31 January 2017

Hitting all the bases with Anna Madrigal's Steps

A woman is on her way to work. She gets on a train at West Portal Station in San Francisco, tagging her Clipper card. She quickly reads the latest news on her quick ride to Montgomery Station - just long enough to read the headlines and look at photos of the A's World Series victory parade from the day before.

Once off the train at Montgomery, she takes escalators deeper down below Market St to reach a new BART station that will take her to Oakland through the new second tube. On her way down she appreciates the echoing music through the hallways and puts a couple dollars in a guitarist's case. Reaching the platform, she arrives just in time as the platform doors and train doors open. She knows she's on the right because the sign is blinking purple next to the doors.

Jack London Square offices. Image: KQED
After a quiet and pleasant ride under the bay her train makes a short stop at Alameda Point Station. She's happy she'll be getting off a the next station, Jack London Station. (She'll come back through Alameda and get dinner with her friend there on her way back.) A minute later she's getting off at Jack London Station, riding the escalators to the surface. She tags her Clipper card as she exits the station and walks three blocks to her job, ready to begin her new day.

The above story is possible if, and only if, we build a second rail crossing under the bay (or over). Let's get started.

Today we look at the Anna Madrigal's Steps option that reaches both Mission Bay and the Financial and Transbay districts. This, the third of four in our series on San Francisco Transbay Alignment choices, which will be followed by a look at Oakland. Previously we have presented two options for new rail into Downtown San Francisco: the Lindsay Boxer Discovery, and Midge's Delight options with their distinctive BART lines up Fifth St and Howard St respectively plus Caltrain through Mission Bay via Third St and Townsend respectively.

Here we have the alignment that get's you nearly everywhere you want to be and where folks work or live:
  • Mission Bay
  • South SoMa/South Beach
  • Transbay District
  • Financial District
  • Union Square
It also creates great seamless connections between BART, Caltrain and Muni Metro - i.e. short transfers that prioritize you getting where you want to go quickly, comfortably, intuitively and hopefully without a headache. 

The Caltrain/HSR DTX line follows its planned path up 7th Street, Townsend Street and 2nd Street. In a second phase, a turnback loop is built to increase capacity of the Transbay Transit Center. This tees up an eventual crossing to Oakland. The BART line from Oakland would first briefly pass through Mission Bay, then follow 3rd Street in South SoMa. From 3rd & Brannan, it would shift to 2nd Street to stop at the Transbay Center and Montgomery BART. Finally it would turn west down Post to reach Geary in the Western Addition.

Looking south from Third St at the planned Mission Rock development (top), Mission Creek (center), and AT&T Park (left). The new BART line (blue) would follow Terry Francois then up Third Street. King Street crosses Third with Muni Metro service (orange). Image: Mission Rock via BCDC (pdf) and Brian Stokle (lines)
The Madrigal's Steps option would include:
  • more BART stations (3 to 4); 
  • build a somewhat longer 1.6 mile BART tunnel, compared to 1.5 miles (Lindsay Boxer), and twice as far as the 0.8 miles of Midge's Delight. 
  • Unlike the other two options, Madrigal's Steps gets folks directly to both the Financial District and Mission Bay.
  • A Caltrain loop that makes the Transbay Transit Center a through station - not a terminal station - that increases its train and passenger capacity.
Capacity difference between a TERMINAL and a THROUGH station:
The Transbay Transit Center is currently designed to open as a terminal station, that could be converted to a through station. A terminal station is literally the end of the line. This means that trains do not pass through but instead have to pull in and pull out of the station. For every one train, two movements are needed – one entering and one leaving the station. This only increases the complexity of managing the station.

Think of a driveway at a home: a circle driveway vs. a standard straight one with a garage. Imagine you're having a party and you invite lots of people over. Luckily you have a driveway that can hold 6 cars (in addition to the 2 in your garage).  Friends 1 and 2 arrive early and park in front of the garage. They want to leave early, but Friends 3 and 4, who arrived later and plan to leave late, have blocked them in. 

The only way for Friends 1 and 2 to have avoided the problem (if street parking is not an option) is for them to have backed out before Friends 3 and 4 arrived, which means Friends 3 and 4 have to wait to park in the driveway or arrive later than they wanted to.

