San Francisco Subway Extension Map (Image Source:

San Francisco’s Central Subway project received final environmental clearance last week while Muni’s Board of Directors approved the management contract. Groundbreaking in 2010, and the first ride in 2016, if all goes as planned.

44 thoughts on “San Francisco’s Central Subway A Step Closer To 2010 Start”
  1. anybody know the funding status on this?
    is there any chance the funds are at risk given the general indebtedness of the State of California?
    it seems like an “easy” thing to cut given the $11.2B deficit for this fiscal year and possible projected $28B through June 2010.
    what’s the most palatable option? (examples)
    -raise taxes
    -cut funding to K-12 education
    -cut out a subway that can be served with buslines.

  2. I don’t think the funds are at risk…these are mostly federal funds we’re talking about. And if anything, there’s more emphasis on capital projects as economic stimulus opportunities. Even though this project can’t start within 120 days, it still may be a candidate for extra funding.

  3. While I would like to see this cut (in favor of actual projects that help transit, rather than the poorly designed, uber expensive PR stunt that this is), it won’t be. Most of the funding is federal and local, not state.

  4. If they’re going to be digging all those tunnels, why don’t they just bight the bullet and put the whole thing underground, instead of going half-a$$ed and putting the SMA section above ground. If they cut a deal with the Transbay bunch, they could dig the tunnels from Caltrain to the Transbay at the same time… Yeah yeah, I know, fiscal realities and all that…

  5. what’s the point of this subway? is it going to replace the 45/30?
    i assume it will be faster than the bus, but it goes nowhere!

  6. This is a complete waste of money. While I agree that that the subway should be extended, the Geary corridor or the Lombard corridor would be a much better use of the funds.

  7. ^^^Muni tracks on 4th St will be raised and will not mix with traffic (similar to the N tracks on Judah between 9th and 19th). There will be two fewer auto lanes on 4th for that stretch.

  8. SFNative-
    Actually, the stockton street busses are the busiest in the city. The 39-Geary is the second most travelled.
    I agree with Chris Tann. Since we are going to put Caltrain underground from there to the transbay station, you might as well start digging and put it all underground from the start.
    I have to imagine that they are going to run this as an extension of the T, and split the KT back into two lines. Are they going to keep the bryant and harrison stops on the N and continue to run it past Embarcadero?

  9. The part of 4th street where it will be above ground is only lightly used, and so there was no need to be underground. They can take two lanes out of that street there and not miss it. It was an efficient use of funds to do what they did.
    And it will be a boon to the restaurants in Chinatown to open up the ballpark crowd and the mission bay crowd to a fast and easy route to get there and back.
    This won’t, of course, mean any more money for the restaurant owners, as their rents will rise commensurate with the increased business. However, the property owners in the area will be enriched by the money collected from the entire country and used to build this project.
    Of course, we’ll all be dead by the time it opens, so for us to argue it is academic. It will be much appreciated by our great grandchildren. Our great grandparents are remembered as the generation that built the trans continental rail road: we’ll be remembered as the generation that built a two mile subway from china basin to china town.
    And don’t worry about funding: Chicago today announced that they are in agreement to sell all future parking meter revenues for the next 75 years so that they can be spent now. I’m sure we’ll be signing up for that as soon as we can.

  10. I think that it will be more useful than people think, but you can’t really look at it as a project all on its own.
    Of course it really needs to terminate with a station in North Beach…that opens that whole quadrant of the city in a way that it just isn’t now.
    And it provides a jumping off point for Geary service, which should by all rights be the next subway line (through cathedral hill, and then surface). That’s a long way off, naturally, but this line provides something for the Geary line to hook into at Geary and Stockton.

  11. The Stockton St busses are NOT the busiest in the city, but even if they were, this line does not cover a long enough area to make a difference, and does not connect to the Market St subway in a way that people will use (Get on in Chinatown, take it one stop, then walk 10 minutes to the next train? Please. Other places can figure out direct connections, why can’t we?)
    The 38, 38L, 38AX, and 38BX combined are MUCH busier than any of the Stockton lines, and both the Mission and Geary corridors are busier when you combine all lines for each corridor. The Stockton busses are mostly just busy from North Beach to Union Square – and guess what? This line ENDS before North Beach and has only one stop in Chinatown.
    The Geary lines have high ridership for more than 50 blocks and don’t trail off until after 33rd Ave. By comparison, only the 9x has decent ridership outside of the northeast quarter of the city. The 45 and 30 are almost empty through the Marina and Cow Hollow.
    The T will be separated from the K, and the N will continue to serve the Embarcadero.

