Talking Headways Podcast: Hug This Streetcar

Jeff Wood of the Overhead Wire (now working with NRDC’s crack transportation team) and I talk to Randy Simes in this week’s podcast about the streetcar movement in Cincinnati — and how they finally grabbed the long-elusive gold ring.

Then Randy stayed with us to discuss the false choice between transit that’s useful and transit that’s fun and beautiful. And we analyze an architect’s proposal to expand BART’s capacity by building a second tube under the San Francisco Bay.

Image: ## Gate##
This fantasy map is only tepidly endorsed by Jeff Wood, fantasy mapper extraordinaire. Image: ## Chronicle##

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  • omaryak

    A Lakeshore/Grand station would be wonderful! And then you could use a shuttle (or streetcar even) to connect the 19th Street station, rebuilding the most highly useful path of the old B streetcar from the Key System.

  • BBnet3000

    I like the configurations done by this guy better.

    This is the one for the whole Bay Area, including new light rail and BART. Theres also one on there for San Francisco alone and the East Bay

    Making a second tube just to connect to the Caltrain corridor doesn’t seem that useful, unless you also connect it to the Amtrak line on the western side of the East Bay, or better yet a new line within SOMA that can also cross over and go out to the Richmond. This map also has one of the two lines going through the new tunnel going through Montgomery, which would really help with the current overloads on Market Street.

  • jonobate
  • If we’re going to put in new tubes for the HSR project, it’d make sense to add the entire “series of tubes” all at once.

  • LVLHeaded

    How can we help support the Geary subway system he’s in favor of??

  • The Overhead Wire

    It’s a series of tubes!

  • The Overhead Wire

    There’s probably a lot of work to be done on that. If we ever organize around it we’ll ask for help 🙂

  • SFnative74

    You may not need a second tube if you can replace a section of the existing tube that would allow a second set of tracks to connect just east of the Embarcadero station. The existing tube is not the bottleneck, it’s the station, so you can add transbay capacity without the expense of a second tube.

    I’d advise a design that connects with the Transbay Center under construction, then have the line head directly west and travel under Geary. Do a ligher, lower-cost project on the surface road instead of the current project and let the BART line do the heavy lifting for fast east-west travel.

  • eliza

    I am all in on this one too. It is far too difficult to get to that part of the city. Brt will help but it would be great if travel time could be cut in half rather than only 30% or 10 minutes.

  • Nathanael Johnson

    Exactly. Though on the east side, hitting Alameda and the MacArthur corridor would be huge

  • A bit off-topic, but why is it so easy to buid new rail projects west of the Mississippi and nearly impossible in the eastern third of the country? Go to the LA County Metro website, It took me an hour to read all the details, maps and construction notices for their rail projects.

    Salt Lake City is on a roll. It seems like they open a new light rail extension every year.

    Dallas is building their Orange light light rail to DFW airport, to be followed by their Blue Line extension from the city of Garland to the wealthy suburb of Rowlett.

    Phoenix Valley Metro is about ready to build thier northside extension of their existing crosstown, exclusive streetcar lanes line.

    Just last week I took the following photos of the new Harris Country Metro’s exclusive-lane center-street-running Northline/Houston Community College route. It took Houston three years from planning to the innauguration of service on December 20th. Contrast this with Boston’s MBTA and their predecessor, the Boston MTA, who, in 1952, started “studying” extending the Green Line light rail from Lechmere to Cambridge. I will likely be dead before this extension gets built, if ever.

    Here are a few photos of the new Houston north side extension which I took last week.A Two more lines are near the completion stage and have already begun testing cars on steets in the East End and the Southeast side of town.


    What is wrong with the eastern US? Streetsblog constantly lauds bus rapid transit (an oxymoron), while Houston voters rejected BRT in favor of rail. Philadelphia spent a fortune rehabilitating the 23 Germantown streetcar and then promptly abandoned it after protests that it would reduce on-street parking. Which cities are progrssive and which ones are stuck on cheap, ineffective alternatives to versatile light rail? Fortunately, the malady seems to be cointained from Chicago to the east coast. Better you than us.

  • LVLHeaded

    Thanks for replying! This is something I’m very passionate about. I feel like the Geary BRT is way too slow (both in execution of the project and the speed of the bus) and way too expensive ($200m+). That money should go towards a better long term solution! The BRT lane just got shortened and won’t even go into the city center now. This is a huge waste of money and should just be done correctly the first time with a tunnel. Even an underground bus tunnel (Boston style) would be a HUGE improvement. I feel like NOW is the time to be having this conversation and trying to campaign for it. I really want to help get the ball rolling on this.

