Central Subway Debate on KALW Radio Tonight


City Visions Radio will be debating the merits of the Central Subway project on their show tonight, asking whether the project is an innovation or a boondoggle.

The Central Subway project, which links Chinatown with the Third Street light rail and the Caltrain terminal at 4th and King, has its detractors, though most of the political class supports it. "With the Muni budget already in crisis," City Visions producers ask, "is it worth the cost?
Will enough people ride the Chinatown subway to make it worthwhile?"

Joining City Visions Radio host Lauren Meltzer to discuss the project are MTA’s John Funghi, project manager for the Central Subway, David Schonbrunn, president of Transdef and a member of Save Muni, a new organization formed to oppose the current central subway plan, and Andrew Sullivan, chair of Rescue Muni, a riders’ advocacy and watchdog group.

Catch the show tonight at 7 pm on 91.7 KALW or listen live at www.kalw.org or www.cityvisionsradio.com

  • Everywhere I look, I read that it is already too late to stop the project. That all we can hope for is making sure the extension to North Beach happens. Is this true? Because I’m praying it’s not. As a person who takes this route every day, twice a day – I can not stand behind this project in its current form and I won’t even have to worry about the poor Union Square/Market street connection.

  • Boondoggle.

    What’s sad is that the answer that comes back is that if we don’t spend the blah billions on this, we get nothing. If San Francisco deserves X amount of money, we should be able to decide how best to spend it. Instead we oppose it on altruistic grounds and simply hope that whomever does get that money does something worthwhile with it, perhaps simply removing it off the accounts payable ledger of the Federal Government.

  • mikesonn – Could you elaborate on your reservations more?

  • Some things I have against the subway:

    -The depth of the stations. First, this will be make getting to the trains take longer then waiting for a bus at street level. Second, a majority of the riders (i.e. China town) get off at Market street meaning that they either catch a connection at street level or BART/MUNI underground. Neither of which would be easily accessible with the Union Square/Market stop that is now proposed, which is a several block pathway underground with several elevation changes in between.

    -Also, many Chinese take the 9x bus to connect to the southern part of town which is now another major center for the Chinese community in the city. The subway does nothing to address this.

    -The reduction in bus service. The subway will make the 30/45 redundant. However, these buses still serve a purpose for those beyond the immediate Stockton section of the route.

    -On that same note, there will huge operating costs associated with the tunnel. MUNI can barely (actually can’t) keep its head above fiscal red ink as it is now. How can we expect this project not to be the straw that broke the camel’s back?

    -While it will provide at Caltrain to Fisherman’s Wharf connection, the main terminus for Caltrain will be the Transbay terminal before this project is complete. Now this isn’t the biggest deal in the world, but it should be noted.

    -I believe making Stockton a transit only street with BRT or even just dedicated bus routes would solve a lot of the problems at a very small fraction of the cost. Allow businesses to load/unload in the early morning, but the merchants have to realize that a vast majority of their business comes from people who are NOT driving to Chinatown and especially are NOT parking on Stockton St.

    I’m sure I missed some things and possibly misspelled many more, so please let me know. To be honest, I hope I am wrong because it sounds like it will be built since the money is available from the feds. Plus, I am always up to being talked down.

  • @Seth – I predict mikesonn’s objections might include the following.

    First argument made for the CS – the congestion seen by the 30 going down Stockton – the train will be removed from traffic. Blindingly obvious counter-argument. Stop spacing on the subway will be less close than on the bus, so many Chinatown riders will need to walk further to get to the station, and then must descent nine stories to get to the tracks. My experience shows that a large number of Chinatown riders transfer at Powell – which is a long hike from the Union Sq station for the Central Subway. In the end, riders will decide it is better to just take the 30 which drops them off at the Powell St station.

