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

Posted on January 1, 2016 at 5:05 PM

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.

Categories: San Francisco, East Bay, South Bay

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