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


Subway Style Commuter Service
2 bores - Caltrain/HSR Only
Caltrain: Townsend St and 2nd St to Transbay Center
BART: linked to Caltrain Crossing with transfer at Transbay Transit Center & Embarcadero

Transfers: Embarcadero and the Transbay Center would be connected by the planned pedestrian tunnel under Beale Street. It would mean you could transfer from Caltrain to BART along Market St, or to Muni Metro to reach West Portal Station.
When the First Transbay Tube is shut down, passengers from BART line in SF and peninsula would cross bay by transferring to the Caltrain Transbay line at Embarcadero station.
New Station Areas: none

SoMa FiDi Spread

2 bores - BART Only
Caltrain: 3rd St Mission Bay to 2nd St to Transbay Transit Center
BART: Montgomery St to 2nd St to Townsend to Division and back to Mission BART line.

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 BART along Market Street to to Caltrain to get to Bayshore, or to the new BART line to reach places like 6th & Townsend or to Muni Metro to reach Van Ness Station.
When the First Transbay Tube is shut down, passengers from BART line in SF and peninsula would cross bay by either transferring to new BART line at Montgomery Station to Mission Transbay station, or if they are south of Civic Center, they would take a direct train to the East Bay.
New Station Areas: Showplace Square, Potrero and Division, Columbus

Seawall Looop
4 bores - BART Only
Caltrain: Terry Francois in Mission Bay to Embarcadero to Transbay Transit Center. Rail would be within a new seawall to protect Mission Bay and SoMa from sea level rise in this scenario. Trains headed to Oakland would go down 2nd Street, then pass under Rincon Hill to a tunnel or bridge leaving San Francisco at Pier 30/32.
BART: Main Street and/or Beale to Pine Street to Geary St ending at Fillmore Station.

Transfers: Embarcadero and the Transbay Center would be connected by planned Beale St pedestrian tunnel. BART passengers using the new Transbay crossing would transfer to the Transbay Center at a Howard St station between Beale and Maine.
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 via the Transbay Center.
New Station Areas: Mission Rock, Kearny & Pine, Cathedral Hill, Fillmore

If I could choose the option myself, I would selection the "Avoiding Sea Level Rise Zones". It creates two new stations in SoMa near Mission Bay, while still providing access to the existing 4th & King Caltrain station area that would eventually have that station closed. Note that 4th & King would still have Muni Metro service from the N-Judah and the T-Third. In addition, the Geary corridor gets a line that will eventually go further west.

The main challenge to this idea is that the Caltrain DTX alignment on 7th and Howard Streets is not environmentally approved nor is it currently listed as one of the alignments in the San Francisco Planning Department RAB Study. In addition it would require going under Moscone Center along Howard St. However, my back of the envelope calculations indicate there is sufficient distance between Moscone and the Transbay Center for the train to sufficiently go under the convention center while getting to the shallower Transbay Center -2 train level.

My practical, realist side says that the DTX alignment will most likely follow its approved line on Townsend and 2nd, or along 3rd St and 2nd St. My dream of a double decker BART and Caltrain tunnel under 2nd Street seems far fetched due to getting logistics of two big projects (and agencies) lined up (BART & Caltrain/HSR). Thus the "Realistic and Practical" option is our best bet to getting a DTX tunnel, a 2nd Transbay Crossing and Geary BART. Connecting a 2nd Tranbay BART back to the original Mission/Daly City BART line is unnecessary and will not bolster operations in the BART system.

If sea level rise accelerates or addressing at risk areas becomes a higher priority, then creating a seawall BART, or truly making rail avoid risk zones should be prioritized in the choice of alignments for all rail services.

I'll be putting up a poll and hopefully some GIF's up to show the phasing of these ideas. Stay tuned.

As always I welcome feedback, questions, criticisms, and new ideas. For me, we need to get this moving forward either way.

2 comments:

  1. So, I don't like these plans, and these are the reasons:
    (1) BART has proven to be an unnecessarily expensive technology. They *literally* reinvented the wheel (causing no end of trouble, they're fixing it just this year by switching to more normal railroad wheels). The nonstandard gauge creates incompatiblity and trouble.
    (2) On Geary, west of a certain point it makes sense to have a Muni rail line running down the median the entire way. (There used to be one!) East of that, it should dive into a subway, of course. If you extend BART partway along that route, you're making it harder to make a Muni line along the WHOLE route, because BART is never going to go the whole way to Ocean Beach -- and Muni might.
    (3) We really, badly, need a *standard gauge* rail tunnel from San Francisco to the East Bay for High Speed Rail, Caltrain, etc. It is much more flexible than BART and should be a higher priority.

    So this is my proposal:
    (A) Muni Metro on Geary all the way from the Pacific Ocean, entering a subway at Gough Street and following your "BART" route to the Transbay Transit Center. Tracks to get the cars to the Muni shops would be located on either Webster Street or Van Ness, making a connected network and providing a useful additional Muni Metro Line.
    (B) Caltrain tunnel directly under the Bay leading into your proposed San Pablo Emeryville tunnel (the one in your proposal for avoiding the East Bay flooding caused by sea level rise). Extend the San Pablo Emeryville tunnel right under the Bay on a curve. This solves the sea level rise problems for both Caltrain and Capitol Corridor, although it does redirect Capitol Corridor to the west side of the Bay.

    A three-way junction would allow some Capitol Corridor trains to continue south to Oakland Coliseum, but it would also allow Caltrain to do the same thing. This would redistribute passengers by acting as an "express BART", faster and with fewer stations, for people heading to Richmond or to the Fremont or Dumbarton branches.

    If it is calculated that more *local* capacity is needed specifically to Oakland (rather than to the outer branches of BART), Muni should be sent under the Bay to Oakland, eliminating the many transfers to BART made at Embarcadero.

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    Replies
    1. Fascinating ideas. I agree that BART's wider gauge adds cost, but it may not be so awful that no new BART lines should be considered. I agree in spirit, but am concerned that getting the many people across the East Bay to Downtown SF via only Caltrain/HSR would not sufficiently reduce crowding on the current BART Transbay Tube (TB1).

      Regarding Geary - I'm on the fence on whether it should be only BART, only LRV (Muni) or a bit of BART (say to Fillmore or Masonic), and Muni (from Ocean Beach or 33rd Ave) into Downtown. I'd lean to the combined version because if the second crossing (TB2) includes BART, it will need a terminal station with three tracks. Building a three track station in Downtown would be costly.

      That all said you make a compelling argument for the Geary Muni line. I'd just say that I think it needs to be a tunnel well west of Gough. I take the T-Third often and find that two-car trains that are often stopped at stop lights do not offer the capacity and throughput that a Geary line demands. How about having Geary Muni LRV run at streetlevel from 33rd Ave to Spruce or Blake streets west of the Masonic Tunnel. Then run Muni underground from Spruce to Downtown, under Market to Mission or Howard past the Transbay Center. How's that sound?

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