    Second argument – easy transfer from MUNI J(KT)LMN to Caltrain. Blindingly obvious counter argument. At Powell, if you are already on an an N, it will probably be more efficient to stay on the N and go around the annoying loop through the Embarcadero. The alternative is a quarter mile walk to from Powell to Union Sq. to then hope a T is on the way – you can’t exactly have a “timed transfer” when the transfer point is a quarter mile walk. The play will still be to switch to the 47 at Van Ness. Counter Argument Part 2: If we are playing utopia with this wonderful train – aren’t we extending the Caltrain to the Transbay Terminal? If so – this argument becomes moot.

    Reference: All the Caltrain riders who figured out it takes half the time and half the money to stay on Caltrain at Millbrae rather than transfer to BART.

  • The graphic accompanying the article is quite seductive, promising not only new subway stops and rail on the surface to VanNess but also Rapid Bus where none exists today. It tempts me to think that there might be improved transit service available in my lifetime! Regarding John Murphy, who says that riders might have a choice to take the 30 down Stockton – it looks like they would not since the 30 would terminate at Van Ness, only keeping its Chestnut St service through the Marina (which would make it quite a short line … maybe it could extend to the Lombard Gate of the Presidio). Imagining Stockton St without the 30 raises the possibility of sidewalk widening and bike lanes!

  • ZA

    Interesting proposal, lots of promise and peril.

    Considering all the: Peninsula commuters to Caltrain, 9X-bus riders from Visitacion Valley, the conventioneers at Moscone, the tourists at Powell and Union Square, the congested popularity of Chinatown, and the attractions of North Beach … a Central Subway project would certainly have a lot of riders, perhaps more beneficial to visitors and local businesses (and their workers) than local residents.

    Extending the rail head to Van Ness would double the capacity serving Fisherman’s Wharf and explode the demand for Fort Mason. Useful during the KFOG Kaboom, 4th of July, and Fleet Week – but also putting development pressure on the space alloted to car parking in that area. I’m not sure how much attraction a Van Ness stop would really be for Marina residents.

    I do think making the 30 Stockton a dedicated BRT can work, and be a lot cheaper, but only if the congestion in Chinatown itself can be reduced, and if Market Street goes car-free.

  • “it looks like they would not since the 30 would terminate at Van Ness, only keeping its Chestnut St service through the Marina”

    How do people in the Marina get to downtown?

  • david vartanoff

    echoing and amplifying, the heart of the disaster is the misdesign around Market/4th/Stockton. The new route should be at the fare control mezzanine level right at Market so that transfers and originating/ending trips are very close to the street.
    Second major glitch, because the costs are so inflated, the bellmouths(future expansion provisions) for a much more useful Geary route have been cancelled.
    Third, again because of outrageous costs, the stations will be too small to serve serious ridership.
    At this point it is worse than doing nothing.

  • As has been said before, the problem isn’t with idea of the Central Subway. The problem is with the current plan. Not only will it be an incredible boondoggle because the costs are so high, but it will prevent us from ever having a better designed north to south underground link. This is a bad plan that will be with us and others for a 100 years because once the money is spent there is no way people are going to want to spend even more money digging another, albeit better planned, tunnel.

  • DaveO

    “Boondoggle (n.) – Any project that was not my own idea.”

    The proposed project will have enormous ridership, reverse the decline of North Beach and Chinatown and, with any luck, make San Franciscans clamor for more subways.

  • I agree that doing this may be worse than doing nothing. We’ve heard for almost 10 years that it’s a done deal, but I don’t think it is now any more than it was before. I recall some of Matt Smith’s columns in SF Weekly that described the contorted turns the subway will have. It sounded like a really slow ride, and I don’t think those problems were resolved.

    “How (would) people in the Marina get downtown?” – well if the 30 Stockton is being truncated (as I interpret the graphic to say), they could ride the 30 bus to Van Ness and then transfer to the new rail line. They ride rail on the surface and then go underground @ Wash Square, I think.

