Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Transbay Again

NOTE: We've moved! Visit us at the California High Speed Rail Blog.

Steven T. Jones has a good article on the fight over the Transbay Terminal in today's San Francisco Bay Guardian, giving some important background details on how an all-too-familiar kind of San Francisco political spat is affecting the debate over who will fund the downtown rail extension into the Transbay Terminal.

First and foremost, the dispute is a financial dispute. As Jones writes of Quentin Kopp's basic attitude:

Kopp is more interested in stretching this $10 billion bond far enough to complete his project. So he’s bristling at efforts by the TJPA to ensure that it’s first in line for the money.

My initial take on this last week was that Kopp was trying to make it clear that the Prop 1A funds are no free for all, and Jones's article supports that interpretation. Kopp explained his reasoning in a letter he wrote to the Transbay Joint Powers Authority on November 13:

Your staff continually seek to insinuate the Transbay Joint Powers Authority in activity which pertains strictly to the consummation of the California High Speed Rail Project. Your October 17, 2008 staff report declares that the total cost ‘of [your project’s] rail component is $2.996 billion.’ It then represents that $2,349,000,000 must be obtained for your project. Please do not attempt to secure California High Speed Rail Project funds to defray the enormous costs of the 1.4 mile ‘downtown rail extension.’ Such effort will not be welcomed by me. Moreover, as far as I am concerned, and I will so state publicly, the California High Speed Rail Project can, as necessary, utilize the terminal at Fourth Street and Townsend Street in San Francisco effectively and efficiently, and at a cost less than the aforementioned cost of your moving it.

As most of us agreed when this subject came up last week, while Kopp is technically correct that HSR could utilize the 4th and King terminal, the Transbay Terminal is a vastly superior solution. Jones quotes several unnamed "sources in the transportation world" who reach the same conclusion. And as I pointed out, the CHSRA board unanimously endorsed the Transbay Terminal as the preferred San Francisco HSR terminus, Kopp included. The Transbay Terminal's consultants fully understand the importance of the downtown extension:

Adam Alberti from Singer and Associates, tells the Guardian that Kopp has his numbers wrong and that TJPA will only be seeking $700-$800 million in Prop. 1A funds for the extension (the rest would come from other sources), which is about the same amount as he said it would cost to renovate the Caltrain station to handle the millions of new passengers the trains would draw.

“The facility is being designed to be the northern terminus for high-speed rail,” Alberti told us. “Their business plan is predicated on it coming into Transbay Terminal.”

Translation: the TJPA feels confident that despite Kopp's bluster, the CHSRA cannot and will not abandon the downtown extension. Eyeball to eyeball, they're convinced Kopp will blink first.

Of course there's more to this dispute than just finances. Kopp is upset with the director of the TJPA, Maria Ayerdi-Kaplan and Singer and Associates:

The letter also mocked the expertise of “your executive director, staff or publicity agents,” something Kopp went even further with a few days later when the Chronicle’s Matier and Ross brought the private spat out into the public (although they didn’t reference the earlier letter, which even Singer and Associates didn’t know about until today).

"I am not going to pay $2.5 billion to move a track 1.4 miles," Kopp said in that article, going on to say Ayerdi-Kaplan "is annoying ... and she and her flacks need to stay out of our hair."

Jones thinks Kopp has a point:

Ayerdi-Kaplan has been inaccessible in recent years and has stumbled into unnecessary fights with the Mayor’s Office, members of the Board of Supervisors, and neighbors of the project. It’s also disconcerting that a public agency feels a need to hide behind one of the most expensive and controversial PR firms in the city. So there’s probably a bit more going on here than what Alberti labeled “a personality clash with Maria Ayerdi.”

Still, the downtown extension really is a key part of the HSR project's success. We want the best transportation system possible and while HSR could survive losing the Transbay Terminal, it is immeasurably strengthened by having it.

As I concluded the last time we discussed this, the missing link is leadership. Neither Kopp nor Ayerdi-Kaplan seem to be providing it, instead engaging in a turf war that doesn't do anyone any good. Both of them need to realize that they need each other to be successful. And it's likely going to take outside pressure to make that realization stick.

There are any number of people who could provide that leadership. A certain San Francisco mayor with gubernatorial ambitions in 2010, for example. Or Senator Dianne Feinstein, herself a possible candidate for governor, someone who has the heft and relationships to help resolve this situation. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, yet another San Franciscan, would also be well positioned to help resolve this - especially if federal money can grease the wheels of a deal between the CHSRA and the TJPA.