A circle driveway would have allowed Friends 1 and 2 to arrive early and leave early. Meanwhile Friends 3 and 4 could arrive later and leave later knowing they wouldn't block Friends 1 and 2, and in fact leave a space or two for Friends 5 and 6 who want to stay the night.

Looking south on Third Street as it crosses King St. AT&T Park is on the far left corner. A station would go here in the Madrigal's Steps option. Image: Google Streetview
As noted before, the options will be names of people. In San Francisco they are names of fictitious characters from stories that took place in San Francisco. Also, the orientation of the map has east at the top, "looking" to Oakland.

The BASIC ALIGNMENTS
(see map below)
  • BART
    • Arrives under the bay at Pier 54 running north along Terry Francois Blvd. 
    • Runs under 3rd St between Mission Creek and South Park
    • Turns slightly northeast to reach 2nd Street via Hawthorne St. 
    • Finally turns west from 2nd St to Post St 
  • Caltrain/HSR 
    • The Downtown Extension DTX follows the Pennsylvania and 7th Street alignment from Potrero Hill to SoMa.
    • Continues under Townsend St, then turns north up 2nd Street to the Transbay Center
    • Continues east out of the Center turning south to loop back to Townsend via Embarcadero. 
    • Future extension of Caltrain and HSR tracks under the bay could be added later, paralleling the 2nd BART tube's alignment or taking a separate path.
  • Muni
    • Operates largely as today
    • Central Subway extended to North Beach and later to Fisherman's Wharf
    • Optional Geary St Muni Metro could loop around Transbay Transit Center and then turn back southwest along Folsom back to the Mission. The route could be all underground or a combination of surface and underground rail.
    • Optional extension of N-Judah Mission Bay line further west to Division Street.
Anna Madrigal's Steps option. Source: Brian Stokle / Urban Life Signs

21 January 2017

Baseball access - the parking and car kind

The Oakland Athletics are considering building a new stadium in Oakland. Where it will go depends on how it is financed and how folks will get to the stadium. Let's look at access.

Sporting events are big events that draw people from an entire region. That means a new A's stadium needs to provide access for folks from Oakland, Concord, Fremont, Richmond, Livermore, Vallejo, and even San Francisco and San Jose. There are two primary ways folks get to a sport stadium: by car or by transit. Cars need parking within a short-ish walking distance, and transit needs to be a short-ish walking distance as well, but can be a bit farther - hey you're going to a great game, it's worth a nice walk.
Camden Yards stadium in Baltimore, with parking lot. Source:Google Streetview
Let's look at how several of the ballpark sites rate on access. Today we'll look at auto access.

Sites
  • Coliseum
  • Brooklyn Basin
  • Laney College Fields
  • Estuary Park
  • Howard Terminal
Parking requires either lots or fields surrounding or close to a stadium, or a series of parking garages. We'll look at both what is available today, but also what would be available in the longer term, especially considering the team will likely finance their stadium in part through developing the area surrounding the stadium.

Site acreage
Coliseum: 100+ acres without Raiders, ~40 with Raiders
Brooklyn Basin: 23 acres
Laney College Fields: 17 acres
Estuary Park: 11 acres
Howard Terminal: 50 acres

If we figure the stadium will take up about 9 acres, that leaves little room for development AND parking lots on the site itself for Laney College, Estuary Park, and Brooklyn Basin. That said, areas surrounding both Laney and Estuary could easily have parking structures added to them, especially the Laney College parking lot west of the ballpark site.

However, from a purely parking lot perspective, it's Howard Terminal and Coliseum that provide ample parking and development opportunity from an acreage point of view.

Freeway Access
The key way to get to a stadium by car for most people is by freeway. You also need to get from the freeway to the stadium via off and on ramps plus a few streets. The key piece is the freeway on/off-ramps. Let's look at how many freeway on and off ramp sets are at each site.

We'll count one ramp set as two off-ramps, one in each direction, plus two on-ramps in each direction. We'll only count ramp sets that are relatively close to the stadium site and have street access.

Coliseum: 2.0
Brooklyn Basin:
Laney College Fields: 1.5 (3.5 if you include I-580)
Estuary Park: 1.75 but could be boosted to 2.0
Howard Terminal: 3.0

The Coliseum has two full ramp sets, one at Hegenberger, the other at 66th Ave. I-580 is beyond the 2-mile radius of the stadium. The ramps and surrounding streets are designed for the high volumes of major sporting and concert events.

