EcoRing supports both the construction of the Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) rail line and the attendant bicycle path. The economics have dictated far less bicycle trail than we would have wished. Because SMART has had to rely on grants for much of its new construction and because those grants can only be used for specified purposes, the bike path has been starved for funds. The bicycle community is understandably upset. With a recovered economy we should see a more equitable balance between rail and trail construction. Reauthorization of the sales tax measure that initially funded SMART will be coming up soon and SMART will need their support at the poles. We hope that they will take note. Author Rick Coates
Nearly a year and a half since the North Bay rolled out its commuter rail, cyclists in the region feel slighted over how little of the paved path SMART promised along the tracks is finished.
The Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit is scheduled to extend by year’s end its train operations more than 2 miles south to Larkspur, completing 45 miles of the planned 70-mile line that will eventually stretch up to Cloverdale.
However, just 16.2 miles of the separated bicycle and walking trail linking each of the stations has been built. That includes short segments totaling about 5 miles across Novato, San Rafael and Cotati completed in the past two years.
Another 1-mile segment northwest of the downtown Petaluma Station is set to be built this summer.
Still, that will represent about a third of the 54 miles SMART pledged as part of Measure Q, a ¼-cent sales tax hike Sonoma and Marin county voters approved more than a decade ago to create the North Bay commuter rail system. Another 16 miles of existing trail next to the train corridor is to receive upgrades.
Critics, including two cycling advocacy groups in the region that boast thousands of members, contend what’s accessible now falls far short of SMART’s obligation.
“The goal of Measure Q was for the entire railway to have the bike and pedestrian path,” said Eris Weaver, executive director of the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition. “Many people were expecting this to be continuously built with the track. We haven’t seen an actual commitment from SMART.”