Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Gavin Newsom Wants To Be the HSR Governor

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

SF Mayor and gubernatorial hopeful Gavin Newsom held a town hall in Oakland last night, and my friend sean mykael of Bear Flag Blue attended and gave a great report on the event. Becks of Living in the O was there as well, and focused on Newsom's answer to a question from AC Transit Director Joel Young. Newsom pretty much evaded Young's question on transit funding, but did use the opportunity to make a paean to high speed rail:

Joel explained that the state had defunded public transit and asked if Newsom, as governor, would restore public transit funding.

Newsom responded that public transit is so important for the environment and briefly answered, “Yes,” that he would restore the funding. But then instead of explaining why or how, he jumped into a long-winded speech about high speed rail. He started off by saying that he wanted to tell us about a project that he knew not all of us supported because it barely passed. This is a strange thing to say because 63% of Alameda County voters voted in favor of Prop 1A.

He then explained how high speed rail was going to change the state, creating jobs and changing how we thought about and used transportation. He talked about his vision for the “Grand Central Station of the West,” which is what some are calling the Transbay Terminal. Energetically, he explained how this would greatly improve the Bay Area region, making it easy to get from downtown to downtown (Oakland to SF).

And that was it. That was his answer to an AC Transit Director.

I'm sure Newsom and his staff will quickly learn that a large chunk of the SF Bay Area did support Prop 1A (or that they need to have different talking points depending on their audience!), but this is a nice statement of support for the HSR project from one of the Democratic candidates. It would also be worth noting that John Garamendi, another Democratic candidate for governor, has also been a strong backer of high speed rail.

I'm glad to hear that Newsom understands the importance of the Transbay Terminal and HSR more broadly. And I am also pleased to hear that he is not just promoting this at campaign events, but is working with Speaker Nancy Pelosi to lobby the feds for HSR funds:

San Francisco officials are teaming up with their Los Angeles counterparts to jointly push for a huge chunk of the $8 billion the stimulus plan will devote to high-speed rail. California believes the federal funds could accelerate the state's plan for a bullet train that could whisk passengers between the two cities in 2 1/2 hours.

At a closed-door meeting Tuesday, Pelosi told the San Francisco delegation the city was more likely to have success in winning the funding from federal officials if it presented a united front along with other California cities.

Board of Supervisors President David Chiu said the city was facing tough competition for the dollars from other regions, including President Obama's hometown of Chicago, which is seeking high-speed rail links to Milwaukee and St. Louis. But he said California is the only state to have passed bonds for high-speed rail and completed an initial environmental planning process.

"From a readiness perspective, we're ahead of probably any other comparable project in the country," Chiu said.

And as to the dispute over the train box? SF Supervisor Bevan Dufty says that high-level meetings between all the key agencies are happening, but Senator Dianne Feinstein is throwing a monkey wrench into the works:

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., a supporter of the project, said the city should be able to make a good case for the high-speed rail money, but only if state and local entities come together behind a realistic plan.

"My greatest fear is that it's not going to get done right," she said Tuesday. "Now I hear discussions that it has changed to fit a train every five minutes. Well, I know San Francisco, and there ain't going to be a train that gets in and out of there in five minutes. So I'm worried about how realistic the planning is. It used to be (one train) every 15 minutes, which is much more reasonable."

Someone needs to tell DiFi that if you want to "get it done right" then you need to build the train box to handle the desirable capacity now instead of doing a costly rebuild decades down the line. And I'm not the technical expert here, but I'm not sure the choice is between a train every 5 minutes or every 15 minutes - or that every 5 minutes isn't viable.

The worst thing that could happen is to limit the expansion capacity of the system - to prevent it from being "scalable" to borrow from web development jargon - just because a moderate Democratic Senator felt like being stingy way back in 2009.

Still, it's good to see Newsom taking a strong position publicly and privately for HSR. If he really wanted to help he could talk about the need to secure the $29.1 million (I got it right this time! yay me!) that the CHSRA needs to complete its work. And if he wanted to be bold he would go to the Peninsula and explain why they need to stop obstructing and start collaborating with the Authority and the project.

Let's hope Newsom's lead encourages the other gubernatorial candidates to demonstrate their support for high speed rail and provide some leadership that has been severely lacking these last few years.


Clem said...

DiFi says she knows San Francisco... so she ought to know that Caltrain (also slated to use the Transbay rail terminus) already runs 5 trains per hour today, i.e. more frequently than her "every 15 minutes" notion.

Increase that by a factor of two, and throw HSR into the mix, and pretty soon even 12 tph (every 5 minutes) looks insufficient.

Whatever happens, Transbay is going to be a huge operational challenge, and one that we can't afford to get wrong.

Eric said...

Wait, so Transbay makes it easy to go from downtown SF to downtown Oakland? How? And doesn't BART already do that?

Either Newsom isn't making a lick of sense, which wouldn't be unusual, or your correspondent isn't quoting him right.

Andrew Bogan said...