  • Boris

    There’s no way that the 30 bus will be truncated. If it is planned to be right now, just wait two weeks into the opening of the CS. Riders will be clamoring for it to come back (remember the lines that were supposed to be truncated with the opening of the T – how’d that work out?) and it will be back in less than a month from the opening.

    DaveO – please enlighten me on what you mean by the “decline of North Beach and Chinatown.” To me, I see some decline in NB, but that’s entirely caused by the Telegraph Hill Dwellers stopping all new development and managing to block any new business that wants to come in. I honestly have no idea what you mean for Chinatown – in every measurable way it’s more healthy than ever.

  • John had no idea was he was talking about. He obviously is tied heavily to this project and won’t even listen to other ideas. I understand his job is on the line, but to put everything else off as if they are a joke is irresponsible at best.

    Now for Connie, who got two emails read (I sent in two emails that were ignored). She is arguing that opponents don’t understand the plight of the elderly in Chinatown. She believes that they would rather take the extra time and walk 3 blocks to the station (then down the several flights of escalators) than push onto a crowed bus. I beg to differ! Not only do most people on these lines give up their seat, even on crowded buses, but the elderly do not seem inclined on waiting for even the next bus to arrive in 2 mins. I can’t count the amount of times I am patiently waiting my turn to board the bus when an elderly person comes up and pushes me out of the way.

    Also, John said that all someone has to do is ride the 30/45 to understand the need for a central subway. I ride it every day to see it nearly completely empty out when the bus hits Market St. I just do not see how these people will ride the subway more then once after they experience the extra 1/4 to 1/2 mile of walking that they will need to do as compared to their former bus ride.

    I’m fully behind David, from savemuni.com, on these issues. We NEED to take a serious look at other options, i.e. creating a transit only street scape on Stockton. Why are we bending over backwards for a dying car culture?

  • Look man, I’ve been to Paris, it’s awesome that you can get from anywhere to anywhere with usually just one switch, underground, and fast. I’d love to have that here. But a bad subway line could undermine any possibility of that happening (granted it won’t happen in our lifetime). I’ve also been to the Chatelet terminal in Paris and experienced how painful it is to switch lines there with the byzantine tunnels and long walks disguised as a “connection”. That’s what we’re building here.

  • Seems like a boondoggle, although the MIssion Bay developments (housing, UCSF, hospital, whatever comes of Parking Lot A) might increase need for better transit along corridor.

    Since a lot of folks bring up the station design, I’ve always been puzzled by just how humongous the underground stations are in San Francisco …. why such huge stations? No wonder there are so many fare evaders …

  • I was also thinking last night, maybe the SFMTA guy John’s mission should have been to create a better “central corridor” not make the central subway work no matter what. His lively hood is tied to the success of the subway, not a better transit situation for MUNI and SF. He isn’t looking at any other possibilities or suggestions.

  • grannygear

    I vote boondoggle. This plan should have been saved for more prosperous times and the stimulus money used to help MUNI keep fares down. Fortunately, I only pay the disabled fare, but how can people put $2 in that fare machine without seeing the MUNI director’s $318K salary dancing around in their heads, or the $8M they spend on the Proof of Payment Program that only recoups $350K. I am still incensed that the Supes passed that awful MUNI budget.

  • david vartanoff

    @jamie, Muni Metro Market St stations were originally designed to accomodate BART sized trains. This means capacity for ridership growth is already paid for. As to CS, Fumghi last night claimed 78k riders/day. (May I sell anyone a bride?) At 400 riders on a two car train, between 6A and 1A that means a train every 12 minutes ALL DAY. as we all know the ridership peaks in rush hour so those trains need to be more frequent. Does ANYONE believe Muni can actually get the T to run trains say every 8 minutes in rush given the cluster f%^k @ 4th/King/Caltrain?