  12. The reason not to make it a tunnel for the entire route is cost as well as service: it’s literally hundreds of millions per mile (nearly a billion?) to tunnel (it was billions in the case of the LA red line).
    One interesting bit of info regardless of where it ends up going: the city has to buy the boring machines (which cost tens of millions of dollars) and they do plan on boring all the way to Washington Square. This will make a future extension to N. Beach much easier and more cost effective. Where the boring machines go from N.Beach however is still up in the air: traditionally they remove the boring machines which is messy and costly, but they may leave them in place for potential future extensions (say to Fishermans Wharf).

  13. curmudgeon,
    This line DOES NOT provide for something for a Geary line to hook into, but actually pretty much cements the death of a Geary subway, unless we want a Geary subway to start 300 feet below ground. The way that this thing is designed will make it impossible for a Geary subway, unless we want it turning south to Market several blocks before Union Square – remember, the Union Square station for this line does NOT connect to the Market Street Subway, except through a 10 minute walk up and down escalators and down a 300 ft long tunnel.
    A direct Geary subway to the Financial District dies the minute this thing break ground.

  14. who are the main bloc of riders that will use this line on a daily basis? do a lot of people from chinatown and north beach need to get down the ballpark or catrain station daily? that’s not the case from my observation at least.

  15. It seems to me that it would most benefit those living on the peninsula and commuting to the financial district via Caltrain.

  16. Brutus,
    Where do you get that information on the Geary Subway?
    I went to the SFMTA meeting on the Central Subway, and Muni specifically said that the subway did not preclude a Geary line.
    I think the new E-Embarcadero line will also cover the stops formerly served by the T on the Embarcadero.

  17. It may be ancient history that got lost in value engineering, but I understood several years ago that providing a base for the geary extension was a large part of the point of the central subway. Brutus, perhaps you have more recent information.

  18. I went to the SFMTA meeting on the Central Subway, and Muni specifically said that the subway did not preclude a Geary line.
    They’re right. The Central Subway does not preclude in a Geary line, it just makes it significantly more expensive, less likely, and harder to make “work”. (I don’t trust much at Muni meetings – I was there too. Their ridership “projections” for the CS are suspect at best. The T is still slower than the bus that it replaced, has lower ridership than was there before and was projected, and cost more than twice what was expected. The CS is designed by the same people…both have severe design flaws that were pointed out many times by transportation experts, but Muni was and is focused on “bringing home the bacon” and PR stunts like this subway is. Actual changes that can make transit better are rarely taken seriously.)
    Remember, Muni is concentrating on putting BRT on Geary, so there are no plans for a Geary Muni subway – none. There are still technically BART plans for a subway on Geary, though it now (because of the Central Subway) has an alignment that turns south at Van Ness then goes along Folsom – never making it to the Financial District or even as close as the Transbay Terminal – and NEVER connecting to the existing BART line in SF (?!?!) through a direct connection – it would have a station within about a ten minute walk from Civic Center.
    So, subway on Geary is still possible, but subway on Geary to Union Square or a connection on Market is basically killed by this.
    The main reason is that the CS has to tunnel beneath the Market St subway, meaning that the station at Union Square is around 150 feet below ground. Because of the station and the design of the tunneling and other things already there, a Geary subway would not be able to go above the CS, so would have to go more than 250 feet below ground – those would be some LONG escalators.
    So…impossible, no. Likely? With Muni already focused on a $200 million BRT project on Geary and this project which would make a Geary subway very expensive and difficult logistically? Not in our lifetimes.
    Rescue Muni’s site and the Transbay Blog have pretty good writeups on the subject.

  19. curmudgeon,
    Yes, waaaaaay back there was a plan to make a “shell” station above the Union Square CS station that could eventually be used by a Geary line. That was only in preliminary plans, and was found to be impossible based on later engineering studies (if I recall correctly, it was partially because of the Union Square parking garage).