Very pleased to hear Gavin Newsom is speaking out in favor of HSR. The project is in need of bipartisan support and seems to have it, so far. Does anyone know where some of the possible Republican candidates stand on the issue, like Meg Whitman or Steve Poizner?

Fred Martin said...

Look at the history going back to the late 1970s, DiFi has been no friend of the Transbay Terminal. In fact, she has been ever so cruel to the very idea of rail service to the Transbay Terminal.

From what I hear about last week's CHSRA Board meeting, the Transbay extension is in serious trouble. Mehdi Morshed said that the latest estimates he saw were $3.2 billion for the extension. I think that's grossly inflated (intentionally?), but Morshed kept talking about how, "It's all about the priorities." The inference was that the Transbay extension was not a priority given the costs. Local sources don't have that kind of money, and the trainbox capacity dispute is hindering its ability to get federal stimulus funds. For those who have long advocated for the Transbay extension, we've been here before. Newsom may be the only hope, but is he really up for it? Damn, Damn, Damn...

The Transbay Terminal handles the many Transbay Express buses of AC Transit, so that is the Oakland connection. Transit does exist in other forms beyond rail.

Devil's Advocate said...

I don't see the problem with simply (and more cheaply) improve and use the current Caltrain station on King St. instead of this grandiose Transbay terminal which will take years to build and syphon a lot of HSR money. It's not that the station at King and 4th street is far from the transbay area anyway. It's just 3-4 min. from Market st. on a Muni tramway. Politicians always have these great dreams at the taxpayers' expense.

Eric said...

It's not that the station at King and 4th street is far from the transbay area anyway.

Not to mention the Central subway looks like it's pretty much a go - which is a faster tram connection to downtown than the existing T line. And if a transbay bus connection to HSR is so important, what's stopping AC Transit from routing their buses so they serve 4th and King as well as the existing Transbay Terminal?

Sure, the Transbay terminal would be a little bit slicker, if they build it right and not with the current ludicrous 6-track proposal, but the current situation is surely no more awkward than the location of LA Union station vis a vis downtown LA, and I don't think anyone is proposing that we spend billions to tunnel under Bunker Hill.

Fred Martin said...

Why do I get the impression that the Diridon Station is going to get the full multi-billion dollar treatment, and SF is going to be stuck with 4th and Townsend. The beautiful 1915 Mission Revival station at 3rd and Townsend was torn down for a RV parking lot, remember?

The Central Subway will not be any cheaper, and it lacks all the transit connections of the Transbay terminal. Losing the Transbay extension hurts the East Bay and Marin just as much as San Francisco.

I see Diridon Station is top of the list for $100 million in stimulus funds. If CHSRA only builds one thing, it will be that temple for Rod Diridon.

yeson1a said...

The Transbay terminal is a very expensive station and really is about what kind of money will we have to spend.I live in SF and it would be very nice to have the TBT
but at what cost? The platform layout is small,no matter what postive spin backers say.The best option would be a loop track an there is maby where that new 3.5 billion est is from.Our goal is to get HSR up and running between SF and LA .with 4th and King to start with or for a long time, just as long as there is a HST to board .

Devil's Advocate said...

I like HST, but not to be a devil's advocate, but every train lover in this blog needs to have someone to keep things in check. There is a major backlash against HSR in Italy at the moment after they discovered at what abominable costs the high speed rail is escalating to, especially thanks to some absurd grandiose plans that are saving only few minutes to the overall trip. Check how much is going to cost them to build the Bologna-Florence line (50miles) totally underground, incl. the Florence new station. If we don't keep costs in check, there will be a backlash in public support here as well, and Americans are even more sensitive to tax increases or Gov't waste. I would say that we stick to very pragmatic plans. Gasoline here is much cheaper and airfares are generally lower than Europe.It's not going to be easy for a HSR to be competitive against Air and Auto, in the US. So, when you brainstorm ideas, keep that in mind.

Spokker said...

"but every train lover in this blog needs to have someone to keep things in check."

Hehe, you must have just found this blog. There are plenty here, from supporters to non-supporters, that have criticized this project.

All input is welcome both pro and con, but many of your concerns have been addressed already. You should always read posts from either rafael and clem, two supporters who have done their homework.

Spokker said...

By the way check out Newsom's hot ass wife.

Goddamn I want to be mayor now.

Andrew Bogan said...

4th and King is actually closer to the largest single employer in San Francisco: UCSF, which has its new campus at Mission Bay. Most of the densest new residential development in SF has been around the Giants' Ballpark in the past decade anyway, so what would be the advantage of going all the way to the Transbay Terminal instead of building an SF HSR Station at 4th and King?

The idea that it solves the "connection to Oakland problem" is a stretch, since BART is a better way to get to Oakland than a bus, anyway. Transbay would still leave passengers a few blocks walk away from BART at Embarcadero or Montgomery, which is only slightly better than having to ride MUNI from 4th and King.

I'm not opposed to a new Transbay terminal, but the cost/benefit is not yet clear to me.

Rafael said...

We've been over these supposed capacity constraints for the trainbox under the SFTT. They're a red herring IMHO, CHSRA doesn't know squat about trains operations so their civil engineers always over-engineer everything. Must...pour...more...concrete...

