Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Central Subway boondoggle

The text below is from a website with a critical approach to the Central Subway Project:, a new San Francisco non-profit organization, has formed to expose the major flaws in the San Francisco Central Subway Project. As the Project inches through its preliminary design phase awaiting a major infusion of federal dollars, misgivings about the Central Subway abound. is determined to expose the flaws in the project before it's too late. By identifying the areas in need of adjustment, hopes it can convince those in a position to improve the project to raise their sights. What's needed is a set of cost-effective transit improvements of genuine value to Muni and its 700,000 daily riders. What is distinctly not needed is a short piece of extraordinally costly subway of marginal usefulness.

The Central Subway has been talked about for over 10 years. It started out as a back-of-an-envelope political promise to a Chinatown group concerned over the loss of the Embarcadero Freeway. Unfortunately the proposal has since evolved into an overly costly extraordinarily deep subway of marginal usefulness. There are three basic problems with the Central Subway plan as envisioned by its sponsor, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA).

* First, riders would find their trips taking longer by subway than by today's surface bus.

* Second, the transfers from the subway to east-west bus and LRV lines would become less convenient.

* Third, in addition to costing a fortune to build, the subway would substantially increase Muni's operating and maintenance costs, thereby further weakening its shaky financial structure. San Francisco deserves better.

If you share our frustration over the unwillingness of San Francisco's local politicians to eliminate the fatals flaws in the Central Subway project, please help spread the word, and please make your feelings known to your local, State and federal representatives.

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At 8:32 PM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

I don't think boondoggle is a strong enough word for how bad this project is.

At 12:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I never thought I'd find myself agreeing with both Rob AND Murph, but I think I do. I'm a huge fan of public transit projects, but this one just seems so poorly conceived that I fear it will be a disaster, and I mean in every possible way.

It may well be an operational disaster, a financial disaster, and perhaps even a construction disaster – I read some stuff that led me to believe there were doubts that they could run the tunnel under the existing MUNI and BART tunnels without inducing damage to (or collapse of?) the existing infrastructure.

And who ever heard of two subway lines crossing but not connecting? I'm a little unclear on this part, as I've read contradictory information; but it'll either be a long slog underground to transit from one line to the other (as in a couple of blocks to walk) or it'll require coming back ABOVE ground, walking from Union Square down to Powell station, and then going back down (or vice-versa.) Both scenarios stink.

I could get a little less negative if there was some commitment to run the line all the way to North Beach. At least then it would have enough length that it might provide a little value. But spending a large fortune (who knows WHAT the price tag will be after cost overruns...) on two stops and a terminus that gets people where they're going in a LONGER time with LESS convenience (and costs more to run) just makes zero sense to me.

At 8:53 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Yes, this project is essentially a political payoff to Rose Pak and those in Chinatown who opposed tearing down the Embarcadero freeway. With the inevitable overruns, it's going to cost $1 billion per mile. During last year's campaign, I heard David Chiu tell one community group not to worry about the price tag, because it will be mostly Federal and state money!

At 12:18 PM, Anonymous Payto Pog said...

Yeah, as much as Muni needs improvement, this is waaaaaaaay too expensive. Once Caltrain is moved to the transbay there will be no need for this tunnel. Let's prioritize that instead.


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