Crossing the Bay Again -- But Not Necessarily with BART

» A Geary Boulevard heavy rail line could dramatically improve transportation in San Francisco. Yet connecting it to the regional network wouldn’t require using — and perhaps shouldn’t use — BART technology.

The dream for a Geary Boulevard rail line connecting downtown San Francisco to the Richmond neighborhood to its west has been around for decades — at least since 1961 when a proposal for a line to Marin County was being considered. In the early 1970s, it appeared that the project could be complete by 1980 and serve as the first extension of what was then the new BART rapid transit system; another study in 1974 indicated the possibility of extending the light rail Muni Metro along the street. Yet it was not to be.

As the Bay Area plans for its future growth, the project may well be worth reconsidering. Building it in coordination with a new Transbay Tube for California High-Speed trains could save costs and make the proposal a reality.

As costs rose over the years, the possibility for a full-scale Bay Area rapid transit system, especially one focusing on serving San Francisco’s urban core, fell apart. In recent years, the city has invested considerable sums in the creation of the new light rail Muni Metro line along Third Street to underserved Bayview and will soon begin building an extension into Chinatown called the Central Subway; Marin and Somona Counties are planning a new DMU commuter line that will connect to a ferry, having abandoned expensive plans for a direct rail connection into the region’s core; meanwhile, the South Bay is planning to spent billions of dollars on an expansion of BART to San Jose.

In the meantime, San Francisco’s Richmond community has been generally ignored, despite the fact that buses running along Geary Boulevard through the center of the neighborhood carry more than 100,000 daily commuters, making them some of the heaviest-used in North America. Development along the corridor is pretty dense, and there are plenty of land plots ready for redevelopment. The city is planning a relatively cheap bus rapid transit program on the street, but that line won’t do much to speed up the travel of the area’s hundreds of thousands of commuters nor will it connect them directly with other destinations in the greater Bay Area. To put it simply, Geary Boulevard demands a subway rapid transit line linked to the regional network.

In fact, planners have been bringing up the plans for years, usually as an extension of a new BART line running in a second Transbay Tube. The existing BART line between San Francisco and Oakland is operating at capacity, meaning that the Geary corridor simply couldn’t act as a spur from the Market Street main line. But the need to build a new downtown San Francisco line provides a new opportunity to connect the planned Transbay Transit Center to the Bay Area’s transit system and it opens the possibility of running high-speed and commuter trains from San Francisco to Oakland in a shared tunnel. Coordinating the Transbay Center, a Geary Subway, and the new Transbay Tube would produce a program of regional interest and save costs in the long term by merging several construction projects in one.

Using BART technology along the line would require building a four-track tube under the San Francisco Bay: BART trains run on track with a wider gauge than that planned for California High-Speed Rail and used by Caltrain; they also use a third rail power source, versus the overhead catenary planned for the other trains.

Though any new Transbay Tube — which would have to be more than three miles long — would cost billions of dollars, requiring that it be four-tracked would raise the price exponentially, making it all the more unlikely to be built. But there’s a solution: the new Geary line doesn’t have to use existing BART technology and instead could use off-the-rack traditional trains compatible with the high-speed trains. This would allow transit planners to build just two new tracks under the Bay and improve cost efficiencies by ensuring a full-capacity use of the new line. Rapid transit trains using the same tracks as high-speed and Caltrain trainsets could provide just as high of a frequency, reliability, and speed as BART.

A 5.85-mile route under Geary Boulevard, running to 33rd Avenue in Outer Richmond, might include 8 stations, including one at Transbay. Though some previous proposals had indicated the possibility of running the line partially along an elevated structure, the line would have to be built in a subway for the sake of satisfying neighborhood concerns. Fortunately, modern automated boring machines have cheapened the cost and reduced the environmental side-effects of tunneling.

Integrated into the Downtown Extension project, which will bring Caltrain (and high-speed rail) from its existing terminus and 4th and King Streets to the new Transbay Center, the new Geary Line would have a direct link to regional connections. At a new station near Union Square, the corridor could offer connections to BART’s Powell or Montgomery Stations; similarly, it would have a direct link there with the Central Subway and T-Third Street Muni Metro Service.

Once the new Geary Line crosses the Bay, a new station at Alameda Point would connect with a huge redevelopment zone on the site of a former naval base. Then, running north in a new 4.45-mile tunnel under Oakland’s Cypress Street, the line could connect directly to BART at West Oakland, where massive neighborhood reconstruction is a possibility. Though West Oakland is relatively low density, the surrounding industrial zones are likely to be replaced by housing during the next few decades, requiring better public transportation.

Caltrain trains would be diverted 1.6 miles east along the existing rail line to Oakland’s Jack London Station, where they would terminate and offer connections to Amtrak trains. High-speed trains could continue running north and south along the East Bay, using the existing Amtrak corridor.

To save costs, the new Geary line, existing the new Oakland tunnel, would connect to the existing Capitol Corridor rail line used by Amtrak and run 4.75 miles along the west side of Emeryville and Berkeley, finally reconnecting to BART at El Cerrito Plaza via a 0.8-mile tunnel under Albany Hill Park. The service could also be continued north for 3.75 miles to Richmond, again along the existing Capitol Corridor, where another BART link-up is possible. The areas reached by this line are about a mile and a half from existing BART stations and are of moderate, though increasing, density. The new line would open up a large new area of the region to direct access to the San Francisco core, increasing transit ridership and encouraging development.

There are several drawbacks to this expensive proposal: one of the purposes of a new Transbay Tube would be to reinforce the existing one and serve as a temporary replacement in case of failure or maintenance. By eliminating BART trains from the tunnel, that possibility is limited, though an easy transfer at West Oakland could work almost as well. Meanwhile, the lack of interconnectivity with BART means a required switch of lines for travelers trying to use the new Geary line.

One could also make the argument that the most suitable areas in Oakland for new transit are further inland — but building there, versus along an existing rail line ringing the Bay, would cost much more. It would be possible to extend the Geary Line in phases, however, with future connections throughout Oakland, serving as something as a parallel network to BART. Similarly, if the new Transbay Tube proves too expensive in the medium-term, the Geary Line could simply terminate at the Transbay Center along with high-speed and Caltrain services (though that would require a much larger structure than currently planned).

The overall benefits of running the Geary line as a catenary-based conventional rail system would save the region billions of dollars over a BART-based alternative: The new Transbay Tunnel could be two-tracked, rather than have four tracks; Geary line trains could use the existing rail corridors in the East Bay without requiring the complete reconstruction of the corridor; and the expense of the Transbay Center would be reduced as high-speed, regional, and local trains could share tracks.

An exciting possibility. Now where are the funds?

Map based on original (Revised BART map.svg) by Jake Berman at Wikimedia Commons

93 Comments | Leave a Reply »
  • Well, there’s no requirement that such a Geary line be powered by overhead wire, right? It could still be third rail power, just have both in the new transbay tube.

    You’d also then run into a host of FRA regulation issues, but hopefully those will have to be resolved anyway before such an idea takes off.

    Hell, dual gauge track could even be an option…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dual_gauge

    • mike

      well, if you are talking about having bart share the tube with HSR and caltrain that is not possible as the width of bart tracks are unique to the system. Even if there was both a 3rd rail and overhead wire BART would be unable to run on the track as it is a different size. Thus, building a third rail would be pointless, it would HAVE to be seperate from the overhead wire trains if it were to be BART

  • George

    Yonah,

    Any reason you end the line at 33rd & Geary? Why not have it come closer to the ocean or curve south to Golden Gate Park? Subway to the Sea should be a goal for both LA and SF.

  • Max Wyss

    Can we assume that it is more a question of signalling systems preventing dual gauge tracks? But even that could be overcome (such as mixed signalling system operation on the TGV Est Europeen (ETCS Level II and KVB), or the mixed (automatic and manual) operation on Nürnberg’s subway system.

    To Alex B.: what is so bad about overhead wires? Loading gauge? There are systems which help reducing the requested space by several inches, and they are in use at speeds of around at least 100 km/h.

    Or am I missing something eles preventing that tube being double tracked only?

  • Jordan Hare

    Won’t there be scheduling problems due to the intermixing of intercity rail and metro rail on the same two-track route? This would mean that metro service could shut down CA HSR.

  • Jordan –
    I probably should have written this in the post, but in many German cities like Hamburg and Berlin, ICE high-speed and S-Bahn regional trains (which often have metro-like frequencies) operate on the same tracks. With efficient scheduling and good maintenance, that shouldn’t be much of a problem.

  • Andy K

    Nice pipe dream. $$$ are the problem.

    Also, on the bottom map, the last stop for SMART is mislabeled. Should be “Larkspur.”

  • Mike

    Another radical option would be not to bore a second tunnel at all, but reclaim some of the space on the bay bridge for a tram-train arrangement, similar to the Forchbahn and Glattalbahn in Zurich. These could run as on-street trams through Richmond, rather like the N Judah, and call at the Transbay terminal before crossing the bridge. They could then run on the Amtrak line north from Emeryville as proposed.

    True enough, it wouldn’t give the option of high-speed rail connectivity across the Bay, but given that it’s already a fairly big stretch for the State to run SF-LA services by 2020, this doesn’t seem a priority anyhow. And a part street-running, part rail-using line that makes use of an existing Bay crossing would be an order of magnitude cheaper — and therefore stands a much greater chance of actually happening.

  • NikolasM

    The money is locked up in foreign wars required to maintain our car/ oil dependency. What is the bill now for that crap? $2-3 trillion when you factor in long term care for the maimed? HSR for everyone run on locally produced energy right there.

  • Adam

    Headways in the existing Transbay Tube seem like an issue already; a second BART Tube would just mean two of the existing lines that use the Transbay Tube would be diverted there.

    The German S-Bahns are commuter trains, not subways. This proposal would be more like having PATH trains run on NJT/Amtrak trackage (which is technically allowed because as far as I know PATH has an FRA code), and would be very disruptive to have trains that are supposed to be arriving every 3 minutes during rush hour share tracks with scheduled timed trains (and I would think the Caltrain Corridor even without the Transbay Tube would be at capacity already once HSR comes around).

    Also, whose idea was it to make BART broad gauge anyway?

    • mike

      I don’t know whose idea it was to make BART broad gauge, but the reason for this was to cope with the high winds BART was expected to encounter when crossing the Golden Gate Bridge. The wider gauge would result in a smoother ride for passengers. Obviously, this never came to fruition so there really is no reason for it to be broad gauge now.

  • Adam –

    Let’s take the Berlin S-Bahn, for example:
    Tomorrow evening, we’re trying to get from Alexanderplatz to Zoologischer Garten in the center of the city, along the main line shared with ICE trains going across the country. There are departures at: 5:24 pm, 5:31, 5:34, 5:39, 5:44, 5:51, etc. Seems pretty close to subway frequencies to me, don’t you think? And it doesn’t seem like much of a problem there.

    On the new Tube I propose here, all Caltrain trains wouldn’t necessarily continue to Oakland — many would terminate at 4th and King or at Transbay. If scheduled right, there would be no problem with going overcapacity.

    But you’re right — the problem with not building a new BART tube is that it won’t relieve existing problems with capacity along the existing lines. This is a problem that can only be solved with a four-track tube, or one that doesn’t have tracks for high-speed and commuter trains, which would be a disappointment.

  • The Transbay Tube runs 16 trains per hour at its peak; with modern signaling, a two-track line can run 30. Thus Geary could be linked to the current BART system, splitting off at Montgomery, which would increase operational flexibility.

    I like the idea of a subway under Geary, but your proposal doesn’t have convenient transfers to existing lines. It’s not that important to serve Transbay, which BART comes within a block of; it’s more important to run parallel to BART or intersect it a transfer, preferably a cross-platform one. The Union Square-Powell transfer would involve walking 200 meters, making it inconvenient for passengers and reducing ridership. A cross-platform transfer at Montgomery would still allow the line to split off, hit Transbay, and go to Oakland on a new tube.

  • TC

    As a commuter I would be wary about the transfers required to BART or other transit. One reason the buses are so convenient is that there are many routes which provide almost door-to-door service from your home/work (for most people in the downtown financial district). I would support a Geary subway due to the sheer number of people that travel on this route, but it would be worthwhile to see options without transfers such as having stops in downtown.

  • Alon –
    You’re right, it might be worth it to move the Geary Line station to directly adjacent to the Montgomery BART station. This could be in addition to a Union Square Station and could potentially replace the Transbay Station. On the other hand, it could be connected to a repositioned Transbay Station for Caltrain and HSR if, indeed, the train box isn’t built underneath the bus terminal.

  • Max Wyss

    Mike, message 7: The example of Zürich may not be the very best, as both, the Forchbahn and the Glattalbahn are meter gauge (as the Zürich streetcar network). That means that they are running on their own right of way outside of the city, and that they are not using the mainline network.

    A more appropriate example would be Karlsruhe, Saarbrücken, or Mulhouse (which opens some time later this year). Particularly, in Karlsruhe, many commuter trains are actually operated by the tram-train sets which share the mainline tracks with any other traffic on the main line (freight, IC, ICE, etc.).

  • Andy K

    Alon-

    My understanding is that the tube capacity is more limited by the dwell time in the downtown SF stations – so unless the Geary line splits off right before the Embarcadero Station, capacity of the existing tube will still be limited.

  • hopefully the dwell time issue will be reduced when the new BART train sets enter service in a few years and have more doors per car.

  • Anyone who has worked on transit issues in San Francisco in the last several decades may be insulted by the claim that the “Richmond community has been generally ignored.” Muni planners have been trying to get the Richmond district interested in rail for almost 50 years. The problem is that SF politics are very sensitive to neighborhood-based groups, and the loudest voices in the Richmond are the merchants who want little or no change. A subway would probably be an easier sell to them than the surface line, but the high cost of the subway would also cry out for higher densities to justify it — a few towers around each station — and I have trouble imagining selling that in the Richmond. I would like to think that the next generation would be more open-minded about this, but then I thought that 20 years ago.

    Combining projects into bigger projects is a huge risk, especially when the projects are as speculative as these.

    I remain unclear why we would ever want to run HSR under the bay. The only reason you’d do this is for the SF-Sacramento market, which just isn’t big enough to drive this huge investment, and is probably too short a distance, and too continuously urban, to make sense as HSR anyway.

    I like your second map, with a single line from 33rd to El Cerrito and no frequency-diluting branches. You can make an excellent connection with Oakland-Sacramento services at Emeryville.

    • Nathanael

      There are numerous reasons for HSR under the Bay. Unfortunately, most of them are rendered less strong by the choice of the Pacheco Pass alignment (and the Altamont Pass alignment was worse). The straight-up-the-Central-Valley, turn-left-for-San Francisco alignment would have demanded Transbay Tubes, and there was a great deal to be said for it. Continuing service south on the Peninsula. :-)

      Transbay tubes make more sense for a Regional S-Bahn type network. If BART hadn’t gone with its crazy broad gauge, it could have been the basis of that.

  • Jarrett –
    Thanks for your points. I do think that there are a number of reasons to run both high-speed and commuter rail under the Bay — it would allow better use of Caltrain by providing Oakland and potentially Berkeley commuters direct access to the lower Peninsula and it could theoretically allow some long-distance Amtrak trains to come into San Francisco.

    I’m not sure the SF-Sacramento market is as small as you think: according to the CAHSR business plan, there would be more annual train riders between the Bay Area and Sacramento (3.4 million) than between the LA Basin and Sacramento (3.3 million), with fares set at 50% of air fare levels. Of course, those numbers pale in comparison with LA Basin to Bay Area numbers (28.9 million).

    But the better answer to your question is another question: if you’re building another Transbay Tube, why pointlessly cut off the potential for high-speed or commuter trains from using the line? A BART-only Tube would do just that, but a tunnel designed for trains that are compatible with Caltrain and CAHSR (such as the Geary corridor I outlined above) would at least allow those services to use the tunnel — rare as that made need to be — even if the focus remains local services between SF and the East Bay.

  • The Berlin Stadtbahn, to which you refer is 4 tracks wide and expands to 6 tracks at some stations. It is not comparable to your 2-track proposal. I don’t think you can put stations on a line shared with a Metro and HSR/commuter rail without overloading the line.

  • Jarrett, the Geary corridor is already dense – Richmond has about 10,000-12,000 people per km^2, and the inner parts of Geary, between Union Square and Van Ness, are in the 30,000-40,000 region, the highest density in the US outside New York City. In between, densities range from 8,000 to 15,000. This is enough to justify a subway – it’s higher than the densities on Wilshire west of the subway’s current end at Western.

  • Herbie –
    Who ever said the stations would only have two tracks? We’re just talking about the Tube here, which would have no stations. The main purpose of this thought experiment is to consider how you could make the Tube two-tracked. Presumably, there would be, like on the Stadtbahn, tracks allowing trains to bypass stations — outside of the tunnel.

    On that note, I take back what I previously said about the Berlin line — HSR and S-Bahn don’t share tracks there: that was an incorrect statement. Even so, with adequate signaling, there shouldn’t be a problem with alternating HSR and metro-like trains at 3-minute frequencies on the same track — there’s nothing technically impossible about it with modern signals.

  • Joseph E

    Alon Levy, while the population density along Wilshire in Los Angeles is not super high to the west of Koreatown (the current terminus), the job density is quite high around the Miracle Mile, Beverly Hills, Century City and Westwood stations:

    http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF8&hl=en&msa=0&msid=102764232639575421873.00047c505152307d33fac&ll=34.05977,-118.388672&spn=0.115477,0.154324&z=13

    That’s why the pedestrian and surface traffic are high enough to merit a subway.

    But I agree that Geary has more than enough density for a subway, and should be a grade-separated Metro (heavy rail) all the way west, preferably below ground. 100,000 bus riders per day is amazing.

  • lyqwyd

    Yeah, 100,000 riders per day is pretty impressive, especially when you consider that BART’s entire network has about 350,000 riders a day!

    It makes no sense on how BART focuses on failed suburban extension after failed suburban extension and completely ignores the Richmond.

    Insane

  • Winston

    Alon,

    As others have said, BART currently runs 22 trains per hour in one direction during the morning rush hour (and could do so in both) and can run more. The main problem BART faces isn’t its signaling, it is getting people off the trains and off the platforms in San Francisco more quickly. This problem will be eased somewhat when BART switches to 3 door cars and improves access to the platforms at Montgomery and Embarcadero.

    lyqwyd,

    BART’s decisions make perfect sense when you realize that folks in the suburbs support expanding BART and are willing to pay for it while San Franciscans have shown no such willingness. Given that San Francisco can barely find the political will to re-stripe a street to improve transit to the Richmond, it’s hardly shocking that no multi-billion BART extensions have been built there.

  • Yonah. I’m certainly not advocating another BARTgauge line. Your second map shows all the BART-gauge extensions that anyone seriously contemplates at this point. And I don’t have any basic argument with your 33rd Avenue to El Cerrito line.

    But I think you’re presuming that long-distance services should have the priority for access to a new tube. Long-distances services are not as frequent and therefore will be hard to put through the tube in very close spacing that maximises capacity.

    An alternative vision of the tube would be as something more like the old Key System, designed for tram-train type services that covered Oakland-Berkeley much more finely than BART can do. You could probably design this to be compatible with an occasional RER-type Caltrain or Sacramento train, but more frequent locally oriented services would be the priority in that vision.

    I just think there are lots of possibilities here.

    At the very basis of this, of course, is that San Francisco is going to be Manhattan, which I suppose means Oakland is New Jersey. I’d rather see much more density at Oakland which is already the hub of the network. A lot of San Franciscans would probably prefer that too.

  • Adam

    Whoever came up with the idea of having trains on the Bay Bridge is probably right on the money, but they should probably be BARTs and not commuter or intercity trains.

  • I dig this idea, the Geary subway could be run by Muni under its fare regime with free transfers to and from its buses. At Transbay, a number of trains could continue under the bay as Caltrain service. A similar arrangement exists in many Japanese subway lines with trains through-running on other company’s tracks.

  • jon

    How critical is another BART tube? I’d be more tempted to add any additional transbay rail capacity as a seperate rail system serving a different market than BART such as at a greater regional scope, say, at a 50+ mile radius of SF/Oakland.

    To me a second Transbay Tube for BART is quite redundant, either introduce a more local scale of rail for just linking the immediate and most urban cities of SF-Oakland-Berkeley (like as Jarrett suggested with a new Key System) or then go to a much larger regional scale that links to neighboring cities outside the Bay Area like Sacramento, Stockton, Monterey Bay etc.

    I’d say improve BART Transbay service with (as been suggested) more train doors, better computer control and better station exits. Then the new Transbay tunnel can be used for electrified frequent commuter rail (with the occassional long distance Amtrak line). With CA HSR there will be a need for connecting local trains at the next scale up from BART. These electric commuter trains can serve major population centers not on the HSR line(s) by feeding into the HSR line as well as just simply bringing commuters into the major cities like SF, Oakland, SJ.

  • Jon, BART is already on a bigger scale than any other metro in the world, except for some lines in Seoul. What it needs is not even more service to the boonies, but more inner urban service, such as Geary, and a good corridor in Oakland (such as Broadway, or Yonah’s more coastal route).

  • Ted King

    Re: #2 (George)
    While 33rd+Geary is a natural terminus the next logical terminus is the zoo. This would include interconnects with the N-Judah (ridership #s needed to contrast with #38’s 100K) and the L-Taraval.

    I’m all for a second bay tube so long as it is standard gauge. But why connect the G-Geary to a trans-bay tube ? That leaves you vulnerable to funding issues. Instead, look at the possibility of putting a station under Mission St. just north of the new TBT.

    I see the G-Geary facing a sort of triple cliff (e.g. Half Dome / El Capitan / Devil’s Tower). These are funding, geology/hydrology, and the Market Street Subway (MSS). Funding will be a bitch no matter what features get left out. The geology/hydrology of San Francisco is a professor’s wet dream and a builder’s nightmare. The pumping at the Powell Street Stn. is epic ( Hayes River’s 2.5 million gallons per day ). The biggest barrier is the MSS. That straight-line bore was not designed for cross traffic. Reportedly, BART is not happy about the Central Subway’s deep dive under it. A second crossing would be ruled out if anything goes wrong with the Fourth / Stockton bore’s crossing.

    Food-For-Thought Dept.
    If a G-Geary subway were to be built why cross Market St. ? Why not run parallel to it along the north side with interconnects to the Montgomery and Embarcadero Stns. ? That would serve more of the Financial Dist. and provide an upgrade to the #1-California trolley coach line. I suspect that #38-Geary ridership drops off sharply for the one block run south from Market St. to the TBT.

  • jon

    Sorry, I was suggesting running out to Sacramento and Stockton and Monterey etc. using FRA equipment and conventional tracks but making many stops including many in the East Bay. Sure some trains would go all the way to say Monterey but most would turn back at Gilroy or San Jose. Some go all the way to Sacramento but many turn back at Richmond, a few less go further on to Martinez. Essentially a Caltrain circa 2025 type of operation running beyond just the Peninsula. Caltrain, ACE, Capitol Corridor, Dumbarton, SF-SJ via East Bay local service, combined into one system, bolstered service, direct service into SF via new Tube.

  • Several recent comments are referencing “BART” without specifying “BART the agency” or “BART the (antiquated) technology”. This is a crucial confusion. BART is capable of being a regional rapid transit agency running a variety of technologies.

  • Caltrain isn’t going to keep running FRA compliant behemoths.

    And regional rapid service, even commuter service like Caltrain, really doesn’t have to go out to the sticks, and forcing it to go so far increases operating costs for no reason. Caltrain’s ridership south of San Jose is a rounding error even by American standards; service to Monterey would be decades in the future. Service to Stockton and Sacramento would be intercity service, best served by Altamont HSR.

  • PeakVT

    Using BART technology along the line would require building a four-track tube under the San Francisco Bay:

    No, it wouldn’t. Dual gauge tracks exist in many place. And unless the 3rd rail is unusually high, there should be no problem keeping it outside the heavy rail loading gauge.

    As for a subway under Geary, I don’t see why you’d even want to do that. Unless the ridership would exceed the capacity provided by a light rail line, the street seems perfect for surface transport.

  • PeakVT –

    Dual gauge is a possibility, the problem is that it would reduce headways significantly because of the switch, which must be performed much more slowly on a dual gauge system to prevent derailing (or switching onto the wrong rail), based on my understanding. The extremely long length of both BART and CAHSR trains would reduce speeds all over the system based on the time needed to make the switch on both sides of the tunnel and likely make five minute maximum frequencies overall on the lines using the shared tunnel.

    There are several reasons you might want a subway under Geary. One, the neighborhood is dense enough to justify a fully isolated right-of-way, only possible with elevated or subway service, and the city’s only going to pick the latter. Second, ridership would justify trains that are too long to fit between Geary’s 300-foot blocks. Third, along the most important section of the line, downtown, Geary is too skinny to fit two running ways of trains operating in their own corridors along with automobile lanes.

  • Dan K.

    I can see where this would work well if it had an integrated fare system with BART. Absolutely, the line should be sub-surface along Geary. The ridership demands heavy rail and only a subway line would accomplish this. However, a suplementary Muni line would be good for the surface route along Geary, for local vs. rapid service.

    Something similar to these plans would work well:

    http://fc03.deviantart.com/fs24/f/2009/237/2/5/San_Francisco_streetcar_map_by_qweqwe321.png

    http://fc00.deviantart.com/fs42/f/2009/146/3/9/San_Francisco_subway_map_by_qweqwe321.png

    Can BART be adapted for standard-gauge track sometime in the future? It would seem cheaper to do this than to try to design for BART’s unusually wide gauge.

  • david vartanoff

    Sorting out issues/preferences.
    First @ Alon, don’t hold your breath on gutting FRA regs for Caltrain. Every “exempt” system has to be “isolated” from the national rail network The great value of Caltrain, ACE, and Capitol Corridor is their ability to extend/expand service on existing rail lines without spending billions on a completely new ROW in the built up areas.
    High voltage AC catenary and DC third rail co exist on trackage in the NYC area and have for decades.
    Unless we pretend that there is unlimited money and nimbycide available, HSR and Caltrain will need to be sufficiently compatible to cross use platforms. This is a major issue at TBT.
    Indeed geology is the bar to a Geary subway crossing Market other than as a part of the ill conceived Central Subway. which I believe should be done above the Muni tunnel using the mezzanine.
    BART SHOULD be capable of 90 second headways (their promise in the pre-construction propaganda) or at least a consistent 2 minutes which translates to 30TPH. That with all rush hour trains ten cars will take up the ‘natural’ growth on the existing network. As to three door trains–absolutely although some of the more pampered suburbanites will bail when faced with standing from SF to Orinda outbound. The reality may well end up three door cars to Richmond/Fremont, two door cars to Dublin/Pittsburgh
    As to putting local service next to Amtrak north of E’ville, generally having a rail transit line with little or no market along one side is not a good plan. Far more useful would be to turn it east as a subway to the Cal campus either under Ashby turning onto Tele or coming up University .(A loop version even better) Some useful E-W connectivity would be a great improvement
    Much as I dislike building ANY more BART, extending it across the bridge to San Rafael…

  • @Dan K:

    Nice maps. So I assume that in the Tenderloin district you’re running a Muni subway under O’Farrell and a BART subway under Geary? It would be virtually impossible to run surface LRT in that area. Both services could conceivably share a subway if they were compatible rolling stock with the Muni surfacing at a portal somewhere west of Laguna.

    As for adapting BART to standard gauge, I have heard that that would be cost-prohibitive. However, if the new lines ran separate from the existing BART lines, BART shouldn’t have a problem with running both with different kinds of trains.

  • lyqwyd

    Winston,

    “BART’s decisions make perfect sense when you realize that folks in the suburbs support expanding BART and are willing to pay for it while San Franciscans have shown no such willingness. Given that San Francisco can barely find the political will to re-stripe a street to improve transit to the Richmond, it’s hardly shocking that no multi-billion BART extensions have been built there”

    Do you have any evidence to support such claims? How are the suburbs willing to pay for it?

    San Francisco clearly has the will to make major transit investments: Muni T-line, Central Subway, Caltrain extension & Transbay center. Of course not all money comes from SF, but hundreds of millions did, and hundreds of millions more will. One can argue the value of these projects, but you cannot claim SF is unwilling to put it’s own money in.

    Even if the suburbs are willing to spend on BART, they would be much better served by spending the money elsewhere, as San Mateo county learned after the Peninsula BART extension. BART works great as a metro system, but is ridiculously expensive as commuter rail.

  • jon

    Exactly, some service would be intercity, some would go out to the sticks (though very few) but in the heart of the Bay Area there would be frequent service utilizing improved main line rail lines. Not all the service needs to go the most distant terminal, most can turn back closer in. Sure some trains to Monterey and Salinas but Monterey could probably only support 4 r/t a day at the most. Most would be terminating service at San Jose or Gilroy, but my point is some trains would go a little further to serve that market. The beauty of this kind of main line rail service is that it can utilize the existing rail network (albeit with improvements though depending on service levels). With this main line rail service, it can extend its reach to more distant places with a more limited schedule while providing heavy concentrated service close-in.

