Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Transbay Terminal Tempest

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

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.


Anonymous said...

I agree that Kopp's downplay on the necessity of the Transbay terminal has a negative effect on the overall HSR project -- even if its just a few miles, that location makes all the difference in attacting riders to HSR -- but I can see what he's getting at. He is trying to differentiate between the HSR project and the Transbay terminal so it doesn't appear that the Transbay Terminal is an extension of the HSR project. That keeps some of the extreme psychopathic spend thrifts from doing any more damage to the support of HSR. Of course, Kopp is right though, the Transbay Terminal will or will not be built regardless of the status of HSR.

So yes, from HSR's perspective, I would be cheerleading the Transbay Terminal project but I would not try to attatch prop 1a funding to it.

Brandon in California said...

^^^ Agree with nikko.

However, it is my hope that any Federal funding that may be apportioned/earmarked, or what-not, for the Transbay Terminal project... which is a possibility... that permissible use of those funds include that 1.3 mile extension/tunnel.

Now, I am not saying that the extension be entirely funded by Federal funds... just that any Fed funds apportioned are permitted to be allocated for its construction.

I'd like to see this argument introduced somewhere... b/c it gets the mind going on discussions with Federal representatives. In fact, if State stakeholders are sitting on their seat waiting for an opportunity to reach out to our Federal representatives for financial assistance... maybe this issue can get things going?

Although, I am very certain staff at MTC and the Transbay Terminal Authority are well aware of what and how to do these things.

Robert Cruickshank said...


I know you posted your comment before my update, but my guess is Kopp was probably quoted out of context. You are right that he is differentiating between the HSR project and the Transbay Terminal - they are related, but are not exactly the same thing.

Aaron said...

I kind of tend to agree with Kopp's statement, largely because he's trying to fend off a hostage crisis. To a certain extent, SF is looking around hoping to get someone else to foot the Transbay bill. At the end of the day, everyone wants to move Caltrain up to (nearly) Market Street, but it's going to be bloody expensive because of the fact that you're essentially digging up a few Manhattan blocks to do it and relocating utilities that have been there since (or even before) the Earthquake and Fire. It's probably the most expensive mile in the system, and Kopp wants Caltrain, BART, and SF MUNI to own this too - in that, he's right. All Bay Area agencies benefit from moving Caltrain to a new Transbay terminal (even AC Transit, who could run direct Caltrain-Oakland/Berkeley service), and there's sadly no free lunch here.

I question whether the 1 million drop-off in riders because of an 8 minute ride on the N-Judah is really serious. That seems steep, to say the least, and if Caltrain isn't extended then the Central Subway will probably be pushed through, which will accomplish the same thing via a different line (basically the T-Third instead of the N-Judah/K-Ingleside, requiring a transfer at Montgomery).

Having said that, the 4th/King Caltrain station is tiny, and I don't see anyone seriously suggesting that a station that small is adequate for future Caltrain ridership, let alone HSR. I've only been on Caltrain on weekends, never during the week, and that miniscule waiting area still gets dangerously packed with people. I'd hate to see it at 5pm on a Friday, you have to wonder if the Fire Marshall has to get involved. This is fiscal hot potato.

Anonymous said...

The current/new Transbay Terminal is a long block away from the Muni/Bart station. ..Ive walked it.
At least 4th and King has direct transfer to MuniMetro.That does matter if you got luggage.Sure the Trasnbay would be nice ..but not at the expense of delaying the opening of service. That 2billion would build alot of 220mph track in the Central Valley.
As was stated the TBT is going up with or without HSR..Of course it would be nice ..but our bond is to build as much of the system as possible in a cost effective way, I think that is what Judge Kopp is thinking.

Rafael said...

@ aaron -

you're right, funding for the DTX tunnel is a fiscal hot potato. In particular, exercising eminent domain against properties above the bends at 2nd & Townsend and 2nd & Natoma may be more expensive than trying to tunnel underneath them, in spite of the soft rock under that part of San Francisco.

