Residents of Livermore are fond of reminding us every so often that there is an outstanding “debt” to their city. They remind us that they have been paying BART taxes since the district’s beginning, and and that they have been waiting patiently for decades for the construction of their long-promised and past overdue BART extension. Indeed, a petition circulated a few years ago by Linda Jeffery Sailors (former mayor of Dublin, active in transportation efforts in the Tri-Valley, and an ardent supporter of both the Dublin/Pleasanton and Livermore extensions) gathered hundreds of signatures to demonstrate local support for the extension. In the meantime, Livermore has taken a back seat to the San Jose extension, which is a more expensive and complicated project serving a county that is not even in the district — even though Livermore is located within the district, albeit at the Bay Area’s easternmost fringe. But planning for the Livermore extension is moving forward, and BART has released its Draft Program Environmental Impact Report (DPEIR) for the project.
A number of potential alignments for a BART project to Livermore have been studied throughout the years, such as the diesel tBART project (which, like eBART, was conceived as a cheaper alternative to conventional rapid transit, but whose price quickly ballooned from about $200 million to $500 million). Also considered was a roughly 50-mile diesel route between Walnut Creek and Tracy parallel to Interstates 680 and 580. This concept, which contemplated connections to both the Walnut Creek and Dublin/Pleasanton BART stations, may well have been a more effective project than the bona fide BART alternatives now being analyzed.
Bouncing off of a scoping process that took place this past year, BART has selected 9 alignment alternatives to extend conventional third rail BART service (in contrast to eBART, which will use diesel multiple units) several miles east from the current Dublin/Pleasanton station to a new terminus in Livermore. The project would be in the mold of the usual BART project: extending service at least in part via a freeway median, even deeper into suburbia. By extending the track east along both I-580 and the Union Pacific right-of-way, the project would parallel a greater length of one of the Bay Area’s most congested stretches of freeway, and in the process capture new suburban riders; but it would also further strain the capacity of the Transbay Tube. And naturally, these endeavors do not come cheaply: most of the serious alternatives under consideration are pegged to cost $3-4 billion.
The Livermore extension does, however, provide an opportunity to fill a gap in the Northern California regional rail network, by furnishing an intermodal connection between BART and Altamont Corridor rail. The opportunities for such connectivity are discussed below in the context of each potential alignment, and will also be a topic in Part 2 of this post.
BART to Livermore: Alignment Alternatives
The Livermore BART DPEIR is a definitive, albeit preliminary, step forward in what promises to be a lengthy planning and funding process. The environmental document examines 9 alternatives that include variations on a few basic flavor of alignments. These alignments collectively feature a handful of station sites and three potential sites for future rail yards. The upcoming goal will be to whittle down the list of alternatives and adopt a preferred alternative. The images directly below show all alternatives on a single map, or you can click here to view a full-size PDF.
Alternatives. Top: west half (Dublin/Pleasanton to Downtown Livermore).
Bottom: east half (through Greenville East). Click here for a full-size PDF.
The alignments (other than the standard “No Build” alternative) are summarized below. All alternatives continue in the I-580 median east of BART’s current Dublin/Pleasanton terminus for a certain distance, but then split off at different points near the Livermore Municipal Airport. The routes range from 5.2 to 13.2 miles long, and travel times are generally estimated at one minute per mile. Ridership projections (given below) target that about 80% of the extension’s ridership would consist of new riders. The projections are, per usual, high. On an average per-station basis, they resemble San Jose’s overstated figures, although Livermore’s projections are for the year 2035. The cost estimates (also given below) are in 2009 dollars.
Alternative 1: This route follows the I-580 median at grade for most of its length with an elevated structure at the eastern edge, allowing the track to curve northward and then duck under I-580, aligning parallel to the Union Pacific right-of-way near Greenville Road. Alternative 1 includes a new rail yard north of I-580, as well as two new stations: a median station at Isabel, and an intermodal BART/Altamont station at Greenville East that would replace the current Vasco station.
(Estimated Cost: $2.92 billion. 38,100 daily entries and exits.)
