Bay Area Rail – Longer Range Programs

1. Oakland’s Main Line:  Depressing the 1.3 mile section of Main Line between Lindon and Fallon Streets would yield a variety of benefits, including more expeditious freight rail and passenger travel through downtown Oakland, reduced conflicts between traffic and trains and better access to the Estuary.

2. Oakland Amtrak/BART Connection:  In West Oakland there should be a transfer-only connection between the Main Line and BART instead of the difficult-to-access Emeryville Station. This would cut the Capitol Corridor trip time to San Francisco by 20 minutes and to downtown Oakland by at least 10 minutes.

3. Second Subaqueous Rail Tube Between Oakland and San Francisco:  This proposal is currently a hot topic. Despite the talk, given the glacial pace of Bay Area infrastructure development, completing a new transbay rail tube complete with connecting subways on both sides of the Bay is at least a half century away. Treating it as a near term improvement is unfortunately distracting planners from focusing on needed early-action improvement, some of which are outlined above.

4. High Speed Rail (HSR): If present trends continue, Northern Central Valley cities will grow substantially as cheaper housing costs attracts newcomers and people forced out of inner Bay Area housing by high costs. The more this happens the more the region will need a speeded-up ACE system. An Altamont Pass HSR alignment, costing about the same as the currently anointed Pacheco alignment, offers several significant advantages over Pacheco. First it would reduce the cost of upgrading the Altamont Commuter Express (ACE: see above) by at least $8 billion. As indicated above an ACE upgrade would give commuters and other travelers an efficient passenger rail alternative to being stalled on backed-up roadways I-580, I-680, I-880, Highway 84 and Highway 92, or adding to BART’s already over-crowded system. By extending San Joaquin Valley HSR 70 miles closer to Sacramento, the Altamont alignment would also reduce the Phase 2 HSR costs by an estimated $12 billion.  If the CAHSRA persists in sticking with the Pacheco Alternative it will be because of political interference and an aversion to admitting error rather than logic or good engineering and operational practice.

5. UC Berkeley to JLS Rail Connection:  Running in the medians of Telegraph Avenue and Broadway, a diesel-operated or electrified surface rail line could provide service between Sather Gate in Berkeley and Jack London Square. Such a line would serve U.C. Berkeley, Uptown, the Kaiser Center, the Oakland Civic Center, Old Town, China Town, Jack London Square and the Amtrak Station. It would also pass three BART Stations and intersect with over 20 cross-town bus lines.

6. Geary Rail Service Line: S.F. City Hall should bite the bullet and replace the proposed Geary Corridor bus rapid transit system with a diesel-operated or electrified rail line.

7. Upgrading San Francisco’s Muni Metro: Thanks to an ill-advised operational change in the 1990’s, the peak-period carrying capacity of the Muni subway under Market Street is less than half of what the system was designed to carry and should be carrying. As San Francisco’s population increases the need to correct this defect will grow ever more pressing.

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8.Improving East-West Rail Connections in the Highway 37/I80 Corridors: To provide east-west travelers with a reliable and comfortable alternative to perpetually congested Highway 37, an east/west passenger rail line should connect the SMART service in Main and Sonoma Counties with an Amtrak Station in Solano County.

Concluding Statement:

The collective ways of getting around in the Greater Bay Area have to get better. Regardless of which agency is operating them, the various non-automotive transit systems (trains, buses and boats) must be arranged to benefit ALL riders and would-be riders. The level of traffic strangulation that currently afflicts Bay Area cities for many hours of the day must be significantly reduced. Achieving these objectives will require fundamental changes in today’s approach to addressing and reacting to regional transportation and land use problems.

Most of the projects and proposals listed above are regional in nature. Yet the Bay Area regional planning agency’s refusal to define them as such and its passivity when confronted by regional problems has greatly damaged the Region and is one of the reasons for today’s gridlock. This needs to change.

To read the entire Bay Area Rail Status Report as one article, click here.