Saturday, August 15, 2009

Introducing the Golden Gate Mariner

NOTE: We've moved! Visit us at the California High Speed Rail Blog.

by Rafael

This post is about an ambitious idea I had for a new regional light rail/streetcar line between downtown San Francisco and San Rafael in Marin County. While the primary purpose would be local and regional transit for residents of Marin county, it would also connect both them and Sonoma county residents (via connection to SMART) to high speed rail at the future Transbay Terminal Center.

A Brief History of Transit between SF and Marin County

Early in the 20th century, the only way to cross the Golden Gate Strait was with a ferry from piers along the SF Embarcadero to either Sausalito or Tiburon. From there, a standard and a separate narrow gauge railroad provided connecting passenger service to points north.

When the Golden Gate suspension bridge was designed to accelerate transit, the plan was to support streetcar service on two of its lanes. However, the actual construction never featured any rails because there was never anything to connect them to at either end. By the late thirties, transit agencies were switching to diesel buses which were more flexible and cheaper to operate. That is still the case today, but bus ridership suffered greatly once just about everyone could afford cars of his or her own. For a variety of reasons, electric trains - especially grade-separated subways - tend to be more popular with commuters.

The principal problems the popularity of private cars created for urban planners are road congestion and land use for parking spaces. Congestion also impedes bus and streetcar operations. Air quality issues related to gasoline cars have receded thanks to three-way catalysts. Comparable technology for diesel engines is much more expensive and was not even available in California before late 2008.

In a rare example of prescient regional transportation planning, an Army-Navy board convened after WW2 recommended the construction of a fully grade separated electric rail network spanning San Francisco, San Mateo, Marin, Alameda and Costra Contra counties. Since only the lower deck of the western span of the Bay Bridge had been constructed to support trolley service from the East Bay to the SF Transbay Terminal, the whole bridge was to be given over to motor vehicles. The new trains would run out to Daly City in a subway under Market Street, with a fancy new transbay tube across the Bay. Soon after, this plan became the basis for the civilian BART organization.

San Mateo soon bowed out, citing the high cost of full grade separation required to enable third rail operations. In addition, Standard Pacific already provided diesel-based passenger rail service into San Francisco. Keep in mind that at time, this was profitable, the peninsula was sparsely populated and no-one had even conceived of Silicon Valley.

BART engineers had picked 1676mm broad gauge for the new network, in part to provide mor stability for the planned Marin line across the Golden Gate bridge. Marin county withdrew from BART regardless. The primary reason was its limited tax base, but there was also some renewed discussion of whether the Golden Gate bridge could support the BART trains, which are longer than streetcars (though lighter per unit length, which matters more for bridge safety). Up to a point, the engineering discussion may have been a bureaucratic smoke screen: the Golden Gate Transit Authority was jealously guarding its turf, which included the bridge and toll collection on it.

Right of Way Preservation Efforts

Marin county did spend quite a bit of time and money on studies related to the old railroad lines, whose fortunes had declined due to competition from US 101, increasing opposition to logging in old-growth temperate rainforests, tunnel fires and the high cost of maintaining the Eel River valley line up to Eureka. Certain sections are prone to flooding and/or geologically unstable.

The county and its neighbor to the north, Sonoma, ended up purchasing the right of way between Corte Madera and Ignacio, just south of Novato Junction. Between Corte Madera and Sausalito, the old right of way is being preserved as a bike route called the North-South Greenway. Bicycles are serious business in Marin: millions are currently being spent on restoring the old railroad tunnels, something cyclists in Santa Cruz county can only dream of. Parts of the old line between Corte Madera and Tiburon are also being preserved as bike trails today.

The section between Schellville Junction (south of Sonoma town), Novato Junction and Eureka was taken over by the North Coast Rail Authority (NCRA), a California state agency created specifically to keep the ROW from being abandoned. In 2006, it leased the right to operate to the resurrected Northwestern Pacific Railway (NWP). It intends to minimally rehabilitate the line - top speed 10mph in some sections - to support the extraction of aggregate from the Eel River valley. Tracks still exist between Schellville Junction and Fairfield Junction with the Capitol Corridor main line, though they will also need to be rehabilitated before they can be brought back into service.

Coming full circle

In retrospect, many North Bay residents now regret Marin's 1961 decision to withdraw from BART. The Golden Gate bridge is now badly congested during rush hour, tolls have since risen to $6 southbound and all-day parking in SF has also become very expensive.

In 2008, a 2/3 majority of combined Marin and Sonoma county voters approved a sales tax hike to fund the resumption of passenger rail service between Cloverdale and the Larkspur ferry terminal under the name SMART (Sonoma-Marin Train). To preserve the option of double-tracking at some point in the future, a bike trail will run next to the restored line. Detractors rightly point out that that any future service to Sacramento and Oakland is just a pious hope at this point. For the moment at least, Marin county in particular is heavily dependent on its tenuous connections to San Francisco and Berkeley.

There is also concern that NWP's plan to support controversial mining operations in Mendocino county will lead to numerous heavy freight trains running through multiple Sonoma county towns at night, just to avoid conflicts with SMART's timetable during the day. NWP has already begun with rehabilitation work, so SMART may be forced to select FRA-compliant equipment such as DMUs from Colorado Railcar, which had briefly gone out of business in 2008.

Choosing FRA-compliant equipment would essentially kill whatever hint of a sliver of a chance there remains of ever laying heavy rail tracks south to Marin City, never mind Sausalito. Tracks across the Golden Gate and into downtown San Francisco seem even more outlandish.

Streetcar vs. Car, Sweet Car

Still, it's worth re-iterating that the Golden Gate bridge is badly congested, a situation that is unlikely to improve by itself anytime soon, if ever. FasTrak toll collection has certainly helped speed things along, but there are still plenty of people who prefer to pay cash. Restricting two lanes on 101 between San Rafael and the Marina district in SF to HOV vehicles would obviously increase throughput capacity, but it would also make commuting even more hellish for anyone who cannot - or will not - carpool. Private livery service is expensive and public buses not terribly popular.

One possible approach would be to forget about the Larkspur Ferry and terminate SMART in San Rafael instead. There, passengers would make a cross-platform transfer to a new light rail service which I've dubbed the "Golden Gate Mariner".


View Golden Gate Mariner (light rail) in a larger map

Provided cyclists agree to share the ROW as they already have for SMART, light rail should be compatible with current land use patterns in southern Marin county. The one significant caveat is that the old level railroad bridge across the Larkspur slough should be replaced. For a transit service that will run multiple times per hour, any swing or bascule section represents a risk to the timetable. The replacement should provide as much clearance as the adjacent freeway bridge. Fortunately, suitable light rail vehicles can handle grades as steep as 6%.

Service through Sausalito would be in streetcar mode. South of that point, there are two options:

OPTION #1 is to climb up to the Golden Gate bridge, run across that into the Presidio and head for the Marina District via Chrissy Field. Beyond that, trains could continue past Fort Mason to join up with the F-Market streetcar tracks along the Embarcadero, possibly hooking a left at 1st & Market to reach the new Transbay Terminal Center and looping back via Fremont Street.

The big plus of this option is that it avoids seriously breaking the bank by leveraging the existing Golden Gate bridge. It would not be necessary to dedicate lanes to streetcar service, only to ensure sufficient space in front of and behind the heavy light rail vehicle to avoid collisions and exceeding local load limits. In practical terms, that would not be easy to do. Railroads use block signaling, perhaps something comparable (but with very short blocks) could be used in this context. The streetcar lane could be monitored with video cameras, anyone running a red light would be fined.

This highlights the primary downside: sharing the existing bridge without dedicating one or two lanes to trains means inconveniencing motorists, even a potential safety hazard. Theoretically, light rail service would take more than enough cars off the bridge to compensate for the inconvenience. In practice, however, vehicle traffic volume tends to rebound before long as the population grows.

The other downside is that light rail is limited to low speeds in streetcar mode. The total distance for option #1 is only 20.8 miles, but it could take an hour to cover that distance.

OPTION #2 avoids the Golden Gate bridge, relying instead on a brand-new, dead straight tunnel under the Golden Gate between downtown Sausalito and Columbus Ave in SF. At 5.5mi, this isn't the shortest option for a bay crossing, but it does run along a ridge on the sea floor, this limiting how deep the tunnel would need to run.

The line would continue up Columbus Street in SF and joining up with the northern end of the Central Subway. Sharing track with that would require schedule integration, as SF Muni currently plans to run the Central Subway at 5 minute intervals during rush hour. If sharing is possible, the GG Mariner would connect to BART / SF Muni at Powell Street and to Caltrain at 4th & King/Townsend.

It would be possible to terminate the line at 3rd & Channel in Mission Bay. However, it would be useful to offer direct service to the TTC. Given that the complex vertical alignment of the Central Subway (option 3B per FTA's ROD), the only way to achieve that is with some new streetcar tracks to double back. The earliest opportunity would be Bryant Street just south of the portal, but it's a one-way street. It might make more sense to use SF Muni's existing tracks along King and Embarcadero, run past the ballpark and up 2nd (above the DTX tunnel). The line would end in a single-track loop via Natoma, 1st and Howard.

