San Francisco Explores Removing 280 Freeway Viaduct, Realigning HSR

Jan 21st, 2013 | Posted by

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and his administration have been working on a proposal that would reshape transportation routes in Mission Bay. The concept would be to take down the Interstate 280 viaduct past Mariposa Street by Potrero Hill to its current end by the Caltrain station at 4th and King. This would enable the HSR tracks and potentially the 4th and King station itself to be moved from its current location to another place nearby. And that in turn could change the route used for the downtown extension tunnel that would connect the existing tracks to the Transbay Terminal.

Green Caltrain has a good overview of the proposal:

San Francisco would love to bring Bus Rapid Transit down 16th street to Mission Bay, connecting to BART and other Muni lines. But the 16th street at-grade crossing is nearing gridlock today; more trains from electrified Caltrain and high speed rail will make grade separation a necessity. With the freeway in place and the tracks above ground, the road would need to go under the tracks, creating an environment even more hostile to walking and biking, and even larger concrete barriers separating neighborhoods even further.

“So,”, said Gillett, “let’s be San Francisco and take down the freeway.” The crowd in the packed room gasped and laughed. With the successful transformation of the Embarcadero and the Central Freeway to Octavia Boulevard, the bold plan might just work.

Removing the freeway past Mariposa might enable more options to iron out the expensive, train-slowing stair-step alignment of the Downtown Extension of the Caltrain tracks to Transbay terminal. The picture below shows alternative alignments brainstormed at a 2011 design charette convened by the San Francisco County Transportation Authority. The quickly sketched alignment proposals also have problems, but perhaps further study would find feasible alternatives that at least partly smooth out the kinks in the curve.

Green Caltrain has much more details on the plans, including power point presentations put together by SFCTA describing the concept.

One potential challenge is how this would align with Caltrain’s electrification plans, but the agency seems open to the idea:

In order to achieve this vision, San Francisco is asking Caltrain to swap rail storage at 4th and King for other locations on side tracks within existing rights of way. This request was described in a memo to MTC Executive Director Steve Heminger in a response to a request for San Francisco’s policy position on the Caltrain electrification environmental review process.

San Francisco is asking Caltrain to electrify less of the railyards at 4th and King to enable the City to make progress on its land use plans. The benefit to Caltrain would include increased ridership from a station area even richer with jobs and residences, as well as an “opportunity to create real estate value which can be used to fund transit and Caltrain investments.”…

Seamus Murphy, Caltrain’s director of government and community affairs, said that Caltrain would like to work with San Francisco on a solution that enabled the city to use land productively, as long they can find viable places to store the trains, and don’t have a major impact on Caltrain’s electrification schedule.

Overall the concept strikes me as a sound one. It could also help address a concern raised repeatedly by rail advocates that the curves of the existing DTX tunnel proposal are too tight. The SFCTA plan would allow a straighter tunnel to be bored from Mission Bay to the Transbay Terminal, although potential issues do exist with pilings for some of the buildings in Mission Bay. That in turn could help ease operations in the DTX and improve train speeds coming out of the Transbay Terminal.

Obviously many details remain to be sorted out. But San Francisco appears willing to do the work to see if this is a viable concept. If the details can be worked out, this proposal looks like it will provide better passenger rail service for Caltrain and high speed rail, as well as helping San Francisco continue to add more density, something it surely needs.

  1. Nathanael
    Jan 21st, 2013 at 13:09

    I cannot figure out from the proposals what the proposed railway route is (after demolishing the freeway). All the maps seem to be from previous, outdated proposals.

    Has anyone got a pointer to a clear picture?

    Nathanael Reply:

    OK, I see what’s going on.

    The current proposal is to replace the I-280 with below-grade tracks from Mariposa St. until until the end of I-280, just past Mission Bay. Great!

    After Mission Bay, the existing (terrible) proposal for how to get to the Transbay Terminal resumes, but an alternative proposal (swinging under SF MOMA) is proposed too.

    Neil Shea Reply:

    A much straighter approach to the TTC would be a huge win. And the high-value land freed up for development could pay for much of the DTX. These folks are getting creative…

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    A much straighter approach to the TTC would be a huge win.