  20. @Brutus,
    Can you post some links to the information about the shell station?
    From what I remember at the Muni meeting, the tunneling had to be deep because MTA concluded there wasn’t enough vertical clearance between the existing Market Street line and the surface for more tunneling (obviously, in addition to the fact that cut and cover would cause a lot of disruption).
    Furthermore, I don’t think it’s fair to blame Muni for the fact that Geary has no subway line. Whenever there is a discussion about rail transit on Geary, the Geary nimby merchants come out in full force against it.
    Say what you want about the Central Subway, at least Chinatown is receptive to more transit development. There is community support behind the project and federal money earmarked. That’s more than any Geary subway could boast.
    If people on Geary and in the Richmond really wanted a subway, they could lobby Pelosi for it. The truth of the matter is, the biggest obstacle to a Geary subway are the people on Geary Blvd. themselves.

  21. jessep,
    I’ll look for some links on the shell station – that was from 5-6 years ago. Some history on Geary rail:
    Subway was proposed in 1933 and rejected in a ballot proposition.
    Subway was proposed in 1948 and rejected by ballot proposition.
    Subway was proposed while Muni was considering ripping up the tracks in the 50’s. Muni ACTIVELY campaigned against the subway because it “would be duplicated by the BART subway on Geary”. Voted down twice primarily because a BART subway was promised and in the original BART plan. After BART passed, the Geary route was immediately dubbed too expensive and put on the back burner.
    That was the last of it.
    The Geary merchants are a problem, sure, but there hasn’t been a realistic push for a subway on Geary since the 60’s. How do you know the merchants would cause such a fuss if construction was similar to the CS construction (tunnels bored and no disruption on the surface)? Chinatown would be screaming bloody murder if it was going to take away parking or cause construction on the surface (remember the teardown of the freeway!?!?) as the Geary BRT project will do. I’m not excusing the Geary merchants, but they do have legitimate points of contention that do NOT exist for Chinatown. Different situations entirely.

  22. Brutus’ data tops my hearsay information.
    I had forgotten that it wouldn’t intersect the central subway, which frankly, makes it a waste of money no matter how much it costs and no matter where it goes.
    One of the huge benefits of the NYC subway is the brilliant way the lines all intersect in meaningful places, so not only do many lines go where you want, you can also get to almost anywhere on two or three lines (max) without having to walk all over the place.
    They should take the F off market, in my opinion, and run it down embarcadero from the wharf to the ball park. Having an F, E, and T line is just unnecessarily redundant.

  23. Is there any reason why a Geary subway couldn’t be created as a branch from the CS ? So the segment south of Market would serve trains of both lines. North of market some trains would go towards North Beach and some would go westbound on Geary.

  24. Please, to all the central subway haters and deniers, please never never never ride it. It’s useless right? Don’t clog our trains and our stations. Thank you.

  25. Milkshake,
    That idea has been brought up before, but for cost reasons never studied fully and the line is not being built with that in mind. Could it be changed in the future? I don’t know, possibly. I’m not sure that there is all that much potential ridership connecting those two areas though – the real ridership on all of the Geary corridor lines (1, 2, 3, 4, 31, 38, and even the 5 to some degree) starts or ends five to six blocks east of Union Square.
    I’m a hater of THIS project, not Muni or public transit in general. I get very frustrated when a large amount of very-hard-to-get public funds are going to a project that provides so little benefit. Bad transit projects turn off the spigots of money that we need for future projects.

  26. Brutus and Milkshake…
    that was always my understanding, that the Geary would flow right into the Central Subway and go South of Market. Because there is obviously an engineering problem with a Geary extension merging into the Market Street subway (because the inbound would have to loop low under the BART and then back up to Muni level to merge into the Muni line…)
    But the concept was also that there would be a joint station at Market Street, and I believe that that Station is now at Union Square with some long pedestrian tunnel connecting to Powell? That’s not ideal, but it is not at all unusual in the transit world. I’m just thinking of some of the connections in London or Boston where you walk up over down and around in one “station” to make a connection between lines. Yes, it sucks, but you get used to it.
    In practical terms, probably a lot of people bound for the northern financial district would just get off at Union Square and walk rather than make a transfer, but at least it would be possible. And folks who work in the SOMA part of the Financial District could easily walk from Moscone.
    So I’ll still root for that possibility, oh, 20 years from now or so. BRT is cheap…even if they do put it in the Geary corridor, it can be replaced later with LRT. No one has really talked about subway out in the Avenues for a long time though….I think the Portal would probably be in Japantown, with the LRT running in the median from there to the Ocean.