Moreover, Q.K. is royally peeved that TJPA has dared to do its own thing rather than kowtow to his eminence on all matters even remotely related to HSR. And vice versa.

Even if 12 HSR trains did enter and another 12 left the station in a single hour - i.e. 5 min headway both ways, at which point the line down the peninsula would be close to safe saturation and Palo Altans would start buying landmines - there would still be enough capacity, provided that seat reservations are mandatory (cp. TGV), pedestrian flow between the concourse level and the platforms is managed and, enough cleaning/provisioning staff are hired to turn any given train around in less than 30 minutes. And that's with full cleaning/provisioning of every train, all day long. Where there's a will, there's a way.

A full-length bi-level train has 1000+ seats, so do the math: access to the building may be a problem long before the 1/4 mile platform saturate. Frankly, I'd be more worried about the almost inevitable frickin' security scanners becoming a bottleneck.

In any case, if HSR becomes so wildly popular that headways shrink to just 5 minutes even for 1000+ seat trains, there'll be no problem at all in finding the money needed to run an additional spur up the east bay and/or some trains will terminate in San Jose while others will run through there.

The whole thing is a non-issue, even more so if full cleaning/provisioning only needs to be done at the southern end of the starter line, where there should be more room.


The real capacity bottleneck for HSR in SF is not the SFTT design nor the lack of a second transbay tube. It's pedestrian flow capacity at Embarcadero BART station and through the proposed pedestrian passage under Fremont St. Unbelievably, it's still considered "optional" and the design dead-ends at Market St.

Fix that and you will get oodles of ridership from all over the East Bay. Fail to do it and you may end up with a bus terminal featuring a really expensive science experiment gone horribly wrong in the basement.

Pedestrian flow capacity is the alpha and omega of multi-modal transit hubs

Suggestion: instead of dead-ending the pedestrian tunnel Market St, construct ramps underneath the sidewalks to link it to wide new side platforms at Embarcadero BART. With doors on both sides of the train opening at the same time, there's much more throughput during the already brief dwell times at peak periods.

Yes, there will need to be some support columns along the edge of the new side platforms, c'est la vie. Space them right and make sure the trains stop in exactly the right place.

BART is two levels down from the Fremont St tunnel level, so consider long, gently sloping moving walkways - very handy if you're dragging a suitcase or pushing a wheelchair/stroller. A groove would be handy for pushing bikes, e.g. compact folding types that are permitted on all types of mass transit.

Capt. Obvious here: the pedestrian tunnel should of course extend to the far side of Market, perhaps even out to Pine St. It's not just for transfers between BART and HSR/Caltrain/buses.

If need be, rinse and repeat the whole thing under 1st/Bush and down to Montgomery St BART. That won't be needed right away, but at 12tph for both HSR and Caltrain, we're talking over 21,000 people passing through the trainbox in each direction per hour, many of them either hailing from or headed to BART or the financial district.

All of this would be cheaper than trying to construct a spur off the BART line at the SF end of the transbay tube for a second dual-track line under Mission St, one of whose stations would be right next to SFTT.

Also, at some point the transbay tube really does become the bottleneck. It's anyhow a single point of failure, e.g. in the event of an earthquake. Since the design for the new east span of the Bay Bridge is too weak to support any trains, long-range planning for a second tube should be initiated, e.g. standard gauge to downtown Oakland (Franklin St) via a TOD district and park/recreation area on Point Alameda, in time for the Bay Area Summer Olympics in 2028.


Another capacity headache is Caltrain at SFTT. Since they're only getting a measly 2 platform tracks, they'll need to increase the length of their rush hour trains to ~300m (cp. Long Island Railroad) to support the anticipated ridership growth. That means lengthening platforms at all Caltrain stations, even the ones that don't get HSR service. Clem Tillier suggests Caltrain should get the center lanes of the ROW, which means long, wide island platforms. CHSRA's videos show HSR trains in the middle.

Since Caltrain doesn't need to do even light cleaning or housekeeping and its passengers during rush hour are commuters with little or no baggage, it might be able to turn around its own level boarding EMUs in as little as 9 minutes. Up to 750 people out, up to 750 in. Again, flow management would be key. Get it right and even Caltrain can run 12tph operations, not that it will come to that anytime soon. Plus, it still has 4th &amp King as backup. That will become much more useful once the crosstown Muni Subway to Chinatown goes live.

Meanwhile, brownie points for tracks down Mission, 5th and perhaps Townsend as far as 4th for a new streetcar line linking the Caltrain station at 4th & King, SFTT and all of the ferry terminals out to Pier 41. I presume there will still be a plaza of some kind between Minna and Mission, 1st and Fremont where passengers could disembark.

Modern streetcars with ultra-low floors let people in wheelchairs or with baggage/baby carriages board and alight quickly and easily.

Use crosswalk markings on the road and manage the traffic lights to protect passengers if they need to cross a traffic lane between the sidewalk stop and the streetcar. There's no need to nuke traffic lanes by installing platforms in the middle of the street. Grey matter - engage!

arcady said...

