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Bay Area Transit in 2016: What Can We Expect to Happen?

Posted on January 1, 2016 at 5:05 PM Comments comments (0)

Overall, 2015 was a decently quiet year for the Bay Area's transportation. Both BART and MUNI badly need new fleets, and VTA and BART are in the process of building BART's Silicon Valley Extension. 


BART's Warm Springs Station, in south Fremont, never opened, although projections earlier said it would by the end of 2015. Warm Springs is expected to open this year instead. 


MUNI is still working on the Central Subway, which will extend the T Third Street to Chinatown and dissolve the merge between the T and the K Ingleside.


So to put 2015 in terms, progress was made, but nothing major happened. No extensions were opened, and no new fleet began operation. But, since 2016 has begun, what can we expect from this New Year? What can we predict will happen within 365 days from now? Well, let's try to find out:


Let's start with Bay Area Rapid Transit. BART is expanding rapidly. Extensions to Warm Springs, San Jose and eBART to Antioch are well underway, with plenty of other opportunities to expand further (Livermore, Brentwood, etc.) 


But when are these extensions going to be finished? BART's extension to Warm Springs was supposed to open by the end of 2015, but we know now that didn't happen. In fact, the new station has yet to even begin the test phase.


Now, Warm Springs/South Fremont Station is not projected to open until late 2016, and the whole project is behind schedule. 


The rest of BART's extension, past Warm Springs to Milpitas and Berryessa, is not due to open until 2018, since construction south of Warm Springs is part of a second phase of construction, with Warm Springs being the first phase.


A furthur extension south to Downtown San Jose and Santa Clara is planned, but has failed to gain necessary funding. So, we have no idea when this extension will be built.


But what about eBART to Antioch? eBART has barely begun construction, and the only work being carried out at this point is a third platform at Pittsburg/Bay Point for eBART trains to stop at. Thus, eBART is not set to open until 2018.


Let's move on to MUNI. A few key things occurred last year, including MUNI Forward, the new E Embarcadero, and MUNI Mobile, but 2015 was relatively quiet for San Francisco's Municipal Railway


This year, several very important changes are supposed to be carried out. The most important has to be the delivery of MUNI's brand-new Metro cars, which will take over the disastrous current Breda light rail vehicles. 


MUNI's new cars will begin service this year, and eventually, the total number of cars is set to be 175, MUNI will more than double its current fleet. What's more exciting is that these new cars are being built locally - in Sacramento, by Siemens. 


Other smaller changes include the addition of weekday service to the E Embarcadero and a few more additions to MUNI Forward, slowly revolutionizing the MUNI system.


The Central Subway will also continue construction, but is not projected to open until 2019. When opened, the T Third Street may become the busiest MUNI Metro line.


VTA, as well as MUNI, is going to have to deal with some of the biggest crowds in America on February 7th, when Super Bowl 50 comes to the Bay Area. 


If you're wishing for slightly more recent news, how about new buses in three days? On January 4th, VTA's new buses will be rolled out across the system. And if you've ever ridden in one of MUNI's new buses, you'll know exactly what VTA's new buses look and feel like without looking at one, because they're exactly the same.


Built by New Flyer, 29 new 60-foot articulated buses are going into service on VTA's Rapid 522 line, as well as the future Alum Rock-Santa Clara bus rapid transit corridor.


And for even more recent news, VTA's Day Pass has been eliminated as of today, January 1st. So for anyone who constantly used the Day Pass, too bad! Use Clipper!


VTA, as well as BART, is currently building the Silicon Valley Extension. Milpitas Station is on the rise, but is not expected to open for business until 2018, as well as Berryessa Station, in East San Jose.


AC Transit also had a relatively inactive 2015 year. One of the most exciting things to happen was the testing of brand-new double decker buses on select routes, which we actually got the chance to ride on


If purchased, these eye-catching buses from England and Scotland (they're used in London!) will be used primarily on AC Transit's transbay lines, such as the F and O. Why? Well, ridership is growing, and these double decker bulky buses can seat up to 80 people, compared to the normal 36.


As exciting as these new English-accent-built buses are, they wouldn't enter service until 2017. In fact, these buses haven't even been purchased yet. But if they are, AC Transit will become the sixth carrier to run double deckers, behind Seattle, Davis, San Luis Obispo (one bus), Las Vegas, and Snohomish County, Washington.


For now, 2016 remains fairly uneventful for AC Transit. There will always be the occasional service change, including a current proposed one on changes to Transbay Lines F and J, but for now, nothing crazy is going on.


And what about CalTrain? Last year brought about... not much. New MetroLink cars from Los Angeles were brought up to the Bay Area for extra use on CalTrain, and the modernization of bridges and overpasses continued, but 2015 was mostly inactive.


