Warriors Arena Moving to Mission Bay: A Win for Transit Accessibility?

Third and 16th Street, the new proposed site for the Warriors arena. Image: CBS-KPIX

The Warriors announced this week that the site for the basketball team’s proposed arena would be moved from Piers 30-32 on the Embarcadero to Mission Bay, quelling opposition from waterfront development foes. Whether or not the new site will work out for better or worse in terms of accessibility to regional transit, however, is still up for debate.

The Mission Bay site at 16th Street and Third Street is nearly two miles from the nearest BART Station, out of normal walking distance for most visitors. Instead, fans taking BART will be expected to transfer on Muni lines such as the T-Third on the Central Subway corridor, which will stop right out front, and possibly the 22-Fillmore, if extension plans for that line are constructed in time. The distance from BART may be a loss in the eyes of some transit advocates, but it does have its upsides, argues Tom Radulovich, executive director of Livable City and a BART Board member.

Ultimately, Radulovich thinks the Warriors are best off staying at the existing Oakland Coliseum, which is close to BART and the Amtrak Capitol Corridor, making it a more transit-accessible location than either of the proposed San Francisco sites. But the Mission Bay site does leave open more opportunities for nearby transit access than the Embarcadero piers, given all the transportation plans in the works for Mission Bay.

At the proposed Pier 30-32 site, the 0.7-mile walk from Embarcadero BART “was far enough from BART to dissuade many folks from walking,” said Radulovich. He pointed out that once the Central Subway opens in 2019, riders reaching BART via rail would rely on the N-Judah (which Giants Ballpark visitors already cram on to) and the future E-Embarcadero historic streetcar line, as the T-Third will no longer run on the Embarcadero. “Historic streetcars are expensive to operate, low capacity, and have accessibility challenges,” said Radulovich. Additionally, he said, “It would have added to the capacity problems at Embarcadero Station, which is currently the most crowded BART station.”

Furthermore, arena parking would be especially problematic by the Embarcadero. “The auto traffic that would have been generated by the hundreds of planned arena parking spaces would crowd streets like The Embarcadero and Second,” said Radulovich, “where we’d like to see the city reduce the roadway width to improve sidewalks and create protected cycle paths.”

The proposed Embarcadero and Mission Bay arena sites, shown in black box text. Image via Central Subway Blog, black box text added by Streetsblog.

As Peter Albert, who manages waterfront planning for the SFMTA, pointed out to KPIX, riders connecting from BART to the Mission Bay site via Muni would be more dispersed on different transit lines than at the piers. As part of the Muni Transit Effectiveness Project, the SFMTA plans to extend the 22-Fillmore eastward along 16th, connecting the Mission Bay arena to 16th Street BART. That would take some of the ridership load off the Central Subway, which would connect to Powell Station, a hub which Radulovich noted is less crowded than Embarcadero Station.

The Mission Bay site would still be within walking distance of the 4th and King Caltrain Station, and Radulovich noted that Caltrain is also looking at moving its 22nd Street station to 16th in Mission Bay, even closer to the new arena. As we’ve reported, proposals to make Mission Bay more accessible by foot, bike, and transit — including the 22-Fillmore extension and construction of high-speed rail — largely hinge upon the proposed removal of the 280 freeway north of 16th.

It’s unclear if the Mission Bay arena will come with new parking spaces. The Embarcadero plan included a new 500-space parking garage, but a press release from the Warriors notes that Mission Bay “already has ample parking” — a total of 9,000 spaces. The SF Chronicle said the site “has two adjacent parking garages that can hold a combined 2,130 cars.”

The Mission Bay site is also surrounded by streets on four sides, so pedestrian traffic would be more disperse than at Piers 30-32, which only front on the Embarcadero.

  • Transplant206

    Hadn’t thought about this before, so the N still won’t serve the Embarcadero on weekends after the T is rerouted into the Central Subway?

  • transit_ftw

    this seems like insufficient coverage, especially for the Folsom and Brannan stations. I’m also perplexed by the degree to which the signals along the Embarcadero preference a few left-turning cars over a train or two full of 100+ people! why is the average trip between Folsom and Embarcadero stations an 8-10 minute stop-and-go ordeal? and apropos that, why dies it take so long to turn back metro trains in the DTX?…only to see the operator dwell for another solid minute or two for no apparent reason, chatting with their colleagues while Ns and Ts stack up behind them helplessly in the tunnel.

