05 March 2023

The False Choice of Link21

Link21, the nascent megaproject to beef up the Bay Area's passenger rail network, features at its core a new underground transbay passenger rail crossing between Oakland and San Francisco. One of the major dilemmas facing this program is what kind of rail service to put in that new tunnel. The choice is posed between BART (understood as wide-gauge single-level rolling stock) and regional rail (understood as standard gauge FRA-compatible rolling stock). One or the other, but not both.

This is a false choice!

Yes, we can have both. They can share the same tunnels and tracks, if we can just get past the mental block of rigidly associating BART with broad gauge. It may seem mind-blowing, and require crayon colors that nobody has seen before, but BART can have a new standard gauge line. It's nothing unusual for transit systems to operate rolling stock with incompatible track gauges or structure gauges. Besides, BART already is our regional rail, despite any semantic distinctions we Americans reflexively attach to various sub-types of rail, real or imagined.

Where would this new standard gauge BART line go? From Oakland, it would continue south via existing and under-utilized standard gauge rail corridors to serve the (re-gauged) Dublin / Pleasanton branch, which could be further extended to serve the Altamont Pass (hello, Valley Link) and points beyond. Long-distance trains, provided they have a pantograph, could run through from the Central Valley straight into downtown San Francisco.

Link21 planners should stop promoting this specious choice between BART and regional rail. They don't need separate tunnels, and the dogmatic belief that they do will inevitably result in terrible planning decisions.

Small print regarding the graphic: the single tunnel bore (of two) is drawn rigorously to scale. The BART broad gauge version is 250 inches (almost 21 feet) in external diameter, taken from a VTA drawing. The regional rail version is 8 meters (a bit over 26 feet) to accommodate taller bi-level trains. The overhead conductor rail, of the same design used by Caltrain in its San Francisco tunnels, is 18 feet above the rail. The BART standard gauge train is a Stadler KISS with the same dimensions as Caltrain's, but a different color of paint as previously seen in this post.

Note an alternate configuration is also possible with a 40-foot external diameter single bore tunnel.


  1. Sounds like the sunken cost fallacy. The Zürich public transportation network used to be a mix of various systems: metric gauge tramway, metric gauge local train, standard gauge railway, and one standard gauge line with low voltage 1200 V DC with shifted catenary. Users don't care, and the 1200 V line was recently rebuilt to use standard 15 KV power lines.
    The tunnel should be standard gauge, and if standard gauge train need to go on the broad gauge tracks, you can just add a third rail. In Switzerland this is done at the interface between the metric RhB and the standard gauge network.

  2. I would not be surprised if to date nobody running Link 21 ever has thought of running BART and conventional electrified rail through the same set of tunnels -- three steel rails instead of two, overhead power plus BART third rail. The money saved from omitting one of two sets of tunnels can be put to other improvements like re-gauging Dublin Canyon and a modern Altamont Pass crossing. (The existing ACE and revived old trans-con Valley Link are slow.)

    Dublin Canyon indeed is the best route between S.F. and outside the Bay Area to support true regional (the Bay Area through Sacramento) and longer-distance service and has been neglected, to the disappointment of some of us. Use the old Western Pacific route already used by BART with the viaduct to get there, putting some money into Oakland improvements (no street running). Conventional rail is better use than a rail-trail especially when trains could get in and out of downtown San Francisco (and onward along the Peninsula and beyond San Jose). South of Bay Fair new trains could run along the southern East Bay to San Jose, enabling looping the Bay as well as connecting sometime with both ends of a revived crossing at Dumbarton.

    East of Dublin Canyon, ignore those wanting downtown diversions and continue straight across the valley as I-580 and before it, U.S. 50 have done, from the canyon to Livermore, which finally would get the BART service it has been paying for and deserved for ages. Have a stop at eastern Dublin-Pleasanton as now plus an Isabel or preferred, Vasco or Greenville stop in Livermore. Then comes a modern Altamont Pass crossing eventually, not ACE or Valley Link's forever. Modern Altamont, Dublin Canyon, through Oakland, always the Bay Area's transportation hub or center, into and out of San Francisco? That supports running some modern trains from elsewhere, even revising the high-speed rail project to begin with more moderate-speed train service, maybe even forego that Pacheco Pass and long tunnel.

    1. Unless the trains were designed from the ground up with interoperability in mind, it won't happen. There are big issues with using AC and DC on the same line, as well as PTC and CBTC. The vehicles are not crash compliant as BART is designed to CPUC regulations for a completely grade separated rapid transit system while regional rail meets FRA requirements.

    2. They weren't so designed. BART, in particular, is a custom or proprietary and unique system. A tunnel should be able to be built new to support both with proper traffic control, but in practice (reality) the new pair of tunnels (one each way) should be for conventional rail, which can support not only metro trains but regional trains (that includes the extended commuter shed beyond the Bay Area itself) and inter-city or longer-distance trains, too, if desired. I also believe that among those who know transportation, this is favored over BART even though some would like to see an Enhanced and Improved BART. Imagine Sacramento-San Francisco-Caltrain Peninsular runs to San Jose, for example.

    3. I am not at all advocating for a dual gauge solution with interlined broad gauge BART and other trains. Such a thing would never fly from a regulatory let alone technology standpoint, with incompatible signal systems and structural crashworthiness standards. BART can have a new standard gauge line.

    4. FWIW, the 33 mile long Seikan Tunnel between Hokkaido and Honshu is dual gauge and is shared by freight trains and Shinkansen (running at reduced speed).

    5. I see no reason to dual gauge anything for wide BART gauge and standard rail gauge. Beyond the track gauge, can one of you with a better grasp of electricity confirm returning the ground for the real trains' high voltage AC and BART's unique 1000 volt DC could not possibly work? And with that probably impossible, due to physics, let's not even discuss the train control systems that use current in the rails to operate the trains. So dual gauge operation is much more, in this case, than the distance between the rails.

    6. idiot doom spiral10 March, 2023 15:16

      there are no technical limitations to sharing ground from an electrification perspective, and there are many such systems. signaling is non-trivial but routinely done in places other than denver.

    7. @idiot: since I’m having trouble thinking of any, what are some good “routinely done” examples of low voltage DC 3rd rail and high voltage AC OCS-powered trains sharing the same tracks?

    8. For the better part of a century, the tunnels leading to Grand Central Station had an overhead AC rail and a DC third rail. AC for fully electrified passenger trains, DC for the tunnel motors that pulled steam/diesel passenger trains to the station. DC was later used by specialized diesel-electric locomotives that could run on DC in the tunnels and diesel the rest of the way to Boston.

    9. While there were AC-overhaed/DC-3rd Rail locomotives that ran into Grand Central, they did not run some locomotives drawing power from overhead and some drawing from third rail on the same rails. They switched sources between suburban and Grand Central service. If you can find it, there's a photo of an original Grand Central locomotive on p99 of William Middleton's "Grand Central" that shows one of the locos, running on 3rd rail, with tiny pantograph retracted. Clear photo, because it was before all of the platforms were built above, so the images is shot in daylight. There was never any AC overhead into Grand Central. The New Haven line Line switched from DC-3rd to AC-overhead in Westchester County, because 3rd rail was illegal in Connecticut. Sort of like how the Eurostars used to have to have 3rd shoes to operate on the legacy network into Waterloo Station because England didn't get their high speed line to the Eurotunnel open until years after service started. There are dual and triple and quadruple system locomotives, but as fas as I know, no place where a railway is electrified with two completely different systems.

    10. @idiot: … so still no examples (let alone “routinely done” ones) of the same track segments serving as ground return for both AC & DC powered trains simultaneously?

    11. @Anonymous: I was completely wrong, it did not occur to me that, to this day, Metro-North trains are dual system, running on DC in the tunnels and 25KV overhead (or diesel) beyond. And, of course, Amtrak electric trains don't stop at GCS (unlike the Boston-NYC trains of my youth), perhaps for this very reason.
      @Reality Check: I'm not an electrical engineer, so I've always been under the impression that a ground return is by definition at ground (earth) potential, so it shouldn't much matter what it's returning. I did go down an interesting rabbit hole about "earth potential rise" and was surprised by just how tricky it is to get grounding right in high voltage systems. I can see how a common ground between (relatively) low voltage DC and high voltage AC might also introduce some interesting problems.

    12. The East River tunnels from Penn Station to Long Island have both 750V DC third rail for the Long Island Railroad and 25kV AC catenary for Amtrak. As far as I am aware trains of both voltages operate in all tunnels on the same tracks every single day.

    13. Yes they do. I stand corrected. Thanks.

      But I'll also stand by you'll never get existing BART and standard guage rail to run in daily service on shared trackage. It's a lovely navel-gazing topic, but so is that old gem asking if our entire universe could be contained in one molecule in the finger of another creature in another universe.

  3. THANK YOU for saying this. The Bay Area really needs to look at the entire network holistically and really think about higher integrations across transit systems and transit types. We shouldn't really care too much about if it's Caltrain or BART, but instead if the service gets us to where it needs to go, conveniently. It's all about service and accessibility, and for interoperability, the best choice is conventional rail.

    There should be a regional rail service much like Caltrain but also serving the east bay, or hell, even all of Northern CA - I can imagine several loops and types of service that should be convenient to use with regular scheduling, where people can just get on whatever train is next towards their destination. This could also be solved with a regional rail authority that combines most of the commuter rail services (since they use the same tracks and similar services). This would open up Northern California to be truly convenient and appropriate for transit. If a high level of service is too much for the freights, there are plenty of ways around it, e.g. separate ROWs, buy out the ROWs, etc.

    Anyways - some sample service options:
    1. Traditional Caltrain service, SF to SJ (maybe Gilroy)
    2. Capitol Corridor, in a mix of service options, e.g. Sacramento to SF to San Jose, Sacramento to SF via Oakland & Dumbarton then to Sacramento, Sacramento to Oakland to San Jose
    3. ACE/ValleyLink, using a similar service pattern as Capitol Corridor, e.g. Tracy to Oakland to SF, loop back via Dumbarton; Tracy to San Jose to SF to Oakland and back to Tracy. Capitol Corridor could use a modified ROW from here to exit SF/SJ for an express service between the two to Sacramento
    4. Modified Caltrain/Cap/ACE loop service, San Jose to Oakland to SF to San Jose running in a regular loop, then in the other direction so people can hop on/off to circle the bay
    5. HSR (if it happens anytime soon) - some sort of superexpress loop where trains continuously cycle between LA, Sacramento, Oakland, Sacramento, San Jose. I'm less sure about this - I really think HSR could simply have two service patterns, LA to San Jose to SF to Oakland to Sacramento (loop track down the Valley); or LA to San Jose to Oakland to Sacramento, loop back down the valley..
    Point being - lots of cool interoperability service options that could really eliminate the balkanization of bay area heavy rail (yes, even BART, if BART is more of a local service and heavy rail is a regional service...)

    1. To clarify - this comment assumes that we have a Pacheco pass HSR alignment, that Dumbarton is built along with ValleyLink/ACE, and that this Link21 project is done in alignment with all of these things, AND these alignments all have electrified rail.

      Related with that - are the ventilation requirements different for electric rail vs diesel? Would it save costs if we ban diesel through the tunnel to cut back on ventilation requirements?

    2. Yes, ventilation requirements for diesel are much night and much more expensive for diesel vs electric. In addition diesel tunnel service often has a limit on throughput that is lower than track capacity to ensure fumes are fully flushed before the next train goes through (although I do not know if this limit is in place everywhere, or if it could be overcome with even more ventilation). Diesel is more expensive to operate because fuel has a higher cost per gallon than the equivalent kWh of electricity, plus diesel wastes fuel by having the engine running while decelerating and stopped, plus the maintenance on diesel engines is more expensive). Diesel has slower acceleration than electric trains. In every metric (capital costs, maintenance costs, operation costs, performance) diesel is inferior to electric, so if you are building a passenger train tunnel there is no reason to even consider designing it for or using it with diesel versus electrifying the network that serves it.

    3. Correct. Anything worth running passenger trains on should be running hourly, all day, at worst, and anything worth running at better than 30 minute headways should be electrified, with standard 25kv overhead, no question. It's 2030 and the planet is on fire, and bog-standard mainline overhead power and bog-standard PTC signalling are completey understood, standardized, and straightforward to implement

      But that's assuming normal first-world electrification costs and normal first-world electrifed passenger rail operations. Hah hah hah, fooled you!

      (Now maybe there's an argument for hybrid 25kv/battery FLIRT-alikes for some marginal routes, or there might be in a normal first-world country with normal rail implementation costs, but given the nose-bleed "upgrade" prices of "marginal routes" (SMART, Capital Corridor, SJ-Gilroy etc) electrification ought to be bundled or just GTFO forgetaboutit not worth even thinking about.)

      It's long been clear, tragically, that Caltrain should never have been electrified, as the costs are far beyond merely "out of control", the implementation time is absolutely criminally unforgivable, the service impacts of the multi-year multi-billion unmitigated fuckup will never be compensated for by better or cheaper service. And the lunatics remain firmly in charge of the asylum, with not a single adult anywhere in sight.

      They're just going to keep running shitty hour-or-worse headways, skip-stop-fuckery, no-level-boarding, infinitely-slow super-padded but still-unreliable average speeds (see "no-level-boarding"), massively overstaffed (you can spend billions on shiny new sort-of-Swiss-but-fucked-by-Americans trains, but you can't get rid of the multi-conductor deadweight, no matter that actual functional timely fast useful Swiss trains run One Person Operation), and maintenance costs, already far beyond out of control at shade-tree Caltrain, are only going to increase.

      Because of Caltrain "public" agency staff lifer non-achievers, and of course really because of the consultant mafia that 100% control Caltrain, electification is now toxic. Can't be afforded, can't be delivered, fucks you up for years, never delivers anything worth paying for.

