Crowd hails delayed opening of SF’s Central Subway to Chinatown

Thousands of people crowded onto trains and station platforms inside Muni’s new Central Subway Saturday morning, vying to be among the first to witness the opening of San Francisco’s most anticipated transit project in decades.

The enthusiasm of riders, community advocates and elected officials who rode the first train ride at 8 a.m. in the Central Subway, underscored the enormous buzz surrounding a rail project that for years seemed to exist only on paper.

“We have waited so long for this special day,” said the Rev. Norman Fong, former executive director of the Chinatown Community Development Center. “This (subway) is priceless. This is a shared dream.”

The sun hadn’t yet risen over San Francisco before a crowd of about 50 people was already waiting outside Chinatown-Rose Pak Station, the new terminus of Muni’s T-Third Street line, to get a seat on the first subway ride.

Rev.  Norman Fong blesses a plaque commemorating Rose Pak, a driving force behind the creation of the Central Subway.

Rev. Norman Fong blesses a plaque commemorating Rose Pak, a driving force behind the creation of the Central Subway.

Yalonda M. James / The Chronicle

The $1.95 billion, 1.7-mile subway extension took more than a decade of construction and nearly 40 years from conception to reality. The subway cuts through the most densely populated parts of San Francisco and is particularly important to the city’s Chinatown neighborhood, whose residents hope it will spur an economic revival.

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