The long slog to the South Bay

Last week’s news that VTA may get BART to the South Bay as early as 2016 was certainly welcome, though many important steps remain. In the spring, federal New Starts funding has to materialize for the extension to move forward. Fortunately, the fact that work is already underway on the separate-but-linked Warm Springs extension should help the Silicon Valley extension’s case. As we’ve discussed previously, the South Bay extension has been split into two parts to help its chances of getting funding for the entire project. As a result, the first part extension to Berryessa (the flea market) is scheduled to be completed by 2016-2018. The second part, which runs through downtown San Jose and up to the airport, has no completion date at this time. FYI, Phase 1 is about the same length as the Dublin/Pleasanton extension from Bay Fair.

The 10-mile Berryessa extension (Silicon Valley Phase 1) is in addition to the 5.4-mile Warm Springs extension

Terminating BART in Berryessa leaves no clear solution for ferrying fans from BART to the Diridon Station area, where the ballpark would be. Any highway-based bus routing is circuitous. Running on city streets would be a shorter trip. Either way it’s at least an extra 20 minutes after leaving BART even if it’s a direct bus with no additional stops. A natural BART-to-light rail transfer in Milpitas would take 40 minutes, though it would shave off a few minutes of BART time. Keep that in mind when looking at the following table of travel times, comparing BART, Caltrain, and Capitol Corridor.

Caltrain and Capitol Corridor trains arrive at ballpark. BART is more frequent but would require a 20-40 minute transfer (at least in the near term). Caltrain and Capitol Corridor times are published. BART times are estimates except for Coliseum.

What would take a shuttle 20-40 minutes to bridge the gap between Berryessa and Diridon would probably take only 5-6 minutes if BART went all the way to Diridon. Alas, that’s not in the cards until several years after Phase 1 starts operation. One interesting observation is that Capitol Corridor is somewhat competitive timewise with BART when heading all the way down to San Jose. Unfortunately, fares are much more expensive than BART.

There’s never been a doubt that just about any Oakland site is more convenient for much of the Bay Area and the existing East Bay fan base than San Jose. Even with BART coming to San Jose, it would seem that trips averaging an hour or more plus a transfer would be prohibitively lengthy for many fans. The flipside to that argument is that both the Giants and A’s in their current locations aren’t all that accessible from the South Bay, so if MLB were to place the two teams so that they could grab the largest potential audience for the MLB product, having the Giants in SF and the A’s in SJ would make the most sense.

Even if A’s management were to earn back much of the goodwill lost over the last decade, long trips from the East Bay will surely cause a reduction of fans from that region, making it all the more important that the A’s replace those lost or less frequently attending fans with South Bay fans. Certainly there are Sharks fans who make the trek from the East Bay now, but going to 2-3 games per week per homestand is a lot less rigorous than 6 games per week. The A’s have recently had among the lowest season ticket rolls in MLB (7-8,000), so replacing them may not be such a huge task. It goes to show that even if the A’s get the green light for San Jose, there’s plenty of work left to do.

34 thoughts on “The long slog to the South Bay

  1. I’m not too familiar with the light rail station at Berryessa. Why would the BART to light rail transfer take so long?

  2. Well, we in the South Bay have had to make the “long slog” to Oakland and Frisco for years; those die-hards in the East Bay will now have to do the same. I’m sure it won’t be a problem for fans south of Tri-Valley and Union City.
    Speaking of BART RM, VTA should consider making BART to SJ three phases, with phase two being Berryessa to Diridon and phase three being Diridon to SC. This would definitely save money from not having to tunnel from Diridon north to 880.

  3. I don’t think it’s the transfer. It’s the ride on Light Rail. Light Rail is nowhere near as fast as BART would be to cover the same distance. Far more stops, cross streets, traffic lights, etc…

  4. The public transit times are similar to those that South Bay fans currently endure to go to a game. But East Bay fans going to Diridon will have two big advantages over South Bay fans going to the Coli: (1) Large numbers of East Bay folks work in the South Bay; and (2) traffic flows much, much more quickly going south at rush hour. I commuted to the East Bay for three months last summer, and the drive home to South Bay was a breeze. Much, much less painful than trying to get to a weekday A’s game currently.

  5. Bartelby is correct on the flow of traffic. I worked in the Tri-Valley area for 2 years and everyone is going towards the East Bay at night.

    680S is a good drive with some traffic in East Side around Berryessa and Capitol Expwy because the Capitol exit needs to be re-done to accommodate the night time traffic.

    880S is getting a facelift as funding has been approved to add a 4th lane from 237 to 101. That will alleviate traffic nicely once you get into Santa Clara County. That will be done before the A’s move in based on what I have read.

