Editorial: Full BART to Livermore is the best option

The BART board is considering several options for extending BART service to Livermore to help ease overcrowded conditions at Tri-Valley BART stops and freeways. The Pleasanton Weekly editorial board thinks a conventional BART extension to Isabel Avenue is the best option, and really the only one worth considering. (File photo)

"My sense is you're dealing with these alternatives because the practical matter is the BART board doesn't want to go to Livermore. They don't want to go to ACE," Pleasanton Vice Mayor Arne Olson said as two BART officials presented an update on the BART to Livermore project to the City Council earlier this month.

Now, we don't think the situation is that dire (certainly no final decision has been made), but make no mistake: This spring marks the most critical juncture for the BART to Livermore project, and the potential of bringing a BART rail extension to Isabel Avenue is very much up in the air.

So make your voices heard.

Pleasanton council members made a strong statement at that March 6 meeting, declaring that their top choice is conventional BART rail down the Interstate 580 median to a new station near the Isabel intersection.

That opposed to alternatives BART is also considering: a light rail extension to Isabel, new Express Bus services or less-intensive enhanced bus services -- or no BART to Livermore project at all.

The BART board is expected to make a preliminary choice for its preferred project option in April, which would put the agency on track to then review and certify the final environmental impact (EIR) report and confirm the final project option in May.

The pro-rail Tri-Valley has its work cut out, according to Director John McPartland, who represents Pleasanton, Dublin and Livermore on the BART board.

One side of the nine-member BART board consists of "directors who represent the (existing) core system, that want to end up taking every scrap of money they can in order to retrofit and build anew," McPartland told the Pleasanton council.

"We've got a portion that is clearly on the extension side, another group that is on the core side and then a portion of the directors that are riding in the middle. Welcome to the real world of politics," he added. "The board is divided right now, and I've got to fight tooth and nail."

McPartland says it's vital for Tri-Valley residents to tell BART leadership their thoughts about the BART to Livermore proposals. (Comments can be submitted online ahead of next month's board meeting, at

Count us among the conventional BART rail camp.

BART to Livermore, an extension envisioned for decades, is the most significant traffic relief project proposed for the congestion-riddled Tri-Valley, and the traditional BART option would add the most new BART riders and take the most cars off I-580 and local city streets during commute hours.

The base proposal outlines extending conventional BART rail 5.5 miles down the I-580 median from the eastern Dublin-Pleasanton station to a new station in the median just past the Isabel Avenue intersection.

It would also come with pedestrian bridges to connect riders to either side of the freeway, a new BART storage and maintenance facility northeast of Las Positas College and 3,412 new parking spots on the south side -- though we agree with the Pleasanton council that that parking count could fall woefully short.

Freeway alignment would need to be shifted to fit the BART line and the new station, and significant public and private right-of-way would need to be purchased to make the project work.

All told, BART estimates design and construction of the traditional BART extension would come in at $1.635 billion.

That's a high pricetag, but not really all that much higher than the two rail alternatives BART is considering, which both offer much less ridership than traditional BART.

Those other rail options are diesel multiple unit (DMU) or electrical multiple unit (EMU), known colloquially as light rail. They are smaller, self-propelled cars with a diesel or electric engine.

DMU and EMU would offer less ongoing operating costs than traditional BART rail, but the project construction costs are nearly the same ($1.6 billion and $1.67 billion, respectively) and the right-of-way impacts are more significant -- all for much fewer new riders.

The full BART option would result in the highest number of new BART riders (11,900 per day) and most cars off the road (244,000 fewer vehicle miles traveled), according to the EIR. That ridership number actually jumps to 13,400 if Livermore's Isabel Neighborhood Plan comes to fruition around the new station.

The DMU/EMU totals don't compete: only 7,000 new BART riders and 140,600 fewer vehicle miles traveled. Why spend nearly the same amount of construction money for that many fewer rider spots, especially when you know the demand is there between Livermore and western San Joaquin County?

With those statistics in mind, the two bus alternatives make no sense: Express Bus/Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) at $380 million to see 3,500 new riders and 92,600 fewer vehicle miles, and enhanced bus at $25 million to add 400 riders and reduce vehicle miles by 6,500.

The bus options are tone-deaf to the needs and wishes of Tri-Valley leaders and residents. (Well, not quite as insulting as the no project option.) We concur with the City Council's decision to openly oppose a bus-only BART extension to Livermore.

BART board members should weigh the comments of all three Tri-Valley councils and their residents carefully before making a final decision this spring.