    A rather modest win. At immense added cost. Does not pencil out, not by an order of magnitude.
    Some things are “nice to have”. But in the real world things come with price tags. And in the California Monopoly Civil Engineering Cartel Sky’s-the-Limit Wonderland, those price tags make your eyeballs bleed just looking at them.

    And the high-value land freed up for development could pay for much of the DTX

    Does not remotely pencil out — off by almost two orders of magnitude.

    These folks are getting creative

    B Ark.

    Clem Reply:

    Are you being contrarian, or expressing veiled support for the current DTX alignment?

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    In the very broadest sense, meaning “Tunnel 1 to Seventh to Townsend to Second to the Transbay site”, it’s about as good as is feasible in today’s SF built environment.

    Obviously it’s idiotic at any level of detail closer than that. Any fool can see what an sub-moronic bunch of hideously inept clowns Parsons Transportation Group (the “professional” consultants responsible for the DTX catastrophe) are.

    And obviously the wrong LPA was “chosen” (Thanks, Tony Bruzzone, now of ARUP! You’re the man!)

    But given the facts on the ground (ie the extant built environment of SF), I don’t see better (in the engineering in the real world sense, not in the perfect optimal floor-wax-and-dessert-topping sense) solution.

    (In the perfect unconstrained cost-divorced world, we’d likely be talking an immense 8 to 10 track multi-level cavern under Kearney north of Market Street. But we’re not.)

    Nathanael Reply:

    In the unconstrained world, we’d be talking a four-track underground station continuing into the Second Transbay Tube.

  2. synonymouse
    Jan 21st, 2013 at 13:14

    How long before someone says just do BART Ring the Bay and you don’t have to dig any tunnels at all.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Oh, I forgot, Quentin Kopp already said that.

    No Caltrain, no hsr – you have all that extra land to juice the property tax rolls.

    Time to rethink Pacheco.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    It does seem extraordinary to build a major terminus (TBT) and still not have finalized how to connect the railroad to it. But I suppose that is par for the HSR course given that a segment is to be built in the San Joaquin Valley without its connections to the outer ends determined. I would have done just as well if I’d climbed on my mule, headed north, and declared, “let’s go thisaway”. My mule is as particular as an electric locomotive when it comes to grades so I’m sure our alignment would have been acceptable, and the engineering cost (in hay bales) would have been much lower.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    It’s even more extraordinary to “design” a major terminus (TTT) in such a way as to make passenger circulation to and from the dismal obstructed constricted shithole train platforms almost impossible and in such as way as to make train circulation to and from the platforms as low capacity as possible.

    But America’s Finest Transportation Planning Professionals — a huge shout at out to ARUP (especially Tony Bruzzone), to Parsons Transportation Group, and of course to the “architects” at Pelli Clarke Pelli who “won” the “competition” to “design” the terminal — managed all of this, starting from a completely empty site with no constraints and no structural columns in the middle of anything. World Class. And only $1.7 of your tax dollars are being burned to build this World Class Disaster.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    $1.7 billion that is. Without the trains. Just the Big Bus Station in the Sky with a Park On Top.

    Add another billion and a half or so for a train tunnel that is designed to keep Caltrain out of downtown San Francisco.

    World Class!

    Give those guys another hundred million for some more “designs”! They’ve proved their worth!

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    On a smaller scale the new platforms at Sacramento have succeeded in reducing patronage on the Capitol Corridor trains. My brief inspection indicated that they are in part replicas of the access ramps at LAUS, which are quite inadequate for present day usage, particularly with the growth of bicycle and wheelchair traffic. Where do we find these geniuses?

    Reality Check Reply:

    @Paul, page 8 of TRAC’s December edition of California Rail News has an item about the Sacramento Amtrak depot f*ckover.

    swing hanger Reply:

    New Sacto tourism slogan- “Visit Sacramento by train- it will (literally) take your breath away!”

    Nathanael Reply:

    I’ve stopped reading that rag because of Tolmach’s bullshit. Unfortunately, he’s CRF President and basically the publisher. TRAC should’ve disassociated themselves from him. Nothing he’s written in years has been either good or accurate, and he has a taste for the inflammatory and negative.

    Nathanael Reply:

    The Sacramento platform move is generally considered to be by request of UP.