Alternative 1A: In contrast to Alternative 1, where the track follows the I-580 median for most of the extension, in Alternative 1A the track diverges from the I-580 median within one-and-a-half miles of Dublin/Pleasanton, ascending via elevated structure along El Charro Road, and then afterwards on retained fill to align along the UP right-of-way. Alternative 1A includes the same Greenville yard north of I-580 as Alternative 1, as well as two new stations: an intermodal BART/Altamont station in Downtown Livermore, and a BART-only Greenville East station.
(Estimated Cost: $3.61 billion. 35,300 daily entries and exits.)
Alternative 1B: This alternative is very similar to Alternative 1A, with respect to its configuration along the I-580 median, El Charro Road, and the UP right-of-way approach to Downtown Livermore. The stations and rail yard are also the same as in Alternative 1A. The main difference is visible in the sketches located on the right: east of Downtown Livermore, the track in Alternative 1B follow the segment of ex-SP right-of-way.
(Estimated Cost: $3.65 billion. 35,300 daily entries and exits.)
Alternative 2: Like Alternative 1, this alternative includes a lengthy initial segment at grade in the I-580 median (about six miles). Leaving the median, the track ascends in an elevated structure along Las Positas Road, and then aligning east onto the UP right-of-way. Alternative 2 includes a new rail yard east of Vasco station, as well as two new stations: a median station at Isabel (as in Alternative 1), and a BART/Altamont intermodal station at the site of the current Vasco station.
(Estimated Cost: $3.28 billion. 35,400 daily entries and exits.)
Alternative 2A: This is basically a hybrid of Alternatives 1A and 2. The western segment of the route (along the I-580 median, El Charro Road, and approach to Downtown Livermore) follows 1A. East of Downtown Livermore, the track follows the UP right-of-way but with a short 0.3-mile elevated segment crossing over the right-of-way. Alternative 2A includes the Downtown Livermore station — and, as in Alternative 2, a Vasco station and nearby rail yard. Both proposed BART stations would be intermodal Altamont stations.
(Estimated Cost: $3.8 billion. 35,200 daily entries and exits.)
Alternative 3: This shorter alternative is notable for its subway. As in Alternatives 1 and 2, at grade track in the I-580 median extends to the Isabel station (but unlike Alternatives 1 and 2, the station would be below-grade in the median). The track then dives into a subway under the eastbound lanes of I-580, traveling under Portola Avenue and Junction Avenue, and finally terminating at a subway station in Downtown Livermore. This downtown terminus would provide an intermodal Altamont connection, though it would be configured differently from the downtown stations in other alternatives. East of downtown, the track would resurface and lead to a new rail yard.
(Estimated Cost: $3.47 billion. 34,300 daily entries and exits.)
Alternative 3A: This alternative adopts a variation on the route of Alternatives 1A, 1B, and 2A, but is notable for its downtown elevated segment. As in previous alternatives, track in the I-580 median curves southward, is elevated along El Charro Road, and then follows the UP right-of-way on retained fill. In Alternative 3A, though, the track is then elevated through downtown. East of downtown, the track leads to a new rail yard. This alternative has two stations along the UP right-of-way: one station at Isabel/Stanley, and the elevated Downtown Livermore station, both of which would provide intermodal connections to the Altamont corridor.
(Estimated Cost: $3.38 billion. 33,600 daily entries and exits.)
Alternative 4: This alternative is the shortest of the bunch — a single station 5.2-mile eastward extension within the I-580 median, terminating at the Isabel station. Tail tracks east of the station could be built to hold six ten-car trains, but there would otherwise be little space for storage and maintenance. Alternative 4 does not facilitate an intermodal Altamont connection. It was basically conceived as the initial operating segment of a two-phase extension.
(Estimated Cost: $1.12 billion. 25,100 daily entries and exits.)
Alternative 5: This is the second-shortest alternative of the bunch, and it is notable for being the shortest extension that could facilitate an intermodal Altamont connection. Alternative 5 (which includes the elevated El Charro Road segment) terminates at the intermodal Isabel/Stanley station, and is basically an initial operating segment of Alternative 3A. As with Alternative 4, maintenance yard space is limited except for tail tracks east of the station.
(Estimated Cost: $1.61 billion. 23,100 daily entries and exits.)
More to come in Part 2.
All images are courtesy of BART.
Wow, your article definitely caught my attention. After attending a scoping meeting last year, I was eager to know when the study was being released.
