42 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: BART to Antioch”

  1. It would interesting to know the reasons for why the transfer platform features no connection to the street. Is it located somewhere where such a connection would be totally impractical, like the median of a highway with nothing around?

    Good to hear that the schedules will be coordinated. The FAQ indicates that even during evenings and weekends, when the trains are running only every 20 minutes, you’ll be able to walk directly from one train to the next, without having to wait.

    1. The transfer platform is in a freeway median at a place where there is no overpass, and there are single-family houses on both sides of the sound walls there.

      1. So, of course, the people that live in the neighborhoods nearby have to get in the cars and drive several miles to a station with an actual entrance, simply because BART can’t afford the cost of an overpass (which would also benefit general pedestrian mobility in a region that probably sorely lacks it, including people who aren’t even riding the train). Of course the reason why pedestrian connectivity is so expensive in the first place is because of the highway. This is what highways, in general do – force people into their cars by making any accommodations of other modes drastically more expensive.

        This is similar to why Mountake Terrace station doesn’t have a pedestrian connection to the west side of the freeway – the freeway itself drives the cost up to tens of millions of dollars, so it’s cheaper to just tell people to drive around.

    2. BART also has manned stations, so the cost of more ticket agents has to also be considered.

  2. “clean diesel”, “environmental friendly renewable energy diesel”. While I’ll take a diesel train in place of a thousand cars, diesel is not an environmentally friendly fuel. Diesel exhaust is toxic and I’m highly sceptical of the renewable claim. Why don’t they just admit they cheaped out on the environment and didn’t electrify?

    1. Really curious about both those three points- lack of access to the transfer platforms, inability to extend the catenary ten minutes farther east, and truth about the cleanliness of the fuel. Intercity Transit also advertises bio-diesel fuel. Have heard that whatever the fuel, the diesel process always puts some burnt stuff out the stack. What’s the truth?

      Of the whole Bay Area, Antioch-Pittsburgh area probably only place I could afford to live. When I visited a couple of years ago, seemed to be some new development- but not very much. What’s the story on that point?


      1. The cost is about half of a BART extension. BART doesn’t use a catenary. It’s powered by a third rail. BART also has a wider gauge.

        The intent is to extend it another 10 minutes to Brentwood ASAP.

    2. Supposedly diesel fuel from used cooking oil is more environmentally friendly and has less toxic stuff in the exhaust.

      It sounds like they are using biofuels from linseed oil or some such though.

      1. “Supposedly diesel fuel from used cooking oil is more environmentally friendly”

        That’s only true when you have a large glut of used cooking oil with nowhere else to go, other than the landfill. It doesn’t scale, and if more than a tiny fraction of diesel-powered engines tried to switch to cooking oil, we would run out, and it would become necessary to grow additional oil for the specific purpose of converting to diesel. This has its own environmental consequences from all the land it would take to grow such fuel, mostly arising from deforestation.

        In fact, until the inventions of the steam engine and internal combustion engine, people relied on biofuels for transportation, since transportation required horses, and horses require food. The country needed a huge amount of farmland to feed its horses, just to transport the subset of the reduced population of 150 years ago that was able to afford a horse. Much of this land formerly used to grow horse feed has since reverted to forest. If we ever decided to start “growing” diesel fuel on a massive scale, the land footprint would be much greater than this.

      2. “Much of this land formerly used to grow horse feed has since reverted to forest.”


    1. This is one of the few times I agree with Westneat. The Convention Center expansion benefits everybody if if brings taxes from out-of-towners, and if benefits any locals who attend its myriad of conventions. But the brewpub benefts on the Mariners. It doesn’t even benefit all baseball fans, but only those who can’t take a three-hour break from a top-of-the-notch beer.

      1. Maybe Flint and Detroit in Michigan, and Bremerton, leave me with some ugly prejudices, but I’m thinking that whatever convention centers contribute to a city, they too often serve as grave-markers for what used to be a city.

        Every time I hear a still-working person blame the “HOMELESS!” for their own condition, I wish for three things. One, that they’ve got either a comfortable seat or a pickup bed big enough for a mattress with a light overhead to read their own layoff slip in.