We "alternative transportation geeks," as Jones calls us, have a lot at stake here. The Transbay Terminal downtown extension project is too important to all of us to fall victim to such rivalries. Kopp needs to tone down the rhetoric, Ayerdi-Kaplan needs to construct better working relationships with Transbay partner agencies, and leading California politicians need to provide some leadership and not allow these folks to tear the project apart through internecine warfare. And we HSR supporters need to let everyone know that the project, and not the personalities, are what matter most.


arcady said...

What a mess. I really wish there would be single, simple agencies responsible for rail planning at the state and regional level. Unfortunately, the DoR is too small, and the Bay Area regional authorities too fragmented to do this effectively, and HSRA is a whole new agency adding itself to the pile. That said, I think the Transbay Terminal project ought to be treated like the joint venture it is, with the City of SF, AC Transit, Caltrain, and HSRA all having seats on the board and sharing the planning authority to make sure everyone's needs are met. Now that HSRA is a going concern, maybe it's time to add an HSRA representative to the board.

matt in sf said...

arcady, I think that's an outstanding suggestion.

For the record, the article linked in today's post is from yesterday from the SFBG's blog - don't think it made the print edition. And as an aside I'm not sure that a derailed train was exactly the right visual to use if one is a self-professed "alternative transportation geek," albeit that was probably better than the usual Stven T. Jones MO of using pictures of himself.

Assuming Pelosi and Feinstein are in favor of the DTX, it certainly seems like Kopp is out-gunned on this subject. If they're not in favor of the DTX, then I hope that someone is talking to them.

yeson1a said...

Going to the Transbay website they have already fired a shot across Judge kopps bow..In there Nov 16th
funding plan it has note about prop1a and how "only" 52 percent of the people in California vote yes but here in SF it got 78% vote.I dont like how there sticking there hand in our bond,Kopp needs to watch our money like a hawk! It needs to be in writing how much they are getting and thats it. not we now need some more.I hate the design and the station is in the basment just like ugly Penn station NYC, but the buses and stores get the nice light filled space.I dont care if its at 4th and Towsend. we dont need a Big Dig2! If we get to the TBT fine but not at that insane price. this bond needs to build 220mph tracks not a 1.4 tunnel

BBinsandiego said...

Kopp is right to hold his ground on this one. The TJPA was committed to an extension for Caltrain long before HSRA was in the financial picture. Where would the money come from if the vote on prop1 had been no instead of yes?

Rafael said...

Sounds to me like the best thing might be for each side (TJPA, CHSRA, Caltrain) to name a faceless but sufficiently senior individual to a "DTX task force". Its job will be to produce a report breaking down that $3 billion price tag.

After a joint announcement of creating this task force, all sides would have to agree to keep the issue under wraps until the report is complete and they've had a chance to discuss the findings behind closed doors.

Meanwhile, Caltrain and CHSRA each need to quantify how much incremental revenue/profit terminating at the TTC would generate relative to making do with 4th & King.

For its part, TJPA needs to quantify how much incremental revenue/profit having Caltrain and HSR trains terminate in the basement would add to TTC operations.

Together with the detailed cost breakdown, this will give all parties a more solid basis for deciding if the DTX is essential from day one, if space should be reserved for completion at a later date (cp. Eurostar at St. Pancras) or, if the DTX isn't actually worth the substantial cost after all.

My guess is that all sides will say the DTX would add a lot of value but that CHSRA would be the most willing to map it into phase 2 of the HSR project. All sides will have an incentive to make the problem more manageable by reducing the cost.

They should look (again?) at alternative tunnel specs (e.g. two tracks under the westbound traffic lanes on King/Embarcadero and up Main Street) and construction methods (cut-and-cover instead of tunneling). SF also needs to double-check if other big-ticket projects, such as the Muni central subway, can and should be reduced in cost or delayed to free up additional funds for the DTX/TTC.

Caltrain should look into selling air rights above 4th & King and at offering trackage rights to Amtrak and/or ACE. HSR will make Caltrain electrification cheaper but not free.

In addition, CHSRA and Caltrain should double-check how much combined space they will need for overnight parking at the TTC, at 4th & King, in San Jose/Santa Clara or, somewhere in-between.

In CHSRA's case, the first three hours' worth of trains - perhaps 10 in all - will have to come out of parking, because it takes that long for the first train of the day to arrive from LA and be readied for departure. Typical HSR trainsets are roughly 660 feet long. Twenty years from now, early morning trains to LA may need two trainsets each, with bi-level cars. Plan for success!

Separately, union labor rates and materials estimates need to be renegotiated given that it's now a buyer's market. Deficit spending means making sure construction workers have jobs at all, not really cushy jobs. TJPA, CHSRA and Caltrain just need make sure they all agree on exactly what they want before breaking ground or, the cost of engineering change orders is going to eat them alive.

