Central Subway Project Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What are the benefits of the Central Subway?
A: The Central Subway Project is critical in connecting the southern to the northern part of San Francisco, supporting economic vitality and cultural growth in these neighborhoods. By extending the Third Street T Line, the Central Subway will speed up service to the new Chase Center and the Mission Bay, as well as improving existing T Line service to Visitacion Valley, the Bayview, and Dogpatch neighborhoods. The Central Subway will help reduce crowding on the 30 Stockton, 8 Bayshore, and 45 Union/Stockton leading to Chinatown. It will greatly reduce travel times and ease congestion on Stockton Street, one more step toward reducing our greenhouse gas emissions. It will also increase capacity along the congested Stockton Street and 4th Street corridor while enhancing connections to BART, Muni Metro, Chase Center, Oracle Park and Caltrain.
Q: Why did the city decide to build Central Subway in the first place?
A: 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 determined high-priority 3rd Street and Chinatown as an extension of the 3rd Street corridor. After the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, disruption of access to Chinatown was considered as another reason the Central Subway received support from local, state and federal as a Bay Area priority for funding.
Q: How and why did designs for the Central Subway change over the course of the project?
A: It is common for large, multi-year projects to experience design changes. One reason for design changes is community input. A rooftop plaza was not in the original design of Chinatown-Rose Station. After community feedback, the project conducted more outreach and residents asked the SFMTA to consider building a public space for the community. Chinatown is one of the densest neighborhoods in San Francisco and many of its residents live in single-room occupancy (SRO) units. Additionally, Chinatown has the least number of public spaces of any neighborhood in San Francisco. As a result, the SFMTA made the decision to make design changes to Chinatown-Rose Pak Station.
Codes and requirements also changed during the project and changes needed to be made to address those new requirements. Installing lights on each side of escalators at Chinatown-Rose Pak Station is a recent example of building codes changing to improve the safety of Muni customers.
Our wayfinding and signage system changed during the project as well, so we had to redesign this for the project to meet the standards of our new system.
Q: Are there any future plans to extend Central Subway?
A: Phase 3 includes the extension of the Central Subway to Fisherman’s Wharf from Chinatown-Rose Pak Station. During the construction of the Central Subway, subway tunnels to North Beach were built to extract the tunnel boring machines (TBMs) from the ground in an area where off-street space was available. The Central Subway Extension Alternative Study is anticipated to begin in 2024, which will help determine additional stations and routing options.
Q: Does the city plan to keep building more subway routes?
A: The ConnectSF Transit Strategy, published in December 2021, identifies a future subway route to be studied along the Geary/19th Ave corridor, which could potentially connect to the proposed Link21 new Transbay rail crossing. The SFMTA and SFCTA are partnering on the Geary/19th Ave Subway planning study, which just launched this year. Based on observations to be gathered during Central Subway operations, the SFMTA will also continue to evaluate the potential for a future extension of the Central Subway to North Beach and Fisherman’s Wharf.
Q: Why was Central Subway built for two-car trains? How will SFMTA manage additional capacity needs?
A. This decision was made more than a decade ago to reduce the costs of the project and focus on the benefits of connecting communities from Chinatown to the Bayview.
Q: Why did Central Subway take so long to complete? Why were you over budget?
A: There are many reasons that large, multi-year construction projects can take longer than expected to complete and may go over budget. Some of these involve the complexity of the project and unknowns that arise during construction. For more specific information please email TellMuni@SFMTA.com.