The Warriors' first tipoff in their new Mission Bay home might be years away, but city planners are already mapping out future transit options that will carry fans to the proposed arena.
The new arena is expected to open its doors on the eastern shores of The City for the basketball team's 2018-19 season, right around the time the Central Subway will be tunnel-boring its way toward completion, practically to the Warriors' doorstep.
The Central Subway, expected to be finished by 2019, will provide an underground, more direct north-south connection from the T-Third Street line through downtown. Future arena-goers would need only to cross the street to the UCSF Mission Bay station, San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency officials say.
Extending a new light-rail shuttle line past the existing N-Judah route to reach the UCSF Mission Bay station had already been under consideration "for a while," said SFMTA spokesman Paul Rose. That option was part of the environmental review for the now-scrapped plan to build an arena at Piers 30-32, which required an analysis of alternative sites. The Warriors announced last week that they had purchased the Mission Bay site for their future arena.
"When the Warriors made the announcement, we were well set up to tweak the extensive analysis around Mission Bay already underway," he said.
As part of the Central Subway, the T-Third line would no longer loop around The Embarcadero and make stops along Market Street as the N-Judah line does, instead traveling along Fourth Street to a new station at Union Square and through to Stockton Street.
To board the T-Third line, people taking Muni or BART will have to get off at the Powell Street station and walk about 1,000 feet through an underground concourse to arrive at the Central Subway's Union Square-Market Street station, which will take less than five minutes for an able-bodied person, according to the SFMTA.
Rose said the estimated travel from Union Square-Market to the Mission Bay site would be about 10 minutes on the new subway, as opposed to the current 18 minutes of travel time from Powell Street station to Mission Bay.
Members of Save Muni, a group that opposed the Central Subway project, say the transfer at Powell is an added nuisance for riders and foresee overcrowding at the Union Square station, which is limited to running two-car trains.
"The station is going to be a mess," Save Muni co-founder Howard Wong said. "There, you will see hundreds, maybe thousands of people waiting."
The SFMTA should extend the N-Judah line to give riders the second transit option, said Save Muni co-founder Jerry Cauthen, manager of Muni's transit improvement program from 1972 to 1981.
"It makes sense to do it, and they have to do it because the Central Subway did not have capacity" during game and event days, Cauthen said.
If light-rail shuttle service along the current N-Judah track is extended, BART riders coming from the East Bay could also choose to get off at The Embarcadero and take the shuttle instead of the Central Subway.
"It's going to cost [the SFMTA] but it will make the basketball fans happy, I think," Cauthen said.
The SFMTA plans to increase the frequency of the T-Third line, Rose said, and the agency also plans to improve surface-level bus service.
Transit-only lanes are in the pipeline for 16th Street between Church and Third streets to speed up the 22-Fillmore, which stops at 18th and Third streets, four blocks south of the Mission Bay arena site.
"There are a number of transportation options available to Muni and other regional transit riders to get to the new Mission Bay site," Rose said. "And Central Subway will only help to improve service for customers getting to and from the game."