Having done another round of legwork, it will be that much easier to close the funding gap with federal and/or private investment over-and-above that required for HSR track construction and all that entails. I expect SF county residents would need a lot of convincing to accept a sales tax hike just so commercial HSR operators get four platforms presented to them on a silver platter.

Both TJPA and CHSRA have a good story to tell in terms of reducing dependence on foreign oil, avoiding future expansion of expensive road infrastructure, making California a laboratory for the transition to 21st century transit-oriented development/lifestyles etc etc etc.

If they pitch this together, they have a fair chance of finding favor in Washington, where an extra billion between friends is chump change if it's spent on something actually worth having.

If they keep bickering in public, "no drama" Obama (or Feinstein or Pelosi) is going to tell them to come back after they've worked it out. They really do have bigger fish to fry than a 1.4mi tunnel under San Francisco.

Btw: IMHO, CHSRA does need to stick to its guns on the prop 1A bond funds, they don't even cover 1/3 of the components of the starter line that the authority did budget for. If SF gets a slice of that for its swank TTC, San Jose, Fresno, LA and Anaheim et al. will all demand similar generosity. The cities and counties served really do need to fund their stations themselves, but CHSRA should offer to co-ordinate lobbying for federal and private funding.

Andrew said...

TBT and 4th and Townsend are the difference between being able to walk straight off a train to your business meeting/hotel/BART and taking the Muni, a taxi, or walking to do so. A pretty huge issue in my opinion, and I think HSR should definitely be serving the TBT. However, it's totally not fair for CHSRA to be footing the bill. The city has to be in on at least half of that.

I feel a bit disingenuous as I write this, seeing as LA Union Station wouldn't provide the same arrangement, but it also has loads of train and bus connections and a three-stop trip on the Red Line from Union to 7th Street is rather trivial.

jwb said...

I'm glad this fight is out there because it puts pressure on the TJPA to fight over money with the idiotic Central Subway. If the costs of the Central Subway and the DTX are the same, the DTX is obviously a greater bang for the buck and will win that fight.

As for the above posts, you'd be insane to park trainsets in downtown San Francisco overnight. You could run those trainsets down south of Gilroy and park them overnight there. Then they can make their initial run up through SJ for the first arrival at Transbay early in the morning.

yeson1a said...

4th and Townsend is only 3minutes away from 1st and Mission by cab.I think its even closer than LAUT is.The area around 4th street is now one of the better areas in the city all new and the Muni is at the station ..not a block away that will also need another expensive tunnel.We could have a rebuilt multi-level nice looking station at far less cost. These people are out to make sure TBT is built no matter who pays and our HST bond is the kid at school with the nice lunch

Anonymous said...

"only be seeking $700-$800 million in Prop. 1A funds for the extension"

Wow. 8-9% of the total value of the bonds for an 800 mile system for 2 miles.

The design is crap, and almost unworkable, with severely curved platforms for HSR.

Caltrain and daily users are most benefited by the extension. Little thought, if any, has gone into taxi queues or rental cars in the TJPA's plans.

Despite what's said above, I have worked for and supported the Transbay Terminal and DTX for over a decade. I still do. It's the TJPA's arrogance, which is greater than Kopp's LEGENDARY arrogance, that is hurting the project.

Again, "only be seeking $700-$800 million in Prop. 1A funds for the extension"

Get real!

political_i said...

DTX should be only footed maybe 1% by Prop 1a and nothing over 5% at most. I wonder if that would take a portion of the 950 million dollars for the other agencies or from the bond itself? SF should probably put in 1/2 of the dough, perhaps the feds might be able to cough up some cut and cover dough?

Now in terms of a nice looking station, with the location of TBT, that looks nearly impossible to do since most of the nice stations are not underground. Unless there is some way otherwise.

Why can TBT only be 6 platforms? Is there some sort of stability challenge creating 12 platforms underground in the downtown area of the project?

Andrew said...


12 platforms is a little overkill, isn't it? It's a terminus, you only have trains coming from and leaving in one direction. With a local Caltrain, an express Caltrain, a local HSR, and an express HSR, you could probably crunch it down to 4 platforms if you really needed to.

Maybe 8 platforms would be optimal so as not to preclude extending services to Oakland via a new transbay tube. In any case, 6 seems fine.

mike said...

The argument that it's not worth $1.8 billion to go 1.4 miles is ridiculous. Nobody cares about how many miles it is - all we care about is the amount of time it takes.

With DTX and an average speed of only 30 mph, it will take 3 minutes to get from 4th & King to 1st & Mission.

