Towns Support Efforts for Fairfax to San Rafael Trolley Study

San Anselmo, San Rafael and Fairfax officials have expressed support for the Transportation Authority of Marin to seek One Bay Area funds to study if a trolley could connect the towns.

If you could take a trolley from Fairfax to San Rafael, would you use it?

Efforts are moving forward to look into just how rational it is to have a trolley - or some other sort of public transportation such as a light rail - connecting Fairfax, San Anselmo and San Rafael. 

The San Anselmo, San Rafael and Fairfax councils have all shown support for the Transportation Authority of Marin to apply for One Bay Area Grant funding for a feasibility study for the Fairfax to San Rafael transit corridor.

Transportation Authority of Marin Executive Director Dianne Steinhauser outlined the project details to the San Anselmo council at its Oct. 23 meeting.

The municipalities wouldn’t pay for the study, expected to cost $100,000, but each town would have a staff member serve on a technical advisory committee.

The TAM board will vote on which applications, including the Fairfax to San Rafael corridor study, will ultimately be submitted for the OBAG funds, awarded by the Oakland-based Metropolitan Transportation Commission

The route is currently proposed as running from White’s Hill in Fairfax to the future SMART station in San Rafael, or possibly to the Montecito Shopping Center, according to Steinhauser.

It could provide much traffic relief to Ross Valley, Steinhauser said. 

The study, which will be done by TAM with San Anselmo, Fairfax, San Rafael, Marin County, the local nonprofit Marin Trolley and Marin Transit, would look at:

  • Evaluation of route options, including assessment of traffic and parking impacts
  • Cost estimates for vehicles, capital improvements, maintenance and storage
  • A preliminary business plan for operation of the line, including estimated ridership and potential user groups
  • Revenue options, including fare revenue, advertising, private funding options and grants

The TAM board will vote on which project applications it will send to the One Bay Area Grant Program at its Nov. 29 meeting.


The San Anselmo council members generally expressed support for TAM to pursue the study, but they also shared some concerns they have with a trolley vision. 

“The trolley is a wonderful and romantic idea, but they are expensive,” said Councilman Jeff Kroot. 

Councilwoman Lori Lopin asked if the transit would include portions of Sleepy Hollow.

Vice Mayor Kay Coleman asked why the funds couldn’t be used to augment the bus service.

“We’re looking for a transit type that may attract more users to transit,” Steinhauser said. A trolley could be appealing because of the uniqueness of the vehicle and consistency of where it’s going, she said.

Of the 58 people who voted in our unscientific poll on the subject in June, 86 percent said there should be a trolley linking Fairfax to the San Rafael transit center.

Transportation officials were originally looking into a trolley system between downtown Sausalito and downtown Mill Valley. But after efforts began in 2007, it was determined it was too costly a venture for its limited destinations and usage.

The Fairfax to San Rafael corridor is better to study for a trolley, Steinhauser told the San Anselmo council.

Steinhauser also said they want to ensure that a trolley or any other type of new public transit doesn’t prevent bicycle and pedestrian access to the communities.

Later this week, we’ll look at what kind of vision those involved with the nonprofit Marin Trolley have for Marin.

What's your reaction? Do you like the idea of a trolley or light rail connecting the towns? Tell us below in the comments! 

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Rico October 30, 2012 at 01:14 AM
OBAG funds spent on a study for a trolley ? I'm sure glad that some taxpayers have money to waste. There are numerous questions about the economic feasibility of such a project like, Where could they put it ? How much advertising revenue can this project generate ? Who would ride it ? Who needs it ? Who wants it ? Who is going to foot the bill for it ? Can we really afford it ? Where is this big windfall of money going to come from ? Would the project divert funds away from traditional public transit in Marin like buses ? Would it do anything at all to reduce the amount of people who commute through the Ross Valley in their autos to COM, and S.F. , the east, north , south bay areas and beyond ? Hire me to the study, in these tough times , I would do it for cheap, but I might not give the approval that OBAG and the MTC wants. But you taxpayers get what you pay for, and the truth really hurts.
Rico October 30, 2012 at 01:27 AM
Oh, I forgot , When is the SMART train ever going to run to the downtown San Rafael Transportation center? SMART does not have the tens of millions of dollars to rebuild the Puerto Suello tunnel yet, and may never will. I think it would be prudent to wait until the Sonoma Commute (SMART) train actually runs to San Rafael before wasting money on a trolley study. Does anyone else think that would be the smart thing to do ?, or is the attitude that "we have more money in Marin than we know what to do with" that says "burn the money now, we might not be so wealthy next year" prevail.


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