Moving the San Rafael Transit Center

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• San Rafael Transit Center move •

At the San Rafael Planning Commission meeting on Nov 29 2016 
-- see at the 58th minute a Traffic Analysis of moving the Bus Transit Center (Start at the 40th minute for the build to Larkspur).

At one hour and 11 mins. they say that there will be a further delay of 15 seconds at major intersections yet they are woefully ignorant of the SMART Schedule. Planning, Staff and DPW think there is a train every half hour when in fact there is one every 15 minutes ! A SMART Crossing goes from red to green in about 1 minute and 10 seconds. Then it takes about a minute for traffic to get back to "normal" speed, so SMART will stop commuter traffic on 2nd and 3rd Streets for about 1.5 minutes every 15 minutes.
That's the equivalent of increasing commuter Traffic Congestion by 10% 
And includes more backup onto the freeway for 30,000+ commuters to/from North Marin and Sonoma. ( The good news is that the SMART system talks to the downtown traffic light system.)

That 1.5 minutes doesn't include the huge impact on Traffic Light SEQUENCING . SMART isn't going change its schedule to accommodate our Traffic light SEQUENCING (without which there would be so much more congestion).

Is it time for the San Rafael Council to take a step backwards and determine who they are representing ? SMART or the people of San Rafael?
 Clearly the increase in Traffic Congestion from SMART is the biggest issue on their plate ( making Homelessness pale into relative insignificance).
In a year's time thousands of residents will be complaining bitterly as they struggle every day to get to work and get home.

SMART is insisting that San Rafael pay for the crossing at Anderson Drive ( because of past road construction which ignored the tracks) .
Golden Gate needs to get an ENCROACHMENT PERMIT from San Rafael (and some Eminent Domain) to implement the $3.5 interim change to the Transit Center when SMART splits it in two.

Should San Rafael adopt a stance of NO COOPERATION and delay this disaster for as long as possible?
Is that not BY FAR in the best interests of their constituents?

Read Richard Hall in the IJ:- "Is SMART leading San Rafael’s City Council?"

"In transportation, nothing is forever," said Steve Kinsey when in 2011 the ADAMS AMENDMENT was Ignored.  (Back in In 2008, after weeks of wrangling between leaders of SMART and the Transportation Authority of Marin, the rail agency promised it would not compete with the transportation authority for state and federal funds. Kinsey and others ignored it just 3 years later .)
SMART-to-Larkspur is going to severely congest 2nd, 3rd and HWY101 traffic.
It should
not be managed by someone who would lose face for having been the principle advocate of this disruption -- Kinsey !
Part of the Kinsey email sent in 2002 follows. In it he admits how EXPRESS BUS would be more cost effective than SMART. But did we hear from him anything other than recommendations for SMART since ?
" in 1999-2000, MTC evaluated a wide range of transit alternatives, and issued a document we called our “Blueprint for the 21st Century”. In it, express bus service on upgraded HOV lanes was identified as the most cost effective expansion in the 101 corridor through Marin and Sonoma. ............
Almost before the ink was dry on that report, the Governor produced his Traffic Congestion Relief Plan(TCRP) which funded SMART in the northbay"

Dick Spotswood: Kinsey’s new job a sign of the revolving door..

Based on what currently looks like the preferred location for the new Bus Transit Center, if they had planned this before they would have located the SMART Train Station at a totally different location for it to be adjacent to this new Bus Transit Center.
There will be 2 sets of train tracks all the way from the San Rafael Station to Anderson Drive. Possibly used to park trains overnight for the morning northbound? ( as well as for train bypassing)
The train will go no more than 15 miles per hour at the Anderson crossing ( it crosses on a diagonal).
Also QUEUE CUTTER traffic lights stop vehicles well before they get to the tracks ( a no-mans-land for vehicles ).
All paid for by the City ( with Federal grant they say)

SMART has refused to fund the necessary move of the San Rafael TRANSIT CENTER ( and the PATHWAY along its tracks to Larkspur). And now they say they are going to proceed with construction of the track to Larkspur in 2017 !