Still, single biggest advantage of option #2 would be the shorter distance and much straighter alignment into downtown SF and out to 4th & King. Line haul time from San Rafael could probably be reduced from an hour to less than 40 minutes. That would be a game changer in terms of modal market share among commuters. Compared to that, the awkward detour to get to the TTC is a small price to pay. In addition, option #2 would create a second fixed link across the GG strait, a very useful thing to have in case the Bridge or US-101 ever became unavailable for an extended period of time, e.g. after an earthquake.

The biggest downside, obviously, would be the fairly stupendous cost of constructing a bored tunnel under the Bay. The distance is much shorter than the one between England and France, but the ridership potential is also much smaller. There just aren't that many people in Marin county (or even Marin + Sonoma counties). A submerged floating tunnel, anyhow just a theoretical concept, is probably out of the question due to the high tidal currents in the Golden Gate.

Perhaps a conventional immersed tube might be viable, as long as it is buried deep enough to avoid undesirable interactions with the currents.

Rolling Stock and Yard

Since both options require a certain amount of streetcar service and would share some track and stations with SF Muni lines, the trains cannot be too long.

Regional light rail lines of similar length with sections of mixed traffic with local streetcars operate successfully in Europe, e.g. the WLB between Baden and Vienna, Austria. Their dual track line is 30.4km (19mi) long with a total of 34 stops, roughly comparable to option #1 above. WLB has run on overhead catenaries for over a century and serves 30,000 passengers a day at intervals of 7.5-30 minutes (varies by day, time of day and location). That corresponds to a modal share of ~40% of commuters, even though there is no single traffic choke point comparable to the Golden Gate bridge. Ticketing is integrated with the zone system used by the regional transit authority VOR.

WLB's new type 400 rolling stock is a custom low floor variant of Bombardier's Flexity Swift light rail product line. Each car is 27m long, doubly articulated, weighs 49 metric tonnes fully loaded and offers around 70 seats plus room for well over 100 standees. Typical trains feature 2 cars back-to-back, with the driver cabs at the free ends. For reference, WLB also operates some light freight trains on its own heavy rail tracks south of Schedifkaplatz and those of other railways.

Note that overhead catenaries and conductor rails (for low tunnels) are expensive but don't require full grade separation. For option #2, OCS is the only way to go. Option #1 could be theoretically implemented with a clean diesel powertrain as well, since the only tunnel is the short one in Mill Valley. Also, any proposal to add sturdy OCS poles and wire to the iconic GG bridge might well run into environmental objections.

Since most of the morning ridership on the GG Mariner would be southbound, it might be acceptable to make do with a single yard for overnight parking. The easiest location for that would be at the end of a short spur in Corte Madera, see map above. The location used to be part of the NWP line to Tiburon. The last trains of the day would dead-head there from San Rafael.

105 comments:

James said...

Option 1: Maybe add a structure to the sides of the GGB truss so that it is below the road level. Note that during GGB construction there was a light spur up from Sausalito but I think that is now the highway. I do not know if the structure inside the deck truss will easily adapt for rail access. It may take some rearrangement. (at the intersection of the deck and towers there are expansion and pivot joints to work around. However the deck truss is 25 feet deep). That would be a clean design in that it would not change the outward appearance of the GGB.

Option 2: Could the tube under the bay be a single track? It may have to be practically double wide for emergency access. Note that the BART tube was designed with a protective berm to encourage the ship's anchor to drag over and not hook onto the tunnel.

Ancient History:
Plans for a north bay rail to ferry, passenger and freight service go back about 100 years. The NWP and the PSRRR both hoped to compete (there was literally skin in the game at one point in a show-down at the Santa Rosa crossing). The NWP from the two ports in Marin (Sausalito and Belvedere) and the PSRRR from the port of Petaluma. Another spur went from San Rafael to Pt. Reyes Station to Tomales to Valley Ford to Freestone to Occidental and may have continued to Monte Rio (where there are still some rolling stock parked). I am not sure what serivce there was to Cazadero. Another branch went from Fulton to Guernville.

So yes the NWP tracks were old about 30 years ago and will need service and replacement.

Some of the mountainsides in the Eel Rivel section are so unstable they melt like butter in the winter and have been buried under a slide for about 15 years.

By the way, there was electric streetcar serivce between Petaluma, Sebastopol, and Santa Rosa ca. 1930s.

Ned C said...

I get the impression that the only major cost savings over a BART line would be along the SF waterfront, which could be justtified seperately, and maybe right in San Rafael.

My own preference would be to make the line BART and run it into SF through a Geary subway connected to Transbay and a second transbay tube. At the northern end I'd (at least plan to eventually) loop back to I580, cross the bay again and connect to Richmond. If that happens the line might not get quite as far into San Rafael, but a combination of decent feeder busses and frequent SMART runs should make it workable.

This is clearly a bigger project, but it should get notably higher ridership, faster service. Taking out the basically self contained project of a Geary subway the Golden Gate and San Marin county sections don't really change all that dramatically; it looks to me like any frequent rail service is going to about the same level of grade seperation.

James said...

It may be true and not just politics that the GGB is not suited for the wave of load that would be caused by a BART train.(Engineering and Politics are often at odds).

Wiki has detailed articles on the History of the north coast rails. At the peak, railroads were crawling all over North America and are now only a small fraction of the maximum mileage.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northwestern_Pacific_Railroad

I was referring above to the Petaluma and Santa Rosa RR.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petaluma_and_Santa_Rosa_Railroad

jim said...

Well, I wouldn't hold your breath for rail on the golden gate bridge. The bridge district won't allow it, san francisco freaks out if you so much as even look at that bridge the wrong way, and southern marin is chock full of wealthy nimby communities who have no interest in making it easier for "undesirables" to get in. However the new SMART system will be helpful in that the majority of traffic on the bridge is from commuters and those working class people live from san rafael up through sonoma county. SMART will serve them well and will have a ferry connecion at Larkspur. This will reduce the amount of ggb traffic making it easier for the southern marinites and tourists to cross.

Now, if you want to go all crazy pie in the sky you could simply bring back rail ferries that can carry the smart DMUs from larkspur terminal to SF where they could continue through operation via muni lines to TBT or beyond.
Also the SMART terminus at Larkspur combined with a bug increase in water transit that is in the works already mean that northbay commuters may well have several ferry option from larkspur to east bay, sf, and southbay points.

Anonymous said...

Excuse me, ONLY the west span of the Bay Bridge was set up for rail/trolleys into the SF Transbay Terminal? The WHOLE Bay Bridge lower level was set up for rail, the Southern Pacific (SP) AND the Key System ran services over the Bay Bridge for years, then pulled.

Tony D. said...

I like Ned C's idea:

BART Geary subway from Market St., looping north under the Golden Gate bridge into Marin (up to San Rafael). Yes, it will cost billions, but I like the idea. Heck, throw in a 19th Ave. BART line for Marin commuters travelling south to the Peninsula/Silicon Valley (via Caltrain/HSR @ Millbrae).

Anonymous said...

Just run SMART across the San Rafael-Richmond Bridge and link up with BART + Amtrak in Richmond. A LOT cheaper and there are already unused lanes on the bridge. Then, if you want, build a streetcar from the terminus of SMART down through southern Marin County.

We DO NOT need to look at wasting money on a trans-Golden Gate crossing of any type, unless it's after we've got much better rail transit within the SF, Alameda, and CC County urban cores (unless Marin and Sonoma want to foot the VAST majority of the bill).

Adirondacker12800 said...

BART Geary subway from Market St., looping north under the Golden Gate bridge into Marin..

and

Just run SMART across the San Rafael-Richmond Bridge and link up with BART + Amtrak in Richmond.

...but either of them would make sense and be the same conclusion many other people have come to. No flights of fancy with unneeded cross platform transfers, single track tunnels or hour long trips on streetcars that a bus could do faster.

Thanks Raphael, I haven't laughed this hard since Switchingmodes stopped posting things.

Anonymous said...

I have suggested a similar idea a number of times on the Altamont Press site, and always to a chorus of derision.

You will soon find that SMART & co. are backed by a stalwart group of NWP aficionados enmired in nostalgia. They will never admit it but their real goal is to operate some steam locomotives over a restored NWP ROW.

The viability of the NCRA-NWP will have to play out over the next few years. So long as freight remains in the picture real transit is dead in the water. FRA problems have forced SMART to adopt an untried heavy dmu design. Very risky for a tiny operator to try to roll out a brand new vehicle design.

The only sensible option is to replace the viable southern section of the NWP with electric light rail. South of Larkspur the ROW has been destroyed; it will be necessary to build a new, BART style line along 101 to Marin City. Expensive.

Marin County is generally hostile to public transit for class reasons. It particularly objects to tourist-type operations like Wine Trains on the NWP out of Larkspur. A genuine rapid transit operation replacing Golden Gate Transit's #80 trunk bus line would be an easier sell.

And then there are the diehards who either claim the GG Bridge cannot take trains or that it is prohibitively expensive. San Francisco has provided zero interest or leadership in Northbay rail as evidence by no provision for a ROW in the Doyle Drive project.

As to access to San Francisco the traditional route envisioned was via a Geary Street subway. Of course Geary Street should have taken precedence over the half-baked Central Subway, which looks to be an operational disaster. They should have at least retained the orginal route on 3rd & Kearny, which would touched both the financial district and Chinatown and permitted the option of cutting under the Broadway Tunnel to Van Ness and then mining to the general area of Fillmore and Lombard, vastly less disruptive than Columbus Avenue.

