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            For the second year I went thirty days without taking a single occupancy car ride. My goal was to adjust my own transportation habits toward a more sustainable and healthy lifestyle. I was inspired by my participation in Resilient Neighborhoods where I looked at my own carbon emissions. I am happy to report that the thirty days of this year’s #RideWithDamon was a resounding success. Not only did I achieve my goal of taking zero single-occupancy vehicle rides, I gained some great perspective along the way through biking, use of transit and the occasional carpool.

            My goal was to see what is and isn’t working in our transit systems—or essentially to “walk the walk” in my role setting transportation policy in Marin and around the Bay Area. As Marin’s representative on the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), a sitting member of the Transportation Authority of Marin (TAM), a County Supervisor, and a member of the Board of Supervisors’ Climate Action subcommittee, I need to understand transportation in Marin not just from reading staff reports, but also on the street.

            Navigating Marin and the Bay Area without a single occupancy car is doable. All you need is some planning and a little flexibility. My schedule as a Supervisor changes from day to day and hour to hour; I move throughout the region during “non-commute” hours. Using the bus almost daily made my experience increasingly easier, and I’m glad to report that people looking for a reliable way to walk and bike can safely navigate around Marin (with some notable areas to improve, as discussed below).

            I used a combination of modes of transportation. My standard commute was a 15 minute bike ride from my home to the Civic Center. For additional travel, I rode my bike or walked the first-and-last-mile connections to and from the bus. All told, I used ten different lines of Golden Gate Transit (regional) and Marin Transit (local) buses. Marin Transit’s revamped Route 35 was a “workhorse” that enabled me to step outside my office at the Civic Center and travel directly to downtown San Rafael (10 minutes) or downtown Novato (20 minutes). The alternative was a 25-35 minute bike ride, which I also enjoyed.

Bike on Marin Transit

            I discovered Whistlestop’s Care Pool, a great resource for people who need assistance going to a doctor’s appointment or going grocery shopping. I’m interested in electric pedal assist bicycles and how they can expand the number of people who can commute by bicycle, especially in hilly Marin.

            The times of service and the synchronicity of transfers really improved in the past year. I did not miss a transfer, and never waited for a bus transfer for more than 5-10 minutes. During my thirty day challenge, a bus was never more than a few minutes late, which is pretty amazing given traffic congestion. I was able to keep a normal schedule as a County Supervisor, attending meetings all over Marin as well as appearances in San Francisco, the East Bay, Sonoma, and Napa Counties. My Clipper Card saved me from fumbling around with cash.           

            Marin Transit continues to roll out new buses, including two electric buses starting this fall. Golden Gate Transit also purchased new buses to be rolled out this fall. Marin Transit has plans for adding Wi-Fi fleet wide. Having the ability to work on Wi-Fi equipped buses was great for arriving at my destination prepared for meetings.           

            There are areas that still need improvement. East San Rafael has gaps in service, including an absence of transit along Point San Pedro Road. We need bike parking at the transit stops for leaving a bike after riding the first mile, without taking a bicycle along for the rest of the day. Placing bike racks on the front of buses is a great feature that should also be expanded.

            Downtown San Rafael still needs focused attention to make it bike and pedestrian friendly. Making improvements in going through downtown San Rafael is essential for local trips as well as for people going through San Rafael to other parts of Marin. Anyone using the Bettini Transit Center knows that crossing under Highway 101 is difficult. There is a pinch point on the designated “bike routes,” narrow sidewalks where pedestrians and bicycles share the same path, and the area is heavily congested with cars. It was harrowing being on my bike trying to navigate into east San Rafael. We need to improve the infrastructure for all modes of transit.

            The good news is that the City of San Rafael, working through its Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Committee, has a number of solutions in the works. Those that I foresee having the most impact in making walking and biking more convenient and safe are:

  • Widening the sidewalk along East Francisco Boulevard.
  • Widening the Grand Avenue Bridge to accommodate bicycles and pedestrians. The reconfiguring of the Grand Avenue Bridge is going forward through funding with MTC and TAM.
  • Ensuring the creation of a Multi-use Path from 2nd Street to Andersen Drive in connection with the SMART rail extension project between downtown San Rafael and Larkspur.
  • Improving circulation around the Bettini Transit Center and the surrounding downtown area as part of the relocation of the transit center.  
  • Potentially creating a bike boulevard on Tamalpais Avenue as an alternative to Hetherton Street. The Marin County Bicycle Coalition has identified potential solutions.

Heatherton Bike Lane

            I look forward to adding SMART to the Marin and Sonoma transportation options. Success of rail service will depend on giving riders options to get to and from the stations. TAM has partnered with Lyft to provide financial support for Lyft servicing the first-and-last mile connections to SMART. Lyft will provide a five dollar discount, funded by TAM, after the passenger pays two dollars, available during a six month pilot on Monday through Friday for connections with SMART. TAM has also partnered with Whistlestop to provide services for disabled access to-and-from SMART. Increased use of technology and emerging partnerships with on-demand and rideshare services is providing transit operators with additional tools to meet customer needs.

           Employers, including the County of Marin, are offering shuttle services as well, to connect their employees to the SMART train.

            #RideWithDamon ended with National Ride to Work Day, an amazing day. I started by bicycling to the Bettini Transit Center in San Rafael to catch the 4:45 a.m. Golden Gate Transit 101 bus to the Golden Gate Bridge. The Marin County Bicycle Coalition and Kaiser Permanente sponsored a great energizer station at the Golden Gate Bridge Vista Point, and I enjoyed visiting with bike commuters stopping by at 5:30 a.m. I then rode my bike to the Marin Civic Center, visiting Energizer Stations along the way in Mill Valley, Corte Madera, Larkspur, downtown San Rafael, and the top of Puerto Suelo Hill on Lincoln Avenue. I finished the morning with waffles and coffee under the Civic Center arch with the Marin County RideGreen team. I will not forget the energy and camaraderie all along the 101 corridor.


            A number of people joined me along the way, and also offered comments about their transit experiences, which I really appreciate.

            Congrats to the winner of the #RideWithDamon challenge Jonathan Frieman! I really appreciate those of you who participated in the challenge, either by joining me on their bike or transit, or by sending in photos of their own efforts to try commuting without a car. We recently treated Jonathan to lunch on the Civic Center patio.

            The thirty day challenge left me feeling energized and healthy. I hope to continue to ride my bike and use transit several days a week going forward because it does help to inform my decisions on transportation. #RideWithDamon challenged me to change my habits away from single occupancy car trips. I did all of the trips without changing into spandex, just hopped on my bike and rode. I can't wait to do it again next April, and in the meantime continue to rely on alternative transit as much as possible. I hope to have set an example of what is possible. Try to leave your car in the driveway once a week; I think you will be pleasantly surprised. Let me know what is not working, and join me in planning for solutions.