According to MUNI, the N runs at 10 min intervals through most of the day and takes 10 minutes from 4th & King to Embarcadero. So total travel time via MUNI is 3 minute walk to MUNI + 5 minute (avg) wait + 10 minute ride = 18 minutes. In reality, as a frequent N rider, I can tell you it will be much worse than that.

Thus DTX saves 15 minutes (18 - 3) at a cost of $1.8 billion. The Central Subway may improve things a little, but it won't save that much time because the subway tunnel is so deep that it will take people forever to get into/out of the subway.

Now let's consider how much time the SJ-SF upgrades will save. The Baby Bullets are carded at 57 minutes from SJ to SF while CHSRA is predicting 31 minutes for a SJ to SF express. But the bullets make 4 intermediate stops. Eliminating the 4 stops should save at least 10-11 minutes, and faster acceleration by electric traction might save another minute or so. So an electrified-but-otherwise-unimproved Caltrain ROW would get you from SJ to SF in 45 minutes.

Thus the Caltrain ROW improvements save 14 minutes (45 - 31) at a cost of $4.2 billion (CHSRA 2008 Business Plan).

My point isn't that the Caltrain ROW improvements aren't worth doing - quite the contrary. But the idea that somehow "miles of track per dollar" is a meaningful metric is stupid. All we should care about is "minutes saved per dollar." To be honest, I'd rather have a triple track Caltrain ROW with 4-quadrant grade crossings limited to 90 mph with DTX than the quadruple track, grade separated 125 mph Caltrain ROW with no DTX.

mike said...

One other note: When challenged about the fact that BART to SFO cost more than originally planned, Kopp has argued that his portion, the line from Colma to San Bruno, came in on budget, but that it was the overbuilt SFIA (and maybe Millbrae?) stations that blew the budget.

I have no idea whether that's true or not, but I wonder whether that experience is coloring his view on the benefits and risks of building the last 1.4 miles.

matt in sf said...

@ yeson1a:

SF voters overwhelming supported Prop 1a so it is as much their money as it is "yours."

Folks, just to be clear, the CHSRA website, the same one that is the sole public site of this little board that Quentin Kopp chairs, is actively promoting bring HSR to the TTC and always has been.

Go there right now and watch their pretty videos - the same ones that they used all summer to help sell Prop 1a to the voters. In particular there's one called "Transbay Terminal Center Development" and another called "California High Speed Trains - 6 minute Bay Area video" - featuring Judge Kopp himself. So this isn't some kind of surprise SF money grab - this is a major component of the HSR project that we just approved.

In reality this little dust-up in the newspapers is really just Judge Kopp quite disingenuously waiting until after the measure was approved by the voters to then conveniently state that he is not actually interested in helping to pay for the DTX. Good luck with that!

Not to mention Kopp's bold distortion of the the amount of money being requested: he said "$2.5 billion" when in fact the TJPA's figures indicate they are hoping for somewhere between $450-$800 million. So Kopp was only off by about $2 billion.

Then you've got the second distortion that Kopp makes which is that this money is intended to pay for the TTC itself, when in reality that building is already 100% funded and initial construction work is to begin this very month with exactly $0 CHSRA funds. Wrong again Mr. Kopp.

The planned request by the TJPA will be exclusively for rail tunneling, track and amenities such as the below-ground rail platform at the TTC. If HSR doesn't want to contribute towards this, then they certainly won't be able to use it for their trains, will they? To pretend that it should be built 100% by SF but that HSR would then get to use it for free is patently absurd folks. Yet that is apparently CHSRA Chairperson Kopp's quite laughable position.


For those who are interested in this topic, the TJPA's own projections for how the DTX project might be funded can be found right here in the TTC Baseline Budget - Phase 2 (a.k.a. DTX). Go to pages 6-7 and look at the table titled "POTENTIAL FUNDING SOURCES FOR TRANSBAY PROGRAM
" and it will show that they are projecting that HSR would pay for between 15-20% of this phase of the project (which is about 11-14% of the entire TTC project if you add in the above-ground station), with the rest of the funds quite creatively coming from a wide variety of local, regional, state and federal sources as well as revenue bonds (paid by fares surcharges), local property taxes, lands sales, transit system operators contributions, etc. So HSR is being asked to only pay their fair share as far as I can tell.

And let's be clear now, each part of the network from LA to Fresno to San Jose to Sacramento to San Diego will be asking for the same treatment when it comes to building the lines that run through their jurisdictions. The terms SF is proposing are quite generous IMHO and show that SF is quite serious about this project and is doing all of the legwork and providing almost all of the money to make it happen.