      Basically the precedent set by the assholes at Caltrain is completely toxic.

      Nobody's even going to try to electrify in the US, given Caltrain's titanic failures, not to mention the half-billion dollars those criminals inflected via CBOSS now third-world third-rate I-ETMS. The hydrogen scammers and the gadgetbahners and the dual-mode diesel dickheads and the Amtrak barrel-bottom-scrapers are going to get to do their thing, forever, because clearly normal electrification is TOO HARD for USA USA USA. Special local circumstances, fuck yeah.

      Maybe Toronto will fail to utterly fuck up (through the signs are dismaying -- crazy crazy costs, locomotives for God's sake as if it is 1980 still or something, but at least ETCS/ERTMS and level boarding) and maybe Canada is insufficiently foreign that mindless US consultant scum will even consider it in "peer comparisons", but really, Caltrain's limitless active enthusiasm for unbounded disaster has poisoned the well, nationally, for decades.

      So no electrified non-BART trains in tunnels for YOU during your lifetime.

      Death is too kind a fate.

    4. Any new Altamont Pass tunnel should be electrified, of course, and while Diesels could be used, the idea would be eventually to have the region all-electric and a state main line or "trunk" electrified even in distant places if the desire one day really is to cross the mountains in the South and reach So-Cal along the Bight, the developed part that's much larger than Bakersfield or the Kings-Tulare area that shouldn't be a high-speed rail stop. (Even Fresno and Bakersfield are iffy, but they're principal cities.)

      Electrification would be expected to be standard, consistently state-wide.

    5. "1. Traditional Caltrain service, SF to SJ (maybe Gilroy)"

      Traditional Caltrain service should stop at Blossom Hill station, and it should have been electrified to there from the start. Look at a terrain map, look at a satellite image, look at a population density map. The southern end of the Bay Area is where the Santa Cruz Mountains meets the Diablo Range at Coyote Creek, just south of Blossom Hill. Caltrain-style service (S-Bahn in Central Europe; all day, relatively high frequency, local stopping patterns) should exist to this point, but not beyond it. Everything beyond (Morgan Hill, Gilroy, Hollister, Salinas, Monterrey, maybe Soledad?) should be regional rail service (RB or RE in Central Europe; hourly clockface schedule on each branch, branches combining for more service in the core). The clear solution for the Bay Area is to truncate Caltrain at Blossom Hill, and turn service beyond over to Amtrak's Capital Corridor, as a tail to the Sac-Oak-SJ trunk, just as there is a tail to Auburn in the north (there should be multiple tails at each end - Yuba City/Auburn/Folsom in the north, Hollister/Monterrey/Salinas in the south, but that is a discussion for another thread.)

    6. I'm hardly unaware of the Blossom Hill arguments https://caltrain-hsr.blogspot.com/2013/10/census-driven-service-planning.html

      But the fact remains that PCJPB ownership of the ROW ends north of Capitol "station" and nearly three miles north of Blossom Hill. UPRR, the owner of the ROW and dispatcher of trains on its tracks, is an actively and boundlessly manevolent actor. Sure, even Satan has his price, but is it worth paying, especially to run a handful of very one-directional very commute-hour and otherwise very empty trains a day? And that's before you even get started on Caltrain's out-of-control out-of-this-universe "design" and construction costs to build out the stations and put in a few crossovers for turning back.

      In a different world, sure, but not today, Satan.

      If somebody wants to run two or three or ten pointless unreliable delayed slow Amtrak-type trains on UPRRs tracks to somewhere south of San Jose Cahill Street, sure, knock yourself out, there might even be space for one (one!) 8-inch-high FRA/UPRR-compabible "platform" at Cahill Street for you; but in no way should Caltrain service be tied to this additional boat anchor of pointlessness and waste.

      And no, CHSR is not happening, and if it did, that clown show could only make things worse. 100% guarantee on that.

    7. InfrastructureWeak29 March, 2023 18:33

      Thanks for the insight about the ROW ownership, Richard. That helps explain why Caltrain runs such poor service, and is not electrifying, beyond Tamien.

      I assume that CAHSR intends to purchase the ROW from Gilroy to Capitol when/if they come through the corridor? And at that point, local service could be improved.

      I'm curious what you picture preventing HSR from reaching the Bay Area - is SVBART our last expansionary megaproject, with future federal funds going to climate recovery/resiliency megaprojects, or worse, simply unavailable?

    8. @InfrastructureWeak: HSRA has, when asked, said for many years now that they are in talks/negotiations with UP over how and where they can build their own two new electrified tracks to reach Diridon from where they come into the UP ROW from Pacheco Pass at Gilroy. Every time I’ve questioned HSRA staff on specifically how those negotiations are going, they will only say that they’re ongoing.

      Of course, with all the well-publicized delays and cost overruns on the as yet not fully funded work on their Bakersfield - Merced "initial operating segment" (IOS), they’re in no position to do anything more than merely negotiate with UP on what they might do when and if they ever have actually have money to spend on Gilroy-SJ.

      Note that Caltrain only has and is electrifying one of the two tracks between Diridon and their mini yard just south of Tamien. The other (#1) track is owned & controlled by UP.

    9. Fun Fact- Caltrain's ownership of one track ends south of Tamien at Pullman Way, adjacent to the Lick Quarry. Why there? Initially, Caltrans AND Caltrain were going to build a spacious joint maintenance base for all rail services in Northern California. San Jose raised hell over the site as not being suited for an industrial use (and a quarry, with dust and rock crushers is?) and the result was shoehorning a base for Caltrans into Oakland and shoehorning Caltrain (with accompanying speed-limiting curves) into its location (oh, next to a residential neighborhood in San Jose).

      Along with missing the opportunity to have both bases, especially Caltrain's, completed much earlier AND synergy with a single, larger operation, it also would have brought the terminal of the Zephyr and state-supported Capitols AND San Joaquins down to San Jose.

      Quarry is still there. Big win for San José, Capitol of Silicon Valley.

  4. Maybe I'm missing something here, but from my read the distinction they are making between BART and regional rail is from a purely technology standpoint, and not operator-wise. There's been no real indication of who would operate within the second transbay tube if the mainline option is selected. You have to remember they are talking to laypeople here. People know what BART is and looks like, so calling what they've been referring to as "regional rail" as "BART but with a different track gauge, overhead power, and inter-regional lines" isn't obvious to your average person. I don't think they are necessarily promoting the idea that we need separate tubes for separate operations, but that separate tubes are necessary for each technology as technology has been the focus of the public outreach so far.

    1. That is exactly the wrong framing for the question. The layperson knows nothing about rail technology beyond "BART whoosh fast and frequent" and "regional rail ding ding toot toot diesel." This is about service types, not technology, and putting a technology choice so front-and-center in the architecture of the rail network is a grave mistake.

    2. Their outreach has pretty strongly emphasized regional rail as being a modern, electric system that runs with similar frequencies to BART, not the existing diesel system, but that's beside the point. I think you've missed the point of the outreach. They've narrowed it down to two technologies: existing BART or regional rail (whether or not they should have limited themselves to those two modes this early is a separate argument), so then the choice they've given people is: more traditional BART with more core capacity at the expense of transfers for longer-distance riders, or a regional rail system that prioritizes direct access to SF from further afield, but with limited improvement to the existing BART system.

    3. What the heck distinguishes these "technologies" or "modes" when they both come every 15 minutes and take me where I need to go? How is one supposed to pick?!? It's abject nonsense. It's about SERVICE, not technology.

    4. It seems like you're extrapolating some weird false dichotomy from some lines on a map. The only distinction is the implementation of more of the existing system, or modern regional mainline rail and, importantly, how it fits into and modifies the existing system. It seems like you're upset that Link21 staff haven't come out and said either could or would be operated by BART, but for the pure purpose of showing where the tunnel goes, it doesn't matter.

    5. You seem to be the one stuck in a weird false dichotomy, where if I run a Sacramento train in a new tunnel, then I can't also run a BART train in the same new tunnel. You seem to agree with Link21 planners that it must be one or the other, perpetuating a false choice rooted in the confusion of technology with service pattern.

    6. Please don't put words in my mouth. I said literally nothing of the sort. I've advocated elsewhere that BART should operate in the tunnel in either case, I'm just trying to help you understand the framing of your question because you're letting your preconceptions color what you're seeing.

      Guess I've learned my lesson to try to provide an opposing viewpoint in this form. Guess that's not allowed otherwise I'll just be lied to about what my argument is.

    7. framing of the question* rather

    8. Okay anon, maybe I went too hard on you. Please give it another try? Bear in mind that if you remain anonymous, I can't know what you've advocated elsewhere. Unless you have a reason not to, it's okay to create an account or even just to sign your initials. Your views are welcome here.

    9. A different anon trying to step into the previous' shoes:
      - Clem is correct that the public caring about this choice of technology does not lead to a better outcome.
      - I assume Anon is correct that communication to the public centers on the choice of technology packages (letting track gauge be a metonymy for the packages) and technically doesn't explicitly say anything about what organization will operate it, or for what level of service.
      - However, the public can be relied on to confuse these three questions, and outreach doesn't meaningfully change that.
      - Ideally, the hardware would be used for its best and highest purpose. Cynically, it will most likely be given to some organization that already runs rolling stock of the relevant tech package, they are going to use it for service of the kind they are already accustomed to running, and are going to be jealously protective of their turf. (Thus, because the actual process is so ****ed up in California, the public is "coincidentally" broadly correct in its ignorance.) However, nobody actually said that this would be the case.
      - I think the above anon is optimistic and *assumes* that if a tunnel with the std-gauge package will be built, BART the organization will get std-gauge rolling stock and run S-Bahn-style service in said tunnel. Whereas Clem is cynical and while he agrees that this is what should ideally happen, assumes that in reality BART will most likely not get std-gauge trains, never mind regauge an existing broad-gauge line, and at the same time the organizations that run std-gauge trains (Caltrain, Amtrak) will not run S-Bahn-style service.
      - I think Clem is inferring that the option of building the tunnel in broad gauge is only staying on the table because BART the organization is lobbying for it -- it's the clearly inferior option in terms of what service could optimistically be run, but it would be the turf of BART. Whereas anon is innocently assuming no such thing is going on, that the options are honestly comparable.

    10. BART originally sponsored the following with Regional Measure 3, that gouges motorists on bridges to spread money elsewhere:

      Transbay Rail Crossing. Fund preliminary engineering, environmental review, and design of a second transbay rail crossing and its approaches to provide additional rail capacity, increased reliability, and improved resiliency to the corridor. Subject to approval by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, funds may also be used for construction, and, if sufficient matching funds are secured, to fully fund a useable segment of the project. The project sponsor is the Bay Area Rapid Transit District. Fifty million dollars ($50,000,000).

      Then there is Link 21, that appears to be an all new variation on the "mega-measure," Horizons, and earlier themes. If pushing Link 21, plus actual crossing study work, or the start of it (a money pit), is funded by some of that bridge toll money, that wouldn't be surprising.

    11. Good summary, thanks, Anon 05:46.

    12. Clem, I believe Anon is correct and that you frame the question incorrectly. For the vast majority ‘BART’ means broad-gauge third-rail trains providing subway service (at least in the core). Even though they don’t know the meaning of those particular rail-specific terms, that is how they see it. You are correct that BART *could* run service using different rolling stock, and in fact it already does with Stadler DMUs on eBART to Antioch and the cable cars to Oakland Airport. But for 99 out of 100 voters this is irrelevant.

      Thus your ‘BART + Regional’ option is really a misnomer. Although you present your diagram as choices A-B-C, it really is choices A-B-B. The two choices for a new Transbay Tube are broad-gauge third-rail single-level CPUC-regulated (‘BART’) or standard-gauge bi-level overhead-catenary FRA-regulated (‘Regional Rail’). Thus ‘BART + Regional’ is from a planning perspective the same as ‘Regional Rail’.

      The reason is service, which you correctly identify as the key issue. Service is a factor of route/station location/frequency/speed, with fares/connections/transfers as secondary factors. The legal entity that runs the trains can impact service when regulations affect those parameters, most particularly how BART’s one person train operation provides much higher frequency for a given cost than Caltrain with its conductors.

      However, the ‘BART’ vs ‘Regional’ mode choice will have a far greater impact on service. There are two reasons for this 1) the necessity of infrastructure beyond the tunnel and 2) the potential for expansion.

      Regarding 1) the mode choice for a new transbay tunnel is constrained by the fact that each mode only has capacity on one side of the Bay. There will be an electrified regional rail service waiting on the San Francisco and Peninsula side (Caltrain) so picking ‘Regional’ would require at a minimum construction of many miles of catenary power, some new stations, and potentially new track in the East Bay. Picking ‘BART’ would require construction of miles of new subway in the heart of SF (Geary, obviously) to receive the trains, since four transbay tracks cannot feed the two tracks in the Market St subway. So either choice will result in expensive capital construction and corresponding choices that impact service.

      Regarding 2) a new transbay link will obviously be a key piece of infrastructure with regional if not statewide impacts. It should receive maximum use. With ‘BART’, service is limited to the existing broad-gauge network and expansions to it, although that network is more heavily used than any other rail system in the state and has the best access to downtown SF and Oakland. With ‘Regional’, service can access any area with standard gauge track, limited by the need to electrify or couple to electric locomotives; there are many such options (SF-Sac, CAHSR via Oak, an East Bay “Caltrain”, etc.)

      Thus the difference between ‘BART’ and ‘Regional Rail’ will have major impacts on service (as well as major upfront capital cost impacts beyond direct cost of the tube). Whether the difference is good or bad is a matter of opinion, obviously some areas benefit with either choice. However, it is not accurate to say the choice doesn’t have to be made because a ‘Regional’ tube can have the same operator as the current ‘BART’ system. A new BART line using standard-gauge and overhead catenary forces the same choices and service impacts as a ‘Regional Rail’ tube regardless of how the trains are painted. Thus the choice should be made based on the wider transportation needs and vision for the region.

