"The SMART network is made up of 10 stations that takes 90 minutes to complete a round trip. There are plans to introduce five more stations, all being well, by 2019."
San Francisco commuters received the good news they had been waiting for last week, when the much-delayed Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) departed from Sonoma County Airport, to the north of the city. Though SMART’s first journey, a design flaw with the train’s crankshaft and the impact felt by 2008’s economic crisis were among the main reasons for the maiden voyage being pushed back by around nine months.
Further slowing the network’s progress was the decision taken by SMART to install Positive Train Control (PTC) safety system across the entire network. The presence of the safety system on every train in the US, which automatically stops trains before a collision can occur, will be enshrined in US law in 2018 after an extension was passed by Congress in 2016. The law change came to being because of a number of fatal rail crashes between 2002 and 2008, including a crash in Chatsworth, California in 2008 that claimed 25 lives. Despite having a two-year buffer in which to install the system, the decision was taken by SMART management that it would be fully operational from day one.
“Positive Train Control will prevent all speed-related and speed-related human error accidents, which are a common cause of train accidents,” said SMART General Manager, Farhad Mansourian, adding that he believed PTC would save a lot of lives.
SMART has hit more than one bump on the tracks since it was announced in 2008; a significant portion of funding for the line was raised through a quarter-cent sales tax, which was challenged by some in a bid to repeal it. Now up and running, the SMART network is made up of 10 stations that takes 90 minutes to complete a round trip. There are plans to introduce five more stations, all being well, by 2019 – taking it to within walking distance of the Golden Gate Ferry. Construction of that line, the route of which is currently served by a free shuttle bus, has already begun.
The train will appeal to commuters, who until now had to rely on Highway 101 that is prone to traffic jams, due to each train being able to hold 24 bicycles – one passenger speaking at the train’s launch said SMART is expected to save her up to around expected 30 minutes. One-way fares on the line are payable by Clipper card or a smartphone app and will range from $3.50 to $11.50.
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