Caltrain Plans Big Expansion, BART’s Earthquake Upgrade, and Geary Breaks Ground

A rendering of one of Caltrains electric train sets, now under construction. Image: Caltrain
A rendering of one of Caltrains electric train sets, now under construction. Image: Caltrain

Big plans and one major transit milestone kick off the weekend in this Streetsblog transit news round-up.

Caltrain with three times the riders?

Caltrain is forging ahead with its electrification project, with the first electric passenger service expected to start in 2022. So what’s after that? The agency is currently developing its new business plan, and it is anticipating a whopping increase in service and customers.

From the Caltrain release:

…projections of potential future demand show that by 2040 as many as 250,000 customers would want to ride the train if service were frequent and abundant – a nearly 300 percent increase over the number of passengers carried by the system today.

Right now Caltrain carries about 62,000 riders each weekday, but that is expected to increase dramatically when electrification is completed and the trains are extended to the Salesforce Transit Center in downtown San Francisco. But the evolving business plan is also assuming the addition of more frequent off-peak service, clock-face schedules, and timed transfers with other transit systems to make it a more useful service, especially outside of morning and evening rush hour. Looking at the number of cars on the freeways and the ridership BART captures off-peak, Caltrain officials think they can increase ridership dramatically as they add and improve service.

Still, 250,000 riders seems hard to imagine for Caltrain, considering the busiest single commuter rail line in the country, the New Haven Line out of Grand Central Terminal in New York, only carries 125,000 weekday riders, and it has three branches. But with the rapid growth of the Bay Area and the addition of high-speed rail, who knows?

Image: USGS
Image: USGS

BART upgrades seismic safety with ‘Shake Alert’ test

On Monday, Oct. 8, between 11 and 11:15 a.m., all BART trains will slow to 27 mph, in a demonstration of ShakeAlert 2.0, the latest iteration of the earthquake warning system used to slow the system’s trains in the event of a significant temblor.

From the release:

BART was one of the first organizations to test ShakeAlert 1.0, and has been slowing or stopping trains in advance of expected shaking for a couple of years. Monday’s demonstration and press conference mark the formal rollout of a revised version – ShakeAlert 2.0 – which was developed by the U.S. Geological Survey, UC Berkeley, California Institute of Technology, University of Washington, and University of Oregon in partnership with the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services to provide up to tens of seconds of advance warning that the ground will begin shaking: enough time for people to drop, cover and hold on, or take other protective action.

The alert system data will also be made available to “all Bay Area businesses, utilities, and app developers.” BART is planning a press event/news conference, with reporters and politicos invited to ride one of its new “fleet of the future” trains during the demonstration. That train will depart MacArthur BART at around 11 am bound for Richmond and will be one of the trains slowed to 27 mph during the test.

Now, barring any real earthquakes, when will BART have enough confidence in the new trains to allow them to run through the Transbay tube to San Francisco? A spokesman for BART said no dates have been set.

Geary rendering from SFMTA.
Geary rendering from SFMTA.

The Geary Rapid Project finally breaks ground

A subway under Geary! No. Light rail? Nope. Full Bus Rapid Transit with dedicated, center-running lanes down the length of Geary? No, not even that. Nevertheless, after decades of planning the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency finally broke ground this week on its Geary Rapid Project, a plan to enhance part of the street and upgrade bus service on the 38.

From the SFMTA release:

The project, on Geary and O’Farrell between Stanyan and Market streets, aims to bring much-needed safety improvements and more reliable bus service to one of San Francisco’s busiest corridors. 54,000 daily customers rely on the 38 Geary and 38R Geary Rapid.

The agency also writes that the first set of transit and pedestrian safety improvements will take about four to six weeks. They include nearly two new miles of transit-only lanes “on most blocks between Stanyan and Gough streets.” New bicycle markings will also be painted to help cyclists cross Geary at Webster, Steiner, and Masonic.

