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San Francisco, California/Third Street Light Rail Project Phase 1

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Third Street Light Rail Project Phase 1

San Francisco, California

(November 1998)


The San Francisco Municipal Railway (MUNI) proposes the Third Street Light Rail Project which includes construction of a new light rail line located in the southeast sector of San Francisco and additional transportation improvements in the corridor. The 7.1-mile LRT line would operate at the surface from the Caltrain Bayshore Station at the south, connect to the existing LRT system in downtown San Francisco via Third Street, and extend into a subway terminating in Chinatown. The project would provide regional connections to BART and CalTrain at multimodal stations. Third Street Light Rail operations would include exclusive (subway) as well as semi-exclusive (street median) rights-of-way, using MUNI's existing high floor light rail vehicles.

Capital costs for the complete Third Street Light Rail Project total $914.8 million in 1997 dollars, to be constructed in two phases. Phase 1, a minimum operable segment (MOS), would operate as a surface extension of the J-Church MUNI Metro line between the Market Street Subway and the Bayshore CalTrain Station, with an estimated construction cost of $445.7 million (escalated dollars). Phase 2, the New Central Subway, would extend the line underground to a terminal in Chinatown, and is estimated to cost $505.9 million (1997 dollars) to construct. The San Francisco County Transportation Authority (SFCTA) has identified at least $347 million (1997 dollars) in local sales tax funds for the construction of Phase 1. MUNI is currently developing a financial plan to fully fund Phase 1.

Third Street Light Rail Summary Description

Proposed Project Light Rail Transit Line (MOS);
5.6 miles, 19 stations
Total Capital Cost ($YOE) $445.7 million
Section 5309 Share ($YOE) $0.0 million
Annual Operating Cost ($YOE) $11.0 million
Ridership Forecast (2015) 80,054 average weekday boardings
2,000 daily new riders
FY 2000 Financial Rating: Medium-High
FY 2000 Project Justification Rating: Medium
FY 2000 Overall Project Rating: Recommended

The overall project rating applies to this Annual New Starts Report and reflects conditions as of November 1998. Project evaluation is an ongoing process. As new starts projects proceed through development, the estimates of costs, benefits, and impacts are refined. The FTA ratings and recommendations will be updated annually to reflect new information, changing conditions, and refined financing plans.


In October 1996, FTA authorized the initiation of Preliminary Engineering and the preparation of a Draft Environmental Impact Statement/Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIS/DEIR). In November 1997, MUNI began Preliminary Engineering for Phase 1 of the light rail alignment as well as the Metro East Maintenance Facility. In June 1998, the San Francisco Public Transportation Commission, which governs MUNI, designated a 2-phase light rail project as the Locally Preferred Alternative. Phase I Preliminary Engineering is expected to be complete by December 1998, with a Record of Decision anticipated by early 1999.

The Third Street Light Rail project is included in the current regional long-range plan, with the caveat that the first phase will be 100 percent locally-funded. Maintaining eligibility for future Federal participation is a high priority for the City. The project (Phases 1 and 2) would leverage approximately $500-650 million in federal funds with an equal amount of local funds (in escalated dollars). From that amount of local funds, approximately $404 million in local sales tax proceeds (in escalated dollars) is available and would be programmed for the first phase of this project. The SFCTA has asked the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (the regionís MPO) to include the full Third Street Light Rail Project in the regional transportation plan.

TEA-21 Section 3030(a)(79) authorizes the San Francisco Bayshore Corridor for final design and construction. To date, no Federal funds have been appropriated for this project.


The following criteria have been estimated in conformance with FTA's Technical Guidance on Section 5309 New Starts Criteria. Criteria are presented only for the 5.6-mile Phase 1 MOS. In agreement with FTA, the project is not evaluating separate No Build and TSM alternatives; these have been merged into a single alternative for the purposes of the environmental analysis. As a result, New Start criteria are reported for the comparison of the New Start (Phase 1) to the TSM alternative, and not for the comparison to the No Build alternative. N/A indicates that data are not available for a specific measure.


Mobility Improvements

Rating: Medium

MUNI estimates that Phase 1 would result in the following annual travel time savings. (MUNI estimates that the Central Subway results in even greater travel time savings due to LRT extension into Chinatown, which will decrease travel times from the southern end to the northern end of the corridor.)

Mobility Improvements New Start vs. No-Build New Start vs. TSM
Annual Travel Time Savings (Hours) N/A 2.4 million

Based on 1990 census data, there are an estimated 5,988 low-income households within a 1/2 mile radius of the MOS corridor (representing 16.4 percent of all households located within 1/2 mile of the corridor).

Environmental Benefits

Rating: Medium

The San Francisco Area is a maintenance area for ozone, and in attainment for carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter. MUNI estimates that in 2015, Phase 1 would result in the following emissions reductions.

Criteria Pollutant New Start vs. No-Build New Start vs. TSM
Carbon Monoxide (CO) N/A decrease of 8 annual tons
Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) N/A decrease of 19 annual tons
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) N/A decrease of 1 annual ton
Particulate Matter (PM10) N/A 0
Carbon Dioxide (CO2) N/A decrease of 3,503 annual tons

MUNI estimates that in 2015, Phase 1 would result in the following increase in regional energy consumption (measured in British Thermal Units - BTU).