    Reality Check Reply:

    By request of UP? Never heard that one before! Source?

    Joey Reply:

    The platforms will probably have to be ripped up when HSR is installed anyway.

    thatbruce Reply:

    @Paul Dyson:

    But I suppose that is par for the HSR course given that a segment is to be built in the San Joaquin Valley without its connections to the outer ends determined.

    The thought of a multi-stage project having one stage planned out and (mostly) approved before its adjoining stages reach the public comment step just boggles the mind. “Inconceivable!” as one well-known character once said.

    swing hanger Reply:

    Welcome to American infrastructure building- better to get the project started before everything is planned out- because you have to strike while the iron is hot politically instead of waiting for everything to pass approval- wasn’t there a post about that recently?

    Leroy W. Demery, Jr. Reply:

    This is not exclusively a “Made in USA by USns” issue.

    South Korea has revised its Gyeongbu High-Speed Line plans three times since the “basic plan” was established in 1990 (the changes were enacted in 1993, 1998 and 2005).

    The most recent, which pertains to Phase 2, included cost escalation of 1,491.9 thousand million won (bringing the total for Phase 2 to 7,190.0 thousand million won), an increase of total line length by 6.7 km (to 418.7 km) – and an increase in fastest Seoul – Busan travel time by 14 minutes (to 130 min).

    Changes in alignment (obvious – the line has been lengthened) have been accompanied by changes in alignment configuration – that is, the share of total line length accounted for by 1. tunnels, 2. viaducts and bridges, and 3. embankments and cuttings has also been changed. I have not located complete details. However, previous plans for tunnels through Daejeon and Daegu have been canceled in favor of building new four-track viaducts on the existing (classic) Gyeongbu Line alignment. The new lines – additional tracks through Daejeon and Daegu for high-speed trains – have a total length of 40.9 km, of which 18.2 km is on viaduct as described above.

    The elimination of tunnels through Daejeon and Daegu has been described as the most significant factor in the longer travel time.


    CHO Nam-Geon, and CHUNG Jin-Kyu. 2008. “High speed rail construction of Korea and its impact.” Seoul: Korea Research Institute for Human Settlements. KRIHS Special Report Series.

    (pdf document)

  3. datacruncher
    Jan 21st, 2013 at 13:57

    Engineering a fast train
    A planning group is studying routes for high-speed rail travel in Oregon

  4. Derek
    Jan 21st, 2013 at 14:04

    I wonder if it would be cheaper to elevate just the HSR tracks. Then everything else can stay the same.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Not in Downtown SF.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Elevate the tracks, replace the entire bus deck of the Transbay Terminal, and send the trains across the Bay Bridge, kicking the cars off. ;-)

    Yeah, I can dream….

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Sure you can dream.

    Next you can thank inexplicably-not-yet-indicted criminals Larry Dahms and Steve “$5 billion Bay Bridge cost overrun” Heminger (still on the public payroll and actively defrauding the public of tens of billions of dollars) for that real opportunity having being terminated with maximum prejudice.

  5. Herbie
    Jan 21st, 2013 at 14:04

    Get rid of the Mission Bay rail yard. Send Caltrain to the Presidio via Essex/Sansome/Lombard.

  6. Peter
    Jan 21st, 2013 at 17:07

    OT: Have we gotten any more details on the trainset selection for All Aboard Florida?

    swing hanger Reply:

    Haven’t heard anything, but how about this push/pulling a set of Nippon Sharyo-type bilevels?

    Peter Reply:

    I guess one of the proposals is for an F59PHI at each end with a 5 or 6 car set of Superliners in the middle.

    Peter Reply:

    I was hoping they’d express interest in Wisconsin’s now-unwanted Talgos, but oh well.

    aw Reply:

    Those aren’t Superliners, there are no Superliners available. But maybe they’re like NextGen bilevel cars. Perhaps they could piggyback on the Illinois/California orders.

    I suppose there would be advantages for them to be compatible with Amtrak’s bilevel cars, either the Superliners, California cars or the new regional cars. At least there’d be a potential buyer if the operation failed.

