Ads are being blocked

For us to continue writing great stories, we need to display ads.

Un-block Learn more


Please select the extension that is blocking ads.

Ad Block Plus Ghostery uBlock Other Blockers

Please follow the steps below

A Street Light Installation Reveals Train Traffic Under San Francisco's Streets

A nearly 2-mile-long installation would visualize the real-time passage of underground trains.

Want to experience the odd sensation of a ghost train zooming toward you, passing right through your body, and continuing down the street?

San Franciscans could soon get this opportunity, as the city ponders a groovy, glowing artwork that depicts the real-time flow of underground commuter trains.

“Lightrail” would run for about 2 miles above downtown’s Market Street, one of the city’s busiest arteries, showing in whizzing, multicolored LEDs the pulse of the hidden BART system. Local artists George Zisiadis and Stefano Corazza designed it for Illuminate the Arts, the same nonprofit behind the “Bay Lights,” a humongous waterfall of sparkles flickering on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.

Illuminate says it’s obtained a major-encroachment permit to hang “Lightrail” and is now trying to gather $10 million in private funding to do so. (The permanent “Bay Lights” were privately funded.) The artwork will “seamlessly connect the entire length of Market Street, crossing socio-economic divides,” emails an Illuminate spokeswoman. “It will celebrate the 40th anniversary of BART and 100th anniversary of MUNI, which together transport over 300,000 riders daily.”

Here’s more from the group:

In addition, ILLUMINATE plans to retrofit the entire Path of Gold streetlights–from the Ferry Building to the Rainbow Flag–with new energy-efficient LED bulbs that will cut energy use by 80% while casting a better light on Market Street. The new LED light will be more flattering to the human face and built-environment than the high-pressure sodium vapor “crime” lights installed in the 1970s.

The result will be a cleaner, greener, safer, more socially and culturally active and diverse Market Street.

The artwork has been permitted for four years, staying in place at least until the improvements of the City’s Better Market Street plan are selected and implemented. The cost to install the monumental artwork and retrofit the Path of Gold street lights is $12 million.

Those wanting to bask in San Francisco’s evolution into Tron’s “Grid” might not have long to wait. Illuminate says it hopes to debut the artwork “in time to mark San Francisco’s Summer of Love in 2017.”

Illuminate the Arts

About the Author

  • John Metcalfe
    John Metcalfe is CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, based in Oakland. His coverage focuses on climate change and the science of cities.