"The Central Subway will restore rail service to the Stockton and 4th Street corridors for the first time in 50 years." - John Funghi, Program Director
During the first half of the last century, streetcars traveled up and down "Three Street," shuttling customers between downtown and points along the Bayshore Corridor. As the primary mode of transportation into and out of this area, this streetcar line helped spur the development of the Bayshore communities that exist today. Now, decades later, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), the City of San Francisco and the San Francisco County Transportation Authority (SFCTA) are completing the Third Street Light Rail Project to reestablish rail service along this vibrant corridor.
While the SFMTA strives to serve the city effectively, efficiently and comprehensively, the agency recognizes that there is room for improvement. Trolley coaches and trains can be crowded, customers sometimes experience delays and some communities are underserved. For these reasons, many San Franciscans and visitors have been less likely to use public transportation, resulting in increased car use, more street congestion, crowded parking facilities and pollution.
The southeastern part of San Francisco has long been recognized as underserved by high-capacity transit. In the late 1980s an extensive planning process was undertaken by the SFCTA to prioritize transit corridors in the City. SFCTA officials identified four corridors in need of enhanced transit service and prioritized them as follows:
Prioritization of the 3rd Street Corridor was influenced heavily by considerations of environmental justice and socioeconomic factors. The areas along the 3rd Street Corridor are home to lower-income and more transit-dependent residents than Geary and Van Ness. The disruption of access to Chinatown resulting from the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake was also a factor in the prioritization process.
In 1993 the Bayshore Transit Study reaffirmed the need for improved transit in these areas. The result, after years of planning, environmental review and construction, was Phase 1 of the Third Street Light Rail Project, the T Third Line.
Construction began in 2001 on the T Third Line – an above-ground light-rail line from the Sunnydale and Visitacion Valley neighborhoods to the 4th Street Caltrain station. The line opened to the public in April 2007, serving as a key infrastructure improvement to help support the revitalization of communities along the 3rd Street corridor. It directly serves Mission Bay, one of San Francisco’s largest redevelopment projects, and Bayview/Hunters Point, where 10,000 new housing units are planned for the old Naval Shipyard and the Schlage Lock redevelopment site.
The Central Subway Project has been included in local and regional financial plans, as well as the Metropolitan Transportation Commission's Regional Transit Expansion Program (RTEP), as Phase 2 of the Third Street Light Rail Transit Project.
A consensus was reached to support the Central Subway as a Bay Area priority for future federal New Starts funding. In 2002 the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) approved the Central Subway Project for preliminary engineering. During the preliminary engineering phase, the SFMTA proposed shifting the project alignment from 3rd Street to 4th Street to better address mobility and transit deficiencies in northeastern San Francisco. This change was eventually adopted.
In 2005 the environmental review process for the Central Subway Project began. More than 100 public meetings were held before the project received environmental clearance from the FTA in November 2008.
Since then, the project has continued to receive strong local, state and federal support; the design process has been completed; and construction of the subway extension has commenced. In 2010 work to relocate utility lines began at the future site of the Yerba Buena/Moscone Station. Similar work began in 2011 to prepare the site where the Union Square/Market Street Station will be built. In 2012, construction to prepare for the Central Subway tunnel commenced in SoMa, Union Square and North Beach.
After a decade of planning, design and advocacy, an agreement dedicating $942.2 million in New Starts funds to the Central Subway Project was approved by the FTA in October 2012.