In San Francisco, All-Door Boarding Catches On

J-Church Line

» San Francisco fights to speed up buses and trains by encouraging customers not to buy their tickets up front.

Unlike underground metros or elevated trains, road-running streetcars and buses suffer from a significant slow-down: The time wasted waiting for people to board. The process is dreadfully sluggish in cities with well-used transit systems as large numbers of customers at popular stops are forced to line up at the front door and swipe their tickets or pay their fares in cash. In most cases, customers are forbidden from entering the bus at the rear door, even if they have unlimited ride cards.

In dense cities, the result of these boarding difficulties are buses and trains that practically crawl down the street, even on corridors without much competing automobile traffic. In San Francisco at least, a solution is being studied: Allowing passengers to board at all doors, starting with a pilot program

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New BART Station Brings Infill Thinking to the Bay Area

West Dublin Pleasanton Station

» A new stop at West Dublin/Pleasanton could attract new riders and transit-oriented development without requiring further line extensions.

With 104 miles of track and just 43 stations, the San Francisco Bay Area’s BART system may have the most widely-spaced stopping pattern of almost any rapid transit system in the world. One wonders whether those huge inter-station distances reduce ridership by making it too difficult for people to get to and from stops by foot. Washington’s Metro, which was built in essentially the same period, has almost the same track length but twice as many stations — perhaps that is one of the primary reasons that it also has nearly twice as many daily riders?

Today, BART has taken a step forward to remediate the matter, opening a new stop at West Dublin/Pleasanton in the median of I-580, near the freeway’s junction with I-680. It is the first infill station

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In Cutting Bus Stops, San Francisco Points Towards a More Efficient Bus System

San Francisco Bus

» Faster bus services, the mainstay of this city’s transit fleet, could reduce operations costs for a stressed transit agency.

San Franciscans, like the denizens of every great transit city, enjoy denigrating their bus and rail system, accusing it of inefficiency, overcrowding, and slow speeds. Despite the overall excellence of the public transportation offered in the Bay Area, those criticisms ring true — especially on Muni, the city’s local bus and light rail operator.

Unlike BART, which rockets commuters from one side of the region to the next, Muni vehicles crawl down San Francisco’s congested streets, lumbering behind traffic and stopping all too frequently. As of 2008, buses ran on average at only 5 mph downtown, with the overall average speeds of the system depressed at a miserable 8 mph. Meanwhile, costs per passenger are higher than those at peer transit agencies elsewhere in the country. There are plenty of reasons to

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eBART Now Under Construction, Extending Rapid Transit Far from San Francisco

eBART Alignment

» Effort to extend BART across the region continues, even as roadway expansions pursue their course.

The San Francisco Bay Area is one of the nation’s case studies in regionalism, with one metropolitan planning board determining local transportation spending in cities from San Francisco in the west to Antioch in the east, from Richmond in the north to San Jose in the south. The existence of Metropolitan Transportation Commission, while theoretically designed to distribute resources to the most effective projects, has in fact erred in the opposite direction, prioritizing geographic equity over efficiency or high ridership.

The groundbreaking of the eBART line from Pittsburg to Antioch, in east Contra Costa County, is indicative of this trend that also includes the extension of BART to Livermore and San Jose. eBART would bring diesel multiple unit (DMU) train service from the existing BART Pittsburg/Bay Point Station

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The Politics of Mode Choice

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» Choice of transportation mode for new transit capital projects is often just as much a reflection of politics as it is a statement of “objective” technological benefits.

Would it be an indictment of the political system to suggest that most political leaders making decisions about what kind of technology to use in new transit corridors simply don’t care about the relative merits of various transportation modes? If someone were to develop a definitive formula that established, once and for all, the most appropriate technology for any possible corridor, would it matter?

I raise these questions because when put it in the context of actual decision-making by politicians in the United States, the seemingly endless debate between proponents of rail and buses can sometimes appear downright irrelevant.

Bus rapid transit may provide the same capacity as light rail or light rail may be more effective in producing ridership increases or busways may be

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The Site / The Fight

by Yonah Freemark

yfreemark (at) thetransportpolitic (dot) com

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