01 February 2015

Third Street 2nd Transbay Tube is the Charm?

Having a Second Transbay Tube is a great and welcome prospect. The tube would bring better access, reliability, and resiliency to Downtown San Francisco's transportation network. In November we learned that BART is actively studying the idea of a second Transbay Tube (see PDF presentation). Several articles and opinion pieces have covered the critical issues of station locations, alignments, cost, funding, environmental issues, etc.

Image: Urban Life Signs
I have to note that the map used to show the basic idea bears an uncanny resemblance to one of the alignments I studied and proposed in my June 2013 piece, "Poll: Where Should BART Go in SoMa?" True, no specific alignment has been selected - and many will be considered an analyzed. However, as you can see in the map, especially the closeup map, the alignment shown follows the Third St/Geary alignment that I considered back in 2013 for my "Poll: Where should BART go in SoMa?" piece.
Image: BART via SF Examiner
Even Mayor Ed Lee has come out supporting a Second Transbay Tube, in his "Shared Prosperity: Affordability Directives" document, which is very encouraging. The Mayor said, "We will begin a regional conversation with my fellow Mayors in the East Bay, Supervisor Scott Wiener, and the BART Board about a second BART tube from Mission Bay to the East Bay." (emphasis added).

Likewise, according to Streetsblog, the new Oakland mayor, Libby Schaaf is on board for a second tube saying, "It will not be cheap… I think it will really reduce congestion. I hella love Oakland, but we do need to think regionally, and it would make a lot of sense for the region.” Even Alameda is on board for a new tube the Public Works Director, Bob Haun, saying he is ready to work with BART on placing a station on the island.

I have my own thoughts on whether a Second Transbay Tube should go through Mission Bay, but let's set that aside for a later discussion. What's interesting is that the 3rd St/Geary alignment (or 3rd St/Union Square alignment as I originally called it) is the rough alignment shown on the map - and it passes through Mission Bay, with a probable stop at Third St and King. Mayor Lee calling out Mission Bay seems to show that he thinks it's important that whatever alignment is chosen should go through there. I wonder if he's considered the capacity constraints of Embarcadero and Montgomery, and that a second tube would do well to help alleviate some of that constraint and also connect to the Transbay Center.

Image: BART
Note that the alignment seems to enter San Francisco at the AT&T Park at 2nd St and King, then roughly mirrors Third Street to Market Street and then turns west down Geary Street. BART's Metro Vision - Investment Opportunities planning map shows a similar alignment (see PDF).

Although I think it's fascinating that these BART maps show an alignment I have seen nowhere else other than my map from 2013, it doesn't necessarily mean that BART's planners got the idea from me. When I was studying possible Second Transbay Tube alignments and paths through SoMa, I tried alignments that followed most streets in SoMa; either east-west or north-south. BART planners may have done the same, or they may have just referenced my map.

What's more important is that it seems that BART is exploring many possibilities - not just trying to go to the Transbay Center, or going down Geary to Ocean Beach, but also studying alignments that go to Mission Bay, and to the Sunset District.

The poll I conducted sadly did not include the Third St/Geary alignment as a choice. Only the Mission/Powell, Folsom/Powell, Townsend/Division, and the 16th St/7th St alignments were offered.

The results of that poll found that the Folsom St/Powell and Townsend/King St alignments were preferred equally - at 32% each meaning 64% favored the two alignments that have been talked about the most.

In an effort to reexamine the alignments for a new Transbay Tube, all of which eventually head west on Geary, a new poll has been created that includes the Third Street/Geary alignment, some other previously studied alignments, and a couple new ones:
  • Third St - Union Square
  • Folsom - Powell
  • Townsend - Division
  • Second St - Post First St - Bush
  • Potrero Pier 70 - Van Ness (the sea level rise alignment)
  • Suggestions?
Please vote in the new poll I just added. See at the top of the blog (on a computer). If you're on a mobile device you'll have to switch to the web version to see the poll and vote in it.

Image: Urban Life Signs
Below are the list of routes with possible station locations and transfer points.

