July 25, 2017
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Media preview ride offers sneak peak of SMART train

  • The new Haystack bridge over the Petaluma River in the open position as seen from the cockpit of the SMART train. Photo by Robert Grant

By: Katheine Minkiewicz
June 30, 2017

In a special media only preview, SMART train conducted an hour round trip trial ride from the Petaluma downtown station to the San Rafael station, making stops at Novato, San Marin and San Rafael, where a myriad of media outlets stepped out on the sunny platform to take photos and experience SMART train amenities.

The media trial run will be followed by free preview rides for the public starting today at 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., with roundtrip rides from Rohnert Park to the Marin Civic Center station, according to a SMART train press release.

Free preview service will also be available Saturday, July 1 and Tuesday July 4 from the RP station to the civic center for the Marin County Fair, according to the press release provided by Jeanne Mariani-Belding, SMART train media contact.

The media trial run started with a tour of the train’s amenities, which includes outlets charging stations, free Wi-Fi, 24 count bike storage, bathrooms and a full service snack station, stocked with local fresh products from cold-brew coffee to chocolate chip cookies, according to SMART General Manager, Farhad Mansourian.

When asked what riders can look forward to and why they should ride SMART train, Mansourian mentioned the scenic beauty of the trip, which according to him hasn’t been seen in 60 years. 

According to train historians on board, the last time a train left the San Rafael station with a passenger on board to travel and view the wetlands, was in 1958.

“You get on the train and you don’t have to be stuck in the Highway 101 parking lot and then you come home all rested because we give you free Wi-Fi and we have coffee and in the evening we have beer and wine…” Mansourian said. “And other than that it’s the right thing to do, it’s the green commute.”

As of now, SMART does not have an approximate time for when regular train services will commence, due to the fact the high tech and green technology cars must all be approved by the Federal Rail Association after a long series of tests, according to Mansourian.

“We don’t have an exact date yet and here is why, we are opening with the latest and the most sophisticated train safety technology in the nation… and we need the final approval from the FRA. They are reviewing over 2,000 tests, they have reviewed our designs and we are waiting for the final approval before we open our doors,” he explained.

These safety features that must be approved include “Positive Train Control,” which helps to regulate train control and speed, which can range from 40 to 50 mph, with top speeds of 79 mph, according to a SMART train vehicle fact sheet.

Once regular scheduled service starts, the trains will make around 34 trips per day and have the capacity to hold around 300 people in a two-car set-up and 500 people in a three-car set up, according to Mansourian.

Other unique train amenities include easily accessible grab bars on the lower level of the seats to make standing riders more comfortable and comfortable mint and dark green colored seats with individual tray tables for each seat, according to Mariani-Belding.

“We’ve designed it with people in mind, it’s a beautiful train,” Mariani-Belding said of the look and amenities of the train.  

Aaron Parkes, SMART train control system designer who is also in charge of the train control system, switch machines and gates and lights at grade crossings, also said that he also loves the beautiful scenery provided by the trip.

“The scenery is excellent and taking four cars off the freeway is good for the environment and I think it (the train commute) is a great way to live your life if you have the option,” he said.