Todd's Railfan Guide to

In General


In General

Location / Name:
    San Francisco CA

What's Here:
     BART - Bay Area Rapid Transit, one of San Francisco's many rail travel options!

     GPS Coordinates: System too widespread to do any good

Access by train/transit:

The Scoop:

San Francisco is a very lucky area when it comes to rail transit.  Back in the 60's, when the gas companies and the tire and bus manufacturers were all helping to kill off the streetcar systems in America, San Francisco resisted.  That puts it in a unique position, along with Boston, Philadelphia, and to a lesser extent, New York and Chicago, of cities that fought back at the obliteration of rail transit.  It's funny, and a shame, that 50-60 years later, towns large and small are making an attempt to put rail systems in place once again - this time at a huge cost to you and me, the taxpayer (most systems were originally built privately and didn't depend on federal or state money).

From Wikipedia: BART revenue routes cover 104 miles (167km) with 44 stations.  Trains run on exclusive right-of-way, in subways or elevated.  The system uses a 5ft-6in (1,676mm) Indian gauge and mostly ballastless track instead of the 4ft-8 1/2in (1,435mm) standard gauge and railroad ties used on United States railroads.  As a result, all maintenance and support equipment must be custom built.

The maximum speed trains can travel is 80 miles per hour (130km/h), but BART does not typically operate trains at that speed except to help a train make up time.  The maximum speed BART uses during normal operations is 70mph.

Trains length ranges from four cars to a maximum of ten cars, which fills the 700 feet (213 m) length of a platform.  At its maximum length of 710 feet (216 m), BART has the longest trains of any metro system in the United States. The system also features car widths of 10.5 feet (3.2 m) (the same width as a Budd Metroliner), a maximum gradient of four percent, and a minimum curve radius of 394 feet (120 m) on the main lines.

The system runs on a 1,000VDC electrical supply, delivered to the trains by way of a third rail.  In stations the third rail is on the side away from the passenger platform, except the middle platform at the San Francisco International Airport station.  This reduces the danger of a passenger falling on the third rail or stepping on it to climb back to the platform after falling off.  On ground-level tracks, the third rail alternates from one side of the track to the other, providing breaks in the third rail to allow for emergency evacuations.  Underground tunnels, aerial structures and the Transbay Tube have evacuation walkways and passageways to allow for train evacuation without exposing passengers to contact with the third rail, which is located as far away from these walkways as possible.

Many of the original system 1970s-era BART stations, especially the aerial stations, feature simple, Brutalist architecture, while the newer stations are a mix of Neomodern and Postmodern architecture.

Expansion: Construction of eBART in Pittsburg and Antioch is underway as of 2016.  The extension to Silicon Valley is under construction in Warm Springs, Milpitas and Berryessa.

At least for now, a station by station section (like many of my other guides) would go on forever, so I have no plans to work on or include it.

Websites and other additional information sources of interest for the area:

Aerial shots were taken from either Google Maps or www.bing.com/maps as noted.  Screen captures are made with Snagit, a Techsmith product... a great tool if you have never used it! 




None for now..... :-(












  sorry... couldn't resist :-)


From Wikipedia: Some of the Bay Area Rapid Transit System's current coverage area was once served by an electrified streetcar and suburban train system called the Key System.  This early 20th-century system once had regular trans-bay traffic across the lower deck of the Bay Bridge.  By the mid-1950s, that system had been dismantled in favor of highway travel.  A new rapid-transit system was proposed to take the place of the Key System during the late 1940s, and formal planning for it began in the 1950s.  Some funding was secured for the BART system in 1959, and construction began a few years later.  Passenger service began on September 11, 1972, initially just between MacArthur and Fremont.

The new BART system was hailed as a major step forward in subway technology, although questions were asked concerning the safety of the system and the huge expenditures necessary for the construction of the network.  All nine Bay Area counties were involved in the planning and envisioned to be connected by BART.

In addition to San Francisco, Alameda, and Contra Costa Counties, Santa Clara County, San Mateo County, and Marin County were initially intended to be part of the system.  Santa Clara County Supervisors opted out in 1957, preferring instead to build expressways.  In 1961, San Mateo County supervisors voted to leave BART, saying their voters would be paying taxes to carry mainly Santa Clara County residents.  Although Marin County originally voted in favor of BART participation at the 88% level, the district-wide tax base was weakened by the withdrawal of San Mateo County.  Marin County withdrew in early 1962 because its marginal tax base could not adequately absorb its share of BART's projected cost.  Another important factor in Marin's withdrawal was an engineering controversy over the feasibility of running trains across the Golden Gate Bridge.

The extension of BART into Marin was forecast as late as three decades after the 1972 start. Initially, a lower level under the Golden Gate Bridge was preferred. In 1970, the Golden Gate Transportation Facilities Plan considered a tunnel under the Golden Gate or a new bridge parallel to the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge but neither of these plans was pursued.