  • Boris

    ^Agreed. However, Muni COULD get more T trains through that intersection if there was someone with the balls to give transit priority at the intersection. Likelihood of that happening? .000007%

  • patrick

    I didn’t hear the discussion, but I think the CS is a good project:

    – it will free up space on the existing buses
    – serve additional riders who don’t like the bus, or don’t like the crushloads
    – allow for the possibility of extending into north beach, and possibly beyond
    – accounts for future growth in SF in the most likely area, central waterfront
    – saves about 15 minutes for riders of the T (which will also lead to higher ridership on the T)

    Is it perfect? No, but no project ever is, there are always going to too many differing interests to even know what perfect is. It’s good enough.

  • Boris

    patrick – it would do all of those things IF it had a good connection to Market. It doesn’t. It’s easy to look at the line and think, “Hmm, that seems like a good place for below-surface transit.” And it is a good place – but the places that the stations are located and the design of the stations (and how they connect to existing infrastructure) are bizarre.

  • patrick

    I disagree Boris, it does all those things as planned. It could do them better if there was a better connection to the BART station, and I’m all for trying to improve the project, but I’m dead against trying to kill the project just because it’s not perfect.

  • Boris

    Patrick, we’ve now been hearing for LITERALLY five years that it’s “too late” to make changes to the project or we risk it taking longer. Muni commissioned a study on the project by outside consultants during that time (of which all of the conclusions were negative) and then still stuck to the line in the sand. If Muni is going to ignore every legitimate concern for the project (even when brought forth by the people they pay to tell them what is wrong with it), I am more than happy to kill the entire thing and start over, as it likely means that the end product will be terrible.

    I’m interested in how you think it will free up capacity on buses though. That was one of the conclusions of the consultants – it would do nothing to alleviate crush-loading on the buses because the studies showed that most riders wouldn’t substitute their route for the T, mostly because of the limited number of stops, poor location of the stops, and poor frequency of the T (frequency levels are pretty limited because of the design – Muni couldn’t start running T trains every five minutes even if they wanted or needed to – another problem with the design).

  • patrick

    Muni does this with everything, it’s nothing unique to this project. When they want to try to cut off further discussion they say it’s too late. That’s not a problem with the central subway, that’s a problem with muni (and pretty much every government agency).

    There is no kill and start over, there is only kill. If the project is killed the federal funding will go away and be spent elsewhere, then it will not be done. At least for a few decades, at which point it will again turn out to be a project that some people don’t like. It’s never good enough to make everybody happy, it’s kind of like the real world, it’s never perfect.

    I would rather get a new line that is needed, but doesn’t do everything perfectly than nothing at all.

    I haven’t seen the studies, but if it’s not getting any riders from the buses, then who are they saying will be riding? Is it only brand new riders who just wont take the bus?

    Personally I think there will be a significant number of people who will switch. There are plenty of people who will choose a comfortable ride over an uncomfortable one, even if it’s not as fast. I’m one of them, even if I have to walk a few blocks I’ll take a more comfortable trip.

    Plus, there are probably surplus potential riders for the trip, I’ve seen those buses and they are packed to the gills, even during non-rush hour. If they are that crowded I guarantee there are people who choose not to deal with that.

    Personally, improving the bus experience is the least important part of the subway project. The CS to me is about planning for SF’s future growth, the majority of which is going to happen in SOMA/ Central Waterfront. Then, it’s keeping focused on expanding SF’s Public Transit options.

    I would have loved to see a Geary subway first, but the political will doesn’t seem to be there, hopefully after the CS is done.

  • Boris

    My major issue is that it will place significant stresses on Muni operations elsewhere. The federal dough (while it is true that killing it would mean that we would lose federal money, let’s not forget that more than $500 million of the cash is local or state money that COULD be used for other capital projects. I’m all for spending $500 million on good projects rather than $2 billion on a bad project, even if it does mean that we “lose” that other money to other regions) only pays for the capital project, but does nothing to address Muni’s chronic operations budget deficit.