I-580 to Greenville has and has had the most support because it is the most direct route, has ample space for a railyard, avoids congestion in downtown and Vasco road, and because frankly, it’s not around too much residential. I’ll also add, students attending Las Positas College would really beneift from an Isabel Station, avoiding freeway traffic altogether.
I’m with you on the DMU option BART proposed in 03′. It killed three birds with one stone, but the controversy around it put to bed any further advance of using the Iron Horse Trail as a transit corridor, although it’s still possible northern portions could be used if it comes up again. Can’t wait for Part Two.
nice post, looking forward to part 2!
Alternative 3 appears the most attractive to me. Although I’m not a resident of Livermore, it seems that a direct route downtown combined with zoning density increases and a subway platform could markedly grow Livermore’s downtown. It is the only part of the city that has a walkable street grid allowing future development around the station.
Alternative 1 would just encourage more sprawl with freeway median station accessible only by automobile. Nonetheless, it is the most cost effective. I wonder whether BART will attempt to encourage sustainable growth with a downtown station or just continue advancing auto-based communities with further reaches into suburbia.
I’m definitely a fan of 1A and 2A. It is essential that downtown Livermore be served by a station. It’s a wonderful downtown with some TOD already there and ample opportunity for more. I also think you need to serve Vasco/Livermore Lab, and 1A/2A accomplish that.
Alternative 3 would accomplish the downtown element, but at a greater (and in my mind unnecessary) cost.
I suppose I agree that an extension to Livermore, which has been paying its dues for 40 years should get priority over an extension to San Jo, but I have to object to the argument that everyone who has paid the BART sales tax deserves a station at their doorstep.
That’s just not cost-effective, and far more people have put in far more money on the west-side of SF with just as little to show for it.
The truth is, BART has already provided for Livermore residents by building and subsidizing a huge parking structure in Dublin/Pleasanton. No such provisions are made for SF residents who live far from BART. It’s been incumbent upon us to tax ourselves further and run our own buses in order for a large number of SF residents to access the BART system.
Ideally this wouldn’t be a contest between west SF and Livermore. That being said, giving Livermore the extension they paid for is certainly going to be more cost-effective. The Dublin/Pleasanton station is already very busy, hence the addition of the in-fill West Dublin station, and the traffic on 580 between D/P and Livermore is truly insane.
Another reason to consider a downtown station is the possibility that the Altamont HSR corridor currently under study might actually get built. In that case, a station downtown would be even more desirable, and have greater ridership.
As a lifelong resident of Livermore and a transit advocate, I am incredibly excited about this extension. That said, the cost is ridiculous.
2A is simply the best option as it reaches both downtown Livermore (a vibrant and increasingly more high density location) and the LLNL @ Vasco where almost 10,000 people work each day. The connection with the ACE trains and potential Altamont HSR are invaluable for their linkage aspects for all of the Bay Area’s rail.
Downtown Livermore has a very large number of residents within 1/2 mile of the proposed station location and the the city’s incredibly well developed Downtown Specific Plan calls for several thousand more multi-family units on repurposed downtown land currently occupied by sprawling shopping centers and car dealerships, as well as some vacant properties. These plans are more than just pipe dreams, but were in the pipeline before the economy crashed and will come back. Additionally, downtown is, not surprisingly, really central and no more than ten minutes by car and 20 by bike (the city has a solid network of bike trails and lanes) from probably 80-90% of the city. Livermore has an incredibly strict Urban Growth Boundary and the expected 20,000 new residents of the city over the next 15 years will be predominantly infill. The city council and town population are not the most progressive in the Bay Area, but they are invested in a vibrant downtown and are, up to now, committed to meeting the ABAG growth targets and state climate change goals related to plannig.
The Vasco station is such an improvement over the Greenville station as many of the scientists at the lab come from the inner East Bay (Oakland, Berkeley, etc.) and would likely have a large number of reverse commuters. Also, there is available space for a large number of multi-family housing adjacent to the station without compromising the UGB (not true at Greenville or Isabel). It is also quite convenient to 580 and will undoubtedly catch many of those commuters who clog the Dublin/Pleasanton station (the busiest outside of Oakland and SF, I think)
There are other cities that have been paying BART taxes for decades and don’t have a BART station.
Alamo, Danville, San Ramon, …
Why don’t we hear that those cities are “owed” a BART station?
