San Francisco Examiner - Planning begins for Central Subway extension to Fisherman’s Wharf

The City is taking its first major step in years toward extending the $1.6 billion Central Subway to Fisherman’s Wharf.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency kicked off public outreach into the extension within the last few weeks, according to newly published public documents, representing the first step toward planning what route an underground tube to Fisherman’s Wharf may take.

One possible route could even one day take the Central Subway into the Marina District or the Presidio, according to the SFMTA.

Troy Campbell, executive director of the Fisherman’s Wharf community benefits district, said the neighborhood is in a years-long hiring crunch. Bussers, servers, and other commonly-needed wharf workers can’t afford to live in San Francisco, and increased transit options would help attract a wider Bay Area workforce.

“It just gets worse as the cost of living continues to skyrocket,” Campbell said.

Help may not exactly come at rocket speed.

The Central Subway’s expansion of the T-Third line will debut from South of Market to Chinatown Station at the end of 2019, according to the SFMTA. As for any potential expansion to Fisherman’s Wharf, community outreach only just began, and environmental review and engineering design could take as long as six years. The completion of any expansion could be a decade away, SFMTA told the San Francisco Examiner.

That process is beginning now, with SFMTA staffers asking community groups what route they’d like a future Central Subway extension to take. Options previously studied in a 2014 report, which are now partially outdated, abound: The subway could run under Powell Street from Columbus Avenue to Muni’s Kirkland bus yard, which would become a subway station, or down Columbus Avenue to Conrad Square, a park that could also become a station. Some early designs feature both options, connecting the two underground along Beach Street.

Campbell said both potential stations have their benefits. Kirkland is near Pier 39 and the cruise ship terminal, for instance, whereas Conrad Square is a stone’s throw from Ghiradelli Square. Both would connect tourists to many nearby hotels.

Those maps and station options were published in late 2014, however, and aspects of those proposals have since become infeasible. The maps often refer to a station in North Beach at the former Pagoda Theater on Union Street, for instance, but that site has since been developed into housing.

In addition, extending the Central Subway to Fisherman’s Wharf and beyond could stretch to $1.4 billion, according to those outdated proposals, and that’s in 2014 dollars without inflation adjustments.

This newest outreach will begin SFMTA’s study into new alternatives, which is expected to wrap in “mid-2019,” according to SFMTA project documents. The routes and stations proposed in that study will then be recommended for environmental review. Those new routes may include tunnels stretching westward from Fisherman’s Wharf to the Presidio, SFMTA confirmed to the Examiner.

The first of those outreach meetings included the Chinatown Community Development Center and the Fisherman’s Wharf community benefits district in mid-May. Campbell said the meeting revealed the process is still in its early stages. “The meeting was so preliminary, it was preliminary to preliminary to the official preliminary meeting,” Campbell said.

Still, he said, it’s a start.