Editorial: Full BART to Livermore is the best option

The BART board is considering several options for extending BART service to Livermore to help ease overcrowded conditions at Tri-Valley BART stops and freeways. The Pleasanton Weekly editorial board thinks a conventional BART extension to Isabel Avenue is the best option, and really the only one worth considering. (File photo)

"My sense is you're dealing with these alternatives because the practical matter is the BART board doesn't want to go to Livermore. They don't want to go to ACE," Pleasanton Vice Mayor Arne Olson said as two BART officials presented an update on the BART to Livermore project to the City Council earlier this month.

Now, we don't think the situation is that dire (certainly no final decision has been made), but make no mistake: This spring marks the most critical juncture for the BART to Livermore project, and the potential of bringing a BART rail extension to Isabel Avenue is very much up in the air.

So make your voices heard.

Pleasanton council members made a strong statement at that March 6 meeting, declaring that their top choice is conventional BART rail down the Interstate 580 median to a new station near the Isabel intersection.

That opposed to alternatives BART is also considering: a light rail extension to Isabel, new Express Bus services or less-intensive enhanced bus services -- or no BART to Livermore project at all.

The BART board is expected to make a preliminary choice for its preferred project option in April, which would put the agency on track to then review and certify the final environmental impact (EIR) report and confirm the final project option in May.

The pro-rail Tri-Valley has its work cut out, according to Director John McPartland, who represents Pleasanton, Dublin and Livermore on the BART board.

One side of the nine-member BART board consists of "directors who represent the (existing) core system, that want to end up taking every scrap of money they can in order to retrofit and build anew," McPartland told the Pleasanton council.

"We've got a portion that is clearly on the extension side, another group that is on the core side and then a portion of the directors that are riding in the middle. Welcome to the real world of politics," he added. "The board is divided right now, and I've got to fight tooth and nail."

McPartland says it's vital for Tri-Valley residents to tell BART leadership their thoughts about the BART to Livermore proposals. (Comments can be submitted online ahead of next month's board meeting, at

Count us among the conventional BART rail camp.

BART to Livermore, an extension envisioned for decades, is the most significant traffic relief project proposed for the congestion-riddled Tri-Valley, and the traditional BART option would add the most new BART riders and take the most cars off I-580 and local city streets during commute hours.

The base proposal outlines extending conventional BART rail 5.5 miles down the I-580 median from the eastern Dublin-Pleasanton station to a new station in the median just past the Isabel Avenue intersection.

It would also come with pedestrian bridges to connect riders to either side of the freeway, a new BART storage and maintenance facility northeast of Las Positas College and 3,412 new parking spots on the south side -- though we agree with the Pleasanton council that that parking count could fall woefully short.

Freeway alignment would need to be shifted to fit the BART line and the new station, and significant public and private right-of-way would need to be purchased to make the project work.

All told, BART estimates design and construction of the traditional BART extension would come in at $1.635 billion.

That's a high pricetag, but not really all that much higher than the two rail alternatives BART is considering, which both offer much less ridership than traditional BART.

Those other rail options are diesel multiple unit (DMU) or electrical multiple unit (EMU), known colloquially as light rail. They are smaller, self-propelled cars with a diesel or electric engine.

DMU and EMU would offer less ongoing operating costs than traditional BART rail, but the project construction costs are nearly the same ($1.6 billion and $1.67 billion, respectively) and the right-of-way impacts are more significant -- all for much fewer new riders.

The full BART option would result in the highest number of new BART riders (11,900 per day) and most cars off the road (244,000 fewer vehicle miles traveled), according to the EIR. That ridership number actually jumps to 13,400 if Livermore's Isabel Neighborhood Plan comes to fruition around the new station.

The DMU/EMU totals don't compete: only 7,000 new BART riders and 140,600 fewer vehicle miles traveled. Why spend nearly the same amount of construction money for that many fewer rider spots, especially when you know the demand is there between Livermore and western San Joaquin County?

With those statistics in mind, the two bus alternatives make no sense: Express Bus/Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) at $380 million to see 3,500 new riders and 92,600 fewer vehicle miles, and enhanced bus at $25 million to add 400 riders and reduce vehicle miles by 6,500.

The bus options are tone-deaf to the needs and wishes of Tri-Valley leaders and residents. (Well, not quite as insulting as the no project option.) We concur with the City Council's decision to openly oppose a bus-only BART extension to Livermore.

BART board members should weigh the comments of all three Tri-Valley councils and their residents carefully before making a final decision this spring.

