BART Board Rejects Overpriced BART/Livermore Extension

The following Bay Area Transportation Working Group (BATWG) report responds to BART’s analysis of the various ways of improving access to the BART system from Livermore and the rest of eastern Alameda County:

BARTIn 1963 the voters of the three original BART Counties; namely Alameda, San Francisco and Contra Costa, formed the BART District and have been paying taxes into the system ever since.

At the BART Board hearing on May 24, 2018 a number of Livermore residents voiced their strong desire for BART to be extended 5 miles from the existing East Dublin BART station to Isabel Avenue in Livermore at a cost of $1.635 billion.  And that would be fine, if money were no object.  But money is an object.  In fact it’s in short supply and the existing BART system has many maintenance and improvement needs that go unmet for the lack of funding. 

At the hearing, a number of individuals and groups from other parts of the BART District presented the following case for a cheaper and more practical Express-Bus Alternative:

o    Per the EIR, extending BART to Isabel would increase BART system ridership by just 13,400 riders a day, a small number that doesn’t come even close to justifying a capital expenditure of $1.635 billion. Using already available funds, the Express Bus Alternative could be built and put into operation for less than a fourth that amount.  Lacking adequate funding the much more expensive BART Alternative could not be implemented for years or decades.

o   With the Isabel Neighborhood Plan (INP) included, the BART extension would reduce rush hour I-580 traffic by an inconsequential 2.9%, an effect destined to disappear as soon as new freeway users began using the freeway.  Contrary to opinions expressed on May 24th, the net effect on I-580 rush hour traffic of extending BART would be inconsequential.

o   Extending BART to Isabel would raise BART’s O&M Costs by $22.8 million a year, compared to the Express Bus Alternative which would raise them only $3 million a year.

o   Extending BART would require the elimination of the 76 BART car storage spaces that currently exist just east of the East Dublin Station and entail the construction of a new rail car storage and maintenance facility estimate to cost almost a half a billion dollars.

A number of the speakers from Livermore seemed to feel that since they had been paying into the BART system that they were entitled to their own BART line extended into their low density, spread out community.  These speakers did not appear to realize that many tax payers in other parts of the three original BART districts are either similarly removed from BART service or, for various reasons, unable to directly benefit from BART.

Many residents at the eastern end of Contra Costa County are located even farther away from the Pittsburgh Bay Point BART station than the residents of Livermore are from the East Dublin Station.  However, thanks to 10 miles of just opened conventional rail service between the Pittsburgh Bay Point and Antioch, riders are now able to quickly and reliably get to Pittsburgh Bay Point for a transfer to BART, thereby avoiding ten miles  of traffic-clogged Highway 4.  The per mile cost of the County’s new conventional rail service is roughly one sixth of what an extension of BART to Isabel Avenue would cost.

Northwestern San Francisco, with a population that is both larger and denser than Livermore’s population, is also remote from a BART station.    In the early 1990’s a proposal to run a branch BART line from Market Street under and along Geary Boulevard to the western edge of the city was  quickly rejected, in part because its high cost.  The people living in northwestern San Francisco will eventually reach BART via a Geary Express Bus line.  This bus line between northwestern San Francisco and the Montgomery BART Station is similar to the Express Bus service being proposed between Livermore and the East Dublin BART Station.

After spending hours carefully listening to public testimony on May 24th the BART Board, voted to reject the BART extension.  Given the high cost of the marginally useful, low-ridership BART extension this was the right call.  The Board also rejected the  Express Bus Alternative, perhaps for good and sufficient reasons.

The BART Board’s reaction to the Express Bus Alternative notwithstanding, BATWG continues to believe that an express bus service as defined below is by far the best and most practical BART access solution for eastern Alameda County.  To be effective a Livermore express bus service would need to be straight, fast and reliable.  Buses traveling on I-580 would operate in congestion-free lanes and the interiors of buses would be quiet, comfortable and well-appointed.   Some buses would leave I-580 at Isabel Avenue;  others would continue on to Greenville Road for a connection to ACE.  On city streets BART access buses (and preferably all buses) would have as few turns and detours as possible and travel in transit-only lanes during peak driving hours where and as necessary to protect riders from getting bogged down in heavy rush hour congestion.  It would be BART’s responsibility to make certain these operating standards (which are much higher than those in evidence today) were maintained at all times.