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Take A Free Ride On The Smart Train

As of April 1st 2024 the Smart Train (Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit) that runs from near the Santa Rosa Airport in Sonoma County to near the Larkspur Landing Ferry in Marin County is offering seniors over the age of 65 and youngsters under the age of 18 unconditional and unlimited free rides throughout their system. Their goal is to promote ridership among what they consider underserved populations. The offer will be in effect until June 30, 2025. This truly is a great opportunity of day-trippers to get out there and see what there is to see in an environment they may not have thoroughly (or at all) explored.

The stations running north to south are:

  • Santa Rosa 1130 Airport Blvd. Santa Rosa (near the Sonoma County Airport) -
  • Santa Rosa North 1500 Guerneville Road Santa Rosa -
  • Santa Rosa Downtown 7 Fourth St. Santa Rosa (near Railroad Square) -
  • Rohnert Park 900 Enterprise Dr. Rohnert Park (near Sonoma State) -
  • Cotati E. Cotati Ave Cotati (home of the famous Accordion Festival) -
  • Petaluma Downtown 220 Lakeville St. Petaluma (near historic downtown) -
  • Novato San Marin 7700 Redwood Boulevard Novato -
  • Novato Downtown 695 Grant Avenue Novato -
  • Novato Hamilton Main Gate Road Novato -
  • San Rafael (near Marin Civic Center) 3801 Civic Center Dr. San Rafael -
  • San Rafael (near San Rafael Transit Hub) 680 3rd Street San Rafael -
  • Larkspur (near Larkspur Landing Ferry) 600 Larkspur Landing Larkspur

There are four more stations projected to join the system: Petaluma North in 2025, Windsor in 2025, Healdsburg in 2027 and Cloverdale in 2027. It is uncertain at this time if these stations are as they say “on track” but one can (and should) always hope.

For younger riders this is a chance to get out and explore independently. They can even bring their bikes for added mobility when they reach their destinations. Senior riders who are on tight budgets can save gas money and avoid the hassle of driving and parking. Most of the stations are near enough to points of interest to make it worth the trip. Look online for suggestions on what to see. The trains are comfortable and even have facing seats with tables for conversation or game playing en route. For young and old getting together with a friend for an outing/adventure with no cost involved is pretty irresistible. I think the Smart Train strategy to capture underserved populations is going to work very well. This definitely goes against the old adage that there are “no free rides.”

If you want to look at Victorian architecture stop in Petaluma. If you want to go to one of the many concerts at Sonoma State get off in Rohnert Park. Take a Ferry to San Francisco (and a Giants game) by walking a few well-marked blocks from the Larkspur station. Downtown Novato puts you within walking distance of Japanese, Chinese, French, Italian, Irish, and all American restaurants. Santa Rosa downtown drops you right at the Historic Railroad Square. This is just a tip of the iceberg. There are lots and lots of recreational, cultural, dining and sightseeing pleasures you can access from one of the Smart Train stops. Your only limitation is the train schedule, which you can check out in advance online at sonomamarintrain.org.

What if you are not a senior or a youngster? You can still take the train paying by the zone. The smooth ride, pretty scenery and freedom from traffic and parking fees are all inducements even if you can’t ride for free.

So if you are a day-tripper consider the Smart Train next time you are making plans to go forth and explore. For a first ride you might even consider just riding from one end of the route to the other just to see what you can see. There is lots of beautiful scenery including a bird sanctuary that you will ride through. Added bonus - the Smart Train has its own very nice bathrooms right onboard.

7 Comments

  1. Johanna Karin Lieblein May 17, 2024

    I have taken the SMART train many times and will continue to do so since I love how clean, quiet and easy it is to go from one point to another. I especially enjoy going with friends to Larkspur from my Rohnert Park station to Larkspur, catching the Ferry into SF and enjoying a day in The City without having to drive anywhere. I am one of your very satisfied customers who feel lucky to have this great transportation in my backyard! Keep up the good work and you will soon have an increase in ridership.