And they must commit to a preferred project option by June 30, otherwise the newly formed Tri-Valley-San Joaquin Valley Regional Rail Authority will make the selection.

That new authority, formed under state legislation last year, is overseen by officials from Tri-Valley and west San Joaquin cities, both counties and BART and is tasked solely with delivering improved connectivity between BART and the Altamont Corridor Express (ACE) train.

They recently met for the first time and are exploring the concept of light rail across the Altamont, connecting Livermore to communities such as Mountain House, Tracy, River Islands, Manteca and perhaps ultimately Stockton. That could involve traditional BART, DMU or EMU from Pleasanton to Isabel.

The authority could take over the selection of an Isabel extension option, find funding for and build the project, and turn operations back over to BART when completed -- if there is no BART board decision come July 1.

Then again, given how BART leaders have waffled on supporting what's clearly the best project option, putting that decision in the hands of local stakeholders most impacted by the project might just be the best option.

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12 people like this
Posted by Alexey
a resident of Birdland
on Mar 22, 2018 at 5:29 pm

Who would go to the stop on Isabel? The BART stop should be n Livermore downtown to be really useful. Just next to the train station. People should live close to the station so they would not have to use cars at all. How does a stop at Isabel Avenue help with that?

11 people like this
Posted by Michael Austin
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Mar 22, 2018 at 6:21 pm

Michael Austin is a registered user.

I believe Bart should go all the way to Lawrence Livermore National Lab On Vasco Road.

The Lab has the acreage for parking, station building, etc. That will take more cars off of the freeways then any of the other options being considered.

18 people like this
Posted by Buc Lau
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 22, 2018 at 8:09 pm

Sadly, the truth is that BART to Livermore is nothing but a pipe dream and will NEVER happen. Why-you ask? Well, has anyone noticed that the Fastrac lanes recently built on 580 eliminated the median? That median was controlled by BART for decades and set-aside for the Livermore extension. BART gave up that control back to CalTrans in order for the toll lanes to be built. One would wonder who benefited from that back room deal and slight of hand. With the median gone, so is any hope for an extension.

Never, ever going to happen.

5 people like this
Posted by Pleasanton Parent
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Mar 22, 2018 at 9:14 pm

Great idea and need, I don't see tjis organization executing it though, I wouldn't throw another dollar at bart until they can show fiscal responsibility and safe, clean ridership

1 person likes this
Posted by Grumpy
a resident of Vineyard Avenue
on Mar 22, 2018 at 10:07 pm

Grumpy is a registered user.

Buc, not really. BART was never in control over the median, and the freeway would need to have been shifted the same with or without the toll lanes. The money lost is Caltrans’, as if they could have held out until the extension was put in, they would have gotten their lanes for nearly free.

But they assumed it couldn’t wait, and since the tolls pay for it, why not go for it.

We need this extension, so we can get a lot of the Central Valley riders more evenly distributed between stations. But BART as a system does not have a history of fairness or reasonableness in its planning.

7 people like this
Posted by Buc Lau
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 22, 2018 at 10:48 pm

Grumpy. I agree with most of your post, except I may suggest you research my original statement as to who held control. I was told that by three engineers from CalTrans who worked on the toll lane project. I don’t think all three were wrong-but you never know. At any rate I think that BART has proven to be just another money hungry inept governmental agency at best.

6 people like this
Posted by Grumpy
a resident of Vineyard Avenue
on Mar 23, 2018 at 7:25 am

Grumpy is a registered user.

I’m looking for Caltrans’ public statement on this, which I seem to recall they made because of how silly it all seemed.

The rest of 580, where BART is now, used to have the same median as where the toll lanes were placed. Nevertheless, BART had to move the roadway quite a bit to create enough room for BART and leave shoulders. BART is quite a bit wider than light rail in both the width of the trains and the space it needs.

That being said, I can’t dispute that BART has not conducted itself well these last few years. Maybe we’ll all feel better with the new train cars. But yes, they do operate like large company middle managers and bureaucrats: more money means checking more items off of a wish list, rather than being prudent and only doing what’s needed. That’s why you have to earmark funds. Otherwise they’ll upgrade their dining room when you’re not looking.

