Bay Area Rail – High Priority Programs

1. BART: In 2017 the Bay Area Rapid Transit District, sometimes called “the transportation work horse of the Region”, averaged 429,000 riders a weekday. BART operates on its own exclusive right-of-way and is usually quite reliable. However, until recently BART often seemed more focused on politically-inspired extensions than in attending to its core system. Here are some needed improvements

a) The BART ride should be smoother and less noisy. Some BART platforms are unfortunately sandwiched in between freeway lanes. BART riders waiting in the canopied portions of these platforms should be and could easily be shielded from the incessant adjacent traffic noise. Because of lax discipline, fare evasion and bad on-car behavior have increased. Enforcement should be stepped up.

b) BART and the Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority (CCJPA) have come up with an impressive set of proposals to upgrade the Capitol Corridor service. This plan deserves a high priority. See “Capital Corridor” below.

c) On May 24th the BART Board appropriately rejected the over-priced 5 mile BART extension from the existing East Dublin terminal to Isabel Avenue in Livermore. Under no circumstances could a projected ridership increase of only 14,000 riders a day justify the expenditure of $1.6 billion. More reasonable would be the development of a safe, comfortable, reliable and convenient bus access system similar to the privately-operated hi-tech buses that connect Silicon Valley to other parts of the Region. Alameda County Measure BB funds are available to pay for a substantially upgraded bus system. None of the rail alternatives under discussion would serve Livermore as well as a substantially upgraded but cheaper bus system would.

2. Caltrain Downtown Extension (DTX): When the newly electrified Caltrain system reaches San Francisco’s new Sales Force Terminal at First and Mission it will connect with 10 other passenger rail lines and over 40 bus lines.

The lower level of Berlin’s main railway station:  When the trains arrive the Transbay Transit Center could look something like this. Photo: Wikimedia Commons StreetsblogSF June 16, 2017

It will also bring passenger rail service to within easy walking distance of San Francisco’s bustling financial center and over 20,000 units of transit-oriented housing. San Francisco, the Southbay, the Peninsula and all of Northern California will benefit from this important nexus of Bay Area transit services.   DTX deserves much more attention and higher regional priority than it’s been getting.

3. ACE: Today the Altamont Commuter Express operates between Stockton and San Jose at an average speed of 39 miles an hour along an often meandering alignment. As a result it takes two hours and 12 minutes to travel 86 miles between the two ends of the line and therefore attracts a dismally low 4,900 riders per weekday. In 2018 this is not acceptable. The one-way ACE trip time should be reduced to no more than 1-1/4 hour hour. Speeding up the service to achieve this objective would require straightening some portions of the alignment and tunneling in portions of Niles Canyon. Despite the high cost, developing an effective non-automotive way of traveling between the north end of the San Joaquin Valley and Silicon Valley is another important Northern California transportation priority.

4. Capital Corridor: Capitol Corridor trains currently run on a 168-mile alignment between Auburn, California through Sacramento and Oakland and San Jose’s Diridon Station.

CapitalCoordToday, the service is much more reliable and convenient than it used to be. The Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority (CCJPA) with BART as its day-to-day manager and Amtrak as its Operator is planning further improvements.

One of the most important of these would cut the trip time between Oakland and San Jose to just 30 minutes by relocating Capitol Corridor service from the current detour through eastern Hayward and Union City to the more direct existing alignment through Newark. BART…soon to be extended into downtown San Jose…would continue to serve eastern Hayward. As part of the upgrade program, the pedestrian connection at the Oakland Coliseum Station between the Amtrak trains and BART would become much easier and more convenient. Other Capitol Corridor improvements include increased operating speeds, better connections to intersecting rail lines and better ticket integration.

5. Dumbarton Rail Crossing:  Commuters and others who must use the Dumbarton Highway Bridge every day, whether in buses or in their cars, are trapped in Highway 84 gridlock. If they detour to the south they run into I-880 and I-237 gridlock. If they detour to the north they encounter Highway 92 gridlock. In order to give travelers a reliable and comfortable way of crossing the south end of the Bay, the Dumbarton Rail Bridge should be restored or rebuilt to facilitate a Caltrain branch line extended from the Caltrain Redwood City Station to the Union City BART Station. Later, if and when ACE is upgraded, an ACE branch line could travel on the same tracks to the West Bay.


6. Southeast Bay Connection Alternatives:  With the Capitol Corridor trains relocated to the existing alignment through Newark (already used by Coast Starlight trains), the ideal location for a connecting station to serve the Starlight, Capitol Corridor, ACE and Dumbarton crossing trains would be at the point where the four lines intersect near Baine Avenue and Sycamore Street in downtown Newark.

There has been talk of creating a transfer connection between ACE and BART north of the Fremont BART station. The current demand for a transfer at this location does not appear to be high enough to warrant such a connection. Union City’s proposal to detour ACE trains 2.7 miles off-line for a stop at the Union City BART Station would make the through trip between Stockton and San Jose significantly longer. It should therefore be rejected. Routing the Dumbarton rail shuttle service via Decoto Road would both further congest Decoto and eliminate the ACE/Dumbarton Shuttle connection. The Decoto proposal should also be rejected .

7. SMART: A high priority should be placed on extending the Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit system to the Larkspur Ferry Terminal so as to afford riders a fast and convenient way of transferring between trains and ferry boats.

8. Contra Costa County:  The same high bus operating standards proposed for Livermore (see BART Section c above) should be applied to the feeder bus lines serving BART in Contra Costa County. Consideration should be given to extending BART’s popular new DMU line farther to the east.

9. Bicycles: Adequate secure bicycle storage should be provided at all train station.

To read about Longer Range Programs, click here.