In a 55-page report released yesterday, a Civil Grand Jury tasked with keeping an eye on SFMTA's Central Subway Project called out the project for being too expensive and poorly laid out. While it offered 26 total recommendations on how to improve the project, they more or less amount to a complete redesign for the SFMTA. And then there's the big elephant on the train: how much burden will the new line place on a system that can barely keep itself working straight as it is?
Among the harsh criticisms in the report was the cost-per-foot figure associated with building the 1.7 mile extension: At about $1.6 billion in total cost, that works out to about $176,000 per foot — a figure the panel called "breathtakingly expensive." They also aren't too jazzed about what they call "The Walk" — a name they've given to the 1,000-foot transfer tunnel from the new line's Union Square stop to other Muni Metro stops on Market Street. On the other hand, just think about how nice the buskers will sound with sounds of their cellos and violins bouncing off 1,000 feet of floor-to-ceiling tile.
The total budget is something of a sticking point too: As the Examiner highlights, the report thinks the funding plan is "overly optimistic" in light of the T-Third construction that went 22% over budget. Even with 20% of the total budget set aside as a slush fund, if the Central Subway follows that pattern, Muni will still be out some $260 million extra. Paul Rose, spokesman for SFMTA, politely reminded the panel that the project is currently under budget, but there doesn't appear to be a lot of communication between the transit agency and the oversight panel aside from the news articles and press releases.
When confronted with concerns about how the new line will dilute the already thin service (which has yet to hit it's 85% on-time goal), Rose pointed out that alleviating congestion on Stockton Street would be a step towards easing crowding systemwide. Or, if we're talking in real-world terms: a 20 minute bus trip from Chinatown to Caltrain (optimistic!) would be reduced to 8 minutes via subway.