Sonoma County presents another problem - lack of destinations. The billion dollar casino in Rohnert Park proposed by Stations, Inc. would provide a much-needed magnet but is opposed to the same local political establishment that favors NCRA-NWP and SMART.

Fred Martin said...

In a rare example of prescient regional transportation planning, an Army-Navy board convened after WW2 recommended the construction of a fully grade separated electric rail network spanning San Francisco, San Mateo, Marin, Alameda and Costra Contra counties. Since only the lower deck of the western span of the Bay Bridge had been constructed to support trolley service from the East Bay to the SF Transbay Terminal, the whole bridge was to be given over to motor vehicles.

Oh, Rafael! This is a grievous neglect of doing your background work. The Bay Bridge Railway, which went ALL THE WAY across the Bay Bridge, was actually better than the BART Tube in terms of capacity and headways. It could handle three different voltage systems for the IER, Key System, and the Sacramento Northern (going all the way to Sacramento and beyond!). BART evolved out of the idea to build a second Bay Bridge, and the idea of a transbay tunnel emerged instead of a "Southern Crossing" bridge. The Army-Navy Board only recommended the transbay tunnel, not the specifications for a new regional rail network. The armed forces were opposed to another bridge between SF and Oakland and were NIMBYs of their time, I figure.

Do you guys ever bother to do any fact-checking before you expose yourselves to the world?? Kopp just lied blatantly, and you think it is great and proper. All for the cause?

jim said...

@anon, ill bit my toungue and refrain from commenting on your geary vs central subway comments (although my brain is going to explode from holding it in) but lets focus on solutions that can be done in a realistic amount of time for a realistic amount of money which won't encounter too much opposition.

First, southern marin will have litle interest in rail transit.
second, the larkspur smart/ferry connection will serve northbay/sf commuters ( as well as tourists) quite well.

third, there is a big expansion planned for water transit in the bay area and ferry connection are possible to practically any part of the bay area from any other part. its fairly cheap and unlimited compared to any other solution. The number 80 is a very good service that serves it customers well as is.

a golden gate tube will never pass because a second eastbay tube is a much higher priority and even that is 40 years away minimum so unless you're talking about 100 year plan. forget it.

I always thought bart should simply continue from richmond over the SR bridge, but bart has no interest in doing that and marin does not want a bart connection to the eastbay for nimby reasons so thats dead.

so. the realistic approach is the one that's already being taken.

a bart subway on geary if it ever happens is 100 years away as well. that street will enver be allowed to be ripped up the way market street was until at least another whole generation of residents dies off. and muni is already moving ahead with brt and eventually LRV - that will be the extent of anything on geary for the next 50 years.

The solution is simply to make sure that the water transit connection are well thought out, ample, flexible and integrated.
newroutes

Adirondacker12800 said...

The Bay Bridge Railway, which went ALL THE WAY across the Bay Bridge

Fred, he also says that the trains went to the Tranbay Terminal which implies he knows that they went all the way across. He has some sort of point in mentioning the lower level. I don't what it is but I suspect he had a reason for mentioning it. He likes to sprinkle random facts into his posts. I give it a 50/50 chance of actually having something to do with the problem.

Besides making it seem that the trains stopped at Yerba Buena it's larded with other whoppers. I'd fisk the post but there's too many things in the post that break my concentration, to do it effectively. . . and too many of them, it would take all weekend to find authoritative sources.

BruceMcF said...

Aha! Mocked for pointing out the appeal of the Aerobus-type technology for a local inter-modal connector because its 30mph, and I see a proposal for a system into Marin with an effective speed of 20mph.

Start the Aerobus in San Rafeal, connect to (new?) Larkspur ferry, ferries at Sausalito, sling it under the Golden Gate Bridge, run to the TBT, across the Bay Bridge, to McArthur BART, Lake Merrit BART and ending at Amtrak-Oakland Jack London.

Note that this does not address South Marin NIMBY's who do not want the Hoi Polloi to have access.

The engineering question is whether the supports to hang the suspension cable that the Aerobus track is laid on can be design to sufficiently disperse the load to allow for high frequency headways.

Ian said...

how pie-in-the-sky is a rail on ferry connection anyway?

it worked long ago, / is the reason that marin was developed anyway, as a rail to ferry connection to get freight to SF.

so what of an expanded SMART service, down to sausalito (and maybe a spur to tiburon) that in turn gets on a ferry that brings the train to (somewhere) in SF where it can run through more or connect to other transit. the ferry travel times are much much shorter from tiburon and sausalito than in larkspur, so even a good passenger transfer would be better than the current proposal.

i think a direct SMART connection to SF would be much better than a set of transfers, a disjointed system. in this case, an overlaid marin corridors plan streetcar system would be the ideal way to provide local & connecting service in southern marin while providing a trunk corridor on SMART.

ideas, ideas.

and please, don't assume that marin is completely full of nimby/environmentalist hypocrites. the peninsula isn't all nimbys either, they are just the most vocal. there are some rail advocates here, and yes, they take offense at those who classify us as all being upper-class, fearing "undesirables".

Rafael said...

@ anon @ 9:41, Fred Martin -

what I said was that only the lower deck of the western span of the Bay Bridge was built to support the Key system trains. The same is true of the eastern span, but that's a moot point now since it's being replaced.

The resulting awkward split of 3 road lanes one the lower deck and 5 on the upper was a contributing factor in getting the Key system kicked off the bridge, though far from the only one.

@ anon @ 11:40am -

The Richmond - San Rafael bridge only has 3 lanes each way. It's strong enough to support BART trains, but since BART is considered heavy rail the lanes would have to be dedicated.

So far at least, Caltrans has vetoed all attempts to use even the emergency lane for bicycles, never mind "sacrificing" an active traffic lane each way to something that doesn't even have an internal combustion engine.

SMART is also considered heavy rail, it can't operate in streetcar mode. See here for a map of how a new rail bridge could theoretically connect SMART to the East Bay.

Using the same concept for a BART alignment would be harder, but perhaps also possible.

Anonymous said...

Bull. BART used the track guage they did to be INCOMPATIBLE with competing systems, especially the SP.

Rafael said...

@ ian -

SMART is heavy rail, which means a new alignment won't be allowed to run in streetcar mode. I don't see how tracks could be run through Sausalito and, FRA-compliant equipment is too heavy for the Golden Gate bridge.

Also, SMART is currently planned to be diesel-only, though bi-modal rolling stock with a pantograph could traverse an electrified tunnel under the Golden Gate strait (option #2).

Another issue is that SMART is single track north of San Rafael and will therefore operate infrequently - about once per hour. An independent, double tracked light rail service can operate several times a day.

Of course, if heavy rail could be done somehow, that would create the possibility of direct service from San Francisco to Santa Rosa and Sacramento via San Rafael. Connecting tracks down to San Jose would be harder, you'd need to modify option #2 to run a new heavy rail tunnel under e.g. Leavenworth and 7th, crossing under Civic Center BART/SF Muni at Market (very expensive to do).

Btw, rail ferries are still in service, e.g. across the Fehmarn Belt between Germany and Denmark. They're slow, though, so the two countries recently agreed to build a road + rail bridge.

Rafael said...

@ James, BruceMcF -

you can't just add rail tracks to the sides or underneath the GG bridge willy nilly and expect to retain use of all six traffic lanes at all times. There's a load limit on the structure, which by default implies trading off one type of vehicle against another.

Perhaps the safety factors used in the design are large enough to support additional load, but only a civil engineer could make that assessment. The quality of the steel used at the time of construction, corrosion issues related to the salty fog that often envelops the bridge, seismic considerations etc. all point to the need for an abundance of caution.

Besides, I suspect there would be massive opposition to messing with the architectural lines in any way you might be able to see at a distance, e.g. narrow cantilevered rail decks on either side.

BruceMcF said...

Ian said...
"how pie-in-the-sky is a rail on ferry connection anyway?

it worked long ago, / is the reason that marin was developed anyway, as a rail to ferry connection to get freight to SF.


On the face of it, it would certainly seem to be less pie in the sky than a tram-train running in streetcar mode over the Golden Gate Bridge, especially if it is a fast ferry. The key thing is organizing it so that it has enough of a run on either side of the ferry leg.

And its capital costs would be rounding error when compared to the cost of a tunnel.

The hard part would seem to what alignment it will run on in San Francisco, since running through on both sides gives the biggest benefit to the direct connection.

BruceMcF said...

@ Rafeal "but only a civil engineer could make that assessment" ... yes, important point, if only I had said something like "The engineering question is whether the supports to hang the suspension cable that the Aerobus track is laid on can be design to sufficiently disperse the load to allow for high frequency headways.", to make is unnecessary for you to add the qualifier about any back of the envelope option requiring engineering work to determine whether its feasible.

"esides, I suspect there would be massive opposition to messing with the architectural lines in any way you might be able to see at a distance, e.g. narrow cantilevered rail decks on either side."

Another excellent point ... if only the technology involved suspending the rail vehicle from a light rail track laid directly on suspension cable rather than unsightly rail decks ... if only.

