Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Central Subway Rant to Board of Supervisors

David Chiu just introduced a resolution in support of the Central Subway which was joined in sponsorship by Kim, Campos, Chu, Avalos. I got a little fired up and shipped this one off.
Supervisors -

I am dismayed to hear your commentary regarding the Central Subway in the Board of Supervisors today. Certainly it has become a political football as we all know.

Full disclosure - in my opinon, there are better options for rider service than digging a tunnel. However, I think a well designed tunnel has a lot of benefit that might scale to larger solutions, so I cannot oppose the idea of such a tunnel.

However, if this subway does get built I feel it is imperative to move the Union Square station to connect directly at Powell. If we spend "over a Billion" dollars on this project, we must do it properly, otherwise it will not draw the support that will get us the money to extend the system further.

The transit dependent citizens of Chinatown - and transit dependent citizens of other neighborhoods - will be done a huge disservice if the subway goes in as it is designed. Every Saturday AM I ride the BART from the outer neighborhoods towards the East Bay. It is absolutely packed with senior citizens from Daly City who are headed to Chinatown, and whom transfer to the 30 at Powell Street Station. The reverse trip is also very common. Those people deserve a legitimate connection from BART and MUNI Metro to the Central Subway - not a series of escalators and a long walk to Union Square. The Central Subway supporters claim that the Union Square/Powell connection does exist, but as a reference the "combined" station will resemble the "Chatelet" station in Paris, which is used as a connection primarly by confused tourists who have yet to realize that the connection is worse than going above ground and walking to your destination.

This echos Supervisor Chu's call for outer neighborhood connectivity - the current design reduces that connectivity! The average age of the riders I see on those trains is well over 60. In theory the 30 Stockton will still exist, but the operations funding needed to run the Central Subway will reduce the ability to run that line at frequency.

Additionally, residents from upstream on the MUNI Metro line wishing to get to Caltrain will have their connectivity decreased. This is a route I used on a daily basis for months while I could not ride my bike due to a broken wrist. The transfer as designed is not attractive to residents of the Castro trying to get to Caltrain and will not draw new riders. And as I previously mentioned to Supervisor Wiener - the location of the Caltrain transfer station at Brannan Street drops riders off the Central Subway 2 blocks from Caltrain on the wrong side of a high speed arterial - Brannan - creating a proposition for pedestrians to either gamble with jaywalking or missing their train.

I do find it a bit unseemly that this project has clearly may have been siezed upon as a wedge issue to attack Mayor Lee in the Mayor's race. The issues that the Grand Jury has brought to the surface have been clear to transit riders for a very long time, why has City Attorney Herrera only now decided to speak up? Politics? Probably. But as a transit rider and transit advocate we sometimes have to take the few opportunities we get - I have shown up at a number of MTA meetings in the past and noted the problems with the project, knowing that I was mostly wasting my breath. The Grand Jury report and now this Mayor's election has opened Pandora's box, and the ridership wants to see what is inside.

As designed, this project benefits the people who will build it, not the people who need to RIDE the correct solution.

Reference - BART to SFO with a Caltrain connection, unused by Peninsula residents because the poor design has left the Peninsula residents without a direct connection from Caltrain to the Airport via BART, a connection they had before with a humble bus line. Surely for the billions spent on that project those riders expected they deserved to have service improvements compared to their jitney.

Thank You

John Murphy - San Francisco