SMART threatens that if the pathway from 2nd Street to Anderson Drive is not constructed, at the same time as the tracks, it will be considerably more expensive (at the same time they refuse to fund it themselves).

SMART is planning to reconstruct and utilize the current right-of-way which runs through the middle of the San Rafael Transit Center. This will start in the spring or summer of 2017 through 2018.

SMART’s right-of-way will be fenced off and will therefore restrict access by busses and pedestrians, cutting the San Rafael Transit Center in half.

Modifications to current bus movements within the Center will be needed. Kimley-Horn has worked closely with all agencies to develop solutions that allow continuation of bus service.

Both the Transit Center move and the Pathway should have already been included in SMART's plans 2005-2008 which was presented to the voters.

The Transportation Authority of Marin (TAM) is scurrying to find funding for these projects ( see Kinsey say that the new Transit Center could cost $30-$40 million in the video on  July 28 meeting, near the end). By doing this they are enabling SMART's renege.

TAM's Evaluation Considerations include "Does the project reduce congestion in Marin?"
But provides no details on how this is achieved.

In fact, it turns out that SMART will :-

  •  take no more than 79 cars off Hwy 101 per commute peak hour
  •  stop traffic on 2nd and 3rd street every 15 minutes (causing a huge backup both directions and onto the freeway)
  •  have few to zero spaces available for its riders on the Larkspur Ferry

At this point there is enough information available to say that SMART from San Rafael to Larkspur will produce much more "congestion in SR AND Marin", far more than taking 79 cars off 39 miles of the freeway and it would be beneficial to the people of Marin to delay this for as long as possible.

We need a detailed analysis from the Transit Authourity of Marin (TAM)  of the net "traffic congestion" that this SMART extension will produce! Any lawyers out there willing to file an INJUNCTION on the known facts that this will induce a net INCREASE IN TRAFFIC CONGESTION ? (even after the Center is moved). Note this includes the 20,000+ Sonomans, Commuting to or through San Rafael, affected by backup onto the freeway, from stopped traffic on 2nd and 3rd streets. ( or is it more like 40,000+ ?)


Minimum of 5 years till new  San Rafael Transit Center Nov 17th 2016

The transit center in downtown San Rafael will have to be split soon so SMART trains can pass through it en route to Larkspur as soon as 2018.

The big changes will come as Golden Gate Bridge district officials make plans to move the entire center in as soon as five years.

It was the district that gave Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit a right of way through the center, so the disruption is not a complete surprise.

Officials at the district, which runs buses in and out of the transit center, initially planned to study the center’s future and where it might be located as SMART came online.

But last December SMART officials announced the agency was in line to receive funding to extend the commuter rail service to Larkspur, which includes going through the transit center. With construction of commuter train service to Larkspur starting as soon as summer 2017.


“When the study was originally conceived we thought the SMART extension to Larkspur would be several years in the future,” Ron Downing, director of planning for the district, told the Transportation Committee . “The study changed course when we realized that extension would be happening a lot sooner.”

Construction will include new tracks, barriers and crossing arms. The rail line will go through Platform C, eliminating bus stops, meaning passengers will be picked up on adjacent streets instead. The Marin Airporter will pick up its passengers on Fourth Street under Highway 101, a block from the transit center. Cijos Street also will undergo improvements so it can better accommodate bus traffic.

Those changes will be permanent even after SMART finishes putting track through the transit center. That’s because the rail line will have to be sectioned off by concrete so pedestrians can’t cross tracks, limiting access to buses at the center. Presently, pedestrians can go from platform to platform without restriction.

The modifications are expected to cost about $3.5 million, money provided by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission that was intended to be used for an abandoned ferry project at Port Sonoma.

The transit center — known as the C. Paul Bettini Transit Center for a former mayor — opened in 1991 and is used by 9,000 people daily.