  • Dan K.

    @Andrew
    Yes, the Geary Muni line would have to be subsurface, and would be a joint operation with BART on the same right-of-way, similar to the current BART line (just to clarify, I didn’t make these maps. One change I would have made would be extending that map’s dark blue BART line from Lombard Park to Aquatic Park, to have a direct interface with the Central Subway extension that he has terminating there). I think the heavy-rail line’s routing through GG park and toward Daly City is a great concept and would greatly improve cross-city transport logistics.

    Thanks for clearing up the issue with BART’s gauge. I wonder why they went with it. I’m glad my current hometown’s subway (Washington DC) went with standard-gauge when it opened (they opened around the same time). At least BART (the agency) is replacing the old-style cars with three-door cars soon.

  • Winston

    lyqwyd,

    Look at the transportation sales taxes passed in recent years Alameda, Contra Costa, and Santa Clara have invested hundreds of millions of dollars to extend BART. San Francisco has invested $10 million. While San Francisco has invested lots of money in transit, the vast majority of its money goes to Muni. I don’t disagree that some of the BART extensions were more expensive than the alternatives (usually improved express bus service), but they were much easier to sell.

    I’m sure BART would be perfectly willing to add additional stops in SF if they were provided about 1/3 the money necessary to do so. This was certainly the case with Santa Clara county where the BART board really, really didn’t want to build the extension and only relented when Santa Clara politicians threatened to build a BART compatable rail line from San Jose to the county line and operate it themselves. If you want a subway to the Richmond district, all you have to do is to convince your fellow San Franciscans to vote for a tax to pay for it.

  • Ted King

    Re: BART Gauge

    1) 5 ft. 6 in. (1,676 mm) [BART]

    2) Possibly due to high wind stability (e.g. Golden Gate Bridge) [a rail-fan site, see "rresor" post near bottom]

    3) An expensive remedy[Wikipedia, 2.1 Curr. system - Background]

    P.S. Standard gauge is 4 ft. 8.5 in. (1,435 mm).

  • No comments on the Denver Union Station article, Yonah?

  • Ted King

    Re: #42 (Winston)
    S.F.’s Richmond District would be VERY suspicious about any rail-transit promises made to them. When the streetcar tracks were ripped out they were promised a piece of BART to replace them. They were short-changed by what was built. The taxes have been paid for roughly fifty years. So where is the rail service ?

    Also, the way the cut-and-cover tunneling for BART was handled amounted to municipal rape. Yes, we have tunnel boring machines (TBM) today. But the Geary corridor will require a TBM to do a lot of vertical maneuvering to keep the stations at a reasonable depth. So there would probably be some very messy holes dug to make things easier for the TBM (e.g. the new central subway in Malmo, Sweden with several big holes and lots of abatement).

    Basically, there may never be a G-Geary subway. The silent majority along that corridor is both leery (municipal rape) and weary (empty promises).

    The window could have been opened by the Planning Commission laying out tunnel corridors for transit at the time BART was built. New commercial buildings on those corridors would have been required to include tie-ins of some sort in their foundation plans. That lack of foresight is endangering the new TBT’s tie-in to Caltrain and CAHSR. Heck, the underground portion of the old TBT might have been adaptable as a rail station for Caltrain some twenty years ago.

    P.S. I grew up in S.F.’s Richmond District.

  • EngineerScotty

    I think what Alex means is that comments seem to be disabled on that article.

  • Alex, EngineerScotty –
    Thanks guys. Don’t know how that happened.

  • lyqwyd

    Winston, do you have anything to support such claims? BART didn’t want to build BART to San Jose? SF has paid only $10 million (for what exactly?).

    BART has been dead set on extending lines as far as possible for decades despite the fact that time after time ridership falls far short of projections.

    Pittsburg/Bay Point–achieved 53% of its projected ridership
    Dublin/Pleasanton–achieved 74% of its projected ridership
    SFO/Millbrae–achieved 45% of its projected ridership
    BART’s extensions have achieved an average of 52% of their projected ridership

    BART to San Jose was part of the BART plan since before there was any BART, the only problem was they needed Santa Clara to pay for it

    While I agree that Alameda, Contra Costa, and Santa Clara have authorized money for BART, all of them would be far better served to spend that money on other public transit systems (Bus, Light Rail, and proper Commuter Rail). They would get far more bang for their buck, as San Mateo county learned the hard way. Caltrain East & a repaired Dumbarton bridge would have been much cheaper (probably 1/10th the cost) for Santa Clara, and potentially provide higher ridership.

    Infill stations in Alameda and Contra Costa counties would probably be valuable uses of money for BART, in SF too in fact.

    San Francisco, or any area, is unlikely to authorize a tax without a plan. If BART is not involved in the plan, then it wont happen.

    I’m not opposed to BART, or improving transit in the suburbs, just extending BART to the suburbs where it doesn’t make any sense. BART is certainly better run than SF Muni.

    BART needs to figure out how to do express trains and/or skip stop service (similar to Caltrain’s Baby Bullet) before it does any further extensions that will just wind up putting everybody further in the red.

    Finally, when I refer to BART I’m talking about the current custom BART technology (3rd rail, wide gauge). eBART is reasonable (basically standard commuter rail), and is the same technology that should be used for Livermore & San Jose extension.

  • David Vartanoff: Caltrain’s simulations have shown that off-the-shelf European trains actually outperform FRA-compliant trains in crashes with US freight trains, except at bicycle speeds. In addition, the PTC mandate for 2015 is likely to make the FRA at least redesign its regulations; the FRA considers time separation to be an acceptable alternative to buff strength, and PTC guarantees time separation.

    Dan K: the urban BART lines in your link wouldn’t work very well. They’re better ideas than the San Jose and Livermore extensions, but they still don’t serve urban neighborhoods well. The 1-Post line is okay on Geary, but then it curves south and stops with interstations approaching 2 km, which is almost unheard of in dense cities. The Union Square-Montomgery transfer is inconvenient. The 6-Folsom line is circuitous, misses BART’s Market Street route, and inexplicably stops one station short of a transfer to the Central Subway. And the 1-Post line stops under the park instead of in an area where people live.

    Jon: for 4 return trips a day, it’s a waste of money to upgrade tracks or electrify. For Caltrain’s SF-SJ ridership, upgrades and electrification are useful and necessary. This means that the types of rolling stock that would run on SF-SJ and SJ-Monterey are different, in fact incompatible. To minimize construction cost and visual impact, Caltrain had better build elevated structures with steeper grades, which non-compliant EMUs can climb but which heavy diesel trains cannot. The best solution would be to time a transfer at SJ and not run heavy diesel trains further north.

  • PRE

    Speaking of hydrology, how was DC’s Metro Center able to accomplish such an elegant transfer station on what must have been a swamp?

    The level of knowledge and (hate to say) common sense in the comments here is astounding – does BART ever read sites like this one wonders. Since there is planning for BART to Livermore rather than on Geary (or another line in Oak/Berk) I know the answer but it does make one shake their head.

