BART: Say No to Freeway-Based Rail to Livermore

Below is our letter to the BART Board of Directors opposing I-580 rail projects to Livermore. It’s way too expensive an option, competing for funding needed for more crucial projects that serve the current 400,000-strong daily BART ridership. BART’s core is at (or over?) capacity — investing in an overpriced expansion when BART can barely handle the current load seems unwise.

We of course support a robust, seamless regional rail system — the current proposal is not conducive to that. The freeway-based alignment does not connect communities nor regional transit.

Please contact your BART Board Director by Wednesday, May 23 — the vote is Thursday!

A proposed alignment that would connect downtowns and ACE rail. Courtesy of Nextransit.

Dear President Raburn and BART Board of Directors,

San Francisco Transit Riders (SFTR), an independent, member-supported non-profit advocating for efficient, affordable, and accessible transit, opposes approval of a BART rail extension to Livermore at this time.

There are a number of reasons the proposed BART extension to Livermore is not the right investment to truly serve the needs of transit riders, outlined below. Resources required for the backlog of infrastructure upgrades and more urgent regional transit priorities will be diverted to an overpriced project that does not sufficiently answer regional transit needs. Rather than improving service, it will negatively impact the over 400,000 current daily riders who deserve sufficient and reliable service now.

The $1.2 billion additional funding needed would compete with more pressing projects.

Only $400 million of the proposed $1.6 billion needed is currently available. This means that $1.2 billion would have to come from somewhere, and there are many higher priorities for regional transit and BART that are currently unfunded.

For example, BART has $3.9 billion in unfunded capital improvement expenses. The current BART infrastructure is bursting at the seams. We need to look to fund current BART core capacity needs as well as regional transit connections (like a second transbay tube, 24-hour service, and the downtown Caltrain extension) rather than spreading the system too thin to be sustainable.

BART’s transbay tube is just about at capacity — it is certainly not ready to take on new riders from Livermore.

BART cars are already jam-packed during an ever-longer rush hour. BART’s once-stellar reliability is in decline, and riders are experiencing more breakdowns and delays. Core stations are in need of maintenance, repair and upgrades. Escalators and elevators are regularly out; Powell St. — serving 30,000 arriving riders daily — hasn’t had a ceiling for years; fare gates need upgrading.

Prioritizing an extension when the existing system can’t support more riders seems unwise.

The rail extension is a poor design.

Much of the cost of the I-580 freeway alignment is related to widening the freeway. BART’s own numbers estimate double the ridership if service goes to downtown Livermore, rather than a freeway interchange. The fact that the proposed alignment doesn’t connect to downtown Livermore or integrate with Altamont Corridor Express rail is a missed opportunity towards strengthening our regional transit network.

As a regional investment, either the alignment along the Southern Pacific San Ramon branch right-of-way or via El Charro would be preferable, both in terms of project cost and in terms of service to downtown Livermore.

At a minimum, if Pleasanton and Livermore insist on a freeway alignment, those communities should be prepared to locally fund the incremental cost of such a project, as has been done elsewhere (such as Berkeley’s local funding for a BART subway through downtown for the Richmond line).

In short, the freeway alignment is not affordable, efficient, or accessible.

We are lukewarm even about the proposed BRT project, again because of the cost of freeway widening required by the I-580 alignment.

The projected cost per mile is disproportionately high for a BRT, and again does not integrate with downtown or regional connections. The main reason BART could consider this alternative is because it is already funded through the County of Alameda Measure BB funds.

Lastly, it is essential that BART retain jurisdiction over this project and reject the rail alternatives as defined in the DEIR.

San Francisco Transit Riders urges BART to reject all BART and DMU/EMU alternatives considered along I-580. We are supportive of immediate term solutions to connect transit riders between BART and Livermore.

Long term solutions should be more rider- and community-oriented, linking downtowns and regional transportation options, not just parking lots. We should be looking beyond merely reducing some freeway congestion; we should instead be looking at maximizing ridership through regional connectedness.