BART vision: More big-city, less casual commute

It may not ever turn into London’s Underground or New York’s subway system, but BART is going to move away from its casual sit-and-ride style into a faster-paced system meant to deal with growing rider volume in the next two decades.

According to the Short Range Transit Plan and Capital Improvement Program report released Tuesday, the transit agency is going to move toward a more metropolitan service — like those in Chicago and European cities — with shorter waits between trains and fewer seats in each car, to move people on and off more quickly.

“We have to grow, but we can’t expand the stations anymore, so the way to accomplish that is to run trains closer together and get passengers on and off faster,” BART spokesman Linton Johnson said.

BART is anticipating an annual 1.6 percent increase in riders, turning fiscal year 2007’s 101.7 million riders into more than 120 million by 2017.

Weekday trips alone will increase from 339,359 to a projected 402,706.

Although the agency is still looking at budget deficits for the next five years, 2008 will see an increase in funding to add trains on nights and weekends. That is expected to lower the maximum wait time 5 minutes for trains between 7 p.m. and midnight Monday through Saturday and all day on Sunday.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2008, trains running out of Richmond will begin an hour earlier, at 4 a.m. every morning.

Johnson said an earlier train into San Francisco International Airport is also planned, although a final schedule has not been drawn up.

The expansions will also allow BART to fulfill its part in the Bay Area Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s Regional Rail Plan, which has BART and Caltrain as the “regional rail backbone of the central Bay Area metro system,” according to MTC Planning Director Doug Kinsey.

“The ultimate goal is to provide a seamless transit system throughout the region,” Kinsey said. “It doesn’t have to be one system, it just has to be well-coordinated.”

A major factor in that system will be BART’s planned expansions into the South Bay.

According to the report, an extension from Fremont into the Warm Springs area near Milpitas will be followed by the much-anticipated San Jose expansion, terminating at the Santa Clara Caltrain station near Santa Clara University.

jgoldman@examiner.com

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