BART under the San Francisco Bay is crowded and a major choke point for regional transportation. Monday night I guest hosted a discussion on City Visions on KALW radio on the prospects of building a second rail tube. The audio is now available here.
Some big picture points that emerged:
- The exact route is undefined and would hinge on further study;
- Further study would also be required to determine what kind of rail technology (BART, high speed rail, Caltrain, or a mix?) would be accommodated in the tube; and
- A potential bond issue this fall to expand and invest in BART would also have some funding to do this study.
From my perspective, additional rail capacity under the Bay is needed. But the region shouldn’t fall into the trap of putting all the transportation eggs in that basket. Even if the project moves forward, it will (sadly) take decades to plan and build.
We should be putting our energy now into figuring out how to make better use of existing capacity and determining if there are more cost-effective ways to move more people across the bay. As Rebecca Saltzman discussed on the show, one relatively simple way would be to convert a lane on the Bay Bridge to bus-only.
And the potential bike path from Treasure Island to San Francisco could also be a relatively good bargain for moving people, if it can then connect to the existing bike path on the eastern span. Matier and Ross of the San Francisco Chronicle reported on design options for it just this morning.
Meanwhile, if the second transbay tube does move forward, I hope there is serious consideration of policy reforms that could speed up the construction and lower the price tag. Because even with other intermediate fixes, the regional transportation problem will only get worse as the population grows.