    Milpitas will the be the light rail transfer station from BART. You can hop on light rail there to North SJ and then take another train to Downtown San Jose. You can effectively do that if your coming from the East Bay.

    Interesting stuff ML….like the article.

  6. ML, would the direct transfer at Milpitas to the Light Rail from BART be quicker or slower in your estimation compared to a bus transfer from Berryessa to Diridon?

  7. @Tony D. – Too late. Plus that kind of split doesn’t make sense. The tunneling through downtown SJ is the most expensive part of the project. VTA doesn’t need as much help for the last part.

    @Sid – I wouldn’t characterize the transfer as effective if it’s going to take another 40 minutes.

    @Dan – Light rail would be slower due to length of trip.

  8. Despite the heavy northbound traffic in the evening, it is still easier to drive to Fremont and take BART to the Coliseum than it is to take BART to Fremont (2016ish to Berryessa) and take a bus/shuttle through traffic to Diridon. People coming from the East Bay will not be huge fans of that 57-90 minute travel time and the added transfer.

  9. If Cisco Field ever becomes a reality, it will be a 17 or 11 minute Caltrain ride for me from Sunnyvale 🙂
    Your map shows what happens when transit planning is done in a piecemeal, disjointed manner. Also, I’d like to see VTA appropriate some of the money slated for the HSR boondoggle for Phase 2 and get tunneling ASAP.

    • If Cisco Field ever becomes a reality, it will be a 17 or 11 minute Caltrain ride for me from Sunnyvale :).Your map shows what happens when transit planning is done in a piecemeal, disjointed manner. Also, I’d like to see VTA appropriate some of the money slated for the HSR boondoggle for Phase 2 and get tunneling ASAP.

      Agree: use that money to complete BART to SJ/SC and upgrade/electrify Caltrain from SF-SJ.

  10. BART to Berryessa. California’s real train to nowhere. More could be accomplished by spending a half or a third as much to upgrade the Capital Corridor.

  11. Tony D., that HSR money is ALREADY being used to electrify Caltrain. If fact if what you and doctorK seem to be suggesting happens and the State cancels the HSR project, the Republican controlled House will re-appropriate the money for other priorities then public works projects and Caltrain will not be electrified for a long, long time.

  12. The problems with using BART in Fremont going northbound now during evening commute hour is some of the worst traffic is in Milpitas after 237 traffic merges in and Fremont. Once you get to the exit in Fremont, it is then another 15 minute drive to the BART station. Neither BART nor driving directly to the Oakland Coliseum is an enjoyable experience. I do admit that the Warm Springs, Milpitas, or Berryessa stations will make BART much more convenient to go northbound. All of the stations are much closer to freeways if you are driving to them.

    My expectations is that there will be some direct buses to Diridon station especially if there are A’s game from Berryessa. If they used Hedding and then opened up the Autumn Ave. near Coleman, that would hopefully take less time than using Santa Clara Ave.

  13. doctorK/Tony: agree on that point in this instance and in general. The most pressing transportation need in all urbanized areas of California is local and regional transit. This is the main reason that I’ve changed my mind about HSR and no longer think it’s a good idea.
    Getting to LA, Orange County or San Diego is pretty easy by air. Getting around in the Bay Area is much more difficult. (Not to mention that SJ Airport is already operating under capacity — why spend billlions on another option?)

  14. @slotown “Despite the heavy northbound traffic in the evening, it is still easier to drive to Fremont and take BART to the Coliseum than it is to take BART to Fremont (2016ish to Berryessa) and take a bus/shuttle through traffic to Diridon.”
    Having done this MANY times, and having driven the route the other way, I seriously, seriously doubt that. ST Hills post provides a good explanation of the reasons why.
    “People coming from the East Bay will not be huge fans of that 57-90 minute travel time and the added transfer.”
    This is still better than the 90 minutes to two hours it currently takes to drive from Palo Alto to Fremont BART and ride the train from there to the Coli on a weeknight. Plus the East Bay folks will be able to ride transit all the way, which the South Bay folks currently can’t.

  15. @ML- I agree, 40 minutes extra will be no fun. But…..I am sure they will run ballpark only trains from Milpitas to Diridon or perhaps there will be a ballpark express buses of some type like they did in San Francisco for Giants game back in the day. They still do it for 49ers games.

    I am sure VTA will get creative once the A’s and the BART become a reality. The A’s will work with VTA to make it happen in some way.

  16. It appears to me that having an express bus to Dirdion leaving from the Warm Springs or Milpitas BART station would be the quickest way. Before it was discontinued, I used to take the 180 Express bus from the Great Mall Transit center (I live nearby) to downtown SJ all the time during the week. It was very convenient and fairly fast. About a year or so ago VTA killed that particular line segment which forced people onto light rail to get downtown. That’s impractical since light rail loops through north SJ first so it takes twice as long. I now drive instead.

