Coping with BART’s Oncoming Transbay Capacity Crunch


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 this problem.  The inconvenient truth is that given the Bay Area’s current slow pace of passenger rail development it will take an estimated half century to put a new transbay 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 construction of  high density infill housing in San Francisco and the East Bay will combine to make the already oppressive traffic backups on both sides of the Bridge even worse.  What are the options:  Boats? (nice but a very slow way to travel).  Car pools and van pools? (sure but they’re not enough).  Pending the advent of a second subaqueous rail tube and subway system, what’s needed most is a fast and really good transbay bus service.

AC Transit’s current operation attracts just 14,000 transbay riders a day, a dismally low 6% of BART’s 240,000 transbay riders a day.  Since BART trains are already jammed during peak travel hours, this is unconscionable.  While forthcoming BART upgrades will temporarily ease the crowding on BART trains, it is projected that the rail system will reach its ultimate transbay carrying capacity within the next 8 to 10 years.  To cope with this looming problem the transbay bus lines will have to attract many more riders, which in turn will require that the service get faster and more convenient that it is today. Here is some of what it would take 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 long, 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  Instead of terminating all transbay lines at the First and Mission Transbay Transit Center, some lines should extend to other important San Francisco destinations such as the Financial District, Civic Center, North Beach and the Mission District.

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.

BART Running out of Transbay Carrying Capacity


It’s been well known for at least 25 years that BART’s transbay section was a choke point, destined to run out of people carrying-capacity sooner rather than later.  In fact conditions in the existing tube are already jammed during many hours of the day.  It is currently estimated that because of the improving economy, regional population growth and assorted BART extensions, the vital transbay section will reach its carrying-capacity limit by 2025.  That’s less than 10 years away.  And yet, under the best of circumstances it would take at least 40 years to put a new subaqueous passenger rail system on line.  So what does the Region do during the intervening decades?   No one knows.

And then there’s the matter of cost.  It would reportedly cost between $20 and $25 billion to build a second rail tube under the Bay, complete with connecting subways both east and west.

Keeping the economies of the Central Bay Area viable will require that this matter be addressed with courage, wisdom and determination before any more time is lost.  Transportation officials at last seem to be taking the problem seriously.  Let them know what you think.

Transbay Capacity Crunch


BART’s ridership is projected to rise from its current level of over 400,000 riders a day to 700,000 riders a day or more by 2040. This increase is reportedly far beyond BART’s transbay carrying capacity.

To delay the inevitable, BART plans to remove a substantial number of seats in order to make room for more standees and bicycles.   Despite these measures, which are certain to render the service less satisfactory for many riders, recent estimates are that BART will run out of transbay-carrying capacity by about 2025, at which time the lack of adequate passenger rail service between Oakland and San Francisco will begin to constrain the economies of the Central Bay area.  So far Alameda County, San Francisco County and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission have chosen to put off dealing with this oncoming crunch.

Read more here.

BART’s Oncoming Transbay Capacity Crunch

BART’s  ridership is projected to rise from its current level of over 400,000 riders a day to 700,000 riders a day or more by 2040.  This increase will severely overtax BART’s transbay section, which already often operates at peak carrying capacity.  As a result BART is in already the process of removng seats and otherwise preparing for substantially more crowding on its trains.  But despite these measures, BART will reportedly run out of transbay carring-capacity around 2030, at which point the lack of an adequate transbay connection between Oakland and San Francisco will begin to constrain the economy of the Central Bay Area.

Bay Area transportation officials do not appear to be concerned over this impending transbay crunch.  “Don’t concern yourselves”, they say: “things will work out”.  Some say another rail tube will solve the problem.  (Sure…in 4 or 5 decades, assuming the availability of the $25 – $35 billion needed to build another subaqueous rail tube complete with connecting subways).  Others say that AC Transit will fill the need.  (For this to happen AC Transit’s transbay ridership would have to increase by at least 700%,  from the current 14,000 transbay riders a day to 100,000 or more riders a day).