Triple Track/Express trains

This is not an immediate priority of mine, but is an important idea that I think that BART should pursue to handle the anticipated passenger load of 2035. New BART cars, or even a new transbay tube can still only support a limited amount of the future population of the Bay Area. And with new regions coming online: Silicon Valley, East Contra Costa, possibly Livermore, West Contra Costa, or even San Joaquin Valley, it becomes even more difficult to manage the cumulative load between stations.

Most light rails throughout the US are bi-directional double track rails. Trains stop at every stop, always are on the right of the direction they’re heading, and they can never pass the train in front of them. This saves on building an expensive extra feature but locks the schedule and eliminates many options from being offered. Meanwhile, Caltrain is capable of offering limited and bullet trains precisely because they have 3 track lines throughout their system. Triple Tracking allows Caltrain to turn what would be a system of only local trains stopping at every stop – Diridon to SF(1 hr. 35 min.) and offer bullet(express) trains that shave 33 minutes off of that trip for passengers at select stations. Caltrain’s bullet trains also offset high passenger load stations so even those on limited or local trains benefit by having more capacity on their trains and the time saved from not loading those excess passengers.

Currently BART only can run local service leading to some very long daily commutes. And there are no “rapid” lines that can focus on picking up only major station to major station passengers. As long as BART takes longer than a car BART remains impractical to long-distance travelers.

  • Pittsburg to Embarcadero – minimum 55 minutes every train | driving  – 47 minutes
  • Fremont to Embarcadero – minimum 52 minutes every train | driving – 48 minutes
  • San Jose to Embarcadero – probably at least 1 hr 10 min | driving – 56 minutes

What if BART could at least offer to cut some of those trips down to 40 or even to 30 minutes by having limited stop trains?  Would it be worth the billions it would cost to build extra platforms on aerial stations or to build a third aerial track? Those are questions I would like to find the answers for.

Building redundancy in the system also serves to allow for maintenance. If BART already had triple tracks, we wouldn’t need to completely shut down portions of the system piece by piece to replace tracks over the next 2-10 years.