Along with Emeryville, Albany, Hercules – none of these cities have BART. I bet Livermore hasn’t paid more than one percent in taxes what even the cheapest alternative would cost.
If they want DMUs out there like Antioch fine, but spending even $1.12 BILLION dollars to reach a city of 75 thousand people is the definition of insane. And all of their ridership projections are wildly inflated.
I personally believe that the entire BART board should be voted out of office, and I hope it starts with Ms Allen-Ward when her term comes up.
And frankly, BART can’t even come up with the money to run 15 minute headways on the current system, and clean the stations that they already have. What in the h–l are they doing thinking about pie in the sky BS?
“Ideally this wouldn’t be a contest between west SF and Livermore. That being said, giving Livermore the extension they paid for is certainly going to be more cost-effective.”
Why do you believe this is true? The 38 Geary alone carries twice even what this extension’s hyped numbers are expected to carry.
“Another reason to consider a downtown station is the possibility that the Altamont HSR corridor currently under study might actually get built. In that case, a station downtown would be even more desirable, and have greater ridership.”
Also, why would this be so? In fact if the Altamont HSR corridor ever gets built (which is very doubtful) BART out there becomes redundant.
The more I think about the waste of Bay Area “transit” I want to scream. LA is building a subway along one of the densest corridors down there (Subway to the Sea along Wilshire), while we’re actually considering an obscenely expensive, non-standard track system to further suburban sprawl at its worst all to generate 10,000 riders tops.
A downtown location would be great, however with all the congestion downtown, and lack of additional parking for BART commuters, it might not be such a workable option. It’s more than just a Livermore station, it will be a vital transit corridor for thousands of people who commute from the Central Valley and vice versa. Again, I’m not wild about the I-580/Greenville option, but from what I heard at the scoping meeting last year, it sounds like it has the most support at the moment.
If the folks in Livermore area continue to support an alternative that runs predominately along the I-580 corridor over alternatives that include access to downtown Livermore, this project should be vigorously opposed by the region. Freeway-median stations are just awful and limit TOD development and are of the old type of thinking that has led to underperforming transit projects.
At least with alternatives that include downtown there would be one center to build around, making the project at least worth considering.
Patrick is spot on–REAL transit for Geary is a far better allocation of funds. As to BART’s dreams/fantasies of ridership, all one needs is to compare projected to actual on the SFO extension. The San Jose and Livermore extensions will be even worse. Given BART’s deliberately incompatible and overpriced hardware, there should be NO FURTHER BART built. We need to radically re-align our land use policies to increase housing where jobs are rather than pushing the workers further out. No BUILD is the right answer!
What an incredible waste of money. Salt Lake City is adding 70 miles of rail in the next 7 years for a cost of $2.8 billion–that’s nearly 10 times the rail-miles for less money than some of the alternatives under study. Livermore deserves a transit connection (DMUs, BRT, etc.), but suburban heavy-rail extension are the most cost-ineffective choice possible.
Remember that true ridership is about 1/4th of the given figures–BART’s quarterly reports only count exits, so 35,000–>17,5000, then take into account that nearly every extension BART has built (Dublin, Pittsburg, SFO) has only reached about 50% of its ridership projections, and you get around 9,000 riders for alternatives 1-3, and 6,000 riders for alternatives 4-5. That breaks down to about 4,000-6,000 riders per station, which essentially means adding 1-2 more Pittsburg/Millbrae stations for $1-4 billion. Just for a comparison, you could probably get over 9,000 riders by 2035 with a San Antonio station in Oakland for about 1/10th-1/40th the price.
If BART cannot deliver on ridership, why build an extension to a failed system? I would rather pursue the Altamont Corridor Express option with a split into Oakland at Freemont. I think BART needs to focus on getting a true automated system running and increase ridership on the segments that are already built before we consider more expansion.
At this rate, we’ll have BART to Sacramento before we have a subway on Geary. How many more billions do we have to spend before we can get some sane transportation planning?
An ACE option would be a great one too. There’s been talk about ACE planning additional routes into the East bay. I would dare say, perhaps ACE should takeover the “eBart” project as well. However, to provide more frequent service, ACE will have to acquire it’s own right-of-way, and in the longterm upgrade their fleet to be electrically powered (EMU’s).