    This project (again, according to the consultants that Muni hired) will decimate Muni’s operating budget. With projections showing that there would be no drop in need for the buses in the corridor, the operations costs of the subway would be entirely NEW costs. The relatively low increase in overall ridership would barely make a dent in the cost of all the additional operations for running the new line. Essentially, it’s BART to SFO all over again – yes, we’ll have a fancy new rail line, but it’s poorly designed and will mean significant cuts to ALL other service just to pay for it. The best possible outcome is that the net effect will be slightly better service in that one corridor, but worse service in EVERY OTHER corridor in the city. The most likely outcome is worse service everywhere, except that now you can ride an uncrowded train underground at 4 mph (after waiting 15 minutes for it) instead of riding a crowded bus at 4 mph (after waiting 5 minutes for it).

  • patrick

    If the project is killed, SF does in fact lose that money in very real terms. It goes somewhere else, that goes for the state funds to. That money is money we’ve already paid our taxes on, and if we don’t use it it goes to another city, or another state. It doesn’t get spent here on some other project, it’s gone. It would be great if we could spend the money any way we please, but it’s just not the case.

    How exactly is it going to decimate muni’s operating budget? How is 2 extra miles of line going to make such a huge impact that muni is going to crumble? I’m quite confident that this is not going to result in major budget issues, it’s a small fraction of muni’s overall budget. Muni’s budget problems are due to a lack of political will. And they aren’t going away anytime soon with or without the CS. I don’t believe that it will have any significant impact on muni service in general. I think it will put more pressure on the city to figure out ways to improve transit efficiency citywide. Maybe we’ll actually get 4th & King fixed once there are more trains running through it.

    The plan actually has changed in the last 5 years, originally it was planned to be split between 3rd and 4th st, one direction on each street. Now that truly was a bad plan, people pushed against it, and it was changed.

    You earlier said you think it’s a corridor that needs to be better served, how do you propose to do that?

    One improvement I can see is to connect the Market St station directly to the BART station through and underground tunnel. That might already be in the plan, but I haven’t seen it anywhere.

  • Boris

    patrick – about $340 million is SF local money from prop K. That would be available for other uses immediately. The rest is state money and federal money. Sure, “we” paid taxes on it, but so did everyone else in the country.

    I’m sure Muni can provide you with a copy of the report done for them in 2006. It’s not online anywhere that I can find, but I have a hard copy of it from them passing it out at meetings several years ago. It outlines the expected operations cost increases from the line. About $27 mil a year altogether (in 2006 dollars). As one of the consultants at the meeting mentioned – “You should be leery of any transit capital investment project in an already served area that increases operating costs.”

    It is connected through a pedestrian tunnel to Market St, but you must go up to mezzanine level (remember, the Union St station will be nine stories under ground – the escalator ride alone will take about 2 minutes), walk over, then go down to the Muni level at Powell. It’s between 1/3 and 1/2 mile walk depending on which directions you’re coming from and going to. That’s not a walk that most people will take when other options exist (and you risk having to wait significant time for another train).

    As far as my idea, I thought that Rescue Muni’s idea was decent:


    If we’re talking strictly subway, then a redesign of the stations should be first up. Connecting to Market is much more important than connecting to Union Square (two block walk from Market), so the station should be moved southward by at least a block. Originally, the plan was to put it in Union Square to connect up with a Geary subway, but now the funding does not even include building the station box for the Geary subway, because that’s seen as being at least 40 years out. Given no connection to Geary, it now makes absolutely no sense to deal with a bad connection to Market.

  • jim

    Let’s look at the big picture. Why should transit riders be forced below ground without access to light and air while polluting drivers get to do their dirty work in full sunshine with views of our beautiful city? Are we really going to dig another tunnel under the Stockton tunnel (which was originally built for transit) to facilitate the use of private cars? Honestly, are we really going to do that in 2009 knowing what we do about climate change, livable streets and transit policy?

