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Market Analysis

Where People Would Like to Travel by Rail

The Link21 Market Analysis is a powerful tool the Program Team is using to determine where passenger rail improvements and infrastructure may have the greatest benefit.

The Market Analysis identifies locations with the greatest potential to attract new travelers who would take the train if they had easy access to fast, frequent, direct, and uncrowded rail service.

Equity considerations are being built directly into the Link21 Market Analysis by identifying new potential riders from priority populations.

What Is the Transbay Corridor? 

The Link21 Market Analysis focuses on travel patterns and new potential rail riders for transbay trips. That’s because the existing transbay corridor, which includes the existing BART Transbay Tube, Oakland-San Francisco Bay Bridge, and the San Francisco Bay Ferry, is one of the most congested in the United States.

How We Determine Transbay Potential for New Riders

The Link21 Team used cutting-edge Market Analysis to analyze the potential for new riders in the Megaregion, with a focus on the transbay corridor.

The Market Analysis began with a study of existing travel patterns throughout the entire Northern California Megaregion to understand how people currently travel by both transit and car.

Based on the observed travel data, including 170 million cell phone records, the Team developed models that identify which pairs of locations in the Megaregion could benefit from passenger rail service based on population, employment, rail service characteristics, and other key parameters.

The Link21 Team then estimated the potential for new additional riders if improvements made passenger rail service accessible, fast, frequent, uncrowded, and direct.

This analysis resulted in the estimation of new potential riders for more than 40,000 hypothetical connections across the Megaregion, with a specific focus on transbay trips and on trips originated in priority population geographies.

This analysis is one of the sources used by the Link21 Team to identify key transbay markets with high potential to increase rail ridership and support the development of program concepts. The study of markets is one of the four building blocks that guide Program development.

Further and more detailed and specific travel analysis will be undertaken in the future phases of the Link21 Program.

What We’ve Learned So Far

The Link21 Team’s analysis of unmet rail potential gives us a good indication of which locations around the Megaregion have the potential to generate a relatively large number of new passenger rail riders. Here are some of our early findings from the Link21 Market Analysis.

1. Many more people would use rail if there were more and better service.

Northern California’s demographics are changing rapidly. Our current passenger rail network has not kept pace with the growth and complexity of the Megaregion. Because of this, there is a large amount of potential for new riders throughout the Megaregion.

2. With good passenger rail service, 45% of potential new riders would use the transbay corridor.

With accessible, fast, direct, and frequent trains, nearly half of the Megaregion’s potential new riders (for trips longer than three miles) would cross through the transbay corridor. This finding clearly demonstrates how key this specific corridor is to the Megaregion. 

Not surprisingly, the greatest potential to attract new rail riders comes from locations near a new crossing. For example, there is high demand for new connections to and from San Francisco, Oakland, Richmond, Berkeley, Emeryville, Alameda, and San Leandro.  

However, there is also significant potential for new transbay trips to and from areas further away from the Bay, for example, cities such as Hercules, Vallejo, Fairfield, San Ramon, Millbrae, and Palo Alto. 

This finding shows that many more people in the Megaregion would take a train across the Bay if they had access to good rail service. 

Andrew Tang, the Manager of Program Evaluation at BART, is leading the Link21 Market Analysis. Watch the following video to see him present key findings from the Market Analysis. He also explains how these insights will help Link21 serve priority populations and advance environmental sustainability

3. Better transbay rail service will benefit the entire Megaregion.

The benefits of Link21 will extend far beyond the San Francisco Bay Area. New transbay infrastructure will create more opportunities for direct, faster, or less crowded trips across the entire Megaregion. For example, a new transbay crossing with good connections to existing Caltrain and Capitol Corridor services would enable fast, direct rides from Sacramento to San Francisco and the Peninsula to the East Bay.

While much of the potential for new riders centers around transbay travel, the Link21 service improvement could also benefit non-transbay connections.

4. Better transbay rail service can make travel greener and safer.

One of the key benefits of better passenger rail service is a reduction in vehicle miles traveled (VMT) by automobiles. Meeting Northern California’s rail potential will greatly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and car accidents, leading to a better quality of life for everyone in the Megaregion.

Dreaming Big with Big Data

The Link21 Market Analysis combines traditional methods with a data-based model that draws from demographic information, traveler surveys, and public travel data. The model is helping the Link21 Team determine where there is demand for passenger rail service and where it will have the greatest benefit.

This data-driven approach allows the Link21 Team to challenge preconceived notions about travel throughout the Megaregion. It also allows the Link21 Team to dream big while ultimately arriving at the most impactful passenger rail solutions for Northern California. 

Here are some of the factors being considered in the Link21 Market Analysis:

  • Location of existing passenger rail stations
  • Existing population, employment, and future trends
  • Existing travel patterns by rail, transit, car, and other modes of travel
  • Key travel markets, such as major employment centers, residential communities, shopping and entertainment spots, and other hubs
  • Potential new riders if passenger rail service were convenient and affordable for everyone, and specifically for priority populations

The Link21 Team is also using the Market Analysis to evaluate potential long-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on travel patterns. The Team is looking at different scenarios for population and job growth, telecommuting, and rail competitiveness with other modes, as the Megaregion continues to re-open.

Take a Deeper Dive

The full Link21 Market Analysis Report is now available! Read our findings and conclusions about travel patterns, demand, and rail potential in Northern California! You can also read the Market Analysis Fact Sheet for a summary of the findings.