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BART will open later starting in 2019

Seismic work to Transbay Tube means putting off earliest commutes

A BART train at the station. Photo by Maurits90

Beginning in early 2019, BART will begin service one hour later in the mornings to make way for a planned seismic retrofit of the Transbay Tube.

Last week, BART announced:

Beginning on February 11, 2019, BART’s start of service will shift from 4 am to 5 am for a massive project that will retrofit the Transbay Tube. About 2,900 riders enter our system in that first hour of service.

[..] At its September 27, 2018 meeting, the alternative Early Bird Express bus service plan for the 5am opening will be presented to the BART Board of Directors. The plan will establish 15 new bus lines to run between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m.

The retrofit and service change will last until 2023. According to a BART board presentation from earlier this year, a 5 a.m. start time will mean that the first trains from the East Bay arrive in San Francisco at 5:30 a.m.

The Transbay Tube work is part of a long-planned retrofit to address potential threats to the integrity of the tunnel during an earthquake.

According to BART’s project report:

Although the tube is structurally sound, in a very large and very rare earthquake event, the outer shell and concrete liner are predicted to crack, causing leakage.

To address concerns of flooding in the event of a 1,000-year earthquake, BART has awarded a $313 million contract (to Shimmick Construction and California Engineering Contractors Inc.) for a massive project that will retrofit the Transbay Tube.

The BART board will consider two potential bus plans on September 27, one which replicates most (but not all) train service and another which compliments those routes with special express buses to downtown SF stations.

About 64 percent of first-hour BART riders exit at downtown SF stops, with Embarcadero Station being the most used early morning exit locale.


BART planners contend that in test drives, the buses took either the same amount of time or were slightly faster than the usual morning trains.

Nevertheless, the San Francisco Chronicle reports that it spoke with many Bay Area workers who worry they won’t be able to make it to their jobs on time, including those in the hotel and other hospitality industries who are expected to clock in by 5 a.m. most mornings.

By the way, if the name Shimmick Construction—one of the companies awarded the tube contract—sounds familiar, it might be because that’s the same company Muni hired to work on the Twin Peaks tunnel.

Though Shimmick finished the work on schedule, one contractor died in August, and SFMTA currently blames alleged Shimmick errors for damaging tracks and causing train delays at West Portal Station.

Neither of those incidents had happened yet when BART made the selection in late 2016.