Michael Rex has devoted a lot of time to bringing trolleys to Marin.
The Sausalito architect helped start the nonprofit Marin Trolleys with Allan Nichol and local leaders. Rex had originally focused on the idea of a streetcar on Sausalito’s main thoroughfare, Bridgeway. The vision expanded to a trolley connecting downtown Sausalito and Mill Valley in 2007.
A study of the possible southern Marin determined it too costly a venture for its limited destinations and usage, so planning officials turned their attention to the busier Fairfax to San Rafael corridor.
It took awhile to get some San Rafael leaders to support looking into a new transit option, Rex said, but now .
The trolley vision has seen little stark opposition on Patch, but it has sparked some civil and thoughtful dialogue.
Rex’s vision for trolleys in Marin expands past a fixed line connecting communities. “I want to bring trolleys to the doorstep,” he said. “Anyone in transit will tell you the first link is the hardest to provide because people are so spread out."
Rex said trolleys should involve a comprehensive system that takes people door to door with an on-demand shuttle system.
The shuttle system wouldn’t be funded or operated by a transit authority, Rex said, but would instead be run by various neighborhood’s homeowners associations.
“They would each contract for their own shuttle. Imagine a little van with a GPS-activated map on their dashboard,” Rex said.
Residents could push a button on their smart phone to alert the shuttle they need a ride to the nearest trolley stop, he said.
“The idea is each neighborhood has a few that travel around the neighborhood like little bees,” Rex said, who added that the mode of transportation could vary by community. “Ross can have limos, Fairfax can have VW buses.”
The local transit could help build community and provide extra security, Rex said. “I think we are all isolated in our houses and our cars, it’s about quality of life and not just about transportation.”
Rex also hasn’t given up on the southern Marin trolley project, although he had to take a hiatus from working with Marin Trolleys because he had to focus on his architectural work after the recession hit.
He said the firm used for the original Sausalito to Mill Valley study “came to the table with unfortunate biases,” including the mindset that trolleys wouldn’t work in an area like Marin.
And while the efforts for southern Marin trolley haven’t died, they are definitely on hold for additional reasons. Late Marin County Supervisor Charles McGlashan was a strong supporter of the vision and contributed funds to the original southern Marin trolley study, Rex said. When the supervisor unexpectedly died in March 2011 it “took some of the wind out of” Rex’s sails. “When he died it set me back a bit. There are so few leaders like him.”
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