Some simple facts for Mr. Newsom and whatever other politicians talk about the "Grand Central of the West": the real Grand Central has about 60 tracks, not 6, and serves 660 trains a day. Transbay is not, and never will have, anything like that kind of traffic. The old Transbay may have come close in terms of the sheer volume of trains though.

Matt said...

Is connecting with BART to go to Oakland at TBT really a big deal? Couldn't the HSR/Bart transfer be made at Milbrae or even Diridon to get to the East Bay. Obviously TBT would be a great thing. But I do not think it is a necessary as some think.

arcady said...

Matt: a transfer at Millbrae already adds 20 minutes to the trip. Compared to HSR travel times, it would be more like half an hour. The difference is pretty significant, when you don't have to go via Colma and Daly City and all local stops through SF. Connecting at San Jose might be feasible, which of course assumes that line will ever get built.

Robert Cruickshank said...

Wow, there's some strong "perhaps Transbay isn't necessary" sentiment going on here in the comments.

And strangely enough I'm starting to agree.

Think about some of the European HSR stations. Barcelona-Sants isn't along the Ramblas. Madrid-Atocha is right on the edge of the city center, just down the street from the Prado and a few underground stops from Sol (generally considered the center of town). Gare de Lyon is in the central part of the city but not smack in the middle, same with St. Pancras.

I've always believed that the DTX is more valuable and important than the Central Subway, but if it's one or the other and if the Central Subway is definitely happening, then to me that would probably make a terminus at 4th and King something we can live with, at least in theory. It'd be served by decent transit connections particularly to the city center, would be right on the edge of that city center amid a lot of density, and already has a bunch of tracks.

I know this is a shift from what I'd been arguing back in November and December, but my arguments at the time were predicated on the notion that we should push for the best possible solution. I think we can make 4th and King work, but I'd love to hear more detailed discussions about this, especially in light of recent information.

Anonymous said...

You might want to listen to DiFi, as painful as they may be.

You may think you have some type of "lead" over other areas in implementing HSR, but other areas have projects lined up and ready to go, within the timetables for the stimulus money.

Matt said...

Arcady: Assuming the passanger need to transfer to BART anyway, the 20 minutes of transfer time (where is this from?) will be taken anyway, at TBT, Milbrae or Dideron. The BART from Milbrae is obviously slower, but the distance is not too long. Also 4th and King is still close enough to many destinations to take.

I agree that TBT would be better, but it is not critical.

jon said...

maybe the thing is to design the transbay terminal for future rail, preserve an underground right of way leading to the terminal (as is the case now) and then renovate the existing caltrain terminal as a temporary HSR station, to be operated for about 15-20 years after HSR opens when hopefully a downtown extension can be built. it really not all that different than what is planned now but just push back the downtown extension opening.

yeson1a said...

Living here I of course would like a beautiful station.but not at a huge price that would hinder the overall project.Thats the most important thing at this point.
Tommorrow there will be a meeting of TBT board.I might call my on supervisor as he is involved in this and nose around.

Greg said...

Gavin Newsom has been no friend of public transit in SF as mayor. He has used MUNI money to pay for political aides in his office, he has supported the looting of MUNI by city departments, and he did not support Prop. A in 2007.

Given all this, any promises he makes on HSR should be taken with a salt shaker of salt. He'll say anything that makes for a great soundbite, but has no record of follow through.

Andrew Bogan said...

@Robert Cruickshank

When I lived in SF about a decade ago, there was a ballot measure to extend Caltrain underground from 4th and King to downtown (I think it was to Transbay, but maybe somewhere else). At that time, it seemed obvious it was a good, albeit wildly expensive, idea and it passed, but without any funding.

Today it seems much less obviously to be a good idea and it would still be expensive. With extensive development South of Market, in China Basin, and at Mission Bay the "center" of downtown SF has drifted significantly to the south. Especially with the massive UCSF Mission Bay Campus and surrounding dense housing and business development stretching from the Ballpark to Potrero Hill. Suddenly 4th & King, which was not even served by a MUNI Streetcar a decade ago, seems oddly in the center of activity, in the heart of a revitalized SoMa and South Beach.

A spectacular hub station in SF for HSR is an appealing in concept, but I am no longer personally convinced that it needs to be at Transbay, where a connection to BART is still somewhat marginal (ie no cross platform transfer). Rafael points out many of the details needed to make pedestrian traffic between BART and HSR work at Transbay, but it would still be an oddly long walk to haul a suitcase on.

Seems like 4th & King might make a lot of sense if Transbay is cost prohibitive. Then again, if Newsom can raise lots of federal money to build a temple to mass transit at Transbay, that'd be nice, too.

Besides your own European examples, many Japanese cities built shinkansen stations on the edge of major cities only to find the city's center move closer to the new station. Shin-Osaka (literally New Osaka) Station is one such example on the north side of the Yodogawa River.

Frank said...

This is an interesting discussion, and I suddenly find myself changing my mind as well.