Wrt 4th & King: Caltrain plans call for that to become a multi-story structure after electrification. Adding stories won't increase the number of tracks, but it will create a new concourse level above the platforms, improving pedestrian flow through the station. Presumably, there will be aerial connectors to the nearby light rail stops, for pedestrian safety if nothing else. Buses could be rerouted to stop on Townsend between 4th and 5th, rather than on 4th street itself.

The upper levels of the new 4th & King structure will most likely be leased as office space. However, if funding for the DTX tunnel fails to materialize, it would theoretically be possible to implement a bus terminal above the concourse level. That is currently not planned.

Rob Dawg said...

And so it begins. Back in the early 1990s CAHSR was designed to connect no further than the terminus of Caltrain service. Expect as the price rises and speed drops and length shortens that "compromises" like this become necessities.

Anonymous said...

Kopp is responsible for the BART-to-Millbrae disaster. The construction costs overran by nearly 100%, the promised operating profit never materialized (based on lies -- I mean, incredibly optimistic assumptions about 100% of Caltrain passengers transferring), it resulted in strangling Caltrain's station space at Millbrae to 2 tracks, and created an entire leg of a "Y" structure between SFO and Millbrae that is now unused. They also tore down housing right near the station for ... wait for it... a parking garage. A now largely unused parking garage ($30k capital cost per space!) instead of conveniently located places for people to live who would use transit. (The next station to the north has as its neighbors a couple of humongous big-box stores and seas of parking lots. Awesome)

It would have been far more cost-effective to build straight to a stub-end at Millbrae and extend the people-mover over the freeway to a combined Caltrain-BART station.

But Kopp is for contractors first, usefulness second -- scratch that, I think 'usefulness' isn't even in the same time zone...

Shorter Kopp: If it costs a lot, it must be good. And anything that's not BART must be starved to death. No exceptions.

Anonymous said...

Yeson1a: "The current/new Transbay Terminal is a long block away from the Muni/Bart station. ..Ive walked it."

You do realize that the distance is one block, and that the distance is shorter than either the Embarcadero or Montgomery Street platforms are long?

If you have problems being out on the sidewalk, fine. It's not that far. In an ideal world (ha) the two would be connected by a pleasant concourse with public amenities. In an ideal world it could be outside on a pedestrian promenade. Others might want to spend hundreds of millions replicating that underground so not a single driver is inconvenienced by not being able to Drive Everywhere At All Times.

Oh well. Another argument, not really worth getting into. Angels on pinheads, etc

Anonymous said...

I walk everywhere..gave up my car 5years ago...alot of other people would not like to walk it..say in the rain. that being I dont care where the HST stops here in SF..just as long as there IS ONE!

Rafael said...

@ anon @ 5:20pm -

Kopp was indeed in charge of executing the construction of the SFO extension. However, it was San Mateo county that demanded the stupendously expensive subway solution and Millbrae intermodal, not Kopp.

Of course it would have been more intelligent to terminate in San Bruno, move the Caltrain station as close as possible to it and, to extend the SFO air train across 101 to meet them at a three-way intermodal. However, that would have required some co-ordinated planning and common sense. Now it's too late to do anything about it.

Btw, Kopp is the chairman of the CHSRA board, which is "considering" a standard gauge HST/commuter overlay through Altamont Pass. Between Fremont Irvington and Milpitas, this concept competes directly with the planned BART extension to Santa Clara for the narrow WPML right of way. Ergo, Kopp isn't a die-hard BART fanatic, he just fights for whatever he happens to be in charge of at any given time.

@ anon @ 5:29pm -

the proposed optional underground pedestrian walkway along Fremont Street isn't a luxury. A fully configured HSR train with bi-level cars can seat over 1000 passengers. From a safety perspective, headways as short as 3 minutes will be possible. In practice, 10 minutes is more likely.

An underground passage will allow thousands of pedestrians to walk to the far side of Market Street or, between Embarcadero BART and the new TT without snarling up traffic, in any kind of weather.

crzwdjk said...