        Two, that since the State Legislature is already in contempt for not funding schools, cheapest place to incarcerate them will be the ruins of Western State Hospital.Where if they won’t pay for repairs, they can hang themselves from exposed sprinkler pipes. Saving expense of current repairs: Staff checking every fifteen minutes to be sure nobody does that.

        But most of all, that Seattle gets however many companies it can attract that have people operate machinery that makes things besides bets on home prices.

        Boeing can be forgiven for the Vertol streetcars, since wind turbines don’t have to contend with hear, dirt, and mechanical mistreatment. In a few years, LINK will be in good enough condition to let Seattle residents commute to whatever wind turbine and solar panel plants are not in Seattle itself.

        And at very least, view from future convention centers will include something besides the ruins of cities and working lives.



      2. d.p. always thought the Convention Center was a life-devoid empty block and an offense to downtown, but I don’t feel that way when I walk past it. I see people around and street-level shops, and I sometimes go through the Convention Center to get to the library via Freewway Park or to look at the artwork. And something really depressing is one block away from that, the middle of the freeway overpass at Pine & Boren.

  3. Anyone know why the black/yellow instruction on the rear doors of the newest buses had been covered with black tape to obscure the message? Has KC Metro undone this feature? If they have why have they done this?

    1. Yes.

      Metro found that passenger confusion never dissipated over time, and even if the passenger was ready it took longer than before because passengers still had to wait for the driver to unlock the door, but then instead of the door opening by itself immediately it had to wait for somebody to put their hand in the beam and then the opening mechanism took a moment to start.

      It works in other cities, but those other cities have it on all buss for a long time, and all their buses have wide doors in the middle. Metro had it on only a small fraction of buses, so people weren’t used to doing things differently on different kinds of buses, and some of the older buses have unfriendly back doors (only one in the rear part of an articulated bus, or narrow, or stairs going down), plus people have been confused for years over changing policies like pay-as-you-leave until 7pm. So Metro gave up on passenger-activated doors and now opens them like before.

  4. It’s interesting to note that the project’s capital cost is half what a BART extension would cost , and the trains can run at 70 mph.

    It’s likely cheaper and definitely faster than light rail,

    1. BART is a long way from light rail. And like with the bullet trains, probably trains and tracks are designed as together as a unit.

      DMU trains can run standard track, which if there are not already unused spurs- likely in an old industrial area- at-grade track is definitely cheaper to build than an extended BART.

      Also, electrifying new line ever-smaller deal as the line and its accompanying developments get longer. I see Sacamento out the windshield.


      1. So it is basically commuter rail. Unless I’m mistaken, BART was all brand new rail. So while this is being called BART, it is more like Caltrain (commuter rail) except rather than take riders all the way directly into the city, it simply asks them to transfer to BART. Sounds like a good deal in general (as most commuter rail lines are) because you don’t have to pay for the track.

        But what the area really needs is to improve BART, and have it function a real subway. Build more lines and more stations in the urban core, so that folks don’t have to rely on Oakland/Berkeley buses and Muni. But that is a lot more expensive. Wonder why they still haven’t built that, since Seattle (a much smaller city in terms of population) should be expected to build something like this very soon (http://www.seattlesubway.org/region.pdf). Could it be that subways are very expensive, and when you blow your wad on misguided projects, eventually the money runs out, and you are left wishing you did something else?

      2. If you read the fine print, the schedule on this line is actually quite a bit better than the CalTrain, with trains running every 15 minutes weekday daytime hours, and every 20 minutes, evenings and weekends, while CalTrain is still unable to do better than once an hour outside of rush hour.

        This results in absurd situation in which there are three times as many trains per hour going between Pittsburg and Antoich on a Saturday afternoon as there are between San Francisco and Palo Alto.

      3. I don’t know much about the legacy railroads in the Bay Area, but part of the BART segment between Oakland and Fremont looks to me like an existing railroad.

      4. It’s looks like BART has realized that. Last week they voted to can the Livermore extension.

        “On a 5-4 vote, the board sided with those who felt BART should focus on rebuilding and modernizing the existing system before it commits to building more extensions. Directors Bevan Dufty, Nick Josefowitz, Rebecca Saltzman, Lateefah Simon and Robert Raburn voted against building the $1.6 billion extension.”