I always assumed that the TBT was necessary, but come to think of it, what are the commuting or travel patterns that will really need this connection?

1. SF bound Commuters/Visitors from the Peninsula: They don't really need to connect to BART - they need to get into the City. This purpose can be served by BART at Millbrae, the Central Subway, or Muni. The main beef is with commuters who want a 1 seat ride into the TBT area.

2. SF bound Commuters/Visitors from East Bay (BART): BART/Muni/Central Subway connections are good enough. They don't need Caltrain or HSR.

3. SF bound Commuters/Visitors from Marin/East Bay to TBT (bus): They will have an expanded bus terminal and improved access to transit. However, they get the shaft since they aren't served by the Central Subway. However, bus service directly to 4th & King would help.

4. SF bound SF Locals: The DTX doesn't do much to help them get around town.

5. Penninsua bound SF residents/vistors: They will have various transit options to get to 4th & King(bus/Muni/Central Subway), just as people in downtown LA would need to take the train to Union Station. It would be nice to have a direct connection, but not necessary.

6. Anyone traveling N or E from SF: No need for HSR or Caltrain - would only serve a 2 minute ride from 4th & King to TBT.

7. Through commuters or travelers (ie Penninsula-Marin, East Bay-Marin, Penninsual-East Bay): This market is not that crucial. They can take BART or other options.

8. SFO/SJO air travelers: See #1

9. OAK air travelers: See #2

10. Ferries: ???

In conclusion (using my limited analysis), the only people that really would benefit from the DTX would be commuters who work in the area around the TBT and bus patrons from EB or Marin who need to get to the 4th & King area. Overall, is this really that big a chunk fo the high speed rail market? Is this worth it? Seems to me that SF should pay for this if they want it.

I am from LA and SD so forgive me if I made any assumptions that were clearly wrong here.

Rafael said...

@ Frank -

"SF bound Commuters/Visitors from East Bay (BART): BART/Muni/Central Subway connections are good enough. They don't need Caltrain or HSR."

Yes, because the entire world in interested only in going to SF, the navel of the universe.

Jeez Louise, the HSR station at SF is supposed to serve Alameda and Contra Costa counties as well. Passengers from Hayward south may eventually hop on BART to catch trains at SF, but many will prefer to drive or take a bus to one of the peninsula station.

Everyone north and east of Hayward is going to need a usable - if imperfect = solution for bridging the gap between SFTT and the nearest BART station, because BART takes a long time to reach Millbrae. On any given day, only one line actually goes out there, so you have to transfer in downtown Oakland or else at SFO.

The central subway is a tram, useful for getting commuters deep into the financial district (e.g. to the Transamerica pyramid area). Each train handles 100-150 passengers max. BART trains handle 700. Transferring from BART to the central subway to get to 4th & King is a sure-fire way to keep people in short-hop planes.

Each HSR train can have over 1000 seats, cp. 16 car TGV Duplex! Eurostar operates single-level trains with 20 cars for 766 seats per train. That's a lot of trams and buses. The highest volume of HSR feeder traffic will come from BART, plus some from regular Muni Subway lines and Caltrain (peninsula passengers will have other stations served by HSR).

Besides, Embarcadero (and perhaps Montgomery, too) BART needs improved pedestrian flow capacity even now, that's the bottleneck in the system. Not the transbay tube.

What I would like to know is how they got up to $3.2 billion for the DTX + Transbay Terminal building incl. train box. The St. Pancras remodeling/expansion in London in the context of HS1 cost GBP 866 million, i.e. about half of San Francisco's SFTT, which is quite a bit smaller.

Is the DTX tunnel still a three-track affair? If so, why? Two is enough for 24tph total because speeds will be low. At 25mph, a 2.5 minute headway translates to a mile of distance separation, which should be plenty to step on the brakes in case of emergency. Plus, it will eb a cold day in the hot place before we'll actually see 24tph into the SFTT train box anyhow.

Andrew said...

I kinda thought that the TBT project was too far along to be killed at this point. Still, I too find myself questioning its importance. To me, the clincher with the SF station is BART and Muni Metro access, which at the TBT would be tenuous at best because it would be contingent on splurging for an underground passage with moving walkways. At 4th and King, you get Muni Metro access, but not BART. As Rafael points out, East Bay passengers would get the shaft.

But I was just struck with a crazy idea that might be worth studying. How about an above-ground station adjacent to Civic Center BART/Muni? There would be a significant amount of eminent domain seizure involved, but it wouldn't be so bad because a lot of the area is blighted and of relatively lower density. It would have lots of transit connections, be pretty much within downtown SF, be a lot more easily expandable than an underground station, and the Civic Center/Mid-Market area could sure do with a revitalization.

TomW said...

"Well, I know San Francisco, and there ain't going to be a train that gets in and out of there in five minutes".
Well, that's just wrong. I've never seen anythign which impleis the upgraded rail network aroudn SF won't be able to handle trains every five minutes.
For the record, things only start to get tricky with main-line rail if you want trains more often than every three minutes.

yeson1a said...

