UPDATE–THE START DATE FOR THE SMART TRAIN HAS BEEN DELAYED TO THE END OF SPRING 2017. YOU CAN READ WHY THIS HAS HAPPENED HERE. SOMEWHERE IN THIS POST I STATED THAT IT WOULD BE MY LIFE'S MISSION TO CONNECT THE MENDOCINO TRANSIT AUTHORITY(MTA) TO THE SMART TRAIN. THAT SHOULD HAPPEN SOON. I WROTE ABOUT THE POSSIBILITY OF MTA HAVING A SECOND RUN OVER TO WILLITS AND UKIAH. ON OCTOBER 23, 2016 THE MTA HAS STARTED FOUR (YES—-FOUR!!) ROUND-TRIPS TO THE INTERIOR OF MENDOCINO COUNTY AND ANOTHER TRIP TO SANTA ROSA. ALL THESE EXTRA TRIPS SHOULD MAKE IT EASIER FOR PEOPLE ON THE COAST TO GET WHERE THEY WANT TO GO AND RETURN AT MORE CONVENIENT TIMES CONNECTING UP WITH OTHER BUS SERVICES, THE AIRPORT AND AMTRAK. PEOPLE IN UKIAH WILL NOW BE ABLE TO TAKE A DAY TRIP TO THE COAST ON A HOT SUMMER DAY. YOU CAN FIND THEIR NEW SCHEDULE HERE. NOW ALL THEY HAVE TO DO IS GET ME DOWN TO THE SOUTH MENDOCINO COAST FOR A DAY TRIP AND I'LL BE HAPPY.
I know that most people find the subject of public transportation boring. They just can't get away from jumping into their cars at a moments notice. I find the subject very interesting and in one case very sexy and that one case is what this post is all about.
What's not sexy about the above picture. It contains a Smart train and a bike path and it will be coming, at least partially, by the end of 2016.
Tired of sitting in traffic along Highway 101? Looking for a green alterative to sitting in your car? Looking to create jobs in the North Bay to help stir our economy? There’s one place to look: SMART.
You asked for it and you voted for it. And we’re working hard to make it happen.
In 2008, almost 70% of the voters of Marin and Sonoma supported Measure Q to create a train that connects the two counties. Despite headwinds in the worst recession in 50 years, we’re moving forward to make SMART a reality.
We’re not stopping until we’ve done what you asked us to do: create an energy-efficient, green alternative to sitting in traffic on Highway 101. Once SMART is operational, you’ll be able to ride the train along the tracks or ride on the SMART bike and pedestrian pathway system.
Smart was conceived to get people away from this:
The above picture is definitely not sexy and begs the question, why do people love their cars so much? The Smart project route looks like this.
When it is fully built, SMART will offer clear sailing along the rail tracks that run from Cloverdale, through Healdsburg, Windsor, Santa Rosa and Petaluma; down to Novato, Marin, San Rafael and Larkspur. Running at a projected 70 miles an hour in brand new, clean diesel trains, SMART will allow you to get off of 101 and still get where you need to go – for work or for fun. Or if you must drive, SMART will spell relief by easing the burden on our congested roadways.
The bike and pedestrian pathway will promote healthy activity and provide an option for travel between neighboring towns and cities without relying on automobiles.…Links segments constructed by SMART with existing segments and other planned projects to create one of the longest continuous bicycle–pedestrian pathways in the country.
Until phase two is completed connector buses will serve the communities of Cloverdale, Healdsburg, and Windsor. Cloverdale is just 29.6 miles south of Ukiah in Mendocino County. It will become my mission in life to connect the Mendocino Transit Authority(MTA) to the Smart System. That will mean getting the people who live on the Mendocino coast to Cloverdale on a regular basis.
When I started riding the MTA buses I've noted that the coastal parts of Mendocino County were underserved. There are many quirks in the system that you have to work around. One of those quirks is there is only one bus in the early morning going directly from Fort Bragg to Willits and Ukiah. That means you have to spend the whole day over there and come back in the evening. It also means that people in Willits and Ukiah can't make a day trip to the coast. Recently the MTA expanded service between Willits, Ukiah, and Santa Rosa. The coast got nothing. I responded with a letter to the editor in the Fort Bragg Advocate.
Did you hear the latest Mendocino Transit Authority(MTA) ad on the local radio station? They are expanding service between Willits, Ukiah and Santa Rosa to two trips a day. This includes Saturdays. That's good news for the inland Mendocino County population but what expanded services have Fort Bragg, the second largest city in Mendocino County, and the coast received? The word I believe is bupkis. We don't even have a bare bones Saturday service and we are left with our one early morning bus to the inland cities and Santa Rosa.
