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Fairfax to San Rafael Trolley: Should it be Studied?

A study analyzing a possible trolley from Fairfax to San Rafael's Bettini Center could get federal OBAG funds.

{Do you think there should be a trolley between Fairfax and San Rafael's Bettini Transit Center? Vote in the poll.}

Transportation authorities are considering using federal funds to study the possibility of a trolley service linking Fairfax to San Rafael’s Bettini Transit Center.

The Transportation Authority of Marin will be receiving approximately $10 million from the federally-funded One Bay Area Grant. Of these funds, around $7 million will go toward planning projects that are currently being compiled for consideration, including a $75,000 feasibility study for the trolley.

The study would analyze the general routes, the need for capital improvements, potential ridership and the cost to operate the trolley. The study will be timed to match the start-up of the Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit service at the Bettini Transit center.

In December 2011, the TAM Board stated that a trolley could help to relieve congestion and offer an easier way to access SMART.

“The service could be popular due to its uniqueness, its multiple origins and destinations along the route and the burgeoning need to deliver passengers to the future site of SMART as well as the major Golden Gate/Marin Transit bus terminal at Bettini,” the report said.

Other projects that might be considered are , and a $200,000 study on SMART’s quiet zones for San Rafael. See the full list of projects proposed so far in the PDF on the right.

The TAM board won’t formally approve the OBAG-funded projects until September, according to TAM Executive Director Diane Steinhauser.

Kirk Wrench contributed to this report.

