eBART Extension Nears Bid, Rep Garamendi Tours Station Sites

ebart_dmu.jpgImages: BART

With bids for the eBART extension project expected in early February, newly elected Congressman John Garamendi from California’s 10th District conducted a tour of the planned station sites of BART’s 10-mile extension from Pittsburg Bay Point to Antioch. Garamendi joined BART Director Joel Keller, Brentwood Mayor Robert Taylor,
and representatives from the Contra Costa Transportation Authority,
BART, Tri Delta Transit and the State Route 4 Bypass Authority
on a Tri-Delta bus for the tour.

The $462 million eBART extension is funded mostly through bridge tolls and a Contra Costa sales tax measure and will accompany the widening of Highway 4 to six and eight lanes along the corridor from the existing four lanes. 

BART Director Keller asserted eBART would finally be delivering on a BART promise to bring transit to eastern Contra Costa County. Keller said he routinely hears from his constituents that they have been paying taxes for decades and that cities like Antioch were upset that they didn’t have the rapid transit that was promised when BART was originally built.

"The perception of taxpayers in my district is ‘We’ve paid for BART, we should get BART," said Keller. eBART will use Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU) technology and won’t run on the traditional BART lines, a choice that was made for financial reasons. If BART were to build its traditional trains, the extension would cost $1.1 billion.

Expecting to take advantage of the current construction climate, eBART Project Manager Ellen Smith said that BART was hopeful the overall budget would be lower than anticipated, much like the Oakland Airport Connector bid, which came in $60 million under budget.

If all goes as planned, BART expects to break ground on eBART by the summer and would complete the extension by 2015. Ridership estimates are 10,100 per day in the horizon year (though only 5,801 are needed to meet BARTs expansion policy threshold) and 340,000 pounds of CO2 are expected to be removed from the air from reduced traffic.

Brentwood Mayor Taylor said those numbers were fine, as was pedestrian and bicycle access, but the most important thing for his constituents was employment. "One thing that is extremely significant though, particularly out here, is a thing called jobs," he said. BART expects to create 615 temporary direct jobs and 40-80 permanent jobs.

In an area with one of the highest foreclosure rates in the state, the prospect of transit-oriented development built near the stations pleased smart growth and transit advocates TransForm. "It provides the T in TOD – you get the transit nodes in cities that have not thought of those types of development patterns in the past," said TransForm Deputy Director John Hobson. "Now those cities are looking at developing around transit stations in walkable neighborhoods."

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Unlike the Oakland Airport Connector, which TransForm vociferously opposed, Hobson said eBART "is creating two new nodes for transit-oriented development in a suburban context that had none of those nodes before. It is causing Pittsburg and Antioch to think of land-use patterns in a very different way than they did before; now they are talking about significantly higher densities.  Making that change and giving those cities a different model of growth was very significant."

BART Director Tom Radulovich, who represents San Francisco and voted against the authorization of the eBART environmental report in April 2009, was concerned that the increased ridership would overburden core capacity.

Radulovich also noted that doing the eBART project without widening Highway 4 was never studied in the EIR and wondered whether eBART was merely window dressing on a highway widening project. "The most sustainable solution was one that wasn’t even evaluated in the EIS."

TransForm’s Hobson argued that his organization was content with the eBART project because Contra Costa County officials were intent on widening the highway no matter what. He said at least this project would provide transit and stimulate smart growth.

"We don’t feel like doing transit expansions in highway medians is necessarily the best way to do rail stations. We would rather see them more integrated in the community," said Hobson, who added the expansion of Highway 4 was going to happen "one way or another. It has been the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd priorities for E. Contra Costa county for decades."

Representative Garamendi spent most of his day traveling to meetings on transportation policy and in the afternoon visited the Central Contra Costa Crossover project, which began construction in October 2009. The project, funded in part with $13 million in federal stimulus funds, will add two sections of crossover tracks between the Walnut Creek and Pleasant Hill stations. When completed in December 2010, the Crossover project will mean riders on the Pittsburg/Bay Point line will
have more seating, more frequent trains and better on-time performance during commute hours.

Garamendi, who sits on the House Transportation Committee, said the re-authorization of the transportation act could conceivably happen this summer when the stopgap measure to fund the Highway Trust fund runs out. He supports Chairman James Oberstar (D-MN) in pushing for a dramatically larger funding act that emphasizes urban areas.

On transit operations, he said he recognized the funding woes and operating budget issues at agencies like
BART and Tri Delta and said the federal government should do more to alleviate their burden.

Finally, citing the new Siemens light rail plant near Sacramento, Garamendi said the U.S. needed to become a leader in train manufacturing, even using excess capacity in automobile plants where that is feasible.