I have been riding MTA's buses regularly for three years. I do it to lower my carbon footprint and save money. Getting around Mendocino County using the MTA isn't convenient because of the quirks in their system. Want to go over to Ukiah but not spend the whole day? A day trip to the South Mendocino coast? Have friends in Willits and Ukiah that may want to come over to the coast for the day during triple digit temperatures? It's hard to believe but it can't be done! Miss a bus in Fort Bragg? You might as well walk to your destination because the next bus is a hour away. It's even worse for Albion, Little River, Mendocino and Caspar.
If residents of the Mendocino Coast want a convenient public transportation system they should let their voices be heard. Local representatives on the MTA Board of Directors are Fort Bragg Vice Mayor Lindy Peters and County Supervisor Dan Gjerde.
I received word recently that the MTA had received some grant funds to start a two a-day bus service between Fort Bragg, Willits and Ukiah starting in January. The configuration of that service still has to be worked out but I will be anxiously waiting. I'm not taking credit for any of this because the grant was in the works before my letter but at least MTA knows someone is watching them. Update: just 11 days after writing this I was told that the grant money fell through. The coast is back to BUPKIS again. Update number two. I attended a MTA board meeting on 9/24/15. There was a twofold reason for attending. I had a no cost proposal to give south coast residents traveling to Fort Bragg in the morning better bus service and I wanted to ask about the SMART project and the MTA. My proposal was well received and we will see if it gets through the MTA bureaucracy. It also seems that the grant money is back in the picture and the expansion of service for the coast in January is coming. Jeff the MTA supervisor for the north coast told me later to believe it only when it happens. We will see. UPDATE number three (10/29/15). I was told by Jeff that my proposal of better bus service for south coast residents was approved and will start next week. Wow! I made a change for the better. Actually I should give my favorite bus driver, Cheryl, the credit. It was her idea but was rejected locally here on the coast. I figured that a customer presenting a written proposal to the MTA Board of Directors would force the issue and it did.
My proposal would mean that the morning Coaster(60) coming into Fort Bragg would not drop it's riders at the Boatyard for a wait of 10 to 15 minutes to transfer to the BraggAbout(5). The Coaster would take us directly to our destination. This would also, in most cases, avoid a time delay of having to ride through the C. V. Starr and school sections of Fort Bragg. It would save the elderly and disabled a transfer. It would give me an extra half hour of birding time and skip a bike rack change. Everyone wins. A better bus riding experience at little to no cost for the MTA.
Update(12/11/25) what makes a public transportation nerd happy in this seemingly gloomy world we live in. Congress passed and the president signed a five year fully funded transportation bill. It included an eighteen percent increase in funding for public transportation. Let's get some of that funding for Mendocino County. I'm celebrating!!
Bound for Eureka, Train 2 pulled by No 139, charges up the grade toward Tunnel 3 near Greenbrae. The train left Sausalito at 8:20 am, will be at San Rafael at 8:45. It will terminate at Eureka, 267 miles farther, at 7 in the evening.
A blog about the new Smart project got me thinking of the past.
Many communities in Marin and Sonoma County grew up around rail. At its peak in the 1920s, North Bay passenger rail ridership was among the busiest in California.
Passenger trains operated by Northwestern Pacific once served the North Bay, providing service as far north as Eureka. At Sausalito and Tiburon, passengers made seamless transfers to ferries bound for San Francisco and other parts of the bay.
The railroad service became popular; a 1911 daily NWP timetable shows 10 passenger trains each way, plus dozens of freights.
Passenger service boomed until the 1930s, when improved roads and highways made traveling and shipping by motor vehicle more accessible, and by 1935 both freight and passenger service slowed to a crawl because of the Great Depression.
During March, 1958, with the exception of the tri-weekly Willits-Eureka Budd Rail Diesel Car passenger service, all mainline passenger service was discontinued. The “Budd car” made its last run in 1969.
In 1996, the California Northern Railroad lease was terminated, and the NCRA took over operations of the line between Schellville and Willits. Using “Black Widow” EMD GP9 and SD9 locomotives, the “new” NWP ran from 1996 until 1998, when money problems and management issues caused the line to fail.
Plans for the future of NWP freight include rebuilding the line to Healdsburg around 2014, and Willits by 2020, dependent mostly on state and federal grants and income to the NCRA and NWPco. The Eel River Canyon segment is still on the drawing board while awaiting a decision whether or not to rebuild the segment, due to extreme costs and a lack of possible business.
So it was possible at one time to actually travel from the Bay Area to Eureka in Humboldt County. That must of been one hell of a trip. Would have liked to ride on one of those trains. The Smart project has a pictorial Historical Context of railroad history on their site.
It's my experience that most folk who ride trains could care less where they're going. For them it's the journey itself and the people they meet along the way. You see, at every stop this train makes, a little bit of America, a little bit of your country, gets on and says hello.”
― David Baldacci, The Christmas Train