    Peter Reply:

    I meant that they look just like Superliners. Obviously they’re not actual Superliners.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    A point to keep in mind is that FEC’s freight locomotive fleet is 100% EMD. To go with F59PHIs would make sense for its standardized maintenance practices and parts inventory.

    Stephen Smith Reply:

    In my dreams, they’re delaying until Amtrak and the FRA work shit out so that they can buy off-the-shelf European train sets. (I interviewed Husein Cumber a while ago and he said that was not the plan, but that was before news that Amtrak was seeking to circumvent FRA regulations on the NEC was made public.)

    As I recall reading in the enviro study they put out a year ago, the FEC does have PTC installed on most of its tracks.

  7. Sic Transit Philadelphia
    Jan 21st, 2013 at 18:21

    If the plan is to take down I-280 first, and then cut-and-cover the DTX in that ROW, that’s a big win in terms of construction costs and timeline. Heck, just taking down I-280 and doing nothing in its place would be a huge win for both Mission Bay and Caltrain. Urban highways are cancers, and highways that parallel transit lines are lighting public money on fire.

    Nathanael Reply:

    “If the plan is to take down I-280 first, and then cut-and-cover the DTX in that ROW, that’s a big win in terms of construction costs and timeline.”

    That is the plan, yes.

  8. Andy M
    Jan 22nd, 2013 at 07:52

    Isn’t it a bit dangerous to be talking about reducing and selling off railroad land at a time when the full scale of the final service is not yet clear and inadequate platform and stabling capacity can seriously cripple future growth? The new Transbay terminal will not have any significant stabling capacity so trains will have to shuttle into and out of some nearby facility (and that’s why every square foot of railroad land should remain reserved until proved to be unnecessary rather than vice-versa). Many of the big European terminii have in the region of 15 to 20 tracks and still have insufficient capacity. Is SF being designed for failure?

    synonymouse Reply:

    SF is designed for failure.

    The abysmal practice of selling off transit land dates back many decades. It was a major motivation underpinning the great bustitution of 1946-1950. Most all of the carhouses were lost; Cala Foods(now I understand TJ’s)sits where the California Cable Co. barn used to stand at California and Hyde Sts. The current iteration of the Petrini Plaza is atop what used to be the #5 carhouse. Selling off valuable real estate was probably a factor in the abandonment of the #40 interurban to San Mateo, a real loss. More recently the bus turnaround in front of the Ferry Building became a hotel. Similar fate for the Phelan Loop. The key Presidio Yard-Geary Carhouse facility at Presidio & Geary lives in permanent danger of being trashed by greedy morons at City Hall.

    Get the picture? Clearly the movers and shakers see the Greater Dogpatch area as a new quasi-downtown in a town where real estate is exceedingly hard to find. I would be truly surprised if BART Ring the Bay does not do an encore – it changes red ink to black in the pencilling out. And of course San Jose will be thrilled to become the hsr terminus. The cheerleaders who insisted on turning this thing into a commute project(a big BART)have only themselves to blame.

    Reedman Reply:

    San Jose would welcome the proposed tunnel extending BART from Berryessa to downtown/HSR if it would “pencil out”.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Forgot Kirkland Bus Yard, now a hotel.

    Keith Saggers Reply:

    Kirkland Bus Yard will be replaced by a new Maintenance Facility SFMuni is constructing at Islais Creek

    synonymouse Reply:

    And now Islais Creek is in Lee’s Greater Dogpatch.

    Nathanael Reply:

    “SF is designed for failure.”

    For more on this topic, see the umpteen-part series in SF Weekly by Joe Eskenazi.

    Evans Reply:

    Caltrain/HSR San Francisco terminal does not need 15~20 tracks. With EMU operation, 2 Caltrain tracks easily handles 8+ train/h. (If you see Fremont BART, 8 train/h arw handled by 2 track.) 4 HSR tracks also handles 8 train/h still have enough turn around time of ~20 min( 2 train per hour per track= 8 trains / 4 tracks)

    Jonathan Reply:

    not with the FITH station-throat of the current design. not with concurrent HSR operation.

    Bloody idiots specifying AREMA standard turnouts and US-freight-railroad design everywhere which isn’t “high speed”, yields a freight-railroad-mentality design of a terminus station which is _supposed_ to be high volume. The two don’t mix well.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Look at those sharp turns, too. You might be able to get good throughput on the “yellow route” (through SF MOMA), b on the “blue route” (the current plans) there’s no chance whatsoever.

