Beginning in 2005 a number of better ways of addressing the transportation problems of northeast San Francisco have been proposed, some of which are described below. The SFMTA, the sponsor of the Central Subway Project, has steadfastly dismissed these alternatives without serious consideration.
Alternative I – Surface Solutions: Many people think that the bus service on Stockton Street could be improved sufficiently to make the construction of a subway unnecesary. With the San Francisco County Transportation Authority now studying the feasibility of charging motorists to drive on congested streets (as is done in London, Stockholm, Munich, Singapore and elsewhere), surface solutions are worthy of serioius consideration. Unfortunately, the SFMTA rejected any and all consideration of surface solutions without adequate consideration by the SFMTA on grounds that they were without merit.
Alternative II – Surface Median along Fourth Street : Former SFPUC General Manager Richard Sklar suggested that costs could be cut substantially by continuing the light rail line along the surface of Fourth Street to a portal located just south of Mission Street. The SFMTA rejected this proposal without adequate consideration on grounds that the entire width of southbound Fourth Street was needed to accommodate southbound auto-commuters. Given San Francisco’s Transit First Policy, the pending extension of Caltrain into the heart of downtown San Francisco and the excessive number of daily automobiles that continue to flood into San Francisco from the South, City Hall’s insistance on dedicating all of Fourth Street to suburban automobile traffic no longer makes any sense.
Alternative III – Shallow Subway (see sketch plan below): A shallow subway would have several significant advantages over the proposed deep subway. First, it would allow for a stop at Market and the Powell Street Station. Second, it would allow for a better placement of the UnionSquare Station so as to facilitate better connections to the east-west buses operating on Geary, Post and Sutter Streets. Third, by reducing the cost of the project it would free up funds to construct a second Chinatown Station in the vicinity of Pacific/Broadway. And Fourth, it would permit the Washington Street Station to be shifted southward to Clay, for a better connection with the east-west buses operating on Clay and Sacramento streets. The SFMTA rejected this proposal without adequate consideration on grounds that there is insufficient clearance height above the Market Street subway to allow for the Central Subway (not true), and because of concerns over temporary construction disruption.
Alternative IV – Subway Extended for Buses (see sketch plan below):
Two important electric bus lines; namely the Muni 30 and 45 lines, currently operate along Stockton Street. These bus lines serve not only Chinatown but also North Beach, Telegraph Hill, Russian Hill, Fisherman’s Wharf, Polk Gulch, Cow Hollow, the Marina District and the Presidio. Since the Central Subway would extend only to Washington Street, it would offer no benefits to the northerly two-thirds of Chinatown or to the rest of northeastern San Francisco. Allowing electric buses as well as trains to use the subway would benefit all riders and would-be riders of Muni Lines 30 and 45.
The SFMTA rejected this proposal without adequate consideration on grounds that “with trains running every 2 minutes there wouldn’t be enough room for buses” and because buses couldn’t be safely mixed in a subway with trains. (According to the Central Subway EIR/EIS the trains would run every 5 minutes, not every 2 minutes, thereby allowing enough time for buses as well as trains. Given recent technological advances it is now possible to safely operate both buses and trains in subways, an operation that is being demonstrated every day in the rail/bus tunnel in downtown Seattle)