The recent Bay Bridge fiasco made clear that BART capacity issues need to be resolved before trying to increase ridership from sprawlburbia. When trains were maxed out east of the hills, riders west of the hills were unable to board. BART needs to decrease headways and increase train consists.
BART can’t even seem to figure out that’s it not a good idea to award a lighting contract to someone (Nedir Bey associated with “Your Black Muslim Bakery”) who already defrauded the city of Oakland out of over $1M and was without the needed contracting license, thereby losing out on a state grant of money.
How would we ever expect them to figure out that their core system is falling apart while they have their sights set on never ending suburban expansion? The only way to change this is to vote them out when they come up for re-election.
VOTE the BART crazies out!
Extending BART to Livermore would provide at least some sort of “back commute” potential (Downtown, retail centers, the Lab, ACE, Wineries) assuming they don’t just terminate it in the freeway median.
I do wonder how many more car drivers they think they can continue to siphon off I-580, West Dublin will add another 1200 parking spaces for those that want to ditch their car. And some might switch to ACE once the connection is there.
It looks as if BART is still obsessed with providing parking. A station at Murrieta Blvd. would be in the middle of a dense neighbourhood (if poorly designed- though compare it to Dublin Pleasanton!), but the planned intermediate station is at Isabel Ave where they can build the “necessary” parking.
I think that the Livermore extension isn’t the worst idea imaginable. The downside is pretty obvious – it’s an expensive project considering that it will likely only add 15,000 to 20,000 daily riders to BART. The upside of the project is that it will provide a connection for people traveling over the Altamont pass who want to head north and most of its riders will be fairly long distance travelers who have a bigger impact on the environment.
Winston says “most of its riders will be fairly long distance travelers” and that is the problem. A 2 track subway–and that is what BART is even though they want to pretend they are a suburban commuter line–without express local potential is simply unable to properly serve such a market. Note that Caltrain’s sophisticated passing maneuvers to provide superior service to the longer distance riders is what led them to the record increases in ridership before the gas crunch. BART in theory has the technology to do the same, but has shown no interest.
Why do we want to cater to long distance riders with 20 minute frequencies? That’s rewarding exactly the type of behavior that we want to avoid. You don’t build a subway-grade every 20 minute urban transit line somewhere that is not urban and in need of every 20 minute subway-grade service UNLESS you’re looking to massively increase density in the area DIRECTLY surrounding the station.
If we’re talking about serving park-and-riders, we shouldn’t even THINK about discussing anything other than commuter rail.
I think that Alternative 3 (Downtown Subway Station) and adding the Vasco station to that is superior to all of them, even though it’s not an actual packaged alternative. It would also be expensive but worth it.
1. It has the most potential with two TOD capable stations.
2. Avoids the Staples Developement that’s being proposed by the City Of Pleasanton at El Charro & the conflict that comes with it.
3. Avoids the noise complaints (Nimby’s) from at grade on UPRR ROW alignment, except the small stretch east of the 1st St. overpass.
4. The costs of tunneling to downtown are mitigated by continuing on I-580 to Portola where the tunnel section begins and not having to build an aerial above El Charro and above a small section downtown where UPRR ROW is small.
5. Vasco is a short drive to the station for CV commuters, Brentwood residents have a straight-shot accros I-580 on Vasco to the Station.
6. Almost direct connection to LLNL Lab (A Lab shuttle bus would do the trick).
7. An ACE Train transfer station for both stations.
8. The Maintenance Yard shown in Alt. 3 can still be built with trains that are out of service at Vasco (after unloading passengers) either remain “Out of Service” and head back to the the Maintenance Yard or stay put, doors open and ready to head back to SF, in service until the time to depart.
My apologies to readers– there is actually more than a Part 1 planned for this, but I’ve (once again) been swamped and haven’t had the time to finish this off and move to other topics. Thanks for your patience during the doldrums.
I have to agree with some of the posts here, they have already started construction (indirectly through widening 580 another dubious decision) on the BART extension to Livermore, yet this seems completely the wrong priority.
San Jose has a million people (the largest city in the bay area), Fremont area has 300,000 people, Oakland has 450,000, Sunnyvale, Santa Clara, and Milpitas etc. is another million.
Yet, Livermore has a tiny 70,000+ people!!!
