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: Connect.Media
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.

(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

  • BART
    • Mission Rock Station (Optional) at Terry Francois: The station on Terry Francois between Mission Rock St and Long Bridge St provides great access to planned dense Mission Rock development in Mission Bay. 
      • Mission Rock will be home to 1500 new rental units, and 11,000 jobs. 
      • The station would offer access to the two nearby sporting venues: AT&T Park and the future Chase Center Warriors Arena. 
      • In addition the T-Third line is a short walk across the Mission Rock development. 
      • Either the 3rd and Townsend station or Mission Rock station would be built initially with the new Transbay Crossing. Several years later the second station would be built as an infill station.
Looking northwest on Terry Francois at Pier 48. A BART station here would run under Terry Francois here and only be a 1 minute walk to the Transbay Transit Center in a pedestrian tunnel. Image: Mission Rock via Curbed SF
    • Third and Townsend Station (under 3rd Street and at the doorstep of AT&T Park) would provide access to the growing Central SoMa District in addition to AT&T Park and other points in SoMa and South Beach. In addition, transfers to the N-Judah and the T-Third, would only be about a block away. (see below for street examples)
    • Mission Transbay Station (under 2nd Street) would be the new station that connects to both the new Transbay Transit Center with its train and bus stops (Caltrain, AC Transit, SamTrans, HSR), plus shopping (see below). A 230' long pedestrian tunnel under Minna St would link the new BART station with the Transbay Center. A 175' long pedestrian tunnel would link the new BART station to the Montgomery BART station. Mission Transbay Station would also double as a link (~1,100') between the Transbay Center and Montgomery St Station at Market St. In effect, the new Mission Transbay Station would create a mega transit hub that would include:
      • 4-5 BART lines
      • Caltrain, possibly Capitol Corridor and HSR rail service
      • Muni Metro service throughout San Francisco
      • Bus service to San Francisco, Marin, East Bay and Peninsula
    • Similar to the other two proposals, a Union Square Station, this time on Post St, would serve the Union Square shopping district and neighboring Upper Tenderloin while also connecting to the T-Third (Central Subway) via a block long pedestrian tunnel (300'), and to Powell St Station where BART & Muni Metro stop.
Future hotel at the corner of Townsend and 3rd St
Mission Transbay BART Station with transfer connections to Transbay Transit Center (red) and Montgomery BART & Muni Station (top blue). All would combine to become a central Transbay Montgomery Hub.
  • Caltrain / HSR
    • 16th St Potrero Hill Station (optional) could be added as an infill station. Such a station would let people coming from the Mission better access Caltrain and would spread out the demand for Mission Bay employees to two stations. 
    • The current Downtown Extension calls for a Fourth and Townsend Station, under Townsend and between 4th and 5th streets. However, with a new BART tube and its first San Francisco station at Third St and Townsend, moving the Caltrain station one block east of its planned location would make for a better connection between the two lines, benefiting passengers transferring from BART to Caltrain. The station would still connect to the existing 4th & King Caltrain station if that remains operational. A Third & Townsend Station would have all the benefits of a 4th & Townsend station:
      • Close proximity to AT&T Park
      • Planned growth area in the Central SoMa plan
      • New Chase Center Warriors Arena would be a short walk away. 
      • Transfers to Muni T-Third and the N-Judah would be important.
      • PLUS a direct seamless connection to the new BART line.
    • Transbay Transit Center: as planned this station will very soon provide a much improved bus station for access primarily from the East Bay, but also for passengers on buses from Marin, Sonoma, and San Mateo counties in a addition to Muni bus service from San Francisco. In the medium long term, once DTX is built, the Transbay Center will offer rail access into the heart of Downtown San Francisco with trains coming from the Peninsula, San Jose, as well as Fresno and eventually Los Angeles. 
    • A 900' long pedestrian tunnel under Beale Street would link the Transbay Center from its east end to the BART/Muni Embarcadero Station, allowing Caltrain to BART or Muni transfers. At 900 feet, the tunnel is about the same length of a football field. Just underground. 