    13. Continuing from above, my impression by reading between the lines is that you are suggesting a ‘BART + Regional’ option because you see the need for integrated transportation planning for the Bay Area, vs the Balkanized system we have now. It makes sense to pitch a widely known organization like BART vs the risk that a whole new organization would be created to run service on just one line (Peninsula Joint Powers Authority meet Transbay Joint Powers Authority). It is true that BART has the highest name-recognition in the region, and already operates in almost every Bay Area county. I noted above that BART’s structure has service advantages over Caltrain (particularly OPTO and avoiding FRA crew certification and work hour requirements).

      Ultimately, however, pushing a BART line using mainline rail rolling stock is avoiding the real issues. If the concern is regional coordination/planning the answer is to push for a Bay Area Verkehrsverbünde to integrate maps/schedules/fares/service names. If the concern is crew operations, then the answer is to push for OPTO for Caltrain, FRA waivers, etc. Getting one improved line while leaving all the other systems in the morass is a victory, but not a big one.

      I also have some questions/concerns about running a standard-gauge BART from SF-Oak-Livermore. What do the trains do in SF? The obvious answer should be continue down the peninsula using the existing standard-gauge infrastructure, but if it's BART on one side and Caltrain on the other would that happen? Converting Transbay Terminal to through running with a tube across the Bay only to operate it as two terminal stations from each end would be a move worthy of Richard’s wrath.

      Although I assume you believe a standard-gauge BART service would use BART staffing, what if it was the opposite, what if this line fell under FRA regulations and ended up with the same personnel costs and frequency limitations as Caltrain? What would be the advantage of having a BART logo if operations were the same as Caltrain?

      Conversely, if the line fell under the CPUC/FTA, would that preclude other main-line services such as CAHSR from using it. This isn’t far-fetched, PATH operates as a fully FRA compliant railroad despite using NY Subway R142 trains with silly grab bars so I could see your Regional BART gaining the advantages of CPUC/FTA control (no conductors!) only if their tracks were segregated from the national rail network despite using the same rolling stock as Caltrain. What would be the advantage of a tunnel that could allow Amtrak to run a SF-Sac service if the “real trains” were not allowed to mix with the “subway service”?

      If my assumptions are incorrect and I am putting words in your mouth I apologize and please correct me.

    14. Onyx, you just made Clem pull his hair out.

      If I may put words in Clem's mouth, the idea is that BART should operate the non-tram/light rail systems of the Bay Area in a fashion complimentary to their existing non-standard system. This means that the very trains now being delivered to Caltrain could one-day run up the Peninsula, through the Transbay/Salesforce Transit Center, and then out through a new underwater bay crossing to the East Bay and beyond. If they have a new paint job and logo, so be it.

      Clem's not an idiot. In fact, he is a hugely patient person. He does NOT envision just having BART run standard gauge trains into the Transbay/Salesforce Terminal and the turning back. By using a new connection to the East Bay to turn the Transbay/Salesforce Terminal into a THROUGH terminal, the capacity is vastly increased.

      Also please note that AMTRAK is largely a branding in California. Everything that isn't a Superliner train to out of state is a state supported train. We, as a state, fund them. BART operates and manages the Capitols. If we're going to be running trains from Sacramento or Modesto in the new tube, they will be run by a local agency as a result of the Link 21 plan that BART is managing right now. As far as I'm concerned we should remove "AMTRAK" from the Capitols, San Joaquins, and Surfliners, and proudly announce that this is a service we primarily fund as a state.

    15. @Michael, I know that Clem is a very knowledgable, motivated and patient person. That doesn't change the fact that he has introduced a false framing in his 'BART + Regional' option for this post, and that there are questions regarding that plan as presented. I do not think that Clem envisions failing to through route trains if possible, but this post said after the tube BART could have a line from "Oakland . . . to serve the Altamont pass . . . ." If he is intending to eliminate Caltrain and have BART run all inter-county rail service (i.e. to from SF/Oak/SJ on both sides of the Bay) he should reduce confusion and say so.

      More importantly, giving BART control over all major rail systems in the Bay Area (or as you point out, a California specific branding for the Capitols, S. Joaquins, etc.) is irrelevant to the decision to be made over mode for a second transbay tunnel. You could have BART take over Caltrain and ACE now, without the tunnel. Meanwhile building a tunnel for broad-gauge third-rail or standard-gauge overhead-catenary will have significant effects on the service that can be provided, due to differences in the infrastructure on either side of the tunnel for each of those modes. Thus 'BART' (as people understand it) vs. 'Regional Rail' (regardless if BART is running it behind the scenes, as with the Capitols) is a very valid and important question to ask.

  5. There's a major regulatory hurdle to having BART share track with regional rail. BART is not subject to FRA requirements because it is not connected to the general transcontinental network. As such, they are only regulated by CPUC. Better to just have the agencies that already deal with the FRA take on any routes that are connected to mainline track.

    1. Mixing today's existing BART trains and any other rail on the same tracks is nonsense. It's also not necessary, under any remotely reasonable scenario. The trains are fine where they are, running on the tracks they run on (much of which should never have been built, but here we are.)

      Mixing today's existing Caltrain (aka the clown show of negative achievement that is the Peninsula Corridor Jooint Powers Board and everybody who has ever worked for or has ever consulted for it) with anything is nonsense. It's also no necesssary. Do away with it, with maximal prejudice. Thirty years of going backwards is more than enough. It will soon be 2030, meanwhile Caltrain is operated and "engineered" to 1930s freight choo choo standards, worse and worse every year. Just stop the bleeding.

    2. It's perfectly okay to mention the combination tunnel scheme at least for chuckles. The two agencies are tag-teaming in better hopes of getting money, and it's easy and amusing to demonstrate how to control the future squabbling, probably when BART wants the tunnel alone or just wants the money for itself to send to the extension to San Jose like all the other money that can be found. What really can be done is obvious and I suspect most know already: Any new tunnel is for conventional rail, which is more valuable and can support trains going far and wide, extending old runs and creating new runs. Nearly everyone is happier ever after, the end.

    3. Bryan Anderson06 March, 2023 16:41

      "There's a major regulatory hurdle to having BART share track with regional rail. BART is not subject to FRA requirements because it is not connected to the general transcontinental network."

      You're missing Clem's point, which is precisely that "BART" does not need to refer exclusively to an FRA-exempt wide-gauge suburban metro system. BART could be an overarching regional rail operator in which the average rider never has to think about the fact that part of the network is the system I just described while another part is an FRA-compliant* standard-gauge S-bahn. Much like the average NYC subway rider probably doesn't even know that the network is actually two incompatible systems.

      *post-2018 reforms FRA-compliant, not ye olde rolling bank vault FRA-compliant

    4. Yes, the tunnel is for "conventional rail" which probably should include BART as an operator.

    5. Yes, that makes sense and I think there is a benefit to consistent branding for regional level travel. However, I imagine that great political will would be required to change the governance structures of Caltrain, ACE, ValleyLink, etc. Maybe some MTC branding could tie them all together?

    6. Bryan Anderson06 March, 2023 17:40

      I agree that it's fine if they're not all literally one agency (plenty of countries make multiple operators work fine by subjugating them to an overarching "verkehrsverbund").

      Much more important is wrapping the public's head around the idea that even though this is mainline rail, it is actually modern rapid transit (an S-bahn, but the US public doesn't know that word). When people hear "conventional rail" they think of infrequent, slow, generally shitty "commuter" service with inconvenient schedules and freight delays and choo-choo conductors. When people hear "BART" they get that this is frequent all-day rapid transit that doesn't stop for an hour to let an oil tanker go through Benicia.

      I think Clem's framing is a great way to shift the debate, regardless of whether it's really all one agency or not.

  6. Bryan Anderson06 March, 2023 17:30

    Yes, yes, and yes! I'm really excited to see more people realizing that regauging Dublin Canyon is the obvious choice if we want to build a true Northern California regional rail network. In combination with the Link21 tunnel, it is simply the fastest and most direct route between the parts of the Bay that matter for ridership (San Francisco and Oakland) and the Central Valley.

    It is also the fastest and most direct route for high speed rail, with the side effect of liberating the Peninsula (Caltrain) corridor from being permanently smothered by HSR. I discussed this in a comment on the "HSR Lays an Egg in Caltrain's Nest" post last year, which got some good discussion going (https://caltrain-hsr.blogspot.com/2022/08/hsr-lays-egg-in-caltrains-nest.html?showComment=1662241612128#c848952732776771790).

    Where else might these S-BART (as distinct from the existing U-BART) trains go from Oakland? If the tunnel has 24 tph capacity and 8 of them are reserved for intercity trains (mostly meaning HSR), that leaves 16 regional trains, probably much more than Tri-Valley/northern San Joaquin Valley regional rail needs. Fortunately there are additional viable ROWs for regional rail.

    *Northward*: The cheap way would be to head more or less directly up the existing eastshore ROW through Emeryville, bypassing downtown Oakland, as seen in some of the Link21 regional rail diagrams. To serve downtown Oakland at more expense, branch north via the trench of a demolished I-980 with a station serving downtown (and possibly a new interchange station with U-BART at Northgate, south of MacArthur and I-580), then tunnel to Emeryville. Another U-BART transfer at Richmond. Some S-BART trains cross to San Rafael on a new road-rail bridge (current one needs replacing and Marin politicians have already said they want rail on the new one) and continue northwest on an improved SMART ROW. Other trains continue north from Richmond to San Pablo (ideally on a new/improved alignment, which was looked at in the "wBART" study) and then over to Vallejo (more ridership from crossing here than at Benicia, and the two road-bridge projects showed this side is geotechnically easier). From Vallejo it can branch again with some going north to Napa and others northeast to Fairfield, then to Sacramento on roughly the existing Capitol Corridor ROW (CC's long-term vision has looked at diverting freight away to a reactivated Sacramento Northern ROW).

    *Southward*: Have an S-BART/U-BART transfer station at Bay Fair, with some S-BART trains going to Dublin-Altamont as Clem described. Others would continue south as an express service on Oakland Subdivision paralleling U-BART, with another transfer station at Union City (alternately, if Oakland Sub does not have room, the northern transfer could be at San Leandro and S-BART could use Niles Sub from there to Union City)--and this, adjacent to Hayward Maintenance Facility, would be the end of the U-BART line. Everything south would be re-gauged and would become S-BART. Amazingly, this would make BART's Santa Clara tunnel useful! Some Peninsula trains could through-run from Santa Clara to downtown San Jose and then right around to the East Bay (others would take the current alignment to Diridon and on to Blossom Hill). BART's planned Newhall Yard could be used for S-BART, replacing CEMOF. Note that some infrastructure on the regauged line might be too short for bi-levels (even if this decision is made before the downtown SJ tunnel is built), so through-running trains might have to be FLIRTs or some other single-level (only 19 bi-level trains have been purchased, I think there would still be enough use for them).

    1. In fact, I found this article remarkably surprising as well as refreshing in that it actually supports Dublin Canyon, instead of including material disparaging it, as has been the view wrongly expressed by many people in comments in the past.

      Even some in the Hyperloop crowd [rolling eyes] at least get the correct SF-LA route correct, which includes this route in the Bay Area. (I-5 and the Grapevine route are southward.)

      Clem's point about BART in a literally nominal sense is made through a simple color change, and label change with Caltrain; even the double doors remain with the new identity.

    2. SMART, or its replacement with consistent rolling stock throughout the Bay Area and ideally, the adjacent northern San Joaquin Valley, really needs to connect to the East Bay on the replacement bridge whenever that happens, though can wait until the SF-East Bay tunnel is built first. The question then is if it still merits only a single track (likely). Willits, the realistic super-dream limit? Even Ukiah may never happen. It's plenty sleepy still around Cloverdale and it's more work north of that to extend.

    3. Bryan Anderson06 March, 2023 18:10

      Re: SMART corridor

      It would take more analysis to first of all figure out the desired frequency (higher than current SMART probably, even with larger trains, since a direct regional express service to Oakland and SF would be so much more useful than what exists). If you can run with Swiss precision, it's amazing what you can do with mostly single-track, thoughtfully double-tracking at passing points. The downside is you don't have a ton of flexibility with the scheduling since you're counting on trains to pass at the double-track sections. Much more analysis needed.

      I can't imagine it making sense to string OCS north of Healdsburg or maybe even Santa Rosa, so S-BART would probably stop somewhere around there. Maybe a less-frequent diesel or battery service could meet S-BART and go to Ukiah or beyond.

    4. "Where else might these S-BART (as distinct from the existing U-BART) trains go from Oakland?"

      In my opinion, nowhere. Unfortunately given the last 30 years of disastrous MTC funding allocation (and note that inexplicably-unindicted ex-MTC dictator Steve "$6 billion Bay Bridge cost overrun" Heminger continues to inflict damage to the world, sitting on both the Caltrain and SF MTA boards) all the feasible non-laughable ROWs are either occupied by BART or lost.

      But we've been here before! So many many many times over the years.

      Most recently https://caltrain-hsr.blogspot.com/2021/09/down-tubes-with-dtx.htmljust 18 brief months ago (my how time flies, every year, every decade that skitters by as Caltrain, every time, just makes things worse!) right here on ye olde caltrain-hsr dot blogspot dot com.

      Anyway, I'm as enthusiastic and pointlessly time wasteful a crayon-er as all of you put together, but even so I see no remotely justifiable service/route connected with a new transbay rail tube from SF.

      But type away. It's all fine. The planet is burning. Keep paying the consultants and keep doing the studies. Steady as she goes.

    5. On the SF side of the new tube, it connects to the peninsula line, rebranded from red to blue.

    6. Bryan Anderson06 March, 2023 23:59

      "On the SF side of the new tube, it connects to the peninsula line, rebranded from red to blue."