Brooklyn Basin is limited with its shoreline site. However, I-580 get's within the 2-mile radius of the stadium using Park Blvd and 5th Ave to access the park. Unfortunately there are few freeway ramps close to the stadium (unlike Coliseum), and some are not designed for high volume traffic, and may not be up to current interstate standards.

Embarcadero and 10th Ave onramp.
Embarcadero and 10th Ave onramp. Source: Google Streetview

30 December 2016

Keep it Simple with Midge's Delight: Part 2 Analyzing the Transbay Alignments

Last week we looked at the Lindsay Boxer Discovery option, with its distinctive BART line up Fifth St past many new developments. Today we look at the simplest option for San Francisco in our series on Transbay Alignment choices.

Here we have the shortest BART alignment possible, while the Caltrain/HSR DTX line follows the already environmentally approved path up Townsend and 2nd Street. The only "flourish" is calling for a 4-bore tunnel. The four tracks would include two BART tracks plus two Caltrain/HSR tracks east between Howard and Mission Streets out of the Transbay Transit Center.

The simplicity? This option would include the fewest new downtown BART stations (2 instead of 3 or 4); build the shortest BART tunnel (only 0.8 miles to Market St unlike Lindsay Boxer's 1.5 miles). Yet Midge's Delight gets folks to the Financial District directly, and a to Mission Bay directly via Caltrain or with a single transfer if from BART.
The two new towers rising in the Transbay District: Salesforce Tower and 181 Fremont as seen from Howard at 1st St. Image: Brian Stokle / Urban Life Signs
As noted before, the options will be names of people. In San Francisco they are names of fictitious characters from stories that took place in San Francisco. Also, the orientation of the map has east at the top, "looking" to Oakland.

The BASIC ALIGNMENTS
  • BART
    • Arrives under the bay at Howard Street in SoMa.
    • Runs under Howard Street to 2nd St.
    • Turns west to go under O'Farrell Street and on to Geary Street to a terminus to be decided later
  • Caltrain/HSR 
    • The Downtown Extension DTX follows the Pennsylvania and 7th Street alignment from Potrero Hill to SoMa
    • Continues under Townsend St, then turning north under 2nd Street to the Transbay Center
    • Continues east out of the Center and on under the bay through a 4-bore 2nd Transbay crossing (2 tracks BART, 2 tracks Caltrain/HSR)
  • Muni
    • Operates largely as today
    • Central Subway extended to North Beach and possibly Fisherman's Wharf
    • Optional extension of N-Judah Mission Bay line further west to Division Street.
    • Optional Geary St Muni Metro could loop around Transbay Transit Center and then turn back southwest along Folsom back to the Mission. (not mapped)
Midge's Delight option. Source: Brian Stokle / Urban Life Signs

Aerial view of SoMa and the Transbay District. Caltrain runs under 2nd St. Muni's T-Third runs under of 4th St. BART comes from East Bay under Howard St. Transfers possible between all three.  Fremont Transbay Station under Howard has easy transfers to the Transbay Center. 4th & Townsend Station within walking distance of AT&T Park, Chase Center Warriors Arena, and Mission Rock development,.
Image: Brian Stokle / Urban Life Signs. Base image: GoogleEarth
The STATIONS
  • BART
    • Transbay Transit Center at Howard: The station on Howard between Fremont and First streets provides great access to the quickly developing and densifying Transbay District, while still being within walking distance of much of the Financial District north of Market. In addition a short pedestrian tunnel under Fremont would link to the Transbay Transit Center with its Caltrain, HSR, and bus services. The transfer through the tunnel would take less than a minute.
Looking west on Howard Street at Fremont Street. A BART station here would run between Fremont and First and only be a 1 minute walk to the Transbay Transit Center in a pedestrian tunnel. Image: Brian Stokle/Urban Life Signs
    • Union Square Powell Station (under O'Farrell Street) provides access to the Union Square shopping and cultural area in addition to providing transfers between the new BART line to the T-Third Muni Metro in the Central Subway, as well as existing Market Street BART and Muni Metro lines. Transfers from the new station could be made by connecting to the concourse under Stockton St. An optional additional pedestrian tunnel could directly link the two BART lines by going under Powell Street between O'Farrell and Market Street. 
The Union Square area already will have the new T-Third station that connects to the Powell St BART and Muni Metro station. Adding the 2nd Transbay BART station under O'Farrell create a major regional rail hub at this important shopping, culture and tourist neighborhood.  Image: Google Maps / Brian Stokle
  • Caltrain / HSR
    • Fourth and Townsend Station gives access to the same area as the current 4th & King station, with close proximity to AT&T Park, and the planned growth area in the Central SoMa plan. In addition, access to the new Chase Center Warriors Arena would be a short walk away. Transfers to Muni T-Third and the N-Judah would be important.
    • Transbay Transit Center: as planned this station will provide rail access into the heart of Downtown San Francisco providing service to the Peninsula, San Jose, as well as Fresno and eventually Los Angeles with the California High Speed Rail. 
    • In addition, pedestrian tunnels under Beale Street connecting Embarcadero Station and under Fremont Street to the new BART line under Howard would all connect to the Transbay Transit Center for passengers wishing to transfer from Caltrain and HSR to reach points throughout the Bay Area via BART and Muni.
Transbay Transit Center (center bottum) with its white patterned skin. The Salesforce Tower under construction rises center right with its glass exterior not yet complete.  Image: Brian Stokle / Urban Life Signs

