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Market Analysis

The Market Analysis in Action: Where We Travel in Northern California

Link21 will improve train service in Northern California, bringing you more opportunities and better connections to destinations in the Megaregion. Our main goal is to transform the passenger experience when traveling by train. Results from the Market Analysis show us where people currently travel around Northern California, and where more people might take the train if they had access to frequent, fast, and affordable service. The Market Analysis also helps us identify locations or destinations that Link21 or others might study further. Identifying areas with unmet potential for train travel guides us in developing concepts that could maximize use of a second train crossing for new riders in 2050. These concepts are evaluated using the Link21 Business Case framework, which analyzes passenger, societal, economic, and environmental benefits and risks so that any concepts developed meet the established Program Goals and Objectives.

To figure out where new train service improvements could provide the most benefits, we started with data. Travel to and from more than 200 locations with an emphasis on serving priority populations was examined. That adds up to more than 40,000 possible travel connections. For simplicity, we consolidated these 200 locations into 36 “megaclusters” to best understand travel patterns.

Origin locations for market analysis in Megaregion

The Market Analysis lets us examine any location to show where we have the highest unmet potential for train travel to and from the selected location.

Unmet transbay travel potential in all directions throughout the Megaregion

Unmet transbay potential for travel (shown above in orange) identifies the people who don't currently take train for trips across the Bay (between San Francisco and Oakland), but might shift their travel mode if service were frequent, fast, and convenient for them. Bigger bubbles indicate more unmet potential for this trip. 

More importantly, we learned that people want to travel by train across the San Francisco Bay, but, as this corridor experiences heavy congestion and transit overcrowding (pre-pandemic) due to the limited transit options, many people drive to get where they need to go. The Market Analysis shows these key findings: 

Key Finding #1: A lot more people would take trains if it were convenient

There’s a lot of unmet potential for train travel across Northern California. Most is clustered in the Bay Area, but we can also see unmet potential across the Megaregion. Ultimately, the data shows where improvements could be made to the existing train network to serve current and future riders. 

Northern California has been growing rapidly and our population is projected to continue to grow from 12.7 million to 14.9 million by 2050. Our current train network has not kept pace with the growth and complexity of the Megaregion. 

We have an opportunity to solve some of our transportation challenges by providing better train service, improving access for priority populations, making train travel easier, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions and car accidents by taking more cars off the freeways.  

To unlock the Megaregion’s train service potential, we need to relieve the biggest transportation bottleneck in Northern California.

Key finding #2: We need a new train crossing of the Bay to meet unmet potential for transbay travel

A new crossing between Oakland and San Francisco would relieve our Megaregion’s worst transportation bottleneck, and have wide-reaching benefits for future connectivity across Northern California. 

The Market Analysis found that of the total unmet potential for travel by train throughout the Megaregion, 45% of unmet demand (of trips greater than 3 miles) involves a trip across the San Francisco Bay. This means many more people would take a train across the Bay if they had access to good service.

Watch Andrew Tang, BART's Manager of Program Evaluation for Link21, explain this finding: 

Key Finding #3: A new train crossing of the Bay would have widespread and cascading benefits

There's a high concentration of unmet potential for train travel in areas that are close to a crossing between Oakland and San Francisco, but people from all around the Megaregion would benefit from a new crossing.  

The map below shows the unmet potential for transbay travel for people moving to and from the Central Oakland megacluster. You can see that there is unmet train potential to locations all around San Francisco, showing where connections could serve the most riders. This confirms that many people from Central Oakland want quick and convenient train travel across the Bay. We don’t see significant unmet potential in downtown San Francisco because BART already serves that area well.

Unmet transbay travel demand from Oakland to destinations in San Francisco County

If we zoom out, we can see that unmet potential for transbay travel by train to and from Central Oakland extends all the way down the Peninsula.

Unmet transbay travel potential from Oakland to destinations in San Francisco and the peninsula

Now let’s look at unmet potential for transbay travel by train for people moving to and from downtown San Francisco, and particularly, the number of people that want to go between downtown San Francisco and the East Bay.  An example of this is the significant unmet potential for travel to Emeryville and to the Grand Lake neighborhood in Oakland. We can also see unmet potential in Alameda, which currently doesn’t have any train service. 

Unmet transbay travel potential from San Francisco to destinations in Alameda County

Zooming out, we can also see significant unmet potential for train travel between San Francisco and Richmond, Hercules, Vallejo, and even San Jose.

Unmet transbay travel potential from San Francisco to destinations throughout the Megaregion

The benefits of a new train crossing of the Bay extends much further than the Bay Area. Look at how many people might take a train from San Francisco to places around the Megaregion if train service was frequent, fast, and affordable. 

Unmet transbay travel potential from San Francisco to destinations throughout the Megaregion, wider view

The Link21 Market Analysis was an initial step in gathering information on markets to inform the development of Link21 Concepts. As the first building block within our Concepts, we understand that a new connection across the Bay will address the largest area of unmet potential for train travel and that is why a second crossing is at the core of Link21. Check out the concepts.

Rail Improvements in the Megaregion

Many major new projects will be built as Link21 is being developed. By creating a vital link across the Bay, a new crossing will make other investments in train service more effective at connecting to existing and planned routes. Imagine the possibilities to connect Northern California!

Megaregional Transit


A Rail Extensions: 

  • North Santa Rosa to Windsor
  • Marin to Solano
  • Stockton to Sacramento & Merced
  • Lathrop to Dublin/Pleasanton
  • The Portal (downtown rail extension to Salesforce Transit Center)
  • To Western San Francisco (Geary to 19th Ave.)
  • To San Jose & Santa Clara
  • Monterey/Salinas to Gilroy
  • Pajaro to Santa Cruz
  • Dedicated tracks: Merced to Gilroy

C Service Improvements: 

  • Higher frequency — BART Tube
  • Two more round-trip trains — Central Valley for San Joaquins
  • More direct route — Oakland to Fremont & higher frequency Sacramento to Roseville for Capitol Corridor 
  • Electrified fleet, higher frequency, faster service for Caltrain

B New Markets & Enhanced Stations: 

  • North Petaluma
  • New stations connecting Tri-Valley to Central Valley
  • Irvington Station
  • Enhanced Sacramento Valley Station, San Jose Diridon Station

D Track Improvements (Infrastructure) - Studies: 

  • Benicia-Martinez Rail Bridge replacement for Capitol Corridor
  • Alviso double-tracking for Capitol Corridor
  • Planning some grade-separated tracks, signaling, and automated train control in South Bay for High-Speed Rail

Explore More on the Market Analysis

By the way, everything you explored above dealt with unmet potential for train travel as it pertains to crossing the Bay. But our Market Analysis also determined total unmet potential for train travel to and from places all over Northern California. This gives further insight into where passenger rail improvements would make travel around the Megaregion more convenient.

To learn more about the Link21 Market Analysis, you can take a deep dive into the full Market Analysis Report or explore the market analysis map tool.