SMART train testing begins in North Bay

NOVATO, Calif. (KGO) -- In Marin County, the sounds and frequencies of SMART trains on test runs increased Friday as the railroad moves closer to opening.

It looks like a ghost station right now, but if we're to believe the SMART train people, it won't remain that way for long.

As advertised, SMART has begun full-system schedule testing of trains and schedules in Marin and Sonoma Counties, this as cities like San Rafael and Novato now have quiet zones meaning no horns in urban areas. SMART has not been in favor of the move, due to safety concerns.

By now, North Bay residents have grown accustomed to seeing Smart Trains minus passengers running the line between Marin and Sonoma counties, but they have never seen more trains than on Friday.

"Well, two car train holds 300 people, and we are running 34 trains today so you can do the math," said Jeanne Mariani-Belding of Sonoma-Marin area rapid transit.

Which would mean a simulated capacity of 10,200 commuters pulling in and out of stations Friday and crossing through communities. Two of them have banned the use of horns.

"Actually, I thought the horns were louder than they needed to be," said San Anselmo resident Steve Stephens.

The no-horns policy applies to crossings with double gates on either side of a track.

Thus far, ABC7 News is hearing that the trains are running within one minute of schedule. But it is also a matter of coordinating their schedule with that of other public transit agencies.

SMART has said it would prefer to sound horns for safety, but in these cases they're overruled.

"It is up to the jurisdictions to post quiet zones, and it is our responsibility to comply when given word from the railroad administration," Stephens told ABC7 News.

For what it's worth, SMART says the trains ran on time Friday, now it's a matter of coordinating their schedule with bus and ferry schedules.

SMART hopes to charge its first paying passenger in early June.

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