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Central Subway

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

Image: SFMTA

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 will have to pick up any cost overruns.

The San Francisco Civil Grand Jury's 38 findings and 26 recommendations follow a seven-month investigation and repeat many of the criticisms that have been leveled against the project by opponents. Among the main conclusions:

    • The addition of a new subway line will add to an existing operating deficit and could stretch the existing maintenance environment to the breaking point.
    • There are no plans to address existing problems on the Stockton corridor before project completion.
    • There is no effective transfer to the Muni Metro and BART systems.
    • It ignores service to the Financial District.
    • It ignores current transportation trends.

You can read a full copy of the report here [pdf]. It also includes a number of not-so-surprising findings about the current state of Muni. What effect that grand jury's report might have on the project wasn't immediately clear.

The SFMTA issued a formal response this afternoon:

We appreciate the Civil Grand Jury’s interest in the Central Subway project. The report, while comprehensive, does not say anything new about the challenges we face with regards to serving nearly 700,000 riders each weekday, providing more than 1,200 trips through the subway each day, finding ways to maintain and improve the work we do, and balancing a budget in increasingly tough economic times.
The facts about this project remain:

  • The SFMTA’s Third Street Light Rail transit project, which includes the Central Subway, is the most significant capital investment in generations.  The 1.7 mile light rail will provide rail service to the Financial District and Chinatown, the most densely developed areas of San Francisco;
  • This project will relieve surface congestion along Stockton Street corridor. One of the busiest in the city;
  • It will increase customers’ quality of life through travel time savings and increased mobility; travel time from Chinatown to Caltrain will be reduced from 20 minutes on current trolley buses to 8 minutes;
  • Reduce air and noise pollution;
  • The Central Subway will provide transportation to Hunters Point that is in development of 10,000 housing units, two million square feet of commercial space and over 300 acres of public park;
  • This phase of the project will provide improved transit access to the increasing number of technology companies in the SoMa neighborhood, including Twitter, Ubisoft and Adobe;
  • This project consistently receives positive reviews as part of the FTA’s New Starts program, including $72 million in New Starts federal funding to date; and
  • This project has the potential to create approximately 30,000 jobs.
  • More coverage from the San Francisco Chronicle.

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