San Francisco Subway Extension Map (Image Source:
“The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Board of Directors voted unanimously to approve a route change for the proposed 1.7-mile Central Subway, which would act as an extension to the newly constructed T-Third line.
Under the route change, the subway line would go underground after the Fourth and Brannan streets station. Previously, the plan called for the train to go below ground a few blocks south at Fourth and King streets, but MTA officials said residents in the South of Market neighborhood lobbied for the change.
The subway will run below ground all the way to its destination in Chinatown, an area with comparatively few transit options.
Officials hope to begin construction in 2010 and have the line running by 2016. The new route is expected to reduce what is now a 20-minute bus trip from Muni’s station at Fourth and King streets to Chinatown down to seven minutes. At its peak, the line could carry as many 80,000 riders a day, said Nathaniel Ford, the MTA’s executive director.”
S.F. Chinatown subway plan gets agency’s nod [SFGate]
JustQuotes: From Mission Bay To Chinatown In Mere Minutes/Years [SocketSite]

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Comments from “Plugged-In” Readers

  1. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    This seems like a minor change to the original plan. So the trolley stays above ground for 2 more blocks before diving under downtown.
    What baffles me is why the SOMA neighborhood lobbied for the tracks to remain above ground for two extra blocks. It seems like placing it underground would reduce traffic congestion and make the new line run faster.
    Certainly it makes the project a little cheaper to construct by staying on the surface longer. Maybe that is the real reason for this change.
    Yet another transit project steers clear of the “Transbay terminal”.

  2. Posted by Michael E

    I wish the planners would start thinking big. Who needs a stub of a subway going only to Chinatown? Extend this frickin’ thing to Fisherman’s Wharf! Duh. Or even better create a northern spur over to the Presidio. The plan and costs as is are ridiculous.

  3. Posted by Anon

    Seems like the money could be much better spent extending the subway down the geary corridor and down the lombard corridor.

  4. Posted by g

    Yeah, I don’t understand why SOMA residents would lobby for more of the line to be above ground either. Frankly, living on 4th street, I’d be more annoyed with the noise from the trains running around ground. OTOH hopefully the line will be able to relieve riders from being packed like sardines onto the 30/45 right now.

  5. Posted by Foolio

    Michael, according to the Chron article, the plan is to extend all the way to the Wharf in the future, and they’re seeking approval to bore those tunnels now as well.

  6. Posted by fred

    Having the system above ground reduces the construction noise even if the train noise is greater once the project is finished.

  7. Posted by tr

    Now is the time to make an offer one of the “Only Eight, Five or Six Left At The Palms (555 4th Street”. The last surface for the new steetcar/subway line stop is right out the front door. Think of the payoff in 2016 when you can commutge to Chinatown in 7 miuntes.

  8. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    “Having the system above ground reduces the construction noise even if the train noise is greater once the project is finished.”
    Sounds like a poor tradeoff. A couple of years of construction noise vs. an eternity of operation noise.
    I’m not buying this “neighbors requested a shorter tunnel” story. Unless it was one vocal neighbor who gave the developers the excuse that they needed to latch onto to reduce their construction costs.

  9. Posted by John

    Do anyone of you live close to above-ground muni?
    You cannot hear it from half to one block away.
    I am sure the residents on those TWO blocks oppose it. However, it won’t bother the rest of SOMA, although it puzzles me why they would “lobby” it to be above-ground. Maybe they just don’t like the stairs.

  10. Posted by David

    Seems like a good conduit for tourists. Which of course makes me ask why didn’t they do this (for 1.3B) AND upgrade Caltrain probably for less than the $4.5B it took to extend BART to SFO.
    I also wonder what it would take to actually connect up the Transbay terminal with something. It’s really annoying to have all these transit approaches that come within a half dozen blocks of each other, but never actually connect.

  11. Posted by timkell

    John said:
    “I also wonder what it would take to actually connect up the Transbay terminal with something. It’s really annoying to have all these transit approaches that come within a half dozen blocks of each other, but never actually connect.”

    I was thinking there should be an underground walkway at mission between this muni line and the tranbay terminal. They do this in NY a lot to connect up different main stations. It’s a no brainer these stations should be connected.

  12. Posted by Dani

    I know this is all a bunch of pork and living in the Richmond, would much prefer a subway underneath Geary Blvd like BART had promised DECADES AGO, however, would anyone else be much happier if they had a Washington Square station? I emailed and this is what they had to say:
    “There is consideration of extending the tunnels to North Beach but only for construction purposes at this time. If and when the light rail line is extended to North Beach there would most likely be a station in North Beach; however, no planning has been undertaken for an operating extension.”