The other thing that is important here and that rafael brought up, is that the difference between HSR going all the way to the TTC vs. ending at the existing 4th/King station Caltrain station could be as many as 1 million additional annual riders (I think that was the number that someone had thrown around recently). Regardless of whatever the true number might be, it almost certainly would be a significant number of riders that would be captured if this key feature to the HSR system is implemented. Thus choosing to jeopardize plans to build the DTX could not only damage the SF rail extension project but the overall HSR project itself. If anyone is making a mess here it is CHSRA Chairperson Quentin Kopp.

matt in sf said...

I should add, the overall budget for the HSR is $45 billion. Of that, SF is maybe asking for $450-$800 million, which comes out to just 1% - 1.67%.

That seems pretty reasonable to me, yet Kopp is making it sound like there are a bunch of masked train robbers out to get him.


matt in sf said...

...Hopefully Rod Diridon and the other CHSRA board members will be willing to play "good cop" to Quentin Kopp's "bad Kopp" and take a more reasonable position on this issue.

*snare drum*
*snare drum*

Anonymous said...

Kopp won't live long enough to ride high speed rail from LA to SF, so why is he so bent out of shape? How old is that backstabbing son of a bitch, 90? I'd love to see that decrepit bastard try to walk downtown from 4th and Townsend.
Really folks, $800 Million is just a drop in the bucket compared to the realistic cost of HSR. Anyone that has worked with Kopp can tell you how much of an arrogant douche bag he is. I can only imagine how he came to the conclusion that the TJPA wanted to fully fund the second phase of their project with "his" money. They should have defined the distribution more clearly; this is basically a free for all. I figure that no one in SoCal uses public transportation (unless they are poor) so why not let some of this money go to true "green" Bay Area commuters. Hasn't SoCal taken enough resources from NorCal already?

Loren said...

WIth this kind of bickering, it would seem that Quentin Kopp has the right idea about using a 4th + Townsend station as a fallback plan.

And that's what I think that CAHSR needs -- good fallback plans, so that we can get as much as we reasonably can for our investments if we cannot build as much as we might want.

bgfa said...

Anonymous, more people use transit in LA County than live in all of San Francisco. Get over yourself and drop the small-minded provincial attitude. This is a statewide project.

If all the other stations and station upgrades throughout the system come out of the same money, and every city gets a funded station, not just SF, then why not use HSR funds for the Transbay Terminal? LA Union Station will need a significant upgrade, as well as pass thru tracks.

I think Kopp is trying to hold the line on the funds being raided for uses other than core HSR needs, and he might have a good point.

We'll see what happens when the new administration gets in. It's probably going to look good for transit.

matt in sf said...

rafael said: "They should look (again?) at alternative tunnel specs (e.g. two tracks under the westbound traffic lanes on King/Embarcadero and up Main Street) and construction methods (cut-and-cover instead of tunneling)."

Rafael, I looked into the options that were considered before settling upon the currently planned tunnel alignment, and here is what I found. From the EIR published in 2003, see section 2.3.2 (pages 2-48 to 2-53) titled "Caltrain Downtown Extension Alternatives Considered And Withdrawn."

To summarize, some of the issues that they identified with alternative approaches were:

Some configurations (cut/cover ones under existing roadways) featured corners that were too sharp for a HSR train to navigate.

Tests of the soil composition contributed to the decision to use a certain type of tunneling method as well as tunneling deeper (and thus longer).

Then there was the issue of avoiding things that were viewed as major risks such as: the Bay Bridge anchorage, pricey real estate such as Rincon Hill (which would mean expensive land acquisition costs), avoiding disrupting traffic around AT&T Park (the SF Giants' baseball stadium) due to long years of cut and cover construction on the roadways around it, and of course staying far away from the edge of the bay which is just a block or two from Main street.

Other considerations were to make sure that the tunnel configuration allows for future expansion across the bay to Oakland (someday) so an effort was made to keep an general eastern orientation, including tail tracks to allow trains to run past the terminal platform to get out of the way or for storage, and using a WSW-ENE alignment running parallel to the TTC above-ground bus terminal) that allows for the easiest access to the rail platform for pedestrians (as opposed to a NNW-SSE alignment that would make ppl walk much further to get to/from the trains.

yeson1a said...

I dont know where you live here in the city..I live in Hayes Valley
25 years..SO I know the city BS and
MY tax dollars say no the shit design at 1st and mission..

yeson1a said...

AND MATT did you get a thank you letter from Judge Kopp? I did because I put my heart into this bond /project

Anonymous said...


Can I ask why you think the new Transbay Center is a shit design? I would love to hear your thoughts from a fellow SF veteran.

YESon1a said...

Well beside a new homeless hang out at "SKY PARK" it looks like a glass worm...the tower looks like a cheap Hong Kong redo..CANT CESAER do something else? WE have already done the abortion called Penn Station in want that here?.