I have to say at every Giants home game the MuniMetro is jammed with Eastbay people that transfer to BART at the Embarcadero station.Its the same line and the Caltrain station is only 1/3 mile away ..I would think they might do the same for HSR. The Central Subway would bring people right into the dense hotel area. 4th and king is a very up and coming area right now ..I would not mind living there.Either station would work,its just were is the money.

r. motorist said...

I'm kind of surprised at the number of people now saying that TT is not a necessity. I'm thinking back to the discussion about halting HSR in San Jose. It seemed the consensus was the extra travel time and the added transfer would make travel that much less convenient and have a adverse effect on ridership.

The same can be said of keeping the HSR terminus at 4th and King. The TT is adjacent to pretty much every feeder line in the city. How many east bay riders will be lost if they have to put up with an extra transfer to Muni? I've tried many times to bridge the gap between 4th and King and Market and it's never been that convenient. I've also taken BART from Milbrae to the East Bay, and that also takes a while. If BART riders are forced to put up with either one of those I imagine ridership would suffer.

Robert Cruickshank said...

r.motorist, the only way 4th and King works is if the Central Subway is built. It may be less ideal than TBT for the reasons Rafael noted, but it is something that can possibly work. It's a subject worth exploring in some greater detail.

Bay Area Resident said...

He started off by saying that he wanted to tell us about a project that he knew not all of us supported because it barely passed. This is a strange thing to say because 63% of Alameda County voters voted in favor of Prop 1A.

You guys need to get your heads out of the sand. Prop 1A is the most contentious proposition since gay marriage. Nothing pisses off the public more than Rod Diridon standing up in Palo Alto saying "thanks for your OVERWHELMING support of Prop 1A and High Speed Rail", because nobody supports this now except the train wonks like you all. Newsom is absolutely right, this project needs a public relations makeover and that is what he is trying to do, to state that he understands this thing is contentious but to him, it it still a good idea. Doesn't really matter if 1A passed, because the text of that initiative was deliberately vague. Nobody knew what they were voting for.

nimbyparkarrogance said...

NO nimby BAR your off topic wonk

Andy Chow said...

I believe it is ridiculous to think that 4th & King is sufficient.

Although 4th & King has the space for the trains, it doesn't have enough space nor connection to facilitate pedestrian movements. The streets around 4 & King are constrained by freeway and ballpark traffic. The Muni tracks are poorly configured.

Despite the growth in the 4th & King station area, the SF financial district still has a higher employment density. Getting HSR/Caltrain there would cut a lot of surface traffic that would otherwise have, and would free up Muni resources to better serve other parts of the city. Caltrain isn't abandoning the 4th & King station, so it is not either or.

4th & King might have been sufficient if there's a metro system that has the reliability, speed, and frequency to get people around the city. You can see that in New York, DC, and to some extent LA. Unfortunately Muni is a joke, even with the Central Subway. The Central Subway could only accommodate two car trains, and that trains would come from the Bayview. If the trains aren't full coming in from the Bayview, then the trains would be infrequent. Also, the Central subway can't serve the financial district as well because the alignment under Stockton Street is up the hill from Montgomery St.

At TBT you can access all the Metro lines and all the BART lines coming in to downtown. Not one or two that extend beyond downtown to 4th & King or Millbrae. That means less double transfer for folks that live close to BART or Muni Metro but aren't served by direct service to 4th & King/Millbrae. That applies to the buses too.

The TBT does have operational constraints, but I think the improvement in customer service (and door to door travel time) is worth the operational changes that might be needed. Do all the trains have to be cleaned on the north end of the line? Do all the passengers have to be seated before the trains can move?

The TBT project is nearly ready to go. It would be tragic to see that might not happen because of relatively petty issues.

Anonymous said...

"It is the intent of the Legislature by enacting this chapter and of the people of California by approving the bond measure pursuant to this chapter to initiate the construction of a high-speed train system that connects the San Francisco Transbay Terminal to Los Angeles Union Station and Anaheim,"

So delete SFTT and you are invalidating Measure 1A. SFTT is one of the ONLY specifics stated with point blank clarity in Measure 1A.

Seems that if they want measure 1A funds, then SFTT is no longer up for debate. The only debate is how big, and how much$.

And on the question of how big - if the size of SFTT is not enough to accomodate the grandiose ridership projections in the certified EIR/EIS, then the whole darn thing starts to unravel.

Yet if SFTT its OVER engineered, then it costs way more than in the business plan, (under ridiculous ridership projections that won't materialize to PAY for itself), then the whole darn thing starts to unravel.

Have Kopp and Diridon painted CHSRA into a corner on this one?

HSR supporters need to start thinking more seriously about exactly who they're putting their leadership faith in.

Bianca said...

Andy Chow raises a really good point. The ability of MUNI to absorb the number of passengers disembarking from the average HSR train is something people need to think about carefully before ditching the Transbay Terminal. MUNI cars can only handle a fraction of the capacity of HSR.