      I'm not sure if you were responding to Richard or me, but I thought that part was obvious. What's less established is what to do in the East Bay. I don't think the Dublin-Altamont line has enough demand to take all the Peninsula trains, so that's why I brainstormed other ROWs, many of which have already been studied (agreed with Richard that more redundant studies aren't needed).

      As always, Richard gives no actual reasoning for why all the ROWs are irrevocably "lost", never to be retrieved. Agreed, Richard, the planet's burning, so are we going to push for actually useful rail to make this region less car-dependent or are we going to give up and keep talking about the stupid decisions of 10/20/30 years ago?

    7. Bryan Anderson07 March, 2023 12:22

      Richard, your linked comment is again mostly content-free snark, but let's look at it.

      "SF-Oakland-Hayward? Seems there's already a perfectly servicable high-frequency train line there."
      Agreed, the primary benefit of S-BART would be express service for mostly longer-distance regional trips, with fewer stations in the core. U-BART is fine as far as Hayward but less useful farther out because it takes forever due to so many stops (I know you agree with this and opposed those BART extensions).

      "SF-Fremont(-Livermore-Tracy-Sacramento/Los Angeles)? I have an actually useful tunnel to sell you."
      I assume you mean Dumbarton, which is much more indirect, even if the poorly designed Transbay terminal didn't make it infeasible to add more traffic up the Peninsula without through-running. It's about 42 miles from Altamont to Transbay via Oakland and about 61 miles via Dumbarton (that's fairly rough Google Earth crayon, but I did attempt to follow the actual ROWs being discussed here). So no, Dumbarton is not more useful. It might be cheaper, but probably not as a tunnel. And again, there's nowhere in SF for more trains to go unless you through-run. If you have to build the tube anyway, why take the long way?

      "Fremont-San Jose? Hard to undo the criminality. Prosections, starting with Steve Heminger would be a good start."
      Ok sure but we could... undo it? I don't get the purpose of defeatism. If there's really no fixing anything ever, why even think about any of this or post on this blog?

      "SF-San Jose? Seems there's a train line there already."
      Not connecting the East Bay and South Bay (not counting ye olde capitol corridor), and slow all-local-stops U-BART ain't gonna cut it.

      "SF-Oakland/Alameda? Maybe you get one East Bay station, connected to nothing else. (Exercises for the reader: show exactly where you've found the site for a rail passenger terminal station of a size and ridership potential remotely commensurate with the costs of a brand new SF-Oakland/Alameda rail tunnel and approaches.)"
      The site is south of the 880/980 junction, where the BART tracks are flat and straight for just enough length. Infill U-BART platform and transfer to elevated east-west S-BART. If there's a north-south S-BART line, its platform would be cut-and-cover. 2-3 blocks of low-intensity industrial (already partially taken up by BART) would be purchased. After removing the 980 ramp which takes up the southern part of the freeway ROW, there would be room for S-BART to continue east on an el, crossing the freeway at East Oakland Yard to continue on either Niles/Oakland sub.

      "Oakland-Richmond? Seems there's a pretty good passenger train line there already."
      As with the Hayward section above, S-BART's value is mostly longer-distance regional trips, providing express service with fewer stations in the core. The wBART study already found that extending BART past Richmond won't capture much mode share because it's slow due to making all local stops.

      "Richmond-Crockett/Martinez? You and what army?"
      "Crockett/Martinez-Benicia? You and what army?"
      Sure, but it shouldn't cross at Martinez-Benicia where nobody lives, it should cross at Vallejo where people do live (and another crossing to San Rafael where people also live).

      "Benicia-Davis-Sacramento? UPRR would like a word."
      CC already studied this and found that the state could swap with UPRR and reactivate the old Sac Northern ROW for freight. Yes UPRR sucks and would have to be paid off and/or forced into it.

      "SF-Sacramento? I have an actually useful tunnel to sell you."
      Dumbarton again? It's even more indirect for SF-Sac. Either 125mph trains via improved CC route or HSR via Altamont-Dublin beat Altamont-Dumbarton.

      "Oakland-Sacramento? Would have been nice, but endless profits for Steve's very very special buddies at WSP (née Parsons Brinkerhoff) and Tutor-Saliba were far more important than the core of the urbanized region, or the earth's environment, or anything else."
      Again, I guess I don't see why giving up due to past horrible decisions is helpful.

    8. "SF-Oakland-Hayward? Seems there's already a perfectly [serviceable] high-frequency train line there."

      Agreed, the primary benefit of S-BART would be express service for mostly longer-distance regional trips, with fewer stations in the core. U-BART is fine as far as Hayward but less useful farther out because it takes forever due to so many stops (I know you agree with this and opposed those BART extensions).

      Regional service might frequently have limited stops in the Bay Area itself (inner and outer). Obviously these trains also would also be of interest to and serve commuters with the commuter shed expanding into the adjacent Central Valley (now to Sacramento and beyond, overlapping with Sacramento's own commuter shed) since the 1970s.

      A Tri-Valley station obviously is in order for all rail services using Dublin Canyon and Altamont Pass. Dublin has been a crossroads forever; what's evolving is not west Dublin (the real, original city) but east Dublin-Pleasanton, which is closer to more of Pleasanton and obviously to Livermore, as the station site.

      Then include Bay Fair, which has evolved to serve that part of Alameda County and Castro Valley, along the way as well.

      Oakland, of course, always, as a rule. No train in and out of San Francisco on this route or a Sacramento route except a rare express to Sacramento or toward So-Cal in fans' imagination should fail to stop at Oakland, too. (The Manteca Wye should also be a stop, if possible; it's also a natural transfer station site.)

      These would be long-distance rail service stops as well.

    9. "Richard, your linked comment is again mostly content-free snark, but let's look at it."

      Cool, cool, cool. (PS You forgot to say "nuanced", but I take that as read.)

      The fact is, the facts on the ground are, that there really aren't places to through-run peninsula—SF trains that aren't already served by BART and won't continue to be served, better!, by BART.

      God only knows it would be a better world if, post-Loma Prieta, San Leandro—San Jose had been redone as mitteleuropäische S-Bahn. Or that Daly City—Millbrae had never been built (and that Steve Heminger were serving decades in prison.) Or that Bayfair—Livermore—Tracy were S-Bahn.

      But those aren't facts on the ground. BART exists. Here it is 2023, not 1993, where far far far too much fucking BART exists, but at least it's not Caltrain, where it is 1933, and going backwards every day. It's just tiresome and boring to deal with the same old counterfactual "reguage" "Amtrak" "standard US train" ignorant whatever.

      Also, when confronted with ... umm ... stuff ... like "a six-track 400m terminal station for intercity trains beneath the low-rise portion of Embarcadero Center and Embarcadero Plaza (just north of Sacramento St, from Front St to Embracadero), and a through-running S-Bahn/RER/Crossrail-style regional rail link with 200m platforms which would take over the upper level of the Market Street Subway (currently Muni Metro) from Embarcadero to Powell" it's hard to know where to start, or what the point of starting might be.

      Anyway, good luck with Link21! They Truly Value your Public Input, Citizen! Public Input is part of The Process, whereas blog comments most assuredly are not part of anything.

    10. Bryan Anderson08 March, 2023 00:35

      I'm flattered that you remember my (totally unrelated to the topic at hand) comment from 2021! It's been a little while since I wrote that, and I try to keep learning over time. Maybe eventually I'll realize you were right about everything, who knows.

      Anything north of Richmond is served by BART? Anything east of Pleasanton is served by BART? Anything south of Union City will be served "better" by BART?

      You fought the good fight against the idiotic projects of Heminger et al, but I don't get why you aren't open to fixing the mistakes of the past. The Dublin line is like 12 miles, relaying 12 miles of track is not a megaproject, how is it not worth even discussing reusing that line for something better? No, not because "standard gauge is better" or any of that crap, but because it unlocks regional express rail from the Peninsula through SF and Oakland to the Central Valley.

    11. "I'm flattered that you remember my (totally unrelated to the topic at hand) comment from 2021!"

      Not specifically, no. But every time this comes up (or idiots cheerleading for Pacheco, or Palmdale, or BART to anwyere at all) the same shit is said, so I just looked for the most recent article vaguely on subject here, and there we all were, saying the same things, over and over, while the world goes to hell.

      I'm sure I can dig up in my personal or google-able archives somebody similar to you saying similar things from 1993. (Might even be me, since my knowledge and the opinions based upon my knowledge have been known to evolve.)

      "I don't get why you aren't open to fixing the mistakes of the past."

      Facts on the ground. Move on.

      (Also in just this one specific case, because freeway medians are absolutely shit for any sort of passenger rail, always, without exception, everywhere as well as being completely technically infeasible geometrically for any useful inter-regional passenger rail service speeds.)

    12. "SF-Oakland-Hayward? ... Agreed, the primary benefit of S-BART would be express service for mostly longer-distance regional trips, with fewer stations in the core. U-BART is fine as far as Hayward but less useful farther out because it takes forever due to so many stops (I know you agree with this and opposed those BART extensions)."

      Does not compute. The solution to too much BART to places BART shouldn't have gone is to spend billions parallel to BART to provide benefit to long-distance commuters? Doubling down on bad bets is, no doubt, a strategy of sorts.

      "SF-Fremont(-Livermore-Tracy-Sacramento/Los Angeles)? ... It's about 42 miles from Altamont to Transbay via Oakland and about 61 miles via Dumbarton ... here's nowhere in SF for more trains to go unless you through-run ..."

      Crayon distance on a map isn't the same as revenue average speed. Again, this is decades-old repetitive stuff and I have no time for it, sorry. And re through-running through Transbay: again this is posititing a "solution" and then searching for a problem. Come back once anybody bumps up against 16tph with 300m regional and 400m inter-regional trains terminating in SF from the south.

      ""Fremont-San Jose? ... Ok sure but we could... undo it? I don't get the purpose of defeatism. If there's really no fixing anything ever, why even think about any of this or post on this blog?"

      No. The time to do that was the very post-Loma Prieta early 1990s. There is no possible ecomonic justification for ripping out misconceived BART. It sucks, but this is the existing world. Deal with it. Your through-running-just-because Caltrains from San Jose via the west bay aren't through-running to San Jose via the east bay.

      "Oakland-Richmond? ... S-BART's value is mostly longer-distance regional trips ..."

      Value? Yeah sure, many things have some value. Value/Cost? Approaching zero.

      "Richmond-Crockett/Martinez? Sure, but it shouldn't cross at Martinez-Benicia ... it should cross at Vallejo ..."

      There are no existing useable rail rights of way connecting to any of this crayon. Multiple tens of billions, right there, before the new fantasy river crossing, whereever it might be (which in the end doesn't matter, given nothing to connect to no matter where it's crayoned.)

      Basic deal: we blew it (for some very specific and limitless corrupt versions of "we"), everywhere in the SF Bay Area. But here we are, in 2023. And in 2023, as we speak, fucking Caltrain is continuing to blow everything on the SF Peninsula, and can't even manage 2tph on dinky low-capacity zero-ridership snail trains let alone fantasize about SF terminal turnback capacity limits starting about 10x from where we are, here, in 2023.

    13. Richard, there is nothing, repeat nothing, wrong with exploiting the I-580 route between Dublin Canyon and Livermore along the northern Amador-Livermore Valleys that highways have traveled for ages. A freeway median route here is perfectly fine, and median stations are okay here. They are removed from old downtowns, but nobody with sense would want to divert to go through them. This isn't like I-5 on the western Central Valley route to the Grapevine, in which trains in the median make no sense due to the curvature, where trains might actually travel at high speed -- not in developed areas -- and the typical center pillars on the overpasses (are they high enough?) get in the way. In the Bay Area, a stop at Bay Fair, or in Fremont with a South Bay route, would be expected. So would be at least one Tri-Valley stop for even high-speed trains other than limited or non-stop trains, to serve customers where they live and where they are often going. (East Dublin-Pleasanton again, maybe a Livermore stop, too) Even without restrictions on speed for other reasons, you have acceleration and deceleration for those needed Bay Area stops, and Oakland at least.

      Long-distance commuters (outside the metro areas) have existed as a real phenomenon in the Bay Area (Tracy) and in Southern California (Palmdale and other cities) since the later 1970s. The commuter shed is growing even more in recent times with more lack of affordability of the houses people want. Why not face reality? There is other regional travel, and legitimate travel interest farther away, too.

      If you believe BART should never have gone outside the East Bay core outside San Francisco, there is no need for higher speeds that BART provides, nor for new, snazzy rolling stock intended to Try to Pry suburban commuters in the East Bay and elsewhere out of their cars. (Marin and the Peninsula to Palo Alto were included, too.)

      If you want to argue for not replacing BART now but for waiting to near the end of service life, that makes more sense, though the Tri-Valley route is newer than the main East Bay route with the Viaduct, so there would be more waiting, and it's the best rail route for the East Bay core into and out of the Bay Area.

    14. InfrastructureWeak14 March, 2023 16:16

      If we set regauging the Dublin branch & running HSR over Altamont aside, the standard gauge Transbay Twobe still makes sense.

