Facebook to Fund New Transit Study on Dumbarton Corridor

The damaged rail bridge that is part of the 20-mile Dumbarton Corridor. The Facebook study would look at the western approach area only and not the bridge itself????
The damaged rail bridge that is part of the 20-mile Dumbarton Corridor.

Last March Facebook completed its new open-plan headquarters building on its campus in Menlo Park. CNBC put together a video tour. Buildings are nice. But of Mark Zuckerberg’s 12,000 employees, roughly half work in Menlo Park, with growth expected. How do they get to and from work?

Facebook announced yesterday that it was partnering with SamTrans to launch a “Dumbarton Corridor Study.” The study will cost $1 million, with Facebook fronting the entire nut.

If you’re not familiar with the area, there’s a 20-mile stretch of old railway tracks that runs from Caltrain’s mainline in Redwood City, continues past Facebook’s Menlo Park campus, and then runs across the fire-damaged Dumbarton Rail Bridge to the East Bay. It carried passengers long ago, and freight continued to use the corridor up until the 1980s. SamTrans purchased the tracks for a possible expansion of Caltrain in 1995. But then the bridge was all but destroyed in a suspicious fire in 1998.

“When SamTrans and the Transportation Authority purchased the Dumbarton rail corridor more than 20 years ago, we recognized the important role this facility could play in the regional transportation network,” said San Mateo County Transit District General Manager/CEO Jim Hartnett in a prepared statement. “This study represents an important public-private partnership that will provide lasting benefits for congestion relief across the region.”

“Facebook is committed to supporting initiatives that help reduce regional roadway congestion and is pleased to partner with SamTrans to explore ways of improving traffic and transit options on the Dumbarton corridor, ” said Facebook Campus Facilities Director Fergus O’ Shea, also in a prepared statement.

However, it should be noted that this new effort is not reactivating a 2011 project and study, defunded in 2014, into bringing passenger rail back to the corridor.

That ambitious plan would have linked Caltrain, the Altamont Express, Amtrak’s Capitol Corridor, and BART, as well as East Bay bus systems, at a multimodal transit center in Union City. Instead, this new Facebook-funded study will likely consider more modest goals such as “Maybe improving bus service, maybe looking at some improvements to the West and East Bay approaches of State Route 84, stuff like that,” explained Tasha Bartholomew, a spokeswoman for SamTrans. That’s primarily because the $200 to $300 million funding for the original project has been redistributed, explained April Chan, ‎Executive Officer for Planning and Development at SamTrans.

Chan said that some kind of rail option isn’t completely out of the question. A short starter segment might be feasible, but first they have to do a study to find out if “new funding measures will be out there with future pots of money.” She said they’re also hoping to recycle at least some of the work done in the 2011 study.

Currently, there are three highway bridges spanning the San Francisco Bay, from the Oakland Bay Bridge to the Dumbarton highway bridge in the south, but there are no commuter or intercity rail crossings. Amtrak and Caltrain riders have to transfer to BART or a bus to cross the Bay.

In the meantime, Facebook is attempting to solve its employee housing and commuting issues in a variety of ways. One is a $10,000 cash incentive for employees to move closer to the campus. Considering the Peninsula’s notoriously high housing costs, the success of this is yet to be seen. Then there are the controversial “tech shuttles.” Another option: partially funding housing close to its headquarters.

  • Andy Chow

    I blame Scott Haggerty and the City of Fremont for their opposition and/or non-support for the Dumbarton Rail project. Bad actors need to be identified so that their position can be corrected.

    The West Bay is running out of options on the bus and highway side because of lack of freeway access between the bridge and employment centers including Palo Alto. Any reasonable offer of cooperation especially from Fremont on rail will be very helpful. Cities like Union City and Newark are supportive but not enough.

  • david vartanoff

    Let’s just say that the defunding was an anti transit move. The $billion squandered on the Caldecott 4th bore and the OAC could have given us excellent connectivity in the South Bay. Time to get moving on Dumbarton. Envision cross platform transfer between ACE and Cap Corridor trains to a Dumbarton Bridge train connecting to Caltrain!

  • Clem Tillier

    Dumbarton also has far higher potential than anyone (at any of these agencies) imagines for a fast rail connection from the Bay Area to the Central Valley. An express train could link San Francisco to Tracy in under 40 minutes with a stop in Redwood City, provided a new alignment is built (instead of Pacheco Pass HSR).

    Putting a bike trail on that prime corridor would be a downright insult!

  • SuperQ

    Instead of massive transportation expansion, why not massive housing expansion within walking distance of these huge office parks?

  • Jeffrey Baker

    1: There’s nothing within walking distance of Facebook’s swamp facility. It is in a swamp. Unless you think crossing this freeway is going to be fun: https://www.google.com/maps/@37.4838427,-122.1453837,3a,75y,337.98h,74.45t/data=!3m7!1e1!3m5!1sVeka1GDQQSe_5keb8jWlkA!2e0!6s%2F%2Fgeo3.ggpht.com%2Fcbk%3Fpanoid%3DVeka1GDQQSe_5keb8jWlkA%26output%3Dthumbnail%26cb_client%3Dmaps_sv.tactile.gps%26thumb%3D2%26w%3D203%26h%3D100%26yaw%3D142.38396%26pitch%3D0!7i13312!8i6656

    2: Google already tried to build drone storage at their Mountain View site and got shot down by the Mountain View government. Politics.

  • jonobate

    Regardless of what happens with HSR, a good near term use of Dumbarton would be to implement the San Mateo Local / Silicon Valley Express service plan proposed by yourself, and extend the San Mateo Local down the Dumbarton corridor to a 5th Ave station (serving North Fair Oaks) and a Willow Rd station (serving Facebook).

    Nothing required other than station construction and rehab of the existing track. And as a bonus, this allows the San Mateo Local to turn around clear of the mainline.


  • david vartanoff

    What you apparently seem to ignore is that many of these workers don’t want to live in the not so interesting suburbs. Whether live music, interesting films, multitudinous excellent eateries, they prefer dense urban culture.

  • Clem Tillier

    I agree this is a great idea, but I don’t quite see it as a near-term possibility.

    The local/express pattern that I proposed requires both trains to arrive in RWC near-simultaneously at the same island platform–in fact, if you want connectivity from the Dumbarton corridor to points south, you need all four trains (SB local, SB express, NB local, NB express) to arrive in RWC near-simultaneously. This requires the midline overtake with Dumbarton flyover to be built first, not a trivial or quick investment… and not in anybody’s official plans.

    Failing this, you would need a “timed transfer” as they currently exist with a minimum five minute transfer penalty, not exactly good for ridership.

  • Andrew Horta

    just repaire the bridge to connect with Amtrak ACE and Caltrain so as freights connecting to the peninsula ALREADY JEZ PEOPLE WE ALL WANT THAT THE FRICKEN HIGHWAY IS GETTING SO PACT BECAUSE OF FACEBOOK

  • Andrew Horta


  • Andrew Horta

    YES YES DUMBARTON Rail bridge needs to be activated with MORE TRAINS and less traffic on the Highway right next to the dumbarton rail bridge


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