At this point this extension will just promote people to sprawl to Livermore, Tracy and Stockton and beyond, and will in the end add more pollution, travel time, spread of mini malls, traffic accidents, reduced trucking, congestion, etc. If Livermore grows to 500,000 then sure build it, and keep the Right of Ways open for it in the mean time.
We should focus on construction within the high density areas with natural built-in TOD (like downtown San Jose, San Jose State, or even someday downtown Livermore) and promote direct routes to high density areas (not following cheap existing industrial train routes, that miss UC Berkeley, downtown Berkeley completely, downtown San Jose, San Jose State, Walnut Creek, etc. etc.) The trains are used as freight and their ROW routes reflect that. Trains don’t hit most of the major shopping or sports centers (even Caltrain really misses SFO, downtown SJ, and arrives in less populated China Basin, etc.). Train ridership to most of Siberia is very low, however train ridership in the metro high density area of Moscow is the highest in the world.
We should focus on high density FIRST! Then later add these fancy lines to the remote areas of the country. Even the CHSRA says in 30-40 years they won’t even reach today’s BART ridership. According to the reason foundation (reasonfoundation.org) HSR will cost closer to spending 100 billion dollars. Reason Foundation projects train ridership between LA and SF to be 1/5th Bart’s current ridership. Is that worth 100billion?
I find it interesting that some are supportive of this route that will clearly promote sprawl yet are against getting the South Bay BARTs 2-3 million people out of the second worst daily traffic in USA.
BART works (not perfect), the highest ridership in the nation if categorized as commuter rail (which many do). It gets that with the direct routes to high density stops.
Repeating the argument that you pay taxes but don’t have BART to your homes doorstep is a weak one. BART will reduce traffic for the entire county, all Livermore residents have made trips to SJ, SF, Oakland, and because BART exists they can take BART in Dublin or enjoy the reduced freeway accidents, reduced pollution, reduced congestion, reduced need for police, reduced need for emergency ambulance services, and increased natural higher density TOD that BART promotes. Danville, Brentwood, Pinole, Blackhawk, Moraga, Pacifica, all have that same problem. That’s the problem with almost every transit-rail system it can’t go to every single persons door step. It’s interesting that the global warming deniers are also some of the biggest HSR promoters to their small rural towns.
I am for BART or some future faster version of BART-HSR to Livermore, but that should not be the highest priority. For the future, I vote for route version 3 or 2A which should serve the most people promote the natural highest density growth around the stations, first we should get the millions in San Jose off the streets.
HSR actually has a better argument for faster freight than carrying people.
Happy New Year!
Thanks for an informative look at BART’s Livermore route options.
This is actually a comment on your October 22 piece on Solano County transit consolidation (the “leave a reply” link for that post doesn’t bring up any place to comment). I’ve been working on a trail map of the Carquinez Strait area, and as an advocate of transit-to-trails advocate, I have to say there are some amazing disconnects. Vallejo Transit goes south to El Cerrito BART without stopping in Crockett* (you can transfer to a local bus at Hercules and backtrack). Benicia Transit crosses Carquinez Strait to Walnut Creek or Pleasant Hill BART without stopping in Martinez. Contra Costa Transit runs several busses from Martinez to Walnut Creek and the 30Z goes to El Cerrito del Norte via Hercules. Amtrak stops in Martinez but nowhere closer than Richmond (proposed Hercules and Benicia outskirts stations may be useful). The Vallejo ferry goes straight to San Francisco. Never mind that there have been two separate transit systems for Vallejo and Benicia.
*Not that Crockett SHOULD be a destination except for history buffs and Sunday drives and local residents (the freeway slings you right overhead). From a trail user’s perspective that could point to the need for better trail connections from Crockett to Hercules.
There are almost no trails where you can complete a loop with local transit, but 3-4 ways to do it from San Francisco or Walnut Creek.
On the positive side, the Bay Area Ridge Trail Council and the Bay Trail are making great progress on a 50-mile scenic loop (with ridgetop and waterfront routes), of which the two new bike paths on the Benicia-Martinez and Zampa Bridges are a big piece of the puzzle. For the short term there are some gaps and it will be a while before you could make a car-free outing of it. But there are enough possibilities it would be worth getting all the local transit agencies (both sides of the strait) to talk to each other. One of those “if you stop here they will come” situations.
A quick summary from the most recent BART to Livermore public meeting