The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) on Sept. 20 announced that, beginning Nov. 19, a soft launch of the Central Subway Project, an extension of the T Third Line, will open with dedicated shuttle service on weekends between 4th and Brannan Station to Chinatown/Rose Park Station, stopping along the way at Yerba Buena and Union Square where passengers can make transfers to Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) service and the Market Street subway.
According to SFMTA, service specifically on this weekend shuttle for the Central Subway will be free in November and December. “This soft launch will allow for additional operator training of the brand-new system, while allowing the public to experience the system in service,” the agency says. In January 2023, SFMTA will transition to daily service—in time for Lunar New Year celebrations—connecting directly to the rest of the T Third Line, giving riders a direct connection between Chinatown and Visitacion Valley, and between the Bayview and Union Square.
According to SFMTA, the Central Subway Project will “improve public transportation in San Francisco by extending the Muni Metro T Third Line through SoMa, Union Square and Chinatown.” By providing a direct, rapid transit link between downtown and the existing T Third Line route on 3rd Street, the Central Subway “will vastly improve transportation to and from some of the densest neighborhoods west of the Hudson while connecting communities to economic opportunities and cultural activities by cutting 20 minutes off the travel time to Mission Bay,” the agency says.
T Third Line trains will travel mostly underground from the 4th Street Caltrain Station to Chinatown, bypassing heavy traffic on congested 4th and Stockton streets. The project also oversees the completion of four new stations for the public: 4th and Brannan, Yerba Buena/Moscone, Union Square/Market Street, and Chinatown/Rose Park stations.
The Central Subway Project, SFMTA says, is funded by the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) New Starts program ($984.4 million), the State of California, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the San Francisco County Transportation Authority (SFCTA; $215 million) and the City and County of San Francisco. An additional $41 million in federal funds is designated to the project as part of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (USDOT) Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement (CMAQ) Program, which “supports environmental efforts for surface transportation and related projects.”
In celebration of the soft launch, SFMTA will be hosting community station activations during October and early November at 4th and Brannan, Yerba Buena/Moscone, Union Square/Market Street and Chinatown/Rose Park stations. The community celebrations are by invite-only and a “Thank You” to all the neighbors SFMTA has partnered with from the start of the project, the agency says.
“The November opening represents a promise fulfilled to the Chinatown community to provide better local and regional transit connections,” said Rafael Mandelman, SFCTA Chair and District 8 Supervisor. “SFCTA was glad to support the project with $215 million from various sources, including the half-cent sales tax program. We hope to renew the half-cent sales tax program with approval of Measure L this November so that we can fund the city’s next generation of transformational projects.”
“I am thrilled to announce the opening schedule for the Central Subway. We are finally going to be able to experience the vision of thriving, connected neighborhoods—from Chinatown to SoMa to the Bayview and Visitacion Valley—that the people who first conceived of the Central Subway imagined,” said Jeffrey Tumlin, SFMTA Director of Transportation. “I know this announcement has been a long time coming, and I want to thank the community members and neighborhood businesses that have endured far too many years of construction. I hope the opening of the Central Subway will help jumpstart the economic recovery of our city’s downtown as well as its unique neighborhoods.”
“The November 19 opening is a culmination of 25 years of advocacy from the grassroots to the grass tops. From the Chinese Chamber and Rose Pak to Chinatown TRIP and Community Tenants Association, this project means more than just a subway line for Chinatown. Central Subway is an investment in transit equity,” said Malcom Yeung, Chinatown Community Development Center Executive Director.