      5. “This results in absurd situation in which there are three times as many trains per hour going between Pittsburg and Antoich on a Saturday afternoon as there are between San Francisco and Palo Alto.”

        That’s why I dislike Caltrain and have tried very hard not to live in the West Bay or South Bay. I don’t know why so many there think it’s not a problem. San Mateo County and Santa Clara County voted against joining BART in the 1950s because they said they had Caltrain. But I’d rather have a train coming every fifteen minutes rather than hourly (or every two hours as Caltrain used to be on Sundays).

      6. The recommended Livermore extension was just one station (5.5 miles) and didn’t link to any other regional rail transit. The storage yard was also going to have to be well north of the single new station. Livermore is more of a Silicon Valley suburb rather than a San Francisco suburb anyway, so that there isn’t that big of a market as people would think.

        Frankly, a better solution would probably be another DMU line in the I-580 median — maybe all the way to Tracy and/or looped into this line to create a circle line (Pittsburg, Antioch, Brentwood, Livermore, Dublin) and maybe explore how to use a DMU better connect to BART in Fremont. Even replacing the 6-mile Livermore BART train project with an 12-mile DMU would get the line to the foot of the Altamont Pass (and Altamont Commuter Express) or to Downtown Livermore (and Altamont Commuter Express). Getting BART rail to serve a long suburban distances with acres of free parking like this is insanely expensive for not much benefit.

      7. “That’s why I dislike Caltrain and have tried very hard not to live in the West Bay or South Bay. I don’t know why so many there think it’s not a problem.”

        I think we all know the answer to that one. Because they drive their cars everywhere and, don’t care. They believe that the purpose of public transit is all about rush hour – when the freeways are consistently congested enough to make it worth the trouble – and anything else is secondary.

        They also don’t know any better because, since they don’t ride public transit, they don’t realize how important frequency is to maintain a usable service.

        Finally, they assume that CalTrain is all about commuting to San Francisco, and consider San Francisco far enough away that serving spontaneous trips is not necessary. But, if the CalTrain ran more often, it would become useful for a large number of local trips that don’t go anywhere near San Francisco. Instead, with the train running once an hour, such trips are shunted onto either VTA Light Rail, or buses down El Camino Real. Both modes are much slower than the CalTrain, but at least they run every 15 minutes all day (30 minutes evenings/weekends), which is much better than the hourly service CalTrain provides.

        Besides its abysmal frequency, CalTrain suffers from two additional big problems which constrain ridership. One, the San Francisco to San Jose corridor is so long, that even with 50 mph speeds, stops 2+ miles apart, and zero traffic or stoplights to deal with, the train still can’t compete on travel time with driving down the highway. At least during rush hour, CalTrain attempts to mitigate that problem by running express trains, but that creates its own problems, since the local trains don’t run during that time(*). Two, the CalTrain doesn’t even serve San Francisco all that well. Unlike BART, which stops throughout the San Fransisco downtown, CalTrain only has one downtown’ish stop, which is located on the periphery, next to the water, about a half mile or so away from the closest part of real downtown. It does connects with MUNI trains, but to reach most of the city from the CalTrain station, you have to ride the slow MUNI train in a giant U-shaped tour of downtown before you can get anywhere else. For instance, a ride from the San Fransisco CalTrain station to Golden Gate Park on public transit runs at about 45 minutes (***). CalTrain does provide the additional option of transferring to BART at Milbrae station, but the connection is not timed well, and on evenings/weekends, the BART train takes a big detour into the SFO airport which eats up more time(**). While not perfect (as BART, too misses a large chunk of the city), simply extending BART down the CalTrain tracks, at existing BART-level frequency, replacing the present CalTrain, would have resulted in significantly better service.

        (*) Since the CalTrain system has only two tracks, local and express trains cannot run at the same time, or else the express trains would simply get stuck behind locals, with no way to pass. So, during rush hour, they run only express trains, with different trains serving different stops, and at non-rush-hour, they run local trains serving all stops.