"It does a great deal of good to build a transportation system, it does us a great deal of good to have new buses on the road, but it will do us much more good if these things are manufactured in America," he said. "These things can be built here."

He also noted that the new relationship at the federal level between
the U.S. DOT and HUD was a step in the right direction. "The federal
legislation is pushing these kinds of coordinated systems so that you
have a housing and a development plan that is consistent with a public
transportation plan, moving away from freeway planning to more
integrated public transportation planning. All of these policies fit
together, climate policy and transportation planning."

  • John C

    Can we get eBART down Geary? Wouldn’t that have higher ridership than building a rail line in the middle of a highway in Contra Costa county?

  • dannnnnnny

    that’s for goddamned sure. let’s not forget about the taxpayers in S.F. who’ve been promised a geary line since bart opened.

  • ryan holman

    eBART strikes me as a half-assed money saver that, many years from now will be looked upon as of big of a mistake as not building a peninsula line. By then of course, it will cost hundreds of millions of dollars and multi-year environmental reviews to go back and fix it to implement regular BART service as was originally promised to these developing suburbs.

    I’m not anti-transit by any means — quite the contrary — but I also don’t believe in doing it hastily. Commuters transferring from eBART to regular BART, no matter how easy and simple the connection, will be wondering for decades “what on earth is the point of this? If the transfer is so quick and everyone does it, why do we even need to transfer?”

  • patrick

    Why was not building a Peninsula line a mistake? Caltrain does better than BART on far less resources. BART is a metro and it makes no sense to extend it into suburban & exurban areas to provide commuter service.

  • The goofiest thing about this is that the majority of Antiochians who will use this will be driving and parking their cars at the station. Assuming most people catching BART way out there are heading into Walnut Creek / oakland / SF for work or pleasure, all this project does is save a small group of people about five miles of driving each way (assuming they are taking bart now from pittsburgh/baypoint and just driving to that station).

    Doesn’t the ‘we’re paying sales tax for this and getting nothing’ argument breakdown when you consider that if bart were not in place antioch-based drivers would suffer even more than they already are as they get in the buggy and head toward the bay?

    Beyond this the logic of BART in these areas is mystical if not beyond-belief. It’s just incredible how little density there is out there. To get to Pitt/Baypoint the train literally traverses miles and miles of empty hills.

  • Probably one of the most boring transit projects out there. I can’t say I’m vehemently opposed to this since $462 million isn’t nearly as ridiculous as $3 billion for BART to Livermore or $7 billion for BART to San Jose (let alone half a billion for the OAC), but it’s just one of those projects that is hard to feel good about.

    @ryan holman: If you want to pay the additional $700 million to extend a heavy rail subway technology out into the exurbs, then be my guest. Eastern Contra Costa County is extremely lucky to get anything at all given the significant transit needs of the rest of the region, so I think a simple MacArthur BART-type transfer will do for the couple thousand daily riders that the line will carry. And you’re right–BART made a mistake with the Peninsula line: it should have never been built in the first place. If we had applied the $1.5 billion from the Peninsula line to the electrification and Downtown extension of Caltrain, then we would already be enjoying rapid transit connecting SF, the airport, the Peninsula, and the South Bay; instead, we’re stuck with stations in San Bruno, South San Francisco, and Millbrae (which have attracted as little as 25% of their projected ridership) while the rest of the corridor is underserved.

  • Winston

    Those empty hills that BART runs through are the Concord Naval Weapons Station. It’s not all that surprising that there isn’t much development on a navy base used to store ammunition. The existing BART station is really on the edge of the urbanized area which gets a lot denser as you head east – Not San Francisco dense, of course, but comparable to much of the peninsula, but with less infrastructure. Could e-bart have been done better? Yes – in fact the original plans had e-bart running through downtown Antioch (which is both surprisingly dense since much of it was built before WWII) instead of in the freeway median and has a large transit dependent population. Sadly, UP wouldn’t sell its basically unused ROW to BART. That being said, e-bart and the accompanying freeway widening will significantly reduce congestion (it currently takes 30 minutes to drive from Hillcrest to the Pittsburg/Baypoint BART station) in East Contra Costa County.

  • A lot more than just the people of Antioch will use the extension. The Delta region uses the Pittsburg Bay point line. Lodi, Stockton, and beyond use this. People in the Sacramento region even use the line. It’s a huge mistake to think only the people in the Antioch use the line, it’s the entry point for the central valley. Yes, most are driving cars to the station, but so what? That’s one less car on congested Bay Area freeways. The fact that Antioch and Pittsburg are even using the word TOD is amazing in itself. Pittsburg is doing a great job turning their Downtown around, it’s been a huge change in 10 years.

