As envisioned by Cross Bay Transit Partners, which is private affiliation between Facebook and Plenary, in conjunction with the San Mateo County Transit District, the Dumbarton Transportation Project would yield a new high-capacity rail link “between residential neighborhoods in the East Bay and job centers on the San Francisco Peninsula.”

The proposed line would initially link Redwood City and Newark, with a Menlo Park/East Palo Alto stop and the potential to extend to the line from Newark to Union City.

And with a target of breaking ground in 2022, the public-private partnership is slated to start hosting a series of community meetings this weekend, to acquaint the community with the team, goals, funding, timeline and process, as outlined below:

60 thoughts on “Proposed Timeline and Route for New Rail Line over the Bay”
  1. Facebook’s gonna spend billions to build a new rail line for all of us ??? Kewl !!!!

    Oh, wait, they’re just gonna “partner” with someone = public pays for it and fb makes use of it . 🙁

    (And a sidenote of – hopefully – interest: the SP’s Dumbarton bridge was the first “Bay Bridge”, tho it’s long been out-of-use and I’m sure would have to be replaced for this sche…er project)

    1. Of course FB isn’t spending billions, but they have already contributed funds to make this happen. The benefit of this project extends far beyond just FB. The main beneficiaries will be residents from southern Alameda county commuting to the peninsula and Silicon Valley. Right now there’s no reasonable option other than joining the traffic jam on 237 or over the Dumbarton Bridge.

      The best way for FB to relieve commuter pain would be to build more housing in MP, PA, and EPA though those communities aren’t cooperating. So thousands of workers get pushed out to Fremont, Union City, Newark, and Hayward.

      1. Facebook has a bunch of housing (1500 units, as well as commercial) planned in Menlo Park. Not enough, but still a good start.

        1. Great 1 and 2 bedroom apartment homes! Perfect. Because that kind of housing is generational and will sustain long term housing needs. TOD is great for entry level and empty-nesters, but do nothing to support family needs. New and enhanced long term transportation solutions need to be implemented, both locally, regionally, and statewide.

      2. This is exciting. With the Transbay Terminal flameout, Union City may once again vie to become the Grand Central Station of the West. Return of The Shinn….I just noticed that ACE will be extending service to Merced, so there’s your Silicon Valley HSR link (a bit slow at a likely 2 hour travel time, but at least it’s something).

  2. Great to see this project moving forward. My one concern: would this be yet another transit agency with yet another schedule, fare structure, and governing body?

    1. This is a really good question. If it were to join an existing agency, I can’t imagine it’d be anything other than BART.

    2. This is a huge consideration – we have enough problems in the Bay Area with a bunch of transit operators who don’t speak to one another, all with different fare structures, schedules, apps., etc. Last thing we need is another one!

    1. I second this. Caltrain should be expanded to cover this new line as well and have it go all the way into SF.

      Commuters at 4th and King (and later the Transbay terminal) could choose whether to go to the Central Valley or SJ when disembarking.

    2. It needs to be fully integrated with CalTrain. Facebook can get a few locomotives named after their executives.

      1. I think there are rail capacity issues in Redwood City but most ideally we would be running trains like ACE from Tracy and Livermore and maybe even further out

        Running a few DMUs from Newark is nice but that is a pretty niche little service. Being able to really run trains from over the Altamont to the Peninsula would be a really great service even if slow

  3. This should be integrated with BART. Adding yet another transit authority to the region is not the way to go. Maybe FB and other companies can partner with BART to bring it down from Millbrae to the RC terminus.

    1. I would agree on why do we need another agency? but disagree on BART. This will be a standard gauge commuter rail more in line with Caltrain and agree with AA on that aspect. Caltrain would be better fit on oversight and or party of any public private partnership.

      1. There’s an argument to be made that Caltrain itself should just be made part of BART. The gauge or type of rolling stock is of no real consequence. Plenty of transit agencies around the country operate multiple gauges and types of rolling stock. The bigger obstacle is the way the differnt fare structures works.