Anonymous said...

Any public area in SF is a homeless hangout (have you been in the current terminal)? The Rooftop park looks way better than a raw building. The idea was to make it open to the public and full of light. The tower merely funds the terminal so I can't say much to that. Have you seen what else is coming up in the near future in SOMA? The skyline will be full of tall buildings.

I think you should accept change and enjoy this new facility in 2014.

yeson1a said...

Change is a 220MPR train..I could give a fuck where it arrives at here in the city..

yeson1a said...

AND it should arrive at a real trainshed ..with Glass and Steel arch welcoming them to the city..not a rat tunnel underground

Anonymous said...

That's because you don't live or work downtown.

You are the minorty sir...

Nancy-LA said...

You two are hilarious.

Anyone have any thoughts on where this first installment will acutally be going? I mean what can $9B get us specifically?

yeson1a said...

Alot of people dont work downtown..
what is the largest employer in San
Francisco?..and no not the city
@nancy hopefully the valley segment
so the trains can be tested

Rafael said...

@ matt in sf -

thank you for the link to documentation of the rejected alignments of the DTX tunnel. It's clear that there are no easy options for getting from 4th & King to the TTC.

In particular, the King/Embarcadero/Main Street idea may not be feasible because of the proximity to the Bay Bridge supports - I'm not sure where exactly those are. Only Beale Street was considered, yet the transition from Embarcadero to Main would cut through a parking lot rather than under buildings.

Other problems identified included proximity to a sewer box and the Bay, possibly inviting water intrusion problems. These issues are manageable but not trivial.

The other arguments against this are IMHO no longer as valid as they were in 1997:

- ripping up new asphalt on the southbound lanes of Embarcadero: it's been 11 years and, replacing it could be cheaper than tunneling under Townsend.

- noise etc. in the neighborhood on top of the Muni line and other projects: if it came down to this or no DTX at all, c'est la vie. Wrt local air quality, it would be possible to require that construction equipment feature diesel engines with particulate traps and NOx aftertreatment. Those technologies did not exist in 1997.

- disruption of baseball games: work could be halted during games. Fans would have unhindered access via the 3rd Street bridge and the Muni line would also still run. Construction near the 2nd Street station could be a short tunnel to avoid disrupting access to light rail bound for 4th & King and the 4th Street bridge.

- long construction time: they built the freakin' Pentagon in 15 months. If it needs to be done quickly, it can be. It's a matter of organization and driving a hard bargain with the unions. As I said, it's a buyer's market.

- retain option for a future second transbay tube: if such a beast were ever built, it would presumably use a tunnel under Howard Street and the Muni line to reach the water's edge. A DTX tunnel along Main would not interfere with that option, but trains would have to reverse direction rather than run through the TTC or stop at 4th & King instead.

However, since there is no way to run standard gauge trains through downtown Oakland anyhow, a second transbay tube would effectively only serve traffic from Sacramento and the Delta. Everyone else will already be served by buses to the TTC, BART, Caltrain and HSR up the peninsula.

It would make more sense to substantially improve passenger rail service through Altamont Pass such that reasonably fast trains (max. 110mph west of Lathtrop/Manteca) could run through to San Francisco without having to reverse direction. Which brings us back to the vexed issue of broad vs. standard gauge along the Fremont-Milpitas-SJ Diridon section and/or refurbishing the Dumbarton rail bridge.

Rafael said...

Update: measure B in Santa Clara county now at 66.74%. It looks like it will be barely pass.

Rafael said...

In related news:

Gas prices are down! Let's drive again!

Rafael said...

Apparently, the anchorage of the western approach to the Bay Bridge is at Beale Street.

That might mean a DTX tunnel along King/Embarcadero/Main Street is worth looking into. I realize there are arguments against ripping up the southbound lanes of King/Embarcadero but beggars can't be choosers. Proponents need to bring the cost down by quite a lot to close the funding gap, because CHSRA isn't in a position to play Santa Claus.

mike said...

Rafael - Main St. does look kind of attractive, though it gets awfully close to the water on the Embarcadero. According to Google Maps pedestrian directions, the alignment you map out is 33% longer than the currently mapped alignment (1.2 miles from 4th & Townsend to 1st & Mission vs 1.6 miles from 4th & King to 1st & Mission). So tunneling costs will have to be substantially lower to offset the increased length. I'm not sure that tunneling costs per mile would actually be lower though...they'd just have to acquire less property. But acquiring the property they're looking at (which looks more like warehouses and parking lots, not new condos) may not be so expensive in today's RE market. No question District 9 (SOMA) prices are falling.

matt in sf said...

yeson1a said: "AND it should arrive at a real trainshed ..with Glass and Steel arch welcoming them to the city..not a rat tunnel underground"

I'm sure we all would agree that a big skylight over the train platforms would be nice, and anyone can quibble with the TTC tower design, but there are very basic reasons for why the station was designed as it is.

