Nine years after voters approved a commuter train system for the North Bay, it will start service Aug. 25.
The opening comes after more than two years of delays for the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit System, known as SMART. By the end of next week, riders will be able to hop aboard trains at 10 stations from the Charles M. Schulz Sonoma County Airport in Santa Rosa to downtown San Rafael, a 43-mile route along old Northwestern Pacific Railroad tracks.
“We are proud to say that we are ready to roll,” said SMART Board of Directors Chairwoman Debora Fudge in a statement. “This is the result of years of hard work from SMART’s staff. ... We will remember this day for generations to come.”
Full service will begin at 12:49 p.m. on Aug. 25 after a 9 a.m. opening ceremony at the Santa Rosa Downtown Station. Fares will be free the first day, and 50 percent off through Sept. 4.
The last delays to the system were because of federal red tape, agency officials said. The system hadn’t received final approval for a $50 million safety feature called positive train control, which is designed to automatically stop trains if it senses a potential collision or problem. That happened this week.
Operators are planning 34 trips every weekday between Santa Rosa and San Rafael starting before sunrise and into the evening, with one-way fares payable by Clipper card and ranging from $3.50 to $11.50. New stations and connections are already in the works, including Larkspur and downtown Novato.