  • LazyReader

    255,000 customers is not a lot for a state of nearly 40 million. California is a classic example of the problem with government funding of things like transit and intercity rail, which is that elected officials like to fund. So while California politicians go gaga over high-speed rail, transit agencies like CalTrains and VTA are cutting services. This is just one more reason why transportation should be funded out of user fees, not tax dollars. Since many projects depend on more than one source of revenue, loss of revenue from one particular source can have vast repercussions. When transportation infrastructure is paid for out of a myriad of various and specialty taxes that politicians push..politicians have great deal of clout how it’s spent. In particular they prefer “Ribbons over Brooms” that is, building new infrastructure rather than maintaining the old. And those same politicians are often guilty of assuming that various public transportation projects will provide highway congestion relief, something that transit is usually not capable of doing, even with gargantuan amounts of taxpayer money. For example, the Boston and Washington rail transit systems are rapidly deteriorating, with sometimes deadly consequences. Yet rather than rehabilitate these systems, politicians are building new rail lines that transit agencies can’t afford to maintain. I suppose that the politicians know that they will likely be out of office when the bill comes due for repairing and
    rehabbing the (new) train lines that they advocated for and approved.
    For the cost of California High speed rail, California could build 50 desalination plants could produce 2.5 billion gallons of water daily for water stressed California. The Billions that BART wants for it’s extensions could fix all their current dilapidated rail stock. It was only 8 years ago Caltrains was teetering the edge of going broke and cutting service. In fact, state and local governments are digging several holes—fiscal sink holes. If state officials weren’t spending so much money on these wasteful rail-related transit projects, they’d have extra money to fix the roads, bridges and freeways and still provide “realistic” transit projects rather than overbuilt boondoggles with Disney esque fantasy in mind.

  • Ming

    250,000 is an entire city of people getting on a train to travel somewhere. That means that something like 1 in every 10 people in San Francisco will have gotten there by Caltrain. At those ridership levels, it will be as important as the Bay Bridge or Golden Gate bridge for moving people in the Bay Area. I agree that the gov’t spends too much building new infrastructure instead of maintaining new infrastructure. But Caltrain electrification will lower Caltrain’s costs and makes Caltrain competitive with cars and buses for many journeys, driving enough ridership to make the service more able to sustain itself on its own. This is the rehabilitation that the peninsula has been requesting for decades.

    The state funding for these Caltrain improvements comes from the California High Speed Rail. The California High Speed Rail is also being used to fix up some of the dilapidated rail situation in Los Angeles, upgrade the rail lines in the Central Valley to handle faster trains, and to finally build a rail line linking Los Angeles with the Central Valley.

    The BART extensions are being paid for by the people of San Jose. Why would San Jose pay to fix up the dilapidated rail stock of BART in San Francisco when BART doesn’t even go to San Jose yet?

    The government has repeatedly made it clear that they aren’t going to go on a building binge of desalination plants. They’ve already built some, and they largely sit around doing nothing, wasting government money. Apparently, it’s cheaper to just wait for water to fall out of the sky for free. Desalinated water is too expensive for farmers as well.

  • Roberto Agiular

    You quote Metro North’s New Haven line with 125K per day. That is Metro North’s least busiest of their 3 lines. Their other 2 lines carry almost 300K per day.

  • Roberto Agiular

    Editor, You quote Metro North’s New Haven line as carrying “only” 125K per day. That is the least busiest of 3 lines Metro North has. The other 2, “Hudson Line” and “Harlem Line” EACH carry almost 300K per day ! You cannot compare Caltrain to Metro North.

  • Good God. More fantasy ridership predictions and extensive expansion promises. Let’s face it, the DTX is decades away from seeing one rider so let’s be realistic about the situation, folks. Ridership will never, ever quadruple even with the 1+ mile extension to downtown SF.

    Just scroll down to the Geary transit part of the article to see how things are really done in the Bay Area.

  • Caltrain is limited in scope and reach. The problem with Bay Area transit is not transit competing with cars/buses, but competition among transit agencies. That’s where we massively fail.

  • City Resident

    If we, as a nation, would less lavishly fund our military, we would have plenty of money left over to maintain our infrastructure and build new infrastructure – without the need for tax hikes or user fee increases. We spend well north of 700 billion per year on our military – spending more than they ask for while neglecting the infrastructure that supports Americans and American businesses every day.

  • LazyReader

    Agreed, Spending all that money on nations that should defend themselves…. Why do the European and Nordic countries have “Free healthcare” It’s because they’ve been riding on the back bone of US defense for the last 60 years…Also the taxes in these nations are extremely highway and the countries are going bankrupt anyway….

  • City Resident

    The choice is not between healthcare and military. Nations the world over, in Europe and elsewhere, provide healthcare affordably to their citizens and residents – independently of their defense budgets. This applies to NATO members, neutral countries, and others. We could also afford to have healthcare for all with adequate military spending.