      "Caltrain" (BART Regional Rail) on the north branch Bryan describes could have the following stops and interstations:

      - Port of Oakland (along 7th west of Maritime; new BART transfer)
      - (2.5km) Clawson (along Wood north of Grand; future Macarthur/Bancroft light metro transfer)
      - (2.3km) Emeryville
      - (3.0km) West Berkeley
      - (2.2km) Albany (south of Buchanan)
      - (4.1km) Eastshore (along Carlson at 47th)
      - (3.0km) Richmond (Amtrak and BART transfer; future SMART transfer)
      - (3.8km) San Pablo (at Parr)
      - (7.1km) Pinole (at Pinole Shores)
      - (5.4km) Rodeo (along 80 at Willow; in lieu of the planned Hercules station)
      - (9.9km) South Vallejo (at Curtola)
      - (3.5km) North Vallejo (at Sereno)
      - (4.2km) American Canyon (at American Canyon Rd)
      - (3.0km) Napa Junction (SMART transfer)

      That's an extension much shorter than the existing Caltrain line, with longer interstations that are suitable for all-local service, in a right of way with room for dedicated passenger track. Beyond Richmond it's a bit suburban; you wouldn't do it without an agreement for development and feeder bus service at each station. Though acknowledging that we're crayoning (the whole Link21 business is), this is a worthwhile corridor for Caltrain's eventual planned 8 TPH. And it's in line with the new state rail plan (long range 2050 goal; PDF page 36 https://dot.ca.gov/-/media/dot-media/programs/rail-mass-transportation/documents/california-state-rail-plan/20230309-casrp-publicdraft-final.pdf ).

      In the even longer range, this tunnel would allow realigning HSR from the blended corridor to reach Transbay from Oakland, once Caltrain needs to grow beyond 8TPH. That could be along an upgraded, HSR-only Coast Subdivision, if HSR is built via Pacheco according to the EIR. And regauged Dublin/Altamont regional rail would still be on the table, once BART's capacity from Bay Fair to Oakland is exceeded.

      I'm frustrated by past decisions, and by Caltrain electrification, and we've got years of SVBART to sit through before the region's next federally-funded project, and I'd like to see costs and project delivery reform sooner than later, and Geary Metro to Transbay should be the next priority before DTX+Link21, but we do need to make plans for the future network now, including Transbay Twobe, so that we can get in line for it to happen and so that we don't make silly decisions, like Hercules Intermodal Station, or like running SR37 SMART to Suisun instead of to Napa with a Capitol Corridor transfer at Napa Junction.

    15. InfrastructureWeak14 March, 2023 16:43

      By the way, new Link21 alignments were released in advance of the 2/28/23 Link21 Equity Advisory Council meeting, as shared by @TribTowerViews. See the presentation here; pages 47-53 have the alignments. https://bart.legistar.com/View.ashx?M=F&ID=11674040&GUID=3AE79E7C-7598-49F4-BD67-237871EDC941

    16. LOL that Link21 report....

      "Modern Regional Rail"
      "Track: shared with National Network [FRA]"

      Both can't be true -- you have to pick one or the other.

    17. This is also great: "Most popular reasons for train travel
      1. Get to airport"


      Plus "the what happens to the Modern Regional Rail once it gets to Oakland section" is ... about what you'd expect for $50 million sweet sweet consulting dollars — absent and imaginary.

    18. InfrastructureWeak: Yes, a rail tube connecting San Francisco with the core of the East Bay's core area (West Oakland or Alameda by the Point) offers more than the ideal Dublin Canyon-Altamont Pass gateway to regional rail and inter-city (long-distance) rail outside the region. What about looping the Bay if there is rail extended at least as far as the Dumbarton corridor, and what should happen is continuation on the east side of the Bay into the eastern South Bay, to San Jose, which is independent of and doesn't have to rely on Dumbarton revival.

      The challenges include the (Alameda-) Oakland gap and the Fremont-San Jose gap. I suspect the powers that be continue to be far below, not up to, those challenges.

    19. Anonymous14 March, 2023 05:54 writes: "Richard, there is nothing, repeat nothing, wrong with exploiting the I-580 route between Dublin Canyon and Livermore along the northern Amador-Livermore Valleys that highways have traveled for ages. A freeway median route here is perfectly fine, and median stations are okay here. ..."

      It's super rewarding to have to say the same things over and over over decades to people who can't think and can't read.

      The BART-occupied freeway median of 580 is not suitable for any form of non-BART rail.
      The alignment of freeways is engineered, both in horizontal curvature and vertical grades and curvatures, for sub-100mph road traffic. These are facts.

      Moreover, every overpass and every underpass, those presently carrying BART and those further east that do not yet do so, need to be rebuilt for non-BART rail traffic. These are facts.

      (BART should never have been extended through Dublin Canyon. This is an opinion, but an absolutely incontrovertible one, so there. I have a long track record about being proven right about what corrupt morons built in the Bay Area. Ask me about Caltrain!)

      BART to Dublin stays where it is, and we keep paying for it, forever, because there's no remotely economic case for redoing it with some different train or gadgetbahn or whatever. That's just how things are, that's just how sunk costs work.

      Freeway medians are not here, and are not anywhere in the world, suitable alignments for inter-regional rail traffic. This is a fact. You can imagine whatever nonsense you like, and type as many made-up words as you choose, but this is that way the actual physical world works.

    20. Once Clem mentioned Dublin Canyon, its use was a legitimate subject of discussion, as it always is to everyone with intellectual competence as well as maturity. The overpasses have been a concern any time Dublin Canyon is considered. That doesn't negate that Dublin Canyon is the best route to and from Altamont Pass to serve San Francisco and Oakland, the subject here.

      The I-580 alignment across the northern part of the Tri-Valley is perfectly fine, understood by anyone actually familiar with the Bay Area, particularly where Dublin Canyon and Altamont Pass are. That canyon is faster than Niles or Altamont, which would be bypassed with a new crossing in the pass area, regional service.

      As also is obvious, high-speed trains have been expected, as elsewhere, to be limited to around 125 mph in the Bay Area and developed Southern California, since before the high speed project's start, in the 1990s, and to use the existing local and regional system to get in and out of metro areas where at all possible. In addition, in the real world it would be expected for all kinds of trains to make some stops in the Bay Area, just as in San Jose with the state's high-speed plan now and in Burbank as well as in Los Angeles to the south, further reducing real-world speeds, all known by many since before the high-speed project began. Limiting train speeds to 125 mph in developed areas is a neglected concern in the Central Valley, too, no matter any four-track station images and Himeji, etc., dreams. The non-usability of I-5's median has also been mentioned, if you cared to read.

      I recommend you dispense with the poor tone that's so out-of-place when you address others and the noted great deal of irony and projection that often accompanies the gratuitous insults.

    21. Whatever, anonymous 19 March, 2023 06:41.

      Hey, you forgot to say "nuanced". Whenever something idiotic is proposed, it's important that discussion be "nuanced".

      After all, 200kmh I-580 median only requires a lack of "negation", "neglect", "not caring to read", and "poor tone", and has has nothing to do with "ironic" physics or engineering. Putting such ironic matters foremost wouldn't be a nuanced reading of the matter which is a "legitimate subject of discussion", and gratuitously disrepectful of the a wide range of community viewpoints and lived experiences.

    22. To add facts to the fire, I-580 radii are typically 850 meters which limits train speeds to about 130 km/h or 80 mph.

    23. Bryan Anderson20 March, 2023 21:13

      Re: Richard

      "Does not compute. The solution to too much BART to places BART shouldn't have gone is to spend billions parallel to BART to provide benefit to long-distance commuters? Doubling down on bad bets is, no doubt, a strategy of sorts."

      No, I am only proposing a parallel line in the dense core, where U-BART *should* exist to provide local service (well, mostly--I proposed continuing U-BART as far as Union City because of the huge sunk investment in HMF). If anything, U-BART could add new infill stations in Oakland and inner suburbs, since the few-stop S-BART exists as an express.

      "Crayon distance on a map isn't the same as revenue average speed. Again, this is decades-old repetitive stuff and I have no time for it, sorry. And re through-running through Transbay: again this is posititing a "solution" and then searching for a problem. Come back once anybody bumps up against 16tph with 300m regional and 400m inter-regional trains terminating in SF from the south."

      Dumbarton is literally 1.5x the length of Dublin Canyon, and both routes are speed-limited due to passing through built-up areas (the pristine SETEC route through Tri-Valley is gone, covered with sprawl). Also re through-running, serious question, where did you get 16tph for Transbay? I thought DB found 12tph was the max pure-terminal capacity. 12 is just not enough for Caltrain and HSR both.

      "No. The time to do that was the very post-Loma Prieta early 1990s. There is no possible ecomonic justification for ripping out misconceived BART. It sucks, but this is the existing world. Deal with it. Your through-running-just-because Caltrains from San Jose via the west bay aren't through-running to San Jose via the east bay."
      "Value? Yeah sure, many things have some value. Value/Cost? Approaching zero."

      The "ripping out" would not literally involve building it all over, it would be a matter of rails and electronics and maybe platform adjustments. The southern East Bay leg would almost certainly not work for bi-levels, but a Crossrail Aventra is comparable in weight to BART trains and only 0.5m taller. This is not a megaproject.

      "There are no existing useable rail rights of way connecting to any of this crayon. Multiple tens of billions, right there, before the new fantasy river crossing, whereever it might be (which in the end doesn't matter, given nothing to connect to no matter where it's crayoned.)"

      Nonsense. Existing rail line north from Richmond, bend east elevated along Rumrill Dr to CC College, tunnel to Hilltop Mall site (burn it to the ground and build dense TOD), elevated to 580 and then parallel the west side of the freeway on embankment. Some committee in Contra Costa studied this once and even with really dumb choices (way too much tunnel and viaduct and blindly copying high-cost projects for their estimate) they couldn't make it cost more than $3.6B (with good choices it should be far less).

      "Basic deal: we blew it (for some very specific and limitless corrupt versions of "we"), everywhere in the SF Bay Area. But here we are, in 2023. And in 2023, as we speak, fucking Caltrain is continuing to blow everything on the SF Peninsula, and can't even manage 2tph on dinky low-capacity zero-ridership snail trains let alone fantasize about SF terminal turnback capacity limits starting about 10x from where we are, here, in 2023."

      I 100% agree that the current and near-term situation is bleak and that you were on the right side of all the past transit fights in the Bay. I just... now what? I'd like to live here for a long time and not just accept the status quo will continue forever.

    24. Bryan Anderson20 March, 2023 21:51

      Re the general Tri-Valley discussion:

      We can get more creative about the freeway ROW beyond just blindly using the median the whole way, as has been explained to Richard multiple times.

      As far as curvature, there is none from just east of 680 until just east of Isabel Avenue. This is also where the ROW is most constrained; it is far less so east of Isabel. There are six overpasses on this segment. Replacing six bog-standard overpasses is not a megaproject. There is no reason besides pure dogma to refuse to even consider the median in this part, though I'm open to hugging the north or south side of the freeway instead if something is gained from that.

      East of Isabel, a lot depends on where the ideal portal for the Altamont tunnel is, but maybe you could go elevated and stay due east as the freeway bends south, crossing the freeway (which is now bending north) again around Livermore Ave, roughly parallel the freeway on the south side until Las Positas Rd, elevated roughly along Las Positas, then either parallel the rail line til almost Greenville Rd, or due east from Las Positas roughly along Patterson Pass Rd.

      From 680 on west, one could either accept an 11.5-mile segment limited to 80mph til Bay Fair (still better than adding an additional 20 miles by going to Fremont, especially for regional rail, but even for HSR most of the Fremont route would be restricted to 125mph or less) or some combination of structure and tunnel. Staying in the freeway median would require rebuilding the 680 overpass and two road overpasses (a few other flyovers are already high). Would be curious to explore a deeper cost-benefit between keeping the 80mph ROW or structure/tunnel. A couple years ago I played around with a route through the canyon that was mostly viaduct and minimized tunnel; will see if I can find that KML file.

    25. Bryan Anderson20 March, 2023 22:08

      Slight correction to something I said about the SETEC alignment in the southern Tri-Valley (i.e. toward Fremont/Dumbarton): the amount of new sprawl covering it is smaller than I remembered (one small subdivision around Hansen Rd). Keeping the exact route would require eminent domaining at least 12 McMansions. It can't really go farther south without running into hills and needing either structure or tunnel. It might be possible to mostly miss the subdivision on the north side and only have to buy farmland and one expensive-looking compound at the end of Churchill Downs Ln. Still, passing this close to existing homes would probably end up causing a 125mph slow zone.

    26. Dude (dudes!), nobody puts rail in freeway medians. Nobody.

      You may believe you've discovered some solution unimagined by, quite literally, every engineering everyhere else in the entire rest of the planet.

      It's possible you're the Newton or Einstein of rail corridor engineering. It's possible everybody else is a fool. Of course it's possible. Anything's possible.

    27. Alas, Anonymous, quite a few places have already put "rail" (mostly light rail, but that's included in "rail") in freeway medians. Though it is indeed remarkable that most of these examples are in the US, and have stunningly low ridership -- as such, presenting the examples as an argument for why putting rail in freeway medians is folly would be entirely justified. However, trying to argue from their supposed nonexistence is bizarre.

      More concretely, while an idea may well be generally speaking a bad one, proposed (and implemented) far more often than merited, there may still be rare instances where that idea is appropriate. Where its proponent is obviously aware of what the drawbacks usually are, and describes/proposes why/how in the specific instance they do not apply, can be circumvented, solved ("broken through"), or accepted, the argument "but in general (i.e. in contexts that lack the particular features of this one)!" has no weight. If you wish to claim that the specifics are wrong (the drawbacks still apply, the proposed means to deal with them are too expensive or otherwise worse than the problem, &c), then claim that.

    28. Whoa. Big GOTCHA there!

      Watch Anonymous 20 March, 2023 23:03 get COMPLETELY DESTROYED by Anonymous21 March, 2023 08:57! EPIC!

      Nobody saw VTA light rail sneaking up stealthily, its radar signature hidden in the clutter of heavy freeway traffic scatter, to demolish Anonymous 20 March, 2023 23:03! Awesome use of logic: Socates is a liar, and VTA light rail is an abjectly miserable failure, and the blue-eyed islanders are fobidden by their religion from discussing eye color, therefore GOTCHA there is no Law of the Excluded Middle. Hah!

      The internet is a wonderful place.

