Nov 22, 2022 - News

San Francisco's long-awaited Central Subway is up and running

Outside the new Chinatown Muni station

Outside the Rose Pak Muni station in Chinatown. Photo: Courtesy of SFMTA

The city's Central Subway soft-opened last weekend to connect Chinatown to downtown and SoMa.

Why it matters: Chinatown has been relatively disconnected from San Francisco's city center since the 1989 earthquake led to the removal of the Embarcadero Freeway.

  • "The Central Subway was and is a demand for transit justice," Malcolm Yeung, executive director of the Chinese Community Development Council, said at a press event in September. "Chinatown needs this lifeline."
  • When the Central Subway fully opens in January, commuters will have an easier time getting from the Caltrain station at 4th and King streets to downtown.

What's happening: During the soft opening, which runs through December, passengers can ride the Central Subway for free between the Chinatown Rose Pak station and 4th and Brannan streets.

  • The station's namesake was a political activist who fought to bring transit to Chinatown.
  • The train operates every 12 minutes, 8-12am on Saturdays and Sundays.

State of play: Construction on the Central Subway project started in 2013 and was originally set to be finished by 2018.

  • The delay was due to several factors including contract disputes and a June fire at the Yerba Buena/Moscone Station. Before the fire, the SFMTA said service would start in October.
  • The project cost nearly $2 billion, and received almost $1 billion in federal funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The big picture: This has been a major year for transit in San Francisco.

  • In April, the SFMTA completed the Van Ness Bus Rapid Transit project, which has helped to drastically increase ridership along one of the city's busiest stretches.

Yes, but: Some details on the Central Subway project are still being worked out, including red Solo cups on exterior walls that are doubling as drainage pipes until more permanent solutions are put in place.

  • SFMTA spokesperson Erica Kato acknowledging the cups, emphasized that it's a "soft launch" and the department is "finalizing any changes or construction fixes" on weekdays.

What's next: Daily service for the Central Subway will begin on Jan. 7, 2023.

  • When it does start, the T Third line will run between Chinatown-Rose Pak Station to Sunnydale.
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