A longtime BART fan fantasy is coming to life, as a second Transbay Tube gets its first proposed public renderings, though there are a couple proposals, and it probably won’t be operating until 2040 at the earliest.
The Bay Area public transit-industrial complex is really feeling its oats these days, with the Van Ness BRT bus lanes finally completed and delivering on its promise of faster trips, and the long-delayed Central Subway getting a soft opening date in less than two months. You kind of get the feeling that some of these “We were promised jetpacks” regional transit projects can, in fact, eventually produce jetpacks.
Another swing-for-the-fences project that has been discussed for nearly ten years is a proposed second Transbay Tube, which is currently being discussed under the umbrella of a larger regionally connected rail service providing easy trips between Santa Cruz, San Francisco, Oakland, Stockton, and Sacramento. That rail service is Amtrak’s Capitol Corridor, which is trying to rebrand as Link21, and the Chronicle reports that at Wednesday's Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Board meeting, they unveiled the first renderings of a second Transbay Tube.
In the interest of sensationalizing this issue and getting everybody worked up, we’ll go straight to the transit porn, and bury the important underlying context much deeper in this post.
Oh baby! Above we see the two proposed second Transbay Tube renderings, from the board meeting slides, so let’s look at both in detail.
The first one shows the new Transbay Tube in blue. It goes from a theoretical, proposed Alameda BART station, then underwater beneath the Bay to an also theoretical and proposed Mission Bay BART station, and eventually ending at the Salesforce Transit Center, which as you know has all manner of grand schemes to eventually integrate Caltrain, high-speed rail, and every other transit service they can. So why not BART too?
The second proposal also has a proposed Alameda BART station, and the new tube would go straight from there to the Salesforce Transit Center. (Fun fact: The Salesforce Transit Center naming rights deal only goes until the year 2042, so it might be called something else by the time this whole thing gets built.)
“It’s exciting to see it become a more concrete project,” BART Board Director Rebecca Saltzman told the Chronicle. “We’ve been talking about it, but I think a lot of people don’t wrap their head around that this is so impactful to the whole megaregion and not just the East Bay and San Francisco.”
Okay, about that important underlying context that we buried. You’ll notice Director Saltzman uses the term “megaregion.” That’s because this isn’t really a BART project, it’s a rail project, with the concept of the Bay Area expanded into a 21-county “megaregion” (hence the name Link21) that goes as far south as Santa Cruz, and eastward beyond Sacramento and into Placer County. All of the major cities therein would be connected via rail, in ways that are not entirely determined yet.
And this is all theoretical, none of the plans are final, and we’re still merely in the proposal phase. Moreover, the price tag is currently estimated at $29 billion just for the second Transbay Tube (and that dollar amount will surely go higher), and a target completion date of 2040 (and you know it will take longer). But these are still exciting ideas, and if you’re a real transit nerd, here are 57 pages of supporting materials that explain the proposals in detail.