Of course, its churlish to be making light of your post, Rafe, when it makes for such an amusing diversion from the day to day grind.

Rafael said...

@ BruceMcF -

your picture appears to be of an aerobus across a river somewhere.

How long can that suspension cable be before service has to be halted every time the wind kicks up (as it often does in that part of the SF Bay)?

The narrowest point of the strait is where the bridge is. That's still a mile across very deep water with strong tidal currents. Besides, slinging another suspension cable across the strait would surely interfere with the look of the bridge.

SF Embarcadero to Alcatraz is about a mile, Alcatraz to Angel Island 1.5mi and Angel Island to Tiburon another 0.75. That's a whole lot of water to cross. Still, combined with sections over land, that could get an aerobus as far as San Rafael, replacing the Larkspur ferry. This route would serve Tiburon and Corte Madera at the expense of Sausalito, Marin City, Mill Valley and Larkspur.

James said...

@ Rafael @ 2:43
Re: Bridge load analysis. Yes. Similar to the recent seismic upgrade analysis, there would be a full review of installing rails on the structure. They have developed a very detailed computer model of the bridge over the years.

If the rails could be installed inside the truss it would be barely visible from the city.

For reference: about 20 to 25 years(?) ago the thick concrete deck of the GGB was replaced with a steel deck with a composite roadway. I recall at the time a comment that the weight reduction of the new deck was equivalent to bumper-to-bumper traffic. So if cars and trucks fill the bridge today, it is equivalent to the original bridge with no cars at all.

A full engineering analysis would determine the cost/benefit to build or not build. I see this discussion as speculative, *similar* to discussions between engineers when they first approach a problem. Speaking as a mechanical design engineer, this is the fun part of design ;)

Rail on a second Richmond/San Rafael span seems to be more practical way to Marin County than either Option 1 or 2.

Alon Levy said...

When you propose ferries, be mindful of the fact that the San Francisco Bay has strong currents, making ferry service dangerous. That's what provided the original impetus to build the bridges in the first place.

James said...

A second Richmond/San Rafael span could carry rail and trucks and a the aqueduct, if it is ever needed again. The original span could be for cars.

James said...

GGB Seismic Retrofit

http://tinyurl.com/n7rouk

Replacing bridge decking:
"This is a total reduction in weight of the deck of 12,300 tons (11,158,400 kg), or 1.37 tons (1133 kg) per lineal foot of deck."

http://tinyurl.com/ljdfla

Adirondacker12800 said...

SMART is heavy rail, which means a new alignment won't be allowed to run in streetcar mode.

The River Line in New Jersey does, why wouldn't SMART be able to? They run heavy freight and passenger trains in the middle of the street in Oakland, why would interurbans in the street be a problem?....

Another issue is that SMART is single track north of San Rafael and will therefore operate infrequently - about once per hour

When they have enough traffic to justify it they could lay a second track. Passing sidings as a stop gap measure while ridership increases. Either they have the traffic to justify billion dollar tunnels or elaborate ferry schemes or they don't.

An independent, double tracked light rail service can operate several times a day.

Before they need to lay a second set of tracks I would think they would have to be up to several times an hour.

See here for a map of how a new rail bridge could theoretically connect SMART to the East Bay.

this keep getting .. better and better..... have you ever considered stand up?

you can't just add rail tracks to the sides or underneath the GG bridge willy nilly ...

Yet elsewhere, including in this post, you propose that BART is broad gauge so they could run over the windy bridge. It was proposed, running trains across the bridge, no one shot it down right away. Makes me think an engineer someplace took out some drawings, a few sharp pencils and his slide rule and decided it was possible.

The hard part would seem to what alignment it will run on in San Francisco, since running through on both sides gives the biggest benefit to the direct connection

Bruce it's not nice to lure them in like that. You are trying to lure someone into saying "It doesn't have to run through on both ends!" aren't you?

Let's see... If it runs through, passengers get on the train someplace remote from the ferry terminal. At the ferry terminal the train boards the ferry instead making the passengers getting off the train and board the ferry. At the other end of the ferry trip the train gets off the ferry and passengers continue on their way. Sounds good to me.

If it doesn't run through passengers would board the train at stations remote from the ferry, the train would board the ferry, at the other end of the ferry line passengers would alight from the train and get off the ferry. That's not all that much different from passengers boarding the train at stations remote from the ferry terminal, alighting from the train at the terminal so they can board the ferry and then getting off the ferry when it gets to the other end. Makes for a much bigger ferry and it would be very very slow....

To make it worthwhile to a commuter, loading the train onto the ferry and unloading at the other end has to be faster than getting off the train, taking a ferry ride and getting on another train. That's not going to be easy to do.

Of course, its churlish to be making light of your post, Rafe, when it makes for such an amusing diversion from the day to day grind.

Thalia has been busy today hasn't she... I'm halfway expecting the banner here to get ivy covered.

jim said...

Actually, the lower deck of the bay bridge was for rail and trucks. and the upper deck was for two way automobile traffic. As automobile traffic increased, they got rid of the rail and switch to one way on each deck. of course all my grandparents went to opening day of both bridges.

theres's a lot of detail and facts about the bay bridge here

Mention was previously made of Emperor Norton; during his quixotic reign as “Norton I, Emperor of North America and Protector of Mexico,” he issued a “decree” that San Francisco Bay be bridged immediately. This was to remain unfinished business until long after the emperor, as well as his two dogs, Bummer and Lazarus, had retired from the civic scene. However, when at length the emperor’s mandate was fulfilled, presumably even his imperious self would have been satisfied.

Rafael said...

@ BruceMcF -

regarding the fast ferry idea: the existing Larkspur Ferry is passenger-only and ends up at the SF Ferry Terminal (Market/Embarcadero). The trip takes 30-50 minutes, depending on the vessel.

A rail line, whether light or heavy wouldn't necessarily be any faster, but it would have stops along the way in cities in southern Marin county.

The scope for speeding up the ferries by switching to e.g. hydrofoils is mildly constrained by shipping lanes into Oakland and all the pleasure craft buzzing around. I suspect, though, that the primary gating factors are fuel cost, emissions and capacity. The Larkspur ferries have room for 715 passengers.

---

A heavy rail ferry could deliver a single-seat ride from e.g. San Jose to Santa Rosa. This would involve a short tunnel extending east from the TTC trainbox under Howard and Embarcadero to a new pier structure.

Note that the tracks could not ascend from the trainbox because the eastern portal of the SF Muni subway tunnel is located between Folsom and Howard on Embarcadero. That means trains would still be roughly 50 feet below grade at the water's edge (depending on the natural grade of the surface).

For obvious reasons, the pier structure would have to keep the water out and permit trains to reach an elevation suitable for boarding a ferry.

At 3.5% gradient, that would require 1500-2000 feet of run length, so continuing on along a straight track is out of the question. A helix track out just offshore would do the trick, though it would need to sport a fairly large diameter to accommodate train designs. The greater run length would permit a gentler gradient.

Another option would be a much smaller pier structure with a mechanism than can lift an entire train and the track it's standing on by the amount required, while keeping it all dead level. If the lift system is electric rather than hydraulic, it could recuperate energy back into the grid when an arriving train is transported down.

Note that the TTC will almost certainly never be accessible to diesel trains. Therefore, unless SMART is electrified at 25kV AC, this approach would work best with conventional locomotive-drawn unpowered cars rather than multiple unit rolling stock. The locomotives at either end would never need to be loaded onto the ferry.

jim said...

@rafael Besides, I suspect there would be massive opposition to messing with the architectural lines in any way you might be able to see at a distance, e.g. narrow cantilevered rail decks on either side

winner of today's understatement of the day award.

jim said...

and while its all well and good for any of us to play "
build the train" ( you know i'd like to see a ski lift up market street over twin peaks and through golden gate park to the beach too) there just isn't enough demand from sonoma to do anything more than SMART. and its taken since bart was proposed in the 1950's to get teh people of marin and sonoma just to implement smart. thats SIXTY years. to a mostly single line diesel train halfway through the counties. so don't hold your breath for anything else. The northbay folks like their ferry ride anyway it makes them feel super extra special... (as it should, of course) and they don't really want any of us up there anyway)

btw Do i have any bay area (non peninsula nimby) homeys on here? is everyone from socal? just curious.

James said...

@Adirondacker12800

If you defeat a technical argument on its merits, you do not need to make fun of it. Design should consider all possibilities. It is easy to dispose of the extreme ones. But they can serve to stimulate discussion of better ideas. I just see this discussion differently. If engineers were derisive of technical discussions I would not have survived my 25 year career and you would not have things like safe airliners to fly etc. I am not a civil engineer so I too am speculating here and freely admit it.

The general idea is access to the north bay. The blog offers a starting point. A good engineer can discuss their expertise to anyone at any level. From a visit to their kids kindergarten class to other engineers more knowledgeable than themselves. In fact it is a basic part of engineering to understand what you know and what you do not know and to qualify any statement made beyond your abilities.

I am using engineers as an example because they have to have such technical discussions every day.

Either help make the discussion better or not. IMHO the snide remarks do not help.

jim said...

everyone please stop pretending that southern marin wants rail. they do not. southern marin consists of TIBURON BELVEDERE MILL VALLEY and SAUSILITO and a little town who, out of respect for their wishes shall remain nameless, likes to tear down the road sign so that no one can find them. They don't need a train they drive, and like it that way and they don't want you there. yes ones hides the sign and the other one want to photograph everyone who enters the city limit for security purposes.

