New Commuter Train Comes Through for Fire-Ravaged Santa Rosa

Sonoma-Marin Rail Transit (SMART) has been operating almost continuously at full schedule, collecting no fares since the epic wildfires began in Sonoma County on Oct. 8. Two stations in the fire-zone are shut down due to lack of access.

2 minute read

October 16, 2017, 11:00 AM PDT

By Irvin Dawid

Rail Transit North Bay Area

Frank Fennema / Shutterstock

North Bay residents greeted the new SMART train on August 25 with a grand opening celebration in downtown Santa Rosa. The diesel-powered trains returned the favor this week by providing free train service along most of the 43-mile corridor almost continuously since the fires began late Sunday night on Oct. 8, reports Mark Prado for the Marin Independent Journal. Service was initially canceled Monday morning but restored in the afternoon. [See image, taken by drone, of train operating through a neighborhood burned to the ground.].

We want to help out,” said Farhad Mansourian, SMART’s general manager. “We are part of the community. Any lost revenue is nothing compared to the hit the community has taken.”

Fares are zone-based, ranging from $3.50 to $11.50 for adults. On Monday, fares will be restored.

SMART’s operations center has been operating using generator power since the fire swept through the area and created widespread outages. The rail system has withstood the calamity quite well.

Train riders have been showing a sense of community on board the trains, observed Scott Mitchell, an engineer-conductor, 

There is a lot more conversation, people are talking to each other much more.  We even had some firefighters on who just wanted a break. We are trying to do our part,” said Mitchell.

The train has proved therapeutic for some. Riders who once kept a comfortable distance from their fellow passengers now engage and discuss the fires, with words like “escaped,” “evacuation” and “lucky,” punctuating conversations.

The two stations shut down are the northernmost on the line, Sonoma County Airport and Santa Rosa North. Watch a video taken from the train as it goes through a Santa Rosa neighborhood charred to the ground by the Tubbs Fire.

Trains terminate in Marin County at San Rafael Transit Station where riders can board a free Golden Gate Transit shuttle for a 10-minute ride to the Larkspur Ferry Terminal for a boat-ride to San Francisco

Northern California wildfires update: Climbing death toll, evacuations, structures destroyed

As of Saturday evening, the death toll from the many Northern California fires in eight counties, often referred to as North Bay wildfires or Wine Country wildfires as Napa and Sonoma counties are among the most heavily impacted, was 40, according to The (Santa Rosa) Press Democrat.

Collectively, they are now the deadliest fires in state history. Individually, the Tubbs Fire, claiming 20 fatalities, is the third deadliest after the 1933 Griffith Park fire in Los Angeles and the Oakland firestorm of 1991 resulted in 29 and 25 fatalities, respectively.

"Currently more than 10,000 firefighters are battling 16 large wildfires that in total have burned over 214,000 acres," according to an Oct. 14 CAL FIRE report. "Approximately 100,000 people have been evacuated from the fires...and 5,700 structures estimated to have been destroyed."

Hat tip to MTC-ABAG Library.

Thursday, October 12, 2017 in Marin Independent Journal

Rendering of electric scooters, electric cars, light rail train, and apartments in background.

Arizona’s ‘Car-Free’ Community Takes Shape

Culdesac Tempe has been welcoming residents since last year.

February 14, 2024 - The Cool Down

Aerial view of suburban sprawl with large single-family homes near Dallas, Texas.

The Changing Shape of American Suburbs

Housing costs and availability are pushing more American households, including young families, to suburbs and exurbs — and they’re demanding changes.

February 13, 2024 - Business Insider

Freeway toll booth with "Stop" and "Pay Toll" signs

Clearer Thinking About Transportation Pricing

It’s time to reform transportation pricing to reduce traffic congestion, crashes, and pollution, and improve non-auto travel options. Raise my prices, please!

February 13, 2024 - Todd Litman

Aerial view of housing and freeway in Cupertino, California.

Proposal Would Link Highway Funding to Zoning

Experts argue that zoning, housing, and transportation policy are intimately linked.

53 minutes ago - Federation of American Scientists

Close-up of old, rusted water pipe leaking at joint.

White House Announces $5.8 Billion in Water Infrastructure Funding

The new funds add to the effort to replace aging infrastructure and lead pipes.

February 21 - ABC News

White and blue double-decker bus in Seattle, Washington.

Seattle to Introduce Electric Buses With Wireless Charging

In-ground induction chargers will reduce the cost of the charging network.

February 21 - Smart Cities Dive

News from HUD User

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

The Walkable City

Harvard GSD Executive Education

New Updates on PD&R Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.