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SMART Train, Golden Gate Ink Transfer Credit Deal

On 21 April 2016, I personally attended another Golden Gate District meeting in San Francisco, in which one item in the Finance Committee meeting sparked my interest: Golden Gate is considering fare credits for riders using the upcoming Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) service, which will allow passengers to transfer between Golden Gate Transit and the SMART train for credits worth $1.50 for adults and $0.75 for youths and seniors.
​When I reviewed the current fares with the following agencies, namely:

  • Golden Gate Transit
  • Marin Transit
  • Petaluma Transit
  • Santa Rosa City Bus
  • Sonoma County Transit (especially the one-zone or Local fare)

I noticed the following fare gaps:​

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​Agency
Adults
Youths and Seniors
​Golden Gate Transit*
$2.45 to $4.45
$1.25 to $2.25
Marin Transit
$0.30
$0.25
Petaluma Transit
None
Youth: $0.25
Senior: None
Santa Rosa City Bus
None
Youth: $0.50
Senior: None
Sonoma County Transit
Local Fare
None
Youth: $0.50
Senior: None
Sonoma County Transit*
$0.60 to $3.30
$0.30 to $3.80

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* – These fare ranges are based on how many zones a passenger travels. The further one travels, the higher the fare. All fares listed are Clipper card values, in which it will be the only fare medium available on the SMART train.

Notice that within Sonoma County, basically, anyone over 19 will be given full fare credit once they transfer from the SMART train to a local bus service; youths 18 and below will then need to pay extra to obtain the “full” transfer credit, which is a bit strange. Also, the fare credit gap for Sonoma County Transit is a bit unusual wherein the maximum amount one has to pay to travel for five zones is $3.30 for adults, $3.80 for youths, and $1.65 for seniors. However, if we are to be more realistic, the fare differences will be as follows:

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Zones Traveled
Adults
Youths and Seniors
Two
$0.60
Youth: $1.10
Senior: $0.30
Three
$1.50
Youth: $2.00
​Senior: $0.75
Four
$2.40
Youth: $2.90
Senior: $1.10
Five
$3.30
Youth: $3.80
Senior: $1.65

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And last week, the SMART Board of Directors decided on the fare structure that will be used to collect fares based on distance, similar to what Golden Gate and Sonoma County Transit use. Sample fares are listed below; the full fare table can be seen here.

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City Pair
Adult Fare
Discount Fare
Within Novato
$3.50
$1.75
Novato-Petaluma
$5.50
$2.75
Novato-Santa Rosa
$7.50
$3.75
San Rafael-Santa Rosa
$9.50
$4.75

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​With that fare structure, those are comparable to what Golden Gate Transit, Marin Transit, and Sonoma County Transit charge for its passengers, especially with the fact that with a higher average speed for trains compared to buses would allow riders to get to their destinations faster. Instead of spending around 75 to 90 minutes on a Golden Gate Transit bus between Santa Rosa and San Rafael for example, SMART can transport riders between those two destinations in around 50 minutes on an exclusive right-of-way for the most part. With that time savings, SMART can take the initiative of charging a premium for train riders for faster service compared to what Golden Gate Transit Route 101 and Sonoma County Transit Routes 44, 48, 60, and 62 have to offer.

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