Had you ever heard of Healdsburg, CA? Neither had I, before I read this story by Clark Mason. Healdsburg is a small town (11,000 people) in the Sonoma Wine Country which has a plan to revitalize their old train station, that closed in 1958, as part of the new Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) District. Service will be a few years out, considering that Healdsburg is 67 miles from San Francisco, but they are making plans for transit-oriented development. These are good intentions, and I wish them the best, but based on some of what I’ve read I worry about the transit-effectiveness of some of their plans. The first phase of the project is nothing more than a park-and-ride. Setting aside areas near transit for parking when they could be used for residential and other uses (true TOD) often will stifle the growth of the area. You will see more suburban development because it is easier for people who work in San Francisco to live farther away. They will continue to spend their money in San Francisco instead of your town. And though from what I can see on their website Healdsburg isn’t hurting financially (their chamber of commerce shows events almost every day, sometimes multiple events a day), they need to preserve their small-town, agricultural appeal. That is the reason tourists and wine aficionados come in droves. If you turn your town into another suburb, they won’t come any more. On the other hand, if you make it so people can travel from San Francisco and elsewhere by train and can walk or bike to local attractions (Healdsburg has made a great effort to connect existing bike trails to the depot, which is a great move), then you will both preserve and enhance your character. My advice to Healdsburg would be to focus on development near the depot, don’t make that park-and-ride any bigger than it needs to be, and you’ll probably have a great project.
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