Monday, April 13, 2009

No Tunnels!

This is the scenery that passengers of BART's SFO/peninsula extension could be enjoying. These are images of the abandoned SP San Bruno branch line (hotlinked from RailsAroundTheBay.net), the original entrance into SF, which the BART line was built under--denying passengers what might've been one of the most scenic rides in the BART system, instead condeming them to a dark and eardrum-assaulting passage.

The explanation, beyond brazen goldbricking, is the usual NIMBY opposition to having to hear, or even being forced to look at, trains going by. Or rather, in this case, opposition by proxies of the actual neighbors of the right-of-way, since most of them (the line passes by the cemeteries of Colma) are no longer voters. That's right--as a transit rider, you rank below dead people, at least when it comes to enjoying scenery!

A few months ago (before the vote for HSR last fall, actually) Palo Altans began campaigning to get CalTrain's tracks through their city buried in a tunnel. They theorize that the ambiance of Alma St, which parallels the tracks, is being brought down by passing trains. Never mind that Alma is not much more than a four-lane expressway/traffic sewer. It's going to take a lot more than hiding the trains to make it a nice place to take an evening stroll!

With the passage of the HSR measure, there's been a lot more talk of tunneling up and down the line, instigated by the need for complete grade separation before bullet trains can whizz up and and down the peninsula, and the fact that the High Speed Rail authority has proposed to accomplish this by elevating the line.

I personally think the simplest solution is to keep the tracks at grade, and deal with cross-streets one at a time. After all, in PA, University Ave, Embarcadero Rd, Oregon Expwy, and San Antonio Rd have already been over and underpassed, leaving, by my count, only four actual grade crossings left: Alma, Churchill, Meadow, and Charlston. Churchill and Meadow could probably just be closed, being close to Embarcadero and Charlston, respectively, leaving only two crossings to be separated. Surely that's a simpler and cheaper solution than either elevating of burying the line.

Anyway, to get back to my main point: burying transit in tunnels, besides the horrendous expense, seriously degrades the experience of rides. Fight for your view!

1 comment:

Michael J. said...

Man, I've been wondering why nobody has brought that point up... riding in tunnels kinda blows. Everytime I take bart from the EBay down part SF - I always dread going down under the bay cause thtat's the last sun I'll see for a half hour.

Good thing they're so expensive that we shouldn't see more than a few limited stretches of them here and there even if our local NIMBY's do pretty well for themselves.