Opinion: San Francisco’s Central Subway Is a Bad Investment

Critics of the subway project argue that the line is too short and disconnected from other transit options to be useful. Meanwhile, projected costs continue to rise.

Read Time: 2 minutes

September 14, 2022, 10:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Writing in Mission Local, Joe Eskenazi criticizes San Francisco’s Central Subway, a project decades in the making that Eskenazi believes is taking valuable resources from San Francisco Muni. According to Eskenazi, “the price tag for this project has more than tripled; the final cost is now tabbed at upwards of $1.9 billion, and will all but certainly be significantly higher than that.” Yet “Muni is a system with infinite needs and finite resources. And this is how it’s spending them.”

As the article puts it, “If the Central Subway was a good and useful project, no one would remember the inveterate delays or obscene cost overruns.” However, Eskenazi argues that “it’s exceedingly difficult to overstate how poorly designed this subway line is,” pointing to early designs that failed to include air ducts (now corrected) and platforms designed to only accommodate two-car trains, the subway’s most egregious mistake, according to Eskenazi.

It’s O. Henry-like in its tragic irony: The ridership capacity that would have justified this multi-billion dollar project is now impossible to achieve. Even if people flock to take this rail line, two-car trains will quickly fill up and be overwhelmed.

“This rail line is essentially an orphan, and its failure to be a step toward establishing a true subway network represents a spectacular missed opportunity for San Francisco.” The article quotes architect and Central Subway opponent Howard Wong, who believes the agency is pouring too much money into a project that will serve relatively few riders. “If just the local matching funds for large projects were invested in the overall Muni system, San Francisco would have a more robust transit system today.”

Monday, September 12, 2022 in Mission Local

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