San Francisco wants to build a subway under Chinatown to connect with the CalTrain station. This mile of underground and half mile of surface line will cost nearly $1.6 billion. City politicians regard federal money behind the project as manna from heaven and trumpet all the jobs the subway will bring.
But it’s not worth it.
A recent MTA report says operating and maintaining the Central Subway will add $7 million a year to Muni’s deficit and cut 36,000 hours annually from existing Muni service. All this so the new subway can add a measly 5,000 riders to Muni’s current ridership of 700,000.
The subway will end at Washington and Stockton, the lone station in Chinatown. Proponents dream that someday it will extend to North Beach, Fisherman’s Wharf and beyond. Where the billions to pay for this dream will come from is anybody’s guess.
Worse the subway misses connections with existing BART and Muni lines on Market Street. Instead of a direct transfer, passengers will have to get off at Union Square and walk the length of three football fields to reach the Market Street lines. The new subway is so deep riders will ascend and descend three and a half stories to transfer and nearly eight stories to reach the street.
Financial experts recently told the MTA that Muni faces a $30 million deficit each year for the next 20 years and needs $2 billion of capital improvements now. The Central Subway compounds the deficits and diverts resources away from critical Muni improvements.
MTA ought to dedicate itself to improving Muni’s 70 existing rail and bus routes. First on the list should be improving existing transit lines on Stockton to provide Chinatown with the service it deserves not an underused boondoggle we can’t afford.
With a Perspective, I’m Bob Feinbaum.