Unscrambling Politically-Inspired Entanglements

As reported in the May 22, 2018 BATWG Newsletter (click on Newsletter Archive in www.batwgblog.com), the Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority has developed a creative and forward-looking plan that would cut over 20 minutes off the time it now takes a Capitol Corridor train to travel between Oakland Jack London Square and San Jose’s Diridon Station. See https://www.southbayconnect.com/

The Capitol Corridor system affords a comfortable and reliable way of getting from Auburn via Sacramento, Davis, Martinez, Richmond, Oakland and Newark all the way into Silicon Valley. However, Capitol Corridor trains are currently detoured from the main Coast Starlight route through eastern Hayward and Union City and then along 5 miles of east-west track to rejoin the main line in Newark and for the remainder of the trip to Silicon Valley. Since the East Hayward/Union City route closely parallels BART the detour never did make much sense. And now, with BART being extended through downtown San Jose and all the way to the Diridon Station, it makes even less sense.

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Eliminating the detour by shifting the modernized and higher-speed Capitol Corridor trains to the UP Coast Subdivision Line, already used by the Seattle-Los Angeles Coast Starlight, would both significantly reduce the trip time between Oakland and San Jose and free up track capacity on the existing east-west line between the Union City BART Station and Newark, thereby making possible the long talked-about Dumbarton Rail Crossing (see BATWG Newsletter Issue #34).  Unfortunately because of uncertainty over the nature of this important connection, there is pressure to shift the Capitol Corridor connecting station from where it should be in downtown Newark to Ardenwood, a single family housing complex almost four miles to the north.  If this happens it would greatly reduce the potential for seamless transit in the Southeast Bay and soon come to be regarded as another major lost opportunity for the Bay Area.   A frequently-operated east-west Dumbarton Rail Crossing linking the Union City BART Station through Newark and across a rebuilt Dumbarton rail bridge to Redwood City’s Caltrain Station would connect no less than five passenger rail lines as well as numerous East Bay bus lines.  Linking Caltrain to 10 other rail lines and over 40 bus lines in downtown San Francisco, and  the creating the above=described Southbay linkages are prime early-action candidates for seamless transit in the Bay Area.

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