Folsom - Powell

4 stations (2.40 miles)

Stations: 
  • Transbay Center (First & Folsom). Caltrain, HSR, BART Market St
  • Yerba Buena/Moscone (Fourth & Folsom). Muni T-Third
  • Powell St (Market & Fifth). BART Market St, Muni J, K, L, M, N, T
  • Cathedral Hill (Van Ness & Geary). Muni Van Ness BRT, Geary BRT
Destinations:
  • Financial District (South)
  • Moscone Convention Center
  • Union Square Shopping District
  • Cal Pacific Medical Center - Van Ness Geary

Townsend - Division

4 stations + 1 future infill (3.35 miles)
Stations: 
  • Mission Bay (Third & Townsend). Caltrain, HSR, Muni N-Judah, T-Third
  • Showplace Square (Eighth & Townsend)
  • Possible: Harrison & 12th)
  • Market Van Ness (Market & Fell). Muni J, K, L, M, N. Future BART Market St
  • Cathedral Hill (Van Ness & Geary). Muni Van Ness BRT, Geary BRT
Destinations:
  • AT&T Park, Mission Bay
  • Showplace Square
  • Civic Center
  • Cal Pacific Medical Center - Van Ness Geary

3rd St - Union Square

5 stations (2.90 miles)
Stations: 
  • Mission Bay (Third & Townsend). Caltrain, HSR, Muni N-Judah, T-Third
  • Rincon/Moscone (Third & Folsom).
  • Kearney St (Market & Third). BART Market St, Muni J, K, L, M, N, T
  • Leavenworth (Leavenworth & Geary)
  • Cathedral Hill (Van Ness & Geary). Muni Van Ness BRT, Geary BRT
Destinations:
  • AT&T Park, Mission Bay
  • Financial District (South)
  • Moscone Convention Center
  • Union Square Shopping District
  • Cal Pacific Medical Center - Van Ness Geary

2nd St - Post

6 stations (3.90 miles)
Stations: 
  • UCSF Mission Bay (South & Third). T-Third
  • Second St South Beach (Second & King). Caltrain, HSR, Muni N-Judah, T-Third
  • Transbay/Rincon (Folsom & Second). Caltrain, HSR, BART Market St
  • Montgomery St (Kearney & Montgomery). BART Market St, Muni J, K, L, M, N
  • Leavenworth (Leavenworth & Post)
  • Cathedral Hill (Van Ness & Geary). Muni Van Ness BRT, Geary BRT
Destinations:
  • UCSF, Warriors Arena, Mission Bay
  • AT&T Park, Mission Bay
  • Financial District (South), Transbay Center
  • Financial District, Union Square Shopping District
  • Cal Pacific Medical Center - Van Ness Geary

Potrero Pier 70 - Van Ness

This route works if there's 25 feet of sea level. Mission Bay and the northeast portion of the Mission District would be a shallow bay.

4 stations (3.75 miles)
Stations: 
  • Third St/Pier 70 (Third & 22nd St). T-Third (possibly Caltrain)
  • Potrero / SF General (Potrero & 20th St). 
  • Market Van Ness (Market & Fell). Muni J, K, L, M, N. Future BART Market St
  • Cathedral Hill (Van Ness & Geary). Muni Van Ness BRT, Geary BRT
Destinations:
  • Pier 70
  • San Francisco General Hospital
  • Civic Center
  • Cal Pacific Medical Center - Van Ness Geary

27 comments:

  1. The 3rd St. alignment does nothing to integrate with existing/proposed transit in SOMA. In order for the new BART line to truly serve its purpose, it should enter the city at 16th St/3rd St. with a station at Mission Bay and the new arena, curve around to Townsend to connect at 4th/King Caltrain/Central Subway, head up to 2nd St. and turn left with a station serving Rincon Hill followed by a station at the TTC with a connection to the Market St. subway. From there, head up Post to Van Ness with stations at Union Square and Van Ness/Polk and then head out on Geary west of Van Ness. From a rider's perspective, the point is to make transit easier with more seamless connections, not more difficult, which seems to be the standard in Bay Area transit planning.

    Another point to make that I've read in various blogs/sites: if you're going to build a second tube make sure it's compatible with standard gauge rail to accommodate additional rail service, be it HSR or commuter rail. There's no reason why BART cannot build a line that's standard gauge. This would enable the tunnel between Townsend and Market St. to handle both BART and Caltrain (and future HSR), ideally the same system powered by catenary instead of 3rd rail.