21 December 2016

Analyzing the Transbay Alignments: Part I Lindsay Boxer in San Francisco

Talk of a 2nd Transbay Rail Crossing has gained a bit of a bump in the last few weeks due to a few new things:
  • BART's announcement that it will reduce service in the Transbay Tube for several months (VERIFY DETAILS) to seismically upgrade the tunnel.
  • The UC Berkeley Transportation Studio presented its findings on where a 2nd Tube, or as they put it, a 3rd Crossing, could go based on some robust analysis.
  • BART trains were either "stuck" in the tube Tuesday, December 20 due to mechanical problems (old system) plus there was a medical emergency that caused delays. Both cascaded delays through entire system.
So I've finally come to a very late annual edition of where a BART and Caltrain tube and tunnel (and maybe bridge) system should go. (Other editions happened in 2013, 2015, 2016) In I'll be looking at where they trains could go, the tradeoffs, the opportunities, the challenges, and the timing. In past installments, I've only looked at San Francisco, but I'll also be looking at Oakland too this time.

Rather than looking at all the alignments all at once (like I've done before I think taking a slower approach will give a chance to better look at each possibility on its own. This time around I'll be also trying a new approach - calling the alignments by unique non-geographic names. Because I'll be showing both BART and Caltrain/HSR and Muni, creating names by major streets would get really long and confusing. 

Rather, the options will be names of people. In San Francisco they'll be the names of fictitious characters from stories that took place in San Francisco. In Oakland it will be something else. I'm thinking it'll be famous East Bay sports figures, but maybe it will be something else.  

I've also oriented the maps a bit differently so as to jog my mind and perspective a bit to be open to new ideas and catch weaknesses I may haven't seen before. In San Francisco the perspective looks eastward with the bay at the top of the image, and Geary running up and down to the bottom of the image.

We begin with San Francisco and the "Lindsay Boxer Discovery". You can learn about the other options here: Midge's Delight (12/30)

The BASIC ALIGNMENTS
  • BART
    • Arrives under the bay at Pier 50 in Mission Bay.
    • Runs under 5th Street.
    • Turns west to go under Geary Street to a terminus to be decided later
  • Caltrain/HSR 
  • Muni
    • Operates largely as today
    • Central Subway extended to North Beach and possibly Fisherman's Wharf
    • Optional extension of N-Judah Mission Bay line further west to Division Street.