    What this project amounts to is a lack of political will to take room away from cars and give it to transit vehicles. It would be quite easy to close Stockton to private cars from Columbus to Market and dedicate two bus-only lanes on 4th to King St. No tunnels, a surface stop right at Union Square, perhaps an outdoor farmers market on Stockton in Chinatown would be among the many benefits of this approach, not to mention that it could be done for a small fraction of the time and cost of tunneling and building stations underground.

    Make Kearny/3rd two way, remove all parking and let cars use this corridor.

    I would be in favor of stopping the subway in favor of a surface solution that treats transit riders and pedestrians humanely. Such a solution is well within our grasp.

  • @jim – Kudos!

  • patrick

    I would love to see all cars banned from San Francisco and everybody to take transit or bike or walk. But that’s not going to happen and stockton isn’t going to be closed either, we can’t even get the cops to enforce the existing bus only lanes.

    I’m not going to hold my breath for the day when transit is given priority over private auto, and I’m not going to wait for that day to support any transit dev project. If we want to talk about wasted billions why aren’t we talking about Doyle drive? That is a true waste of money, expanding a freeway through San Francisco to have more lanes than the connecting roads on either end can support.

  • Doyle Drive has nothing to do with Central Subway and everything to do with Marin (North Bay) being anti-transit. They refused to get in on BART, and now they are refusing to fund SMART. They are against congestion pricing because they are forced to drive into the city, hence clogging up our streets more. The only thing I really have against the Doyle Drive project (which is needed because the road way is falling down) is that a transit ROW isn’t part of the project. I still hold out hope that one day there will be commuter rail service across the GG bridge. But overall, they did a decent job of making it work with park more then it currently does.

    And patrick, I really don’t think it is that much of a long shot to do what jim suggested. The fact that it was never looked at is because Chinatown merchants have the same unfounded fears as the Geary merchants do – that taking away parking will kill their business. I think Chinatown would thrive 100 fold with wider sidewalks. Most of those people shopping there do not drive to Chinatown and the sidewalks are much more crowded then the buses.

  • jim

    @patrick: If they can close Broadway at Times Square in NYC, we can close Stockton St to cars in SF. Let’s try it as they have been doing in NYC and assess the results.

    If the CS is built, you will be holding your breath until 2018 when revenue operation begins. Closing Stockton to cars could happen a lot quicker.

  • Howard Wong, AIA

    The Central Subway is bad planning for the future and the present.
    Like Alaska’s “Bridge to No Where’s” funding shift, the Central Subway’s $1.58 billion should be shifted to improve Muni NOW and to design transit-oriented streets for buses, streetcars, bicycles and pedestrians—while providing economic stimulus and jobs.
    We can’t afford to wait for a Central Subway in 2019. With massive City budget deficits in 2009, 2010 and 2011, Muni will be cutting service, raising fares and struggling to repair its existing fleet. With a $609 million deficit for basic maintenance, Muni’s aging buses and trains will be literally falling apart.
    Even if built, the Central Subway’s EIR/EIS cites cutbacks in surface buses/ trolleys of 76,400 hours annually. Muni riders in Chinatown, North Beach, Russian Hill, Fisherman’s Wharf and Marina will have decreased bus service.
    When the T-Line was built, Muni eliminated the dependable 15-Kearny bus and cut back the 41-Union bus. The 20-Columbus Bus will be eliminated in October.
    In 2019, if completed, the Central Subway will have shortened stations, of 3-car lengths in order to save money, limiting capacity for perpetuity. Even supporters have complained.
    Even worse, the proposed route diagram of the Central Subway/T-Line DISCONNECTS riders from major ridership/ transit nodes—at the Ferry Building, Embarcadero Station, Montgomery Station, Transbay Terminal, Powell Station, Civic Center etc. And all their regional transportation connections.
    The subway in its present form would actually add trip time for most of today’s bus riders, as well as reducing the convenience of the connections to most of Muni’s east-west lines that cross Fourth and Stockton Streets. An ultra-expensive subway should shorten trips and improve connections, not the reverse.
    Meanwhile, other savvy cities have already built system-wide transit solutions—for far less funding.
    Portland: http://trimet.org/bus/frequentservice.htm
    Zurich: http://www.andynash.com/nash-publications/Nash2001-Zurich-PT-MTI-01-13.pdf
    See http://www.SaveMuni.com and write public officials for a better transportation future.