The bus terminal is above ground b/c the A/C Transit buses are coming from the Bay Bridge and are already a hundred feet above ground on the elevated freeway. From there they take their own exit ramp directly to the TTC and it makes the EZ on/off much more viable to keep them above ground rather than to bring them down to ground-level and contributing to street-level congestion. A/C transit is helping to pay for the TTC so they get to have a say here.

Likewise, the DTX is planned to go underground because there is no room above ground in SOMA and it would be insanely expensive to have to buy and demolish buildings in order to run an aerial train through downtown SF. The cost of the project is already very high - no need to double it just b/c it would be nice to have more light on the tracks. Regardless, even if the trains were also running on a skyway, there is no room in the TTC above ground because all of the capacity is taken up by buses. To make more room above ground they would have to make it too small for future bus passenger needs in the coming years, or would have to acquire more land in order to have trains and buses side-by-side on a longer range of city blocks which again would be enormously expensive and not conducive to passengers who are looking to transfer from one system to another.

As far as complaining about the building design for the tower, the TJPA chose the bid that promised the most $$$ to help pay for the project. The winning bid offered twice what the other two bidders offered and when it comes down to it, it's more important to see the project built than to worry about whether or not the tower design is iconic or instead looks like another HongKong tower they already built.

The TJPA has actually worked pretty hard to pull this project off by keeping costs low and seeking out innovative funding sources. Despite all of that it is still a challenge and is not yet fully funded.

matt in sf said...

rafael said: "Proponents need to bring the cost down by quite a lot to close the funding gap, because CHSRA isn't in a position to play Santa Claus."

Does that mean that Kopp is playing the Grinch?

The CHSRA commissioned a design company to make this TTC animation and put it on their website. This is not the TJPA's video - it is the CHSRA's. The CHSRA then actively promoted the concept of using the TTC as the SF terminus for the HSR line. Why on earth would they do that if the TTC was not part of the HSR network?

Now that the measure has passed, Kopp is throwing bombs and threatening to disqualify the DTX project from funding. Apparently he thinks SF should build a this tunnel to HSR specifications and provide it to him on a silver platter, free-of-charge. Maybe we should throw in a solid gold monument to Judge Kopp for his outstanding contributions as well, just so he'll consider bringing his trains into our little station?

I'm confused about what Kopp plans to do with his $45 billion if it is not going to pay for trackage or electrification or ROWs? Even if you don't live in SF and don't care about the plan to bring trains into downtown, you should be worried about what Kopp is doing to this project. Now that he's got your money, he's apparently planning to do whatever he damn pleases and is changing the entire scope of the project just to suit his whims.

You've been warned.

njh said...

Subways are a bad idea in general. Just fix up the priorities on the surface muni so that it can travel the 1.8 miles in a useful period of time. Spending hundreds of millions for a short extension is clearly a poorer investment than fixing up the local PT to get elsewhere.

Johnny said...

Thanks Matt, I totally agree.

So I hear that Kopp's son works for Mark John Geragos (currently representing the two jackasses who were involved in the SF Zoo Tiger incident). Coincidentally the SF Zoo hired Singer and Associates (TJPA's PR firm) to cover this issue. Makes sense that Kopp blasted Singer.

Rafael said...

@ matt in SF -

perhaps we got our wires crossed. CHSRA will have to spend a lot of money on acquiring ROW from UPRR or else hundreds of individual landowners.

However, it has considered the Caltrain DTX to be an extension of the Caltrain corridor, for which they will not have to pay in cash. Instead, they pay for all of the grade separations along the ROW and the electrification infrastructure that will sharply reduce electrification costs for the outer tracks.

I'm not yet clear on how platforms will be shared in Millbrae, Redwood City/Palo Alto and Gilroy and who pays what for those and in what modality. One model is to charge HSR operators station fees, conceptually comparable to airport taxes for take-off and landing slots. The vehicle operator assumes the ridership risk.

The problem is that TJPA and CHSRA clearly didn't have the same expectations as to up-front financing to build the infrastructure. In the current credit market, that's especially hard to raise. However, if Congress decides to throw money at well-planned HSR projects in a stimulus package, the point may become moot fairly soon.


If not, there is perhaps one other - radical - option. Terminate HSR at 4th & King and build a high-capacity urban gondola system across to the TTC. It's about 4000 feet from one building to the other as the crow flies, see this map.

