What people are saying about the Central Subway

“If they build the Subway, it will ensure major major new development at the stops in Chinatown and North Beach, and in terms of scale, these neighborhoods will never be the same again.”
Allan B. Jacobs,  former San Francisco Planning Director and former Dean of UC Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design
“I’ve seen a lot of large capital projects and a lot of transit projects planned,” he said. “And I’d say this is one of the worst-planned I’ve seen.”
Tom Radulovich, BART Board Member (From SF Examiner)
“How many other subway runs have only three stops? It’s a very short run. It’s pretty silly.”
Howard Strassner, Sierra Club Transportation Expert

(more…)

SF’s Central Subway – An Opportunity Gone Wrong

….This SFMTA selling campaign persisted actively for over 5 years until after construction was well under way in the Fall of 2013. SFMTA spokespeople were particularly brazen and irresponsible in their characterizations of capital and operating costs (grossly understated), ridership projections (more than double what the EIR/EIS stated), trip times (bore no relation to the facts) and “minimal construction impact “(patently false).

San Francisco is a special city. What makes it special is hard to boil down to a few words but it has to do with the hills, the clear air, the Bridges, the surrounding Bay, the parks, the street patterns, the alleys, the intimate, pedestrian-oriented nature of its architecture, the variety and vibrancy of its 60,000 small businesses and its general vitality. This also makes it vulnerable. You can’t just stick something big in the middle of San Francisco and hope things will come out right.

For this reason San Franciscans have often been called upon to stop the short-sighted and foolish schemes of self-serving individuals and its City government. Fortunately, putting the brakes on City Hall has become a time-honored San Francisco practice, responsible for the timely and welcome demise of many destructive public and private ventures. For San Francisco’s past successes in this regard READ HERE.

In the case of the Central Subway, San Francisco’s government went off the deep end.

At first the idea of extending the Muni’s Third Street light rail line northward into Chinatown sounded right. After all, why not? Transportation along traffic-clogged Stockton Street had always been difficult and so why not extend the Third Street light rail line northward along Fourth Street and then under Market and Stockton Street to Chinatown?

Had the subway been planned and laid out correctly it could have worked. But the project soon went off the rails. First came the decision to settle on a single alternative in violation of the bona fide alternative analysis required by CEQA. Soon afterwards it was decided to route the extension under rather than over the Market Street subways. This required a very deep tunnel under Market Street, thereby making it impossible to place a station at Market Street as required to provide an efficient transfer between the Central Subway and the Market Street subway lines. For this reason a hapless rider from Chinatown bound for say, UC Med. will board a Central Subway train at the Washington Street terminal station, then ride a light rail vehicle a half mile, and then be obliged to travel on foot the distance of four football fields placed end to end in order to connect to the N-Line (or any other BART or Muni Metro train).
In part because of the unnecessarily deep subway costs have soared, from the $647 million listed in the November, 2003 Voter’s Handbook, to $700 million in 2004, to the current published cost of $1,580 million and eventually….to who’s know’s what. To hold down costs the effectiveness of Chinatown transportation transit service was further undermined by:

Eliminating one of the two stations needed in Chinatown,
Constricting future subway capacity by foreshortening the length of the Moscone, Union Square and Chiniatown Stations.
Removing 35,000 bus hours a year from the Muni’s No. 30 and 45 bus lines,
Deleting the moving pedestrian ramps that would have facilitated connections the Union Square and Powell Stations,
Failing to improve the grossly inadequate bus service on the surface of Stockton Street,
Arbitrarily truncating the subway at Washington Street.

Thanks to these mistakes and omissions the Central Subway will miss connections with 25 of the 30 east-west transit lines it crosses including all the trains and buses on and under Market, and all the east-west buses on Mission, Post, Sutter, Sacramento, Clay and Pacific.

San Francisco Architect Zach Redington Stewart eloquently sums up the problem as follows: “San Francisco Mayor Sunny Jim Rolph and his engineer MM O’Shaughnessey created one of the greatest municipal transportation systems in the world. Today Muni carries 700,000 riders a day in this small city and serves the giant collection of small businesses that form the backbone of the San Francisco’s economy. But now Muni is being threatened with strangulation by a gaggle of opportunists pushing a tiny, badly-engineered subway that will serve virtually no one and wreck Chinatown’s Stockton Street, including one of the GREAT farmers markets on the West Coast”

For more on the background of the Central Subway project check the box on the upper left side of this page.

Better Alternatives to the Central Subway

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.

(more…)