Jeffrey Gimzek June 14, 2012 at 12:37 AM
what poll?
who's money June 14, 2012 at 01:12 AM
where is the money going to come from and who's land will be stolen for the "common good" ?
Jessica Mullins (Editor) June 14, 2012 at 01:17 AM
Oops. Ok. Now there's a poll. Sorry about that.
David Edmondson June 14, 2012 at 05:01 PM
Repost from San Rafael Patch: I like the idea, but it would need so, so much more than just plunking down tracks on the road. Unless San Rafael, San Anselmo, and Fairfax are willing to grant major right-of-way concessions and ban cars along the route, unless San Anselmo and San Rafael abandon the "Highway Commercial" zones along the route and allow them to develop into low-density downtown-like areas, then the plan will offer no improvements to bus service. But I see no political will in San Rafael to offer traffic concessions and no political will in San Anselmo to offer zoning concessions. Even Fairfax would have a hard time permanently closing streets. I just don't see how the needle and thread could be pulled.
Jeffrey Gimzek June 14, 2012 at 06:31 PM
I agree it is a tough row to hoe, but without vision there are never any improvements. If you have ever been to New Orleans, you the Trolley is one of the most pleasasnt ways to travel. I just find the bus to be depressing. The weather here is great - an open air stroll through our beautiful towns would amazing, and would for sure create a positive economic impact.
anne June 14, 2012 at 08:01 PM
If it was electric or other green tech and did not make worse an already terrible traffic situation along Sir Francis Drake Blvd. I'd vote for it. I would love to see a solution that really makes a difference for those of us who live on or near this Blvd. I worry about our children crossing what seems more and more like a highway each year. Less cars and a viable green commute option would rock. Could it be subsidized and free as an incentive for use perhaps?
anne June 14, 2012 at 08:06 PM
It does sound like a step in the right direction. Less traffic on Sir Francis Drake please please!
Gilda June 15, 2012 at 06:13 PM
I see absolutely no reason to build a new trolley system when we have a public bus system that follows the same route daily every 30 minutes. Our Golden Gate transit bus system is luxurious especially when compared to San Francisco's Muni. I recommend that everyone interested in the trolley take a trial ride from Fairfax to San Rafael. I think you will be pleasantly surprised. Let's put our efforts into supporting Golden Gate Transit and in carpooling through the 511.org system.
David Edmondson June 15, 2012 at 08:04 PM
And GGT is on Google Maps now. Quite easy :)
Kevin Moore June 21, 2012 at 05:59 AM
Seems like a perfectly good alternative to cars is already in place.
Jory Prum June 22, 2012 at 05:16 PM
Anyone who says we have a "perfectly good alternative to cars in place" has clearly not relied upon our transit system. To start with, one post claims we have a bus every 30 minutes. This is patently false. We *used* to have busses running on the half hour (at least on weekdays), but Marin Transit carefully altered the wording when they cut routes and frequencies a few years ago and now says there are busses twice an hour. There's a big difference, I can assure you. The two busses pass through Fairfax seven minutes apart, meaning you must wait 53 minutes for the next bus. Quite a difference between that and "every 30 minutes". A trolley system would be an ideal solution, although I seriously doubt that the NIMBYs in Ross Valley would ever allow it to happen. If Center Road were to be turned into trolley & bicycle only, it would allow a thoroughfare that was (a) used as it was designed from the start, returning to a rail system those gentle turns were designed for, and (b) provide a dedicated route that would allow trolleys to run on a regular schedule, rather than being hindered by traffic on Sir Francis Drake, as our busses are. I definitely encourage a study and have been advocating this idea for more than a decade. I would love to see it gain momentum.
John Ferguson June 22, 2012 at 06:16 PM
+1 for what Jory said. Center street was designed for trains from the beginning. I've sat in many San Anselmo bike/ped committee meetings where a plan (unfunded) was developed to build a separated bicycle/pedestrian pathway along Center from downtown San Anselmo to Fairfax. One enormous problem apart from the money is that property owners have been building into the right of way for decades and would have to be essentially evicted to widen Center enough to put a separated path in. Removing the roadway and single-tracking the trolley would solve that problem but as Jory says, good luck getting anything that big and visionary built in our fair area. It takes hundreds to build something but only a couple to torpedo the best laid plans.
Rico July 19, 2012 at 03:10 AM
And, removing vehicular traffic from Center Blvd. would force all the traffic to use SFD ! People who have to drive between Fairfax and San Anselmo would be howling, never in a million years would Center be closed to personal vehicles. How about putting the "trolley" underground ? All over the world, subways are the thing to do in areas that need trains, ie: densely populated urban areas. The Ross Valley could somehow qualify for Federal taxpayer money to pay for the under grounding of the folly. I would love to be commissioned with the lucrative contract to conduct this study ! Yes, let the taxpayers approve the study, and give the job to me, I promise to endorse it, but only if it is underground. Outta sight is outta mind.
Jory Prum July 19, 2012 at 08:56 AM
Contrary to your belief, Ricardo, usable transit is actually capable of relieving traffic congestion. Ergo, if there is usable transit running along Center in the form of a trolley that runs every 20 minutes between Fairfax and San Rafael Transit Center, people will alter their behavior and take the trolley instead of driving everywhere. How is that possible? Well, with a usable transit system, the trolley becomes FASTER than driving, so people will leave their cars at home. Go figure. But instead of comprehending this concept, you'd rather we keep adding more and more cars to the road and watch our barely functional bus system continue to reduce into nothing. That's a great plan. I'm sure it'll work out well for everyone.
Rico July 19, 2012 at 04:46 PM
Jory, Sir Francis Drake Blvd. is already overloaded with traffic. Even 30 years ago when I lived in Fairfax, I always avoided SFD, I used Center Blvd. exclusively. Not everyone can use public transit for many reasons, so, if Center Blvd was closed to personal transportation, all the people would have to cut through the neighborhoods and/or use SFD. I remember a few years ago when some people were talking about running a trolley from Sausalito to Mill Valley. They did an expensive study and found out that the $50 million could be much better spent on a myriad of other things that actually would benefit the public. The also found that not many people at all could use the trolley, because it only ran down in the flatlands on a main street. Then, there were the SMART train marketers who wanted to run a trolley from Mill Valley to Fairfax (they never figured out how to do it). Judy (Jetson) Arnold wanted it to be a sky train. I remember a letter someone wrote glorifying the trolley. "Imagine on a nice summer day with nothing to do. Hop on a trolley in Mill Valley and spend the day traveling to Fairfax to enjoy an organic ice cream cone". I think that was a classic letter, and pretty well sums up the need for a trolley.
Rico August 01, 2012 at 02:34 AM
So, I guess this trolley-folly story is dropped like a cold potato. I wonder if someone will ever dig it up again and try and promote it ? Maybe in 10 or 20 years when the economy MIGHT recover.
Jory Prum August 01, 2012 at 02:41 AM
Could be that some of us have better things to do than argue with people who love to assert the "we can't lose a road to transit because it'll lead to more traffic" crap.
Rico August 01, 2012 at 02:58 AM
Jory, Are public roads not transit ?
Rico August 01, 2012 at 02:59 AM
Jory, Do you consider all roads not transit ? Are trains the only transit that exists in your mind ?
Jory Prum August 01, 2012 at 03:22 AM
Roads are roads. They are not public transportation. To borrow the definition from Wikipedia: Public transit is a shared passenger transportation service which is available for use by the general public, as distinct from modes such as taxicab, car pooling or hired buses which are not shared by strangers without private arrangement. Public transport modes include buses, trolleybuses, trams and trains, rapid transit (metro/subways/undergrounds etc) and ferries.

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