I was going to write this comment in the last subways post but I thought it might warrant its own post.
Folks have been asking why we need subways or why surface transit expanded won't do the trick. I think Zurich, Budapest, and Vienna for example have excellent surface transit systems. As 295bus points out in the comments, Zurich has been very progressive with their que jumping tram systems. But I don't have that kind of faith in San Francisco to do it right. Everything seems to get messed up in engineering. But even if what they say about the signal priority is true on the T Third, something like a 10% increase in travel time on the whole line, that still doesn't do much for me. That trip from end to end is still makes you budget an hour for your trip. It still gets caught up in lights and there are way too many stops because of crossing streets. Same with the N, same with the L etc.
I know you all have probably heard me complain about this before, but here is the basic comparison and reason for my angst on this subject.
I live by the 24th and Church J Stop. It's exactly a half mile from my door to the 24th street BART. Now, in the morning going to work, I walk down the hill to BART and get on a train. They come every 4 minutes to Oakland which means I almost never have to wait very long. I take the train 18 minutes (almost never changes) to the 12th street station and walk up the stairs to my office. That trip of 11 miles takes me 30 minutes every day. That means I'm going 22 miles per hour.
Now let's say I'm going to Union Street to watch the game. I watch Next Muni to see when the J is coming, I go and hop on the J and take it to Church and Market. At Church and Market I switch to the 22 trolley bus which then travels down Fillmore. This whole trip is three miles and takes about 40 minutes.
Here's another trip I take. Take the J downtown then get on the 45 or the 30 to go into North Beach to meet friends. That trip takes me 40 minutes as well. That's about a 4 mile trip made faster by the Market Subway but I still have to crawl through Chinatown on Stockton Street. That is about 6 miles per hour.
But imagine if we had a subway. That trip to Union Street would take about 15 minutes. Wow. That would be amazing! I wouldn't have to budget an hour each way just in case a car stopped in front of the bus or the signals were having a bad day. It would be the same time every time we took it. I could go to the Richmond for Dim Sum or North Beach for Italian deli meat.
This is not Houston or Austin where we can say, 'we're not as dense as San Francisco or New York'. We ARE San Francisco. The city IS dense. We should have a Metro system just like DC or Vienna or Prague. I realize its expensive but so will be cleaning the air and allowing people greater mobility. Imagine not having to worry about places to park ever! When we make people have to budget an hour for what should be a short trip, we are making them choose thier car. Because our streets are narrow and we need to start thinking about giving bicycles and pedestrians space as well, our precious street space should be used for that and surface transit with many stops, and people should be able to get across town in a timely fashion underground. Just my opinion.