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Which fantasy BART map is the best?

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Dare to dream

Nothing unites Bay Area commuters in shared wistfulness quite like a fantasy BART map.

In an experience akin to reminiscing about that one ex or the startup investment you passed up a decade ago (“140 characters, that’s it?”), there’s a certain appeal to the bittersweet self-abuse of looking at sprawling and theoretically more efficient Bay Area mass transit layouts.

Case in point, transportation and land-use consultant David Edmondson, editor of the Greater Marin, recently presented a map that combines BART, Muni, Caltrain, VTA, and Amtrak into a single commuter fantasia.

Among his additions: A second BART tube, a rail extension down Geary Boulevard (“The most important route that BART should dig,” Edmondson tells Curbed SF), and finally bringing the North Bay into the fold with the rest of the Bay Area’s rail ambitions.

“Marin really wanted BART when the system was still being planned, [...] but neither the Golden Gate Bridge District nor San Mateo County wanted it,” said Edmondson, who studied city and regional planning at Cornell University.

Edmondson admits that “Marin has a strong bias against change,” which has stifled subsequent attempts at rectifying history.

(For the record, BART’s version of its own genesis has it that “Marin County was forced to withdraw in early 1962 because its marginal tax base could not adequately absorb its share of BART’s projected cost.”)

Edmondson’s design is still not quite done shaping up—he plans to extend it as far as Sacramento—but the SF portion has the makings of a virtual Xanadu on rails:

Map by David Edmondson

In a strange twist, one of the great fantasy BART maps might have been one of the earliest ever, drafted in the 1950s.

At the time this was not considered a fantasy, but instead a potentially real plan that involved three phases of construction, at the end of which the system would stretch from Los Gatos in the South Bay all the way to Santa Rosa in the North Bay.

Early conceptual BART map done in 1957.
Map by BART

According to the BART’s own autobiography, the original BART Board of Directors had 16 members “apportioned on county population size: four from Alameda and San Francisco Counties, three from Contra Costa and San Mateo, and two from Marin.”

When San Mateo and Marin ended up on the outs, the board shrank to 11 members, then added another seat so that the three remaining counties would be equally represented.

Note that although BART now serves San Mateo County, they do not have a seat on the current nine-member board, which still maintains the three-county balance of more than 50 years ago.

For the curious, here’s the very first BART map from its earliest days of service.

When it comes to BART map musings, a favorite remains Adam Susaneck’s imagined BART 2050 layout, published in 2016.

In this scenario, BART “consolidates the Bay Area’s existing transit — currently spread over two dozen different transit agencies — and aggregates proposed, planned, and under-construction projects” into a single, all-powerful network.

Susaneck tells Curbed SF that if he designed the map again today, he would “[make] the second Transbay tube a dual standard gauge plus BART tunnel, so that Caltrain and Capital Corridor could be linked.”

Map by Adam Susaneck

Of course, there are many would-be contenders for the Bay Area’s transit needs. Here are a handful of our other favorite ideal rail network maps: