Northwestern Pacific Railroad Network

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From the Marin Independent Journal article found here:

Decisions, decisions.

Officials with Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit are trying to figure out just how the inside of their trains will look, and they held a workshop in San Rafael Wednesday to hear from the public.

Among the design issues pondered: Cloth seats or leather-like seats? A permanent snack bar or rolling cart? Face-to-face or row seating? Are work tables needed? Where to put bike racks - should they be hanging or at floor level? Should rows of seats be two-by-two or two-by-three?

"This is the fun part, we get to go shopping," said Debora Fudge, who headed SMART's Operation Committee that met at the San Rafael Corporate Center.

The agency will have little say on the design of the exterior, although it will request a sleek "aerodynamic" front end, versus a box shape.

What the agency will have a say on is the interior of the trains, and it wanted to get the public's thoughts. Committee members made no final decisions at Wednesday's meeting.

Steve Birdlebough, of the group Friends of SMART, wants to see the trains with rows of seats two-by-two, instead of two-by-three, to allow for more aisle space.

"Otherwise it's just too cramped a feeling, like an airplane," he said. "We need to have sufficient space for bicycles, too. There are going to be a lot of people riding to the train and then riding from the train to their work."

Mill Valley resident Walter Strakosch wondered if it was better not to have restrooms on the trains and instead have them at stations in order to create more seating on board.

"It will take up at least six seats on board and perhaps more to have a restroom," he said. "That is a lot of seats to lose, especially when the service becomes more popular."

SMART has set aside $88 million for the design, construction and delivery of the cars for the system. Unlike traditional trains with huge locomotives pulling long lines of passenger cars, the SMART vehicles will be self-propelled units with the engines placed underneath passenger compartments.

That allows for compact trains, generally two cars operating together in a "married pair" that seats about 150 passengers and is about 150 to 170 feet long. SMART's specifications likely will require manufacturers to provide a third car that can be added, increasing the seating capacity to 225. The agency will order a maximum of 22 cars.

Development of vehicle specifications, which will include public comment, is expected to be complete by the end of March. Bids will be due around Oct. 1, 2010. The first vehicles should arrive in the North Bay for testing on the SMART corridor in fall 2013.

SMART is expecting to start rail service in 2014 on a 70-mile route between Cloverdale and Larkspur. Voters in Sonoma and Marin counties approved a quarter-cent sales tax to fund the project in November 2008.

To submit ideas on train design, send e-mail to or write to SMART, 750 Lindaro St., Suite 200, San Rafael 94901.

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