  • crazyvag

    I think competition between transit is rare. It’s usually the opposite problem that transit has a disconnect at county boundaries.

  • LazyReader

    Classical Not an argument, argument. If we spend as much on {blank} as we do on war, we’d have excellent {blank}. Fact is, the public transit industry it dying and I see no reason to prop up the agencies by spending more money. According to data provided by the National Transit Database, Transit ridership dropped by 2.9 percent in 2017 despite a 0.7 percent
    increase in transit service (as measured in vehicle revenue miles). In other words, the industry spent more money than ever before, expanded services out to new areas and despite this ridership still declined. The full database also includes fares, costs, energy consumption. For example,
    transit used an average of 3,376 BTUs per passenger mile in 2017, a 2.3
    percent increase from 2016. Greenhouse gas emissions per passenger mile
    also increased by about 1.0 percent. These increases, of course, are due
    to the increased vehicle miles combined with a 2.6 percent fall in
    passenger miles. At 3,376 BTU’s, it puts transit in a tie with light trucks (Pickups, SUV’s, full sized vans). Where as by 2015 cars used 3,030 BTU’s per passenger mile. If you want to save energy, drive a hybrid/plug-in hybrid, especially if you
    live in a region that gets a lot of its electricity from non-fossil-fuel
    sources (nuclear/hydro/wind/solar/geothermal), transit industry should privatize or co-opt higher efficiency vehicles to offer on-demand service.

  • Yeah, sure. My friend’s Dad who lives in Chicago can either schedule his hip replacement surgery in 6 weeks or wait 5 years in Poland. Having lived along the Canadian border and watched Canadian citizens cross over to have access to our healthcare services and our pharmaceuticals was extremely telling of how well a government takes care of their healthcare needs.

  • Not everyone rides Caltrain all the way to and from San Francisco. A lot of that new ridership will come from shorter hops, like it does today. A few hundred more people making trips like San Mateo–Sunnyvale starts adding up.

    The same is true for the High-Speed Rail Project, which is often compared to flying between SF and LA, when the real market is the trips not served by road, rail, or air today. There, more daily riders are expected to be making trips just a station or two, like Fresno and Madera to San Jose.

  • John Murphy

    Not to mention that 40 percent of the ridership of Caltrain is heading SOUTH in the AM, not North.

  • John Murphy

    “California could build 50 desalination plants could produce 2.5 billion gallons of water daily for water stressed California.”

    While we read a lot about drinking water in San Francisco and Los Angeles, that’s not where the water consumption is. The water usage in California is in the Central Valley, growing fruits and vegetables.

    Funny thing, that’s on the opposite side of a mountain range from where all that salt water is.

    Other funny thing – desalinization is very energy intensive. What’s exacerbating the water problem? Climate change, driven by excessive use of fossil fuels.

  • The bigger question is whether Caltrain will become more than a “commuter rail” system, with more frequent service between SF and nearby suburbs and SJ and nearby suburbs, not unlike what the MBTA plans to do with its regional rail upgrades in the Boston metro area.
    The bigger issue for me is the local commute from most of SF to Caltrain, especially from the western and northern parts of the city.

  • I think “extending Caltrain downtown” is the partial-answer to both your question and issue with connectivity.

    Once the extension is completed, Caltrain will be a block from Embarcadero Station with an underground passage for easier transfers to BART and Muni Metro. It will lie below the 5, 38, and few other bus lines serving the Westside.

    Once the Central Subway opens, the T line will provide a strong connection to the Northern part of the City. Chinatown is just five stops from 4th & King Caltrain, with only the last four blocks above ground and running in a dedicated right-of-way.

    I expect it won’t take long for Caltrain to start expanding off-peak service once it’s an easy connection downtown (Transbay or via the T at 4th & King). And that goes both ways, with Caltrain becoming a better option for Penisula/South Bay residents to visit SF for off-peak fun.

  • Caltrain ridership has grown 2.5x in the last 20 years with only modest upgrades, and no closer to downtown SF today than it was in 1998.

    Following the growth curve, the growing popularity of transit and dissatisfaction with traffic congestion, the easier connections with the downtown SF extension and Central Subway connection, and all the other improvements coming along the line, close to quadrupling ridership by 2040 does not seem that far-fetched of a vision.

