Earlier this month, a driver operating a BART train heading out of The City spotted smoke in the tunnel between the Montgomery and Embarcadero stations. Although it turned out to be a false alarm, BART was still forced to shut down the heavily used Transbay Tube for almost an hour, leaving commuters stranded.
In a perfect transit world, other BART trains could have passed the halted train on other tracks, or maybe in another tunnel, while emergency responders inspected the scene.
It might sound far-fetched, but more BART tracks and a second transbay tunnel are, in fact, possibilities on the table. To mark its 50th anniversary this month, BART has unveiled ideas to improve safety and access, create faster service and provide coverage to underserved areas during the next 50 years.
While the ideas are years, and in some cases decades, away from implementation, officials say they are crucial in the planning of BART’s future. The larger ideas include building a second Transbay Tube to carry passengers between the East Bay and San Francisco, additional underground tunnels between downtown to the Presidio, and new tracks in Oakland for express trains similar to the Baby Bullets operated by Caltrain.
“Eventually, we’re going to have another tube,” said Bob Franklin, a member of the BART board of directors. “Right now, if there’s a problem at Embarcadero, the whole system shuts down. This will cost billions, but in the long term, in the Regional Rail study, [a new tube] is within the context of it.”
The design ideas for BART are part of a larger Regional Rail Plan by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, which oversees the nine-county Bay Area. Driven by some staggering population- growth data, the long-term study looks at improvements and extensions of railroad, rapid transit and high-speed rail services over the next few decades.
The Bay Area is expected to grow by 10 million people by 2050, with about two million people arriving by 2035, according to the MTC. San Francisco, San Jose and Oakland will absorb most of the people, growing by about 40 percent in the next 30 years. By 2030, BART expects about 200,000 more trips between San Francisco and Oakland via the Transbay Tube; 156,000 more trips between San Mateo and Santa Clara counties; and 150,000 more trips between Alameda and Santa Clara counties.
Besides a second Transbay Tube and new tunnels serving the western edge of San Francisco, other ideas include building glass barriers between boarding platforms and the tracks, using vehicles with more doors for better loading access and operating a “show up and go” service with trains running every five minutes instead of every 20 minutes.
BART’s vision by the numbers
50: Number of years since the Bay Area Rapid Transit District was created
35: Number of years since BART has been providing service
2.1 billion: Total estimated number of trips since BART opened
97 million: Total number of trips in 2006
340,000: Average number of weekday trips
1.8 million: Number of new jobs created in BayArea by 2035
10 million: Number of additional people in Bay Area by 2050
48 percent: Increase in Bay Area population from 2000 to 2050
204,000: Number of additional trips between San Francisco and Oakland projected for 2030
669: Total vehicle fleet
43: Number of stations
46,390: Number of parking spaces
– Source: Metropolitan Transportation Commission and BART
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