      2. We need another agency because any existing agency would tell you “We just don’t do big projects like this anymore.”

      3. BART already operates on two different gauges. eBART east of Pittsburg is standard gauge. The rest is the bizarro BART gauge. That said, Caltrain, Amtrak-CA, or ACE would be better existing agencies to integrate with due to the station overlaps.

    2. No, not BART. BART trains are incompatible with Capitol Corridor, ACE and Caltrain. And they have their own issues to deal with.

    3. I disagree that it needs to be BART. BART has 8 trains per direction per hour at the Union City station, so they won’t need to do anything to coordinate the schedule.

    4. Not possible. BART’s rail gauge is 5′ 6″ whereas the national standard is 4′ 8.5″. This is one of the issues that is plaguing BART. It was supposed to be novel back when it was released, but is proving to be quite the expensive proposition to have something that different. Not to mention, BART does not have a great track record of safety, cleanliness, or maintenance.

  4. all the ‘proposed’ portion will do is just dump people out in a remote part of newark that would become overrun with lyft/uber/shuttles. it would make more sense if it would just connect with ACE and/or BART. And yeah, it should be operated by either caltrain or ace, not yet-another-transit-agency (two dozen agencies is already too much).

    I understood the main reason this line was no longer used was due to conflict with boat traffic – the existing turnstyle gate has been left in open position for decades now that this segment is not in use. So to avoid the conflicts again the tracks would have to be elevated (or tunnelled) which is going to cost major $$$.

    1. I think there’s almost no boat traffic through that point anymore. But since the line is not in use, the bridge is just left open so that it never has to be moved.

      1. Yes, the Alviso marina is so silted in that a canoe is the largest vessel that can call at that port. But it would be good to avoid precluding future hovercraft ferry service to some port built on the mud flats.

  5. I think this project if developed and fastracked as Public Private Partnership is something that is needed for the Bay Area and probably California in general. As stated, creating another public transit agency and adding another layer of governance only builds upon the mountain of public governance that makes any reasonable transportation project or plan to get extended into decades and cost millions more.

    Would love to see Caltrains go into a public private partnership with the equity folks behind Brightline-Virgin in Florida. Brightline started and running privately financed passenger rail between Miami & Palm Beach with expansion to Orlando using trainset built by Siemens in Sacramento. The trains could easily incorporate direct service to 4th street station into San Fran. In addition, track and signal work is not significant in terms of construction.

    What is needed is the political will from Sacramento to cut through all the red tape, allow expediated environmental reviews on a win win situation of existing rail line, allow for Caltrains to go into a private partnership and get our state and local employees as well as the engineers & consultants, lawyer out of the way for once. The legislation can start with by removing the Bay Development agency from any permitting requirements.

  6. They should partner with Caltrain. Also, run the Capital Corridor/Amtrak over it toward SF. There was a recent report that 75% of passengers on the Capital Corridor were heading to SF. FB will have a sizable office presence in SF once they take 181 and Park Tower.

    1. SAC > OAK (via Capital Corridor) > SF (via Ferry or AC Transit) is already available. Obv a second tube will/would be a massive improvement.

        1. But it would take longer to go all the way down to Newark, across Dumbarton, and back up the Peninsula to SF rather than just transferring to BART in Richmond or a ferry. So what’s the incentive there? Seriously doubt a 1-seat ride trumps saving time.

  7. As so many here like to say, “Just build it!”

    Trains are the way to go to uncongeal our Bay Area traffic hell. However, as others have pointed out, we don’t need another local transit fiefdom. Caltrain does an excellent job in spite of its ancient equipment……I would vote for them to run this line. I also think that Capitol Corridor, which is a joint Amtrak/Caltrans partnership, works well too despite being hobbled by old rolling stock that would be laughed off the tracks in Uzbekistan. They could operate it too. Maybe with HSR likely being scrapped/left to die on the vine in Merced, we can use what’s left over to beef up local commuter rail.

  8. Where has all of the taxpayer money which was previously allocated to the rehabilitation of the Dumbarton Bridge Rail Corridor gone?

    In 2000, Santa Clara County voters approved Measure A, which set aside a portion of the funds generated from 30 year half-cent sales tax increase for the Dumbarton Rail Corridor.