    1. turn on the train signal preemption devices along the Embarcadero. now. left turners can wait one cycle!
    2. muni should hire one or two incognito “operator inspectors” who itemize every excessive dwell, slow turnback, co-worker chat session, … give bonuses for safe and timely route execution. zero tolerance for any delay whatsoever in the market street tunnel. any delay that isn’t total equipment breakdown should require paperwork and an official inquiry. pull your pants up, muni metro!
    3. as we’ve learned during the first year of T service, the DTX turnback tracks just beyond Embarcadero station have capacity for 3, maybe 4 lines (though probably fewer at current, abysmal turnback times)… not through-running at least 2 if not 3 lines past Embarcadero station WILL result in a muni meltdown season. Mark my words.

    c’mon, we can do this!

  • Andy Chow

    Who knows? Anything is subject to change especially if capacity is needed.

  • Richard Mlynarik

    The Warriors staying in Oakland would have been a win for “transit accessibility”. That goes for most things, not just private sport franchise operations. SF, at the tip of a peninsula (and with worse than worthless service along that peninsula), is far from the centre of the universe!

    Muni will, of course, destroy transit service in the rest of city every time there is a private event held by a private profit-making event at one of the private sports franchises’ profit centres. The difference is that instead of metro “service” falling apart 100 days a year for the benefit of the SF Giants, Inc, Muni’s “light” rail cars will be taken out of public service throughout the city and instead dedicated to sports franchise subsidy for more than half the year.

    (The Central Subway will, of course, be worse than useless, in every way. It is irrelevant to everything, other than the rent-seeking contractor criminals who promoted it, and, of course, to the bleeding red ink of Muni’s operating budget.)

  • Greg Costikyan

    The other issue is that sports arenas generate revenue only when the arena is in service. A Salesforce office on the site would likely have generated far more tax revenue for the city than an arena. This is clearly not an optimal use for San Francisco’s scarce real estate. But on the other hand, sports arenas entirely funded by private money are highly unusual in the US, and it’s hard for me to be too upset, given the lack of subsidy.

  • als

    A quick Google search tells me that Madison Square Garden has 320 events per year. Thnik about concerts and shows and conventions. A major indoor facility in San Francisco is a very very big deal for promoters. Transportation should be a big issue. Ferries, buses, light rail – we (the City) should pay attention and part of the cost of building should include the transit system costs.

  • jamiewhitaker

    I hope the N Judah doesn’t ditch weekend service again. The SFMTA ditched N Judah weekend service beyond Embarcadero Station along with deleting my quickly growing Rincon Hill neighborhood from the 12-Folsom bus route on December 5, 2009. Such a stupid, harmful to our health thing to do as new residents get in the habit of driving everywhere because who the hell is going to risk their lives crossing Harrison, Folsom, 1st Street, etc. to get over to 2nd and Folsom for a bus that may show up every 20 minutes or so when they can drive to Trader Joe’s or Slim’s in under 10 minutes under the protection of 2,000 pounds of steel?

    Anyway … the N Judah weekend service was restored not too terribly long after it was cut (that is, the portion beyond Embarcadero Station), thank God. The T-Third is incredibly unpredictible in frequency. Hopefully, the Warriors Arena addition will bring greater focus and frequency/reliability to the T-Third line.

    I think the big thing that is needed is for the major developments along 3rd Street to put together a non-profit transit district and run shuttle buses every 5-10 minutes from 3rd and King Streets south to 3rd and 22nd Streets (Caltrain station at 22nd Street) to fill the huge gap of MUNI service.

    I sure hope the Waterfront Transportation Assessment that SFMTA’s Peter Albert and Erin Miller along with the SFCTA’s LIz Brisson started with the Piers 30-32 proposed location continues … otherwise, gridlock, more air pollution, and higher asthma/mortality rates are very predictable due to the Planning Department and Mayor not giving a shit.

  • Joel

    16th St will become even more important for transit with the arena and new projects in the area. I hope the TEP project for the 22 brings us true BRT all the way to Mission or Church (rather than stopping at Bryant as is currently proposed.)

  • Guest

    God forbid Muni move people from where they are to where they want to go.

  • Bruce Halperin

    The N Judah does serve the Embarcadero on weekends.

  • Kevin J

    If the City goes through with tearing down 280 and extending the Embarcadero, could they also extend the N?

    Not along Third street, but it already goes a few blocks passed Caltrain and looks like it was planned to continue. Could it continue down the median then turn along 16th street or turn channel street into a transit mall with the N-Judah running along each side of the park. It worked well in Portland.

  • Upright Biker

    This adds imperative to running the Central Subway all the way to the Wharf. That way, out-of-town fans and fans from Marin can leave the cars on that side of town and take the train.

