes it easier for people to commute to jobs or visit Downtown Novato.”

SMART stated that this summer it will begin installation of crossing gates, shelters and station equipment, and will begin overnight testing in the fall.