    29. Bryan Anderson, yes, eastward from Dublin Canyon the I-580 route (which used to be the US 50 route before that, and so on) goes directly toward Altamont Pass, straight until between Isabel Avenue and Portola Avenue, then little curvature between there and Altamont Pass. The only question has always been where to get off it, by the pass itself wherever a new crossing route is going to happen, and the expected final BART destination, or earlier somewhere as early as El Charro Road toward a west Livermore-east Pleasanton location and junction with any new SETEC or like-done South Bay (Mission Pass area) route.

      The curvature in Dublin Canyon is okay, and even an alternative rail route that softens the canyon-Palomares-East Castro Valley curves would be expensive, part of the problem with any tunnel replacement (which also includes the problem of where to put any new tunnels).

    30. Don't forget BART itself, which is not light rail, is already in Dublin Canyon (to Bay Fair) and along the I-580 median. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Metro Rail system includes the Green (now C) Line, with a freeway median route and stations since 1995, and this was discussed in 1996-8 with the Red and Blue lines among a number of people on another Web site ... including multiple people that have posted here.

    31. "Light rail" is a bullshit category that only US railfans and hopeless basket case losers like APTA or the FRA use, and has no meaning to anybody. BART's a fully-fledged urban metro, though metastastized into whatever host-body-consuming horror is most profitable to our local competition-protected engineering and construction mafiosi overlords.

      Also, super-interesting to learn that BART is already in Dublin Canyon! Who knew?

      And also who knew there were bunch of unsuccessful, unpleasant, low-speed, low-ridership, insane-cost rail lines sited in freeway medians elsewhere in the USA, the widely-acknowledged world leader in urban transportation (just ask APTA!)?

    32. "BART [...] is not light rail" is a reminder that it is rail it was said nobody puts in freeway medians, and "real" instead of light rail, at that. The L.A. area example is another refutation. Straying from that with a creative response doesn't change the reality at all.

      From the start BART has been a system designed for suburban commuters to get them in and out of downtown San Francisco, using faster speeds to run the longer distances involved and employing snazzy new (Space Age) rolling stock at the time to Try to Pry commuters out of their cars, all of it to try to preserve San Francisco's vitality and nature as a job center downtown, which unlike nearly every other city post-war, it didn't wither, but remains a key local job center. The early as well as later maps, throughout the system's history, show it was intended to serve the suburbs, not just be a downtown subway and replacement for the Key System in the East Bay core. Livermore was a destination from the start, has paid taxes to get it for decades, and it was wrong to rob it to satisfy the South Bay gang, turn it south, create the area's huge fiscal black hole and analogue to the state high-speed rail project.

    33. Anonymous 22 March, 2023 02:18

      There's like six Anonymous posters here but I always know it's you because after reading your posts twice I still have no idea of what your point is. Simple declarative sentences. Short. Have a point.

  7. Link21 seems to start with the premise of "we need a new transbay rail crossing" and then tries to decide whether to do it by extending the existing BART system from Oakland, with nowhere to go in SF, or extending Caltrain from SF, with nowhere to go in Oakland.
    I'm not really clear why a new crossing is really needed at all. BART is already increasing transbay capacity with its core capacity program. It seems like job growth in SF has been set back at least a decade by COVID, and maybe a better plan for dealing with future job growth is to build more housing in SF and the peninsula rather than funneling more people across the bay. "Redundancy" has also been mentioned, but unless they already know there is no alternative than a transbay tube replacement within N years, then that seems like a weak argument for spending $20B+. I would rather this money be spent on Valley-Valley HSR and Caltrain upgrades, maybe even Dumbarton Rail.

    1. "Link21 seems to start with the premise of "we need a new transbay rail crossing" and then tries to decide whether to do it by extending the existing BART system from Oakland, with nowhere to go in SF, or extending Caltrain from SF, with nowhere to go in Oakland."

      Not sure why you make this statement. A second BART line could be extended out Geary as the Link21 options point out, while a Caltrain extension in the East Bay could follow electrified CC tracks. Being able to get a one seat ride on Caltrain (or whatever the service was branded) from Oakland, Berkeley or even Hayward to San Mateo would be a game changer. I thought that was the whole meaning of the "link" in Link21.

    2. Don't give up on downtown San Francisco because of COVID-19. It will recede, people are returning (often under duress) to offices, and tech isn't the largest industry in California and even in downtown San Francisco, the huge job center in downtown precedes the most recent tech up-cycle by decades, generations. Finance and real estate are huge business in California and everyone (or it should be) knows downtown S.F. is well-known for finance, even getting that part of downtown its informal moniker known to all, "the Financial District" being synonymous with downtown or its own core in the Bay Area.

      The city is being mis-governed as many other cities are with current policies that are ruining it and other cities, but these can be corrected if the intelligence and will return there.

    3. @Anonymous If a Geary BART line is such a great idea it could be branched off the existing mainline at Montgomery without the need for another transbay tube. In fact this could increase transbay tube capacity dramatically if combined with skip-stop service as proposed in p33-34 of this 2012 presentation from MTC.

      Of course this made too much sense to ever be pursued. As I said they are starting with the unfounded premise that a new transbay crossing is needed even though the cost is astronomical. I would question that assumption.

    4. I don't see how branching a Geary line like that increases tube capacity. Merging in a Geary train would block all mainline traffic. That report was written by AECOM; i.e. not the sharpest tools in the toolshed.

      In fact, it is not clear why Geary needs to feed into any transbay line at all. The only reason it gets included by the Link21 study is because Geary has very high ridership potential -- which can be used to boost overall numbers of some larger and stupider megaproject.

    5. Re Geary: any grade-separated railificiation of Geary — and I'm not saying railification of anything anywhere near here can be even remotely justified given the literally criminial levels of graft and corruption in "design" and in "construction" "costs" — has to be automated and segregated from the shitshow that is the rest of Muni.

      If you're not talking sub 5 minute headways, all day, and you're not talking driverless, you're just perpetuating failure and burning tens of billions of dollars and you should stop talking and start listening and observing what the grown-ups have done and are doing. (Turns out you don't even have to leave the west coast of North America to get some clues, recent scam faregating aside.)

      Anyway Link21 is a "solution" in search of a problem. Sending regional trains out Geary is a "solution" to the problem that Link21.

    6. InfrastructureWeak08 March, 2023 15:11

      Another reason it's essential for the Geary line to be separate from regional rail, BART, and Muni is that it needs to have stations as small as possible - 250-400ft in length - to reduce construction costs and allow tighter station spacing and coverage. The BART extension down Geary and 19th that's been contemplated would result in >10 billion for only a few new stations, infrequently served. Put in a dozen short stations, all the way down Geary, serve it at 90 seconds, and feed it with north/south buses.

  8. Link 21 is revealing itself to be a fantasy level pipe dream baked by a group of transit fanbois. Their hope rests on a $100,000,000,000 voter measure. If anyone thinks this will actually happen, well….

    1. You are observing the "players" at transportation policy along with contractors and bureaucrats, infected with as well as exploiting related political activism that's pro-transit and anti-car, who were lukewarm about a new Bay tunnel in the past, then rejected it (see the Bay Crossing Study series by MTC), and now offer it front and center as a big, bright, and shiny toy object with which to dazzle the kids of all ages, while pursuing or starting what other projects with all that money, too? (In addition to BART and VTA grabbing all the new money they can here, too, for BART to San Jose, and other things from which money can be diverted to BART to San Jose)

      These are the same people in particular in the South Bay and "on its behalf" [sic] who don't have any serious support or promotion about a new Altamont Pass rail crossing (which could be a centerpiece of a set of transportation projects involving rail or with other projects) and don't support rail service from Altamont Pass through the Mission Pass area, or a revived Dumbarton corridor being heavily promoted, enabling looping of the South Bay as well as other potential routes. (e.g., tech commute using Dumbarton and Palo Alto through San Jose) They also got the high-speed alignment (and project money) rerouted through San Jose and to the south, away from where the commuters are now and will be later, a clumsy way to salve a little city complex.

    2. I am glad that a couple of people on this thread have mentioned costs. Link21 and DTX would cost billions and will serve an incredibly small number of riders. Last month, the Chronicle reported that the $1.95 billion Central Subway is only resulting in an additional 2000 riders per day. These two projects will be even worse. I realize that the mental exercise of planning rail alignments can be very satisfying. But if this thought process results in wasting local, state, and federal funds, that is not a good outcome.

    3. @Marc Both Link21 and DTX would serve large numbers of riders since they provide access to the SF CBD which is the biggest driver of public transit in the Bay area. I would not compare them to boondoggles like like BART San Jose and the SF Central Subway which are likely to have few riders.Whether these projects are good value is another question. It's pretty clear the US mass transportation infrastructure building has a major cost issue which has been well described here and elsewhere. Until that is addressed it is questionable whether any major new mass transit infrastructure should be built at all. Even incremental improvements like Caltrain Electrification have been a disaster in terms of cost and schedule overrruns.

    4. Libertarian watch10 March, 2023 15:25

      After moving to Cato Institute from the Reason Foundation, it seems maybe @Marc Joffe is filling the shoes of notorious rail critic and self-described “anti-planner” Randal O’Toole?


      Marc Joffe: Why CA HSR may never get finished

    5. @jpk122s - Thanks for the informative comments. What do you think of the BART Core Capacity project and eBART to Antioch? It seems to me that some of these smaller projects haven't been too bad and can still be impactful.

    6. @Marc Joffe I think that more incremental projects like BART Core Capacity offer a lot better value than pouring more concrete. Investing in improved signalling and more trains with more doors and fewer seats just makes a lot of sense when capacity is the issue. Of course at some stage there is a need for bigger investments in new infrastructure, but that should be the last option after all alternatives have been fully explored and exhausted. Clem has made similar arguments on this blog about level boarding for Caltrain being a low-cost investment to increase speed and capacity that seems to never be Caltrain's priority for some reason.

      eBART to Antioch has some issues with the passenger experience transferring in the freeway median, but offers much better value and a similar utility to a traditional BART extension. Off-the-shelf small DMUs are a much more cost-effective for the kind of ridership you can expect in these low-density suburbs and probably should have been used for all stations beyond North Concord originally.

  9. That the original article content by Clem correctly recognizes the value of Dublin Canyon as the Bay Area's best access route for rail service that reaches outside it, and also actually includes re-gauging of BART to use the canyon and existing right-of-way in the valley, is refreshing. Of course it also entails using a route between Oakland and the Bay Fair location or somewhere near it or in Castro Valley, and the Oakland subdivision that BART already uses is there for the taking, plus the entire Dublin Canyon branch route could be re-gauged, ending at the Bay Fair station site on that Oakland Subdivision route, anyway(!). Just connect it and the tunnel.

    1. This talk about re-gauging BART tracks through Dublin Canyon Will Never Happen. There's literally zero chance that BART would agree to it ever, so why talk about it like it's a viable option? Repurposing BART tracks for the SFO Airtrain from SFO to Millbrae should be done, but the odds of that happening are slim to none. Anything else, will never happen, period. It's pure BS to even suggest it.

    2. Continuing from above - It was a simple miracle that the BART board voted against the obscene extension to a freeway interchange off 580 aka "BART to Livermore." I still can't believe they made the right call on that one. Expecting them to hand over their hard won track for some nebulous concept is pure fiction.

    3. The only agency that might initiate the re-gauging of the Dublin line would be BART itself, so there's no doubt that BART would "agree to it" whatever that means. It's a viable option, as much as it's a viable option to merge Caltrain into BART and a viable option to run standard gauge BART trains through the new Link21 tunnels, mixed in with other rail traffic. All these viable options would grow BART's ridership and expand its reach. "Will never happen" is an interesting argument, but it needs slightly more substance than simply stating it as fact.

    4. Freeway medians are SHIT locations for any sort of passenger rail, any sort, at all.

      California is a World Leader in SHIT that should not be done, does not work, and that nobody (who isn't on the take) would ever even consider. Don't copy California. Don't even look at California, except as a warning of what happens when corrupt cretins get a blank check.

      Freeway medians are completely infeasible locations for high speed rail, or even medium-high-speed rail, or any rail line designed to carry human beings. Stop it, just stop it. If you think this, you aren't capable of thinking, and you have no idea what you're talking about.

      The BART-occupied median of 580 is not a remotely feasible location for anything but the shit rail line that is already there, and which should never have been built. Every overpass and every underpass would require rebuilding to allow any non-BART train to pass over or under it, and this aside from the shit motor vehicle geometry oriented's of the freeway centreline horizontal and vertical geometry itself, and the far far far worse than shit nature of freeway median train stations.

      A freeway median has far less than nothing to do with passenger rail.

      Stop with this shit!

    5. Richard, people are not normally agitated like that by freeway median transit routes and stations, just dislike the noise in the stations where patrons are exposed to all that tire noise and engine noise from the freeway. The freeway route is fine as well in the valley; the US 50-Interstate 580 route directly from Dublin Canyon to the other side of the valley in northeast Livermore by Altamont canyon and pass is direct and the obvious route to take involving the canyon and the pass.

      The only gripe is if more than two tracks were wanted later. I wouldn't worry about that (more later). The route is fine to go to Livermore to the eastern end of the valley and end of the Bay Area there, where BART was expected, has been waited and paid for since the 1960s. Vasco or Greenville stations are obvious. The one exception is if with real rail commitment and service, there also is a South Bay route to Dumbarton and the Peninsula (able to turn south to San Jose or to the north, too) and the Dublin Canyon route put in western Livermore to intercept the Mission Pass route and have a junction and station there, as in one of the two maps from a Web site that you posted before.