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    1. I think the best we can wish for is wide gauge / BART above or below standard gauge tracks in a double-height subway --- there is no way to make BART "compatible with standard gauge rail" without billions of dollars of retrofit throughout the system.

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    2. The point isn't to retrofit the current BART system. The goal is to create a separate rail line that's standard gauge rail. The existing BART system will remain wide gauge. There are several benefits to doing this. First, a standard gauge tunnel under the bay could support both BART and HSR. Also, running the latter from SJ to OAK to SF would eliminate the peninsula controversy/cost and preclude the need for a two-level tube. Second, Caltrain could be integrated into the system since the line would be using overhead wires, not a 3rd rail. Third, a standard gauge rail line in the east bay would be able to use existing rail ROWs and serve areas currently not covered by BART, like Emeryville and Jack London.

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    3. I'm wholly unconvinced that BART would ever agree to share their tracks. I absolutely hear what you're saying, and agree that would be the most flexible way to move forward; however, even where standard gauge rail will go into use for BART service (eBART), it is always right-of-way separated and new, even when adjacent to existing rail service.

      On the merged SoMA subway front I completely agree; a Second St alignment for both Caltrain/HSR from the south and BART from the east was my first thought, though sadly Brian has not included this option in his writeup.

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    4. I've updated the post to include a Second Street alignment that would be "shared" with the Caltrain DTX. The tunnel would be double decker or possibly 4-5 tracks wide if street width allowed.

      Regarding making a new BART line standard gauge, I think this should be examined. You would still need to have a "four-bore" tunnel under the bay - 2 bores for BART standard + 2 bores for HSR/Amtrak/possibly Caltrain. With the frequencies that BART would run, it doesn't make practical sense to share the tracks with HSR/Amtrak/ Caltrain.

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    5. Thanks for the update! Agreed about a 4-track tunnel come to think about it. I keep thinking of my NJ Transit delays getting into Penn Station because the single track feeding NYC is backed up or shut down for whatever reason.

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  2. Let's make sure that we can have 24/7 subway service if this is built. No more of this, oh we need to close bart at midnight nonsense.

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  3. Any attempt to covert BART to standard gauge would be foolish at this point, since BART has proven to be irreplaceable in Bay Area transit. It would just take too much time and cost too much. Any attempt to create a standard gauge rapid transit line will have to get its planning and funding in order first before altering BART.

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    1. If BART were to make its new tube standard gauge, it wouldn't need to convert the BART gauge tracks. What it would mean for the East Bay would be to send the new tube up the UP tracks to Emeryville, Berkeley and beyond, and/or create a new tunnel through Oakland serving areas such as northern part of West Oakland, Uptown, Grand Lake, and other places.

      Such an arrangement whereby BART had some standard gauge lines and other at BART gauge would obviously not be able to interline.

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    2. Please read my two prior explanations thoroughly. I am in no way pushing to convert the existing BART system.

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  4. I should go on record and say that I want a combined Caltrain/HSR and BART crossing (2 tracks for BART, 2 tracks for Caltrain/HSR). This means that I favor a Folsom or Howard St alignment (but not Mission, because of the sewer there), that would cross under the Market St subway at Montgomery/New Montgomery and continue out Post, shifting over to Geary somewhere in the Western Addition. I also support a Geary subway continuing onto Sunset rather than 19th Ave.

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    1. What is your reasoning behind sending the route down Sunset Blvd instead of 19th Ave?

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    2. I live in parkside/sunset. There is absolutely zero need for BART to run along, over or under Sunset. 19th Ave is the only N-S option that makes sense from both a ridership perspective and money spent.

      Given the huge investment in development in Mission Bay, and the fact that the Central Subway will not be able to handle future transit demand with its 1-car train capacity, it makes the most sense for BART to enter the city here rather than Howard or Folsom. In addition, it would provide a much-needed N-S axis in SOMA, connecting vital residential and commercial districts, as well as transit.

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    3. I live in Parkside too, and my opinion is that Sunset has a superior walkshed to that of 19th Ave, and that many people that would benefit from a 19th Ave alignment would see similar benefits from a Sunset alignment. Sunset also makes serving the Outer Richmond a less complicated task (since there's a chance that the Outer Richmond stations might end up value engineered out with a 19th Ave alignment), and it doesn't have BART getting in the way of what I see as fundamentally MUNI responsibilities on the Southern 19th Ave and Inner Judah corridors.