  27. Boy does this seem like another lame but huge $$$$$ project. Terminates on the famous transit corridor Union St. It’s a 14 block subway, whoopee! Meanwhile someone said above it’s a 5 minute walk from his house to the Chinatown stop -what he didn’t tell you is he lives in SOMA- How far walking end to end does anyone think this would take? And yes the forgotten transbay terminal and not link up with that- i guess the reason for that is this is quite small and useless. It doesn’t even go from one end of a small city to another. This is a sick joke being foisted on taxpayers

  28. SF2OAK,
    I don’t live in SOMA. I live in Jackson Square. With google maps, it’s 0.3 mi/5 minutes.
    Maybe you should ask me where you live before you run your mouth.

  29. Walking end to end of this *extension* of the T-Third line, from 4th and Kind to Washington and Stockton, is 31 minutes by google maps. The Stockton St. bus lines are very heavily used. I do see this as a useful extension of the the Third St rail project, and it has been greatly improved since the original plans. At one point, this was planned to go North on 3rd St and South on 4th.
    I would like to see Geary St as a subway to Japantown someday also. I cannot find it now, but I remember seeing a proposal on a blog somewhere showing the Geary line still working quite well .. if perhaps switching to Post St in the downtown area and connecting with or terminating in the Montgomery Station. Just because the bus is called the “38-Geary” does not mean the subway must strictly adhere to Geary St folks. Anyway, the concept was pretty elegant, with renderings showing the “geary” line terminating inside the existing Montgomery station at at same level as existing platforms. This would also tie into the proposed underground (moving sidewalk) walkway to Transbay Terminal and CalTrain/HSR/AC Transit.
    I do hope the Geary line gets fastracked.

  30. ^^^That’s the alignment that was discussed when a “shell” station was going to be built – the line would follow Post and terminate at the Montgomery St station, but that is no longer possible because of the chosen design of the CS.

  31. Does anyone see the possibility of this being extended down Lombard or Bay St to the Persidio? and would that make sense?

  32. ^^^That would be cool, but completely unrealistic.
    The 30, 41, and 45 have EXTREMELY low ridership past Van Ness. Extremely low. Potential for infill development in those areas is pretty much nil. Compared to other corridors (Geary, Mission, 19th Ave/Park Presidio, the Judah corridor, even 3rd St), the Bay/Lombard corridor should be well down the list for improvements because of current ridership, potential increased ridership, and expense.
    Maybe if Washington gives us $50 billion for improvements.

  33. How about getting a coalition of Geary merchants to support a subway? Then come back, bitch and complain.
    I was at a Rescue Muni meeting a few years ago, floating the idea of rail transit down Geary. You should have seen the uproar..Like it or not, Chinatown actually wants the subway.
    It is far easier to be overly critical of a project than to do the hard work of building community consensus for one.

  34. let us not forget that public transportation upgrades are most beneficial when other means are difficult. the drive down geary is never ever congested to a point where walking is faster than driving. perhaps the ridership may be greater on the 38 than a stockton line, but it takes just as long for the stockton line to go from chinatown to downtown as it does for the 38 to go from market to the beach.
    let’s also not forget who rides the lines. i don’t know how many of you have ridden a stockton line to chinatown, but if you do, you’ll be sitting next to a grandmother no matter where you park yourself on that bus. i don’t know about the rest of you, but i’d rather have a subway built to benefit the elders than one that makes your daily commute a little faster.

  35. Yeah, transit serves as a crucial transport lifeline for a segment of the population who cannot drive. But that alone isn’t enough reason to build transit. It would be cheaper to subsidize taxis for the elderly and disabled (and in fact this is done for those who live too far from a bus stop).
    Successful transit must appeal to a broad swath of the demographic.