  • david vartanoff

    @ Alon. If FRA wakes up, great! My understanding of their “time separation” was time of day, as in owl hours for freight. as was the case w/ the Baltimore LR line now moot as the last freight customers gave up. We don’t want Caltrain/HSR unable to run late night service. In my dream world Caltrain and Cap Corridor would both electrify–w/ joint buy EMUs –again running during hours of freight service. (Catenary from SJ to at least Sacto)
    @ Winston, BART has wabter to reach SJ on both sides of the Bay from the get go. The completely dysfunctional SFO rrouting was designed to cannibalise Caltrain and lay the groundwork.

  • Time separation for now means time of day, because freight trains don’t have PTC capability yet, and the freight railroads are doing all they can to keep it so. But Amtrak’s NEC master plan explicitly says that the PTC mandate for 2015 will allow Amtrak to purchase lighter trains.

  • Peter Smith

    it’s true that Geary needs rail, but not underground. it, and every major corridor in SF, needs a high-capacity, modern tram. done.

  • Any Geary extension will have to terminate/go through Golden Gate Park to get any kind of regional support. Otherwise it’s just not exciting enough for people to get behind–“BART to 33rd & Geary” is about as boring as it gets (let alone the confusion/fear induced by another “BART to Richmond” line). “BART to Golden Gate Park,” on the other hand, sounds almost as revolutionary as BART to San Jose.

  • As much as BART technology seems kind of useless due to its proprietary size, I think it would be necessary to make any new rapid transit line BART technology to allow new through routing. That being said whoever chose that size in the first place was kind of an idiot.

    Someone said a new Transbay tunnel was similar to the new tunnel to Manhattan probably in cost. Well I think it would be worthwhile to have both 4 tracked. I’m not sure why they don’t do a 4 track one in New York. Then they could move all of NJT operations to the new tracks and just let Amtrak use the old tunnel. Could probably remove a huge bottleneck and allow for a ton more trains up the east coast.

  • JimS

    BART *isn’t* a proprietary gauge. It’s actually serves over *1.5 BILLION* people!

    It’s the standard gauge across the Indian subcontinent (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh), and in southern South America (Chile/Argentina). There’s no shortage of parts for this gauge.

    The bigger issues is BART’s loading gauge (BART tunnels have very poor headroom). Trains from the Kolkata Metro are mostly drop-in compatible though (would need transformers swapped out and running boards added).

  • Ted King

    Re : #42 (Winston) New Stations
    San Francisco has paid for an additional station in the past – Embarcadero ($15 million in 1968). That station is a bay fill site that had mud problems during construction.

    Source paragraph
    Top of document

    P.S. The document’s host seems to be a rail-fan who is keeping a close eye on CAHSR and rail transit in the S.F. Bay area.

  • I’m pretty sure that if you call Richard Mlynarik a railfan to his face, he’ll write 8 paragraphs of invective in response.

  • Ted King

    I chose that label by a process of elimination (absence of highway, water, and air travel) and out of respect for the work he has done in assembling a good-sized body of material. The tone in spots seems rather negative, but with Quentin Kopp again involved in a major transit project he (RM) has some justification.

  • I recall that the Geary Corridor ridership is closer to 50,000 trips/day.

  • Tom –

    Thanks for that point. The ridership on the 38 and 38-L, directly on Geary, is around 50,000, as you wrote. Transbay Blog produced a potentially more valuable estimate, which is based on:

    “Including the multiple branches of the 38-Geary, the 38L-Geary Limited, the parallel bus routes to the north and south of Geary, and the various Richmond District rush hour express routes, there is a current bus ridership of over 110,000 daily riders in this corridor.”

  • Mike O

    My thoughts are that FRA compliant cars and standard gauge is the way to go, especially if it means a 2-bore transbay tube, instead of 4-bore. Dual gauge track with BART is a challenge, since the two rails are so close together that ordinary spiking/Pandrol Clips/screws won’t work. The base flanges of the two rails are a fraction of an inch apart. It’s not like the dual gauge on the Rio Grande, where there’s plenty of room for conventional fasteners. It’s not impossible (there’s dual gauge track inside the Hayward Shops) but a serious challenge.

    I would position a station close to Montgomery; most of the Geary ridership would favor that station. And, somewhere south (or east, or in the station) a third track to facilitate turnback trains. Much of the SF ridership will offboard in the city.

    The whole Embarcadero – Montgomery – Powell – Central Subway – BART interconnect needs a lot of thought. BART’s three door cars help. Having platforms on both sides of Montgomery and/or Embarcadero needs to be looked into. Moving walkways could link all three lines.

    Having some kind of bus terminal for Golden Gate Bridge traffic seems warranted. It doesn’t have to be right at the south end of the bridge, but dedicated bus-only lanes would be needed. There’s probably not enough Marin traffic to warrant running the line over the bridge (although a single track is all that’s needed), but making it easy for Marin commuters to ride would be good.

    19th Ave is another busy bus route. If the line could swing south, under Golden Gate Park, it could pick up Sunset riders. If you already have the tunnel boring machine, keep it busy.

    The Alameda connection is great – it will really enhance the development of the area.

    I don’t know how much residential and commercial development will happen around West Oakland, since container traffic will probably dominate the area? But a BART connection is necessary, and if on-dock-rail minimizes all the drayage traffic, it’s a great spot for development.

    I would favor El Cerrito Del Norte as a connection, over Plaza, due to the proximity to 80 and all the commuters. That will take more traffic off the busiest freeway in the Bay Area.

    Extending up to Martinez, with a few local stops in between, would be good.

    All in all, a good plan.

  • What reason is there to run FRA-compliant trains in a subway under Geary?

  • Mike O

    FRA compliance a good thought – PATH is compliant, and their cars cost a little more (probably 100k for cab cars, 50 k for B cars – anybody got hard numbers?)

    Let’s look at how many cars we need – the run is about an hour – that’s 100 cars (10 car trains, 15 minute service.) The short run (interleaved with the long run) is about 50 cars. Another 40 for spares, that’s 190 cars – 76 cabs, 114 B cars. 7.6 mil for the cabs, 5.7 mil for B’s = 13.3 million. If you could build the whole right of way independent of any railroads, for less than 14 mil, you don’t need the cars to be compliant.

    But, 14 mil does not buy a lot of land here. And, you probably will expand this up to Martinez, and over the river somewhere. Maybe not 15 minute service, but half hour or hourly service is maybe yes?

    Of course, if you could build both compliant and non-compliant cars, and never take the non-compliant ones on UP or BNSF tracks, you could save some money.

  • PATH is noncompliant. Because it doesn’t share tracks with any other railroad or transit system, it runs under a waiver allowing it to run lightweight trains. The FRA regulations it does have to comply with are small things such as the braking system.

    If your cars cost 5.7 million apiece, you’re doing it wrong. Subway cars cost 1-2 million dollars each in almost all other first-world cities. New York’s cost 1.5 million.

  • Adam

    Yes, let’s definitely not forget the high density and lack of transportation options for folks living in the Sunset district, which one of the highest density Bay Area neighborhood. 19th Avenue is packed with cars every single day causing a huge bottleneck for those commuting to the Peninsula and North Bay for work. The 28 bus only solves a small part of the transit problem. It takes at least 50 min to get downtown using the current transport options (N, L, 71) and during rush hour it can take more than an hour as all the transport options are at the mercy of cars and traffic signals. It almost feels that Sunset is like an inner-city island because it’s easier/quicker to get to SF downtown from Oakland, Berkeley, the airport, and even the Peninsula cities, all of which have lower densities.