3 people like this
Posted by Justsignedup
a resident of Livermore
on Mar 23, 2018 at 10:21 am

Sent this to BART: "I hope the BART politicians mismanaging this system is embarrassed with themselves. I want to hear more about this much needed extension that has been paid by the local residents in mismanaged taxes since the 70's"

10 people like this
Posted by Suzanne Van Fleet
a resident of Foothill High School
on Mar 23, 2018 at 10:26 am

I think the year was 1970. My sister was a technical writer for TRW, and probably because she was young and beautiful she was invited to TRW's gala celebrating the head of BART and the makers of the train cars from Germany. Everyone at the party was treating these individuals like gods, until my sister's boss introduced her to the BART bigwig. He asked her if she was familiar with the mass transit trains at which point my sister crossed her arms over her chest, looked him in the eye and announced, "I'm from LIVERMORE. He followed her around the rest of the night promising and trying to convince her that they were coming to Livermore next. Livermore has been paying for something they still haven't received for over 50 years. More promises or is someone actually going to deliver?

7 people like this
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Mar 23, 2018 at 12:12 pm

BART needs to go to downtown Livermore, or the extension shouldn't be build, period.

5 people like this
Posted by Jerry A
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 23, 2018 at 4:09 pm

Why not run BART parallel to 580 on the north side instead of tearing up freeway they just finished? There is still plenty of open land from El Charro to North Livermore Ave. to run it and leave 580 alone. Personally i would rather keep BART outof Livermore as it will bring the riff-raff downtown and ruin the Outlets much how they ruined StoneRidge Mall. Ask JC Penney shoppers how many cars got broken into since BART arrived. No thanks, I will drive to Pleasanton if I need to take BART

6 people like this
Posted by Rebecca
a resident of Livermore
on Mar 24, 2018 at 5:13 pm

The most traffic comes down the Altamont and Vasco. Placing BART at Isabel will barely affect traffic. It would be well suited at Vasco and 580. That would have the largest impact on traffic. And it's a small bus ride from there to the lab. A second station later at Fallon makes sense for bringing in shoppers to the outlets. But Isabelle makes zero sense.

1 person likes this
Posted by ???
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 25, 2018 at 8:35 am

Isabelle makes sense when you consider how much high density housing is planned in that immediate area. Thank you Sacramento

1 person likes this
Posted by Grumpy
a resident of Vineyard Avenue
on Mar 25, 2018 at 1:54 pm

Grumpy is a registered user.

Isabelle because that’s where BART already owns the land and has the park and ride.

For taxes, no, Livermore has not been paying taxes for 50 years for BART to be extended there. It’s by county, and Livermore has been paying 50 years for BART to Oakland. That doesn’t mean that BART shouldn’t go to Livermore, though.

Why not the north side of the freeway? I’m not sure it would make a difference in cost. The bridges over streets—the biggest cost—are the same no matter where you stick BART. And the ramps on the north side of every interchange would need to be rebuilt anyway. So what’s left is whether to rebuild the toll infrastructure itself. And I suspect a bridge to move BART from the center to the north would cost a lot more than the reconfigured toll infrastructure.

Why not downtown Livermore? Go ask Livermore. They don’t want it.

Why not Vasco? Maybe. But they’re still going to build Isabel, because Livermore, wisely, wants to place their transit corridor development where there is empty land.

Why light rail/diesel? That’s the question I’d like to know. It makes very little sense to require changing trains at a heavy transit corridor. And it’s not even penny wise. The fact that PW correctly considers it a threat because BART could very well choose it is the problem. I don’t really know a solution, besides if BART chooses poorly, forcing the state or federal government to direct BART to not keep a poor choice.

11 people like this
Posted by BobB
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 25, 2018 at 3:27 pm

BobB is a registered user.

What is everyone's problem with high density housing? Near a BART station is the perfect place for it. I like the new apartments and townhouses in Pleasanton near the BART station there. The fewer cars on the road, the better.

Yes in my back yard.

1 person likes this
Posted by Flightops
a resident of Downtown
on Mar 25, 2018 at 4:56 pm

Flightops is a registered user.

@Buc Lau. Welcome to my table, I’ve been saying the same thing since they started work on those Fastrac ( Lexus) lanes, no room for Bart anymore, nice planning Caltrans who got the payoff on this project?? Smartest thing Livermore could do would be to pull out of Alameda County and quit paying for a pipe dream they will never see! Pleasanton will always be the end of the line and the recipient of all the riff-raff riding the rails.

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Posted by Grumpy
a resident of Vineyard Avenue
on Mar 25, 2018 at 7:15 pm

Grumpy is a registered user.

