Central Subway will Bleed Muni for Years

Columnist Joe Eskenazi is the Managing Editor of Mission Local. On September 26th his vivid critique of the Central Subway Project concluded that the Central Subway is a “grotesquely over-budget and behind schedule rail project…that will bleed Muni for years”.

Here’s how bad it is. At $2 billion the Central Subway, with only 76% of its 1.7 miles actually in subway will come in at $1.2 billion per mile. The table below, which came from a comprehensive ENO study of urban rail project costs in 9 countries throughout the world indicates how this Bay Area subway price compares to similar projects elsewhere.

For the ENO report see: https://projectdelivery.enotrans.org/international/

As Mr. Eskenazi notes, this ill-conceived, politically-motivated project will forever hang as a financial load stone around MTA’s neck. Here’s why:

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Alameda County Transit District: Key Upgrade Elements Identified (again)

Enforced bus-only lanes on long distance and trunk lines, including on bridges

Fast direct routes with minimal zigs, zags and detours

Clean, well-maintained, safe and comfortable vehicle interiors

Well maintained and easily identifiable stops

Convenient transfers…timed, especially between neighborhood feeders and trunk lines

Load charts to guide route and service level changes without increasing operating costs

Better coordination between AC and cities like Oakland and Berkeley

Improved signage

Clear and easily available digital maps

Real Time Scheduling and Reliability

Tasks the District can’t handle, farmed out without hesitation

With improvements well underway, an effective marketing program

BART Phase II Needs Outside Professional Review

BART Phase II in Santa Clara County is 6.3 miles long including 4.7 miles of subway being designed and built by the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA). According to the Federal Transit Administration’s estimate of last Fall, the price of Phase II was projected at $9.14 billion, or $1.45 billion per mile. The table below might help to explain why BATWG and other like-minded groups have tried so hard to find ways of bringing down the cost while at the same time improving the convenience and safety of the project.

The table is from a comprehensive ENO study of the urban rail project costs of nine countries throughout the world. For the report see: https://projectdelivery.enotrans.org/international/

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SFMTA Steadily Painting Itself into the Proverbial Corner

It appears that the MTA may unwittingly be putting itself between a rock and a hard place. Here are the limits under which it is attempting to operate its Muni Metro subway:

Limit One…Trains per Hour: The Muni Metro subway can handle only so many peak direction trains an hour. A few years ago the MTA tried running 43 trains an hour through the subway. This was an unmitigated disaster. Now the talk is about 30 trains an hour, but that’s with a brand new signalization system that is at least $600 million and two decades away. In the mean time, in view of Muni’s continuing difficulty hold to schedules, 24 trains an hour should be regarded as the absolute upper limit.

Limit Two…Train Length: The subway was designed to handle three car trains and, with a little ingenuity, even four. But it was recognized that running three and four car surface trains along the avenues would be both controversial and wasteful. So the question became, how to hold to 24 subway trains an hour while making the trains long enough to meet subway ridership demand.

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SFMTA’s Leadership in Implementing Transit First

Bravo to that! Setting up red lanes for buses by taking space away from other street uses is not an easy task. It takes a clear vision, courage and great persistence. It appears that San Francisco is leading most other cities in this regard. Keep at it.

The objective should be, and we believe is, to make transit lines expeditious, reliable and convenient, all with an eye to improving safety.

End of Newsletter #44

DTX Needs MTC’s Support

This BATWG letter makes the case for placing the DTX project at the highest level in the competition for local, private, regional, State and federal funding:

July 16, 2022

Theresa Romell, MTC Director of Funding Policy and Programs
Metropolitan Transportation Commission
San Francisco Ca 94105

Subject: Elevating DTX to MTC Tier 1, Level 1

Dear Ms. Romell,

The initiatives taken by MTC in recent months are most encouraging. Your agency appears to be making a concerted effort to ensure that transportation funding goes to the projects with the highest potential for benefiting the region as opposed to perhaps well intentioned agency or local program that fall short in that regard. Equally important is to ensure that agencies, especially those with very large undertakings, administer their projects efficiently. The efforts that you and MTC are making to bring these changes about are supported and appreciated.

Given the more than 40 speakers who spoke at the July 13, 2022 Programs and Allocations Committee meeting, the one minute time limit per speaker was understandable. However it left quite a bit unsaid. As you know, virtually everyone who testified on the 13th was strongly in favor of placing the Downtown Extension of Caltrain in Level 1. Following are some points we’d like to emphasize:

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