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San Francisco Bay Area's Rail Transit Projects Among the Most Expensive in the World
One of the biggest transit and planning related stories in recent memory was an exposé by Brian Rosenthal about the excessive staffing, little competition, generous contracts and archaic rules are responsible for dramatically inflating capital costs for transit in New York.
Andy Bosselman has followed on that example and crunched the numbers of transit system investments in the San Francisco Bay Area, finding more disappointment for taxpayers and transit users.
When the Salesforce Transit Center opens in San Francisco this summer, a new tunnel will be needed to connect it to the current Caltrain terminus in SoMa. The project, known as the Downtown Extension, is estimated to cost $3 billion for each mile of subway, six times more than the average outside the United States.
The Central Subway, a 1.7-mile tunnel that will connect Chinatown to Fourth and Brannan Streets, is a relative bargain at $923 million-per-mile. But elsewhere in the world, new subways cost half as much.
As noted by Bosselman, when transit projects cost more, less gets built. If these prices stay high, the Bay Area will fall well short of the targets set forth by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission's Plan Bay Area 2040, as well as the full potential of a $21 billion funding promise by the nine-county region.
Bosselman relies on the research of Alon Levy, who also sits down for interview with Curbed about why transit investments are so expensive in the Bay Area. Levy's first point: that poor planning means local agencies spend billions on unnecessary infrastructure.