Madness of MTC & SamTrans-backed BART SFO/Millbrae extension
- Published Sunday, November 15, 2009, by Examiner.com
Madness at Millbrae: BART's plan to increase riders
By Guy Span
Bay Area Public Transportation Examiner
The original BART to the San Francisco Airport (SFO) concocted in 1991 planned to have a joint BART/CalTrain station at San Bruno. At this multi-modal station, one could change between BART, CalTrain and the Airport light rail system now called AirTrain. BART changed this to a new multi-modal station at Millbrae, where BART would run a special connector from Millbrae (and collect fees), divert passengers from CalTrain into San Francisco and generally make a lot of money.
So BART built a palace at Millbrae, including a cavernous 2,900 stall parking garage and called it the "largest multi-modal station west of the Mississippi." That claim is of course rivaled by the existing historic Transbay Terminal, where one can change from AC Transit to MUNI, SamTrans, Golden Gate Transit, Greyhound or even BART (after a short walk). The Transbay Terminal is bigger in footprint, levels, services, but perhaps not in cubic footage, as Millbrae is airy as all get-out.
But BART and San Mateo County agreed, and thus built its line to Millbrae, including triple track from Colma, triple track in San Bruno, with a quadruple track elevated extension leading to the Airport in two directions. How this helped transit in the Bay Area is questionable. Currently the segment from Millbrae to the airport is lightly used during weekdays and every 20 minutes on weekends.
To get to the Airport from Millbrae one must generally ride BART to San Bruno and then transfer to an Airport train in the other direction. Or you could just sneak aboard the free airport bus shuttle from Millbrae that SFO had to institute for its employees priced out of public transit by BART's horrendous surcharges. Note that in the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) that BART justified its existence by claiming to reduce automobile and bus exhausts. In the face of a BART $4.00 surcharge each way for Airport users, employees and others now use the free bus shuttles from Millbrae provided by the Airport (photo by the author, background courtesy of the cavernous and underutilized parking garage).
So why did BART build the horrendously expensive extension to an empty palace at Millbrae? They thought that CalTrain riders (already using public transport) would transfer in droves to BART. So many were planned for that a CalTrain siding was built at Millbrae where real trains could be turned back after disembarking their loads at Millbrae to continue on BART. BART projected 33,000 passengers in 2010 and we are seeing some 8,000 in 2008.
In case you missed it, this is one public transit agency attempting to cherry pick riders from another with the blessings of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and the dummies at SamTrans. It failed for the simple reason that CalTrain is faster than BART and priced cheaper than BART. And we could have had regular CalTrain shuttles to San Bruno (connecting to the Airport) for way, way less than BART (San Mateo County's contribution has been over $500 million).
If you believe BART's happy talk about the successful Airport extension, you might ask yourself why so few trains are running over the expensive Millbrae SFO line. You might wonder why we paid to triple track and quadruple track sections of the Airport line. You really might wonder why the MTC approved all of this nonsense and helped get it funded.
[BATN: See also:
More madness: huge opportunity cost of Millbrae BART extension
BART SFO/Millbrae cost SamTrans over half a billion dollars
Divorce from BART over SFO disaster still costing SamTrans dearly
What did Millbrae/SFO BART cost San Mateo Co. and SamTrans?