    The suggestion to swing the Geary BART down 19th to Daily city makes the sense as it offers Sunset residents a transit option both downtown (hopefully less than 20 m) as well as to Caltrain down to the Peninsula cities.

  • I forget where I saw it, but I thought the wide gauge BART was to guarantee that freight would never be carried (not that it would make sense to do so, anyways, but it was more of a political guarantee). Or maybe that was another system…

    • There are rumors that BART chose broad gauge to ensure the system was incompatible with Southern Pacific. But the official reason is still that BART was supposed to have a branch going north to Marin County on Golden Gate Bridge, and the planners wanted a broader gauge to ensure the trains would be stable in the winds on the bridge.

  • It seems that 90% in this blog agree that Geary Blvd needs a subway, but the disagreement is over what type and how to fund it.

    If I understand correctly, Yonah and Alon agree that the Geary Route should go up to Montgomery Street Station. And you both agree that the 2nd tube under the bay should be 2-track and that Caltrain from the Peninsula, California HSR and Amtrak would share the tube and thereby create more operational efficiency.

    Yonah suggests an electrified Caltrain that would go under BART Market Street over to the new Transbay Transit Center then across the bay for a northerly route through Emeryville and Berkeley.

    Alon prefers that a BART line split off from Market Street because BART thruput capacity can nearly double # of trains to 30 and new 3 door cars are coming for faster ingress/egress. Or would it be the BART Geary Line as a stub-end cross platform transfer from other BART Lines at Montgomery Street?

    Others have noted that SF voters prefer to fund Muni LRT, rather than BART, which they see as an Oakland & suburban transit system.

    Having lived in the SF Bay Area, worked downtown SF and gathered a sense of SF politics, there are only two viable choices that would get a Geary subway built, Muni LRT or BART. Since it already gets SF voter funding and all transit agencies want to fatten their own patronage numbers, Muni has the upper hand in this chess match.

    Muni has set in motion the building a “rail-ready” Geary BRT Line and Van Ness BRT Line that establishes lengthy segments of dedicated surface ROW, buying it more voter approval in the short term. And when the Moscone Center+Central Subway + Chinatown T Line segment completes around 2017, Muni will push for T Line extension to North Beach+Russian Hill+Marina+Cow Hollow, garnering even more voter support. Then around 2025-27, will ask SF voters & the Feds to marshall funds needed to tunnel under Geary Ave from the Central Subway to west of Gough Street, where the new Geary LRT Line will emerge to convert Geary BRT ROW to LRT ROW all the way to 43rd Ave near VA Med Center.

    Along the way, Muni can defend this approach with SF voters because it promotes easy transfers with several Muni North-South LRT & BRT. It can even dangle a carrot that when the Transbay Transit Center opens in 2018, several Muni BRT lines will enter at the bus level.

    • I don’t even think it’s possible for Caltrain and HSR to use a second tube – there are too many building foundations in front of Transbay Terminal. They could wait a few decades for the buildings to depreciate so that knocking them down would be an option, or build a second tube, still at standard gauge for a future connection to Caltrain, serving Geary.

      What I’ve been trying to argue is that the question of who runs the line is completely separate from the question of how it’s built. Muni can run a full subway, with long platforms rather than the tiny platforms of the Central Subway; BART can run LRT or a subway-surface line. My position is that Geary needs a full subway, run by whoever, with infrastructure built to allow hooking into Oakland in the future. If Muni runs it then fine, it doesn’t matter too much.

  • Au Contraire on the 2nd tube for CHSR + Caltrain. According to Transbay Transit Center plans on website, an S-curve track stub will be constructed under the temporary Transbay Terminal for future extension across the bay, see http://transbaycenter.org/project/downtown-rail-extension. I checked another planning doc to confirm city-owned property assigned to this project includes a parking lot and small building in the corner of Folsom & Main. Thus, extension towards the bay would essentially be a TBM job under Folsom Street. See, http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=en&geocode=&q=San+Francisco&sll=37.0625,-95.677068&sspn=67.587586,66.09375&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=San+Francisco,+California&ll=37.789608,-122.392673&spn=0.008436,0.012156&z=17.

    In retrospect, given the high patronage numbers to justify the expense, Geary rail transit route should be subway/grade-separated further west to just past Park Presidio Blvd. From there it could be surface to the VA Med Center/43rd Ave with good trip time. It may or may not extend from the Muni Central Subway Station to BART Montgomery Station, but I hope it does to bring Geary Blvd patrons closer to BART and TTC. Given provincial SF politics, I would bet that its going to be a Muni Line.

  • Drewski

    The reason I recall for BART gauge wasn’t wind stability, but overall stability for a smoother ride. You know–minimize the cars’ rocking motion, and effectively lowering the center of gravity, making it easier to attain higher speeds.

    The Berlin S-Bahn is entirely separate from mainline tracks. Not just the east-west core (Stadtbahn), but the entire network. If you look at a Google satellite image, you can see the southern tracks at a station like Hackescher Markt; they’re through tracks with no platforms, and the S-Bahn tracks are on the north side. Mainline tracks have catenary; S-Bahn has third rail. Legally and operationally speaking, the Berlin S-Bahn is commuter rail, it’s functionally closer (headways, station spacing, power supply) to BART or Washington Metro.

    The Bay Area is crazy fragmented. In the long term, yes, a network complementary to BART is the best option. This would allow expansion of service to Marin, Sonoma, Napa and Solano. That network would have Transbay 2 as its core, and long-range requirements will probably demand a quad-track crossing. Also, given the volume on BART’s core, there is the possibility that a second BART crossing should at least be roughed in for planning purposes. No, the outer lines will probably never have the same draw as the core segments, and that means that the outer lines will be functionally cross-subsidized by the core. However, if those outer lines offered more frequent service, they could develop a stronger ridership base. Also, there’s the question of short-turning on the inner segments, which would require another tube.

    All it takes is one car accident on 80 to disrupt traffic on both sides of the Bay. There is no more road space. The number of lanes on the Bay Bridge has been the same since the streetcar tracks were removed (50+ years ago?). As with so many other services, the California approach creates maximum bureaucracy to appease all parties, instead of establishing the service itself as the top priority. Yes, I’m very well aware that what I’ve suggested would require a degree of discipline in both planning and politics that is largely unknown in California. The point is that there isn’t much alternative, because it’s rampant indulgence of NIMBYism that continues to drive both sprawl and the high cost of living and doing business around the Bay.

    • Adirondacker12800

      The Bay Area is crazy fragmented.

      No more fragmented than cities it’s size all over the world.

    • Drewski, As Alon schooled me some time ago, 2-track tunnels properly managed are plenty for a 2-track tunnel under the Bay. Electrified Caltrain and CHSR could run 3-4 minute headways in the shorter route from SF to Alameda. Make them 8-10 car, double deck trainsets and that would be at least 50 years of capacity through the tunnel. Capacity limits might be at the stations.

    • Here’s a weird thought about California and SF Bay Area transit. Despite BART negotiating with 5 counties, Caltrain negotiating with 3 counties, and San Francisco County being a fraction the size of Los Angeles County, combined Rapid Transit and Ferries in the SF Bay Area outnumbers LA and Orange County combined, in mileage, stations and patronage. By 2020,when the SF-LA-Anaheim HSR segment, BART extensions/new stations, SF Central Subway, Transbay Transit Center + Caltrain extension and electrification complete, patronage numbers will surpass Metro Boston transit numbers.