2016 promises to fulfill a little more excitement and action, as CalTrain inches closer to the complete electrification of the system by 2020. 


This year, CalTrain will implement a new signal system called the Communications Based Overlay Signal System, or CBOSS. CBOSS will eliminate the chance of train-to-train collisions by monitoring a train's every move and ensuring that trains are safe distances from other trains around them.


CBOSS can detect areas where workers are present, or where there is an approaching curve or workers along the tracks. CBOSS gives the operator critical information, like the current speed limit, the train's current speed, and the acknowledgment of a signal change.


If a train operator fails to acknowledge a signal change, CBOSS will automatically apply the brakes to bring the train to a safe stop. CBOSS also all but eliminates the risk of a train overshooting a station platform.


CBOSS can also detect when there's a system failure, such as a crossing that fails to go down, and will slow the train to an adaquate speed through the failure "zone." 


CBOSS plays a critical role in the complete electrification of the system by 2020, and ensures safety for the future. When the California High-Speed Rail Authority is built, CBOSS will prevent collisions between high-speed trains, freight trains, and CalTrain, which will all share the same track.


The other two heavy rail systems in the Bay Area, Capitol Corridor and ACE, should stay relatively similar from now to the end of 2016, apart from heavily increasing ridership on both systems.


Past Oakland, farther east, public transit is often looked down upon. The further-out East Bay was always designed for the car, with wide streets and highways leading to the larger Bay Area cities.


But the further-out East Bay is one of the fastest-growing regions in the Bay Area, especially the Tri-Valley. The only heavily used transit system in the East Bay past Oakland is BART, really. 


But with the East Bay growing rapidly, we'll have to see how much public transit (County Connection, WHEELS, Tri Delta Transit, etc.) in the East Bay plays a factor in shaping the way people get around. 


Ridership on these systems is growing, but the total number of passengers is miniscule compared to other systems closer to the large cities. So, these less-ridden transit systems must further encourage people to leave their cars at home in 2016. It's a necessity for the growth of the East Bay.


Same goes for the North Bay, especially The VINE and Marin Transit. The VINE experienced a sharp decrease in total number of passengers in 2012, at just half a million. In 2014, that number rebounded back up to almost 1,000,000. 


Marin Transit, Golden Gate Transit and The VINE all took a beating in the recession, but are slowly catching up to their previous ridership once again.


Ridership is expected to keep rising through 2016, but it's still necessary to (try to) convince people to use public transport instead. Routes that would most benefit the common rider must be carefully examined and carried out, if these smaller, lesser-known transit systems seek to gain more passengers.


So that, in a nutshell, is what 2016 may look like for Bay Area transit systems. For now, we can only predict what will happen, but 2016 has much potential to be an exciting year, with many more exciting projects expected to come out in the distant future.

AC Transit's Annual Holiday Bus Steps into Action

Posted on December 18, 2015 at 12:00 AM Comments comments (0)

If you happen to spot a bus with bright green font reading "HAPPY HOLIDAYS" in giant letters, than that bus is free! Once again, AC Transit has rolled out their annual holiday bus, with free rides to anyone who boards, if you're lucky enough to nab it.


AC Transit is also collecting food for the Alameda County Food Bank at 1600 Franklin Street in Oakland. The most wanted items are canned meats and fish, pasta and sauces, low-salt soups, stews and chili, beans and rice, peanut butter, low-sugar cereal and oatmeal. Food encased in glass is not accepted.


You can find more information at www.actransit.org.

New Golden Gate Transit Route 580 Begins!

Posted on December 17, 2015 at 11:35 PM Comments comments (0)

Not to be confused with I-580, Golden Gate Transit has a new line! The 580 travels between Emeryville, Berkeley, Albany and then to San Rafael, with five westbound AM trips and five eastbound PM trips every 30 minutes.


The line went into effect on December 20th, and will be made permanent if its performance is met over the course of the next nine months.


For a map that displays the line and all stops, click here. For a list of stops by city, click here. For the 580's schedule, click here.


The 580 is Golden gate Transit's only line to Berkeley and Emeryville, so now commuters have a whole new way of reaching the North Bay. The 580 does run parallel to the 40 briefly, but extends much farther south.


For more details on the new 580, visit goldengate.org.

Long-Term Detours at Fruitvale BART for AC Transit Lines 20 & 21

Posted on December 14, 2015 at 10:45 PM Comments comments (0)

The 29th Avenue overpass has been closed for construction for ten months, meaning AC Transit lines 20 & 21 must detour around the site. 


To Downtown Oakland (20) & Oakland International Airport (21), both lines will not serve stops between Fruitvale BART and on Park Street at Clement Avenue in Alameda.


To the Dimond District, both lines won't serve stops between Park Street at Buena Vista in Alameda and at Fruitvale BART. 


