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New ‘Subway Vision’ maps show tunnels of the future

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San Francisco is exploring new ways to transport people underground throughout The City.
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Subways, everywhere.

Under the Marina, under 19th Avenue, and even under the southeast leading to the Bayview — that’s the future of San Francisco, as sketched by preliminary maps dubbed San Francisco’s “Subway Vision.”

They’re not done, but on Monday the first sketches of the plans were shown to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors’ Land Use and Transportation Committee for a sneak peek.

“In the 1970s, we opened BART and the Market Street Subway,” Supervisor Scott Wiener told the committee. “Rather than follow those two visionary achievements with continued subway construction, however, we simply patted ourselves on the back and stopped.”

He added, “We need to move forward” and build more subways.

San Francisco’s Central Subway is slated to open in 2019, connecting Chinatown with downtown underground, and a proposal to move parts of the M-Oceanview underground is also being studied.

But most of The City’s subways are east to west, from downtown to Ocean Beach, and planners said public feedback showed a clear need for more north-south connections.

The Subway Vision maps were prompted by Wiener’s Subway Master Plan legislation, which was passed last fall and mandates The City with “always” planning subway expansion.

To that end, the plan sketches out potential new areas for subways based on three sources: prior plans, input from the public and analysis by agencies like the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, the Planning Department, and the San Francisco County Transportation Authority.

The Four Corridors Plan, a look at potential subways developed in the 1990s, is a key consideration, for instance.

The final maps will be complete by the end of the year, according to SFMTA planning director Sarah Jones.

But the two preliminary maps presented were from ideas generated by more than 2,600 people, contributed online and also from “pop-up” booths across The City that also offered translation services — a quarter of respondents made their voices heard in a language other than English.

Planners wanted to hear “what was needed now,” Jones said.

Online, most people demanded a subway along Geary Boulevard, the maps show, as well as along 19th Avenue and connecting the Marina District to the center of San Francisco.

Michael Schwartz, senior planner with the SFCTA, said one of the key differences between the maps is the latter tries to cover as much geographic area as possible. In the first map, for instance, a subway runs along 19th Avenue, in the second, a potential subway cuts diagonally across 19th Avenue to access more neighborhoods.

Interestingly, planners said, the Subway Vision doesn’t incorporate one particular choice of where a potential second future BART transbay tube to the East Bay would land.

Though the subways are still just the stuff of planners’ dreams, they could one day make it so that 90 percent of jobs are within walking distance of a subway, Schwartz said. Right now, that’s true of only a quarter of all jobs, he said.

Peter Straus of the San Francisco Transit Riders group said Monday he was hopeful San Francisco would expand its transit options for all.

“It seems as if San Francisco has been very skittish about high capital costs,” he said. “We need to identify a strategy on how we proceed” in seeking funding.

But those details are still far off, planners told the San Francisco Examiner.

Jones stressed the Subway Vision plan is just a broad sketch, meant to guide future policy decisions about where subways should go. The final report at the end of the year will compare time savings, cost benefits and more.

“This is so we can say, ‘Is it worth it go through this process and effort?’” Jones said.

Jeff Hobson, with the transportation authority, said the Subway Vision report would become a component of a larger plan called “ConnectSF,” which weighs infrastructure visions for the next 50 years.

“It’s hard to say exactly at what moment what might be coming next,” Jones said.

But at least by year’s end, San Francisco might have a foundation for that next step.

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