BART to Livermore at Isabel

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BART's easternmost station, the Dublin/Pleasanton station went into service in 1997 with anticipation of going into Livermore at some point. In June 2018, the BART Board voted not to extend eastward of the Dublin station. Just prior to the vote, two different methodologies for train projects were under consideration.

New Approach, Assembly Bill 758

After 53 years of waiting for the BART board to make progress, AB 758 was crafted to wrest control of the process away from BART, the MTC and the Alameda County Transportation Commission (ACTC). At the April 10 2017 Livermore City Council meeting, City staff presented the bill for discussion. It received broad support, as there was only a single vote at the time (out of nine) of the BART board in favor of extending.[1]. Funding control was scheduled to be transferred to the new JPA on June 30 2018.

Old Approach, Local Agency Planning

Until AB 758, only one pathway to delivery was considered - BART. It involved the need to achieve approval from three separate agencies: the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), the ACTC and the BART board of directors. The potential to extend BART to Livermore with an Isabel Boulevard station in 2026 involved several steps. Funding was key.

The MTC was the entity which approves crucial funding. They would not approve funding without high density urban development close to the proposed station.

Since Livermore's desired location for BART is currently open space, it would not qualify. Logic might suggest that MTC simply state the development that would be required in order for them to fund the station. They refuse to do this. Instead, Livermore must prepare a plan to develop what the City thinks might be sufficient to gain support for BART funding. Livermore has been engaged in a costly and time consuming Isabel Residential Rezoning process in order to satisfy this MTC requirement.

MTC will be presented with the final proposed development plan for MTC to debate and decide. If MTC commits to funding, the BART Board will then decide if it wants to extend. With approval of both entities, the process will move on to feasibility assessments and acquisition of the remainder of the necessary funds.

580 Wesbound Commute Traffic Impacts

Automobile Congestion Increase

It is often noted that a key goal of bringing BART to Livermore is to "take cars off the road", implying that the daily AM traffic jam on highway 580 would improve. This theory was considered by some as faulty, as the additional 12,000 residents added to the Isabel development will create more commute traffic than can be mitigated by BART. At up to 200 people per car (uncomfortably termed "crush load") a train can carry a maximum of 1,900 passengers. Every 15 minutes, up to 1,900 people are currently transported up the Dublin grade. This number does not change with the Livermore extension. That means extending BART to Livermore may not result in any additional cars removed from the freeway. The 5 mile section between Isabel and Hacienda might see relief, but only if there were no additional trips from new development around the Isabel station.

The Isabel Residential Rezoning will create many employees seeking westward commutes, plus and local school trips.

System Throughput

BART is often encouraged to find a way to make trains run more frequently[2]. Trains cannot be lengthened or decked, as they could not be accommodated in the terminals.

Increasing the ridership throughput can only be achieved by increasing the frequency of trains. There are tremendous challenges associated with engineering shorter intervals since transbay timing issues can create a "BART traffic jam" within its own system. Discussion has begun to replace the system control mechanism and have enough trains to reduce the interval to 12 minutes, increasing throughput by up to 30%.

As of September 2016, BART expected the 12 minute interval would be achieved in 2023.

In July 2017, the Livermore EIR pushed back that estimate and specified a very wide time range. "At some point after 2025, BART intends to improve weekday train headways from 15 minutes to 12 minutes, which will be in effect by 2040." Page 287 Vol 1 [3].

In July 2018, that estimate was moved back to 2026 "at the earliest".

Page 88 of the DEIR [4] lists the requirements to run a 12 minute interval, ALL of which need to be complete before ANY of the trains can run more often.

 Fleet of the Future – Expansion of BART's current fleet from 669 cars to as many as 1,116 cars
 Train Control Modernization Project – An updated train control system that will allow BART to run trains more frequently and reliably
 (Construct the) Hayward Maintenance Complex – To ensure that BART has sufficient capacity to repair and maintain the fleet of its expanded system
 Traction Power Improvements – Upgrade or install five traction power substations to serve the congested corridor to adequately power additional BART service

BART's position on congestion

There have been conflicting statements. Although they have often declared in documents such as the August 12 2012 BART to Livermore Extension Project EIR Notice of Preparation [5] the "Project also is intended to alleviate traffic congestion on I-580", BART offered no explanation why such an outcome would occur. They also stated it will "provide an alternative to traffic congestion along the federal I-580 corridor" [6] which can be interpreted as implying that freeway congestion will still be bad after BART is extended. At the time it was unclear it this was a soft admission that BART to Livermore might not actually relieve traffic problems. The reality that the BART extension will not alleviate 580 congestion was confirmed when the Draft EIR was released [7]. Pages 317, 320, 326, 329, 393, 396, 398, 401 contain charts that show no improvement in 580 commute traffic flow. The cost of the EIR was $11.2 million [8]


The existing Dublin/Pleasanton station has 2,612 parking spaces[9]. Alameda County will begin building another garage with 600 spaces in October 2018. [10]


Capital Expenditures

In 2016, the estimate was $1.2 billion[11]. This budget left out the 99 additional trains, which were to cost $218 million[12], plus unknown costs for a more advanced operational control system[13].

In 2017, the project page was updated to a new cost of $1.6 billion[14]. Additional trains still need to be purchased.

Revenue Sources

$533 Million of the 1.64 billion is identified and will be available if it is approved by the ACTC (after MTC approval). $400 million of this funding is from the 2014 Alameda County Measure BB sales tax increase [15] and by reference, the approved expenditure plan[16]. The shortfall is $1.1 billion.


The annual maintenance share attributable to the extension, track and 99 cars could be 17 to 33 million per year[17][18].

Pseudo-BART Extension Alternatives

Although Livermore is only interested in extending real BART to Isabel, other possibilities for consideration such as diesel cars[19] are part of the process. There is a legal requirement to do so, even if the alternatives are not being seriously considered.


Freeway Termination

In response to the building momentum toward terminating the line near the Livermore Transit Center downtown, a citizen sponsored intiative was drafted in 2011 to require Council to recommend a termination on highway 580 instead of downtown. Using volunteers, it gathered the necessary signatures over a four month period[20]. It was adopted by a 3-2 vote Council vote [21].

Benefits of Extension

The addition of BART to Livermore does have benefits:

  • Better usability for Livermore residents, especially disabled/elderly, during non-commute hours
  • 5 mile shorter drive for out of county commuters utilizing Altamont Pass
  • Fewer automibiles in the Pleasanton parking lots
  • More efficient bus routes for Livermore resident riders; less time on the bus for commuters when BART is their destination
  • Pleasanton relieved from the challenges associated with being an "end station".

Drawbacks of Extension

  • Pleasanton residents will have less available seating/standing, since trains will arrive with passengers instead of being empty.
  • High capital costs
  • No significant improvement in 580 freeway commute traffic congestion