Rafael said...

@ adirondacker12800 -

"SMART is heavy rail, which means a new alignment won't be allowed to run in streetcar mode.

The River Line in New Jersey does, why wouldn't SMART be able to? They run heavy freight and passenger trains in the middle of the street in Oakland, why would interurbans in the street be a problem?...."

Because this is California and the CPUC wouldn't permit heavy rail to run in streetcar mode in new alignments even if the FRA were prepared to allow it. The UPRR freight tracks in south SF and Oakland, perhaps others elsewhere, were grandfathered in when the safety rules were tightened. Light rail is a different matter, SF Muni runs that in streetcar mode all day long.

"you can't just add rail tracks to the sides or underneath the GG bridge willy nilly ...

Yet elsewhere, including in this post, you propose that BART is broad gauge so they could run over the windy bridge. It was proposed, running trains across the bridge, no one shot it down right away."

Afaik, no proposal to run any kind of rails across the GG bridge ever involved adding tracks under or to either side of it. Instead, tracks would run on the deck. In the case of heavy rail like BART, that translates to losing lanes for motor vehicle traffic. Light rail in streetcar mode would only require a minimum distance fore and aft.

Perhaps you're thinking of the western span of the Bay bridge, for which that was indeed briefly considered. The estimated $3 billion price tag is why the option of running BART/light rail tracks across the new east span was eliminated from its design (decision courtesy of Q.Kopp).

jim said...

"The town of Tiburon, California (pop. 9,000) has a scheme to photograph and record the license plate number of every single vehicle that enters the municipality, in order to 'fight crime.' But don't worry: 'As long as you don't arrive in a stolen vehicle or go on a crime spree while you're here, your anonymity will be preserved,' said Town Manager Peggy Curran."

If you’re driving down Highway One north of San Francisco don’t look for the road sign to Bolinas, California, because this quirky coastal hamlet is the only California municipality without a road sign to lead you from the highway to the city limits. There used to be a sign that said “Bolinas, 2 miles;” many of them in fact, but each of the signs put up in the last 20 years has enigmatically disappeared—the longest-standing sign being up for a total of 36 hours. Bolinas residents, who often refer to their town as “The Republic of Bolinas”, have torn down the signs marking the turnoff so often the highway department finally gave up on erecting new ones.

Rafael said...

@ James -

thanks for the info on the GG bridge seismic retrofit in the 1980s. With that weight shaved off, the fact that streetcars weigh more per linear foot than fully loaded bigrigs may be a moot point in terms of load capacity. Trains would simply merge into vehicle traffic and cross the bride.

High wind conditions would still be an issue for standard gauge streetcars and their OCS, though. Also, streetcar tracks are slippery when wet, something drivers in those lanes would have to deal with. At least FasTrak would keep traffic in them moving along.

Rafael said...

cross the bride --> cross the bridge

Paging Sigmund...

James said...

There is a video of the GGB deflecting in the wind. I could not find it yet, but this is interesting. Suspension bridges are not as fixed as they appear. Though the rail flange is very tolerant of dynamics, operations would likely stop during high winds.

http://tinyurl.com/mx2uxf

Anonymous said...

I thought that after the retrofit of the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge that it was down to two traffic lanes in each direction with an extra lane not being used (a breakdown lane). Is that not the case? Are they back up to using all three with no breakdown lane? It's been six months or so since I've been over there.

BruceMcF said...

Sorry, James, I'll try to be more open-minded.

Rafael said...
"regarding the fast ferry idea: the existing Larkspur Ferry is passenger-only and ends up at the SF Ferry Terminal (Market/Embarcadero). The trip takes 30-50 minutes, depending on the vessel."

How fast are the Sausalito Ferries?

"A heavy rail ferry could deliver a single-seat ride from e.g. San Jose to Santa Rosa. This would involve a short tunnel extending east from the TTC trainbox under Howard and Embarcadero to a new pier structure."

Precisely why a light rail ferry sounds more plausible. Slightly cheaper to lay light rail in a ROW shared with bikes north of the rail pier and use the existing light rail corridor in SF.

Indeed, the same light rail pier could be used to bring a rail ferry to Alameda for your TOD of the Alameda US NAS.

"Another option would be a much smaller pier structure with a mechanism than can lift an entire train and the track it's standing on by the amount required, while keeping it all dead level."

Nah, level run into a dedicated rail ferry pier, RORO. Extend the SF light rail to San Rafeal.

"To make it worthwhile to a commuter, loading the train onto the ferry and unloading at the other end has to be faster than getting off the train, taking a ferry ride and getting on another train. That's not going to be easy to do."

On the contrary, its faster to move the pax in a box than the pax one by one.

Its obviously faster on embarkation, since the ferry waits for the train, the train rolls on, and the ferry leaves immediately. And clearly faster on disembarkation, since the ferry docks, the rail is engaged, the train leaves, and then the walk-up passengers disembark.

And in transit all passengers on the ferry would likely travel roughly similar speeds.

On a lighter note: "How long can that suspension cable be before service has to be halted every time the wind kicks up (as it often does in that part of the SF Bay)?"

That's why I specified it slung under the GGB, with the ugly track and such hidden by the understructure of the lower deck ... its self-bridging for shorter distances, but not the spans needed for the Bay crossing.

BruceMcF said...

Oops, neglected to note that the very first comment pointed out that the deck struss is 25 feet deep. From the catenary above the rail to the bottom of the Aerobus is under 17'. And 8.5' is the passenger vehicle itself, which would not present any unsightly permanent structures protruding below the truss.

Alon Levy said...

It's both cheaper and more useful to forget about extending a subway to the suburbs and instead build rapid transit along Geary.

Rafael said...

@ anon @ 6:07pm -

you're correct, the Richmond-San Rafael bridge has two traffic plus one breakdown lane in each directions.

@ BruceMcF -

ah, ok, light rail to Sausalito and a light RORO rail ferry to connect to the SF Muni streetcar tracks on the Embarcadero. Now there's an idea.

There are currently two ferries from Sausalito to SF. One is operated by GGT uses large ships (715 pax) and docks at the Ferry Building terminal at Market/Embarcadero. The other is operated by a private company called Blue & Gold. Its much smaller boats dock at Pier 41 (Google Maps says Pier 43 1/2). Due to the difference is ship sizes, both take about 30 minutes, even though the docking sites are 2 miles apart. Both use the same dock in Sausalito. For ticket prices, see here.

SF Muni already has streetcar tracks along the Embarcadero out to Jones Street. However, since GGT would be the outfit operating any light rail in Marin county, they would presumably want to operate the rail ferry as well. Blue & Gold is unlikely to let them use Pier 41. The best location might well be be a nearby pier.

If light rail service were electrified all the way to San Rafael, the vessel would need to feature overhead conductor rails and a power supply for them. This would not be required for diesel-powered rolling stock. There might be value in adding lateral supports to keep the trains from tipping in rough seas.

The light rail RORO ferry idea might work for Vallejo and Alameda as well. Note that there are currently no SF Muni streetcar tracks to the TTC site, nor are any planned.

A full wye already exists at Embarcadero/Don Chee Way, as does a single track south one block on Steuart and east one block on Mission. Adding a wye at Steuart/Mission and running tracks west from there to a loop around the TTC Plaza wouldn't cost much. SF Muni might well want to extend the tracks deep into the Mission district.

Mission street is currently a main artery for SF city buses. Adding streetcar tracks might make some of them redundant. Note that Howard isn't a good alternative since it's a one-way street.

Btw: the GG bridge only has a single deck. Slinging an aerobus track or two directly under that might perhaps be possible if it's fixed (no suspension wire) - it depends on the size of the cavities in the framework supporting the deck. The harder part would be reaching those cavities either end and then extending the line through SF and Sausalito, respectively. I think streetcar service on top of the deck would be simpler.

Note that the Coast Guard would have to approve anything that would reduce the height of the shipping lane.

Rafael said...

@ BruceMcF -

for completeness' sake: I did consider a transporter bridge concept to run trains under the GG bridge, but the winds in that location are simply too strong and the bridge too tall.

There might, however, be other bridges where the idea might have merit for regular short trains (not aerobuses), provided the wires are eliminated by either an elevator or a tunnel portal at each end and, the gondola is attached directly to the underside of the deck to avoid lateral sway.

jim said...

news for the deniers.... AVE Spain’s high-speed train carried nearly 6,000 more passengers than airlines during July. AVE has been gaining ground since its start almost a year and half ago, but in recent months it has stepped up its efforts. Passengers on TGV trains that cover the route from Barcelona to Madrid and back rose in July to 251,754 passengers, nearly six thousand more than airline companies, covering airlines such as Vueling, Spanair, Iberia and Air Europa. An air corridor that is considered the world's most profitable, which ended the summer months of July with 245,945 passengers, it was confirmed yesterday.

Alon Levy said...
It's both cheaper and more useful to forget about extending a subway to the suburbs and instead build rapid transit along Geary"

already in the works. pending final design choices.
geary

jim said...

here's one you'll like.
alamedatram

BruceMcF said...