One of the real selling points of HSR was that the terminus in San Francisco would be right downtown. People BARTing in from the East Bay for a baseball game might be up for smooshing into a jammed MUNI car, but business travelers? The likely outcome is that the area around 4th & King is jammed with taxis waiting to pick up arriving passengers and take them, in many cases, to the Financial District.

I don't have the numbers of how many people come into San Francisco each day from the East Bay and Marin on buses. But there is real value in bring the rail and bus terminals together. If we drop TBT as the terminus, then all those folks opposing the Peninsula route are going to argue even harder for stopping HSR at San Jose, since it will only terminate at 4th & King anyway. We need to make sure that TBT is well-designed, but I still think there is a real case for it.

Robert Cruickshank said...

Anon @11:44 - first, please choose a name, even if it's a pseudonym.

Second, we HSR supporters back a project, and not necessarily any individual helping implement it. I have respect for the work Kopp and Diridon have done on this, along with all the other members of the CHSRA board and staff. Sometimes I agree with their proposals and sometimes I do not. It's not about having "faith" in anything other than high speed trains.

Robert Cruickshank said...

Andy Chow and Bianca are raising good points, which is why I'm glad I merely said "I'm willing to consider" moving the terminus to 4th and King. Even without an underground pedestrian connection TBT is far more walkable than 4th and King.

Yonah at the Transport Politic proposes a sensible solution - use both 4th and King AND TBT as a terminus. Some trains go to TBT, others do not. Thoughts on this concept?

BruceMcF said...

"Do all the trains have to be cleaned on the north end of the line? Do all the passengers have to be seated before the trains can move?"

No, and no. Cleaning by staff is ongoing, and the full scale cleaning does not have to occur that many times a day that it has to occur at both sides of the line. And of course not all passengers have to be seated before the trains move ... debarking passengers eager to be on their way will be queuing up before the train stops at the station, and the train can leave the station once all embarking passengers are through the door.

And the recent remarks about headways ... the 5 minute headways would certainly seem to be a design constraint for the high speed sections ... but the Cityrail system in Sydney gets close to 3 minute headways even with old trains and decrepit signalling. So I'm inclined to find TomW quite credible on the claim that at those speeds, its only getting headways below 3 minutes that starts to get tricky (and lord knows that Cityrail has "wanted" to get headways down below 3 minutes for decades now, but State Government for some reason never funded the complete overhaul of the signalling system that would be required).

3 minute minimum headways in the access line and 5 minute headways in the schedule means that by speeding/slowing a train by a minute and a half, within the available slack, an open slot can be opened up.

That means that in the event of some untoward event in a trainset that would leave a pinch in trainbox capacity, a standard procedure can be in place to vent that trainset out and bring another one in to replace it.

Andrew Bogan said...

Considering HSR stations at both 4th and King and Transbay makes some sense to me. At the very least, it would buy some time to raise the money for Transbay with respect to issues in the wording of Prop 1A, since 4th & King could be considered an intermediate station, with the intention that Transbay ends up as the terminus some day, as Prop 1A indicates.

Acela trains serve both Boston Back Bay Station and Boston South Station (about 1 mile apart). This makes sense, since both stations seem to draw significant ridership. Seoul and Tokyo also have multiple HSR stations within the city limits (though they are much bigger cities). Seoul has both Seoul Station and Yongsan Station for the KTX. Tokyo has Ueno, Tokyo, and Shinagawa for the shinkansen.

It is quite plausible that multiple SF stations would help ridership on HSR, since SF is by far the most densely populated part of the Bay Area, with a population density that is similar to many large Asian cities. One concern I have, though, is that Transbay and 4th and King really are not very far apart (only about 1 mile), so it might make less sense than the Asian examples. Although Boston has similar spacing between its two Acela stations.

@Rafael & Clem- any thoughts on issues or benefits of HSR stations at both SF locations in terms of turning trains? I know you have thought about this much more than I have.

One other comment on the importance of a connection to BART is that longer term Oakland will probably demand their own HSR Station either through a transbay HSR tube or via an Altamont extension up the East Bayshore. Clearly connecting from BART to HSR at Transbay (which is already marginal) would become obsolete if that scenario happens. Just something to consider.

Anonymous said...

"The total number of stations to be served by high-speed trains for all of the corridors described in subdivision (b) of Section 2704.04 shall not exceed 24."

Eric said...

Although admittedly BART does meander a bit as it goes from Millbrae through the city, I suspect a fair number of east bay bound passengers would transfer at Millbrae anyway, in order to get a seat, rather than have to pile into already packed trains at Embarcadero.

Alon Levy said...

By the way check out Newsom's hot ass wife.

No wonder every commenter here is male.

BruceMcF said...

"It is quite plausible that multiple SF stations would help ridership on HSR, since SF is by far the most densely populated part of the Bay Area, with a population density that is similar to many large Asian cities. One concern I have, though, is that Transbay and 4th and King really are not very far apart (only about 1 mile), so it might make less sense than the Asian examples. Although Boston has similar spacing between its two Acela stations."

