This story begins and ends with a freeway.
Alon Levy critiques the plan for a new BART extension proposed for the city of Livermore, located on the suburban fringe of the East Bay Area. According to Levy's argument, the new extension continues BART's focus on suburban service, which limits ridership relative to the other U.S. rail transit system of comparative scope (i.e., the Metrorail system of the Washington, D.C. region).
In 2006, transit expert Christof Spieler, now serving on the board of Houston METRO, compared the two systems, writing that BART mostly serves the suburbs, whereas the Washington Metro serves both the suburbs and the urban core. Unfortunately, BART's plans for expansion keep prioritizing suburban service. The best example of this is the extension to Livermore, for which BART released the environmental reviews on Monday.
According to Levy's critique, the Livermore BART extension's fatal mistake is in its route down the I-580 Freeway. According to Levy, "[f]reeway running is not common on the highest-performance urban rail systems, because nobody wants to live, work, or play right next to a freeway. People prefer living a few minutes by car from the freeway for easy access." It's freeway alignment means this BART extension is already doomed to low ridership, especially in off-peak hours.
But low expected ridership is not the only flaw Levy finds with the Livermore BART extension, there's also high costs—per rider, the cost is expected to be four times as expensive as the recently completed Second Avenue Subway in New York City.
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