"The harder part would be reaching those cavities either end and then extending the line through SF and Sausalito, respectively."

That's the easier part. Indeed, it would be far less controversial to run an Aerobus over the existing bikeway than to take over part or all of the bikeway for a lightrail track at grade.

There's up to around 200m of self-bridging that is available for bringing the Aerobus under the deck.

But the RORO light rail is more fun. The RORO process itself would seem to be simpler if the light rail is either a battery-electric, dual mode diesel/electric, or dual mode electric induction/catenary.

Alon Levy said...

already in the works. pending final design choices.

Bus rapid transit isn't rapid transit. Rapid transit is electrified, runs on a fixed guideway, and is fully grade-separated.

jim said...

BRT = "bus rapid transit" in any case, thats what's going there. Personally of the three final design choices, the center running/ side platform design offers the most separation from traffic, has double medians for planting/landscaping which reduce both noise and visual blight of catenary should the ever decide to convert to LRV and in the interim only require standard bus boarding rather than buses with doors on both sides ( required for center platform)

jim said...

also the geary line will interect with the VanNess brt line ( that one- will- be electric) as seen here vanessbrt june 2009 update. Now, if they could just do something to speed up the 19.

(side note - I'm loving the muni nextbus signs. they are a huge improvement.)

Anonymous said...

I find it curious that some parties worry about upsetting Geary Street merchants but have no problem with laying waste to Palo Alto.

jim said...

I think only the only parties worried about upsetting geary merchants are geary merchants ( and some richmond residents) I'm just reporting what's being done per muni and the community groups final design choices. PA is not my problem although they too have been given ample opportunity for input. They just haven't been as successful at it.

jim said...

im not siding with the merchants Im trying to tell you folks what the reality is so you don't get your hopes up. Muni and City hall make these decisions per the input from the neighborhoods. No one outside the city limits has any say whatsoever. In fact, people on the other side of town don't even have any say. or , they save their say for their own issues anyway.

I guess PA city hall doesn't listen to your neighborhood?

Adirondacker12800 said...

no proposal to run any kind of rails across the GG bridge ever involved adding tracks under or to either side of it

Marin pulled out of the agreement before that level of engineering began. These were people who paved over the tracks on the Bay Bridge a few years earlier. If someone in 1960 or 65 had taken away lanes on the Golden Gate bridge... the armed insurrection in Marin would have been suppressed eventually but it would have been bloody. Someone in 1959 would realize that too and never would have seriously proposed removing lanes.


Nah, level run into a dedicated rail ferry pier, RORO. Extend the SF light rail to San Rafeal.

If a steep ramp is level. It's only going to be level approximately twice a day some days of the month. The rest of the time the tide isn't going to cooperate. There's tide all around the Bay so it's going to be a problem at either end.

On the contrary, its faster to move the pax in a box than the pax one by one.

Assuming the box moves faster than the passengers can walk. Rail to ferry operations aren't fast. Civil engineers have been working at the problem for a long time. Making it fast isn't going to be cheap if it's possible at all.

James said...

National Geographic documentary on the GGB. Reviews the history up to current seismic rework. Shows some footage of wind deflection at about 22 minutes into the video; not the wind deflection footage I had seen somewhere before.

47 min. total.

http://tinyurl.com/nz49ev

Alon Levy said...

Jim, light rail has the technology to run catenary-free, drawing electricity from coils located under the tracks. There are multiple competing systems, one by Bombardier and one by Alstom.

And what Geary needs isn't light rail, but rapid transit, i.e. subway. Light rail in San Francisco has unfortunate capacity constraints coming from street running. The Geary bus route already has the same ridership as New York's lesser used subway lines, which means it can be expected to fill 8-car trains if given the chance.

BruceMcF said...

Alon Levy said...
""already in the works. pending final design choices."

Bus rapid transit isn't rapid transit. Rapid transit is electrified, runs on a fixed guideway, and is fully grade-separated.
"

Isn't this trying to win an argument by quibbling over semantics? If we are quibbling over semantics, clearly neither electrification nor full grade separation are required for something to be rapid transit.

What is required is that it has priority at any intersections, as provided for intersection in some rapid transit systems with gated crossings.

If Bus Rapid Transit is trying to stretch the meaning of Rapid Transit to something that can be provided with certain forms of capital-intensive Bus systems, you are just as clearly trying to shrink the meaning to exclude Rapid Transit options that you do not prefer.

jim said...

@alon,

I always thought that Geary was a logical choice for a subway but the brt will be adequate and more importantly, that is what the city has chosen. That isn't going to change. The city ahs said repeatedly that there is no money for a subway and they want to get a solution done as quickly as possible. The solution is brt and its being built so that it can, when money becomes available, be converted to light rail. and that light rail, will use the same tech that the rest of muni uses. its just really not up for discussion as far as making decisions. The N Judah has almost as much ridership as the 38 and the 38L combined, and there are no plans to make it subway either.

I'm confident that the geary and van ness brt conversions will be a great improment. As a redident who use muni for 100 percent of my transit needs I would rather see this incremental improvements while retaining the coverage, some of which is facing proposed cuts. Eleiniating stops and cuting out nieghbohood services is unacceptable from a san francisco standpoint of making sure that everyone gets service, especially seniors and disabled. a lot of young people who don't manage their time properly and who are always in a big rush are not going to move here and rearrange transit for their impatient needs on the backs of those who need it most. That's most un san franciscan of them.

39Limiteds, on a dedicated busway, with limited stops and programmed traffic signals will plenty.

Regardless of the complaints. It doesn't take that long to get downtown. and the majority of pax are not riding from 48 ave to tbt.

yes I know we are all ril advocates around here. but. you know, don't shoot the messenger Im just tellin it like it is. ( and wow so much focus on sf and the bay, when do we shift the discussion to southern california so I get my chance to tell LA how they are doing everything wrong. notice I never criticize the choices that the people of LA have made)

Anonymous said...

Jim, The N Judah does not have anywhere near the ridership of the 38 lines. Not even close. Also, you have to consider that the 38 lines are exactly parallel to several other lines a block or two away, so you can assume that an actual subway would pull riders from those lines. I would guess that an actual subway on Geary would easily have four times the ridership of a subway on Carl/Irving/Judah.

You'd probably be looking at 100,000 plus per day on the first day, rising over time.

jim said...

not make the Southies jeaulous, but I am blessed to have 5 subway lines, 1 street car, and 6 bus lines ( not counting "L"s and "X"s) at my front door, two more tow blocks away and 2 more behind my building. 15 routes in within two blocks that give me access to all four corners of the city - without transfers - and 24 hours a day.

yesterday I did all my errands using one bus, 2 cable cars and a subway. shopping by cable car on a sunny san francisco afternoon makes all the complaining about life here seem pretty silly. So, how IS life on the 405 these days anyway? ( ok that was below the belt)

jim said...

anon Im sitting here with the TEP and the official weekday ridership numbers in front of me. Thats where i got the numbers. where do you live anyway?

Anonymous said...

notice I never criticize the choices that the people of LA have made

I don't criticize LA because they've made much better choices than the Bay Area for the past 20 years at least. Dwelling in the past is dumb, let's look at what is being done now - and now, LA is making some real improvements while SF and the Bay waste money on things like the Central Subway, BART to Millbrae, the Oakland Airport Connector, and BART to SJ. It's hard to think of a many good projects in the Bay Area over the past couple of decades, and that's what tears me up - we did have a huge advantage over Southern Cal in terms of transit - we won't in another 10 years.

The only bright spot for Bay Area transit in the past 20 years has been Caltrain and their introduction of Baby Bullets, IMO.

Anonymous said...

If you're sitting there with the TEP, then you're flat out lying saying that the N Judah has similar ridership to the 38 lines (38, 38L, 38AX, 38BX).

jim said...

N Judah 45,252
38 33.003
38L 21,304

45k to 54k the two highest in town and FYI the N Judah is the one people complain about more the the 38 oh, and do you know why the N Judah is the one people bitch about.... because its crowded when it gets to the cole valley neighbohood, and Ill give you one guess who lives in Cole Valley, thats right all the hip east coast yuppie asswipes who made it their little niche during the do com debacle. They are the biggest whiners in town. and a lot of us r sick of hearing it.

where did you say you were from anon?

Anonymous said...

I live at Polk and Pine, Jim.

Ok, so you fessed up - the 38 and it's other lines (you missed the X's) have more than 25% more ridership than the N.

You seriously think it's only people in Cole Valley complaining about the N? The folks in the Inner and Outer Sunset don't care? The folks using it from Caltrain don't care? I must have met some weirdos then.

Read this once in awhile:

http://www.njudahchronicles.com/

Adirondacker12800 said...

Jim, light rail has the technology to run catenary-free, drawing electricity from coils located under the tracks.

Technically feasible but I'm sure it's not cheap. Appropriate here and there in neighborhoods that have historic significance.

The argument against visual blight would be a bit more compelling if the street didn't have tall telephone poles with three and four crossarms that are festooned with wires.

Geary Blvd is a cable car/trolley car suburb, it a happens to be within the city limits but it's a trolley 'burb. I'm sure people of out there love their neighborhood and like many Californians think it's extra special, otherwise extraordinary and maybe even unique. It's a trolley 'burb. Catenary isn't going to seriously affect the ambiance. If they want to get into it, trolley service would be.. restoring a historic feature of the neighborhood.

