BART to San Jose/Santa Clara County

Currently, BART ends in Warm Springs. But the construction to extend the line to Berryessa in San Jose is underway. There are also plans to extend it beyond Berryessa, but these plans amount more to wishful thinking than actuality, because there isn’t nearly enough money available to fund construction.

Ever since the project was conceived back in 1998, BayRail Alliance is of the opinion that the ridership estimates for the project are grossly inflated. Consider these reality checks, for starters:

  • BART in downtown San Francisco today is successful partly because people have to pay to cross the Bay Bridge in an auto, whereas, BART in the Fremont-San Jose corridor is competing with free highways.
  • BART in downtown San Francisco today is successful partly because the downtown area is densely developed with many tall buildings, jobs, and housing. The official projections for the San Jose BART extension assume that San Jose and Milpitas will each obtain the same number of riders as what downtown San Francisco’s busiest stations draw today. Yet, San Jose is limited in how high structures can be built due to restrictions from the nearby Mineta San Jose airport, and there are strong neighborhood concerns about development. Even in 30 years, we don’t think Milpitas and San Jose will be as densely developed as downtown San Francisco is today.

more detailed analysis of the ridership projections available on the VTA Watch blog:

Clear cut fraudulent BART ridership projection

Clear cut fraudulent BART ridership projection (part 2)

In 2005, BayRail proposed Caltrain Metro East as an alternative to BART by providing high quality electric rail service and sharing the corridor with High Speed Rail. Caltrain Metro East would run on a superior alignment to better serve the North 1st Street employment area and Mineta San Jose Airport.

After VTA (the agency that funds and builds the project) misled voters in 2008, we weren’t able to stop the first phase of the extension from going to construction. However we believe that the CME alignment is clearly superior that it ought be evaluated and built regardless of BART. The BART extension as it is being constructed still cannot address pressing transit needs and serve key destinations. This would be no different than the BART’s last extension to San Francisco Airport. At that time, some key BART to SFO proponents claimed that if BART were extended, people would abandon Caltrain and there would not be a need to electrify Caltrain and extending it to Downtown SF. But ever since that extension opened, Caltrain ridership continued to climb and the demand to improve service continues to grow.

Common arguments for BART debunked

Claim: Extending BART is better than building Caltrain Metro East because then people won’t have to transfer. People won’t stand for transfers.

Reality: BART will not have direct service from the tri-Valley and the Central Valley, which CME can offer. We’re not aware of any plans by BART to build a wye at Bayfair station, so people coming from the Livermore Valley to San Jose would have to transfer at Bayfair to another BART train to head south, whereas someone on CME could potentially travel directly.

The BART extension as planned won’t go into the Golden Triangle, where the jobs are and will be. So people heading there will have to transfer from BART. VTA is expecting over 30,000 boardings in Milpitas, probably with most riders transfering to light rail.

If not having to transfer is such a great advantage with BART, then why is the ridership on the SFO BART extension is still far below the original projections?

Finally, it’s not the transfer itself that is such a huge deal to most riders, but how well they are timed so that one doesn’t have to wait long. Witness, riders in New York City and elsewhere transfer all the time, and usually it’s no problem.