Aerial view of Mission Rock Station in Mission Bay. Caltrain runs under 3rd St. Muni's T-Third runs on surface of 3rd St. BART comes from East Bay and turns north under 5th St. Transfers possible between all three.  Mission Rock Station within walking distance of AT&T Park, Chase Center Warriors Arena, UCSF Mission Bay, Mission Rock development,.
Image: Brian Stokle / Urban Life Signs. Base image: GoogleEarth

The STATIONS
  • BART
    • Mission Rock: The station at Third and China Basin St provides great access to the growing Mission Bay neighborhood and transfers to Caltrain and the Muni T-Third.
    • Central Soma Brannan 5th provides stops in the center of planned new development in this part of SoMa that is far from current BART access. The Central SoMa Plan will bring 20 story hi-rises of offices here so getting access to more people will be important.
    • Mission Powell Station will be provide access to the Union Square shopping and cultural area in addition to providing transfers between the new BART line and existing Market Street BART and Muni Metro lines plus T-Third (for a second time).
  • Caltrain / HSR
    • Mission Rock station gives access to the same basic area as the current 4th & King station, with close access to AT&T Park, plus very close to the new Chase Center Warriors Arena. In addition, transfers to Muni T-Third and the new BART line are critical.
    • Transbay Transit Center: as planned this station will provide rail access into the heart of Downtown San Francisco providing service to the Peninsula, San Jose, as well as Fresno and eventually Los Angeles with the California High Speed Rail. In addition, a planned pedestrian tunnel under Beale Street will connect Embarcadero Station and the Transbay Transit Center for passengers wishing to transfer to the Caltrain and HSR from BART and Muni under Market Street.
Third and China Basin St where a Mission Rock Caltrain/HSR/BART/Muni Metro station would be placed.
Image: Google Streetview.

Central SoMa area with much future new dense office development planned at places like the Tennis Club, Flower Mart and even possibly the Caltrain railyard.  Image: Google Maps

31 October 2016

New BART traincars are kind of a big deal

Firstly - Happy Halloween!

Secondly - yay for the new BART train cars! Yesterday I made the trek from San Francisco to El Cerrito Del Norte Station (my grandparents' old station) to see the new "Fleet of the Future".

Frankly, the seats were really nice AND practical. Note the depth of cushioning. We could have declined to plastic seats. Image: Brian Stokle / Urban Life Signs
Although the new train did not move it moved the soul of this here transit advocate and enthusiast. I arrived at 11 AM - well after the prescribed start time - thinking I wouldn't get the toy train car. Luckily the woman in front of me told me that she really wanted a train car for her autistic son. A BART employee had assured her, moments earlier, that everyone would be getting squishy new toy fleet of the future train cars. And sure enough we all did! The atmosphere while waiting was full of effervescent anticipation. Sure I'd glanced at the train on my way into the station, but getting to actually walk into it was.... almost a religious experience.

Ok - it wasn't quite religious, but it was great. (Seeing the first viaduct pillars of the California High Speed Rail system in Madera County was a religious experience.) Remember, I'm a guy who's lived in three big cities - New York, Paris, and San Francisco. I've seen new train cars both in Paris and New York. So I was expecting something nice, but not profound. What I saw was a tad short of profound. So very good.

Many people waited in line to see the new train cars. Not sure if it was more for the toy or seeing the cars. Image: Brian Stokle / Urban Life Signs
Taking the escalator up, past the Del Norte mosaic walls, and then being greeted by BART ambassadors at all 9 doors of the three car train was a nice and welcoming touch. The first thing you notice is the train color is really white, but that will change with time.

Upon entry it's the seats in their bright blue and green that I noticed. I had to sit in them. And they are very comfy while being made of some miracle material that appears easy to wipe. Just the right amount of padding without swallowing you yet also seeming to be a durable padding.
Me holding my new BART "toy" at the center of the train where no pole exists. Note there are more straphangers at the center.  Image: Brian Stokle / Urban Life Signs
The three door configuration, although not complicated and nearly universal in other metro systems, seemed natural and not amazing - but I think we'll sense how great it is with how fast folks will get on and off trains.

14 October 2016

All the family I have known and met - lived through 250 years!

Talking about climate change, sea level rise, and their effects is easy. Getting folks, myself included, to actually act on this monumental challenge is the big obstacle.

One of the many challenges is getting a grasp on the long time horizons - if we don't reduce emissions now, the world will be flooded by 10 feet in 90 years.

After having a daughter I've thought a lot about what the world will look like in the year 2050 and 2100. I'll be alive in 2050, quite possibly, when I'll be 80 years old. However, my daughter will only be 38 years old. And in 2100, she'll be 88 years old. Three of my grandparents lived to 90 years or older, so there's a decent chance she might make it to then.

All this means that my daughter is very very likely to live in a VERY different world in 2100, or even in 2079 when she'll be eligible for Social Security benefits - assuming the program still exists.