    Regional Measure 2 (RM2) was approved by a majority of Bay Area voters in March 2004, raising toll rates by US$1 on the region’s toll bridges. US$135,000,000 (equivalent to $179,100,000 in 2018) was allotted to the Dumbarton Rail Corridor project from the increased tolls as one of the headline projects cited by supporters of RM2.

    There has to be at least $350-450 million or more of money with interest earmarked for this project which has been stolen or taken for other Bay Area transit related projects.

    1. All good questions and hopefully those funds were not raided and are still safely available. Seems like the best use of any funds like this would be to pay down other outstanding transport bonds with the idea that the funds could be restored by selling equivalent new bonds. Not sure whether such a manipulation is legal though it would reduce overall debt service costs.

    2. you just answered your own question. There have been substantial allocations to dumbarton rail, but since the project has made no recent progress (until facebook got involved) the allocation have long since been redeployed to thinkgs like BART to San Jose. I don’t believe there is anything left in the bank for this project, but that is not to say that future allocations couldn’t be made…it’s certainly been identified as a priority for years. decades even.

      1. I believe this is known as a rhetorical question (hence the punctuation after “gone” should really be a “:” rather than a “?”)

        IOW, since
        (1) this has been a priority for decades, then
        (2) why has no progress been made, and
        (3) why do voters keep falling for these ‘bait and switches’ where nothing ever ends up as promised.

        1. California as a state doesn’t spend so much as a dollar out of our $144 billion dollar a year General Fund budget on Caltrans HQ or our municipal and county road systems. Instead we now rely solely on state and federal gas taxes or special taxes or bonds.

          Back when Jerry Brown was first out as our Governor of California it was still 11% of our State’s budget dedicated to our road systems.

          When Pat Brown his father was in charge and who built the roads and bridges, which we have relied on for the last 65+ years, we used to spend closer to 25% of our budget on California’s infrastructure and roads.

          That is the problem we just have higher and better priorities for our tax dollars than spending it on our states transportation infrastructure.

          1. Yes, but…I would point out several mitigating factors:

            (1) much of the infrastructure has already been built, so there is less needed for new construction (whatever the HSR apologists may claim, it does not cost as much to add a lane to an existing road as to build it in the first place)

            (2) county/local roads are mostly for local use , so why shouldn’t they be locally funded ??

            (3) funding thru gas taxes internalizes cost/benefits – as opposed to, say, a sales tax …and refutes – somewhat – the complaint of driving being “subsidized”

            Of course the problem is that some of the (gas) tax money is diverted to other uses – bike lanes, bus service, etc. – under the pretense that it’s still “transportation”…yeah, right. This (diversion) was one of the rationales for the Gas Tax Repeal; I didn’t buy it – the amount of diversion isn’t that large and the tax is far too low in constant dollar terms – but it’s a fair complaint, in theory.

        2. This wikipedia article has a good summary of the financing issues. This isn’t really so much of a “bait and switch” as an issue that 1) the project didn’t advance because of political opposition (nimbys) 2) the project was clearly much more expensive than the available funds 3) the BART to Warm Springs project was proceeding but under-funded so there was an immediate need. All three made it politically attractive to politicians to transfer funding from Dumbarton to BART to Warm Springs. Makes sense to me too.

          1. I suppose one can make a distinction b/w something “just not working out” and a thoroughly disingenuous proposal, but it’s probably outside the scope of SS to decide where it lies.

            Interesting, are some of the outtakes from the article:
            “in the planning stages since 1988”
            “In 1998, the estimated cost for reactivating Dumbarton passenger rail service was US$50,000,000”
            “By 2010, the estimated cost of DRC had increased again to US$700,000,000 ”

            It’s amazing we get ANYthing built !! But maybe we really don’t: it took (only) 43 years from the time the first common carrier (B&O; 1826) began construction to the completion of the transcontinental link…this 15 mile project will be lucky to match that timeline.

  9. Electrify it, have Caltrain and ACE combine into one system so commuters from the central valley and far east bay have more options for getting into the peninsula/city and the south bay. Done. We really need to consolidate systems.