    Isn’t it best that Caltrain is prepared for “worst case scenario”? If this off-peak ridership Caltrain expects doesn’t materialize, they just don’t run as much off-peak service.

  • City Resident

    There are countless examples of Canadians who are extremely satisfied with their healthcare and countless nations that provide healthcare with broad appeal (and more affordably than we manage to). As a healthcare provider who has also lived and worked in Europe, I know first hand that socialized medicine can (and does) deliver healthcare efficiently, equitably, and affordably with excellent outcomes (indeed, in many cases, with equal or higher outcomes than we achieve). Of course, in some instances there are problems – and these vary depending on the country, health insurer, etc.

  • City Resident

    In urban California but also along corridors connecting major population centers, mass transit will always have a crucial role. Clearly, transit and highway operators should invest in maintenance prior to constructing new infrastructure. Nonetheless, we (as a nation and people) could very well afford to have a portion of the largesse we bestow annually on our military invested instead in infrastructure that directly benefits many of us on a daily basis. San Francisco could well have several (likely very well used) new subway lines if we invested a very small fraction of our nation’s military budget in local public works projects.

  • LazyReader

    Local infrastructure should be funded locally not federally. A question asked for years and presently ongoing in New York City. New York governor Andrew Cuomo and mayor Bill de Blasio are still
    arguing who should pay to repair the subways. Those subways are
    contained entirely within New York City. They were built by New York
    City. They are owned by New York City. Yet New York City mayor Bill de
    Blasio argues that all of the projected $37 billion cost of restoring the subways to a state of good repair should be paid by the state, not the city. Be it Manhattan or San Francisco the city’s need two levels of traffic to move it’s workforce or residents. the surface streets and the subways. But nothing says that the subways
    have to be rail. Why not start planning to replace the trains with
    driverless electric buses? Capital costs are far lower (railcars cost
    about ten times as much as buses, and three or more times as much after
    adjusting for capacities and lifespans), maintenance costs are far
    lower, and if the buses are driverless, which should be technically easy
    to implement on former rapid transit routes–the operating costs will be
    a lot lower. Be it NYC or SF, if the city couldn’t exist without its subways, and it refuses to
    pay to maintain them, then maybe the answer is that it shouldn’t exist,
    at least not with two million jobs located in seven square miles on
    Manhattan or the Bay area. Both city residents claim they already pay more than
    their share of taxes, but that’s just a matter of demographics: high
    housing prices have pushed low-income people out of the city, so the
    ones who are left tend to pay more taxes. That doesn’t excuse them from
    paying the full costs of the transportation services they use. Some employers might decide to move out of Manhattan/San Fran which would decrease congestion and make the place less expensive to live in.

  • Roger R.

    Wow… pretty off topic here, but as a dual citizen of Canada and the US I have to chime in on this. Canadians complain about their healthcare system. People complain. That’s just human nature. There might even be a Canadian or two who has come to the US for some specialized treatment or to get some elective surgery done more quickly. But I don’t know a soul in Canada who would swap their system for ours. Here’s some data to back that up:

  • Roger R.

    That’s why I provided a link to the RPA. The entire railroad doesn’t carry 300k daily. Also there, are five lines, not three.

  • City Resident

    For well over half a century, the federal government has contributed to local transportation infrastructure investments. Major public works projects, be they dams, airports, rail systems, bridges, or highways, are usually too expensive for local governments to afford – this is true in the U.S. and overseas, as well – and in most cases they can’t be built unless Uncle Sam helps with the tab.

  • LazyReader

    But for the better part, most infrastructure is paid for locally or on the state level they have the authority to do so. The interstate was built on a pay as you go basis, where revenue contributed to it’s upkeep and it’s expansion. BART and Caltrains are in a bad economic position to burrow billions when especially in the not too distant future the very real possibility of driverless cars, public ride sharing and cheaper buses, I see no reason for the federal government to bail out an industry that’s collapsing. Transportation is a vital part of the American economy. Public transit, however, is not, especially outside of New York City, and shared driverless cars will make it even more redundant. Whether or not shared driverless cars will put transit agencies out of business in the next decade, those agencies should stop wasting money on expensive and noncompetitive transit services and focus on providing basic, cost-effective services for those who need transit the most, while putting their economic houses in order by reducing maintenance backlogs, debts, and unfunded obligations.

