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Concepts

Preliminary Exploration of Concepts

After initial data gathering, Link21 began development of potential train network improvements in early 2022 as part of the Project Identification phase activities. The California State Rail Plan as well as multiple plans and projects to improve rail travel in Northern California make up the megaregional context within which Link21 is being developed. Current work is primarily focused on evaluating concepts that are based on four building blocks: markets, service, train technology, and infrastructure. Concepts include a new train crossing between Oakland and San Francisco, as well as service and infrastructure improvements for both BART and Regional Rail. These potential solutions were initially identified through data gathering, technical studies, a market analysis, and public and stakeholder input and aim to provide riders with a variety of benefits such as:

  • Connections to new communities and destinations 
  • Potential for fewer and more convenient transfers 
  • Improved travel time 
  • More reliable train travel between the Bay Area and the Megaregion
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Preliminary project exploration process graphic

In fall 2022 we shared some example concepts, and after receiving feedback, we came back in summer of 2023 with six concepts which included two concepts with BART tracks in the new crossing and four concepts with Regional Rail (standard gauge) tracks in the new crossing. Analysis and the evaluation process as established in the Business Case criteria, considers the regions population, evolving workforce needs and travel patterns, air quality and climate change impacts, equity, and more. We are committed to identifying innovative solutions for better connecting and building upon the existing train network and service for future generations. Link21 is working to address unmet potential for transbay train travel, create better transportation solutions, and make riding the train a better, more equitable experience.

A Decision on the Horizon

In early to mid-2024, the Link21 Program will recommend a preliminary Project with options that identifies which train technology (BART or Regional Rail) will operate in the new crossing. This recommendation will be provided to the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) and Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority (Capitol Corridor) Boards of Directors for consideration and decision. Following this crossing decision, the concept options, including station and service improvements and infrastructure to support those improvements, will continue to be assessed working closely with key agency partners and community stakeholders. Refined options will evolve into the identification of a Project or Alternative(s) to advance into Environmental Review.

What We've Learned – ​BART and Regional Rail Networks Can Work Better Together with Link21

From our ongoing analysis of concepts, we have learned a number of things. First, we now understand that a single two track crossing that serves either BART or Regional Rail meets the travel demand in 2050 and beyond. Another two track crossing with the other technology could still be built in the future but will not be part of our current planning effort.

Regardless of whether BART or Regional Rail technology trains are used in the new crossing, Link21 could:

  • Meet travel demand between San Francisco & Oakland by 2050
  • Allow for uninterrupted transbay rail service if one crossing goes out of service​
  • Improve service reliability and transbay redundancy with two crossings​
  • Enable increased train frequency that can grow ridership — must be balanced with operating costs & larger fleet ​
  • Provide benefits to priority populations across the network in different ways
  • Reduce traffic on Bay Bridge​
  • Create improved / new transfers between BART and Regional Rail to save travel time​
  • Provide additional urban | metro service ​(like BART today frequent and fast, timely)​
  • Enable Extended Hours on BART ​(Requires policy decision/action by BART Board)​

Below are two maps that visually represent the existing and potential future planned infrastructure for the rail network with proposed improvement options as part of Link21. The map on the left represents a potential second BART crossing and the map on the right a potential new Regional Rail crossing. Link21 concepts enhance rider experience but also offer different benefits and tradeoffs that you can explore below. See additional concepts at the bottom of this page.

Example Map of BART in the Crossing

BART-gauge tracks in the new crossing will provide more service within the existing BART network.

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BART in the crossing concept map

Example Map of Regional Rail in the Crossing

Regional Rail or standard-gauge tracks will connect rail on the San Francisco Peninsula to the East Bay and larger Megaregion through the Regional Rail network.

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Regional Rail in the crossing concept map

Preliminary Differentiators and Trade-offs:

BART and Regional Rail technologies each offer distinct services and have been designed to serve different markets. This means there are many factors that differentiate each choice from the other, and the benefits of each option are different. Weighing these differing benefits is an essential part of the crossing decision that Link21 is working toward now.

 

Transform the Passenger Experienceby Expanding & Improving Travel Options

BART in the crossing:

Benefits

  • Increases frequency of East Bay BART lines
  • Improves reliability with alternative route to existing Transbay Tube
  • New transfers to Regional Rail in San Francisco’s Mission Bay and in central Oakland

Regional Rail in the crossing:

Benefits

  • More direct service (one-seat rides)/travel time savings for megaregional trips to San Francisco and the Peninsula​
  • Travel time savings for inner-East Bay / Transbay trips (between Richmond and Salesforce Transit Center)​
  • Improves Regional Rail reliability with separation of freight from passenger trains in central Oakland​
  • New transfer to BART in central Oakland

BART offers the above benefits by increasing the number of trains that run throughout the existing BART system.