Thinking further, I thought to myself, how can I and other people, better connect to the idea that the here an now affects the world in 25, 50, 100 and even 150 years from now. So I wondered, who in my family will I know and what years did they all live in.

As indicated in the chart below, my older grandfather was born in 1899, and my potential granddaughter will live to 2150 when she'll be 97.

The family I know will have spanned 251 years and five generations. 
Image: Brian Stokle/Urban Life Signs
So when we're talking about reducing emissions, and making tough decisions on how to get there - like eliminating all gasoline and diesel vehicles by 2030, remember that your children and grandchildren will be living past the year 2100 and trying to cope with a hot world, with flooded historic cities, with international refugees fleeing flooded cities.


30 September 2016

BART system time lapse and Vote YES on Measure RR

BART was closed between Glen Park and Daly City stations a few weekends ago - one of several planned closures between July and October 2016. You may recall other recent closures in the East Bay, and most dramatically, the pair of Transbay Tube closures in 2015.

Whether you love, hate, or accept BART - it gets much of the Bay Area around. However, San Francisco has grown as a city and the Bay Area has grown as a region... and BART hasn't grown much at all apart from extensions.


Bus bridge between Glen Park and Daly City offered by BART and Muni. Source: BART
Measure RR, calls for a bond that will help finance many of BART's pressing needs for getting you to where you want to go reliably. Sure you might have a bad view of BART now - but think of how much worse it will be if we don't pass this bond. With no bond, we would have the same hardware of old wires, pipes, electrical systems from the 1970s, and no train control system to get more trains through the tube.



31 August 2016

Entwining BART and Caltrain Elegantly in San Francisco

Figuring out where a new rail line will go is a complicated thing. Figuring out where to put a new BART or Commuter Rail tube AND a Caltrain extension, all interacting with existing rail, AND taking sea level rise into consideration will make your head implode.

Below are a few ideas I've put together. I've included five feet of sea level rise as a reference, as it would seem to be wise to include sea level rise into the planning when the infrastructure will be around for 100 to 150 years.

All of the options attempt to achieve the following:
  • A second transbay crossing for capacity increase and redundancy (2 tracks or bores)
    • In some cases a third crossing is included for a total of (4 tracks or bores)
  • A Downtown San Francisco station where most of the ridership goes
  • A transfer station between an existing Downtown Market St station and the new 2nd Tube in the event that the original Transbay Tube is shut down for major repairs
  • Focus on the Transbay Transit Center as the major transportation hub, especially because it will eventually have High Speed Rail.
  • Create stations in areas that are developing and lack a regional station or to areas that could accommodate significant new growth in the future.
Note that whichever idea gets put forward to eventually build will be built in phases. In the maps shown its assumed that the first phase of these regional rail plans would be the Downtown Extension (DTX), linking Caltrain and HSR to the Transbay Transit Center (aka Transbay Center). The second phase could be either a 2nd tube for BART, Caltrain or both, and later a third transbay crossing, or new rail westward into San Francisco.

Avoiding Sea Level Rise Zones
4 bores
Caltrain: 7th St and Howard to Transbay Center
BART: 2nd St and Post St to Cathedral Van Ness

Transfers: Montgomery and the Transbay Center would be connected by a new Mission Transbay BART station under 2nd Street. It would mean you could transfer from Caltrain to BART along Market St, or to the new BART line to reach places like Cathedral Van Ness or to Muni Metro to reach Castro Station.
When the First Transbay Tube is shut down, passengers from BART line in SF and peninsula would cross bay by transferring to new BART line at Montgomery/Mission Transbay station.
New Station Areas: Showplace Brannan, Cathedral Van Ness

The Realistic and Practical
2 bores - BART Only
Caltrain: Townsend St and 2nd St to Transbay Center
BART: Mission St and Geary to Fillmore

Transfers: Embarcadero and the Transbay Center would be connected by a new Fremont Transbay BART station under Mission Street. It would mean you could transfer from Caltrain to BART along Market St, or to the new BART line to reach places like Fillmore or to Muni Metro to reach Church Station.
When the First Transbay Tube is shut down, passengers from BART line in SF and peninsula would cross bay by transferring to new BART line at Embarcadero station to Fremont Transbay station.
New Station Areas: Fillmore, Cathedral Van Ness