Third Street Light Rail Project

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Third Street Light Rail
San Francisco-Third St Light Rail.jpg
New tracks on 3rd Street north of 16th Street in September 2005
TypeLight rail
SystemMuni Metro
LocaleSan Francisco, California
OpenedApril 7, 2007
OwnerSan Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency
Operator(s)San Francisco Municipal Railway
Track gauge4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
(standard gauge)
ElectrificationOverhead lines, 600 V DC
Route map

E Embarcadero N Judah
E Embarcadero N Judah
enlarge… 4th and King
4th Street Bridge
Mission Rock
UCSF/Chase Center
Mission Bay Loop
20th Street
23rd Street
Muni Metro
East Yard
Marin Street
Levon Hagop Nishkian Bridge
over Islais Creek
Kirkwood/La Salle
Armstrong wye
Le Conte

The Third Street Light Rail Project was the construction project that expanded the Muni Metro system in San Francisco, California, linking downtown San Francisco to the historically underserved southeastern neighborhoods of Bayview-Hunters Point and Visitacion Valley along the eastern side of the city. Construction was finished in late 2006, non-revenue weekend service began on January 13, 2007, and full service began on April 7, 2007.[1] The new service, as the T Third Street Metro line, replaced the 15 Third bus line, which ran south from the Caltrain Depot at 4th and King streets, along Third Street and Bayshore Boulevard to the southeastern neighborhoods.


In 1993, the San Francisco Municipal Railway published the Bayshore Transit Study, which offered the following seven goals:[2]

  1. Improve transit service to, from and within the Bayshore corridor (decrease transit times and improve ridership)
  2. Facilitate economic development in the area (stimulate new development and employment)
  3. Enhance the area's environment (air quality and visual improvements)
  4. Enhanced current and planned City & regional transportation (connections to other modes of transportation)
  5. Implement a cost effective & financially feasible system (minimize operating and capital costs)
  6. Implement project as soon as possible
  7. Implement an equitable system (bringing transit service to citywide levels)

The Bayshore Transit Study presented nine alternatives (including a "do nothing" alternative) ranging from building a trolley coach to expanding the MUNI Metro light rail system.[2] In the two alternative light rail routes proposed, rail service would be extended south to Caltrain's Bayshore Station along Third Street from the Financial District. Potential future extensions studied included lines along Hunter's Point, in Little Hollywood (to Candlestick Park), and along Bayshore and Geneva to the Balboa Park Station.[2]

The project was initially budgeted at $667 million. As of July 2006, the budget increased by $120 million.[1]


The T Third officially starts at West Portal, when trains switch signs from their original K Ingleside designation to T Third prior to proceeding through the Twin Peaks Tunnel and Market Street Subway to the Caltrain Depot at 4th and King streets and then along the new extension. The 15-Third bus line was eliminated and the 8-Bayshore bus line was extended to replace the 15 in areas not served by the metro extension, including City College and Fisherman's Wharf.

The extension was supposed to connect directly to the Bayshore Caltrain Station when the station was in San Francisco County. However, as part of Caltrain's 2004 CTX project, Caltrain relocated the Bayshore Station to San Mateo County without informing Muni. To complicate matters, this connection has been plagued by cost and design issues. As a result, the southern end of the line terminates at the Sunnydale Station on Bayshore Boulevard for the time being.


18 new stations were built along the line. They consist of either island platforms between the tracks or side platforms, with elevated platform heights to allow level boarding with the internal train stairs raised, similar to the ones used by the N Judah along the Embarcadero.

As part of the project, the entire Third Street corridor was repaved and received new streetlights. Additionally, palm trees were planted, sidewalks reconstructed and the pavement on 3rd Street repaved. Stations along the route have a distinctive marquee pole with a sculpture or mobile.

Light rail vehicles (LRVs) operate in an exclusive right-of-way in the center of the street along most of the line to bypass vehicular congestion and increase speed along the line. LRVs operate in mixed flow traffic at the 4th Street Bridge (the bridge does not have enough room for LRV exclusive right-of-way) and in a 10 block segment in the Bayview business district to maintain parking on both sides of the street for customers of local businesses.

In addition, transit signal priority has been implemented along the entire corridor. The goal is to allow LRVs to have a green light at every intersection so they can travel from station to station without stopping.

Future plans[edit]

The Mission Bay Loop is being completed as of 2018 at a cost of $10.2 million. This will allow easier short turns on the line and better service to Chase Center.[3]

The Third Street Light Rail Project is the first part of a multi-phase plan to expand the Muni Metro system. The second phase, known as the Central Subway, will take T Third off the tracks it shares with K Ingleside and N Judah north of 4th and King. Once the second phase is complete, T Third will move to new tracks extending north from the Caltrain depot at 4th and King above ground to a new station at 4th and Brannan, then proceed underground with intermediate stops at the new stations Yerba Buena/Moscone Station and Union Square/Market Street Station before terminating at a new Chinatown Station at Stockton and Washington streets.

In the early part of March 2009, media and community groups proposed that as the Central Subway is being built, plans should be drawn up to extend the T Third past Chinatown through North Beach and Fisherman's Wharf neighborhoods, passing Pier 39, potentially using an old coal railroad line underneath Fort Mason and ending up at The Presidio.[citation needed][4] These plans were presented in October 2014 as a third phase (northern extension to Fisherman's Wharf) and a conceptual fourth phase (extension west to the Presidio).[5] Formal planning for a Central Subway extension was kicked off in late 2018 with several community meetings, and an Alternatives Study is underway with a projected completion in late 2019.[6][7]


  1. ^ a b Cabanatuan, Michael (January 13, 2007). "Muni's Third St. light-rail line finally rolling". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved March 18, 2013.
  2. ^ a b c Wilbur Smith Associates (1993). Bayshore Transit Study (Report). City and County of San Francisco, San Francisco Municipal Railway. Retrieved March 10, 2017.
  3. ^ Rodriguez, Joe Fitzgerald (July 23, 2018). "Cost for long delayed Muni 'loop' to boost Warriors train service jumps $1.4 million". The Examiner. Retrieved July 24, 2018.
  4. ^ Cabanatuan, Michael (November 26, 2014). "Extending S.F.'s Central Subway would draw riders, study says". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved March 10, 2017.
  5. ^ T-Third – Phase 3 Concept Study (PDF) (Report). San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, Sustainable Streets Division. October 2014. Retrieved March 10, 2017.
  6. ^ Rodriguez, Joe Fitzgerald (December 8, 2018). "Marina District may be on board for Central Subway extension". San Francisco Examiner. Retrieved December 10, 2018.
  7. ^ "Central Subway Extension Alternatives Study" (PDF). San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. September 27, 2018. Retrieved December 10, 2018.

External links[edit]