Regional Rail provides longer distance riders a chance to make megaregional trips such as between Sacramento and San Francisco without the need to transfer and with faster travel times.

Transform the Passenger Experienceby Connecting Systems and Leveraging Investments

BART in the crossing:

Benefits

  • Leverages existing, planned and potential future BART improvements and connections (example: Silicon Valley BART Extension and Valley Link)

Regional Rail in the crossing:

Benefits

  • Allows inter-operability of multiple train services on the megaregional rail network via the new crossing​
  • Leverages existing, planned and potential future regional rail improvements and connections ​(example: Caltrain electrification, Sacramento Valley Station, Portal, High-speed Rail, and Capitol Corridor Vision Plan)

A BART crossing in combination with the future Valley Link service provides more frequent BART service for those traveling between the Central Valley and San Francisco. Riders can transfer conveniently to BART via the Dublin/Pleasanton Station and access the increased number of trains traveling across the Bay.

Regional Rail in the crossing allows riders traveling from the Peninsula to access the new crossing via the Portal that will connect Caltrain to the Salesforce Transit Center and then on across the Bay. It also allows Capitol Corridor and San Joaquin intercity riders to access San Francisco and the Peninsula more conveniently to reach desired destinations.

Promote Equity and Livabilityby Providing Travel Benefits to Priority Populations

BART in the crossing:

Benefits

  • Service benefits throughout BART network, providing benefits to Priority Populations within BART’s service area

Regional Rail in the crossing:

Benefits

  • Provides service benefits to large concentrations of Priority Populations located along existing and planned regional rail corridors

Considerations

  • Improvements to at-grade tracks near Priority Populations may require additional mitigation to reduce community impacts

While BART and Regional Rail could offer benefits to populations that are transit dependent with the increased service, it is important to understand that Regional Rail may require improvements at the at grade tracks which could impact communities adjacent to the tracks. This would require mitigation to address these potential impacts.

Support Economic Opportunity and Global Competitivenessby Enhancing Access to Housing and Jobs

BART in the crossing:

Benefits

  • Improved access to jobs with increased frequency of BART service​
  • Potential connectivity to jobs and housing at Mission Bay and SOMA in San Francisco

Regional Rail in the crossing:

Benefits

  • Improved megaregional access to jobs/housing in SF and the Peninsula
  • Expands connectivity between job centers and less expensive housing

Through the Market Analysis and outreach efforts we have discovered that there is a desire for easier travel throughout the Megaregion. Regional Rail in the crossing would allow people to have good access to destinations across the Bay Area and the Northern California Megaregion.

Deliverability and Financial Considerations: Opportunities and Challenges for Implementation

BART in the crossing:

Benefits

  • More established federal funding process​
  • Likely does not require new governance

Considerations

  • Limited Federal Transit Administration funding may require other funding sources
  • Might compete with other BART funding needs

Regional Rail in the crossing:

Benefits

  • Leverages more funding and financing options (Federal Railroad Administration funding)​
  • Is an important component within California State ​Rail Plan

Considerations

  • More investment needed than BART in crossing (Regional Rail has not had high levels of investment)​
  • May require increased interagency involvement and new governance
  • Requires host railroad engagement on changes proposed within their ​right of way

While governance for constructing and operating a BART crossing is likely easier than a Regional Rail crossing, it may face funding challenges.

A Regional Rail crossing can leverage more funding sources, but would need coordination among various Regional Rail operators and may require a new governance structure. It would also need the approval of host railroads for changes within their right of way Union Pacific Railroad in the East Bay and Caltrain on the Peninsula.

More About Link21 Concepts

Concepts demonstrate new tracks (thick lines) connecting to existing tracks (thin lines), transfer opportunities, new potential stations, and improved existing stations. Each concept allows for a variety of service improvements to transform future train travel.

Select a draft concept

BART Train Technology in the Crossing
Concept A Regional Rail Salesforce Transit Center via Alameda

Service Benefits

  • Offers both Urban | Metro and Intercity | Express service on Regional Rail tracks
  • Includes a Central Oakland connection to BART resulting in additional travel time savings between communities along the Capitol Corridor route from the Sacramento Area to East Bay and Downtown San Francisco
  • Creates new train connection in West Oakland (transfer between Regional Rail & multiple BART lines
  • Provides new access to train service in Alameda
  • Serves the Salesforce Transit Center, offering riders an easy trip to the Peninsula/Silicon Valley