      As for the Central Subway/Third St LRT, it doesn't have a 1-car capacity, but rather 2-cars. I'm not as concerned about it's capacity issues, because Caltrain runs parallel to it for a good chunk of it's length and there are some fairly easy things that Caltrain could do in the years ahead to make the service more usable in SF (Like accepting Adult Fast Passes again, building the planned Oakdale station, reopening Paul station, and operating an extra short turn service pattern as far as say, Millbrae).

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    4. CS plans are to keep 1-car trains running although the stations/platforms themselves can accommodate 2-car trains. MUNI's operational inefficiencies are clearly transparent whenever there is a baseball game or event at the ballpark. Trains are hoarded before/after around 4th/King to deal with the crowds. Meanwhile, the rest of the system suffers from lack of capacity making everyone else's trip an agonizing hassle. Factor in the new arena and we're talking an even bigger mess.

      BART's responsibility in SF should be that of a mass transit system, not a commuter rail, thereby connecting commercial and residential corridors. MUNI light rail and bus should act as feeder lines to the BART system. Not running BART under 19th Ave to Daly City would be a huge mistake. Also, there is no reason why there cannot be a separate line running the full length of Geary, in addition to a southern spur under 19th Ave. Transit systems do this frequently.

      It's essential that BART connects people, communities and businesses, as well as act as the catalyst for smart growth. Sunset offers zero growth potential compared to 19th Ave. Stonestown alone could be rebuilt with shops, residences, hotel/meeting space rather than be a suburban-style shopping mall. A station in GGP, like I presented earlier, would provide better access to the park and reduce parking.

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    5. Plans can and do change. MUNI's in the process of not just buying new LRV's, but increasing the size of it's LRV fleet from 151 to 260 vehicles (more than enough for 2-car service on the J, K, and T, and 3-cars on the M and N). And there's not much other than finances that would prevent that number from rising higher, or from MUNI buying longer vehicles. (I consider new rail yards and new equipment to handle longer trains to be under finances)

      I totally agree with you on the BART should be Mass Transit part, but the Sunset isn't fucking Antioch here, it's not even remotely close to it. I don't want BART on 19th Ave because there's already a plan to upgrade the M in Parkmerced/Stonestown that will likely include provisions for a Daly City BART extension, hence making a BART extension there redundant, though going down Sunset wouldn't preclude at least serving Stonestown.

      While you may have a point that Sunset may not have that much redevelopment potential, 19th Ave itself is similarly limited (as is outer Geary), but the built urban environment in both areas is actually denser than 90% of Americas urban environment as is, so it really doesn't matter that much. The only advantage that 19th Ave has in terms of redevelopment may be the Stonestown area, but like I said before, it's not asking the world to have Stonestown be served by a subway under Sunset.

      I don't want a split of the Geary Subway not because of Frequency issues in the Sunset, but because splitting off at Masonic or Arguello to cross the park gets in the way of a MUNI project thats been on the back burner but has certainly been talked about over the years: A crosstown Judah/16th St subway stretching from the Sunset to Mission Bay. This, combined with a few other projects (like connecting the K and L and making their worst surface segments better while extending the combined line down Geneva, extending the J up Fillmore and having it take over the M's Ocean View segment, and extending the M to Daly City while also giving it totally dedicated tracks and grade separating it.), would go a long towards extending the reach of the LRT network while also making the entire existing network more reliable and frequent.

      And lastly, your Mission Bay landing of a Transbay Tube does not fix the major problem that the new Transbay Terminal station for HSR/Caltrain has: the fact that it's a Spur station that has limited capacity. My proposal for a 4 Track BART and Caltrain/HSR tube would enable the Transbay Terminal to become a through station, doubling the number of trains it can handle. I would also add the Beale st turnback tunnel which would combined with all Quadruple tracking and complete grade separation on the Peninsula (The endgame situation right now for the Peninsula corridor, regardless of what the bellyaching NIMBY's there think), would mean a capacity of around 60 Trains per hour per direction, or more than enough for the Eastside of San Francisco's needs for a long time.