  9. Keith Saggers
    Jan 22nd, 2013 at 08:56
  10. Peter
    Jan 22nd, 2013 at 09:13

    How deep do SF MOMA and Moscone Center go? Also, how deep would the western route have to go to avoid interfering with the Central Subway?

    RobBob Reply:

    Sounds like a “pipe” dream. Take a look for yourself, FIGURE 2-12, unless they could fit it above the central subway.

    Not to mention that buildings along the current route were constructed with piers located in order to avoid interfering with the planned route. Who knows what is in the way underground with the other alignment, especially if it needs to go beneath other buildings rather than just the street.

    Neil Shea Reply:

    The central subway is going under both Muni and BART, so it’s quite deep at Market. Going above it may not be out of the question, perhaps even arching northward toward Mission street for a bit.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Yeah, but it could very well impact a Geary line that would cross at the mezzanine level at 3rd, Kearny & Geary and then proceed down 3rd and curve toward the TBT in tunnel.

    Peter Reply:

    But is this on anyone’s, other than a transit advocate’s, drawing board? Who’s looking at a tunnel?

    Unless I’m mistaken, Geary is currently being planned as BRT, with a possibility for surface running LRT retrofit.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Geary is a no-brainer. Rose Pak just does not live on it.

    Eric Reply:

    We have to plan for the possibility that in 20 or 50 years, transit in SF will be run by more competent people.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    I had that theory more or less 20 years ago.

    That’s why I spend tens of thousands of dollars of my own money and thousands of hours on SF Proposition H to preserve the Caltrain downtown extension right of way, in the hope that decades in the future somebody who wasn’t a total fucking subhuman moron would use it for some valuable social purpose.


    synonymouse Reply:

    If it had not been for BART-MTC, Heminger and Willie Brown, et al, we would have been enjoying the benefits of the TBT Tunnel these many years.

    Instead we have the to-be-mostly-redundant BART to SFO link at a bloated price.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Unless Ring-the-Bay emerges like Godzilla out of Tokyo Bay.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Richard, local political culture only changes as people move, are born, and die off.

    I’m lucky enough to live in a place where the local political culture improved massively in the decades just before my birth, and has been very slowly improving further since then due to selective immigration / emigration.

    SF’s political culture only got its current “ignore the costs, money for every loudmouth, who needs transparency” political culture relatively recently, if the Eskenazi articles are correct. It’s therefore going to be a long time before it shifts away from that culture, and it probably won’t do so until it has to (== the monied people leave).

    Chicago’s political culture hasn’t changed since the days when the city fathers *bribed* the railroads to come to Chicago rather than stopping in Gary, Indiana. Gary was the natural place for a railroad junction… Chicago wasn’t. Gary had honest city government… Chicago didn’t. Chicago has done very very well with bribery and sees no reason to change, and I honestly have to agree — if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

    The question then is “Is any of the brokenness of SF political culture a *problem* to the movers and shakers of SF?” No, it’s not. In this specific example, they aren’t worried about train speeds because they don’t plan to leave SF; they think of the train as something which brings other people TO SF, and it’ll bring enough people even if it’s a bit slow and poorly thought out. If they planned to visit LA frequently, why then they would care.

    joe Reply:

    chicago is at a portage between the great lakes atlantic and mississippi basin. I would guess the transfer of goods via rail would piggy back on that legacy waterway infrastructure.

    Nathanael Reply:

    The initial rail buildout was to “cut off the state of Michigan” from the Great Lakes shipping route, saving days. The logical way to do this was from the south end of one lake to the south end of the next, but Chicago paid each of the railroad to extend the extra few miles up the west side of Lake Michigan.

    joe Reply:

    Wikipedia sez Gary IN was founded in 1906, by us steel.
    My grandfather was born that year, in Chicago.
    The Calumet might have been a competiting location for building up infrastrcture than along the Chicago River.

    Nathanael Reply:

    It wasn’t accurate of me to specify Gary as a city. It was the unincorporated location which became Gary which was the location. (The Calumet River was already a better waterway than the Chicago River.)