  • City Resident

    In the interior Bay Area, especially between San Francisco and the East Bay, BART will never be redundant. Driverless cars or buses can’t compete with the hundreds of thousands moved every day by mass (rail) transit in this corridor.

  • LazyReader

    Then Cities shouldn’t double down on new infrastructure investments until they’ve fixed what they already possess. Burrowing billions to build when they cant afford what they currently have is like buying a second house when you haven’t even paid off your first mortgage. And this is taxpayer money, and taxpayers shouldn’t be saddled with a debt burden especially when there’s a very real chance that driverless cars will usurp a great deal of their customer base. Chariot, Ford owned vanpool/shuttle hailing service is just one of many new private transit startups and they offer service to the Financial District, SoMa, Pacific Heights, Haight Ashbury, Cow Hollow,Inner Richmond, Mission. And driverless high capacity transit vehicles like buses and mini buses. BART may survive, it may be privitized, it may be replaced with a underground electric high capacity bus going thru the tunnels, which would be cheaper. There’s lots SF can do to alleviate congestion.
    – Improve traffic signal coordination to move more vehicles per hour.
    – Deregulate the transit industry and allow people to use their cars to move people outside the scope of taxis
    – Convert Co’s HOV lanes into HOV/HOT lanes
    – offer tax incentives for residents who own high capacity vehicles who use them to shuttle people.
    – Let private engineering firms build their own tunnels and toll lanes and charge people the right to use them.

    – Encourage urban cycling, 1,000 cyclers means 1,000 fewer cars

  • Roberto Agiular

    Hi Roger, You are correct, Metro North has 5 lines. However, the “New Haven” line, (which you quoted in your article), the “Harlem” line, and the “Hudson” line are the 3 major lines. The other 2 are basically feeders. 🙂

  • Interesting idea about the desalinization plants.

    There’s no shortages of challenges with desalinization, but the most difficult might be your beliefs in paying for infrastructure projects through user fees.

    I don’t see how you’re going to get enough from user fees before you’ve started construction?

  • “Local infrastructure should be funded locally not federally.”

    That’s interesting since a lot of people complain we pay more in taxes for roads than any other state. It’s something gas tax opponents have been pushing.

    Something like 20% of foreign goods arrive in the US through California before traveling the nation.

    This is a case where I think some of the funding should be Federal since we’re baring a lot of the cost getting their deliveries off the boats and onto the roads.

    I don’t see why you want us to bare the costs other states benefit from?

  • LazyReader

    Then it’s a federal/state matter. Federal gas tax is 18.6 cents and states vary.
    If Cali were permitted to opt out, they could eliminate the federal tax and raise it on the state level, keep the money and appropriate funds for highways.

  • LazyReader

    I don’t see how BART is going to survive the forseeable future. BART’s staff has given the board a laundry list of things it can do to
    make up the shortfall: raise fares, crack down on fare evaders, increase
    advertising revenue, increase parking fees, charge companies that send
    vehicles to pick up employees at BART stations, and automate trains to
    eliminate drivers. Even if they do all of these things, however, they
    “will not be able to address the deficits”. BART employees received paid overtime after working just 37-1/2 hours a week. If that’s not fiscal fraud I don’t know what is.
    BART estimated that a $10 billion maintenance backlog was responsible for increased service disruptions. In November, voters agreed to raise property taxes
    to fund $3.5 billion in rehabilitation work–leaving $6.5 billion still
    unfunded. Instead of fixing the system, the region is spending $2.5 billion extending BART to San Jose,
    the first step of a project whose total cost will be more than $6
    billion–money that should have gone to rehabilitate the existing lines.
    If San Jose is lucky, the line will be complete just in time for the
    first self-driving cars to steal its customers away.

  • I’m not sure California is permitted to opt out of Federal taxes anyway.

    I can see that being favorable to a lot of states where they receive goods, but largely don’t have to pay for thruway road and highway maintenance for shipping traffic just passing through.

    I’m OK with us paying somewhat more for road maintenance than the rest of the country because the coasts benefit from the shipping traffic and all the fees and costs which go with moving cargo.

    I do believe, however, that as part of the Union we do have obligations and should pay into shared funding that’s distributed around the country. And it’s easier to make a case that given how many goods moving through California we deserve a bigger chunk of that Federal funding pool if we’re contributing too it.