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    6. Clearly, we disagree, so no need to continue the debate. Given that the Caltrain extension to the TTC has been backburnered at least another 10 years, any significant changes to either MUNI or BART are generations away, sadly.

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    7. Well, my plan is based on facts on the ground here, a basic understanding of the engineering issues this subway will have to deal with. You do know that this subway will have to commit to either going over the three rail tunnels in the downtown, or going under them, right? The clearances and grades pretty much make a "hybrid" alignment impossible. However, it turns out there's really no option downtown other than a deep alignment because of how the second transbay tube will have to be built. You see, the first tube was built by digging a channel into the bay down to the bedrock and submerging segments of tube into place. Environmental concerns mean that that particular form of construction can't be used, so we're likely going to have to bore Tubes through the bedrock. This means that any tube is going to be considerably deeper than the existing one.

      I wouldn't say that changes are that far away. The Parkmerced realignment (which might still include the Daly City extension), is coming soon after the Central Subway. And the MUNI LRV expansion is something that pretty much already been committed to.

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    8. I have a full understanding as well and know how the existing BART system was built. Last I read, the final Park Merced realignment had not been approved nor is there any funding in place. That project will not come close to opening any time soon after the CS.

      BTW-the Market St. subway only has two stacked tunnels, except for the CS passing under them at Stockton St.

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    9. There's also the DTX tunnel under 2nd St. While it doesn't have full funding yet, there's actually been engineering work done for it to keep it's route under Second St free of any obstructions. And I should point out that the fact that you keep the Transbay Terminal as a capacity constrained spur station is really amateurish. You don't need to physically place the landing point for the Tube in Mission Bay for Mission Bay to benefit from it some fashion. My plan would enable at least 18tph Caltrain through Mission Bay during Rush Hour (Caltrain currently tops out at 5tph peak, and full electrification would double that to 10tph peak).

      Actually Parkmerced already has some money in place, and current projections have it planned for a 2022 opening, which is soon after the Central Subway in Transit Time.

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  5. Brian, what software do you use to create these maps? I need to make one myself which will better explain my ideas for the new BART tube/line.

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  6. I use Adobe Illustrator to make most of my maps. Sometimes that's the best choice - but I've heard there are some new interesting map apps that are out there.

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    1. Thanks for the tip.

      Getting back to the alignment options, I remember reading about BART supporting the idea of the Townsend/Division alignment. The problem with this proposal is that it doesn't actually connect with any of the existing BART stations, nor does it relieve any of the stress at the Montgomery or Embarcadero stations, two of the busiest in the system. A N-S alignment in SOMA, like I proposed, would be able to take some of the burden off part of the existing system and, hopefully, negate the need to spend over a billion dollars for the additional platforms proposed for the Embarcadero and Montgomery stations.

      I am hoping that stations west of the downtown core (west of Van Ness) are spaced within a half or three quarters of a mile. My proposal includes the following for the Geary line: Fillmore, Masonic, Arguello, Park Presidio and 25th Ave. For the 19th Ave extension a line will branch off just west of Arguello running under 6th Ave, GGP and then south under 19th Ave with stations at: GGP (entrance near the music concourse), 19th Ave/Judah, 19th Ave/Taraval, Stonestown and Daly City.

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  7. I have a request, could you add the line I suggested as a voting choice? I asked for Howard-New Montgomery-Post-Geary alignment. (The stops, going from east to west, would be: Transbay, Montgomery, Union Square, Leavenworth, Van Ness, Fillmore, Divisadero, Masonic, Arguello, Park Presidio, 25th Ave, 37th/Balboa, Sunset/Judah, Sunset/Noriega, Sunset/Taraval.)

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    1. FDW - If I have time, I can probably make a map for you of the Howard-Post alignment between the bay and Fillmore. Unfortunately I don't have the time to make a full San Francisco map, however I would like to at some time in the future. What I am working on is a future Oakland rail map that includes current BART, current CapCorridor, plus a 2nd Transbay BART link/line, and a BART along the UP tracks through Emeryville and north.

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    2. Looking forward to seeing your East Bay rail map.

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    3. I'm also looking forward to your East Bay map. I've had my own ideas, like Caltrain-North to Hercules along the Eastshore corridor, and a new BART subway under Macarthur Blvd.

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