BART, Capital Corridor look to transform Northern California’s passenger rail service with Link21 Program

Jan. 28, 2021
The Link21 Program includes projects, such as a new transbay rail crossing, to increase service and improve connections in the Northern California Megaregion.

Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) and the Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority (CCJPA) introduced the Link21 program, which is a long-range transportation initiative the partners believe will transform the passenger rail service within the Northern California Megaregion.  

The Link21 program will focus on rail improvements centered within the 21-county megaregion covering the areas of Sacramento, San Francisco Bay, Northern San Joaquin Valley and Monterey Bay. BART and CCJPA explain these areas face shared transportation, housing, environmental and economic challenges, as well as opportunities.

“Link21 will help shape Northern California’s rail system for future generations,” said Rob Padgette, managing director of the Capitol Corridor. “For example, our most popular travel itinerary is between Sacramento and San Francisco, but that trip currently requires a transfer to either BART at the Richmond Station or to one of our connecting buses at the Emeryville Station. By providing a direct rail connection across the Bay that avoids the need for a transfer and traffic on I-80, this program will dramatically improve how our riders get to and from the San Francisco Bay Area.”

Link21 has four goals:

  • Transform the passenger experience with better services, improved reliability and system performance and to build ridership and mode share;
  • Enhance community and livability by connecting people and places, advancing equity and improving safety, health and air quality;
  • Support economic growth and global competitiveness by improving access to opportunity and employment, connecting major economic research and education centers and enabling transit-supportive land use; and
  • Advance environmental stewardship and protection by increasing climate change resilience, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and conserving resources.

The program will be executed in three phases with the first, which will begin in 2021, designed to query the public and gain input on project alternatives. The second phase, to begin in 2024, will refine the projects to be included in the program and the final phase, to begin in 2028, will include final engineering design and the development of construction packages.

One project included in the program is a second transbay crossing, for which a report outlining the case for the project was published on the same day as the Link21 announcement.

The report, The Megaregional Case for a New Transbay Rail Crossing, was commissioned by the Bay Area Council Economic Institute and details reasoning to support a second transbay rail crossing between San Francisco and the East Bay.

The report states a new transbay rail crossing could ease congestion along one of the Bay Area’s busiest commute corridors and “serve as the lynchpin for an economic bonanza.” According to the study, the combined population growth in the six counties of Northern San Joaquin County and three Sacramento-area counties since 2012 equaled that of San Francisco, San Mateo, Alameda and Contra Costa counties.

The proposed rail crossing would serve both BART and regional rail systems (Capitol Corridor and Caltrain) and allow passengers to use a single system to reach their destinations.

“A new transbay rail crossing is critical to building out a highly connected, highly efficient Bay Area and Northern California transportation network,” said Jeff Bellisario, executive director of the Bay Area Council Economic Institute. “Adding transbay rail capacity will also be instrumental in creating new economic opportunities for more people across the 21-county megaregion.”

“As we continue to offer vital services to our passengers during these challenging times, we are also looking ahead to the future” said BART General Manager Bob Powers. “Link21 will connect passengers to the places they want to go throughout the Megaregion.”


The report, The Megaregional Case for a New Transbay Rail Crossing, can be accessed here

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Editor in Chief

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the magazine’s editorial direction and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.