        (**) In spite of the BART train taking a 5-10 minute detour to serve the airport, BART only goes to the long-parking garage. So, anyone flying out *still* needs to transfer to yet another train to reach the actual terminal, hence SFO is a 3-seat ride from most CalTrain stations, or a 4-seat ride from most actual homes, if you count the Uber/Lyft ride to the station (connecting bus service throughout Silicon Valley is pretty terrible).

        (***) The distance is 6.5 miles. To some extent, you can work around the local transit problems by riding a bike or a Bird/Lime scooter instead).

      8. It seems that the BART board was channeling the idea of a DMU connecting San Joaquin County to BART. I didn’t realize this: There is already a joint powers authority created called the Tri-Valley – San Joaquin Valley Regional Rail Authority!


        This group was created by the California legislature, and has been meeting since the beginning of the year. The group has the explicit intent of exploring a DMU corridor from Dublin-Pleasanton BART using the I-580 median to east of Livermore, than use an old rail right-of-way now in their control to reach Tracy and eventually Lathrop and Stockton. It would operate at half-hour intervals, meeting every other BART train.

        Given this new concept — frankly more useful than the one-station Livermore BART plan as the Altamont Pass is the historic traffic bottleneck — it makes total sense to abandon the Livermore BART plan..

    2. The two new stations are very barebones by BART standards (compare to the new San Jose stations) which probably explains some of the cost savings.

      I went out there yesterday.


      BART presents it as an extension of the SFO/Millbrae-Pittsburg/Bay Point Line on signs and maps. When you’re downtown, the signs and announcements will say “10-car Antioch train” even though you need to transfer. Likewise at Antioch, inbound trains are called “SFO Airport” even though the train you just boarded only goes as far as Pittsburg.

      The DMUs themselves are nice. Smooth riding with the low hum that you’d expect from a diesel bus. Strong A/C and insulated from the freeway noise.

  5. I last saw the Antioch-Pittsburg (no “h”) area about three years ago. Kind of place where there used to be a lot more industry than the large refinery, and could be waiting for a revival. Which if it comes without accompanying updated gentry, I’d consider living in.

    So pretty sure the DMU has an ever-lengthening future around that whole area. Good chance also that BART saw this coming when it was built- right now, seems like a lot of railroad for so few people. Hope they’ll start doing some preventive maintenance.


  6. a) With 2019 seemingly a “change” year on the Seattle City Council, any of you considering a run down there? You really should.

    b) You know I’ve been wondering…. if transit boards were appointed and not federated AND if the meeting times could change to the evening, how many of you would join me in serving?


    Joe, A 12 for Transit who wants more 12s for Transit on transit boards… NOT boardmembers going through the motions

  7. Closer to home- which is sixty miles south of Ballard right now- DSTT-2 is starting to bring back some welcome memories. Westlake Station-2 is going to be some of the world’s hardest engineering.

    When do the TBM’s break through into reality? Does anybody know if plans have any three-dimensionality yet? Thought the exciting part ended with the first train. Now- best really is yet to come.
    Wasn’t going to mention joint-use, but the pantographs on those Swedish semi’s…..

    Have to be ready in case West Seattle blames Ballard for all the quicksand between Jackson and Spokane. Whereupon the new Nordic Heritage Museum finds proof that all the Wallingford residents getting killed every night are being offed by the Norse world’s first-rate undead hit-men, paid in herring to make ST re-think District Tunnel, which is serious death in Seattle.

    By yimminy, you t’ink zombies are tough? Little-known fact, but fire-engine with hundred-foot ladder pulled by 12-legged horses was unearthed in Gothenburg, which is real reason all their streetcars are on the surface.


  8. Have other people noticed a general decline in the quality of One Bus Away over the last few months? It feels like 30-50% of the time, no buses are being tracked so OBA only provides expected times. And when OBA does predict arrivals, those can be significantly off. A few days ago, OBA said the 522 would be 12 minutes late. Then a couple of minutes later, OBA updated to 3 minutes late. Then a couple of minutes later, the bus arrived 2 minutes early.