  10. Why have a public agency running it at all? A private RR would probably be much more efficient. (Think of the Key System before National City Lines bought it and scrapped the trains.)

    1. You mean the same Key System that was reorganized a half-dozen times due to bankruptcy – before NCL – or the one that suffered a number of multi-MONTH strikes – after NCL – that so discredited it that it was finally sold to a public agency?

      Or do you mean some other Key System of smiling conductors and always-on-time service that only existed in people’s imaginations?

  11. Caltrain would be perfect for this! It already attaches to caltrain’s mainline and new train sets would not have to be purchased.

    It doesn’t make sense to give it to Bart since Bart infastructure is different than caltrains. This would require Bart to buy new train sets, which can be expensive, and if Bart ran the line it would probably mean that the trains would terminate in Redwood City and Not San Francisco

    1. Especially when you consider that Caltrain is currently in the process of stringing wires on the current peninsula route and will be procuring all new trainsets. Turn over the current diesel powered trainsets for the new routing starting over in East Bay. When funding allows, strings wires on Dumbarton corridor and purchase additional trainsets. Or a minimum, Caltrains buys or takes over right of way and sells current trainsets to private owner. Private owner puts up capital to put line back and service in return for use & direct access all the way to 4th street station

      I’m assuming of course that the new wires will be high enough, such that existing diesel powered trainsets and the UP freight train still would have access to rail line.

  12. I’m surprised no one has commented on this: a Caltrain leaving from 4th and King could stop at Levi’s Stadium (well, Santa Clara/Great America Station) if the connection to the southbound Amtrak/ACE lines were restored between the Newark and Fremont Stations. That is to say you could have a single seat to Levi’s, which strikes me as a big deal as getting to and fro is the largest complaint I hear about the stadium.

    1. Caltrain could simply reverse at Santa Clara station, although it would take a few mins to switch driving end. Although it might be the same time in the end since the Dumbarton route would be longer.

      1. Oddly, the distances are pretty comparable (approx. 22 miles from Redwood City either way), given how far south the Santa Clara Station is in relation to Great America. If you factor the reverse time in at Santa Clara, and at least one additional stop on the Peninsula route (Palo Alto & Mountain View, perhaps, compared to just Newark, or one of Palo Alto and Mountain View and skip Newark), then the Dumbarton route would be a fair bit faster unless there is something that restricts its average speed.

    2. Transferring to VTA Light Rail in Mountain View (or in the near future at Milpitas BART) is not difficult and they’ve significantly improved the operations of the light rail on game days. Not really seeing how it’s worth redirecting Caltrains to go directly there by cross Dumbarton.

      1. 6-car Caltrain can hold about 700 people seated and probably 1000+ if you include standees. It might take 3 three-car VTA runs to get that many people to the park.

        Operationally – and let’s just have and imagine here – you might want to run Caltrain to the park via Dumbarton. The line through there is single track, so you could have Caltrain, ACE and Capitol Corridor trains all come from the same direction. After the game ends, All trains would run north and Caltrain would return via Dumbarton.

        1. Okay. Still not seeing how the benefit outweighs the cost. Not to mention that the new Caltrain electric rolling stock would not be able to use that section of the line, which means you’d have to use part of the diminished diesel fleet on a part of the line that would be entirely surrounded by the electrified section. Not to say in isn’t possible, because it obviously is. Just seems like a largely pointless thing to focus already limited resources on.

  13. I found in another source the constraint running ACE trains from further afield on this ROW is conflicts with freight owned ROWs to make the connection. It seemed to imply it could be possible which would be excellent for commuters

  14. ACE trains operate on rails owned by UPRR. As such, the number of ACE trails traversing Niles canyon is constrained due to conflicts with UPRR trains. There are 4 westbound trains through the canyon in the morning and 4 eastbound trains through the canyon in the afternoon.

    ACE had a project to increase the number of their trains through the canyon by providing improvements to existing UPRR tracks as a way to minimize conflicts with freight trains. Fierce local opposition to changes in the Canyon caused the project to be cancelled.

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