CAHSR is a big, complex project that relies heavily on thrid-party infrastructure such as Caltrain. The thing is, Caltrain is perpetually short of money, and their capital program is extremely limited because of that. Caltrain sees HSR as a potential source of funding for improvements that would benefit both services. I imagine there will be plenty of fighting between Caltrain and HSRA over what improvements need to be made to the Caltrain line so that HSR can get paths to operate their trains.

luis d. said...

HSR is going to pay for all that Grade Seperation up the peninsula, they shouldn't have to pay ENTIRELY to get to the TBT. That money could go to the actual HSR line elsewhere.

I know Kopp doesn't mean that he's satisfied with 4th & King, he's just letting everyone know that they should start figuring who is going to fund the thing instead of waiting for HSR Authority to make the first move. I'm pretty sure that's what they were going to do.

The TBT isn't necessary BUT it will affect ridership and should be done because it's the convinience that's supposed to attract riders and if it isn't their, you know. I know that those little things is what influence's people's decisions. I know it does to me.

Anonymous said...

Kopp should say this:

"We'll fund the extra costs of putting the 'station box' in under the new Transbay Terminal because if there is a new Transbay Terminal, we'd like to be in it. But that's it. We're not paying for for the rest of the Transbay Terminal -- we don't need it."

Aaron said...

@anon @9:58pm: The problem with saying that is it establishes a starting point for negotiations and sets a floor for the Authority's obligations from which they can only grow. Kopp is instead saying "We're going to play hardball in terms of not solving your problems for you." Maybe it will actually end the way you proposed, but remember that we have a bunch of different organizations who have what they see as competing interests. As I said, everybody wants an extensively built-out TBT, and nobody wants to pay for it - HSR shouldn't be the sole source of funding here when this is also a Caltrain and Muni problem, depending on the Central Subway.

@rafael: Yeah, I agree i/r/t to the tunnel. They're otherwise going to have frequent pedestrian traffic jams leading up to Market Street, and people may well start crossing against lights like they do in LA, which will lead to both traffic problems as well as create inherent dangers at night or in fog.

You want to encourage people to follow a path of travel that isn't going to cause accidents - look at the circus act that is 4th and King, where some idiots try to wait until the last minute to see if the westbound train is an N-Judah or T-Third (they stop on two different platforms, one on 4th and one on King) - I wonder if someone has been hit by a car or bus doing that stupidity.

Anonymous said...

Aaron: "They're otherwise going to have frequent pedestrian traffic jams leading up to Market Street"

BART disgorges about half the passengers of each train at Embarcadero during the morning rush hour; standing room capacity is about 1500. Trains arrive every 2.5 minutes per direction.

Estimated TBT ridership is 1000/train, and maybe ten arrivals per hour.

If every single person got off HSR/Caltrain at TBT and walked on one of the two sidewalks on Fremont to Market Street (But with Gap, Schwab and other corporate HQs in the other direction and Moscone Center west on Mission that will certainly be a huge draw for intra-California travel, doubtful) the maximum possible "huge pedestrian traffic jam" is less than one third of the ordinary level of rush hour pedestrian traffic already coming from BART -- to say nothing of Muni Metro, and streetcars and buses.

Aaron said...

BART disgorges about half the passengers of each train at Embarcadero during the morning rush hour; standing room capacity is about 1500. Trains arrive every 2.5 minutes per direction.

Without addressing the numbers, there are many more paths of travel coming out of Embarcadero, including the opportunity to exit on different streets and on different sides of Market; I have a feeling that a good majority of the folks coming out of HSR will be going to BART or Muni. Having said that, I don't think that an underground tunnel is the most important thing on the planet here, but it's probably easier to do than people think since the tunnels are probably not going to stop at the north wall of the TBT. We're thinking way too far ahead though.

Brandon in California said...

Yes, this certainly is thinking into the future.

Another consideration are retail businesses that will be at the TBT; they'll want as many peeps as possible walking by. Wouldn't a tunnel(s) divert some of that traffic?

Rafael said...

@ brandon -

people on their way to work generally don't have time to engage in retail therapy. The Transbay Terminal is first and foremost a transportation hub and should therefore be laid out to support pedestrian flow through the facility.

Note that there could be kiosks offering a coffee and a quick bite at either end of any underground pedestrian passage, that's about all commuters would stop for anyhow.

