NORTH BAY, CA — Children 18 and younger who are accompanied by a fare-paying adult will be eligible to ride the SMART train free on 33 separate weekend and holiday days this summer. The Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit Board recently approved the pilot program, which runs between Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends.
The SMART Board also approved free parking in its own paid parking lots on weekends and holidays between May 25 and Sept. 9.
SMART General Manager Farhad Mansourian said the free rides for youth are intended to "grow a generation of transit riders and create a culture of transit within the broader community."
SMART began train service between San Rafael and Airport Boulevard north of Santa Rosa in August 2017. There are currently 17 round trips on weekdays, and SMART's southbound morning and northbound evening commute trains are regularly standing room only, as Mansourian noted in his report.
SMART offers five round trips on weekends and holidays. So far, whenever the district offers free service—as it did last year on its first anniversary of service—all trains have operated above capacity, said Mansourian.
Weekend ridership is notably lighter than weekday ridership. Even though there are fewer weekend trips offered, the average number of people per train is lower on weekends than on weekdays, Mansourian said.
Mansourian said SMART's on-time performance was 97.3 percent in 2018.
One-way adult fares on the train range in price between $3.50 and $11.50. Seniors, youth and passengers with disabilities pay half price.
SMART uses the same Clipper card payment system that is used by other Bay Area transit providers. SMART also offers a 31-day pass for unlimited rides within a month of the date of first use.
— Bay City News Service
EDITORS NOTE: Wow. Free rides at the taxpayers expense. It is time to reconsider this massive boondoogle and put the money in buses and highway expansion that people need.