BART in Alameda?
A second transbay tube could ease Alameda’s nightmarish traffic and boost Oakland’s economy. And transportation officials are now taking the idea seriously for the first time.
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Smith, BART’s strategic planning manager, made a presentation in February to BART’s board of directors about major capital projects, including a potential second bay crossing.
In a follow-up interview, Smith said the implications of another crossing are so far reaching that the first thing BART will do is coordinate a study of jobs, housing, and traffic patterns stretching from Gilroy to the San Joaquin Valley and even Placer County on the eastern side of Sacramento. She described the area as a “megaregion” that is increasingly becoming a single metropolitan entity.
“That has not been done before,” Smith said. “We need to look at the region overall before narrowing down and saying here is where we want to put stations. You have to look at where people need to go and how they are going to travel.”
To give an idea of the complexity of such a task, there are more than two dozen separate transportation agencies in the nine county Bay Area alone. Smith predicted work on the megaregion market study would start this summer and take about a year to complete.
Amin agreed that there must be a broad conversation about how BART fits together with other rail services. Planning at the regional level has been lacking, smaller cities don’t have the resources on their own, and “there’s nobody obviously taking charge” with regard to standard rail lines, though the state has recently been more active in that area, she said.
“We probably need tens and tens of billions of dollars to appreciably change our rail system. It’s money we don’t have right now,” Amin said.
Eventually, BART hopes to establish an inter-governmental framework just for planning, governing, and administering the construction of a transbay crossing, Smith said.
Challenges include how to coordinate with conventional rail services, which uses a different type of track than BART; whether a transbay crossing should accommodate one type of track or two; and where to run new BART and/or conventional rail lines if a tube gets built. “We’ve got a long ways to go to be ready for groundbreaking,” she said.
The Capitol Corridor train service, which BART operates between Sacramento and San Jose, could get a direct link to San Francisco, instead of transferring passengers to BART in Richmond or bus in Emeryville. Caltrain, which runs between San Francisco and San Jose, might also be a user. Same for California High Speed Rail, if it ever arrives, and Amtrak. All of those agencies could help pay for the project.
Nichols agreed the need for coordination is acute. “The Bay Area is not very good at getting mega-project decisions and cooperation,” he said. “How a project like this moves forward, who is in charge, who will keep it moving is still a huge question.”