BART Metro is a concept for the future of the BART system in which BART evolves into a more flexible system, able to tailor services to the needs of riders within the core of the region, and riders making commute trips across the region. BART Metro would involve some changes to how BART service is currently operated, and would be facilitated through the construction of specific capital projects that would increase BART’s ability to operate a wider variety of train services. The BART Metro concept tailors transit to better serve two related travel markets:
- “Metro Core” locations where development is denser, car ownership is lower, and transit can be highly competitive for all trips in a contiguous area; and
- “Metro Commute” locations where development is less dense, car ownership is higher, and transit is competitive for peak-period work and/or school trips, especially trips to regional job centers (defined as dense pedestrian-oriented locations with significant congestion and high parking fees).
The BART Metro concept was first expressed in The Regional Rail Plan for the Bay Area, a collaboration among MTC, BART and other stakeholders, which was adopted by MTC in 2007. Since that time, regional planning has continued to evolve in a direction that supports the BART Metro concept, with a regional focus on an integrated transportation-and-land use vision for the Bay Area designed to manage congestion, reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, facilitate denser land use in the urban core of the Bay Area while preserving open space, and ensure the long-term financial viability of the regional transit network. In 2013, MTC adopted a preferred regional land use strategy that defined a dense urban core linked with robust transit service. In the adopted plan, many cities chose to designate the areas around their rail stations (BART, Caltrain, VTA and SFMTA) as Priority Development Areas (PDAs) that would be denser, more urban locations.
The central rationale for the BART Metro concept is that as the BART system matures, ridership builds, and the system expands, BART’s services and infrastructure need to change to serve the different travel markets that have emerged in the region since the BART system was planned over 50 years ago. BART has now been operating for 40 years, and many pieces of the BART system require reinvestment in order to maintain a state-of-good-repair and to be able to continue to provide the high level of reliable, on-time service that BART is known for. There are potential synergies between the need to invest in state-of-good-repair projects, and the goal of making improvements to facilitate BART Metro. BART wants to ensure that as state-of-good-repair projects proceed, they are planned with the needs of BART Metro in mind.
The region has a dense urban core that is best served by frequent, all-day, high-capacity transit service that facilitates making frequent short-trips on transit. The region also has lower density suburban areas, that need fast, medium-capacity, longer distance regional transit services more oriented to peak period travel for access to the region’s core and job centers. Currently, both of these markets are served by one type of BART service. In order to serve both markets well with the increasing demands on the system, BART could offer different types of services for the two markets, provided that needed improvements to BART’s infrastructure are constructed to enable more flexible operations. BART has significant state-of-good-repair reinvestment needs which must also be done at the same time as a foundation for the BART Metro improvements, to maintain reliability.
As an example: today, all BART riders along one line ride the same train, and all trains make every stop. As BART ridership increases, the current way BART operates trains could mean that BART’s riders may not be served in the most efficient, cost-effective manner. Metro Commute riders could potentially be more effectively served by trains that could run as express trains through some parts of the urban core, while Metro Core riders could be more effectively served by higher capacity trains running more frequently within the core. BART is currently a two-track railroad, which limits BART’s ability to offer these types of services, which are typically offered on busy urban and regional rail systems.
BART has now completed the initial look at the BART Metro concept. In the report linked to this article, BART delineated the investments needed to facilitate the different types of services that will serve the BART Metro markets. Projects that would facilitate BART Metro are:
- Station improvements to increase the capacity of the stations, especially additional elevators, escalators and stairs in key stations;
- Additional tracks, including crossover and turn-back tracks at locations strategically identified to improve operational flexibility and capacity and enable more complex service patterns; and
- Additional storage tracks to allow longer trains to be stored at all locations to increase capacity.
It’s important to remember that BART was built 40 years ago, and was planned at a time when the Bay Area looked very different than it does today in terms of land use, travel patterns and demographics. As BART ridership builds and changes, the system will need new and/or replacement infrastructure in many locations anyway. BART believes that these projects should be planned with the BART Metro concept in mind, to allow flexibility in planning future BART services and operations.