  • Rick Laubscher

    Both sites run by Muni streetcar tracks. The N does run on The Embarcadero to Caltrain every day, and even if it didn’t, service could be added for events in either location, just as it is for Giants’ games currently. Dogpatch and Mission Bay neighbors have already joined with our non-profit (Market Street Railway) to advocate extending the E-Embarcadero historic streetcar service, linking the Wharf directly to AT&T Park and Caltrain starting next year, further south to serve Mission Bay and Dogpatch on the T-line tracks as well. Contrary to what Tom Radulovich states, the historic streetcars are fully accessible, cost no more to operate, and can carry 100 riders apiece. More important, people really LIKE to ride them, so they draw traffic from automobiles.

  • AJ

    Running ferries to the Giants’ terminal could also work

  • RichardC

    Not all sports arenas are created equal. Football stadiums are the worst, as they take up a huge amount of space and there are very few games and events per year – so putting them downtown is a waste. But basketball arenas are more suitable for lots of different events, and so make sense. The Verizon Center in downtown DC may not have as many events as Madison Square Garden, but their website claims 220/year, and it certainly does bring lots of people to the area and helped revive a formerly dead zone.

  • David D.

    A Warriors arena at any variety of locations in Oakland would be infinitely more transit accessible than anything in Mission Bay ever will be. Muni simply doesn’t have the skill or capacity to handle event crowds.

    Right now hundreds if not thousands of people WALK from the ballpark to Market Street because Muni simply can’t be bothered to provide meaningful event service without obliterating the quality of transit service elsewhere in the City. The Warriors arena will be that much further south than the ballpark, meaning more people will decide to drive because walking and Muni are both inferior options.

    Maybe things will get better with the T running through the Central Subway, but I’m not going to hold my breath. After all, let’s not forget that we are spending $2 billion and not even getting stations that can accommodate 3-car trains.

    tl;dr If it isn’t walking distance from a BART station, it might as well be in Santa Clara because people will be driving there anyway.

  • Sorry about the mistake folks, removed that.

  • vcs

    > At the proposed Pier 30-32 site, the 0.7-mile walk from Embarcadero BART “was far enough from BART to dissuade many folks from walking,” said Radulovich.

    Phooey. The current arena is not much closer, being on the far side of the Coliseum lot from the BART station.

  • jonobate

    I think a better plan would be to extend the N further down Third St to the planned turnaround at 22nd St. That would double the number of trains serving Mission Bay/Dogpatch, and consolidate all the service to/from Caltrain to one stop on the south side of 4th/King, eliminating the current mess where you have to use NextMuni to figure whether the N or T will arrive first.

  • Jamison Wieser

    Muni service to Mission Bay will already double when the Central Subway opens. When the Central Subway opens the plan is to have a combined service between Mission Bay and Chinatown every 4 minutes with trains alternating between trains running all the way to Sunnydale and shuttle trains turning back at that turnaround you mentioned.

    Once the Central Subway opens that NextMuni mess sorts itself out: the T and N will be running different routes so if your trying to get from Caltrain to Powell you’re probably not going to want to take an N-Judah the long way around. Having trains turning at that intersection creates an extra light phase for turning trains that backs up traffic and creates delays for both lines which would only get worse when the T-line is running every 4 minutes instead of every 8.

    To Kevin’s question those extra two blocks of “tail tracks” are for trains to layover out of the way and to stockpile trains for when a game or event lets out at AT&T park. That doesn’t prohibit an extension and the city is going to have to study what to do with the N anyway since it sits in the middle of that 280 offramp.

    If they do extend the boulevard it might be possible to add at least a Sixth and King Station without much rejiggering of the track that are there now. Running the N into Mission Bay might be a stretch, but… if the freeway is torn down for an extended boulevard I would like to see the City consider continuing the N-Judah to 16th Street in the median. It would connect with the rerouted 22-Fillmore and would be a straight shot and about a 15 minute walk along 16th to the new arena.

  • Jackson

    Funny, I posted the same thing on another board. They should extend the N running parallel to the train tracks to 16th, then have it turn east down 16th to loop around 3rd back to its original route. I would also (2) connect the K and the T lines in the Excelsior. Call the new line the KT and then just have trains run in circles each way. Then a person in Sunnydale wouldn’t have to head north, he/she could go the opposite direction. (3) I would have the 22 line go down 16th, yet then turn right on 3rd to head up to 20th street to ensure that the portrero people still have access.