      (with high-speed project alternative mountain crossing routes in a study that never considered Altamont Pass or analyzed it, too)


  10. Governance needs to be part of this process, and by that I mean merging BART (which includes the Capitols) and Caltrain AT A MINIMUM. Then we can ask the question, if trains coming up the Peninsula at frequent headways could keep going across the bay, where should they end up? Trips from the inner East Bay to the Peninsula seem like a market waiting to happen. Running transbay services to Richmond and either the Coliseum or Bayfair to the Peninsula could grab more distant trips on existing BART lines, allowing infill stations to be built to draw more riders in Oakland, Berkeley, Albany, and...

    This also obviously vastly increases the capacity at the Salesforce Transit Center by changing the station from a stub to through.

    1. Thank you for stating this! All the things you say here are very good points. From an East Bay perspective it's kind of like Key System Plus. Meaning iinner EB riders can easily get beyond the downtown SF Transbay terminal location, to points out Geary Blvd, and down the Peninsula. It shouldn't take two hours plus for me to get from a lakeside Oakland location to Palo Alto.

    2. From an East Bay perspective it's not just more metro area local access, but such a tunnel supports regional and longer-distance travel and makes it more possible and likely it will later be available. Not necessarily the state's high-speed rail as it is going now (below) but rather, future good, faster trains that could build up to true high speed in the Central Valley to get to and from So-Cal if certain conditions are met.

      A real rail system would include service south of Bay Fair to San Jose with a Dumbarton crossing near Fremont, and a likely set of trains (particularly for commuters) you could take from the East Bay core or past its north end (Richmond) south and special commuter trains divert to Dumbarton and south to San Jose including Palo Alto. (the tech strip, new centroid, even)

    3. merging BART (which includes the Capitols) and Caltrain AT A MINIMUM

      Well, Clem hasn't said it yet, and may not have even thought of it yet, but the repainting and re-badging of Caltrain and its rolling stock could go on to be a merger and changing the R word in BART to "Rail," so there would be no need to alter the badging, just the bureaucracy.

      It also could be the start of unifying the rest of Bay Area transit.

      "Regional" for train service really means the same as "regional" for the state, which means not only the Bay Area but the rest of the main part of Northern California through Sacramento, but if Bay Area rail were unified and then sent extensions into the rest of the core area, under the guise of aiding commuters and visitors, well, it's R for "Regional" someday, and changing from "Rail" means all transit gets the badge.

      (So much better than an MTC name and MTC badges on everything!)

    4. Just call it Bay Area Regional Transit, and no, BART shouldn't go to Sacramento. Also, BART should absorb SMART and add a new tunnel under Geary and stiffen the Golden Gate Bridge to make the mainline service currently operated by SMART to go to SF Salesforce and thru run onto the current Caltrain and across the 2nd mainline-only Transbay Tube. BART will then become an integrated metro and RER operator, just like RATP of Paris or TfL of London. Instead, Amtrak California (like SNCF regional divisions, DB Regio, and JR Group companies) should take over ACE, ValleyLink, and add service to Chico (via Sacramento Valley Station and Hwy 99 corridor, so different from old Sacramento Northern alignment) too.

    5. That's Bay Area rail, not BART, to Sacramento and the increasingly unknown Sacramento Valley beyond it. The real appeal of a new SF-East Bay crossing of the Bay is not for the BART custom system but for electrified conventional rail, which permits local or metro, regional (Nor-Cal core), and inter-city (long distance, such as north as well as south of the core) rail service. That's wholly independent of the state's own troubled high-speed rail project, troubled from the start, which is best viewed even if it succeeded one day as just part of a system.

      Rail on the Golden Gate bridge is old news and now competes with the Richmond-Rafael Bridge's eventual replacement. The thing that would make "SMART extension" or whatever else it might someday be called really appeal for riders would be for it to continue through the northern East Bay core and under the Bay to downtown San Francisco. Oh, and use common rolling stock, and that doesn't mean the half-billion dollars' worth of new BART cars that's the biggest of the non-bridge, non-approach projects where the money from bridge toll increases is being redirected.

      Meanwhile, Altamont Pass and Niles Canyon as-is are not serious modern routes, Dublin Canyon is better than anything around Mission Pass for East Bay core and S.F. service, and none of these are subject of real study at this time by local so-called transportation leadership.

  11. InfrastructureWeak08 March, 2023 16:13

    Thank you for the succinct and correct post, Clem. A quibble I'd like to raise: the Transbay Two-be is more likely to be single bore, for the easier construction of the frequent cross passages and because the extra space above and below the tracks can be used as air plenums to create separate exhaust and supply zones in the tunnel for smoke control, both NFPA 130 requirements. There will be no platforms in the tube, so the single bore does not have to be huge, as in San Jose.

    The numbers look even better for regional rail with a single-bore tunnel: according to MTC's 2015 Core Capacity Transit Study, "For BART, the expected outside diameter of a double track, single-bored tunnel is approximately 36 feet. For rail, the outside diameter is expected to be approximately 40 feet."


    1. In contrast, the smaller, dual-bored tunnels are likely to be preferred through urban areas at each end of the crossing because they provide the correct track spread for center platform stations and smaller tunnels can be mined at shallower depths and in closer proximity to existing infrastructure.

      Ignored for San Jose, of course, also off-the-shelf existing design and cut-and-cover tunneling

      If this tunnel is to be single-bore, may it not become a big blunder.

      I'd prefer an access road between two tunnels for service and emergencies, plus it could be available for rec trail use. (E-bikes...)

    2. The numbers look even better for regional rail with a single-bore tunnel

      Regional: I wonder if single-bore has been considered for any two-track mountain crossing in a new Altamont Pass tunnel or if it has been neglected.

      Inter-city: Single-bore high-speed rail under Pacheco Pass, not just the 1.5 mile tunnel, but the 13.5 mile tunnel at odds with the desire to minimize tunneling? (Contractors no doubt like the long tunnel idea.)

    3. HSR tunnels need a lot of free air space to reduce drag (and temperature rise) as well as reduce pressure transients. This one isn't high-speed, so a single bore might be doable with a big NFPA 130 wall down the middle. It might look kind of like this. (40 foot external diameter, drawn with a Capitol Corridor ALC42-E for good measure)

  12. Is the the Dublin/Pleasanton line along the 238 and 580 suitable for conventional regional rail vehicles? e.g. Is the grade suitable? Are the existing overpasses/bridges suitable?

    1. Grades yes (for EMUs), bridges mostly not.

    2. InfrastructureWeak09 March, 2023 14:00

      Could the overpass issue along 580 be solved with a trench? It seems like going 6-8ft down with two retaining walls ought to be a simple fix. It couldn't be too close to the center or the sides, to avoid the overpass abutments and column foundations. Ok, that's not a simple fix.

      So, perhaps it should go down El Charro Rd to the ACE right of way, with a new tunnel under Altamont.

      Valley Link, San Joaquins, & ACE need a holistic look so that we don't end up with three overlaid train networks that run only a few trains a day each. Turning those projects into a blended HSR & regional rail corridor out to Manteca would go a long way toward rationalizing the region's service with hourly or half hourly trains.

    3. There are overpasses (yes, a challenge) west of El Charro Road, a good choice for a route to intercept Mission Pass-South Bay traffic.

      The ugly story of rerouting HSR's alignment through San Jose, onward to Gilroy and using Pacheco Pass instead of Altamont Pass, to set in place trains going through San Jose, and the opposition to Altamont Pass incorporated into the project's workings is disgusting.

      A better run state as well as federal government, if it provided money, would have strings attached directing the use of Altamont Pass and hopefully also Dublin Canyon instead of the current alignment. There's nothing built yet, so yes, there is time to correct mistakes. (A new Mission Pass route may be all that governments might fund. It's the farthest south, Dumbarton included, that LA-SF trains should go.)

      In fact, not just the Bay Area, not just the region, but the state rail system needs to be viewed like that, holistically. That includes thinking of it with mention of new (revived from another era!) rail service north from Sacramento to the main Sacramento Valley towns.
      (Single or double track? Even for high-speed rail someday, unlikely as that is.)

    4. John Ramsbottom10 March, 2023 08:51

      Viewing from afar I see problems with there being too many players in the game often doing/proposing work that is not compatible with others or worse, making changes that obstruct what they may be need in the future. The State needs to set up a division responsible for the oversight of rail across the State with the legal authority to block proposals that do not follow the State defined rail expansion plans, flexible enough to change over the short term depending on ridership needs. The division would have two roles; determining the expansion plans and proposing where State funding for expansion goes and an audit of the suitability of the proposals by the individual companies (eg there seems to be a lot of reinventing the wheel on the HSR project and CALTRAIN doing grade separations that preclude (at any reasonable expense) making a future expansion from 2 to 4 track.

  13. Thank you for this post. You are making a critical point that will decide if link 21 leads to a crippled limited use rail like, or if it truly creates a whole new integrated transportation

    Link21 must be standard gauge. BART already operates standard gauge trains as part of eBART. BART knows conventional rail technology is more advanced and cheaper to build, buy, and maintain than their bespoke wide gauge main line system.

    Using standard tech will allow bart to cheaply add new lines on existing ROW’s in the east bay running north and south from Oakland. All that is needed are transfer stations between existing and new rail lines. Combining with Caltrain and running all trains through SF will create a more efficient and usable bay area transit network similar to the Paris RER. Merge Caltrain and BART if needed and run Caltrain up to Richmond, and to the Coliseum on exiting standard gauge tracks. Add cheep on grade infill stations at cities on these lines with overhead catenary.

    The worst option is to have inefficient terminal stations in SF for BART and Caltrain which will result if Link21 Is not standard guage. This would be very wasteful. All trains must move through San Francisco.

    Whats most important is connectivity, access and maximizing where transit goes not perpetuating the obscure BART tech. Maybe one day on a new Richmond San Rafael bridge with rail, these trains could merge with SMART.

    No need to change the existing BART line guage, but all BART expansions after the downtown San Jose extension is complete should be standard guage, normal track with OCS electric power to maximize interoperability with HSR, regional and other commuter rail systems.

  14. With downtown SF real estate prices as they are now, it would be a great time to buy the land needed for the tunnel connection through SF. It could be rented out until demolition is needed in the future. But US rail systems don't think of themselves as both transit and real estate companies as in Japan. Too bad the money for this is not available and the opportunity lost. It happens so often.

    Not to change the subject but could Clem weigh in on the recent disclosures of large cost estimate increases in high speed rail project. They can't seem to catch a break. Or maybe they are not making their own luck with smart decisions. Any thoughts would be appreciated at this time.

    1. And other problems like the reduced ridership estimates that always have been and still are too high, plus the idea that contracting-out of services is a legal escape from meeting the terms of the enabling legislation...as already expected when it came to a way to illegally subsidize fares...

      There is a local analogy (besides Caltrain gripes) to the high-speed rail project, namely the extension of BART into San Jose and onward to begin the southern part of BART around the Bay. Costs, schedule? And it grabs for money every way and place it can.

    2. BART (wide guage hardware) up the peninsula between Santa Clara and Millbrae will never happen, because electrified Caltrain is better technology, with passing tracks, and can provide more service options than BART. Increasing service on Caltrain requires very small investment compared to the colossally overpriced BART construction and equipment costs. Caltrain may merge with BART, to integrate fares/schedules/transfers, but replacement will never happen.

    3. Anonymous 12 Mar 0939, well, yes, "real" BART costs may have underpinned the alternative BART to Antioch service, and could in theory have been done with Livermore, the Bay Area end point there for decades, too. More to that cost point, then why extend BART to San Jose and beyond "real" BART and "real" BART costs, and a colossal single-bore subway under San Jose? And why onward to Santa Clara? It's not as if a tunnel under the airport between Santa Clara BART and Caltrain and the airport terminal is under consideration, for example. (The same people behind BART to San Jose and onward want airport-Didiron access.)

    4. 12 Mar 0939, it would be interesting to see if "real," custom system BART's costs are its Waterloo defeat or force Gettysburg high marks on some lines, but not until we get done with VTA's and BART's big show with "real" BART going through San Jose, including some kind of new Diridon Station to replace the old one. Big heads and connections got that done, partly at the Livermore line end's expense, which was wrong. The cost wasn't a barrier to the decision to proceed with the "real" BART technology, with the intention to go all the way to duplicating Caltrain service at Santa Clara. They're just trying to get the money the need as they can.
      There's nothing keeping big heads from trying to connect Santa Clara and Millbrae someday with the same motives, though there may not be as much support concentrated outside the South Bay, who knows. At least the San Jose gang can hope to be proud of Real BART and a Real Subway to make San Jose a Real, Live Big City with boosted bragging rights.

  15. Re that tunnel bore carrying a blue-and-white liveried not-too-short "BART" train ... now do Santa Clara (from within the Caltrain ROW) to San Jose Cahill Street to "downtown" San Jose to Berryessa.

    There's got to be something not-too-short they could shove into their planned XXXL-sized (biggest little city in California, yee-haw!) XXXXXXXXXXL-cost tunnel.

    1. You mean this single-bore version? At an external diameter of just 40 feet, it is significantly smaller than BART's planned external diameter of 54 feet. Also, it is reported that BART uses cyan concrete exclusively, made with raw materials sourced directly from the lapis lazuli mines of Badakhshan.

    2. Looks good! BART Around The Bay, whee!

      Not only that, but the Lenzen rail yard site from which the super-sized blue-striped BART trains descend into their XXXL-sized tunnel would make a good spot to build a modern and functional maintenance depot (designed by Stadler, not C*ltr**n) for the super-sized blue-striped modern BART trains running in the Silicon Valley Super Subway.

      The most important thing, that most importantest city in the western hemisphere gets the subway it so so so very richly deserves, remains a shining achievement, meanwhile the second most critical issue in the entire Bay Area, ever, that BART fulfills its manifest destiny of looping towards Fremont from the west, is finally addressed ... What's not to like? (There's relief for the single commuter rail passenger track to Blossom Hill, too, but who cares about antique red and white trains?)