    Jon Reply:

    The Central Subway was designed to accommodate a non-revenue spur onto Geary

    synonymouse Reply:

    The Stubway is so f****d-up those bozos cannot even see their way to the Wharf, straight ahead.

    Do you really expect to see a portal on Columbus and Bredas lumbering their way around and over cable car tracks, squealing on and off Van Ness and on down Chestnut Street in the Marina?

    Muni is so screwed.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    No it isn’t.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    (No, the mafia-profiting Central Subway is not designed or configured as Jon imagines it might be.)

    (Yes, Muni is screwed. Its entire purpose is to take money from you, the suckers, and give it to mafiosi.)

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    The SF Planning B Ark alignments aren’t located on Planet Earth, including the “western route”.

    A shallow (cut and cover) route that goes up Seventh, under (taking out a good swath of buildings in the Seventh/Harriet/Folsom/Howard blocks) then under Howard is vastly more attractive. (But still unrealistic.)

    Over the Central Subway (ideally causing it to collapse, ideally with everybody in any way connected inside), over (somehow! by magic!) the Moscone East/West concourse. Station at Howard/Sixth-ish. Station at Howard/First.

    But even this scheme, which is infinitely less bat shit insane than anything coming out of the B Ark, is still inane because it’s trading perhaps 900m of tunnelling (Second/Howard to Third/Townsend) and 550m of cut-and-cover (Third/Townsend to Fifth/Townsend) and a bunch of open trenching (Fifth/Howard to Tunnel 1) for over 3.5km of cut-and-cover under city streets and taking out a bunch of buildings.

    As I said above the very basic rough DTX route (NOT any of the sub-moronic PTG/TJPA details!) is about as good as we can do today in the screwed-up real world.

  11. Ben Pease
    Jan 23rd, 2013 at 17:53

    The city proposal cited at the start of the article are really mainly looking at solving real-estate problems by taking away trains. I don’t trust these folks to think through a competent transit system/terminal. They pretty much admit their incompetence in that department saying “make it go away.” Now, taking a fresh look at the map above, there are two geographic problems with the existing problems. Transbay has two tight curves, and it’s a stub. We could solve the latter while making the former tolerable by making a loop down 7th, up Mission, and back on 2nd (or vice versa). Put a station at Mission Bay, another at, say, the 4th and Mission Garage, with a link to Market Street, and ditch Transbay Terminal. You could pretty much make a 4-6-track terminal work with trains entering at one end, exiting the other end, and terminating trains could return for cleaning, maintenance and staging, at 4th and Townsend. The tunnels’ broad curves to line up with Mission would disrupt a certain amount of SOMA buildings, but really not much more than the existing proposal or certainly the two new proposals. (It’s amazing reacquainting myself with the map Clem posted, how the current design takes such a big curve to get into Transbay Terminal that the platforms don’t begin until halfway into the building, and they stick out the far end. How screwy is that?).

    Ben Pease Reply:

    By Clem I meant Richard M.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Politically they are committed to the Transbay Terminal and the TBT Tunnel. If they de-commit on that they would probably opt for a more radical change. To wit:

    The BART Empire is more powerful than the Tejon Ranch Co. Nobody is going to get fired for bringing up at a meeting they ought to revisit Ring the Bay. Dunno who would launch the campaign – Lee, Heminger? – but for sure Imperial BART is one of the most powerful entities in Norcal. You have to hand it to Biaggini or whomever at SP who foresaw this in 1962 and moved to hamstring BART to keep it from becoming a threat to their property.

    By going Ring the Bay the City could save billions and do pretty much whatever they wanted with Dogpatch. Rail north of SFO would be on indefinite hold – the Peninsula might bitch but then there are a lot of BART loyalists there and of course PA would be thrilled as their tunnel would be a cinch and probably the cheapest of all the undergrounding alternatives.

    Clem Reply:

    I’m of two minds on this.

    The manifest destiny argument is certainly attractive, the peninsula forms an obvious gap, and alternatives have consistently been held back to keep the dream alive. NIMBYs would practically welcome BART with open arms after having been jerked around by HSR.

