This extension of the ½ cent SF transportation sales tax for 30 more years promises to continue making things better for Muni riders, improving safety and providing new ways of encouraging commuters and other travelers to enter and move about in San Francisco without having to haul two to three tons of steel, glass and plastic around with them everywhere they go. For this reason and with determination to help hold the MTA to its promises, BATWG urges a yes vote on Proposition L.
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:
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
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 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/
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.
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.