Employers set up shuttles for workers to access SMART train
With the recent announcement of the fare structure for the SMART train, businesses, schools and government agencies in Marin and Sonoma Counties are gearing up to provide shuttle service to and from the train for their employees, including discounts.
About 30 train trips will be scheduled daily, mostly geared toward commuter hours. Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit has been working with other transit operators, like CityBus in Santa Rosa, Petaluma Transit, Marin Transit and others to coordinate service.
In the last two years, every local transit agency has made a presentation to SMART with regard to coordinating their schedules with the train’s, in some cases altering, or adding service depending on the amount of ridership.
A special pass purchased through an employer, school, social services agency or other institution will provide riders with a discount. The year-long SMART EcoPass discount will range from 23 percent for less than 50 passes purchased, to 44 percent for 500-plus passes.
There will also be a 50 percent discount for seniors, college students and veterans.
“More than 70 percent of respondents to a recent survey at Santa Rosa Junior College showed students and employees willing to consider taking the SMART train,” said Frank Chong, president of the college, which has about 3,000 employees and 28,000 students. The survey covered the Santa Rosa and Petaluma campuses only. “So that’s a great start. And we greatly appreciate the proposed discount for students and employees. SRJC is dedicated to sustainability and encouraging greater use of public transportation, as well as bicycles. We’re going to continue working with SMART officials to incentivize greater usage of SMART trains.”
SMART is working directly with various companies to help coordinate shuttle service for their employees, and the chambers of commerce in Santa Rosa and Novato are working with local employers acting as a bridge between businesses and shuttle services.
“For the last 18 months we’ve been in discussions helping businesses find resources and leads,” said Coy Smith, CEO of Novato’s chamber.
Those businesses in Marin include Buck Institute for Research on Aging, BioMarin, Sutter Health, Birkenstock, TravelSmith and Novato Unified School District. In July, the Novato chamber will be coming out with a document listing a menu of options for creating a shuttle service program that outlines tax benefits, provides a list of shuttle companies and cost quotes.
In Santa Rosa, the chamber has been working with companies that include Sutter Health, Kaiser Permanente, Keysight Technologies, Medtronic, Sonoma State University, Santa Rosa Junior College, and administration at Charles M. Schulz Sonoma County Airport.
The Santa Rosa chamber is also working with employers for joint shuttle services, for employees who live in the same geographical area.
When the SMART train begins service between Santa Rosa and San Rafael at the end of the year, passengers will initially pay a base fare of $3.50, with an additional $2 charge for each zone. A fare increase will likely come after about one year of service, as voted by a majority of the SMART board of directors on June 1.
The transit system must submit its fare plan to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission by June 15, so Clipper fare card machines at the stations can be programmed in time to start simulated service runs in September.
The initial 43-mile train route runs from the transit station in downtown San Rafael to the industrial parks near Charles M. Schulz–Sonoma County Airport.
Clipper cards are the only form of rider payment that will be accepted, and are already used on Santa Rosa CityBus, Sonoma County Transit, Petaluma Transit, and the Golden Gate Transit buses and ferries. Riders who use one of these systems to get to the train will get a discount of 75 cents to $1.50.
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