The Bay Area’s population is expected to increase by more than 2 million people over the next 40 years, and the overwhelming majority of those residents are projected to live near transit centers such as BART stations.
To address the region’s shifting growth patterns, BART has developed a long-term service strategy as part of its Metro program.
Possibilities include express service with limited stops between The City and commuter communities such as Walnut Creek, or more focused train service to business districts. Other programs would invest in BART’s core system at downtown locations in San Francisco and Oakland.
Those enhancements could include longer boarding platforms, better station amenities and more “show up and go” services, where trains arrive and depart quickly.
“The idea is to have service that is faster than the 10- to 12-minute headways we have now,” said Val Menotti, a manager in BART’s planning department. “That way, people won’t have to rely on schedules.”
The core system also could be served by more crossover stations — stops where trains are turned around and sent back to pick up more passengers — and turnarounds in the Mission district. Possible crossover sites include the Civic Center and 24th Street stations in San Francisco.
“We’re looking at anything that could give us more flexibility with our service,” said Carter Mau, the agency’s chief financial officer.
Mau said BART will investigate the possibility of adding a third set of tracks or more pocket tracks — loops that allow trains to park off the main line.
Paying for these improvements will not be easy, however. BART currently faces a $7 billion shortfall for long-term projects. But the price of doing nothing would be much worse for the region.
According to a UC Berkeley study, a failure to invest in the BART system could cost the region $22 billion to $33 billion in time lost in transit delays and traffic congestion.
The Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the region’s lead long-term planning agency, supports BART’s strategy, and having that backing will help with funding pursuits. The Federal Transit Administration’s New Starts source—the mechanism that is poised to fund Muni’s Central Subway project—has $660 million available that could be used for the Metro program.
BART will discuss its plans at the board of directors meeting Thursday. The program is scheduled to be finalized by 2013.
Improving service: Proposals being considered for BART’s Metro program:
- More “show up and go” service in core areas
- Faster service between S.F. employment centers and suburban commuter markets
- Improving peak service to major destinations
- Crossover service and pocket tracks at Civic Center station
- Crossover service at 24th Street station
- Train control upgrades
- Expand station capacity to accommodate growth