    1. I’ve noticed this too. It tends to happen a lot for freeway-running buses.

      What I think is going is that OBA has a hack in its codebase, where it treats each bus as at whatever bus stop it most recently left. For local routes, this is usually close enough, but for express routes that travel miles down the freeway between stops, it can lead to garbage results. In the case of the northbound 522, OBA thinks the bus is still sitting at 6th and Pike the entire time it’s traveling down I-5 and part of Lake City Way. Then, when the bus crosses the next stop (20th Ave. / Lake City Way), OBA suddenly updates and the 12 minute delay turns into just a 3-minute delay.

    2. I haven’t noticed OBA getting worse. It’s often a couple minutes off on bus arrivals, but it’s always been that way, and I mostly ride local buses around Capitol Hill, northeast Seattle, downtown and SODO.

      One thing I’m wondering is why some routes are persistently “Scheduled Departure” downtown. I thought that message meant a broken transmitter on the bus or whatever mechanism tracks the data, but why would it happen on the same route repeatedly? Do routes get the same buses repeatedly. I assumed they got whichever bus of their size was the first in line.

  9. One thing worth adding folks is this MIGHT be a solution to extending Sounder North to Marysville and possibly Mount Vernon… Some of us around transit discussion tables in Skagit expect more folks pushed up north.

    1. Yes, DMUs are a lower-cost solution for corridors that haven’t been considered feasable before. The roadblock was federal regulations that required passenger trains to be as heavy as freight trains so they’d survive a collision. Europe focused on avoiding collisions instead, so trains can be light. The feds have since relaxed the restrictions pending positive train control, but there’s still the BNSF premium to pay for track slots. If DMUs had been allowed in the 1990s maybe Sounder would be more extensive and Link would have been different.

      The state has studied commuter rail corridors on Everett-Bellingham and Auburn-Maple Valley, and maybe that Orting corridor. But after the studies none of the affected communities were interested enough to pay for it. Any of them could still be revived.

    2. This DMU corridor was originally supposed to share tracks with a mainline railroad. After exploring transition costs and track rights, they decided to just keep the rail in the median and design for it with the freeway widening. If the operating agency controls the DMU tracks, it can do what it wants and FRA rules are not as stringent as there is no need to engineer for possible freight train collisions.

      More to your point, this vehicle can go 75 miles and hour! That’s faster than Link light rail! Also, the cost is estimated at half of BART. If the light rail cost is also twice as much, that means that 33 miles of DMU could be built instead of the 16.5 miles of the Everett Link extension! District politics notwithstanding, that would have enabled an Everett-Bellevue DMU or a Lynnwood-Arlington DMU or a Marysville- Lynnwood-Paine Filed-Mulkiteo DMU — and the speeds could be significantly faster! Now I realize that’s not what ST3 says, but — as a few pointed out a few years ago — DMU never got seriously considered in any of the studies for ST3 planning except for the ERC, and even the ERC DMU alternative was rife with fatal-flaw assumptions like long single-track sections and refusal to shift alignments to serve adjacent areas like Factoria.

  10. Thinking cap questions of the week.

    (1) The year is 1945. You’re the transit czar for Pugetopolis and the San Francisco/ Oakland/San Jose triangle (not the entire Bay Area). All the previous streetcars and local railroads are intact; none were dismantled in the 20s or 30s. You and your successors will plan all the regional and local transit in the area from 1945 to 2020. You have the budget and political support to do anything you want, using any of the mainstream rail and bus technologies available at the time (e..g., no hyperloops or PRT), although you can’t go hog-wild on new right-of-way everywhere. You don’t know what the population, technology, or trip patterns will be in 75 years but you have running estimates for the next ten and twenty years. Assume that population levels, land use, and highways evolved as they actually did.

    (2) What would be a better land use pattern to complement your preferred network? Assume the populations of each county remain as-is (no moving people between counties). Where would highrises, midrises, lowrises, attached houses, and/or detached houses be?

    (3) What would be a better highway network to complement the first two?

    1. That’s a bit of an unfair question, since the 1948 freeway plan was rather ambitious:


      Anyway, my general thoughts…

      San Francisco has always been reasonably dense. It’s much denser than Seattle is. Many blocks have been zoned for taller buildings for years, and only recently has the market made those feasible. Side yards were not required even in the 1940’s, and two-unit structures have always been allowed (unlike much of Seattle).