      In 2008, a sea change occurred in LA’s auto-centric culture. The primary recipient of taxpayer transportation funds flipped, 35% Rapid Transit vs. 20% Highway. The Mayor then crafted a visionary sales plan for the USDOT to loan LA the money for 30 years of projects to complete in 10 years. In 2020, LA’s 30/10 plan and Anaheim transit center hosting CAHSR, Amtrak, Metrolink, Disneyland Monorail and BRT complete. LA will pass Metro Philadelphia transit, possibly hitting 700,000 daily commuters. LA County will have compressed 50 years of transit building into 30 years. Taking it to 2030, everything on this LA Transit map and more will likely happen, http://www.flickr.com/photos/48314275@N06/4724851423/lightbox/

      So despite California’s red tape, it will be in better shape than free-wheeling Texas and Florida when more severe impacts of Peak Oil unfold in the 2020s.

      • Nathanael

        Good points. On the other hand, I suspect Metro Boston may decide it’s time to catch up. :-) Hopefully the new governor will stop underfunding the MBTA (underfunding as a practice having become standard under Romney)… if so, Boston has some plans all ready which would probably pop its numbers back over the Bay Area.

        • With gasoline prices at $15/gallon by 2030, NYC will head to 65-70% transit commuters. Boston, SF Bay Area, Washington, and Chicago will have the infrastructure to hit 40-45% commuters. Similarly, Philly, LA, Baltimore, Seattle and Portland should hit 30-35%.

          The challenge by 2030 will be to get Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, Phoenix, Miami/FtL, Detroit, Minneapolis/St.Paul, St. Louis, Tampa/St. Pete, San Diego, Las Vegas and Denver to 25%.

          • Ocean Railroader

            Ridership on a lot of these grand old transit systems are growing by 5% to 10% and in fact the phili system ridership as grown over 30% in the last ten years along with several other rail systems even the new ones. That’s fairly good consdering how sick they where during the 1960’s and the 1970’s. In fact some of these systems are even spending money to restore some abaondoned passanger rail lines.

            If $5.00 dollar and $10.00 a gallon gas came I don’t think any of the transit systems would be abel to handle the massive flood of people in that when this transit systems where built over a hunderd years ago in the 1900’s there where at least four to five billion less people on earth at that time so it’s going to be very intersting how this all plays out.

          • You can bet your last dollar gas will hit $8-$10/gallon by 2020 since the entire world hit Peak Oil in 2010.

            Building up our transit systems and HSR network will require a sharp change in priorities that I fear won’t happen until 2016 earliest, 2020 latest. Too many ruralist Repubs and some Blue-dog Demos in ruralist-heavy states telling people what they want to hear about oil & transportation rather than the scary truth about our Peak Oil condition, transportation’s contribution to Global Warming, and how metro area Population Growth means we can never solve these problems adding more interstate and state freeway lanes.

          • Nathanael

            Philly’s going to need some help. At least Boston has coherent plans for expansion. Philly is still ripping up tracks!

            MSP is on the right trajectory as is Denver, and so is San Diego. I actually think Dallas is too, and perhaps even Phoenix. Detroit’s still depopulating. The rest… will have problems.

            It will be interesting to see what happens in the US when most people become unable to afford either electric cars or gasoline. I expect mass migrations, and super-dense tenement living in the cities which already have electric rail.

  • mike

    I’m all for this proposal only IF it is operated under the BART agency. The Bay Area already has a handful of public transportation options with different schedules, transfer times and fare prices, why add to the confusion? If this were operated by BART and utilized the same fare system stations could be connected by underground pedestrian tunnels. Heck, the platforms could even be right next to each other at certain stations, we could have 4 platformed stations in downtown SF. This would allow for the greatest flexibility for the rider. If this were an entirely new agency timed transfers would fail to sync up and I think it would be a disaster for everyone involved!

  • mike,
    You are looking at the Geary Blvd route as a regional choice. Thats not how most San Franciscans see it.

    I recently rode Muni Metro (LRT) and saw that its trains and stations are clean, trains run as frequent as BART, but go more places in the city. The vintage streetcars and cable cars always attract patrons. No wonder Muni Rail draws more patrons than BART. Furthermore, SF mayors are judged by how well Muni works, not by BART or Caltrain. Its a key reason why the 2035 Muni Expansion Plan completely blankets the city with LRT, Streetcars, and Cable Cars with a couple BRT lines sprinkled in.

  • Stephen B.

    Everyone is letting their environmental biases get in the way of one other possibility, something that the region also desperately needs (likewise for redundancy): the Southern Crossing. Putting rail on a bridge isn’t necessarily a bad idea; putting it on the Bay Bridge is just a bad idea. A combined auto/region raill/HSR bridge from Hunters Point to Alameda is not an idea that should be dismissed out of hand.

    • Stephen B. wrote,
      “A combined auto/region raill/HSR bridge from Hunters Point to Alameda is not an idea that should be dismissed out of hand.”

      If that option were pursued, it have only minimal connection to the largest traffic generator in the Bay Area – downtown SF. I don’t see how the patronage/cost numbers would pencil out.

  • Joel

    Sort of late addition to this thread. One blog I read proposed the idea of adding a separate spur to branch off from a new transfer station under the Ferry Building, that would continue southward toward Moscone, SOMA, etc. The spur could then link elsewhere like Geary.

    Suppose instead of that a separate spur going southward, it headed from the Ferry Station toward Geary, linking with Embarcaderro or Montgomery stations via pedestrian tunnel, and head points west. It could possibly avoid the costs of contructing another transbay tube?

  • Lets do it. Right now, it takes longer to get downtown from inside the city than from the east bay!

  • Thomas Jelen

    I was wondering does the HSR Authority even have a plan to run trains through a transbay tube? I don’t mean plans on the “some day when we get to it list”, but a plan to be in operation when the system starts running? The point is a second transbay tube for BART would be a good thing. It would allow BART to increase headways on the crowded lines as the capacity is needed. The Geary Corridor should be left to Muni because it is a San Francisco concern, not a regional one. Also, when Congress was screaming over sequestration, KTVU reported that some parts of the current transbay tube might get hit by ships because the Coast Guard may not be monitoring the area as much do to the “cuts”. If this is the case, how would a tube for conventional Bi level cars be feasible? Amtrak uses Bi level cars for most of its fleet and it is stupid that HSR is planning on using single level cars when all platforms in the state are made for bi level cars.

    Also as for not expanding BART, BART works and isn’t an outmoded piece of technology, at least not compared to Muni Metro. Electric trains have been running for over 100 years, BART is just that technology in a new wrapper. Another thing is, BART works well. It was built and re-gauging the whole system isn’t going to be an easy thing to do. It would either have to be done in phases between stations or all at once. This would mean large portions of the system being shut down and major traffic problems. People hate it when BART shuts down unexpectedly like when there was a fire a few years ago. A regional plan also has another big flaw, people outside of San Francisco would have to pay for it. There are more people in the East Bay than along the Geary Corridor. BART works for us, and expanding it would be a good investment.

    • Nathanael

      Unfortunately, waaaay back in the early 2000s, the Second Transbay Tube proposal was rejected. For stupid reasons. It was the correct thing to do, yes.

      The problem with BART is that it’s Indian broad gauge with third rail, which is crazy for long distances, and much MUCH more expensive to build than standard gauge with overhead wire.

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