      • With the new BART station under 2nd Street, as mentioned earlier, a stronger connection between BART and Caltrain/HSR would exist via a pedestrian tunnel under Minna Street link the new BART Mission Transbay Station to the Transbay Center. That new BART station's concourse would act as a second link to the Market Street BART and Muni lines - in this case, linking to Montgomery St station.
      • Having the concourse over the Mission Transbay Station act as a pedestrian link will make this transfer much more active, safe and preferable, while also acting as the new station's concourse. 
      • Having two pedestrian tunnel links from the Transbay Transit Center will help spread out high transfer demand on the tunnel.
The Transbay District will have the new Transbay Transit Center with Caltrain and High Speed Rail. It will connect to the Embarcadero BART and Muni Metro station. Adding the 2nd Transbay BART station under 2nd Street will create a second connection, and create a mega regional rail hub at the regions largest job center.
Original image: Steelblue. Line work: Brian Stokle
Birdseye view showing how the new BART line would create new stations at Mission & 2nd, and at Union Square at Stockton and Post. You can see how the two new stations each tie into two other stations.
Transbay Mission: ties into BART & Muni Metro (Montgomery), and Caltrain/HSR (Transbay Center)
Union Square Mason St: ties into Muni T line (Union Sq /Market St), and BART (Powell St)
The Cons
  • The new BART line is longer than the two previously presented options
    • Making a longer tunnel under a built city will cost more due to its length.
    • However, the major cost in a subway system is actually its stations. This plan calls for more stations, but they will provide more access and a better transit system, leading to more ridership. One way to alleviate initial high costs would be to not build one of the two Mission Bay stations, likely the Mission Rock Station. Embarcadero Station was built several years after BART opened, and helped defer the costs of a new station for a few years. The same could be done here.
  • Parts of the alignment would require going under private property, principally where the BART tunnel shifts from Third to Hawthorne and from Hawthorne to Second Street. At a distance of 2,100 feet (0.4 miles), this would be technically easy for engineering, but possibly complicated from an easement cost and approvals point of view, and could be difficult passing under one mid-rise building.
    • The segment between Third and Hawthorne from South Park St to Harrison St would pass deeply, under short 1 to 2 story buildings.
    • The segment between Hawthorne to Second Street roughly from Folsom to Minna is more tricky. Although the tunnel here would be quite deep (minimum 80' deep, but possibly down to 120' deep), it would pass under buildings ranging 3 to 11 stories in height. Apart from one 11 story building, all the other buildings are 3 to 6 stories in height.
  • If rail is to pass through the Transbay Center on both ends, building the tunnel east will require removal of some tall buildings, assuming the tunnel is for both Caltrain and High Speed Rail. A Caltrain-only tunnel could turn more sharply and avoid most, if not all buildings.
The Pros
  • The new BART line provides direct access to the Financial District with the Mission Transbay Station. With a station inside the neighborhood with the greatest concentration of current and still growing BART ridership, where the highest concentration of employment exists, the Madrigal Steps option means that passenger demand on the first Transbay Tube (TB1) will likely go down, with a significant portion switching to the new BART service.
  • BART has three to four new stations, two of which would become major transportation hubs:
    • Mission Transbay Station - Transbay Montgomery Hub
      • 250 foot walk to Transbay Transit Center
      • 150 foot walk to Montgomery BART
    • Union Square / Powell St Station - Union Square Powell Hub
      • 300 foot walk to Muni Union Sq / Market St Station (T-Third)
      • 1,075 foot walk to Powell BART & Muni
    • 3rd & King / Mission Bay
      • 50 foot walk to 4th & Townsend Station (Caltrain)
      • 450 foot walk on street to 2nd St Muni Station (N-Judah)
      • 950 foot walk on street to 4th & King Muni Station (T-Third)
    • Mission Rock 
      • 700 foot walk on street to Mission Rock Station (T-Third)
  • Having different phasing options for DTX and the Caltrain loop allows for the projects proceed while adapting to availability of funds and building when a service is needed like a Caltrain/HSR crossing to to Oakland. 
A Union Square Powell Transportation Hub. New BART station at Union Square with short transfer to Muni T-Third line. Image: WestinStFrancis & Brian Stokle

