Boarding at the West Dublin-Pleasanton station on a front car of a nine-car train, I was fortunate to get the last seat when another man graciously gave it to me. I had my rolling carry-on plus a well-stuffed backpack as I headed to Brazil from SFO. The seat was a lifesaver on the 7:30 train.
As the train headed for San Francisco, it continued to fill with commuters standing up and holding onto the leather straps or poles. The train was jammed when we left the West Oakland station to enter the Transbay Tube. I had never been on a BART car so crowded, so it was easy to understand why the new configuration removed double-seats on one side to create more room for standing passengers. That's the norm for peak commute.
It speaks to the need to wisely expand the system. Consider that an estimated 40% of the automobile commuters over the Altamont Pass are bound for destinations served by BART. When the new Valley Link system is completed sometime in the next decade to connect San Joaquin County with the terminal Dublin-Pleasanton BART station, BART will need more capacity for BART to accommodate the new riders -- some, of course, are currently riding BART.
The challenge for our local and state elected officials, as well as Rep. Eric Swalwell, will be to deliver the necessary mix of federal, state and local funding. With business leaders and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission planning to put a huge $100 billion transportation measure on the ballot for the nine Bay Area counties (it probably should also include Solano and San Joaquin counties), divvying up that money so key corridor such as I-580 are served is critical. That's not been done in the past.
With a second BART Transbay Tube in the offering with a multi-billion cost, the money will go fast. Our elected officials need to hammer away at their colleagues at the importance to the Bay Area of improving the I-580 corridor. It's one of two corridors (I-80 is the other) that mixes heavy commute traffic with heavy truck traffic. Trucks are carrying containers serving the Port of Oakland as well as those servicing Bay Area retailers from San Joaquin County distribution centers such as Safeway's huge Tracy warehouse complex.
It's time for out-of-the-box thinking. What could be done to create an inland container shipment port to get the container traffic off the highways and move it by rail or water to say Stockton? Get the containers off the freeway and you have free-flowing afternoon commutes.
If the bond passes -- as is likely given the frustration people are feeling with commutes and the powerful force likely to back it -- then innovating in the expenditures is critical.