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East Bay Coast Line Passenger Rail?

written by andy on

For almost 20 years, I have been looking at the issues with passenger rail between the East Bay, San Jose, and on the Peninsula. In the late 90s, before the focus towards extending BART south of Fremont, there were various ideas of building a rail connection via commuter trains.

There were 3 existing rail corridors available at that time. All of the plans include a connection with BART in the Union City area and take one of the 3 alignments to San Jose.

Despite the fact that the BART extension got approved, there’s still a proposal to connect the Capitol Corridor and Dumbarton trains at Union City. In order to do so, Capitol Corridor trains would have to reroute to a track next to BART and build a tunnel under the BART track at the south end. However it would not facilitate a direction between ACE and BART in the area. There’s an idea to build a BART station at the location where the tracks cross but it is neither supported by BART and the City of Fremont.

Considering the fact that it is no longer necessary for commuter rail to fill the rail gap between Fremont and San Jose (since BART will be extended), we should review plans of how to increase Capitol Corridor service and operate Dumbarton Rail in the East Bay.

A few facts:

Fremont continues to be unsupportive towards commuter rail. Back in late 90s, they were against commuter rail because it was presented as an alternative to extending BART, which was their top priority. Now they’ve an issue of the city acting as a pass through for long distance commuters and being a bedroom community for Peninsula/South Bay workers.

Capitol Corridor proposes a realignment of its trains to the Coast Line north of Newark to decrease travel time. Such realignment and speed improvement would require a dedicated corridor.

State Rail Plan calls for improvement for rail between Oakland and San Jose.

ACE drops plan to rail capacity expansions in the Niles Canyon area due to opposition from Fremont and others fearing additional freight trains. ACE needed additional capacity to divert freight trains to make room for more passenger trains.

A proposal below is to run the Dumbarton trains, rather than to Union City BART station as in nearly all the proposals studied, to Oakland Coliseum via the Coast Line. The Coast Line would have additional local stops. Capitol Corridor can provide express service on the Coast Line.

  • This plan avoids having commuter trains run through the core of Fremont.
  • It would have stops in Newark and Union City, which are more supportive of commuter rail.
  • It would provide rail service west of I-880. The current BART route is along the hills east of I-880.
  • Having Dumbarton rail connecting with BART in Union City requires riders further north to take BART and perhaps park at BART stations. While BART trains have room, the parking is not. If Dumbarton Rail runs on the Coast Line riders along that segment would have direct access and be able to park without competing space with BART riders heading to SF.
  • SF commuters living west of I-880 in Hayward and San Lorenzo can take Dumbarton Rail from stops along the Coast Line to Coliseum and transfer to BART, instead of driving or taking a bus to BART.
  • If for capacity reason that Dumbarton trains cannot share tracks with Caltrain on the Peninsula, running along the Coast Line would avoid a possible triple transfer.
  • Passenger rail on the Coast Line is compatible with a 2nd Transbay Tube.
  • It would leverage whatever improvements that are needed for a better Capitol Corridor service, especially if it is something on the scale of public ownership of the route. This is consistent with the vision laid out in the State’s Rail Plan.
  • A transfer station would be built at Newark Junction to allow transfers between ACE and Dumbarton Rail. Unless the tracks in Niles Canyon are improved (or a new corridor through tunneling), ACE service is restricted to 4 round trips a day. So the idea of direct service from the Tri-Valley and the Central Valley is not feasible without support from the Alameda County, particularly Fremont. Under this scenario, selected transbay trains would stop there with timed connection, which occurs about hourly. More frequent service would operate across the Bay and up to Oakland via the Coast Line.