      A good example of how market conditions create motivation for high-rise development is Mission Bay, which is mostly built on fill so that it’s only the past 15-20 years that building taller buildings with pilings deep into the ground has become financially viable.

      That leaves the rest of the Bay Area.

      The biggest missed project is the Southern Connector. It would have run from San Francisco’s Bayview District to Alameda and then crossed to 980 in Oakland. That would have made crossing the Bay much easier. Then, either the new bridge and/or the Bay Bridge could have had rapid transit lines or even commuter rail (diesel to electric) lines on it. (Of course, trains did run on the Bay Bridge until 1958; building a Southern Crossing in the 1950’s could have saved the rail removal.) Regional rapid transit options could have really been amazing had that crossing be provided. Downtown Oakland would have easily become more of the “second Downtown” and more buildings would have probably rivaled San Francisco in height. Oakland would have gladly embraced more density, and even today would bend over backwards to get something like an Amazon campus with surrounding residential high-rises in their Downtown!

      The second big missed project are BART tracks for storing or turning back trains would have greatly shaped train operations, along with a Geary line. Had the Geary segment been built and a wye put into San Francisco, the overall BART system would have been much more flexible. The designers never thought any tail track was worth it, and because the Geary Line was never seen as a wye, the tracks are not designed for it. Of course, BART was never intended to carry four East Bay train lines like it does (a harbinger of how political pressure could keep SeaTac trains going to UW after 2035, and that’s exacerbated by the lack of ST promoting an easy, ten-step level transfer at SODO).

      The third big missed project is designing the Caltrain corridor to be earlier and at a higher frequency an capacity. Had San Mateo County voted itself into BART (also probably enabling a Geary Line), the later BART extension probably would not have happened, and BART would be running instead of Caltrain today — probably through San Jose by now. On the other hand, higher density building in San Mateo County should have occurred but that would probably have been difficult politically; that county should have double the population that it does.

      Unlike others who might blame local land use politics for Bay Area challenges, I’d blame the core problem as the lack of getting these three general region-forming projects done in a timely manner. While there are other projects and land use plans that may have changed the outcomes, I think that these three big changes would have set into motion a very different approach to transit and land use in the Bay Area today.

    2. I forgot about the unbuilt freeways. Seattle had those too, on N 50th Street, Mercer Street, 15th Ave W, MLK, etc. Well, assume they knew they wouldn’t be built. We don’t need imaginary freeways distorting things.

  11. Talk about entitled exurbs. Jarrett Walker opines on the dangers of promising extensions far in the future (more than a phase or two away), and how it may lead to the cities thinking they don’t need to do anything for it, or pay anything, or improve their land use or station access. He cites the BART Livermore extension, which was recently canceled, but as a general principle it can apply to any suburb more than fifteen miles out. (Looking at you, Everett and Tacoma.)

  12. Mike, that’s a fun question. I think two big missed opportunities were densification in Downtown Oakland and Downtown San Jose. They’re now getting a lot of dense residential, including highrises, but little office development. Regional policies call for more employment in Downtown Oakland, but the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) moved from Oakland to San Francisco–in a location farther from BART. MTC needed more space but it could have easily been been either built or renovated in Downtown Oakland.

    A big problem in the Bay Area is that the big Silicon Valley employers–Facebook, Apple, Google, Oracle–are not within walking distance of Caltrain. They’re within a couple of miles of Caltrain, generally. But if that commercial development had happened around Caltrain, in the downtowns rather than the old industrial district, the transit/land use connection would have been much better. Probably Caltrain would have been improved.

    In San Francisco, many of the streetcar lines were retained and eventually put in a tunnel downtown. But they were removed instead of improved in Oakland and San Jose. Buses are fine, but they’re mired in traffic because they have no dedicated lanes, especially around Oakland and Berkeley (a BRT is being built, after enormous political difficulty, on one corridor in Oakland). BART replaces only a few of those corridors–and won’t reach San Jose until the mid-2020s–at enormous cost.

    A Geary BART line would have been useful, but the last thing southern San Francisco needs is another freeway (it has two already). When freeway construction in northern/central San Francisco was halted in the mid-1960’s, it continued with little fuss in the working class southern neighborhoods.

    If only we got urban do-overs like this!

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