Not sure I understand the conspiratorial tendency here. Yes, BART is at risk of making a terrible decision. But Caltrans did not. That space was never set aside for BART. It was set aside for oleanders.

Sure, adding toll lanes means that the BART project needs to now widen the freeway significantly more. But Caltrans doesn’t have to pay a penny for that. BART does. If you want to blame an agency, blame the right one.

PS. This is an old discussion. For example: Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by JSebastian
a resident of Livermore
on Mar 25, 2018 at 8:23 pm

BART to Livermore won't do much to relieve congestion because most of the traffic on 580 isn't caused by Livermore residents getting on the freeway...only a tiny percentage of which are BART riders in the first place.

There might be as many as a couple of thousand Livermore BART riders (I doubt its that many), but the point is, being able to get on the train a few miles earlier isn't going to fix 580...its just too small a percentage of the total traffic.

If you want to relieve that congestion, the easiest way is a big-rig ban during all commute hours (basically the hours the HOV lane is in operation). There is no reason to force commuters to compete with big rigs just to get to work. Deliveries can be scheduled outside of peak traffic hours. We have incompatible vehicle mix during commutes...its not a smart way to apportion scarce resources. Implement a Time-Of-Use scheme to separate these incompatible vehicles, and watch the freeway flow smoothly. The CHP will be happy to tell you that most days, there are multiple collisions involving big rigs on 580.

If you really must have a train connection, the least expensive way to connect BART to ACE is not to go down the freeway all the way to Greenville, that's just wasteful.

Just spur BART south down through the quarry property near the outlets, all the way to Stanley, where the ACE line is, and build a transfer station there. Then any ACE ride who wants to, which can include just about any Central Valley commuter (because they can board ACE in Tracy, Manteca/Lathrop, or Stockton), can ride BART without their car ever coming over the Altamont.

Now, is that not a far superior solution? Its less than 3 miles of BART line instead of 10. It still hooks up to ACE. Livermore people who want to ride it still can (they can board at either of the two ACE stations in Livermore, they don't have to ever get on the freeway).

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Posted by Grumpy
a resident of Vineyard Avenue
on Mar 25, 2018 at 9:34 pm

Grumpy is a registered user.


I agree with your second point: they could just make the connection there. I suspect it’s orobablt because ACE has very limited morning service only, and BART probably is trying to provision for future 15 min daylight service to Mountain House and Tracy, places that will definitely get developed in 30-50 years, just as will the entire 580 corridor up to the Altamont pass split. Of course, one could just upgrade ACE to do that, but like Caltrain it probably won’t happen.

I think we should have a toll booth on the Altamont pass charging people for the real economic impact of their commute. But that won’t happen. The Lexus lanes are the closest we’ll get. And to be sure, once toll lanes become self driving only lanes and those start to consume most of the lanes on the freeway, the traffic problem will probably go down quite a bit.

As for BART extension not relieving congestion, that’s true today but not for the future buildout. They’ll stick another 100,000 people in the Livermore Valley.

1 person likes this
Posted by Pleasanton Parent
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Mar 25, 2018 at 9:56 pm

Lexus lanes? Don't think I've ever seen a lexus in those lanes. Leafs, bolts, sparks, volts, fiats, model s, sure, no Lexi though

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Posted by Grumpy
a resident of Vineyard Avenue
on Mar 25, 2018 at 10:20 pm

Grumpy is a registered user.

Haven’t hear Lexi before. I like it! The name Lexus Lane may only be an analogy, but I am happy to announce my coining the name Bentley Bypass for the 73 toll road in SoCal, as I’m pretty sure only people who drive Bentley’s are allowed to live in Newport Beach.

I’m so glad the state never followed through building the 84 toll road they were supposed to at the same time. Vasco as a toll road wouldn’t have even made sense.

2 people like this
Posted by Mark
a resident of another community
on Mar 26, 2018 at 5:30 pm

BART to Livermore was talked about in 1999 when I moved to California, I left last year and looks like it is still being talked about. It’s a bummer the people out there still pay taxes toward it but haven’t received the service.

1 person likes this
Posted by Pleasanton Parent
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Mar 26, 2018 at 8:50 pm

Bentley bypass - points for creativity. But at $30k used they're nothing youre onto something.

Like this comment
Posted by Grumpy
a resident of Vineyard Avenue
on Mar 27, 2018 at 8:21 am

Grumpy is a registered user.

I love it! But I’m not sure they have that sort of good taste down there. However, it would be an incredible road to get a Bugatti on.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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