Extensions were completed to Colma and Pittsburg/Bay Point in 1996, Dublin/Pleasanton in 1997, SFO/Milbrae in 2003, and the automated guideway transit spur line that connects BART to Oakland International Airport in 2014.

Modernization (from Wikipedia):  Since the mid-1990s, BART has been trying to modernize its system.  The fleet rehabilitation is part of this modernization; in 2009, fire alarms, fire sprinklers, yellow tactile platform edge domes, and cemented-mat rubber tiles were installed.  The rough black tiles on the platform edge mark the location of the doorway of approaching trains, allowing passengers to wait at the right place to board. All faregates and ticket vending machines were replaced.

In 2007, BART stated its intention to improve non-peak (night and weekend) headways for each line to 15 minutes.  The current 20-minute headways at these times is viewed as a psychological barrier to ridership.  In mid-2007, BART temporarily reversed its position stating that the shortened wait times would likely not happen due to a $900,000 state revenue budget shortfall. Nevertheless, BART eventually confirmed the implementation of the plan by January 2008.  Continued budgetary problems halted the expanded non-peak service and returned off-peak headways to 20 minutes in 2009.

In 2008 BART announced that it would install solar power systems on the roofs of two yards and maintenance facilities in addition to car ports with rooftop solar panels at the Orinda station.  The board lamented not being able to install them at all stations but it stated that Orinda was the only station with enough sun for them to make money from the project.

In 2012 The California Transportation Commission announced they would provide funding for expanding BART facilities, through the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, in anticipation of the opening of the Silicon Valley Berryessa Extension. $50 million would go in part to improvements to the Hayward Maintenance Complex.


I love trains, and I love signals.  I am not an expert.  My webpages reflect what I find on the topic of the page.  This is something I have fun with while trying to help others.  My webpages are an attempt at putting everything I can find of the subject in one convenient place.  There are plenty of other good websites to help me in this effort, and they are listed in the links section on my indexa page, or as needed on individual pages.  Please do not write to me about something that may be incorrect, and then hound the heck out of me if I do not respond to you in the manner you would like.  I operate on the "Golden Rule Principle", and if you are not familiar with it, please acquaint yourself with how to treat people by reading Mathew 7:12 (among others, the principle exists in almost every religion).  If you contact me (like some do, hi Paul) and try to make it a "non-fun" thing and start with the name calling, your name will go into my spambox list! :-)

Please Note:  Since the main focus of my two websites is railroad signals, the railfan guides are oriented towards the signal fan being able to locate them.  For those of you into the modeling aspect of our hobby, my indexa page has a list of almost everything railroad oriented I can think of to provide you with at least a few pictures to help you detail your pike.

If this is a railfan page, every effort has been made to make sure that the information contained on this map and in this railfan guide is correct.  Once in a while, an error may creep in, especially if restaurants or gas stations open, close, or change names.  Most of my maps are a result of personal observation after visiting these locations.  I have always felt that a picture is worth a thousand words", and I feel annotated maps such as the ones I work up do the same justice for the railfan over a simple text description of the area.  Since the main focus of my website is railroad signals, the railfan guides are oriented towards the signal fan being able to locate them.  Since most of us railheads don't have just trains as a hobby, I have also tried to point out where other interesting sites of the area are.... things like fire stations, neat bridges, or other significant historical or geographical feature.  While some may feel they shouldn't be included, these other things tend to make MY trips a lot more interesting.... stuff like where the C&O Canal has a bridge going over a river (the Monocacy Aqueduct) between Point of Rocks and Gaithersburg MD, it's way cool to realize this bridge to support a water "road" over a river was built in the 1830's!!!  

My philosophy: Pictures and maps are worth a thousand words, especially for railfanning.  Text descriptions only get you so far, especially if you get lost or disoriented.  Take along good maps.... a GPS is OK to get somewhere, but maps are still better if you get lost!  I belong to AAA, which allows you to get local maps for free when you visit the local branches.  ADC puts out a nice series of county maps for the Washington DC area, but their state maps do not have the railroads on them.  If you can find em, I like the National Geographic map book of the U.S..... good, clear, and concise graphics, and they do a really good job of showing you where tourist type attractions are, although they too lack the railroads.  Other notes about specific areas will show up on that page if known.

By the way, floobydust is a term I picked up 30-40 years ago from a National Semiconductor data book, and means miscellaneous and/or other stuff.

Pictures and additional information is always needed if anyone feels inclined to take 'em, send 'em, and share 'em, or if you have something to add or correct.... credit is always given! BE NICE!!! Contact info is here

Beware: If used as a source, ANYTHING from Wikipedia must be treated as being possibly being inaccurate, wrong, or not true.


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NEW 03/04/2016
Last Modified 04-Mar-2016