  • Winston

    It’s worth pointing out that the TOD component would be significantly better if an extra $30 million could be found to place the Hillcrest station northeast of the Hillcrest interchange with highway 4 where Antioch wants it instead of in the median where it is scheduled to be. There is a large parcel of land there that Antioch wants to redevelop into high density housing with shops that will be harder to redevelop with the current station location. Also extending ebart further east toward Brentwood will require ebart to leave the freeway there anyway.

  • All of this _WASTEFUL_ spending is infuriating when I as a lower income individual can’t even take BART across the bay because of the cost.
    $462 million for an extension to suburbia and $492 million for an airport extension that is already perfectly served by a bus line (and has a cheaper fare than the once completed extension!). $954 million that could be used to lower fares, renovate/clean stations or install a useful line extension

  • straw

    Geary, Geary, Geary.

  • Can we start a Geary line riot or something? Warm Springs, ‘eBart,’ the central subway, the milbrae extension, the Oakland connector – all of these projects together aren’t worth 1/10th of what a subway down Geary would be worth in terms of transit functionality.

    Why is the most obvious public transit need in the region so difficult to get?

    Seriously. We should riot.

  • Joel

    I have to wonder if BART necessarily is the best agency to do this extension. It was reported recently that Altamont Commuter Express was looking into, among other extensions into the East Bay, a line from the Central Valley into Pittsburg. I imagine this line would be using the former rail line that goes through there.
    If BART is already planning on using DMU’s for this, to me it makes sense to just have ACE takeover this project. The technology would blend seamlessly with the rest of ACE’s system. Just a thought.

  • Joel

    @ Daniel Jacobson: We definitely need rail extensions in the exurbs, the question is, is BART and the heavy rail/metro/broad gauge rail tech that they use the way to go.

    Since you mentioned the three billion plus Livermore extension, I would add I was at the most recent public meeting. Many people were concerned with the cost and time frame of the project. However, it remains to be seen whether the extension will be a freeway one, or one that transverses into the downtown.

  • BART extensions should be electric or not be built.

  • This is such a nice project.. It’s great to see a transport extention for the people

  • ID rather see this delayed a few years until UP comes to its senses and sells the parallel ROW, that already is built out mostly and serves activity centers. In the meantime, there is already lots of services at the Hillcrest parknride (Bart bus throwback anyone?).

    Like the peninsula, commuters near the outer stations will drive to the station with more frequencies (like Daly City instead of San Bruno/Colma), instead of transferring. Even if the transfer is CAKE, there is a mental block for using multiple modes. What about the people who have to take MUNI or ACT as well from the BART station? Plus, if the DMUs arent planned to go further (Tracy?)building a finalized 10 mile heavy rail line is ludicrous.

  • Benjamin

    Does anyone know how the transfer will be made?

    I know of a similar situation for the transfer stations between Hamburg, Germany’s metro, Hamburger Hochbahn (HHA), and the Suburban DMUs operated by AVN. At Norderstedt Mitte the DMUs use a center track that shares platforms with the two outer metro tracks. The Hochbahn is a through line there. Doors on the DMUs open on both sides. At Eidelstedt there is an end-on-end connection between the metro and the DMUs. The DMUs share the metro tracks in the station area allowing the metro to use one platform and the DMUs to use the other. This allows an across-platform connection between the two.

    Due to the space limitations at Pittsburg/Bay Point Station and the desire for people to transfer, it seems as though the DMUs should use one of the tracks for an across-paltform connection. Then the issues become platform height and track gauge. At least the station is often windy enough that venting the diesel exhaust would be less of an issue.

    I agree that using land near the UP tracks would make far more sense as well as making the prospect of future extensions a far more practical endeavor. Tracy would be a good choice.

  • CD

    To all you city dwellers. I lived in SF for over 25 years and getting around the city is pretty easy. Now i live in Antioch and i do drive 10 miles to pittsburg station and commute to SF. And to you city folks who haven’t driven on HW 4 during commute time, it take anywhere between 30 to 40 minutes to drive that 10 miles. The new Hillcrest station will be about 1 miles from where i live and i can bike or walk to the new station. Not having to drive the 10 miles will take thousands of cars of HW 4 and save more than “5 minutes”.

    It used to take me 15 minutes to get to work on the 38L, so quite whining about a stupid Geary station. Heres an idea to make Muni more efficient, don’t put bus stops on every single block.

  • doggz

    There shouldn’t be a problem here as long as there is an easy cross-platform or even same-platform transfer between “real” BART and “eBART” at Pittsburg/Bay Point station. Commuters on the East Coast riding Metro-North and the Long Island Railroad do this all the time when they commute to/from the exurbs to New York City. On that note, it’s too bad that BART wasn’t built to a standard track gauge so that it could interface better with railroads. And no, I don’t think it’s economically responsible to extend the current BART line all the way down to Antioch for the anticipated number of passengers.

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