2nd and Mission where a new Mission Transbay BART station would be located. Source: HollywoodLocations.com 
  1. Downtown Extension (DTX) Caltrain to Transbay Transit Center
  2. Two-bore crossing with BART could come next. 
  3. Caltrain DTX loop on Embarcadero and Townsend,  
  4. Caltrain/HSR Crossing to Oakland 
Other San Francisco projects would be added simultaneous to these projects.

In Summary
This option has virtually everything that the city and its passengers want.
  • BART access to Mission Bay 
  • Caltrain to Downtown San Francisco
  • A second BART tube to Downtown San Francisco to reduce high ridership demand and create a redundant BART line.
  • A Caltrain to BART transfer in two locations - most importantly at the Transbay Center.
  • A rail line to Geary
  • All-night train service without forcing many to transfer far. 
Connections between rail systems is extremely easy, stops where highest demand currently exists, and would require short pedestrian tunnels compared to any other options. The main downside of the option is that it would require passing under several medium height buildings. In addition the option provides a Financial District station for the 2nd BART line, which would greatly reduce crowding on the existing line.

Overall qualitative score: 4.5 / 5


  1. A couple of things:
    First, why don't you keep BART on 3rd so a pedestrian tunnel to Yerba Buena/Moscone can be included.

    Second, why is your new Caltrain alignment so curvy? If you want so serve mission bay, do it in the way outlined by Ed Lee's DTX plan via Mission Rock. For an extension, just send Caltrain/HSR across the bay via Folsom Station.

    Finally, do you think Mission Rock warrants a BART station, or should BART just curve across the bay from 4th and King?

    1. You ask a good question about Third St vs. Second St near Market St. I think it begs the question of which station placement will benefit the most people, the system overall, and bring the most benefits for its cost.

      With a 3rd St Station you get:
      • short walk to Moscone (I don't think you'd build a ~100' tunnel into Moscone unless the convention Center paid/requested it.
      • Connecting pedestrian tunnel to BART & Muni Metro at Montgomery (750') and possibly Powell (1,050' but really a 1,200' walk to trains) with the T-Third, but that'd be a long walk. (1,630').
      • Placement on 3rd St puts in a bit west of densest employment zone, but closer to cultural and convention areas. If there's a Caltrain through the 2nd Tube then station here is better at spreading things out and giving more choices.
      • No connection to Transbay Transit Center (i.e. Caltrain and HSR)

      With a 2nd St Station you get:
      • Connecting ped tunnel (~225') to Transbay Transit Center
      • Connecting pedestrian tunnel to BART & Muni Metro at Montgomery (200') which doubles as a connecting tunnel between Transbay Center and Montgomery (~1,050').
      • Placement on 2rd St puts in the middle of the densest employment zone, but requires a bit of a walk to cultural and convention areas.

      Which one serves more folks and gets people to where they need and want to go?

    2. Why couldn't you have tunnels with moving walkways to all four stations (Powell, Montgomery, Transbay, Yerba Buena MUNI Metro)? It would be one block out of the northern end of the station to each of the BART stations, and one block out of the southern end to both Transbay and Yerba Buena MUNI Metro.

    3. Patrick, if you have a Twitter account, I can DM you the image you're talking and then we can discuss the pros and cons of the idea. Many tradeoffs but some advantages to what you're describing. I'm @urbanlifesigns

  2. Does this alignment require any demolitions to make way for the tunnel? The problem with the usual alignment is that Transbay stub-ends right in front of an office tower, so tail tracks or through-tracks cost $2 billion in real estate acquisition.

    1. Building a tunnel east of the Transbay Center that is both HSR and Caltrain compatible would require some building demolition. Demolishing a building would normally require expensive acquisition. However, I wonder if there were creative ways to reduce the cost: e.g. lease the land for demolition and construction of tunnel, then give the land owner a robust density bonus for when the rebuild. Currently one building is about 20 stories tall. The City could offer the owner the right to build up to 40 or 50 stories when they rebuild.

      Note that if the tracks were built ONLY compatible for Caltrain, they could have a sharper turn, and possibly avoid all buildings.

    2. I just created a twitter for an organization I plan on launching within the next few weeks (you can view its partially completed webpage at http://metrodoneright.sitey.me/) so you can DM me @MetroDoneRight


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