  • allisondan

    Just to throw in a “thinking outside the box” (or thinking outside the tube), how about converting Bay Bridge lane(s) to BART or regular gauge rail? If regular gauge, it could run both Muni style light rail and Amtrak heavy rail. Imagine not having to transfer to BART or bus to get to the other side. An added, though probably not significant enough, benefit is that it would slightly reduce motor vehicle traffic on the bridge.Yes, a new tube is probably the better solution, but the Bay Bridge once had rail, and could again.

  • andrelot

    Modern safety regulations wouldn’t allow for that. Moreover, the bridge is for cars as the tunnel is for trains.

  • BrianLarrow

    One vote for Geary subway here, although I’d like to see it hit a few stops along Van ness as it snakes into downtown

  • WoodyinNYC

    Race is a major factor in the disparity you note.

    In most Eastern cities, blacks, browns, immigrants both internal and foreign (and other, um, undesirables like gays, Jews, artists and intellectuals, over-aged hippies, liberals) make up a major share of the center city. And as those cities had filled with poor folks from Appalachia and the South, local tax revenue didn’t rise much at all.

    Not coincidentally, the white-flight suburbs HATE the cities. So getting state aid for urban transit is sporadic at best.

    Examples where race seems to be the dominant factor include MARTA a.k.a. Moving African Americans Rapidly Thru Atlanta, which can’t seem to expand much. The anti-ight rail forces in Cincinnati, Cleveland, and all of Ohio seem most afraid of rail letting the poor escape from the ghettos. In Baltimore, the suburban-base Governor just cancelled a big rail project in the heavily black city. Until recently, Philadelphia’s SEPTA system suffered from decades of underfunding, and is now playing catch-up. In Detroit, foundation and federal money is paying for one light rail line within the city limits; as far as I know, the state contribution is either pennies or nothing at all.

    In New Jersey, money was found for a light rail line connecting office districts and apartment towers where residents enjoy a view of the Manhattan skyline. In Newark, nobody has wasted time proposing any routes to help residents of public housing to connect with jobs or services. Buffalo has plans to extend its one light rail line to the State University campus; but that would take it close to white suburbs, so it ain’t going nowhere. NYC lined up billions for a short subway thru some of the richest census tracts in the nation. The subway’s Phase One ends at 96th St, where East Harlem begins, and funding Phase Two for a mile and a half up to Harlem’s 125th St corridor looks really, really hard to do.

    Meanwhile out West, residents are still proud of their cities, not so much hating on them. Salt Lake City hardly has minorities to speak of, unless you count non-Mormons, LOL. The center cities of Minneapolis, Denver, Phoenix, Seattle, Portland, Sacramento, San Jose, even San Diego and L.A. are still largely white. In almost all of them, investment in transit is on-going. (Oakland not so much; haven’t seen progress on transit there, have you?)

    Dallas and Houston don’t quite fit the formula, LOL. But note that Houston is huge sprawling place within its city limits, roughly ? white, ? black, ? Hispanic (and a growing share of Asians). Local voters supported light rail for lines within the city. Suburban politicians, Cong. Tom DeLay and other right wingers, fought it at every level, even tho nobody was proposing light rail into the burbs. (One commuter rail line had been mentioned, but didn’t happen.)

    The Dallas system looks good on a map, but in fact it carries a very tiny sliver of commuters. And one of these days DART will reach the heavily black districts on the far south side, after all the white areas are connected.

    Charlotte can’t get light rail extended a few lousy miles, despite great ridership success. Jacksonville is big enuff to have a pro team, but hasn’t built any transit in 20 years or so.

    Louisville, Birmingham, Nashville, Memphis, Mobile . . .

    New Orleans has been extending its light rail, but all within city limits. Run a line to the airport? Hell, NO! Don’t try it. That could mean black folks on trains thru white suburbs. No, no, no. Meanwhile, last time I waited a long time at a bus stop intending to visit the museum of art, until a kind soul informed me that the buses ran once an hour.

    St Louis, OTOH, has one line from eastern suburbs to western suburbs, with a branch to the airport and to more suburbs beyond. A few shorter branching segments could provide mobility for residents of the inner city. But who wants that? No one with power in the Missouri legislature, dominated disproportionately, thru gerrymandered districts, by whites from rural, ex-urban, and suburban districts.

    Politicians representing white people who have some money don’t want to waste it on black n brown folks who have little money. So we see a black/white East/West divide. And there you are.


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