If someone wants to avail themselves of day care, dry cleaning, alterations, grocery shopping or other services that may be offered at the TT, they will be prepared to make a detour to reach those places.

Brandon in California said...

^^^ Yes, “function” versus “form”. I support function, because too much emphasis on “form” results in no function and all investment is for not… wasted.

But with that said, real-estate interests with the TBT will want to maximize the retail opportunity of the site during design phases. The public will largely be left out of those discussions, I suspect, so it will be up to transportation planners and pedestrian traffic engineers to debate layout and final design.

I am reminded of London’s San Pancras Station. It is the UK terminal for the Eurostar from Paris. Last May I wondered the station after and before a trip; for about 2-3 hours total. The link between the HSR entrance and the Tube/UK Rail entrance basically appeared and acted like an indoor mall. It was new, active, and I found amazing. It also struck me that the HSR Eurostar entrance could have been designed to be closer to the Tube/UK Rail entrance. The mall area served as both a passage way between the two and an activity center for people between trains (eating, shopping, etc.).

This picture captures a portion of the San Pancras Station. The train level is above-left, with the HSR entrance below (see blue lighted head-signs in mall), and the Tube/UK Rail entrance was below/straight-ahead/right.

Again, something to think about when the TBT is going through the design phase.

Anonymous said...

Looking at the Transbay web site I
dont like the design..the HST is down in a basment..the 4th and King site could be rebuilt and feature that beautiful trainshed

Brian Stankievich said...

Kopp's statement is completely irrespondsible. The terminal except for the train box and tunnel is already 100% funded.

But as has been pointed out Kopp lied about the 100% transfer from Caltrain to BART at Milbrae, so lying and stupidity are well known traits of Mr. Kopp's. (Did anyone else catch the debate w/ Schoebrunn when it said Caltrain and HSR couldn't share tracks? Laughably sad)

We need to start organizing now to kill this reckless idea. Start calling and meeting with local power broker to get the box built NOW with the rest of the terminal (local funds) and the FEDs/CHSRA to fund the tunnel 100%. That what I start doing tomorrow.

Rafael said...

@ anon @ 12:43pm -

I see no problem with an underground station. That's what e.g. Barcelona has and it gets the job done. Utility is trump.

@ brian -

relax. Kopp is holding the line on paying for the Caltrain downtown extension for now, because the city of San Francisco tried to allocate the whole cost to CHSRA. Hopefully, all parties will now wise up and conduct their negotiations behind closed doors.

Neither the Transbay Terminal nor HSR make much sense without that 1.3mi tunnel and the train box underneath the bus terminal.

Brian Stankievich said...

@ Rafael

Now is no time to relax. Many politicians has tried to kill the Transbay Terminal over the years (see Willie Brown). The RAIL extension to the new fully funded Terminal is 0% funded, Caltrain has $0 dollars, and it has zero authority to raise any revenue.

Either the state (through CHSRA or directly) and Feds fund the rail line or it doesn't get built.

The Authority is building the rest of the line why shouldn't they pay for the last mile into SF?

Or does Kopp's imaginary 100% transfer to BART at Milbrae make getting to downtown SF unnecessary? Let's never mind the 30-40 minutes of travel time it adds.

Aaron said...

I don't have the historical perspective for what happened with Millbrae (although that is definitely a strange routing), but nobody is proposing that HSR end at Millbrae ;p. I don't seriously think that a 4th/King terminus is the end of the world here - if anything, that's more convenient to Muni, if less so to BART. I definitely question numbers that indicate there would be a serious drop-off in users if the line terminates at the current Caltrain station.

They shouldn't pay the entirety for that mile because, if they were to do it, it wouldn't be the 6+ tracks that Caltrain would want out of it. HSR would pay for what they need, which would be, what, 3 tracks tops? They could probably make do with 2 if they were able to park trains along the sidings that Caltrain uses.

Anonymous said...