The BART Metro concept would emphasize and enhance cost-effectiveness of operations, connectivity to the broader regional transit network, and more sustainable patterns of development. As identified in the Regional Rail Plan, the BART Metro concept could result in an evolution of BART’s long-term strategy, away from continued outward expansion using standard BART technology and toward investment in a more sustainable system and region, with a denser, more urban core. The Regional Rail Plan did contemplate that even with BART Metro, the current BART system would be extended in several locations to connect BART at logical terminals with commuter rail and future high speed rail. This means that the studies needed for the planned and proposed extensions to Livermore and San Jose, to connect with Caltrain, ACE, Capitol Corridor, and future high speed rail, would still move forward. The BART extension to Warm Springs and San Jose (Berryessa), the eBART extension to Antioch and the Oakland Airport Connector are all currently under construction and would not be affected by this study. The Regional Rail Plan also contemplated that future BART extensions would not necessarily have to be standard BART technology. Two of BART’s extensions under construction now are different technologies – the Oakland Airport Connector and the eBART line in eastern Contra Costa County. In addition, BART manages the Capitol Corridor intercity rail service which is yet another technology, so it is possible that future BART extensions could use the technologies used in these various projects.
Potential extensions and infill stations are being considered in the BART Vision Study, which is anticipated to be completed in December 2014. The results of this study will likely be a recommendation to pursue further studies in one or more corridors for potential extensions, and/or to pursue studies for infill stations.
BART hopes that everyone would benefit from BART Metro. For BART riders in the Metro Core area, BART Metro could result in more frequent train service for these riders, especially in the off-peak periods. For BART riders in the Metro Commute area, BART Metro could result in the ability to operate faster trains and more convenient service to the major job centers in the urban core, and potentially make more seats available on the commute trains.
In BART Metro, there will likely be more different train operating patterns, as we tailor the services to the different markets. For instance – in order to serve the urban core with higher frequency services in the off-peak periods, BART may run additional trains that turn around before reaching the end of the line. BART also may operate trains that couple and uncouple at mid-line stations, in order to serve multiple destinations in off-peaks while retaining frequent services in the core of the system.
Most regions with extensive rail systems and high ridership have evolved toward systems similar to the BART Metro concept, in which the longer distance trips are handled on trains that may run as express trains through some inner portions of the system, and the shorter urban core trips are handled on more frequent, higher-capacity services. On the New York City subway system, most major lines on the system have parallel express and local trains. On the commuter rail systems in the New York and Chicago areas, express trains are operated that skip many of the inner urban core stops, with frequent local trains serving the inner core stations. Most larger systems in Europe and Asia also have this type of service pattern.
BART has only recently completed the first study of the BART Metro concept. Some BART Metro improvements will likely be started within 5 to 10 years, but it is likely that it may take 30 to 40 years to make all of the changes necessary to develop full BART Metro service. BART hopes to make some of the changes to allow improvements in the Metro Core area within the next 20 years, and within the Metro Commute area within the next 40 years.
BART is in the process of replacing the entire current BART fleet with the Fleet of the Future. This fleet is anticipated to be the backbone of BART’s fleet for the next 40 to 50 years. As BART Metro evolves and as ridership on the system builds, it is possible that BART could purchase additional cars, which could be configured differently for the two types of services. However, the current order of replacement cars will be configured in one way.
It is likely that BART would use a variety of funding sources to pay for the BART Metro improvements. MTC has ranked the BART Metro concept very highly in their update of the Regional Transportation Plan: Plan Bay Area. Thus, BART Metro may qualify for future regional discretionary funding, which is usually a combination of federal, state and regional funds. BART has already started to apply for some of these funds, and a few projects have been approved, such as improvements to the crossover at 24th Street Mission Station. In addition, each BART county has a transportation sales tax for transportation improvements. As these sales taxes are reauthorized, BART Metro projects could be included in the expenditure plans. Some BART Metro projects may also qualify for federal New Starts funding. It’s important to remember that BART has significant state-of-good-repair funding needs also, that are only about 50% funded over 30 years. BART needs to ensure that the first priority for funding is reinvesting in the state-of-good-repair needs for the basic system, but doing that reinvestment in smart ways that facilitates future BART Metro improvements.
BART is planning an outreach process that offers information to the public and invites comment in a number of ways. BART has begun to have listening sessions with civic, business and community groups around the region about the future of BART. We are also soliciting comments from individual members of the public via this website. BART is distributing an electronic survey to riders who have responded to previous BART surveys. Later in the year, we will hold open houses in BART stations and other community locations throughout the system, to distribute information to riders about BART Metro and to take public input on ideas, including an interactive priority-setting exercise, which will also be available on the website. Our hope is that this process can be educational for everyone involved.
Last Updated: November 29, 2012