    Even when it doesn’t work out in our favor, I believe there is some merit in simply binding us to the rest of the United States.

  • If California could opt out of the Federal fuel taxes, and given a repeal of the gas tax is on the ballot, I find it hard to believe Californians would vote to raise taxes another 18¢ per gallon or so to make up for the lost of Federal gas tax funding, and we’d find ourselves in an even deeper hole.

  • I see both of your points.

    Caltrain is limited in scope and reach, but as the only public transit option across all three counties, it doesn’t face competition in the same way as other transit systems.

    Caltrain is actually a joint venture between the three Penisula counties, with SamTrans doing a lot of the hefty lifting and all three trying to make Caltrain as much a part of their systems as possible.

    In SF, Muni Metro was extended to the Caltrain terminal to improve the connection, with the Central Subway (a direct subway link to Union Square and Chinatown) coming as well, the two systems only get more complimentary.

    “Competition” is a pretty good summary of decades of local agencies creating competing and redundant service which I see on a steep decline.

    A good example of how that being worked on is Santa Clara, where VTA opted out of BART District representation in favor of building the San Jose/Santa Clara BART extension themselves. That allows them to design the stations and work to maximize the bus and LRT connections which run less frequently than BART. When Caltrain + HSR start running a 6 minute combined peak frequency, the same becomes to true there.

    There’s a certain point in frequency where I think coordinating schedules no longer matters.

    So long as buses/light-rail run more often than Caltrain I don’t have to wait more than a few minutes at peak when I’m most eager to get to work. Or 10-20 minutes I’d expect late at night even if I didn’t think frequent enough.

  • Maybe this is a failing on my part, but I just imagine BART being turned off.

    BART already has the first- and third-highest farebox recovery rate in the US. The airport connector pretty much pays for itself, riders pay 70% of what it takes to keep BART running, with Amtrak in between and just ahead of Caltrain.

    If you want transit to pay for itself, BART and Caltrain are the successful case studies to look at.

    Without adequate outside funding to modernizetheir systems (like the once in a lifetime cost of electrification), relying primarily on rider fees to keep them running, I think BART and Caltrain are good examples of how much uptime you can keep with 30-50-year-old trains.

  • LazyReader

    Fare’s only cover operating costs. Which is only going to continue to increase as the system continues to age. Fare’s will cover none of BART’s capital costs or it’s maintenance backlog when they have to overhaul the line. Rail infrastructure has a life expectancy of about 30 years, if it’s not replaced in that time or painstakingly refurbished, delays, failures and even potentially fatal accidents begin to occur on a frequent basis. Instead of overhauling the line, BART is spending billions to expand service out to neighboring suburbs. BART in 2017 accounted for nearly 10 billion dollars in maintenance backlog and growing plus the costs incurred with this construction. Never mind the fact San Francisco is 10 billion in debt. Using the official numbers, San Francisco is $10 billion in the hole
    ($4.2 billion of health care liabilities, plus $5.8 billion of pension
    liabilities). But even those very large numbers are too small: Using
    more realistic numbers, the hole is a lot deeper.

  • Austin Busch

    “BART employees received paid overtime after working just 37-1/2 hours a week.”

    They work a 40-hour week with 30min lunch breaks? It sounds like a sizeable portion of America is committing fiscal fraud, if that’s the case.

  • City Resident

    Some of what you propose sounds encouraging, innovative and welcome. With respect, from my vantage point it is important to maintain and continue to improve the existing public transit service. In the interest of equity, it’s hard to compete with a public transit provider like San Francisco’s Muni – which has been around for over 105 years and provides a wide array of services (and private services are all of a much smaller scale than Muni and therefore less able to make a meaningful difference in local congestion). I believe we should be wary about promoting the use of automobiles, including for ridesharing, partly because this is apt to worsen congestion and make streets less safe for pedestrians and cyclists.