  • patrick

    I’ll go and march with you jim to get it closed, but I just don’t think it’s going to happen. They’ve been talking about closing Market st for decades and nothing ever comes of it, we’re finally maybe going to get some people to turn right off market. To me CS is valuable even if stockton st is closed. I believe there’s more demand than can be met by buses alone.

    As far as Doyle is concerned I know it has nothing to do with the CS. It’s much more of a boondoggle. Sure it needed to be retrofited, or even completely rebuilt, but it certainly doesn’t need to be expanded. The plan is like the New Jersey Turnpike in the middle of the Presidio, it’s completely over designed and is a huge waste of money. There’s no reason to expand a freeway in the presidio, particularly given that the connections on either end cannot handle as much traffic. That money being wasted would be much better spent on creating a proper light rail system on geary connecting to the rest of Muni light rail.

  • joan wood

    I didn’t hear the KALW discussion but it seems that John Funghi has now been at least partially replaced as Project Manager by Emiliano Cruz, retired from City employment but thriving as a private consultant. He is an impressive presence. The overall projected cost of the CS remains at $1.58B, with now 60% to come from Federal money. The New Starts grant was not renewed and a different Federal source, SAFE-T-LU, is providing the current revenue stream needed for local planners’salaries and Mr. Cruz’ and others’contracts. It is projected there will be 18,000 new riders maximum if the Subway is built. Is this a good expenditure of public money? It costs out at over one billion dollars per mile. A subway out Geary Street to the ocean could supplement the one bus line that now exists there and eliminate the disruption to small Chinatown businesses and gratuitous intrusion into North Beach of tunneling in the hopes of an eventual extension to Fisherman’s Wharf. Already-committed State funds could also be shifted to local Muni needs like desperately needed maintenance. Anyone looked at the Third Street Light Railway lately? It cost $648M and still has almost no passengers after 3 years of operation. Same planners. You be the judge.

  • patrick

    That’s completely untrue that T line has no riders. I take it sometimes and can see it from my office. It often gets to the point where there is standing room only. I just watched a train go by and most seats were occupied, at Cesar Chavez & 3rd St, at 11:30 am, most definitely not rush hour.

    suggesting that the money be shifted to a project that doesn’t exist (Geary subway) is just a veiled attempt to cancel the CS and have nothing done anywhere.

  • jim

    @joan wood & Howard Wong: Either there is a subway or there is massively improved transit through the corridor which likely means closing Stockton to private cars. Doing nothing is not an option as the status quo is unacceptable. So which is it?

    SaveMuni needs to come out with a viable, detailed alternative to the subway or get out of the debate. Continuing to say “we don’t like this” without offering mitigation for the terrible transit performance is not at all helpful.

    Regarding the T, patrick is correct. I was just riding my bicycle alongside it and it was nearly full.

  • Boris

    T trains are often full, yes. That’s because they come so rarely. T ridership is still LESS than the 15 bus that it replaced.

  • Gerald Cauthen

    Here are a few points in addition to what was covered in the radio debate:

    1.) At various times during the debate, Central Subway Project Manager Funghi referred to Central Subway riderships of “7 – 8000 a day”, “78,000 a day” and “over 100,000 a day”. When he talks of 78,000 to 100,000 riders a day Mr. Funghi is including the riders of the 5-mile long, already existing T-Line as well as the future riders of the short stretch of new subway. A more accurate representation of Central Subway ridership is set forth in Table S-5 of the Final EIR. Table S-5 shows the new subway as attracting 18,400 new riders a day by 2030, virtually all of whom would come from the new high rise buidings the subway is expected to generate in Chinatown and elsewhere along the route.