  2. Mike Kalantarian May 17, 2024

    Why aren’t there plans to bring train service back to Mendocino County? Think of what a boon it would be to this county to have train service restored to our three population centers: Ukiah, Willits, and Fort Bragg. The tracks, and some of the old stations, are still out there. The initial hard work has already been done, it’s just a matter of resurrecting it. Surely we aren’t that lifeless. Do we lack vision? imagination? clout? If it’s the latter, here’s an idea: we could threaten to stop draining the Eel for the Russian River.

    And while we’re at it, does anyone know of tracks that headed east, from Ukiah or Willits? and connected us to the Sacramento Valley?

    • Mark Scaramella May 18, 2024

      Short Answer: Mike McGuire and the Great Redwood Trail. The Trail geniuses set it up so that the tracks north of Cloverdale are owned by Trail Group and the Tracks south of Cloverdale are owned by SMART. The Great Redwood Trail plan includes abandonment of the tracks in favor of the Trail.

  3. Lazarus May 18, 2024

    Years ago, a group lobbied heavily for restoring the tracks to Eureka. But Mike Thompson, a then Representative in the California State Senate from the 2nd district, shot down the idea as too costly and challenging. In hindsight, restoring the tracks would have been cheaper than the Trail. And more environmentally correct for travel…
    As always,
    Laz

    • Mike Kalantarian May 18, 2024

      I get the part about north of Willits (to Eureka) being geographically challenging and expensive, but getting up to Willits seems relatively easy.

  4. Martin Thompson May 19, 2024

    Thank you for using my Facebook post/picture in your article. We stars now! I am the person in the middle wearing the plaid shirt. My sister is next to me, and our long-time neighbor/friend is on my other side. I live in Pennsylvania, but grew up in Sonoma County, and come home often to visit family and friends. Thanks again!

  5. Hilarie Coate June 12, 2024

    Now, more accessibility to SF!!
    Free shuttle for seniors and kids to open between SMART’s Larkspur Station and the Ferry Terminal.

    Details have just been released for the ribbon cutting for the new accessible shuttle linking the SMART Train and the Larkspur Ferry. This has been years in planning. (Service to the station opened in December of 2019, and the Airport “final mile” shuttle opened a year ago.)

    Full details: https://tinyurl.com/Larkspur-Shuttle THE NEW SMART CONNECT LARKSPUR SHUTTLE IS HERE!!
    “Join us to celebrate the launch of a new microtransit shuttle serving the SMART Larkspur Station, the Golden Gate Larkspur Ferry Terminal, and the surrounding Larkspur Landing area, providing a convenient and accessible transportation option.

    SMART, Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District, and the Transportation Authority of Marin are partnering to offer the new SMART Connect Larkspur shuttle which is an alternative to the Central Marin Ferry Bicycle/Pedestrian Bridge connecting passengers between the SMART Larkspur Station and the Golden Gate Larkspur Ferry Terminal.

    And on weekends, the shuttle also serves the Village and Town Square malls in Corte Madera, for an easy ride to favorite shopping destinations.

    EVENT SCHEDULE:
    2:15 PM Reception
    2:45 PM Welcome Remarks
    3:00 PM Ceremonial Cutting of the Ribbon
    3:20 PM Conclusion
    DATE: Thursday, June 20, 2024 at 2:15 p.m.

    LOCATION: SMART Larkspur station, 600 Larkspur Landing Circle,
    Larkspur, CA.

    GET THERE ON TRANSIT:
    SMART southbound trip 19 arrive in Larkspur at 2:04 PM
    SMART northbound trip 22 departs Larkspur at 3:27 PM
    Golden Gate northbound ferry arrives in Larkspur at 1:50 PM
    Golden Gate southbound ferry departs Larkspur at 3:20 PM
    Marin Transit and Golden Gate Transit offer bus service connecting to Larkspur

    EVENT PARKING:
    Parking will be available in the Golden Gate Transit overflow parking lot near the SMART station. Accessible parking will be available at the SMART station lot.”

    Event RSVPS are requested here:
    https://forms.office.com/pages/responsepage.aspx?id=MPpViE_eSUia6fP3G-Wu84VKAVa8
    Ye1Bl8pkqEJXm8hUMlZVSk43RENFNzZOM1k2T0ZJUU05TUxZVi4u

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