Response to the Wall Street Journal op-ed “Off the San Francisco Rails” published on August 23, 2011.
Central Subway is Phase 2 of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s (SFMTA) Third Street Light Rail Project that is already in service and the Central Subway will connect to the 18 existing stations. The Central Subway will operate as an extension of the T Third line and will extend light rail service with a surface stop on 4th Street near Brannan Street, and subway service under the South of Market (SoMa), Union Square and Chinatown neighborhoods.
The Central Subway Project is a critical transportation improvement linking neighborhoods in the southeastern part of the rest of San Francisco with the retail and employment centers downtown and in Chinatown. It will provide much needed and improved transportation connecting communities that have long been disconnected from an efficient rail connection to downtown, the project provides a critical connection to the Mission Bay-UCSF medical research and bio-tech center. This development is already home to a major research facility and growing bio-tech companies but is slated to become an entire community with schools, housing and businesses that will need access to San Francisco and beyond via the connections that the project will have with other regional transportation connections.
In any large construction project, costs are continually refined as more detailed engineering work is completed. In addition, the prices of other components beyond the control of the SFMTA, such as materials, labor and real estate, also vary and can change over the eight years.
The Union Square/Market Street Station provides a direct, underground connection to the Powell Street Muni/BART Station via a modern, well-lit concourse. In addition, the north end of the station connects with the major shopping district at Union Square. See diagram below which depicts the direct Muni to Muni connection and estimated walk of 4.8 minutes from platform to platform.
Muni customers will have the option to take surface buses or subway to their desired destination. This is similar to what our customers currently experience on Market Street with coordinated bus and light rail service.
The comparable current connection is from the Muni 30 Stockton and 45 Union bus routes to the Powell or Montgomery Muni Metro stations. Essentially, there is no difference in travel distance for current Muni bus customers and future Central Subway customers. In fact, the transfer from Central Subway would be better in comparison – a seamless transfer within a controlled transit environment with vertical circulation aided by escalators and elevators in both directions.
The new northbound transfer distance is shorter than the current transfer from the Montgomery Muni Metro Station to the closest northbound bus stop.
The Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) discretionary New Starts program is the federal government’s primary financial resource for supporting locally-planned, implemented, and operated transit guideway capital investments. From heavy rail to light rail, from commuter rail to bus rapid transit systems, New Starts has helped to make possible hundreds of new or extended transit fixed guideway systems across the country. Federal investment into rail and bus transit has improved the mobility of millions of Americans helping to reduce congestion, improve air quality, and overall quality of life. The FTA’s New Starts program is subject to the toughest review of any federal funding program, far greater scrutiny than any highway investment. In these times, these are exactly the kind of investments this nation should be making by creating jobs now and access to jobs and opportunity in the future.