  • LazyReader

    Not if the cars are higher capacity transit vehicles like buses, vans. Virtually all the transit ridership loses nationwide are attributed to ride hailing services based on polls. When urban high capacity ride hailing services begin to proliferate, transit in many cities will disappear into the sunset like a western movie. A few cities will still need it, New York, Chicago, San Fran, assuming they get their financial houses in order and begin repairing their systems not building expensive new ones.
    Driverless cars will come to cities in about a decade or so. Silicon Valley and auto industry are working on them. When that tech is applied to high capacity transit vehicles. Second there is competition. New York also has some twenty private bus companies offering commuter and other scheduled services, mostly without subsidies. In many cases, these private companies are offering services that public
    agencies didn’t even think to provide. San Francisco has Chariot. But some public transit agencies have elected to contract out routes to private operators. Although the private companies are often unionized and always pay taxes that the public agencies are exempt from paying, the savings from such contracts can be substantial. No one can predict the future, but technological trends are much easier to anticipate. It doesn’t matter if driverless cars take to the road in 2020,2030, 2040, etc. Transit ridership numbers should offer little encouragement to any transit agency…Seattle and a few other cities saw an increase but only at massive multi-billion dollar costs and attracted few riders. We can expect ridership to continue to decline nationally and locally for the foreseeable future.

  • “Fare’s only cover operating costs. Which is only going to continue to increase as the system continues to age.”

    BART is spending billions to overhaul the core system and decided several years ago they were going to eschew further outward expansion and focus on the system they have, outside the projects in flight.

    “Instead of overhauling the line, BART is spending billions to expand service out to neighboring suburbs.”

    The Antioch extension was built using DMU’s at about half the price ($0.1 B vs $1.0 B) of a “full-BART” extension, the Livermore extension was canceled and the Santa Clara/San Jose BART extension has been in the works for quite some time and is being built by the VTA with obligations to ongoing maintenance.

    “Rail infrastructure has a life expectancy of about 30 years, if it’s not replaced in that time or painstakingly refurbished, delays, failures and even potentially fatal accidents begin to occur on a frequent basis.”

    Very true, and using voter-approved RM-3 funds, BART is overhauling the core system, which is overdue as you point out. Along the way, BART is making improvements which will bring operating and maintenance costs down. One of the most obvious is replacing wood tracks ties with more-stable and longer-lasting concrete ties.

    One of the biggest and most important changes is behind the scenes, switching to moving block signaling and a new control computer. I think that’s supposed to be complete around 2022.

    “BART in 2017 accounted for nearly 10 billion dollars in maintenance backlog and growing plus the costs incurred with this construction”

    Well, of course, there are costs associated with rebuilding the core system. That maintenance backlog isn’t going to fix itself. Again though, BART’s modernization work on the core system is being done with an eye to lower long-term costs.

  • “Central Subway”…LMAO.

  • What’s funny?

  • Claude

    “In particular they prefer “Ribbons over Brooms”…”
    This seems to be a universal problem. Highways and bridges are falling into disrepair, but money keeps going to building new roads where the politicians can get their picture taken at ribbon cutting ceremonies.
    As is, dedicated revenues from all sources only cover about half the total cost of highway construction and operation, so more construction means a deeper hole to sink money into and more people able to travel farther to add congestion to the urban gridlock. That won’t change until we change the zoning to allow more people to live closer to their destinations.
    As for he desalinization plants; that’s a lovely statistic but not related to the actual problem, which is transportation.
    The population of California is still growing and we need to transportation infrastructure to carry them. We either spend $100 billion on HSR or $200 billion on more money losing freeways and airport expansions. San Diego has been building a new and bigger airport for decades, and so far they haven’t even been able to find a location. Good luck building several new airports in the next twenty years.


Longer Trains May Be No Match for Growing Caltrain Crowds

Caltrain’s rush hour trains have never been more crowded, which isn’t just uncomfortable for riders — it also discourages potential commuters who instead drive along Peninsula highways, and makes rides more difficult for elderly passengers and riders with disabilities. Commuters could see some relief in 2015, when Caltrain plans to extend the length of some of […]

Caltrain and High-Speed Rail Pursue Level Boarding, Compatible Platforms

Correction 10/8: Caltrain and the CAHSRA haven’t agreed to create a joint specification for train cars, but will explore options for platform compatibility. Officials representing Caltrain and the California High-Speed Rail Authority recently announced that they’ll work closely together over the next several months to explore what options are available from train car manufacturers to allow for level […]

Caltrain Service Cuts Could Be Mitigated With New MTC Plan

Communities from San Francisco to San Jose may be saved from much of the expected crippling Caltrain service cuts. A new Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) plan being developed could make up much of the agency’s budget deficit for the next two years, said MTC Public Information Officer John Goodwin. A large chunk of the coming […]