Central Subway worker Francisco Dominguez
As Mom Chung and Big Alma work their way through Chinatown, the city has just completed a study of how much it would cost to extend MUNI’s Central Subway through North Beach all the way to Fisherman’s Wharf. Though it’s far from cheap, and may not happen in your lifetime, and might face lawsuits from neighbors, it’s not a completely terrible idea.
According to the study, the project would cost somewhere between $367 million to $1.4 billion (by the Willie Brown law of public project forecasting, expect the final price tag to be far more than that). Trains would run every two and a half minutes during peak demand, and a trip from Chinatown to Fisherman’s Wharf would take about three and a half minutes. Again accoridng to the study, extending the line would bring in up to 40,000 more trips per day and better connect those northwestern neighborhoods to the rest of the city.
The report works through fourteen different potential ways to extend the subway from Chinatown to the north by adding a station at the site of the former Pagoda Palace across the street from Washington Square Park. (There are already tunnels that reach to there, but no rails.) From that point, rails could extend in various configurations to the waterfront, down either Powell Street or Columbus Avenue. The study also looked at a loop design, and at adding an extra station at various spots near Fisherman’s Wharf.
The idea is not without controversy. Opponents of the Central Subway plan have seized on the high cost of the project, and argue that the money would be better spent on improving bus service. The best argument we’ve heard in favor of the plan comes from the Chronicle’s John King, who makes a Will to Power case in favor, saying, “I love the idea of a subway extension to Fisherman’s Wharf—and a stop in North Beach in particular—is that it offers a vision of the modern American landscape where big ideas, good ones, can come into focus with relative speed. This isn’t the norm in our society, with its emphasis on studies and more studies, lawsuits clustered close behind.”
Don’t buy your tickets just quite yet, though. According to the city, any extension is at least a decade away.