The bridge district eventually wants to build a new transit center in the same area. Committee members Thursday discussed three sites, including using the existing site between Second and Third streets and land between Third and Fourth streets. A second option would use land between Third and Fourth streets and Fourth Street and Fifth Avenue, where Citibank and House of Bagels are now. A new site will likely involve buying property that currently houses buildings.

Another possible site would stretch from Fourth Street to Mission Avenue. That design would close Fifth Avenue to vehicle traffic at the SMART train tracks, which has sparked concern from San Rafael officials who note downtown is already congested.

A new transit center would cost between $32 million and $42 million, according to preliminary estimates, and could be funded by federal grants. Housing on top of a new transit center also could be part of the mix, officials said.

Passengers will have to live with the new alignments at the existing transit center for the near future, officials said.

“A new transit center is at least five years away,” said Denis Mulligan, bridge district general manager.

  Long-Term Solutions

With SMART anticipating extending their services to Larkspur, Kimley-Horn also developed conceptual alternatives to provide a more permanent long-term transit center solution. The alternatives Kimley- Horn developed would either modify the current Bettini Center or use the city blocks north of the current center to house the permanent location. Kimley-Horn Associates, and the working group which was composed of staff from all agencies listed above, worked diligently to identify more than 10 solutions for a permanent relocation site. These alternatives were evaluated and now three solutions remain. Each of these, along with their advantages and disadvantages, will be addressed in the presentation.

Upon completion of Kimley-Horn’s report, it is our understanding that the transit agencies will move forward with the environmental analysis and public input process to identify the preferred solution and then begin design work for the selected alternative.

Funding has been identified to construct the interim solution and the initial environmental and design work for the permanent project. Additional design money, right of way acquisition funding, and construction funding have not yet been assembled for the permanent transit center.


Federation of San Rafael Neighborhoods Meeting Notes


Wednesday, September 21, 2016 Jackson Cafe, 930 Tamalpais Ave., San Rafael, CA

A Panel of City and County officials, Non-profit, and Neighborhoods Leaders


Visioning the San Rafael Station Area, Transit Hub, and Gateway to San Rafael


Panel: Mayor Phillips, SMART Board, City Subcommittees; Damon Connolly,' Marin County Supervisor District 1; Katie Rice, Marin County Supervisor District 2; Danielle O'Leary, San Rafael Department

of Economic Development; Rebecca Woodbury, San Rafael Senior Analyst; Kate Powers, President, Marin Conservation League; Bill Carney, President, Sustainable San Rafael; Cynthia Landecker, President, San Rafael Heritage; Jim Elias, Executive Director, Marin County Bicycle Coalition; Ron Downing, Director of Planning, Golden Gate Transit; Jeff Rhoads, Friends of SMART; Tim Gilbert, BPAC San Rafael Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee; Kay Karchevski, Lincoln/San Rafael Hill Neighborhood Association; Mia Berndt, Friends of the Canal; Bonnie Marmor, Point San Pedro Road Coalition; Moderator, Amy Likover, Interim President, Federation of San Rafael Neighborhoods

Greeting, intros and framework of forum goals by panel and Amy Likover, Interim President


The panel's discussion was lead by the foundational question:


What vision do each of you have to guide the very real decisions now being made in the Downtown Station Area,
the future of the new transit center, the old train depot, our commercial crossroads, area creeks and pathways

The Federation's goals for this gateway location include:

  • Efficient flow of traffic from the 101 freeway and on city streets

  • Safe pathways for pedestrians and cyclists traveling all directions

  • An appealing, aesthetic, and welcoming townscape

  • Respect for our City's natural setting and history

Ideas/Vision of Station Area

  • 86 year old father be able to cross the street at 3rd and Hetherton

  • Kids able to walk and ride bikes safely to Davidson Middle School from Lincoln, Montecito and Canal Neighborhoods.