More to the point is the same as the issue of using the proposed airport Transport Interchange as the main terminus in San Diego with locals continuing on to Santa Fe ... the big argument against stations that close together is that it slows down all trips that are taken through that station, so for intermediate stations, the time cost imposed on through passengers does not justify two stations a mile or two apart.

For terminal stations, there are no through passengers being imposed upon when the "extra" station is an extension ... building the airport transport interchange to support some locals continuing on to Santa Fe would not impose a time penalty on anyone.

In San Francisco, with the largest transit capacity at the TBT, it would be harder to justify adding a stop at 4th and King. However, if total capacity at the TBT for all services terminating in San Francisco threatens to create a cost blowout at the TBT, providing for 4th and King as an alternate terminus for an appropriate mix of Stage 2 and 3 services could be one way to avoid that cost blowout.

As argued previously, if all four HSR platform tracks have direct or switched access to both trailing tracks, that provides substantial throughput capacity and operating flexibility ... if 12tph is possible, though perhaps with little slack, that means that 8tph certainly ought to be OK. 2 trains per hour per platform is not something that ought to cause a serious hassle, even if some are services like SF/Fresno that will need to get a thorough cleaning in SF.

So TBT, with the same general 4+2 platform footprint, but with the modifications required to connect both trailers to all four HSR platforms.

Note that this approach would also seem to bear no penalty against the 24 stations served in Stage 1 language.

Clem said...

@BruceMcF, how do the tail tracks improve throughput capacity?

BruceMcF said...

First is reducing the total slack required at each platform as exceptional cases can be vented to the trailing tracks.

Second is not requiring the trains to occupy the platform for the entire time that they are at the station ... the example given in previous posts was X minutes to unload passengers, 1 minute to go to the trailing track, X minutes to clean, restock, minor repairs, etc., 1 minute to go to the departure platform, X minutes to load, depart. So 9+1+9+1+9 is thirty minutes between arrival and departure but only occupying passenger platforms for twenty minutes, allowing 3 trains per hour per platform or 12 trains for four platforms.

Even if that is tight, 14+1+14+1+14 would allow 45 minutes between arrival and departure and only occupy platforms for 30 of those minutes, for 2 trains per hour per platform or 8 tph for four platforms.

Mind, for a mere 2 trains per hour per platform, I expect you'd leave them departing from the same platform that they arrive at, and only use the trailing tracks to avoid bottlenecking a platform for exceptional dwell time ... half an hour seems like plenty to debark, restock, and embark passengers.

In the second case, its not that the trailer tracks increase the throughput by speeding up the typical service, but rather by preventing extraordinary events from interfering with the typical service.

Clem said...

@BruceMcF, I suppose this concept of operations implies that 1 tail track is needed for every 2 platform tracks, and that it must be accessible from at least those two tracks (and preferably more)

Would it be better to have a 3-track approach (and a well-configured station throat) to enable > 12 tph each way, thus allowing dead head moves to underground servicing tracks at 4th & Townsend?

zig said...

I agree with Andy and want to add a bit

For the Central Subway should note that beyond the capacity issues (which is inadequte) the need to build a deep subway under Market is going to necessitate a very slow transfer for those riders trying to get to the market street subway to continue on to the Financial District. This is documented elsewhere if anyone wants me to dig it up. Its an awkward transfer.

Further, as someone from San Francisco, I can attest to the fact that these streetcars are simply godawful, slow, crowded and unreliable. To and from baseball games to my home in Noe Valley is on crush loaded vehicles only marginally faster than walking the 2 miles. They are that bad. Honestly. Unbelievably inadequate for a dense city.

BART: Embarcadero Station to Millbrae Station is 37 minutes on BART for what is essentially about 8 miles in a straight shot. that seems discouraging to me.

Lastly 4th and King, as Andy stated is in an awkward location and this gravity of downtown moving this way (both South and West) is being overstated. In fact the real shift is South around (and of course above) the TransBay and adjacent Rincon Hill areas.

My intuition is no TransBay is a very bad idea

Rafael said...

@ zig -

I agree that 4th & King is not an adequate terminus for HSR trains because it lacks BART connectivity. There isn't even direct streetcar service between 4th & King and all the ferry terminals/pier 39.

The Central Subway will make 4th & King more useful for Caltrain commuters heading deep into the financial district, but that's it. The HSR passenger profile is very different.

Fwiw, they mucked up the design of the Central Subway by making it dive underneath BART. It should have a level crossing with the SF Muni Subway lines at Market, protected with signaling. Then, some of the other lines could be reconfigured as well.

That said, the optimal solution strictly from a rail point of view is to build a new Central Station where all 5 rail services (HSR, Caltrain, BART, SF Muni subway and streetcars) would naturally converge, i.e. Market & 7th.

The neighborhood isn't exactly upscale (yet), but a central station would act as an anchor for commercial development, a new business district west of the existing one. Cp. La Defense in Paris. That would also ease pedestrian flow capacity problems at Embarcadero BART rather than exacerbate them.

Bus lines from the East Bay could easily serve both a pure bus depot at the Transbay Terminal and the Central Station.