Patience Is A Virtue

On the slow track

San Francisco’s Central Subway Delayed Two-Years
The San Francisco Examiner reports that the Central Subway project will be delayed two-years and cost $278 million more ($1.58b total) then expected. There is some ‘good’ news though: the federally mandated study that arrived at these figures gave a green light to project funding thus allowing project officials to comment that, “This project is very much on track.”

At we promote Putting Transit on the Fast Track. While we support the Central Subway project, we are dismayed at this rate of progress. Of course, that is just our subjective opinion. That is why we calculated the expected average speed of the 1.7 mile project from now until the 2018 completion date announced today: The project is moving along 0.179 miles per year; 0.0148 miles per month; 0.000041 miles per day; and just 0.00000169 miles per hour. This is just 2.566 inches per day! In other words, the Central Subway might be on track, but it’s certainly not the fast track.

© Brian A. Tyler and, 2009.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this website’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Brian Tyler and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


6 Responses to “Patience Is A Virtue”

  1. 1 anonymouse April 21, 2009 at 9:32 pm

    They could build a surface line from 4th/King to Van Ness/North Point for just the amount of the cost overrun. And it would probably be able to support 3-car trains too: the blocks are just barely long enough. A 3-car light rail train would be a welcome increase in capacity compared to the current 60 foot bus even if there’s no increase in speed. And unlike the subway, it wouldn’t require a long walk at one end and a series of three or four escalators at the other just to go one station.

  2. 2 switchingmodes April 25, 2009 at 11:43 am

    The line is being built this way so that it connects some of San Francisco’s most blighted neighborhoods to downtown via the T-Line. Over time, this opens the door for redevelopment. The City has a big stake in this because they have required an old Naval base along the T-Third line for just $1 (one dollar).

    I don’t feel the line you are proposing would confer the same benefits of the Central Subway. Also, the SF MTA as part of the TEP has discussed their desire to extend the Embarcardero LR line West from 4th/King. It’s a more direct shot and could link up with BART at 16th and Mission. I prefer this alignment. Additionally, to increase capacity to such a dense area as exists Van Ness, I prefer a design that will have a greater increase in capacity and speed than what you propose.

  3. 3 anonymouse April 25, 2009 at 9:47 pm

    I think it would. I think the Central Subway as proposed is an incredibly awkward design, because of the incredibly poor transfer at Market and the deep level station in Chinatown. It would tremendously inconvenience the very large ridership on the 30/45 between Market and Chinatown, while providing a couple minutes’ savings for everyone else. And speed might not be such a huge issue for a surface line if they restrict Stockton to muni and delivery trucks only, plus of course there’s the existing Stockton Tunnel, which was built precisely for the purpose of speeding streetcars under the hill. Keep in mind also that they’re also proposing 2-car platforms, where even with a surface line, you would probably be able to fit 3-car ones, so capacity would actually be higher for a surface line.

    • 4 switchingmodes April 26, 2009 at 7:27 pm

      Capacity would not be higher at street level than below grade, even with three car trains. The only way that would be possible is if auto traffic was restricted (email me if you need an explanation why). Putting transit on the fast lane requires reliability and speed – an advantage beyond cost. Your proposal does not achieve this, despite high costs relative to benefits. The Central Subway does and is superior in the long-run.

      The Central Subway project, like many projects, will be criticized for costs and low ridership relative to costs. In the long-run we won’t know how we lived without it. We can compare projects as for viability, but this project is viable and going forward and that’s enough.

  4. 5 David Pelfrey July 8, 2009 at 2:36 pm

    SFMTA came before the San Francsico Pedestrian Safety Committee (PSAC) last month and requested a letter in support of a Safe Streets and Road Repair General Obligation Bond – totaling $388,000,000 for the November, 2009 ballot. Should be a slam dunk, our committee seeks to make recommendations that enhance the pedestrian experience in San Francisco when the rare opportunity presents. At the meeting, SFMTA reported that there was a shortfall of some $707 million dollars in the budget needed to maintain basic street infrastructure in the city (Prop K monies notwithstanding).

