Muni approves $233M subway dig under Chinatown

June 28, 2011 9:46:36 PM PDT
It is home to dim sum, tea tastings, and generations of Chinese-American families, but San Francisco's Chinatown is also home to what some call the most unpleasant bus ride in the city. Tuesday, Muni took a major step toward fixing that by approving a $233 million contract to dig a subway tunnel under Chinatown and ABC7 looks into why Muni is willing to spend that kind of money.

Some passengers say the bus gets really crowded, there's lots of pushing and shoving, and some say they're packed in like sardines. And that is just a typical ride on one of the many buses that ferry people up and down the six blocks of Stockton Street in Chinatown. Standing shoulder to shoulder, riders hold on tightly as the bus inches its way down the congested street. The city's transportation board says the problem's getting worse every year and they say the only solution is to take public transit underground.

"You don't want, in 30 years from now, to be in a city where you can't move," said MTA deputy executive director Carter Rohan.

Digging a tunnel under Stockton Street will be the longest and most expensive part of an eight-year, $1.6 billion project, designed to relieve congestion in Chinatown. Pretty much everybody agrees it's a problem, but not everyone thinks a subway is the best solution.

"This is an obvious boondoggle, obviously wasteful with rather small benefits for the amount of money invested," said Save Muni transportation engineer Gerald Cauthen.

Critics from the group Save Muni say they'd rather see the $1.6 billion spent on better bus service all over the north end of the city.

"And make them work, starting this year and next year, rather than waiting eight years for a project which won't solve any of our transit problems," said Save Muni spokesman Howard Wong.

But the MTA board chairman Tom Nolan says there's just no more room for buses.

"There really is no other way do... get that many people off the streets. The streets are just not wide enough, the density is so intense, that we need this," said Nolan.


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