    It’s a shame there’s no 87 south entrance from 880 south. That would really help East Bay folks driving to games. I have to say people coming from the Peninsula have it the best. They have 3 good options: 101 south->87south, 280, or Caltrain. All 3 options take you straight to Dirdion.

  17. @john,
    The sad fact that no ramps exist at 87/880 is perhaps the worst transportation planning error in SCCO history. At the very least they should have southbound to southbound and northbound to northbound ramps. Hopefully future transportation planners in the valley will correct this idiocy.

  18. @ML You explained it fine, but I was in a hurry and obviously didn’t do something as simple as check the map. Sorry ’bout that.

  19. @John- The reason why there is 880/87 interchange is because there was not enough room to create off ramps. This plus it would have been right in between 101 and 280 therefore creating too much traffic in that area.

    Take 880S to 1st street, go left, go down a few block and go right on Taylor and 87 is right there. You can even drive down Taylor and take a left on the Alameda and that will run you right into the ballpark via a way that most do not know about.

  20. 680 is also a good way to get to Downtown SJ from the East Bay. If you’re taking 880, cut over at Mission and take 680 the rest of the way.

  21. @Sid Or they can just stay on 880 and exit the Alameda.

  22. Believe me, I think I’ve tried every surface street way to get to downtown SJ. I usually end up exiting at Coleman and taking that. Sometimes if I’m bored I exit at Brokaw and connect with either Charcot or Skyport to get onto 87. I just find it mildly annoying there is no direct access to downtown from 880. If it’s the weekend and traffic is light I’ll take 880south->101south->280north->87. That way seems more direct then staying on 680 the whole way.

    Speaking of Coleman, I know eventually Autumn Street will be connected so I assume that will be preferred way to access the Dirdion area. Once that happens the Target parking lot looks like a pretty attractive place to park for free and walk to the arena/stadium. I wonder how that will be monitored?

  23. @Sid,
    Older Thomas Guide maps of SCCO had a dotted line proposed interchange at 87/880, complete with high-speed ramps and a braided configuration with 1st Street/880 ramps. So one was planned at one time. My thinking is that in the future you could have a ramp from NB 87 to NB 880 (braided with 1st Street/880 ramp) and a cloverleaf ramp from SB 880 to SB 87; there’s definitely room for this (check out Google Earth).

  24. @Tony- I disagree. My thoughts were right on based on what CalTrans stated below:

    Here is a rationale for the lack of a connector between Route 87 and I-880. The two freeways are close to the eastern edge of Mineta San Jose International Airport, meaning that elevated ramps cannot be built without interfering in the flight path. Route 87 runs parallel to the Guadalupe River, so tunneling to link the freeways does not work. One corner of the crossover is the light-rail maintenance yard for the Valley Transportation Authority, which cannot be easily or cheaply moved. Exits from Route 87 to Taylor Street and from I-880 to Coleman Avenue and First Street are less than a ¼ mi away, and Caltrans requires that ramps be at least a mile apart to avoid merging chaos. Lastly, high-voltage power lines run through the area, which would be costly to relocate.
    [Thanks to Gary Roberts “Mr. Roadshow” for hunting down this information];topic=3454.0

  25. @bartleby- Excellent point……Did not think of the 880/The Alameda Exit.

  26. @Sid,
    I guess we can agree to disagree 😉 besides, I’m just suggesting an extremely partial connection between 87/880 and a 20-30 ft ramp won’t impede air traffic. No tunneling necessary and a ramp over the VTA yard. Think outside the box my friend 😉

  27. @Sid
    Thanks for the link, made for some interesting reading. I have to say those people posting there are some hardcore road & highway nerds, and I thought I was bad!

  28. The low season ticket holder base that maybe lost with the A’s moving to SJ, will be replaced with about 15k-18K season ticket holders from the Silicon Valley region, that will be mainly Corporate based season ticket holders. It’s just the reality.

  29. Also, I’d like to see VTA appropriate some of the money slated for the HSR boondoggle for Phase 2 and get tunneling ASAP.

    Agreed! If SJ becomes a reality, they need to start work on Phase 2 ASAP!

  30. as a life long A’s fan i actually hope they fail in san jose after years of spending money to watch them put out horrible team after horrible now they want us to travel 4 times further threw some of the worst traffic in the area to pay more money for tickets,parking,etc to see the same lame duck team filled with players noone has heard of (san jose you only think they will change their philosophy of trading all their players) and lets face it with the teams anaheim and texas have now wont have a chance of winning for what the next decade.give me one good reason i should continue to spend my money to support a team that isn’t going try to win

  31. will the extension to santa clara be near the 49ers’ proposed new stadium?

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