Another potential source of funding for the DTX project is the idea of selling air rights over the current yard at the 4th/King Caltrain station - something that I understand project planners were planning to look into very preliminarily. It's not clear yet if there would be enough market interest in developing on that property, but a large development project, if found to be feasible, could raise several hundred million dollars which could count as a local contribution to a project that has been pegged at ~$2 billion.

Combine that with the ~$350 million in BART and SF Muni proceeds from the non-HSR portion of the Prop 1a bonds, and you are in the $500-600 mllion range.

More revenue could be raised if they add a ticket surcharge to HSR & Caltrain trips that originate or end at the new TBT - say $1 or $2 per ticket. That might finance another ~$100 million in revenue bonds. That is how they paid for part of the BART to SFO extension if I am not mistaken.

SF is also looking at the idea of a traffic congestion management program that would charge motorists in the downtown area during the day. If this were to be enacted (and it's still very iffy) it would be a new revenue source for SF Muni and could also be tapped to help pay for part of the DTX project.

Hopefully MTC would also be able to chip in with some matching funds as well.

If SF could cobble together ~$750 million or so for the project from all of these different sources, maybe the Feds would be able to cover the majority of the costs, without having to raid the HSR piggy bank? For what it's worth, I have a feeling that Kopp is going to take the same sort of hard line against CHSRA paying for all of the Caltrain electrification costs (estimated at $1.5 billion) and the $2 billion or more that will be needed for the many grade separations along the SF peninsula. I would guess there will be some amount of money set aside by the CHSRA for those projects, and anything above that amount will have to be the responsibility of the local community to obtain funding for.

The good news with regard to the TBT is that it sounds like funding has now been identified to pay for the building itself, although it's not clear if that funding covers anything below grounds except for the building foundations. I imagine it will take several years or more to sort through all of this, but the passage of Prop 1a means that all of these projects have moved to the forefront. It would be absurd not to extend the trains to the new TBT, the difference between that station vs. ending at the existing 4th/King station is night and day, so the political will should be there, it's just a matter of coming up with the right plan for how to fund it, and those decisions will probably have to be made in concert with the funding decisions for electrification and grade seperations, as well as the general transportation funding priorities of the MTC. Once all of the possibilities have been evaluated, a balance can be struck and the project can move forward. It seems like there is a long way to go still, but it seems a lot closer to reality than it ever has been.

Rafael said...

@ brian -

if the folks behind the Transbay Terminal were counting on HSR to pay for the cornerstone of their entire project, they were taking a foolish risk. It was by no means certain that prop 1A would pass!

For that reason, CHSRA has never ever included the Caltrain DTX nor the train box in the Transbay Terminal in its budget. The Authority simply cannot afford to fork over a billion dollars, or even a fraction of that - it needs to demonstrate fiscal discipline if it is to attract federal and especially, private investment.

Now, let's wait and see how the upcoming federal stimulus package turns out. It looks increasingly likely that the lame-duck session will refuse to authorize the second tranche of $350 billion from the Wall Street bailout because there has been no transparency, no oversight and precious little effect on the foreclosure crisis so far. Chances are, a lot of banks got very sweet deals and are shopping around for bargains. Moreover, AIG executives are still living it up on taxpayer largesse.

If President-elect Obama signals that he wants a stimulus package of $150 billion, then based on population alone California would be eligible for approx. $18 billion of that. In theory, that would fund the federal portion of HSR, the Caltrain DTX and the train box underneath the TT.

California's rail interests are well represented in Congress by speaker Pelosi, Sen. Feinstein and Boxer and Rep. Costa. Already, Sen. Feinstein has indicated she would appropriate a portion of the $1.5 billion in HSR funds from HR 2095 to the California system.

Senate majority leader Reid is still chasing maglev between Las Vegas and Disneyland. Perhaps he will back the California delegation if someone tells him an HSR spur to Las Vegas would be a far better deal for Nevada. Instead of just Anaheim, that state would gain high speed connections to all of California. Much of the requisite EIR/EIS work as already been done by the private Desert Xpress consortium that would have used diesel trains at 125mph to get as far as Victorville.

