The nascent prospect of extending the Central Subway beyond Chinatown gained steam this week with the release of a preliminary city study [PDF] that lays out some conceptual proposals to bring the subway further into the city’s northern neighborhoods.North Beach neighbors, who are living with construction disruption as the tunnel’s drill is extracted in their backyards, but won’t get a station, joined Fisherman’s Wharf merchants at an SFMTA Board of Directors meeting this week to cheer the “T-Third Phase 3” extension proposal. (The existing T-Third alignment is the line’s first phase, and the Central Subway currently under construction is the second phase.) The extension doesn’t have any firm plans or timelines yet, as this is the first time city planning agencies have formally examined the possibilities.
But one transit advocate asked: Why stop at the wharf?
“You have to be more far-sighted,” said Howard Strassner, chair of the local Sierra Club chapter’s land use and transportation committee.
For all the Central Subway’s faults, extending it to connect Muni’s T-Third line northward to major destinations would make it more useful. Strassner said a westward expansion of the T past Fisherman’s Wharf, through Russian Hill and the Marina, to the Presidio — a prospect the city study loosely discusses as “T-Third Phase 4” — “should be [analyzed] at the same level of intensity and completeness…. It’s just as important, it may get many more riders.”
Indeed, the city’s preliminary study says that a rail line to the Presidio — whether it’s underground, on the surface, or a mix of both — could be too popular. “The ridership increase would overload the existing T-Line system infrastructure to beyond planning capacity levels, because the 2-car platforms and 2-car trains are too small,” the study says.