    SFMTA’s own documents place capital infrastructure improvements at a higher priority than new capital infrastructure projects like the Central Subway. The problem I have with the Central Subway is not the idea itself, but its, timing, its execution, and its cost. SFMTA has prioritized the Third Street Light Rail project in the past ahead of basic street maintenance and in the past got the SF BOS to approve over $22 million of Prop K funds to be allocated to this new capital improvement at the expense of roads, sidewalks, bikes, and signals.

    This year SFMTA awarded a management and consulting contract to AECOM-EPC Joint Venture for $147 million; the BOS originally only authorized $82 million for this phase of the project.

    The Central Subway project is already out of control financially, we have no clear idea what the ultimate cost will be – certainly more than the estimated $1.5 billion (the mgmt. contract alone is now close to 10% of the cost). The tunnel will be bored with only five feet or so of clearance relative to the existing BART tunnel. SFMTA engineers (one so far) estimate that there is a water flow rate within the substrate of the projected MUNI tunnel of approximately 5 gal/min. Such hydrologic problems have greatly complicated tunnel projects in the past.

    Questions emailed directly to SFMTA regarding the Central Subway from our little committee continue to go unanswered.

    So here’s the dilemma: go with the Central Subway, a project struggling hard within a financial and engineering fog bank of difficulties and expend tax payer money (Federal, State, and Local) that had best be used to attempt to maintain and improve the transit infrastructure San Francisco has.

    The way it appears to be shaping up now is that the Political Powers that be will force the poorly implemented Central Subway project on San Francisco and then attempt to float bond issues to band-aid over the rapidly deteriorating existing transit system.

    Sorry to belabor the Central Subway vs. Bond Issue point; however, in light of the $147 million AECOM-EPC JV contract, I thought taking a quick look at one of AECOMs other projects with a major transit authority might be helpful.

    On June 15th, 2009, AECOM in a joint venture with some other industry heavy-weights, was awarded a $111 million dollar contract modification with New Jersey Transit for construction of a Trans-Hudson River tunnel. Copy of article and source link below:

    LOS ANGELES–(BUSINESS WIRE)–AECOM Technology Corporation (NYSE:ACM), a leading provider of professional technical and management support services for government and commercial clients around the world, announced today that a joint venture in which it participates has been awarded a contract modification worth US$111 million for New Jersey Transit’s multi-billion-dollar Trans-Hudson Express Tunnel (THE Tunnel).

    The joint venture, known as THE Partnership (THEP), consists of Parsons Brinckerhoff, AECOM and STV, Inc., and will complete final design and preparation of contract-bid packages for THE Tunnel. The 3.5-mile tunnel will double commuter rail capacity between New York and New Jersey. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is a partner with NJ Transit for this project.

    “AECOM is proud to play a key role in this important transportation infrastructure project, which will noticeably improve the availability of transportation between New York and New Jersey,” said John M. Dionisio, AECOM president and chief executive officer. “Additionally, this effort will create and sustain jobs as it progresses.”

    The project includes the construction of two new tracks in New Jersey’s Meadowlands, two new single-track tunnels under the Hudson River and an expansion of Penn Station New York under 34th Street, including direct connections to city subways at 8th, 7th and 6th avenues, as well as Port Authority Trans Hudson (PATH) trains. Additional capacity and a connection to New Jersey Transit’s Main, Bergen County, Pascack Valley and Port Jervis lines will allow for transfer-free service to Penn Station New York. The project also includes new train-storage facilities in Kearny, N.J.

    A variety of construction methods will be employed to advance the project, including tunnel-boring machines, rock mining, sequential excavation, and cut-and-cover.

    End Source

    I wonder how the AECOM trans-Hudson tunnel contract compares with the AECOM-EPC JV Central Subway contract?

    New Jersey Transit Authority will spend approximately 9 billion on their project and double their ridership. SFMTA will spend at least 1.5 billion and not even come close to developing a revenue stream that can cope with deferred maintenance on existing capital infrastructure.

    SFMTA needs a reality check – if not, San Francisco taxpayers will be stuck with a big bill for an improvement that only directly affects part of the city. Moreover, the SFMTA does not appear to have the funds to maintain capital assets currently under its jurisdiction.

    Kind Regards,

    David Pelfrey
    SF District 4 Pedestrian Safety Committee (PSAC)

  5. 6 green deal course January 16, 2015 at 4:17 pm

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© Brian A. Tyler and, 2009.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material and/or concepts without express and written permission from this websites’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Brian Tyler and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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