One third of traffic at the overcrowded McCurran airport is from California cities in the catchment area of the HSR network. If that's still not enough, Palmdale could act as the relief airport so Nevada could avoid spending billions on building a new one at Jean. Travel time to Las Vegas would be about 1h10min.

Indian gaming interests in California would surely put up a fight, but they might well lose it if the spur corridor were also used to bring renewable solar, wind and hydro electricity from Nevada and the Mojave desert to California's population centers. Note that any such trunk line would be physically close to but separate from the 25kV AC overhead catenary used for the trains.

Anonymous said...

As far as the difference between ending the line at 4th/King streets or going all the way to the new TBT, I think there's no comparison.

1) Re: adding to the trip-time, if you've ever taken Caltrain to SF on a weekend evening, you'll know that headways on Muni are in the ~20 minute range just for a car to arrive. Sometimes they don't arrive at all if a run is skipped - which I know happens from my own experience. The difference between taking the Caltrain or HSR all the way to the TBT or transferring to Muni at the 4th/King station can be 30 minutes each way, easily - on top of the fact that it is a hassle. Many people choose to walk that distance (maybe 12 or more long city blocks through some pretty sketchy areas) than to wait for a bus or lightrail car.

2) Re: connectivity, the 4th/King station is only served by taxis, the N or T light rail lines, or a handful of buses. The TBT is served by 50 or more different lines including nearly every BART line, every Muni light rail line, about half of the Muni bus lines, AC transit lines, GG Transit lines, Greyhound, and maybe others.

3) Re: location, the TBT is in the heart of downtown SF, the densest part of the city by far, and traffic patterns radiate from this downtown area to every part of the city based on howthe streets were laid out several hundred years ago. On the other hand, the Caltrain station at 4th/King is on the outskirts of the new downtown area and until only recently was populated only by 1 or 2 story warehouses. It is a waypoint, not a destination. The Chinatown subway will not significantly change that either.

The two stations are really not comparable in the slightest, and Quentin Kopp is no dummy about this, so when he says that 4th/King is good enough, he is obviously only taking an initial bargaining position. Does that mean that you couldn't terminate the trains at 4th/King and call it close enough? Of course you could, but it would be like building a house and only paying for 3 walls and a roof, and saying that the 4th wall is an unnecessary frill. Yeah you could do that, but it would be enormously unpopular and damage the whole project. (It's really not all that unlike the poor design decisions that were made around the BART to SFO extension that folks have already been discussing.) Anything less than the DTX is not going to fly - not when we're closer now than we ever have been before.

Just my opinion.

Rafael said...

Keep in mind that if Kopp gives an inch to San Francisco, the fair cities of San Jose, Fresno, Los Angeles and Anaheim will all demand that CHSRA pay for part of their fancy stations, shoehorning and/or run-through tracks.

The business plan just released shows that CHSRA expects the cities and counties served to contribute $2-$3 billion total to the HSR network. In practice, that more or less means they have to fund their stations themselves.

Anonymous said...

@ rafael.

Agreed. SF has already found funding for their terminal though, and it didn't cost the CHSRA a penny. If the CHSRA ends up paying for even part of stations in Fresno and Sac and LA, then that would end up being pretty unfair to SF if there is no similar money provided for the DTX project.

I think even if CHSRA doesn't directly fund the DTX project, the reality of HSR now provides the requisite momentum to DTX to make it much more likely to happen. And if for some reason it never comes to be, don't think that a dime will be spent on tupgradinghe existing 4th/King terminal. SF has already made the strategic decision to invest everything in the new TBT, and it was not easy getting that ~$1 billion project funded.

I see the DTX project happening, eventually if not as part of the first HSR phase. The money may have to come from other sources, but the shiny allure of HSR will now make it worth doing, despite the eye-popping cost projections.

Rafael said...

@ matt in SF -

adding the DTX and train station at a later date could be quite difficult in terms of construction logistics. It really should be done before the rest of the building is erected on top of it.

One option would be for the city of SF and the counties along the Caltrain corridor to find the additional money for the DTX project themselves but to also negotiate reasonable trackage fees that HSR operators will have to pay for using the new TT facility.

