Have you ever wanted a faster, more efficient way to travel across Northern California, from Santa Cruz to San Rafael and Merced to Marysville? It may be on the horizon via a passenger rail improvement program called Link21.  

The program, announced in January by BART and the Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority, would include the construction of a second transbay rail tunnel by 2040 and additional rail system improvements across the 21-county Northern California Megaregion in an effort to reduce vehicle traffic and make public transit more accessible. 

The megaregion stretches from Yuba, Sutter and Placer counties to Monterey and San Benito counties from north to south, and from Marin and Sonoma counties along the coast to Stanislaus and Merced counties in the San Joaquin Valley.  

The Northern California Megaregion is currently home to roughly 12.2 million people but its population is on pace to expand to 16 million people by 2050, according to a report by the Bay Area Council Economic Institute. 

A second transbay rail crossing and additional rail improvements under the Link21 umbrella, BART and Capitol Corridor officials have argued, will ultimately reduce crowding across rail systems in the megaregion, reduce single-occupancy vehicle traffic, reduce commute times and allow for longer and more frequent service throughout the megaregion as its population balloons.  

BART, the Capitol Corridor JPA and the Bay Area’s Metropolitan Transportation Commission have already pooled more than $200 million toward the second transbay crossing’s construction as well as other planned Link21 projects.  

While Link21 is still in its early planning stages, MTC has estimated the cost of the new transbay tunnel at up to $29 billion.  

So what are all the ways in which Link21 could alter the ways in which people live and move through the megaregion? 

Ask BART’s Acting Link21 Director Sadie Graham and HNTB Senior Vice President and Link21 Program Manager Peter Gertler directly during Local News Matters’ live chat about the program on Friday, Oct. 29 from 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.