And they must commit to a preferred project option by June 30, otherwise the newly formed Tri-Valley-San Joaquin Valley Regional Rail Authority will make the selection.

That new authority, formed under state legislation last year, is overseen by officials from Tri-Valley and west San Joaquin cities, both counties and BART and is tasked solely with delivering improved connectivity between BART and the Altamont Corridor Express (ACE) train.

They recently met for the first time and are exploring the concept of light rail across the Altamont, connecting Livermore to communities such as Mountain House, Tracy, River Islands, Manteca and perhaps ultimately Stockton. That could involve traditional BART, DMU or EMU from Pleasanton to Isabel.

The authority could take over the selection of an Isabel extension option, find funding for and build the project, and turn operations back over to BART when completed -- if there is no BART board decision come July 1.

Then again, given how BART leaders have waffled on supporting what's clearly the best project option, putting that decision in the hands of local stakeholders most impacted by the project might just be the best option.

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29 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of San Ramon
on Mar 28, 2018 at 4:24 pm

Agree 100% with this editorial that full Bart to Livermore is the best choice. No diesel Turnersville trollies need be considered. The 1.64 Billion price tag would have been far less if the Bart Board had approved this extension 10 or 15 years ago when it was already clearly obvious & even then long overdue.

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of another community
on Mar 29, 2018 at 7:23 am

($1.67 billion/(11900 new passengers per day * $20 fare per passenger))/365 days = 19.22 years to recover the cost (does not include interest for borrowing some portion of $1.67 billion). When will they start earning profit?

23 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of San Ramon
on Mar 29, 2018 at 3:25 pm

Resident #2 (the second comment). Bart never makes a profit as it is poorly managed & way overpays employees (one of it's janitors last year made over $200K.). Likely if the new extension to Livermore was aggressively competitively bid and not encumbered by Bart bureaucracy, the cost would be lower.

8 people like this
Posted by Dickita P
a resident of Alamo
on Mar 31, 2018 at 7:00 pm

What is so difficult for you dummies to understand about public transport? You really want everything on earth to be profitable before it's considered worthwhile? Start selling your spare kidney and pieces of liver then - or better yet, those parts of your brain that you're clearly not using.

1 person likes this
Posted by dbrower
a resident of Alamo
on Apr 3, 2018 at 10:41 am

Unless we want to add 11900 vehicles a day to the freeway traffic, having the alternative is an improvement. It'd be hard do add even more lanes to 580/680.

You have to look at the total impact on the transportation mix, not just the cost/benefits of a single mode.

17 people like this
Posted by Long term resident
a resident of Danville
on Apr 20, 2018 at 8:36 am

This is another example of mismanagement and not meeting previous commitments by BART. A "temporary" sales tax suppliment of 0.25% was put into place in the late 1960's until BART could get up and running, AND sustain their operations on the passenger revenue they collected. If I am not mistaken, I believe Livermore residents have been paying that extra sales tax for 50 years now with nothing to show for it. More recently, voters approved a 3.6 Billion dollar bond which was supposed to be used on capital projects and improvements. Wow, I guess that new parking lot they are building in Walnut Creek must be very expensive!!

The money they do have continues to be funneled into outrageous salaries and benefits. A couple of years ago, the BART board voted in 3 consecutive annual pay increases even though BART employees are already amongst the highest paid transit workers in the world.

Their cars are not only old, but noisy and filthy. During a recent ride from SFO to Walnut Creek, I measured 120 db noise level on my IPhone. That can lead ro hearing damage if sustained for certain periods of time. In addition to the noise, there was a homeless person sleeping on a couple of seats who obviously had not had a shower or bath in months.

I travel all over the workd and have been on public transit systems in Tokyo, Paris, Singapore, Moscow, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Chennault, Hyderabad, Shanghai, Beijing, etc. BART fares are much more expensive than all of they and the quality of service is inferior. I'm glad we have the BART system, but until it is managed properly, I have little hope it will ever compare favorably to other transit systems. By the way, Singapore are in the process of a major expansion of their MRT system. I have a wager with friends that even though it is much more extensive and complicated, the Singapore expansion will be completed before the BART extension to Livermore.

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Posted by BARTrider
a resident of Danville
on Apr 26, 2018 at 9:38 pm

Seriously folks! When is I-580 going to turn a profit? If this train is going to be useful, then put it downtown with a connection to ACE and build a few desperately needed apartments within walking distance. A commuter lot in a freeway median is a really bad use of money and will just induce more drivers to fill the lots.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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