Discount operators could decide to make do with access to 4th & King. That would let the market decide, always a winning proposition with private investors.

Brian Stankievich said...

Wow Rafael $1 Billion from SF isn't good enough? Does LA county have to give $6 Billion then, since it is at least 6 times bigger than SF? Or Fresno $1 Billion? At that rate we didn't need to pass 1a the cities and counties can pay for the whole thing! Or is it just SF that gets crapped on?

How much is Metrolink paying for electrification? Caltrain is pledging tens of millions for eletrification that HSR will use.

And how much is Caltrain or Metrolink charging for use of their property and tracks??? Fair is fair yes?

crzwdjk said...

"Keep in mind that if Kopp gives an inch to San Francisco, the fair cities of San Jose, Fresno, Los Angeles and Anaheim will all demand that CHSRA pay for part of their fancy stations, shoehorning and/or run-through tracks."

As it stands right now, LA Union Station simply won't be able to operate without run-through tracks, given the projected increases in Metrolink service combined with HSR to Orange County, since every HSR train continuing south would have to pass through the station throat twice. All told, you're looking at something like 36 tph through the station throat, with plenty of conflicting moves. Run-through tracks simplify the whole operation significantly. As for other stations, what about that huge upper level of tracks that the HSRA shows being built at San Jose?

Rafael said...

@ brian -

there will be some compromise eventually, but for now I believe Kopp is right to stand his ground. Perhaps he could have struck a more constructive tone.

Caltrain will not pay for HSR electrification. Quite the reverse, Caltrain will piggy-back on the masts erected for HSR electrification to drastically reduce the $1.5 billion the project would have cost without HSR. Tens of millions doesn't buy you much in terms of railroad infrastructure.

Caltrain and Metrolink will also get grade separation on HSR's nickel. Afaik, Metrolink isn't planning to switch to electric trains at all.

@ arcady -

my point exactly: CHSRA cannot afford to pay for all of these station upgrades itself. The HSR network should contribute in some fashion, e.g. via trackage fees, which would be analogous to airport taxes.

Anonymous said...

I suggest copying the procedure used for St. Pancras Thameslink.

Commit just enough money to guarantee that there's a large hole in the ground underneath the Transbay Terminal. Letting the building be built without a station box under it would be disastrous and would cause massive additional costs in the future.

The cost of digging a slightly deeper basement and placing the support pillars appropriately to leave space for trains -- is not going to be huge. Millions, not billions.

At that point, leave the station box empty, don't dig the connecting tunnels, and wait for someone else to pay for them. Public demand to "use the box" will start to appear quite quickly. St Pancras Thameslink was initially a big empty box, and eventually the money to make it into a station arrived, separately.

Anonymous said...

Some interesting stuff I found on the website for the Transbay Terminal Center (what they're calling the new TBT now) that fills in the actual details of the guesswork I had been making earlier :

- the TJPA board is actively proposing that Prop 1a funds help pay for part of the DTX project (what they're calling TTC phase 2). At a meeting last month they approved a resolution to make the DTX project a funding priority for phase 1 of the HSR.

- The new TTC itself is slated to cost $1.19 billion now and 100% of the funds have been programmed.

- The DTX project is tabbed to cost $3.0 billion, of which $645 million has been identified, and the remaining $2.35 billion has not yet been identified - so the amount of funding outstanding has actually increased a little since the beginning of the year. (Details of the sources of funds can be found here.)

So in other words, SF has already come up with about $1.84 billion in funds, but that is a little under half of the total amount needed for the entire project. It would seem they are looking at Prop 1a to help close the gap, and now we know what Kopp thinks of that idea...heh heh.

- The TJPA staff don't think the $950 million portion of non-HSR bonds is as likely a potential source of revenue for this project because those funds are already allocated to other transit providers. (Theoretically those funds could still go towards the proposed pedestrian tunnel connecting the TTC and the Embarcadero or Montgomery Street BART/Muni stations.)

- The TTC, if delivered on schedule, would be completed in 2014 . The DTX (if funded) could begin construction in 2012 and be completed by 2019, roughly simultaneous to the 2018 date that has been tossed around as the earliest date for phase 1 of the HSR to go into operation. Timeline here.