  13. Posted by Morgan

    Yes to the Washington Square station idea from Dani! I also would still have rather seen a Geary Subway that finally connected the OTHER HALF of San Francisco, which is the entire Western Side of the city.

  14. Posted by Foolio

    Love the Washington Square idea; I do think they’ve got their eyes set on extending to North Beach, but one hurdle (and mega-construction bond) at a time.

  15. Posted by viewlover

    I used to live on 35th Ave. close to Taraval, and you can feel the shaking of the ground, not to mention the noise.

  16. Posted by hhatmm

    Central subway needs to stay underground. There’s too much vibration and noise from above grade rail. Have you heard the music of screeching brakes?
    Above muni tracks with the bulky handicap boarding platforms also have a tendency of slicing streets apart. Look at 3rd street rail. One side feels disengaged with the opposite. It’s not pleasant urban planning. Furthermore, there will be one or two lost traffic lane that will be dedicated to this new line which creates more congestion.
    The central line currently run by lines # 30 and 45 are extremely frequent but EXTREMELY slow moving. Travelling from Washington square to Union square, about 1/2 miles, takes 25-30 minutes. Most of the time spent is waiting for people in the most dense district in SF to board. I often give up and walk but the Stockton tunnel is very unpleasant.
    I’m very sure Muni drivers will be glad to go underground. They wouldn’t have to holler “MOVE to the back of the bus” or “ya can’t enter the back buddy, pay upfront”.

  17. Posted by Bill

    As I have said before on this topic, this is Pelosi Pork at its worst. Wait until the Chinatown merchants realize how many years their streets will be torn up during the construction.

  18. Posted by Ebayj

    What Bill said. This is going to be an almost ten year construction disaster through SOMA, Union Square, and Chinatown. (Like anything in SF has ever gotten done on schedule? Um, no.) I wish all the entitled yuppies and socialites a good time driving downtown.

  19. Posted by Jamie

    My first guess in regards to why the thing isn’t going underground for a few more blocks is water table concerns …. keep in mind Mission Bay represents a lot of dirt that came off of Rincon Hill (when it was a more substantial hill). I’d rather keep the thing above ground if it means less flooding in the train tunnels…

  20. Posted by Louis

    Anyone who thinks this will be a construction headache / disaster –now think about the proposed Transbay rail link …
    –Going to the SAME PLACE (Cal Train)
    –Costing $2 BILLION more (if were rerally lucky…)
    –Built a few years later
    –And ending 2 BLOCKS away from the new Muni station
    This seems like a colossal waste of public money, and a huge 10 year impact, for a nearly duplicitive project.

  21. Posted by yao

    man, this seems like such a dumb plan. why not make it longer? extend it along lombard to the presidio.
    i just don’t understand who is going to use this. people commuting to southbay via caltrain? mission bay people commuting to… chinatown? what’s the point???

  22. Posted by anonconfused

    Will this new subway not have a station in the new Transbay Terminal (2012)?

  23. Posted by Mystery Realtor

    It would make far more sense to run a subway under Van Ness and then out Geary. But hey, when does urban planning make sense in San Francisco? If you need proof, read Randy Shaw’s piece on spinning the reasons why no new housing has been built along Octavia Blvd.

  24. Posted by anon

    Why isn’t there more outrage to the decisions of this project? I second the Van Ness- Geary line, and cannot believe this is where a new subway line gets built. Can you imagine the transformation that would take place to the entire Richmond if a Geary subway was built? Imagine getting from the financial district to Ocean Beach in under 24 minutes!
    This same foolish planning happened down in L.A. where they built a subway to Universal Studios instead of along Wilshire, though at least now they are getting ready to build a line that will connect Santa Monica and the westside to downtown.

  25. Posted by Dani

    When you think about it, who stands to benefit the most from this?: The major touristy spots (Chinatown, North Beach, and Moscone) and developers who have their eyes on the 3rd St corridor. Suddenly, this entire project makes sense.
    While I’m ranting, I hate to admit that though I would love to see a subway on Geary, there would be the inevitable fight with the NIMBY Geary Blvd merchants. I don’t think the supes (or the developers) want to deal with that.

  26. Posted by seenu

    So…currently one-way 4th street will have a MUNI train running the opposite direction on the surface between Townsend-Brannan-Bryant? Sounds like fun.
    Or will 4th street be 2-way in 2016? Sounds like even more fun.

  27. Posted by SFOrange

    $2B for a four (4) stop subway that does not directly connect to any existing underground? Huh? Why has this project been pushed and pushed while others (like a left turn signal somewhere in this town) sit waiting.

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