    If the city were to connect the K & the T, we could keep the current KT route and provide more service in addition to the central subway. The central subway needs to go all the way to the wharf also. Yet, it is political…as is everything with transit.

  • jonobate

    All good points.

    There’s going to be a fair amount of people heading between Mission Bay and a BART station (any BART station) to get back to the East Bay. This will be the case on game days, but also on weekdays if Mission Bay takes off as a major employment center.

    If there was direct N service from the UCSF/Mission Bay stop to Embarcadero with a quick transfer to BART, and also direct T service to Union Square/Market St with a somewhat longer transfer to Powell BART, which route would be the quickest for someone heading to the East Bay? Probably they would be about the same – you have to pass through Embarcadero BART to get to the East Bay, so it doesn’t really which route you take to get there. Certainly they would be close enough in duration that taking the first train that came along would be the best plan during high crowding.

    Also, the current conflict point at 4th/King could be resolved with better transit signal priority – it’s not inevitable that turning light rail vehicles result in delays at that intersection.

  • Jamison Wieser

    I wish we were at a white board because it’s way easier to explain phasing and interlocking in person by drawing…

    SFMTA put a lot of work into 4th & King in the first few years after the T-line opened but there’s only so much that can be done for a temporary solution. It’s a decade+ temporary, but the intersection is going to be rebuilt with transit priority signaling for the Central Subway. With a permanent solution already approved, funded, and underway there’s not much that could be done any sooner. The plus side is there’s is most likely a laundry list of issues the SFMTA will try and solve when that intersection does get rebuilt.

    The turn will remain for moving trains in and out of the Metro East yard with no plans to use it for revenue service, but it’ll be there.

  • andrelot

    Please, save that piece of obsolete vehicle where it belongs- in a museum, not in active service.

  • Rick Laubscher

    23,000 daily riders on the F-line disagree with you. More than double the number that rode the bus lines that preceded the F. What’s obsolete is the idea that serial pontificators know what’s better for everyone else.

  • andrelot

    I’ll all for trams and light rail, as long as they are modern vehicles, with state of the art technology.

  • murphstahoe

    The historic ones work better than the “modern” bredas

  • Sprague

    There also might be a demand for a direct public transit link between UCSF Parnassus and Mission Bay (I know there’s a UCSF shuttle bus that makes this connection today).

  • Boaz Gurdin

    Total fantasy, but all the development in Mission Bay makes me wonder if it would ever be possible to build a more direct subway from the Sunset to Mission Bay, connecting the UCSF campuses and opening up the west side of the city as a reasonable source of housing for Mission Bay commuters. Judah and the 16th St corridors are physically so close, yet time-wise so distant by transit. Curious to hear reactions to this idea.

  • Not total fantasy. In the SFCTA’s 25-year transportation plan, this proposal was one of a few dozen ranked by various performance measures, including public input. It fell into the “middle-low tier” level of project priorities. So it’s possible some day, but given the realities of scarce funding and the extensive amount of time it takes to implement projects, I personally wouldn’t bet on it happening very soon. (Look how long the Central Subway has taken, even with all the political force behind it.)

  • Andy Chow

    I think it would be just as feasible to have it as an at grade modern streetcar between Castro and 3rd streets.


    The Warriors want it on the waterfront but there would be hella traffic so why wouldn’t they just build it on the Ocean or on the North Shore or something or like as close as possible to the Golden Gate. That would be pretty sick too.


    That would be pretty sweet since it takes so damn long to get to Mission Bay from SF State and Parkmerced.

  • Bruce

    Wouldn’t the TEP-rerouted 33 Stanyan do basically this?

    On the other hand, BART is looking to build a second Transbay Tunnel. This alignment would probably work nicely with a Jack London Square station.

  • cralledode

    Hard to imagine how this is more transit accessible than the Oracle Arena. BART > Muni every time. High speed, grade separated regional transit is always more useful during major sporting events than street-level, at-grade trolley lines.

  • WhiskeyBum

    Why to the Giants Terminal ? Just dock them across the street from the new arena . The Bay is there as well .

  • Dex

    Well, Oakland can celebrate the fact that San Francisco is prepared to kill off the most efficient intersection in the city and give up the coolest offramp in the history of off ramps (Sixth Street, which charges up toward the tops of high rises before plunging down to street level–gorgeous) just to steal its basketball team back. The Sixth Street/Brannan Intersection is so conspicuously efficient AND effective at moving amazing amounts of traffic from freeway to city streets, that I often wondered how a bureaucracy had gotten something so right. Well, now I know, they won’t, because their shoot themselves in the foot (and maybe knee and thigh) first.


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