This will be interesting to watch unfold over the next couple o' years.

Rafael said...

$3 billion for the DTX project? How much of that is the tunnel and how much the train box?

One option might be to consider an alternate route to the TTC: run the tracks underneath the N-Judah light rail tracks along King and Embarcadero up to just south of Bryant Street. Turn left onto Main street and follow that for three blocks to reach the TTC from the far side.

During construction along King and Embarcadero, SF Muni would have to make do with just a single track for the N-Judah line and access to its light rail yard at King & 6th.

After the first HSR track down King and Embarcadero is finished, the trench would be covered back up and the light rail tracks replaced. Then, the whole procedure would be repeated for the second track.

The cut-and-cover effort along Main Street could be executed in parallel, starting at the TTC end. The underground tracks would meet at roughly at Main and Bryant.

I don't know if this alternate route is geologically feasible, given the proximity to Mission Creek. In addition, seismic safety concerns might preclude vertically stacking two rail systems in that area, though there is a precedent along Market Street.

The biggest issue might be the conflict with the planned underground light rail alignment down 3rd Street. I don't believe FRA would permit a level crossing of a light and a heavy rail line. Besides, the overhead catenaries probably don't run at the same voltages.

Anonymous said...

More DTX news courtesy of the Chronicle's Matier & Ross. (Scroll down to the section titled "Derailed.") No real news there except for the bit about friction between Kopp and the TJPA Director Maria Ayerdi-Kaplan, and the fact that the TJPA plans to apply to the CHSRA and qualify for funding, regardless of how Kopp feels about it.

They do bring up the point that Prop 1a explicitly mentioned that the HSR would connect to the new TTC in downtown SF. It's funny how Quentin Kopp waited until after the bond measure had passed (with overwhelming support from SF voters) before clarifying that he doesn't plan to pay for anything of the sort.

BTW - I attended a brown bag presentation on Prop 1a at SPUR a few weeks before the election and CHSRA Board Member Rod Diridon specifically mentioned that there was "a billion dollars" in the CHSRA budget for the DTX. His exact phrasing made it sounds like it was all for the DTX, but he could also have meant for things "such as" the DTX and meant that all of these various enhancement would have to share the billion dollars. He did not give any further detail and there wasn't much time alloted for Q & A, so it's hard to know what exactly he meant, but it's clear that he either disagrees with Kopp on this particular point, or that they are guilty of glossing over the specific details of how much money is going to be available to each community and where the hard decisions will need to be made. I was heartened to hear that they were planning to help pay for the DTX, but I can also understand that something like the DTX may be the first thing dropped if the money gets tight and they have to come up with a way to reduce scope.

Again, Kopp knows how to play hardball and this will be fun to watch play out over the next few years. Everyone wants to get the DTX built, but no one wants to pay for it, or have to pay more than is absolutely necessary. SF is building the TTC and partially funding the DTX and wants major help from CHSRA bonds as well as shares of ticket revenues from HSR and Caltrain to help pay off construction loans. CHSRA would love to use the TTC but consider it a non-necessity and not something they are mandated to build or pay for (at least, that's Kopp's public position). I'm sure when it comes to funding the grade separations, they will have a similar hard line for how those will be paid. (Obviously the grade separations are a requirement to run HSR, but that doesn't mean they will agree to pay for anything more than the bare minimum, which could in some cases be a couple of bucks for a few "road closed" signs.)

According to the the TTC Phase 2 (a.k.a DTX project) baseline budget, they need to close the funding gap by the end of 2009 or early 2010 in order to not incur delays and further cost escalations. That document also explains why the cost estimate for the DTX has ballooned to 3 billion, and describes the potential revenue sources they are looking at*. Their estimate for potential revenues coming directly from the CHSRA is only $450-$600 million - at most 20% of the DTX and 10-14% of the entire TTC project budget of $4.2 billion.

*One more thing to note: that baseline budget is dated from early 2008 and since then there have been a few changes, so the amount of phase 2 funding already identified has dropped from 1 billion to ~$650 million.