      The only remaining problem is the insanely deep stations under Santa Clara Street ... multi-billion-dollar, passenger-hating, trip-prolonging, cathedral-sized, and ultimately, guaranteed ... empty of people.

    3. San Jose seeks Bertha II, the Railroad Sequel South of Seattle, and while one bragging right for the South Bay egos is that this breathtaking new bragging right for the city won't tear up the street like the existing cut-and-cover design would, from the start I have expected it to indeed be like Bertha, get broken down and stranded, one hears or reads maybe from abuse to hurry the progress, and East Santa Clara Street will have to be blocked and broken open to rescue the machine.

      If BART is extended north or all the way around the Bay, it would loop towards Fremont from the north or, NEW!, the south. Now if BART pushed and shoved its way onto a new Dumbarton rail crossing, too, then there'd be a western approach.

    4. One errs if one believes that San Jose's ARTIC envy downtown, plus the other stations that can earn scorn even among transit enthusiasts on Twitter will be empty. Plenty of people who currently call BART trains their rolling homes and call BART stations their homes, and call existing VTA transit their rolling homes, and others like them, may well take to living in the new stations. That's the first thing any observer of San Jose itself, not merely the South Bay gang's transit, train, etc. antics expects to encounter.

    5. If I may gently re-rail this conversation, the increasing presence of un-housed people on transit is a direct outcome of the Bay Area's collective failure to build housing over the last several decades of accumulating exclusionary zoning barriers erected in nearly every local juristiction. Transportation policy is housing policy, and flashy gold-plated subways will only work if accompanied by a massive increase in housing density. If people can afford the rent, they won't have to take refuge on transit.

    6. Putting it actually on the rails would counter what you're saying, and most people moving into the new apartments will want houses, too, eventually, with not enough room to build them locally. The normal affordabilty solution when the problem began, in the 1970s, has been to relocate to Tracy (1970s) onward, with other reaches such as Morgan Hill southward. Meanwhile, transportation as well as housing (they are separate as well as different) both suffer from poor politics driving poor policy trends to add to previous failures, so we don't already have an improved Altamont Pass for commuters as well as others to use for regional trips in and out of the northern San Joaquin Valley plus still growing Tri-Valley sites, and the trains to move them, there, along with possibly better use of Dublin Canyon for standard-gauge trains that you refer to in your blog posting here. Now add improving long-distance rail. There is true re-railing. Hello again, Dublin Canyon.

  16. Off topic (as if anything in blog comments stays on topic for even five minutes, sigh) but is there somebody who can help me with some CSS/DOM/Javascript browser front-end hell? I've been sitting on some code that almost displays what I want for nearly a year, and I'm sure anybody who, unlike me, knows enough about this not to fly into petulant rages of frustration over it could fix me up in an hour or two. (Caltrain grade separation related, because there's nothing as insane as throwing good money after decades of bad, is there.) Oh yeah, there's d3.js in the mix, so more frustration on that front, but that part seems under control, unless it isn't. mly@pobox.com as ever, thanks.

  17. I agree that we need standard gauge BART in the tunnel, but I disagree with your choice of routing. With a little more tunneling and regauging (and a lot less surface building), we can have this routing which eliminates most interlining, gives all lines access to Oakland, and allows a sensible high frequency on every branch.

    1. What is depicted, since I had to go to the effort to fire up a non-adblocking browser to deal with the morass of Javascript and tracking shit that is "img"ur.com, is:

      The BART Dublin and Fremont lines magically de-interlined from the the existing network, and ...
      * crossing at right angles under a new interchange under 12th Street station,
      * tunnelling under the Bay,
      * magically tunnelling to a new interchange deep under Powell Street (oops! forgot about the Central Subway ... God if only ...),
      * and then tunnelling all the way out along Geary to the ocean.

      The only thing I'm going to say about this is that any remotely justifiable Geary rail must be 100% segregated — in rolling stock, in operations, possibly in ownership, in maintenance, in automated driverless-ness, in everything except integrated ticketing — from the disasters of equipment and operations that are Muni and BART and Caltrain.

      It's not a bad place to put modern rail, modern rail constructed at first-world non-Anglosphere non-laughable non-mafia-profiting cost, but it's would be an infinitely deep pit of failure to put anything we already have around here into a hole out there. Stop repeating titanic catastrophes! Just stop.

      As for regauging half of BART, yeah, I have opinions, and there are places you can read them. ("BART's here. Deal with it. Get over it. Get real.")

    2. West Oakland again versus Alameda this time:

      The shown routing


      appears to go through West Oakland instead of using the other natural crossing site at Alameda Point and serving Alameda and the Jack London Square area at least near it (where many want transit to go someday) before accessing the East Bay main line.

      To many the Alameda route is preferred. Why West Oakland?

    3. @Richard thank you for your thoughts about who should be managing the project.

      @Anonymous the main reason is to have all lines going to downtown Oakland, which is a major business center. Boutique TOD+rail projects do not have a great track record (e.g. Hudson Yards) and it would be a bad idea to make Jack London Square into such a project, especially as JLS is already sort of walkable from the existing BART stations.

      Alameda Point has the advantage of a shorter tunnel to SF, but this is offset by less familiarity with the soil from previous building projects. I think the main question here is how much development could be placed on Alameda Point. They could theoretically fill the area up with high rises, in which case it would be a great place for a rail station. But given the limited road access I think this is unlikely to happen, in which case West Oakland has much more capacity for development and should get the rail station.

    4. Point of note: Alameda Point and West Oakland are the crossing routes and landings on the East Bay (mainland) side, what those two names and places actually identify. BART already has a West Oakland station site east of its East Bay Tube portal in the old West Oakland community. Who knows what Alameda will do.

      Alameda, including the Point now available for all kinds of uses, is a good crossing site and could support a different alignment into and out of the City, as well as support Alameda (not just the point and not requiring high- or mid-rise) and the route onward to the East Bay trunk and beyond (including Dublin Canyon, Altamont Pass) but you're right about the poor road access, i.e., general access. In either case it's no question that Oakland (not San Jose as some there claim) is transportation's center in the Bay Area, in fact, includes that as an argument for the Dublin Canyon-Altamont Pass route, and ordinarily every or nearly every train to and from San Francisco, be it local, regional (including northern San Joaquin Valley), or inter-city (meaning long distance, including to and from L.A. possibly someday) should stop at Oakland, too, a main traffic source and destination in a more complete and good rail system for the state. It's not a scope involving West Oakland as a station or related development site but rather with a station, if the main one is in downtown Oakland or in central Alameda or that city's preferred site possibly somewhat west of its downtown.

      The clincher would be that what really matters is for conventional rail to cross the Bay, more desired by most than additional BART, and it's Oakland that deserves and needs that train service more.

    5. @Eric
      “@Anonymous the main reason is to have all lines going to downtown Oakland”

      You can have all lines serving DT Oak and have a line to Alameda if you make the Richmond/Antioch lines the one that go to Geary, by first continuing south to JLS and then crossing to Alameda. The Dublin/SJ lines would serve DT Oak with some new tunnels, by either continuing NW from Madison Park to reach 12th St station (long tunnel option), or continuing W on 9th with an offset connection to 12th St (short tunnel). Either way the lines would turn S right after Broadway to reach the existing tunnel portal. Such a “reverse Y” (southbound lines turn N at the Y and northbound lines turn S, before they reverse direction and cross at 12th St) is how BART should have been built in the first place.

      Don’t forget to show the Richmond/SJ line on your proposed maps.

  18. Do we even need a second transbay tube? Downtown San Francisco employment has collapsed and remote/hybrid work will be the way of the future. BART will be reduced to half-hourly and hourly headways to match Caltrain once the federal stimulus aid runs out. I don't forsee the Bay Area running out of capacity anytime soon.

    1. Many office jobs will indeed go partly or entirely remote, but 1) the rest won't, thus even purely office commuting volume will remain, let's say, at least 50% of pre-corona levels; 2) many forms of non-office jobs cannot go remote; 3) commuting is not even the plurality of ridership on a subway system. Thus the overall transportation demand will not have decreased by more than a quarter. (And should the Bay Area manage to build some housing, the increase in population can make up for that.) The key thing is that in almost any city, people have a choice between fulfilling their mobility needs by, chiefly, transit or car (with bikes, miscellaneous light vehicles, and going on foot being largely negligible in the context where transit is an option). And if an urban rail system comes every 30 minutes, vastly fewer people will choose it than if it comes with reasonable headways.

      The second key thing is that for a system like BART, most of the costs is in the infrastructure (the technical term is amortized cost), which is a fixed cost. (E.g. corrosion limits the life of the works even if trains don't use them. You don't get to, as the most literal example, get out of paying back the debt you took out to pay for the construction just because you don't use what was built.) Surprisingly few additional passengers can pay for the running cost of the additional trains. Thus even in the narrowest beancounter view -- ignoring everything beside BART's finances -- a steep reduction in frequency is a bad idea. And of course, in a broader view, this is even more pronouncedly the case; the more aspects we take into account, the worse rail-service-cutting comes out.

      Using half-trains would be a reasonable response to decreasing travel demand. Cutting service frequency is potentially appropriate for buses, where almost all cost is running cost (in particular, the driver's wage is the single largest item), but not for rail on expensive infrastructure.

    2. The good reason for the second tube is for electrified conventional rail.

      What should be presented rather than making the new crossing with or without BART the main attraction with bits and pieces of the things MTC and others have sought multiple times before, is the tube with connections to the East Bay conventional rail system at a minimum (and if BART is included, connecting to the rest of BART) as its own project. This should involve the new downtown station (these days it is called Salesforce Transit Center) and connect to the Peninsula and to Caltrain (subject to relabeling someday) and the Coast Route beyond.

      Maybe include the (next phase of the?) downtown extension from Fourth in this package even though that is a separate Thing already.

  19. For your (off topic) amusement, I'm currently posting from a Unicorn of the Rails, a Nippon Sharyo Series HC85 hybrid DEMU, the Limited Express Hida between Takayama and Nagoya. This is a true hybrid, complete with a Prius-style display screen showing when the batteries are charging/discharging. This is JR Central's first hybrid train, others have been in use elsewhere in Japan since 2005 or so. This makes a lot of sense on mountainous routes like this one, allowing recapture of energy that would otherwise be lost to brake heating. It's also smoother, quieter, and faster than the DMUs it replaced, routinely arriving/departing stations with the diesels off. That is all.

  20. I am yet another Anonymous. This is sort of off topic and sort of on topic considering the prior discussion about 'theoretically' repurposing BART's I-580 alignment for standard gauge electrified rail built to accommodate same specs as Caltrain's new EMUs. It's 'on topic' at least regarding freeway medians. Does anyone has any opinions on Brightline West's alignment in the median of I-15 through Cajon Pass and the rest of the route as well? Is this a good idea?

    I'm sure you all know the details of this. As you know given space constraints it will be single track from Rancho Cucamonga to Las Vegas except for passing sidings. I understand there are quite a few single track HSR routes in Spain but the overall ROW is designed to accommodate 2 tracks in the future. Brightline West is also foregoing construction of tunnels originally proposed by Desert Xpress to keep things at grade wherever possible to reduce costs.

    Are there lessons here that CHSR should adopt? Apart from the current CHSR alignment in the central valley vs. I-5 median (that decision settled and done) what more could CHSR learn from Brightline West's alignment approach? What is the feasibility of connecting the "Initial Operating Segment" to both the Bay Area and Los Angeles basin by use of freeway medians alone and mostly at grade matching the freeway gradients and curve radius?

    I feel like Brightline West's approach might be a "good enough" method considering the economics of its operation and limited service frequency but not so certain as to what changes they could influence the CHSRA to make from where we stand now that would not further increase travel time beyond 2 hours, 40 minutes.

    I know that State Treasurer Fiona Ma is pulling all the strings she can for Brightline West even claiming they will be the future operators of CHSR.

    1. The I-15 median in the desert portion is addressed by the earlier project at the Federal Railroad Administration, including maps.


      I-5 has curves that don't support high train speeds and otherwise is unsuited for operation even with crash barriers, including the presence of many overpasses featuring centrally placed piers.

      Running the trains along the east side of the Central Valley inside is interior for SF-LA service but was a political concession as with other wanderings and so many stops in so many small cities. At least Fresno and probably Bakersfield can be defended in a relative sense for stops. Running along the east side is probably for most the least of the concerns. There is the choice of Palmdale rather than Grapevine (Tejon) and Pacheco instead of Altamont for the mountain crossings, which are more serious.

      The reason those people like freeway land no doubt is that it's cheaper and they appreciate the gift. I-4 in Florida to Tampa for the next Brightline extension, if they get that, same thing. Single track and other cost cutting make sense with those people, who are land developers. Their south-of-Strip site in Las Vegas will be interesting if things get far. They have promoted Brightline the conventional service as high-speed themselves (it's not just the many journalists flubbing the definition), their Virgin Trains IPO "confusingly" mixed their stuff with high-speed rail (and maybe the use of the brand name was only for the IPO and any success of it, perhaps), and they promoted the original concept from Apple Valley in glowing terms, only more recently facing reality and now wanting to reach the eastern L.A. Basin. Cajon is necessary.

      Fiona Ma has not only been an over-zealous cheerleader for the state project in the past, she has been over-zealous for Brightline West, including for the private activity bonds, and otherwise too cozy with and beneficial toward the project and its people.

      Know what you're dealing with, even if train travel is appealing.

    2. Once you get to the mountains, following the related highways, no.

    3. Well if the line is only going to connect Merced to Bakersfield with never a mountain crossing to the Bay Area or LA basin I guess the current alignment would be more useful than a stranded segment in the median of the I-5.

  21. Reality Check02 June, 2023 12:51

    Depressing in its “nowhereness” aerial overview/flyover of planned Brightline West (Rancho Cucamonga - Las Vegas) route & station areas: https://youtu.be/Vb1JJgEpOi0