SMART offers Larkspur shuttle for ferry riders

June 24, 2024

SMART and other Marin County transit agencies launch a new free shuttle connecting the Larkspur ferry terminal and the SMART station to make public transit more accessible. The terminal is a 12- to 15-minute walk from the station.

Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit has fulfilled a longtime goal and added a shuttle linking the train and ferry in Larkspur.

The agency said the one-year pilot project is aimed at making transit more accessible and easier.

The SMART Connect shuttle (sonomamarintrain.org/LarkspurShuttle), which launched on Thursday, involves a partnership with the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District and the Transportation Authority of Marin.

“The SMART Connect service at Larkspur is a game changer and will lead to increased ridership on both the train and ferry,” said Eddy Cumins, SMART general manager. “We’ve received many requests from the public for a connection between the train and ferry and are thrilled to partner with TAM and Golden Gate Transit to deliver this new service.”

The SMART Connect shuttle follows the model of the service introduced at the Sonoma County Airport stop in Santa Rosa last year. That shuttle serves a 1.2-mile area between the train stop and the airport.

On weekdays, the shuttle loops around the SMART station, the ferry terminal and the surrounding Larkspur Landing area. The service includes on-demand door-to-door pickups and dropoffs and three stops at the Marin Country Mart.

Service is expanded Saturdays and Sundays with on-demand pickups and dropoffs at the Town Center and the Village shopping malls in Corte Madera.

One-way fare is $1.50 for adults and $0.75 for people with disabilities. The service is free for riders younger than 19 and older than 64.

The shuttle seats 11 riders and has room for two wheelchair users.

“This is a great new option to travel between the Larkspur SMART station and the Larkspur ferry and will also help connect to local businesses,” said Anne Richman, executive director of Transportation Authority of Marin.Richman said there is still a nice walking and biking option over the bridge that spans the Sir Francis Drake Boulevard.

“Adding travel options for all ages and abilities is always a plus,” she said.

While the distance between the SMART platform and the Golden Gate Ferry Terminal is just over a quarter-mile, it’s about a 12- to 15-minute walk, said Michael Hoffman, deputy general manager of the ferry.

The shuttle is among many strategies SMART has initiated to get more people on trains. Earlier this year, the agency launched a free fare program for youths and older riders. Ridership numbers have been climbing.

As of Tuesday, SMART trains carried more than 816,000 riders for the fiscal year ending on June 30. That is 14% above total ridership for fiscal year ending in 2019, the last recorded year of pre-pandemic conditions. Numbers are tracking to reach 850,000 riders by the end of this fiscal year, officials said.

“We’ve heard lots about the first and last mile connections to transit, and this is SMART being responsive to our riders,” said Marin County Supervisor Eric Lucan. Lucan is president of the SMART board and a member of the Transportation Authority of Marin board.

Lucan said some transit riders might prefer walking, but others might not be able to make their connection quickly enough.

“We want to make sure we’re designing a system for everyone of all ability levels,” Lucan said. “If we can accommodate the ones that can benefit the most from this, that is a win.”

Barbara Liss of San Rafael stopped by to check out the new shuttle while riding with her group of cycling friends on Friday. Liss said they ride the train to Sonoma County frequently for bike rides. She said she is excited about the service.

“I think this shuttle can be a benefit for every commuter,” she said. “The accessibility is great, and if it’s raining this is a good option. I’m hoping people will decide not to take their cars when they go through Marin and Sonoma and take advantage.”

The service began with a soft launch starting June 6. The shuttle has been averaging 50 riders a day, according to SMART. The project cost is $221,461.

Rides can be pre-booked using the Ride Pingo app or by calling customer service at 800-727-0279. Walk-on space is limited and pre-booking is encouraged, officials said.