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This year,SMART rail stations to have bike racks as service launches

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Bicycle racks will be part of SMART rail stations when service begins later this year.

Last week the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit board of directors approved an additional 68 secure bike lockers and 42 bike racks. That is in addition to 100 — 10 per station — bike rack spaces that had already been programmed.

“Some of (the racks) are already installed at our stations,” said Bill Gamlen, SMART’s chief engineer.

The secured parking involves installing a box-like locker that holds up to four bikes. Access is electronically controlled by each user with a “BikeLink” card.

The plan calls for four of those spaces at the Marin Civic Center station and the downtown San Rafael station. In Novato, the Hamilton station would have four spaces, and the San Marin station would have eight spaces.

There will be 142 of the inverted bicycle U-racks and other rack spaces designed for short-term parking across the stations in Marin and Sonoma.

The plan met with approval from bike advocates.

Bjorn Griepenburg, policy and planning director for the Marin County Bicycle Coalition, thanked the board for “acknowledging the need for these baseline bike parking facilities at the start of service.”

Ridership forecasts estimate about 3,070 daily passengers and 300 on each weekend day. About 9 percent of peak commuters are expected to be bicyclists, according to SMART officials.

Adding more bike parking was important for bike advocates, who are waiting for an adjacent SMART pathway project to take form.

The pathway has been on shaky ground ever since voters passed a quarter-cent sales tax in Marin and Sonoma counties in November 2008 to fund SMART. The understanding was a complete 70-mile rail line and adjacent bike and pedestrian path would be built from Larkspur to Cloverdale.

In 2009, that plan collapsed under the weight of a poor economy, which weakened the sales tax base on which the system is fueled. SMART is forging ahead in phases, with an initial San Rafael to Santa Rosa segment, but some bike advocates feel the path needs more attention. SMART officials say they are working diligently to complete the pathway.

Rail officials will have some time to get bike parking readied. The start of SMART rail service was pushed back to spring due to a potential problem with train engines.

SMART officials had hoped to start service before 2016 ended, but the discovery of a design flaw with the crank shaft in the train engines will require all 14 SMART engines to be rebuilt by the manufacturer. That work will last until April.