The Geary bus route already has the same ridership as New York's lesser used subway lines, which means it can be expected to fill 8-car trains if given the chance

A perennial complaint about NYC's lesser used lines is short trains. I thinking about the G in particular, I've been reading complaints about 4 car trains on the G for what seems like forever.
Along with the perennial complaints about the infrequent service.

To fill 8 car trains how often does it have to run at 100,000 passengers a day? They might be happier with more frequent fast LRT - it could be faster overall because the walk to the more closely spaced stations is shorter and the headway between trains is lower.

jim said...

yes if you ad the bx ax it adds 2k more. they are still in the same range - the two highest in town. so whats your point? that we are getting a subway on geary? we aren't. there isn't going to be a geary subway. is going to be brt. you may not like it but you have to accept unless you have a tunnel boring machine in your basement.

jim said...

and if you live at polk and pine, you use the number 1, and you know that the 19 needs more help than the 38.

jim said...

The only bright spot for Bay Area transit in the past 20 years has been Caltrain and their introduction of Baby Bullets, IMO.

and don't forget capitol corridor.

I'm only going to say this one more time about the central subway.

The central subway had support from the the neighborhood a geary subway never has.

The central subway will serve the densest part of the city - far more dense than the richmond.

the central subway will provide much needed north south transit - so for north south transit is lacking in sf.

the central subway / t third will serve the densist part of the city, the planned fourth street tranist corridor ( high density housing you all love) and the largest developments parcels left in the city, mission bay, the UCSF, the Cancer Hospital, the India BAsin Development and the HunterspointBayview development including candlestick point. These are the only portions of the city that are zoned for a combination of job centers and high density housing. This is for once, good planning for the future. The bos and commision are already considering raising height limits alon 4th street. ( un heard of) because of the central subway.
the richmond is for all intents and purposes, a large residential neighborhood that is not going to see any future growth.

Do you understand what Im saying? its just like high speed rail. we are planning for future growth and development in the areas that are going to see said future growth and development.

i don't understand what is so hard to understand.

Anonymous said...

and if you live at polk and pine, you use the number 1, and you know that the 19 needs more help than the 38.

What's your point? Because I don't use the 38 as much as the 1 I shouldn't care about it? I want the system to get better, even parts of it I don't use. It would be very selfish for me to only care about lines I use every day. Regardless, having the 38 be much faster and more reliable would make the entire western half of the city more accessible to me, causing me to travel out there more often. As it is, it's a nightmare to get out there.

The 19 should be eliminated, IMO, and service shifted to other lines. It's a worthless bus running on a congested street for half of its route. Put more service on the 47 and T. Hopefully after BRT is in place on Van Ness they'll bag the 19.

Anonymous said...

Jim, current ridership on the Geary corridor justifies a subway, we don't even need to look at growth.

Also, if you're talking growth, there will likely be more on the Geary corridor than on the Central Subway corridor. Sure, the T area has some growth potential, but so does the Japantown area (height limits are about to go waaaay up there with the Japantown plan) and the Cathedral Hill area (about to put in a 30 story hospital there).

Regardless, when I mentioned the CS, I was more talking about how poorly designed it is (no stop at Market? WTF? Only one stop in Chinatown? WTF?) It's not going to eliminate any buses (since as you've said, people need stops at every corner), and will thus cost Muni huge amounts in additional operations costs. The money has to come from somewhere, Jim - and guess where it's going to come from - other routes in the city.

jim said...

anon, I use the 19 it goes from in front of my house - post an pine where I take my laundry to the chinese lady and have lunch at wing lum. I do all my neighborhood errands on polk and sometime i just don't want to climb that hill fro 8th and market. he van ness buses are too far away to make it worth walking all the way down there. and Im not giving up my bus for the richmond. and it most certainly is not a "nightmare" to get out there. ok I take both the 1 and the 38 out to masonic/presidio to shop at best buy and go to my doctors in laurel heights. In fact I time it the other day. to see what all the rigamarole was about. results:

from a another blog: "so far my muni for today was the 1 california from California and Walnut (laurel heights) to Clay and Hyde ( russian hill) wait time 0. travel time 16 minutes.

Then California and Powell cable cars, wait time, 1 minute, From California and Hyde to Powell and Market - total travel time including transfers 18 minutes.

Powell and Market to 8th and Market outbound metro wait time 15 seconds, travel time 1 minute.
total time for 4 neighborhoods , one bus, two cable cars, and a subway. 46 minutes including two blocks of walking.

and the experience on a sunny san francisco afternoon. priceless at any speed."


anon, if that is your real name... you aren't getting a subway. sorry. so lets work with the transit the good lord gave us.

jim said...

some growth on the t? all the new job centers and high desnity housing are going on the t.

don't hold your breath for japantwon either. not to mention one can walk from japantown to union square .

the one neighbohood I actually have trouble getting to..... lo and behold chinatown and north beach.

with the cs, ill be able to ride to powell, transfer and zip out to washington lickety-split. right now I have to take a cab. ( i refuse to ride that number 30) plus getting back is the real problem. after a BBB show for instance, you can't get a cab, the buses are full and wont stop and I wind up having to don my climbing gear to get over nob hill.

getting out to gg park or OB or baker is on the other hand i a breeze.

Anonymous said...

don't hold your breath for japantwon either. not to mention one can walk from japantown to union square .

But you can't from Chinatown to Union Square? Or Caltrain to Union Square? Then why are we building a subway for this route?

jim said...

I thought I already explained it.

lookeastern

take a look at your google satellite. as you can see there is only one part of the city that has huge parcels of unused land and they run the length of the eastern waterfront east of third street, directly below the densest neighbhoods, (china/north beach, the financial/union square, the 4th st transit corridor and Tranbay terminal plan, to Mission Bay, China Basin/south to candlestick point. univerity, hospitals, and a zoning mix of bio tech/and other industies and high density housing. read you eastern neighbohoods plan.

Anonymous said...

LOL on you "day on Muni." Here's mine from yesterday:

Walked to Van Ness and Geary, waited six minutes for 38L. 22 minute ride to 6th and Geary.

After hanging out with some friends, walked by to 3rd and Geary. Waited 47 minutes (this was at 8pm last night) for a 38. One bus zoomed past because it was too full during that time. Bus finally comes, 39 minute ride to Van Ness (since the bus was so full, every stop was stopped at and each stop took several minutes to get everyone off and then get everyone to move back enough for people to get on). Walked to Naan N' Curry on Van Ness more than an hour late to meeting up with friends.

Seems like maybe you're only using the 38 during the day on weekdays? Try after 8pm some time - it's always a horrible disaster.

Anonymous said...

I thought I already explained it.

The T already covers those areas - those aren't the areas we're talking about. If you think it's reasonable for people to walk from Japantown to Union Square, it's certainly reasonable for people to walk from Chinatown to Union Square or Caltrain (where the T already goes) to Union Square.

jim said...

my trip was 4pm on friday. and if you need more night service ask for more night service.
the 38 sked for weekday inbound working folks is 38 minutes from the beach to market and third.
and considerable less than that for those east of 19th.

did I mention that the city has already made its decsion? Ill bet you 10 dollars that geary brt will get you to your naan in plenty of time.

Alon Levy said...

A perennial complaint about NYC's lesser used lines is short trains. I thinking about the G in particular, I've been reading complaints about 4 car trains on the G for what seems like forever.
Along with the perennial complaints about the infrequent service.


I was thinking about the L's ridership before Williamsburg turned into SoHo East.

The frequency that corresponds to a given ridership depends on how the line looks. Geary (and N-Judah) is like the L in that peak travel is in just one direction - and the L is close to capacity with a weekday ridership of 100,000. The L has unusually low capacity - bidirectional two-track lines, like the RER A and Shanghai Metro Line 1, can achieve a weekday ridership of 1,000,000 - but if Geary is shoehorned into BART then its capacity will be limited anyway.

The N Judah has almost as much ridership as the 38 and the 38L combined, and there are no plans to make it subway either.

First, there's a rail bias in ridership - all else being equal, light rail will get more ridership than a bus. This means that the 38/L have a depressed ridership, which will go up if the city builds rail along the corridor.

And second, I'd say the N-Judah is a good candidate for conversion to a full subway, too. I'm sure the combined cost of Judah and Geary would be less than the cost of BART to San Jose.

Anonymous said...

and if you need more night service ask for more night service.

Every advocacy group that I know of (I've helped Rescue Muni with things in the past) has asked for more night and weekend 38 service and extended hours for the 38L (and starting 38L service on weekends) for at least 15 years. Even just taking one regular 38 per hour and making it a 38L would be huge, but Muni has always dragged its feet.

BRT will at least finally shift more resources to the 38L (which is basically what BRT service will be, with some more fixes too) and make it 7 days a week 24 hours a day, which is huge.

Don't get me wrong, Jim, I'm happy about BRT service finally starting (in 6 years), but there are changes that could have/should have been done a decade ago, but the process (and some union rules) prevented it from happening.

