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1956 BART plan would be great today

The 1950s were a time for dreams of what might be. The space program, civil rights movement and rock-n-roll all blossomed from post-war America.

One vision of the future included mass transit: Grand plans for modern transportation systems, including our very own BART, emerged during the 50s. San Jose State grad student Jake Coolidge took a look at the original 1956 proposal for BART, and revealed a frighteningly prescient blueprint for how the Bay Area would emerge over the next century.

How cool would it be to take a BART train from Santa Rosa to Los Gatos? George Lucas could take the M train from Lucas Valley station, transfer to the P at 4th and King, and arrive at Facebook in Menlo Park in plenty of time for an early lunch.

Coolidge’s BART-style map of the lines and stations — part of his Master’s thesis — illuminate the visionary scope of BART’s original plan. The stoic, 22-inch bound document includes a line from SFO to Oakland International. Another connects Napa with Daly City, via UCSF, 19th Avenue and SF State. My favorite is the F line, which runs from 29th and Geary to Diridon in San Jose. Via the East Bay.

You can see how cost concerns scaled back the final BART system that emerged in 1972 as the first ground-up transit system in the United States in more than 50 years. It’s also not hard to see how much we all would have benefited had we taken the plunge on the whole enchilada.

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  1. It was NOT “cost concerns” by planners that reduced BART to the mere 3-county system that opened in ’72. A full 9-county system, scaled down from that ’56 plan but still going all around the Bay, was the plan…& was voted down by the county supervisors of Santa Clara, San Mateo & Marin (despite a popular vote of 88% in favor) at various times. I don’t remember how Nolo & Solano opted out. People loved cars & freeways then, & were almost as short-sighted as they are now. We could’ve had that full system for the cost of an extra 1/2% sales tax in those counties between then & now.

  2. A real bummer that Santa Clara county supervisors helped thwart the original BART plan by saying “we are going to build expressways instead”. The plan was there, just the vision from the people in charge wasn’t.

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