Annual Energy Savings New Start vs. No-Build New Start vs. TSM
BTU (millions) N/A increase of 16,661 million annual BTU

Operating Efficiencies

Rating: Medium

MUNI estimates that systemwide operating costs per passenger mile remain constant when comparing Phase 1 to the TSM alternative.

Operating Efficiencies No-Build TSM New Start
System Operating Cost per Passenger Mile (2015) N/A $0.55 $0.55

Values reflect 2015 ridership forecast and 1997 dollars.

Cost Effectiveness

Rating: Low

MUNI estimates the following cost effectiveness index.

Cost Effectiveness New Start vs. No-Build New Start vs. TSM
Incremental Cost per Incremental Passenger N/A $34.82

Values reflect 2015 ridership forecast and 1997 dollars.

Transit-Supportive Existing Land Use and Future Patterns

Rating: High

The High Land Use rating reflects the urban character of the corridor and the role of local agencies in encouraging transit-supportive development. The entire Third Street LRT Corridor is densely populated and links central San Francisco with several transit dependent communities. Planned future development includes commercial and mixed use revitalization, housing, retail, recreation facilities, and the addition of the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) research campus. MUNI and the City of San Francisco continue to encourage high-density development that is transit oriented and pedestrian friendly and that restricts parking. Detailed planning processes for new development along the corridor will develop specific design guidelines for both public improvements and private development to maximize the City's transit infrastructure.

Other Factors

Criteria for Full Corridor: MUNI also submitted to FTA New Starts criteria on the full 7.1 mile Third Street Light Rail project, including the New Central Subway. As compared to the TSM alternative, MUNI estimates improved cost-effectiveness ($28.11) and travel time savings (2.4 million hours) for the full project.

Economic Development: One of the primary goals of the Third Street Light Rail Project is to serve as a catalyst to support the revitalization of San Franciscoís Bayview Hunters Point community. MUNIís light rail planning and project development activities included the development of an Economic Revitalization Strategies Report. In addition, the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency is working with both MUNI and the community to produce a Revitalization Concept Plan.

MTC Transportation for Livable Communities Grant: MUNI was awarded a $50,000 "Transportation and Livable Communities" planning grant in October 1998 by the MTC to address pedestrian connections between transit and neighborhood retail, services and cultural facilities in the Bayview Town Center, and to explore opportunities for using public-private partnerships to achieve development objectives.

Local Financial Commitment

Proposed Non-Section 5309 Share of Total Project Costs: 100%

The current financial plan for the Phase 1 MOS project does not include Federal Section 5309 New Starts funds. The financial plan includes $7.6 million (2 percent) of Federal STP/CMAQ funds flexed at the State level.

Stability and Reliability of Capital Financing Plan

Rating: Medium-High

The Medium-High capital plan rating reflects the high level of local funds committed and in place for the Third Street Light Rail Project. The primary source of funding for the project is the Proposition B one-half cent sales tax program administered by the San Francisco County Transportation Authority. Sales tax revenues are estimated at $1.3 billion ($1997) over the 20 year period ending in 2010 when the tax will sunset. This represents a significant increase over previous revenue estimates. Sixty percent of these revenues are dedicated to MUNI projects over the 20 year period. The plan shows capital and operating expenditures from the tax dedicated to MUNI to be $665.3 million. Up to $404.6 million (escalated dollars) in these revenues are committed to the Third Street LRT project. Remaining funding is proposed to come from State regional improvement program resources, Federal flexible funds, and tax increment funds. Only the tax increment funds are yet committed. MUNI will request future FTA funds for later project phases to begin in FY 2009.

Stability and Reliability of Operating Finance Plan

Rating: Medium-High

The Medium-High operating plan rating reflects the City of San Franciscoís ongoing financial support of MUNI transit operations. MUNI estimates the operating and maintenance costs for the MOS at $5.3 million in FY 2003 and $11.0 million in 2015. Fare revenues are estimated to cover 35 percent of operating expenses; the remainder of operating revenues are proposed to be derived from an increased transfer of MUNIís dedicated parking tax revenues and general appropriations from the City of San Francisco. The City has historically been a strong financial supporter of MUNI. MUNI is exploring the use of transit impact development fees along the corridor to help offset system operating expenses.

Locally Proposed Financing Plan

(Reported in $YOE)

Proposed Source of Funds Total Funding
Appropriations to Date
Section 5309 New Starts $0.0 No Section 5309 New Starts funds have been appropriated through FY 1999

State Regional Improvement Program $25.0

Tax Increment Financing $8.5

Proposition B Revenue $404.6

Total: $445.7

Note: Funding proposal reflects assumptions made by project sponsors, and are not DOT or FTA assumptions. Totals may not add due to rounding.

[Bayshore - Third Street LRT Map (PDF)]

Commitment to Accessibility: DOT is committed to ensuring that information is available in appropriate alternative formats to meet the requirements of persons who have a disability. If you require an alternative version of files provided on this page, please contact