The Bay Bridge is at capacity and BART is running out of transbay carrying capacity. We often hear that another passenger rail tube will solve the transbay problem. Unfortunately it will take an estimated half century to put a new transby tube and subway system on line.
So what happens in the meantime? For the next 40 or 50 years or more, there will have to be alternative means of getting back and forth between Oakland and San Francisco. Without it, regional growth and the continuing densification and infill of both San Francisco and the East Bay will combine to make the already oppressive traffic backups on both sides of the Bay even worse. What are the options: Boats? (nice but a very slow way to travel). Car pools and vanpools? (sure but they’re not enough). Pending the advent of a second subaqueaous rail tube and subway system, what’s needed most is a fast and really good transbay bus service.
AC Transit’s current transbay operation attracts just 14,000 riders-a-day, a minuscule 6% of BART’s 240,000 riders a day. Since BART is already operating at its maximum carrying capacity during peak travel hours, this is unconscionable. For this reason and because BART is expected to reach its transbay carrying capacity limit in about 10 years, the transbay buses will need to begin picking up an important share of the steadily growing transbay travel soon. And this means attracting a lot more riders than they do today. Here is some of what it would require to bring the Oakland-San Francisco transbay bus system up to par:
o Four to eight fast and reliable transbay trunk lines running on 5 – 15 minute headways all day, established where the demand for supplemental transbay service is greatest
o Direct routing that emphasizes limited and express service. No detours, no unnecessary turns
o Interiors that are comfortable and outfitted for long distance travel. Exteriors that are distinctive and attractive
o Through-routing of some lines to interior San Francisco destinations such as the Financial District and Civic Center
o Transit-only lanes on both sides of the Bay where and as needed. Good maps and good marketing.
Unless something is done soon, the oncoming BART crunch will do great damage to the economy of the Central Bay area and to the environment.