    On the other hand, BART is a mere glove on the hand of the Transit Industrial Complex, and building lots of HSR infrastructure, blended or otherwise, is all the same to them. The unit of success is the cubic yard of concrete. Witness the $400 million hole in SF.

    synonymouse Reply:

    If BART is going to make a move the time is ripe. If they wait much longer the planning dead weight and inertia will be insurmountable even for BART.

    The big plus for Lee & Co. is Dogpatch is thoroughly cleaned out for development with Ring the Bay and for Kopp & Co. the SFO link does not look redundant, but forward-looking.

    PA could make a difference if PB tries to torpedo their tunnel idea. The BART Berkeley subway provides a powerful historical precedent for PA city fathers.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Additional points:

    BART can easily negotiate from elevated to subway.

    BART subway totally eliminates the contentious grade separation issue in PA.

    In terms of which scheme most increases the value of property on the tax rolls on the Peninsula and in SF, Ring the Bay wins hands down.

    Some pretty powerful arguments. Whoever is behind Lee on the Dogpatch redevelopment scheme must be aware of this.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:


    The problem is idiotic construction and misplaced concrete which makes getting trains and people into and out of the station impossible.

    The solution then is MORE concrete?

    Not, say “thinking at a higher level than that of a flatworm”? Not, say, “not putting concrete in the wrong place”? Not, say, “building a passenger terminal facility designed for passengers”?

    America’s Finest Transportation Planning Professionals endorse your solution.

    Ben Pease Reply:

    The temporary GROUND-LEVEL bus terminal would have been a good permanent solution too; just replicate it one block closer to Market. No angled elevators, no gardens or redwood trees on concrete decks, no bulbous glass walls; less concrete but slightly more extensive canopies. Done. Keep both the bus and rail terminal simple. I am not opposed to fewer HSR tracks and tunnels, to a stub terminal, so long as it doesn’t have the faults you’ve documented.

  12. Reality Check
    Jan 31st, 2013 at 11:27

    Razing I-280 stub only part of vision

    But not everyone is on board. Caltrain officials are concerned that the city’s plans could stall or even stop plans to electrify the commuter railroad, a decades-long effort that moved close to reality only last summer when the state Legislature and the California High-Speed Rail Authority made it part of the new “blended” high-speed train project that will share the tracks, and gave it $700 million.

    “We understand it’s a good thing to do, but we are concerned about the implications if we change” the rail yard, said Marian Lee, director of Caltrain’s modernization project.

    High-speed trains are not likely to reach the Peninsula until 2026 at the earliest, but Caltrain wants its rails electrified by 2019. With electric power and lighter trains that can start and stop faster, Caltrain could add service, cut fuel costs and reduce emissions produced by its diesel locomotives. Electrification is a key part of the business plan for the financially struggling rail line.

    The trouble is that Caltrain is in the midst of revising an environmental impact report for the electrification project. San Francisco officials want that update to include the possible downsizing or elimination of the Fourth and King rail yards. Caltrain officials fear that expanding the study, especially if it requires development of new train storage areas, would mire the project in red tape and possibly endanger the state funding.

    “There is an urgency for Caltrain to get electrification in place with expediency,” said Jayme Ackemann, a Caltrain spokeswoman. “With electrification we significantly reduce our operating costs.”
    Shrinking the rail yard could increase Caltrain’s operating costs if it needs to store trains farther from the Fourth and King station and bring them downtown to start service every morning, Ackemann said.

    synonymouse Reply:

    My interpretation is that the City needs all the railroad land to float the scheme and will eventually turn on and against Caltrain, overturning Prop 1A in favor of BART Ring the Bay. Obviously this is far from the mainstream point of view, but I suggest that in order to convince investors and backers that the City can and will get possession of all the railroad land as well as the freeway land to maximize revenue and profitability SF will have to commit to BART Ring the Bay and abandoning the TBT Tunnel.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Replace eventually with soon.

  13. Carlos Salinas
    Feb 3rd, 2013 at 23:28

    I don’t understand why Caltrain needs to be extended to the transbay terminal (transbay in name only). Once the central subway is completed, there will be a quick and direct connection from Caltrain to the muni subway and bart.

    (An interesting extension for Caltrain would be to extend Caltrain north and into Marin where it could connect to rail on that peninsula.)

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