How Deep Is Too Deep For San Jose BART Stations?

BART released the renderings of the planned downtown San Jose subway stations. Future riders will have to descend 70 to 90 feet below street level to board the trains. For some people on Twitter, 90 feet is too deep for a subway station. One twit wrote, “Love to take a journey to the center of the earth to board my train.” How deep is too deep for a BART station?

BART 50 YEARS AGO

BART was a state-of-the-art transit system when it first opened on September 11, 1972. President Nixon took a ride and compared the control room to NASA. The original map had BART encircling the entire San Francisco Bay Area.

That didn’t happen due to rising costs and NIMBYs in various counties. BART operated between San Francisco and Oakland via the Transbay Tube, and throughout the East Bay for decades.

BART 50 YEARS LATER

BART found its way to San Jose with the Fremont to Berryessa/North San Jose line that opened last year.

The next phase is the underground tunnel underneath Santa Clara Street through downtown San Jose. Unlike earlier underground tunnels, the street won’t be torn open to install the dual tunnels at a shallow depth. A tunnel boring machine will bore a single five-mile long, 55-feet wide tunnel well below street level to avoid surface obstacles. The new Berryessa/North San Jose to Santa Clara line will open in 2029 or 2030.

HOW DEEP IS TOO DEEP

Are the new San Jose stations too deep at 70 to 90 feet?

  • The deepest BART station is the Embarcadero station in San Francisco at 54 feet.
  • Several stations for the Washington, D.C., Metro System are over 100 feet deep.
  • Portland has the deepest station in North America at 260 feet.

The BART stations will have high-speed elevators and escalators to move people in and out of the stations. If the equipment isn’t broken.


The Transbay Tube that connects San Francisco and Oakland is a 3.6-mile-long tunnel that is 135 feet below sea level. George Lucas filmed “THX-1138” inside the Transbay Tube before the tracks got installed and the control room in 1969. People who complain about the San Jose BART stations being “too deep” have never taken a trip underneath the bay.

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