  • Mahon Creek included as opportunity for positive aesthetic

  • Watershed & water-based planning in conjunction with transportation planning, including run-off to Bay

  • Create a world-class gateway to San Rafael. Addressing pedestrians safety, poor and increasingly bad traffic circulation, congestion

  • Visionary solutions through brave community dialogue, coordination of agencies

  • SMART service rolled out in positive way, making sure it's extended to Larkspur; good solution for Bettini Transit Center, with multi-use bike path completed concurrently

  • Whistlestop location/historic Depot building as hub for train/bus/bike/pedestrian center and gateway to downtown

  • Not causing degradation for transit users (9,000 per day) or making their commute longer or more challenging-conversely, make it more efficient and pleasant

  • Long-term solution for Bettini Center versus interim solution with buses on surface streets, etc.

  • Transit Center as an asset, world-class vibrant urban downtown, community embracing personal habits for vehicle use and safety for multi-modal sharing of roadways.

  • BPAC seeks input for their 5-year update for San Rafael's Bike and Pedestrian Master Plan, addressing how to make a car dominated environment more walker and bike friendly

  • Station Area is recreated as San Rafael's front porch: walkable, welcoming; a place to stop, gather & enjoy; including a transit center that's integrated in a comprehensive and contributing way with its surroundings, not just one with adequate turning radiuses

  • A car-free 4th St. for buses & transit only (not past Lincoln) with transit shuttles frequent from cross-town to West End

  • Access to waterways (Petaluma example) integrating overnight boaters AND flood mitigation (Canal area mentioned)

  • Embrace San Rafael's ready access to water: a destination (referenced the Great Baths history), Mahon Creek could be restored, culverts should maintained, and there should be dredging/mud removal, storm drains would function better

  • Storm water turned to rain garden; filtering provides improved flood control

  • Unique characteristic of location is confluence of Mahon Creek, San Rafael Creek and Canal; our transportation cross-roads derives from this natural system, which could be celebrated as a centerpiece of the station area "front yard;" providing a sense of place & connection to nature, expressed in Downtown.

  • Outlying areas are concerned with not being able to reach Downtown or freeway in reasonable amount of time; need community conversations and balance for neighborhoods as stakeholders in the transit center

  • Embracing "city-ness" of San Rafael as hub of County, employment and retail center, potentially an entertainment and residential center, for seniors and "Millennials"

  • Need realistic traffic planning, improved circulation for East/West thru to Ross Valley and alternatives from short-cut routes like Sir Frances Drake and Wolf Grade, etc.

  • Perhaps locate Transit Center not in midst of high-pressure area but downstream a bit (Larkspur Ferry?) or with satellite stops to match end-uses and multi-mode connections; too much in one spot

  • Elevate railroad through central San Rafael with green space below to eliminate traffic conflicts and enhance quality of life and multi-modal transportation, promote walking & biking, wetlands, wetland trails and improve watershed

  • Local transit connections (Marin Transit) and multi-use path Downtown to Larkspur

  • Bike Parking

  • Depending on transit center location, relock at configuration of 2nd and 3rd multi-lane one-way corridors; reconsider one-way "couplet" for safety issues; locate transit north of 3rd St. to eliminate bus to train user crossings and improve safety and circulation

  • Locate primary bike & pedestrian crossings of 2nd and 3rd St. at Tamalpais West, identify these intersections with special paving, signalization, etc., and connecting the transit center to the North-South Greenway multi-use path between 2nd and Andersen; establish similar pedestrian crossings at Lincoln, Lindaro, and B streets, creating clear multi-use zones away from Hetherton

  • Safety-driven project that is beautiful, promotes economic vitality and is attractive

  • Pleasant, safe area to walk through, with clear way finding and ease of walking to end destination, good experience

  • Vision of San Rafael as a destination with sidewalks, plazas, pocket parks, community connection, economic vitality, restored creek, pedestrian connection for East and West San Rafael, exchange transit modes elsewhere