    Given the longer perceived trip times (because of increased walking, access and waiting times), it is highly unlikely that anyone who now drives would start using public transit because of the Central Subway.

    2.) The lack of a convenient transfer to the Market Street subway lines was discussed. What was not discussed were the bolixed up transfers between the Central Subway and the east-west Muni surface lines operating on Clay, Sacramento, Sutter, Post, Market, Mission, Howard and Folsum. In every case these transers would involve substantially more walking from the subway than they do today from the Stockton and Fourth Street buses. A shallow subway….by permitting the subway stations to be distributed more logically and in closer proximity to these lines….would greatly mitigate this problem.

    3.) “Rescue Muni’s” rational for supporting the current plan seems to be: “the current plan is awful, but someday it will be extended and then everything will be fine”. As Mr. Schonbrunn pointed out there are no plans, nor any money, nor any real prospect of seeing such an extension in the foreseeable future. And then there’s the matter of the short stations. How would subway stations designed to serve the Central Subway’s toonerville trolley boarding expectations adequately handle the ridership demands of a future crosstown subway befitting a world class city like San Francisco? So far, no one has answered this question.

    4.) It was noted that the subway, artificially truncated at least 8 blocks south of the north end of Chinatown, would fail to benefit tens of thousands of Muni users and would-be users in Northeastern San Francisco. Because the subway is of such marginal usefulness, it would be necessary for Muni to operate both the extremely expensive subway many stories below grade and an extensive trolley bus operation on the surface. Despite the MTA’s weak and unsubstantiated claims of “savings”, the need for both the new LRV service and a continuing heavy bus service is certain to increase future Muni operating and maintenance costs substantially.

  • patrick


    your statements are true, joan’s were not, although I disagree with the T being particularly rare, it runs about every 10-15 minutes most of the day.

  • Robo

    The tunnels are crazy expensive and so deep as to discourage use.
    Where will the stations go? Apparently there’s no room on Stockton for stations on the corners. Seems like a minor inconvenience, but not if you can’t build it without demo-ing a couple buildings.

    Best case: Turn the T-third into a BRT, give it a dedicated lane on 3rd and Kearny, the Stockton tunnel, Stockton, Columbus, etc. It could run all the way to the GG Bridge Toll Plaza, and beyond. Faster, cheaper, more convenient. Just need to get rid of a car lane here and there.

  • patrick

    Come back to reality Robo

  • Richard Morris

    Please review Suntram on YouTube, their cost is about 20 mil.


City Leaders Gather for Central Subway Groundbreaking Ceremony

Mayor Newsom addresses supporters of the Central Subway. Photo: Michael Rhodes Dozens of local elected officials and community leaders donned their novelty hard hats today for a Central Subway groundbreaking ceremony under the I-80 freeway overpass. Tunneling for the subway won’t start for at least another two years, so a utility relocation project at the […]

Central Subway Gets Approval to Enter Final Design Phase

The proposed Union Square Station. Image courtesy SFMTA. The MTA received approval from the Federal Transit Administration on Thursday to enter into Final Design for the Central Subway project. In a letter (PDF) that also echoed concerns from some local transit advocates about the project, the FTA officially approved the MTA’s request to move into […]

SFMTA Chinatown Community Meeting on Central Subway Construction

From SFMTA: Construction of the Central Subway Chinatown Station is beginning soon. Construction will take place at and around the corner of Stockton and Washington streets, the future site of the station. Please join us for a presentation on what you can expect while construction is underway. Members of the Central Subway project team and […]

SF Civil Grand Jury Rips Central Subway, Calls for a Redesign

The grand jury issued a damning report on the planned Central Subway this morning, calling on the SFMTA to redesign the project “to better serve the San Francisco population,” and hire an independent auditor to determine whether the $1.5 billion price tag is realistic, given the pattern of increasing estimates, and the fact that city […]