  36. jessep,
    Then how about we don’t talk about Geary. There haven’t been complaints (and have indeed been lots of people continually begging for better service whatever it takes) about rail on Van Ness or improved service on the N (which has continued to get worse and worse).
    Sounds like you haven’t ridden a 1, 2, or 38 lately. Quite a few grandmothers on those lines too – all of which would benefit greatly from a Geary line. And your times are a bit off – it typically takes almost an hour to get from Market to the beach on a 38, and never more than 15 minutes to get from Chinatown to Market on a 9x, 30, or 45.

  37. Cachu, building a subway for today’s elderly riders is unlikely to serve their needs before they are gone. Subways tend to take twice to three times as long as predicted to build.
    This does really seem like San Francisco trying to repeat New York’s expensive, delayed, and still with no riders decades later subway to nowhere on 66th running across the east river a bit into Queens while failing to meet up with lines it crosses.
    More generally, bus lines can be improved through dedicated lanes without the expense of trains. Dedicated lanes remove much of the passing and maneuvering congestion caused by buses and generally allows both traffic and buses to move faster.

  38. Your tax dollars at work…. to pay back Rose Pak and her cronies.
    You wonder why all the other issues (connection to Geary, etc.) aren’t resolved? Because it doesn’t matter. It was all just to get this stupid line to Chinatown. A line that doesn’t increase service — the time difference between using the current bus system and the subway won’t appreciably improve.
    It’s a complete fuster cluck in terms of engineering and cost. And guess who will be left holding the bag — San Francisco tax payers.

  39. michael –
    here are the renderings of the geary/post st. subway you remember seeing:
    (it’s a powerpoint presentaion so you will need to also download the powerpoint viewer). it has interesting renderings.
    brutus –
    the geary/post street subway might be built as a shallow excavation, as suggested in the rendering from the above link depicting a terminus at the mezzanine level of the montgomery station. it would be much cheaper than a deep bore and possible since post st is not busy between van ness avenue and uniion square. it would only require the closure of post street for enough time to build a slab on grade, underneath which excavation would then take place. a shallow post street subway tunnel crossing a deep central subway tunnel below at union square would not be a technical problem. while the connection between these two lines would not be seamless, it would still be useable, and most riders would ride straight to downtown anyway.
    let us keep hope, although we all may be 6 feet under before it gets built.

  40. If San Francisco wants a real subway then it’s going to have to start all over, and be willing to spend an amount of money several orders of magnitude greater than what is currently being discussed here. Even the City of New York has difficulties expanding it’s massive 467 station subway, in part because the cost of maintenance is comparable to the cost of expansion! San Francisco would have to be willing to spend tens of billions of dollars in order to build a true subway (i.e. a New York style subway.) Personally I think it’s not the thing to do, it reminds me of the Monorail Episode of the Simpsons. If the 38 Geary is over crowded then more 38 Gearys are needed, but a Geary Subway is overkill. The Richmond District is not MidTown Manhattan. The Northbeach and Chinatown neighborhoods, however, need something to change now, e.g. Stockkton between Sutter and Vallejo Streets could be restricted to busses and trucks, or better yet Stockton could be made a one way southbound street between Sutter and Vallejo Streets carrying people from Northbeach and Chinatown back to Market, while Kearny remains one way northbound but as the main way into the Northbeach and Chinatown neighborhoods.

  41. I’m all for the Central Subway, Chinatown and North Beach are very very dense.
    The Richmond district is not and does not need a subway.
    We should be addressing needs not people’s “Oh my god I wish I had a subway” concerns.
    A chinatown/north beach subway would get very high useage.

  42. The Geary light rail plan is completely separate from the central subway plan. This means that BOTH projects can be completed without any financial drain on the state.
    One of the only flaws with this plan is that surface buses would still have to run in order to provide connections to the 1, 2, and 3 which are not served by the stations. This project is a good idea, but it would be more cost-effective if it extended onto Union and Chestnut Streets (essentially, the 30 and 45 would have to be converted to light rail lines and put underground while the 9x provided surface connections to MUNI lines not served by the Chinatown stations).

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