Published Monday, November 16, 2009, by Examiner.com
More madness at Millbrae - BART's gigantic error
By Guy Span
Bay Area Public Transportation Examiner
It turns out that BART service via the strange elevated quadruple track line from the terminal (dead end) station at the airport (SFO) to the terminal station at Millbrae is more extensive than previously noted. From 4:18 AM to 5:18 AM, BART operates a Pittsburg line train weekdays from Millbrae to the Airport and from 7:04 PM to 1:09 AM, they operate in the reverse direction. Indeed this is the current operating plan for weekends, with Richmond line trains terminating at Daly City.
Note that each pass-through at SFO is made by shorter, off-peak trains. This is important because at a terminal station, the operator must swap operating ends and make a brake test. So the lonely transit line between the two terminal stations sees more activity, however this has not translated into more riders at Millbrae. It definitely did not translate into more riders when BART operated the empty three-car "ghost" shuttle trains.
Apparently, one reason for BART to go physically into the airport was to attract airport funding for the portions on airport property (reportedly some $200 million). However, the airport was not enamored with the idea of being BART's last stop on the Peninsula, fearing commuters not using the airport, would jam its roadways. This fear completely ignores the fact that the proposed San Bruno Intermodal Terminal Station would have solved that problem.
The San Bruno plan would have extended the airport's SkyTrain to both BART and CalTrain. For those who worry that a transfer would be inconvenient, that transfer is still with us, as BART terminates in an Airport garage and to get to any terminal, one uses SkyTrain. And BART pays rent of $2.5 million a year to use the station, yet another example of increasing operating expenses to help defray capital costs.
So BART then expanded its empire to Millbrae, but not without rational opposition in court by the BayRail Alliance and others who thought this was a dreadful idea and preferred the saner San Bruno alternative. But BART, SFO, SamTrans and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission prevailed and thus, like it or not, we got the palace and gigantic parking garage at Millbrae.
But this has not been a blessing for CalTrain (operated by SamTrans) who somehow agreed to pay BART rent for using the Millbrae station, to the tune of $700,000 a year. For this CalTrain gets elevators and escalators from the palace to its tracks, a place to put fare machines and a transit kiosk to dispense travel information. The kiosk is currently closed, as most people who show up at Millbrae already know they want to ride CalTrain and how to do it.
And with great foresight and clever planning, the Millbrae station does not have any space to add more tracks to accommodate high-speed rail. Adding high-speed rail will require demolishing parts of the brand new and barely used station. This is precisely why we have the planning function of the MTC - to avoid useless conflicts between transportation providers. This planning function is so good that they selected the outrageously expensive and unused Millbrae alternative over the previously sensible San Bruno option.
For all that money wasted on Millbrae (and it would take a forensic accountant to figure that out) we could have electrified the Peninsula, electrified part of the East Bay, connected it to CalTrain, San Jose Airport and BART (near Freemont) and quite possibly have had a down payment on getting CalTrain into downtown.
It is past time to look at transportation planning that utilizes existing and up-gradable infrastructure over shiny new purpose-built projects, such as BART to San Jose.
[BATN: See also:
Madness of MTC & SamTrans-backed BART SFO/Millbrae 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?