For more info, visit www.actransit.org.

BART Delays From Union City to Fremont for Repairs

Posted on December 2, 2015 at 6:25 PM Comments comments (0)

Workers will be repairing urgent electrical equipment on BART between Union City and Fremont Stations Friday & Saturday night, from 10:00 PM to 7:30 AM (Friday), and 10:00 PM to 9:00 AM (Saturday).


Riders can expect delays of 20 to 40 minutes while work is being done, since trains will be single-tracking through the area. If there is rain the weekend, work may have to resume briefly next weekend.


For more info, visit www.bart.gov.

County Connection & WHEELS Service Around Thanksgiving

Posted on November 21, 2015 at 2:15 PM Comments comments (0)

County Connection will not operate on Thanksgiving Day, November 26th. There will be regular weekday service the next day. 


WHEELS will operate a Special Service on Thanksgiving Day, where routes 10 and 15 are in service on special holiday schedules. No other lines will be in service.


The following day, WHEELS will be running Enhanced Saturday Service, with all regular Saturday routes in effect with additional limited service added to lines 20X and 70X. 


For more info, go to www.wheelsbus.com and countyconnection.com.

Major AC Transit Disruptions During Berkeley Half Marathon Nov. 22nd

Posted on November 21, 2015 at 1:45 PM Comments comments (0)

A dozen AC Transit lines wil be affected during the Berkeley Half Marathon November 22nd. For a list of all the lines affected during the Marathon, click here.

Oakland Airport Connector One-Year Anniversary!

Posted on November 21, 2015 at 1:35 AM Comments comments (0)

In two days November 22nd, the Oakland Airport Connector will turn one year old. This weekend, the system is expected to celebrate its one-millionth passenger - a huge milestone for the debatable new system. 


Ever since the Airport Connector was announced, there was controversy on whether the costly system was a boom or a bust. Many argued the money could have been spent on improving the existing BART System, or that a single ride will cost you $6. 


But ridership has grown in one year, and daily passengers now averages 3,300 every weekday - a 36.5% increase from the previous AirBART bus network, which ran every 20 minutes and often got stuck in traffic. 


The Oakland Airport Connector silently runs along a steel cable that guides it above Hegenberger Rd between Coliseum and Airport Stations. The trip takes about eight minutes, covering a distance of 3.2 miles. 


The Airport Connector runs every 4.5 minutes between 8 AM and 8 PM, making it the most frequent line in the BART System.


There is no train operator, because there's no reason to have one! The trams automatically switch cables when they turn back at Airport and Coliseum Stations.


The Connector currently has three cars on each of its four trains, but is designed to handle four cars on each train, if the system ever gets heavily overcrowded. 


So a lot has happened in a year. And with Oakland International Airport adding additional nonstop destinations at a weekly basis, the Oakland Airport Connector plays an essential part in the growth of OAK in the coming years.


For more information, go to www.bart.gov.

Expect Brief BART Delays While CalTrans Implodes Portion of Old Bay Bridge

Posted on November 10, 2015 at 5:50 PM Comments comments (0)

On Saturday, November 14th, look up from your phone, and you may see a puff of smoke and a collapsing pillar. CalTrans will implode Pier E3 of the old Bay Bridge, the largest pillar of the old east bridge span. 


The time of the implosion will occur during one of two time periods - either between 7 and 7:30 AM, or around 1 PM that afternoon to take advantage of  shockwave-minimizing tidal patterns. 


BART will halt service in the Transbay Tube during the implosion for up to 15 minutes, and trains will wait at West Oakland and Embarcadero Stations. 


Keep in mind, the Transbay Tube in no danger whatsoever, and is quite far away from the safety zone of the blast. The Tube is also buried in the ground and covered with a thick layer of mud.


BART is halting trains so CalTrans can accurately make scientific measurements around the blast zone, which wouldn't be possible with trains passing through.


BART will monitor seismic activity the same way as when a real earthquake occurs. For more information, visit www.bart.gov.

BART Parking Fee Increase at Four Stations Dec. 7th

Posted on November 7, 2015 at 11:25 PM Comments comments (0)

On December 7th, four BART stations will receive a fare increase for BART parking, adding an additional 50 cents to the previous parking fare. The four stations are:

Millbrae ($3.00)

Coliseum ($1.50)

Concord ($2.00)

North Concord/Martinez ($2.00)


BART evaluates its parking lots at each station every six months. If BART finds the lot 100% full, the fare may increase by 50 cents. If the lot is less than 95% full, the fare may decrease by 50 cents. The maximum BART parking fare is $3.00, except at West Oakland.


Clipper is the best way to pay for BART Parking. To order a Clipper card, click on https://www.clippercard.com/ClipperWeb/getTranslinkOrderCard.do.      


Visit www.bart.gov for more details.