The BS about the Geary corridor "not asking for service" while the Central Subway folks did is just that - BS. You can look back at community meetings for the last 60 years and see people asking for better Geary service. Unfortunately, there was no freeway knocked down in the earthquake that affected the Geary corridor (much longer than just the Richmond), and thus no political payback for these folks.

jim said...

oh so its payback. well good for "them" then.

and don't start with "unions"
you wanted a solution, youre getting a solution.

btw, the cs also creates future extension poss. for the wharf, and the northern waterfront.

In fact if you wanted to you could eventually loop the t third around through mort mason-marina- to park presidio- down PP to geary where it can return inbound as the geary( future) lrv back downtown.



getting back to the northbay - insteadof trains on boats and such, I think that the SMART+FERRY connex for city bound commuters is perfect and then we need to add a richmond bart exprees shuttle from the Downtown San Rafael station to Richmond BART travel time 19 minutes.

larkspur ferry to sf is 30 minutes

santa rosa to larkspur 66 minutes

santa rosa to sf 66+30 minute commute.
santa rosa to bart connex. one hour 11 minutes.

Anonymous said...

The best solution to the #38 would be a conversion to subway-surface light rail with the portal in the vicinity of Laguna Street. From there it is either down the middle or along the curb. Each has its points.

Absent that you could try an all surface rail line with very long narrow low-floor articulateds and go curb lane all the way. Loony tunes street conditions downtown is the big hitch here.

Easier to implement and cheaper would be the brt coupled with a conversion to trolley coach. Trolley pole technology remains unfortunately primitive but there is a huge plus here - namely the expansion of Geary carhouse-Presidio bus barn to house the tc's for the #38. Having the yard right in the middle of the line would directly improve reliability and reduce deadhead costs. Muni's biggest complaint about trolley coach conversions is that they wouldn't leave enough diesels for emergencies. But the #38 uses all articulateds, not commonly used for emergencies or charters.

The worst alternative would a full BART subway to the ocean. It would creat tremendous developer pressure to cover the entire Richmond district with tenements.

Anonymous said...

The worst alternative would a full BART subway to the ocean. It would creat tremendous developer pressure to cover the entire Richmond district with tenements.

???

What? Like has happened at Glen Park? Or Balboa Park? Or Daly City? Or Millbrae? Or West Oakland? Or any stop on the BART line? Where has any place that BART has gone had tremendous pressure to build tenements?

(I actually think it would be nice if some areas on the BART lines had built cheap, small housing, but it hasn't really happened anywhere)

jim said...

anon. yes you are right on those points I agree.

I am for the center running side platform version on geary built to future lrv specs. then at some point a short subway can be added to enter a portal between fillmore and laguna - TBMs could bore straight into cathedral hill to the union square cs station. with stations at
Laguna (portal station_
Van Ness (deep)
Tenderloin Station (Jones)
and the cs union sq station.

jim said...

wait a minute whos who here are there two anons arguing with each other? or does someone have mutliple personality disorder?

wheres my sf anon?

jim said...

geary bore cathedral hill

Rafael said...

@ jim -

"getting back to the northbay"

I approve this message :-)

Btw, GGT already operates bus #40 and #42 across the Richmond-San Rafael bridge to Richmond El Cerrito BART. They're not fast, though - about 30 minutes from San Rafael transit center.

Of course, bus + BART to SF takes a lot longer than a bus or the more expensive ferry direct to SF. The BART connection is really only useful for commuters headed to employers in the East Bay.

Morris Brown said...

For those interested:

After pushing a bit to have this posted, the Authority has now posted audio/visual of the workshop that followed the August Board meeting -- this is where the powerpoint presentation was shown.

You can find it at their website, under library, board meetings, august 2009 agenda. It is 420 million bytes in size -- about 3 hr. and 15 minutes in length. (mp4 format )

I have yet to view it, but at first glance the quality is quite good,and there appears to be a ton of information presented and discussed.

Alon Levy said...

420 megs? There ought to be a lawsuit on the grounds that excessively large files discriminate against constituents without reliable high-speed internet connection.

Rail>Auto said...

I like this idea... I like it alot..

Also, why not put a Personal Rapid Transit system on the bridge as well? Only the pods demanded would be used.

matt said...

Boo Hoo Alon.

I bet if you requested it on CD they would send it to you.

By the way we shouldn't be building highways anymore. It is discrimination against people without cars.

matt said...

Back to the north bay,

Anything beyond SMART seems excessive for a group of people who have always shunned transit expansion. SMART seems to be the solution that most people in Sanoma-Marin wanted. Extension to South Marin seems unnecessary.

The only thing I don't understand is why the line ends 0.4 miles short of the ferry terminal at Lakespur. Is it that difficult to run it right up to the terminal?

Rafael said...

@ matt -

here's a Google Maps satellite view of the Larkspur Ferry Terminal and surrounding area.

The SMART line will hug the freeway but not cross the old rail bridge. CPUC will not permit a new heavy rail service to run in streetcar mode, so simply cutting across isn't an option.

That means the tracks would either have to curve around the building (hotel?) and run along the left bank of the Larkspur slough or else, run on an aerial across East Sir Francis Drake Blvd. Both options would be expensive and require additional EIR/EIS work. As a first cut, they will stick to their own ROW and expect passenger to walk the 1/4 mile to the boat.

A little exercise never hurt any abled-body person, but I'll admit the pedestrian transfer might be a minor hassle for elderly and ADA passengers, families with small children etc.

Graham said...

In this context, somebody should mention the amazing 1999 rail rerofit of the 25 de Abril Bridge in Lisbon (a near-twin of the GGB) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/25_de_Abril_Bridge
Rail line added to the underside of the bridge. Amazing work of engineering.

Rafael said...

@ Graham -

amazing stuff, they raised the towers and added a second set of suspension wires to take the extra weight. Fortunately, the design of the GG bridge wasn't messed with during initial construction, even though plans for streetcar service were going nowhere. They were far too worried about quakes, wind and salty fog to start shaving off any of the steel.

The GG bridge has been lightened in the ongoing seismic retrofit to help it withstand an 8.3 earthquake centered on the San Andreas just 7 miles offshore. The work has been going on for 20 years, two rivets at a time and shouldn't be considered an open invitation to add more live weight, e.g. tracks for long heavy rail trains.

It might be possible to embed streetcar tracks in the slowest traffic lanes for light rail use, but somehow I doubt slinging additional dedicated tracks underneath the deck will ever be permitted.

YESonHSR said...

Move here then you will enjoy a beautiful HSR system and everthing else

jim said...

Its taken 75 years just to get a suicide barrier approved on that bridge - still with stiff opposition to it... altering the bridge in any other way isn't going to happen. If you so much as look at the golden gate bridge with anything but a look of awe wonderment and worship you will be immediately banished to the Farallons never to be heard from again or be sentenced to drive the 14 Mission until you retire or get murdered whichever comes fisrt.


Jet packs are the answer I tell you.

jim said...

There isn't enough demand anyway for anything more than the SMART + Ferry. for southbound pax and SMART plus RIC BART for Eastbay bound pax.
Overkill isn't needed.

SMART would better focus any future expansion on serving more of the the county. north to mendo, and east to the city of sonoma. and maybe west to sebastopol

Rafael said...

@ jim -

jetpacks FTW. As for SMART, I read that service to Sonoma town is something they'd like to offer in the future. As for Mendocino, NWP is already rebuilding tracks up to Willits and there's a private railroad from there out to Fort Bragg.

Afaik, SMART doesn't have any intention of ever running trains north of Cloverdale, though.

Sam said...

Is there any feasible way to eventually get service over to the Vallejo area and perhaps even connect up with Capitol Corridor trains via Benicia? Service to Sonoma and Napa (the cities, not the counties) would be cool too, though probably never cost-effective.

Sam said...

^My question above is of course assuming that Solano County would chip in to foot part of the bill for extending service there.

jim said...

The highway 37 corridor could really benefit. That road sucks.

Anonymous said...

@ Sam
Ever is a long time. Maybe someday.
Unfortunately the existing ROW is rather circuitous going through valleys and around hills and swamps and doubling back to Napa and Sonoma. The entire north coast branch meets the rest of North America at the junction in Suisun. Freight does not complain about a few extra miles but the ROW seems ackward for passengers. You can find the line on Google Maps. A new ROW would have to cut through either hills, rural residential areas or wetlands.

James

Alon Levy said...

I bet if you requested it on CD they would send it to you.

The idea is to make access easier, not harder.

By the way we shouldn't be building highways anymore. It is discrimination against people without cars.

You don't need highways to have access to government information. And highways are also used by buses; 420 MB video files aren't paralleled by 400 KB transcripts.

Daniel said...

Interesting concept, but the astronomical costs and limited benefits make this proposal impractical--you're talking about billions of dollars for a rail line into a low density, sprawling suburban county with a population less than half of Oakland (excluding West Marin, which wouldn't be served anyway). The population within one mile of the light rail line would be even less--as little as 25,000. There are so many projects that would have much greater benefits, and you could provide better commuter service with an expanded bus network anyway while saving billions of dollars.

Rafael said...

@ Daniel -

of course a BRT system could use narrow concrete lanelets along the old NWP alignment between San Rafael and Marin City, switch to the existing road through Sausalito, cross the GG bridge on the FasTrak lane, sneak through the Presidio via Lincoln and connect to the Geary BRT corridor to downtown, thus avoiding 101 almost completely.

But that's cheating ;^)