They have two in Barcelona, one from the 1930s over the Port Vell and a more modern one up to the Montjuic. You may have seen similar systems at ski resorts. There is even a company suggesting it for Baltimore.

The designs of the TTC and future Caltrain high-rise would have to be adapted to serve as the endpoints of the gondola line. There would probably also have to be at least one, perhaps more, support pylons. In addition, high-capacity elevator systems connecting the gondola terminals and the train/bus levels would be needed - this would be used by commuters, not just tourists.

To compensate for the loss of overnight parking at the TTC, perhaps a rail yard could be set up across Mission Creek (see map)

matt in sf said...

rafael said "CHSRA will have to spend a lot of money on acquiring ROW from UPRR or else hundreds of individual landowners. However, it has considered the Caltrain DTX to be an extension of the Caltrain corridor, for which they will not have to pay in cash. Instead, they pay for all of the grade separations along the ROW and the electrification infrastructure that will sharply reduce electrification costs for the outer tracks."

I am not sure why you think that CHSRA is not going to contribute towards the DTX project. Is this in writing somewhere? If so I would love to see it. So far it is only Kopp who has taken this (in my opinion, absurd) position, and right now he is alone in that point of view. Rod Diridon stated just last month to a public audience that I was a member of that there is going to be as much as a billion dollars from the CHSRA for the DTX project. Rod and Quentin are both board members of the CHSRA. If anything I think Kopp is just up to his usual bombastic shenanigans - and I don't think that he is going to get anywhere with it either.

I also don't understand your assertion that CHSRA is going to pony up 100% of the funds for grade separations and electrification along the existing Caltrain ROW. Surely there will be a need for a local match, no? Otherwise that seems awfully generous. Likewise there will be the need for someone to pay for laying additional tracks. Presumably CHSRA will have to pay for all additional track sthat they are going to require.

So why would CHSRA pay for some or all of San Mateo County's grade separations, and tracks, and electrification but not pay one dime towards all of these things for the the grade separation between 4th/King and the new TTC which is exactly what the DTX is - a 1.3 mile grade separation ending with a 6-track platform (the platform itself which SF may or may not fully fund as it is).

One more thing: it's not called the "Caltrain" DTX - just the DTX - and the DTX project includes complete HSR-ready electrification, HSR-ready platforms (for longer rolling stock), HSR-ready tracks (gentler curves and tail tracks or a loop to provide storage space for longer trains).

But let's say for the sake of argument that the CHSRA decides that it only wants to go to 4th/King in SF and no further. Then how do they expect to do that when the 4th/King station is going to be removed as part of the DTX project? Unless I'm mistaken, it is going away to be replaced by an underground 4th/Townsend station instead, and the railyard at 4th/King is going to be reconfigured. Does that mean that HSR will only go to Millbrae then? I just don't think Kopp has thought any of this through. If anyone has any proof whatsoever that DTX is out of scope for the HSR network, please provide it. All I've seen is Kopp's statements which are hardly representative of anything more than his own opinion (thankfully!).


rafael said: "I'm not yet clear on how platforms will be shared in Millbrae, Redwood City/Palo Alto and Gilroy and who pays what for those and in what modality. One model is to charge HSR operators station fees, conceptually comparable to airport taxes for take-off and landing slots. The vehicle operator assumes the ridership risk.

Perhaps you mistyped, but on the contrary it would be the station operator, not the vehicle operator, who would be assuming the risk in your scenario. Rgardless, there is no way for the financing to work if it is primarily funded by anticipated operating fees. Operating fees such as a station tax would fluctuate with ridership and if any of the ridership projectiosn are not met, it would mean default on the loans. Likewise, charging high fees (say $25 per person per direction) to use a particular station would absolutely destroy ridership. But if you charge nominal fees ($2-$5 per ticket) then you can't expect to raise more than a few million dollars a year, which is not going to come close to paying off a billion dollar construction loan. Besides which, federal transit construction loans are capped at 30% or 35% of a project by rule, so you have to come up with most of the money from elsewhere.

In my opinion there is no way to make this work without the transit system operator putting some skin into the game. All of the other transit systems who expect to use the TTC (Sam Trans, SF Muni, and AC Transit) have already done so. (Note that Caltrain is a joint operation of SamTrans, SF Muni and the VTA - so they are mostly represented.) Kopp knows this which is why I think he is only posturing right now. However, and this is why I feel compelled to continue pointing this out, there is no need for folks on this blog to perpetuate Kopp's opinions unless there is really a legitimate argument that can be made to defend them.

Resepctfully, so far I haven't seen why CHSRA would pay for most or all of the infrastrucure improvements along one ROW, but balk at paying a single dollar towards those same infrastructure improvements along the SF ROW. It just doesn't add up.