In the comments on the last post there has been quite a lot of discussion about this SF Examiner article with the hyperbolic and overly dramatic headline "Transbay Transit Center Going Off Track":
However, that would necessitate a $2 billion, 1.3-mile extension of Caltrain’s tracks from their current terminus at Fourth and King streets in Mission Bay to downtown’s Transbay Transit Center at First and Mission streets, as well as a “train box” — a massive space underneath the bus terminal big enough to hold six rail platforms and tracks — that could later be tunneled into and developed into a station for Caltrain and high-speed trains.
Transbay Joint Powers Authority spokesman Adam Alberti said the authority began lobbying for funds from the high-speed rail bond in a letter issued last month.
But at least one authority has eschewed the possibility that high-speed rail will pay for the extension.
“We do not need First and Mission. I am satisfied with Fourth and Townsend,” said Judge Quentin Kopp, chairman of the High Speed Rail Authority. “We are not going to pay an extra billion-plus dollars to take the high-speed rail an extra 1.4 miles.”
Kopp is not wrong, but neither is he right. The HSR project can survive without the Transbay Terminal. However, the project is much better off with it included. That 1.3 miles is quite a distance in San Francisco, the difference between the edge of the urban center and the center itself, the core of California's most densely urbanized place. The Transbay Terminal will be located within easy walking distance of a BART station and all Muni Metro lines, as well as the Ferry Terminal. The HSR line ought to go there.
Kopp is likely posturing here to let all parties know that Prop 1A money isn't a free for all. That has value. And it's likely Kopp has been quoted out of context here. Still, he could dial it down a bit. His strong style has value at times but misses the mark here. The Authority doesn't necessarily have to pay all or even any of the cost of the extension. But Kopp ought to work to build consensus to ensure that the HSR line gets completed all the way to the Transbay Terminal. I don't think these comments get us in that direction.
Especially since everyone else appears to be busy playing "pass the buck":
The extension will have to be resolved — and funded — by The City and Caltrain, he said.
But spokeswoman Christine Dunn said Caltrain has not considered devoting any funds to the project, and it would have to be funded by The City and the Transbay project.
Jerry Hill, a member of Transbay’s board of directors and state Assembly member-elect, said that though Transbay hopes to secure some funding for the extension from the high-speed rail, they are not seeing the project as a “cash cow,” and the success of neither high-speed rail nor the Transbay Transit Center depends on the extension.
Hill's comments are especially important here, as they suggest this is not the "omg crisis!" that the Examiner would have us believe. There is a money dispute here, which should surprise nobody. We're going to have to deal with these kinds of issues for at least the next ten years. The political need for multiple funding sources virtually guarantees it. But that doesn't mean these issues can't be resolved.
HSR and the Transbay Terminal are better off with each other. The city of San Francisco and Caltrain ought to be expected to kick in some money as well. So should the feds. Perhaps this is a more important project than the Central Subway that Nancy Pelosi has been pushing for years. And it really is an either/or - if the Central Subway is built then that would enable BART riders to get to the Fourth and King station more easily, if not exactly conveniently; but if the Caltrain and HSR extension gets built then the Central Subway becomes a less necessary piece of infrastructure.
In any event, leadership is needed here to ensure that the Transbay Terminal project and the HSR project both meet their full potential - which means the trains reach the terminal. The CHSRA ought to negotiate in good faith with the Transbay Terminal Authority and all other parties. The extension to the Terminal is an important part of the overall project that ought to be maintained, although fair and equitable cost arrangements should certainly be made.
UPDATE: It is worth noting that the CHSRA board unanimously selected the Transbay Terminal as the preferred terminus in San Francisco for the route when they approved the Final EIR in July. Specifically, Chapter 8 explains the rationale, repeating much of what I said above:
The Transbay Transit Center site is the preferred station location option for the San Francisco HST Terminal. The Transbay Transit Center would offer greater connectivity to San Francisco and the Bay Area than the 4th and King site (about a mile from the financial district) because of its location in the heart of downtown San Francisco and since it would serve as the regional transit hub for San Francisco. The Transbay Transit Center is located in the financial district where many potential HST passengers could walk to the station. The Transbay Transit Center is also expected to emerge as the transit hub for all major services to downtown San Francisco, with the advantage of direct connections to BART (1 block from the terminus), Muni, and regional bus transit (SamTrans, AC Transit, and Golden Gate Transit). Moreover, the Transbay Transit Center is compatible with existing and planned development and is the focal point of the Transbay redevelopment plan that includes extensive high-density residential, office, and commercial/retail development. Sensitivity analysis on the Pacheco Pass “Base” forecasts (low-end forecasts) concluded that the Transbay Transit Center would attract about 1 million more annual passengers a year by 2030 than the 4th and King station location option.
The capital costs needed for the HST component of the Transbay Transit Center (including the 1.3-mile extension) is estimated to be similar to the estimated costs for the 4th and King option. (Page 8-18)
So that strikes me as a pretty clear indication that Kopp was likely quoted out of context and that the Examiner is trying to stir up controversy where it doesn't legitimately exist. The CHSRA is still committed to the Transbay Terminal, and Kopp probably meant to say that if something were to happen and the Transbay Terminal project fell through, HSR could manage.
Obviously there will be things that need to be resolved as detailed plans get made, especially with the Transbay Terminal. How many trains? Where exactly will the "train box" go and how big will it be? What will the specific funding arrangements be? Such issues are ones we're going to have to deal with up and down the route as the plans near completion.
I do still believe that it is in the interest of all the various transit agencies to continue working together on this. The desire to build all the way to the Transbay is there. Let's not allow a one-off article to distract us from that.