  • Eliminate blight on CalTrans property (chain link, litter & weeds)

  • "Natural areas improve people's behavior;" cities benefit from natural spaces. (Jim Elias)

  • Downtown Station Area Plan from 2012 (available on Community Development page of City's website) contains many of the concepts mentioned here for bike & pedestrian circulation, gathering space, economic vitality and green space; it includes transit center relocation ideas and diagram of Bettini block showing apartments with train going thru

  • Bridge over Canal, enlivened waterways, safe route for commuters and students

Transit (Bettini) specific comments:

  • Comment that the Transit Center may be the biggest challenge facing San Rafael now

  • Comment (by Mayor) that the Transit Center may cost about $30 Million and involves multiple agencies
                 (SMART, Golden Gate Transit, Marin Transit, and the City); looking at several options- 2nd to 4th; 3rd to 5th; 4th to Mission.

  • 2nd highest use transit center in Bay Area (9,000 people/day)

  • Ideas have included buses on surface streets as interim plan

  • Closing 5th Street is among the options, but not promising

  • Consider closing 4th St. to cars, allowing trollies/shuttles and cross traffic.

  • Treat both sides of Tamalpais (east and west of tracks) as "found commons," with consistent street trees, landscaping, streetscape and facade guidelines, creating a greenway

  • Perils of closing 5th St. given Mission bottleneck of train crossing making traffic worse there

  • (Mayor) Could see affordable housing over Transit Center or on existing Bettini site (3-4 levels)

  • Challenge of getting the flow of traffic and the train crossing through town to work with bus turning patterns and schedules

  • Address parking and other needs for ridership going north in transit center plans.

Other goals:

  • Tamalpais as a North-South linear Greenway, urban open space

  • Natural & historic connection to rail preserved as part of Station Area. Many cities preserve their historic depot buildings (Mission revival design) and integrate them into the urban setting.

  • Other: Art, seats, trees, bio-swales, urban forest and livability, urban design, human scale retail, place, significance

Moderator's Follow-up Comments:

  • Create a greenway on both sides of the SMART track. Trees, art, public meeting places, new cafes announce and celebrate the City's new neighbor, the train. Could even be pedestrian streets. A real bonus to new SR economic vitality. It's ingenious to bring nature to a street named "Tamalpais."

  • Create a greenway with indigenous plants along the multi-purpose paths. Link up with Tamalpais and creek greenways for an "emerald necklace" effect?

  • Feature San Rafael's genesis to the local waterways with a cleaned up San Rafael Creek & Mahon Creek. Native plantings to absorb water continue the "greenway concept.

  • CalTrans cleans up properties near freeway, to make them natural and welcoming.

  • Rethink the high-speed arteries 2nd & 3rd St and look at 101 on/off ramps for their slowdowns. Restriping to allow 2 lanes? Is there a better way to move the traffic? Are rotaries possible at Montecito? Alternative routing? Should Mission St. be one-way East or Westbound to loosen up backups on track? Pedestrian crossings?

  • Showcase the historic SR Station Depot building. Make it our "Ferry Building." Whistlestop continues ownership, and could possibly host "World-Class" high profit concessions in the building: top notch Marin cuisine restaurant upstairs, first-rate espresso bar downstairs w senior discounts etc.

  • Build a smaller matching "Mission-revival style building" where the Bettini Transit Center sits to create a welcome balance to that site. Could be the transit information hub.

  • Consider density, pollution, light and noise first before planning housing on site

  • Educate drivers to be attentive. [Post motorcycle cops at all 4 corners of the Station Area to cite bad drivers? This would send a message to all that the station area is off-limits to reckless driving.

  • Remember Jim Elias' words of wisdom from MCBC's Jim Elias, "In natural settings people behave better."

Respectfully submitted, Tymber Cavasian,

FSRN; September 29, 2016 Bill Carney

Edits by Amy Likover FSRN

October 5, 2016