Of all places, why does San Francisco BART want to build a new line to Livermore? Not that Livermore is truly nowhere, but a line to Livermore would merely be an extension of one of the worst-performing parts of the BART system.
Opened in 1997, BART’s 13-mile branch to Dublin is probably the least-used branch of the BART system. In its first full year of operation, it added only 11,000 weekday riders to the system, which means it carries, on a per-mile basis, about a third as many riders as the rest of the system. Yet BART planners predict that extending this line another 10 to 13 miles to Livermore will add another 30,000 or more daily riders.
Some Livermore commuters already take BART by driving to the Dublin park-and-ride station, which is located in the median of the I-580 freeway the connects Livermore with the rest of the San Francisco Bay Area. So it seems unrealistic to think that extending the line will triple or quadruple its ridership.
BART also predicts that the extension will take enough cars off the road to reduce CO2 emissions by 70,000 to 100,000 tons per year. Even these predictions turn out to be 100 percent accurate, the $3 billion cost of the extension has an annualized value of close to $300 million per year, which means the cost per ton abated will be roughly $3,000. Since many other policies can reduce greenhouse gas emissions for less than $50 a ton, extending BART is extremely wasteful.
Of course, the BART line will do things other than just reduce CO2 emissions. But other policies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions are likely to have other benefits as well, so if their cost is that much lower, it is ridiculous to build more BART lines.
The one good thing about the San Francisco Bay Area is that many of the region’s most ardent transit advocates realize that BART is a big waste. Even Public Citizen, a Ralph Nader group, has gone out of its way to bash BART in an expose it wrote on Bechtel, one of BART’s original builders.
The bad thing is that not enough people listen to these transit advocates, which is why San Jose voters were conned into increasing taxes to build BART to San Jose. Compared with Livermore, whose urbanized population is less than 90,000 people, BART to San Jose — with an urbanized population of 1.6 million — almost seems like a good idea.
Comments on the BART-to-Livermore draft EIS are due on January 21, 2010.