Friday, June 12, 2009

SJ, SF Mayors Push Transbay, Diridon, Caltrain Upgrades

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

Yesterday, San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom issued a joint press release announcing the Bay Area region's preference for stimulus and other HSR spending the Bay Area to be directed towards upgrades to the Caltrain corridor, the expansion of SJ Diridon Station, and the establishment of the new SF Transbay Terminal as the SF terminus.

Newsom had already come out in support of Transbay. Enhancing Diridon was a foregone conclusion. But the announcement apparently portends a broader regional agreement.

We should learn more about this announcement of regional aspirations at this morning's meeting of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, which is brokering the agreement. More details from the Chronicle:

The proposal would turn the Diridon Station in downtown San Jose and the planned new Transbay Terminal in downtown San Francisco into major regional transit hubs.

In addition, the Caltrain Station at Fourth and King streets in San Francisco's South of Market would be expanded to accommodate high-speed rail.

The proposed package also seeks funding to electrify Caltrain and to equip its rail cars with automated train-control equipment that senses impending danger on the tracks. The train tracks in San Bruno would be separated from truck and auto traffic.

Together the projects would cost $3.4 billion, said Randy Rentschler, government affairs manager for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. The region will ask for $1.6 billion in new federal stimulus money to help pay for the improvements. Additional funds would come from the nearly $10 billion funding pot backed by California voters for high-speed rail.

The Bay Area will seek additional funding later to pay for other projects.

One could argue that the explicit advocacy of Caltrain upgrades is a rebuke to NIMBY calls for taking HSR off the Caltrain corridor altogether, but I'm not sure the powers that be would bother to dignify such fringe proposals. This could turn out to merely be formalizing exactly which upgrade projects should come first. (Incidentally, Caltrain was awarded $9 million in stimulus funding for unrelated projects this week.)

It's encouraging to see a regional consensus emerging around Transbay, which should hopefully end the public political squabbles. What do you think? Will this announcement put an end to the issue, or merely galvanize opposing forces and bring the funding and technical challenges of Transbay further into the fore?


lyqwyd said...

I think the best thing that can happen for the transbay is for it to get higher attention today, and have the trainbox be part of the initial construction. If the trainbox is left for phase 2 it will be much more likely that the stations engineering does not properly take account of the needs of the trainbox.

I hope this will lead to a better design that properly takes the actual train portion of the station into account, because right now the proposed solution is severely lacking.

Frnak said...

The $3.4B number does not sound right to me. Is this really the expected cost of the the Diridon Station, the HSR portions of the Transbay Terminal, the upgrade of the 4th & King station, AND all the trackwork required from the SJ to SF corridor (not to mention stations bw SJ and SF)?

Something doesn't add up here.

Also, are they requesting that this money come from the $8B HSR money or from some other federal stimulus source? I assume they are talking about the $8B...

Clem said...

As far as I've been able to gather, $3.4 billion consists of...

$1.5 B for Caltrain Electrification, including new trains
$0.5 B for Diridon station
$0.4 B for Transbay train box
$0.3 B for San Bruno grade sep
??? B for 4th & King "North Terminal"
??? B for train control systems

This does NOT include the multitude of additional grade separations / improvements needed to quadruple-track the peninsula, as will likely be required.

CHSRA has estimated the peninsula improvements at $4.2 B. Another estimate I've heard is over $5 B for total grade separation, alone.

If you read the article, they're going for $1.6 B of the $8 B HSR stimulus, with the rest of the $3.4 B hopefully coming out of Prop 1A funds.

Whatever happens, that's a lot of billions.

James said...

I hope all of the proposed work is fully coordinated with the HSR plans. But how can it be if the HSR plans are still early in the process? Why pay so much money to do work now when some of it will have to be changed again later when grades are separated and four tracks are installed? Will this be a waste of money?

Anonymous said...

I actually thin the people in charge of building all of this know what they are doing. They aren't stupid people. When its all said and done. The result will be the system you see in the videos. just watch. Of course there has to be lots of bakc and forth and input and blah blah blah but the people who are actually going to build the thing, the politicians, the engineers, the contractors, and everyone else involved, already, whether or not the details have been made public - all already know what is going to happen. Everything else is just formalities.

whatever said...

@Micheal --

NIMBY calls for taking HSR off the Caltrain corridor altogether

Really? Which person has said that? Names please! Links, please!

Serious transportation people say that HSR should leave Caltrain ROW at Redwood City and cross over to connect to the East Bay. Which would eliminate the need to quadruple track Caltrain, freeing up money for oh ... connecting more cities with the system.

Anonymous said...

TRAC are no "serious transportation people" they're just a bunch of foamer wannabes. While their efforts to support rail in california are appreciated to some extent, they have a particular agenda that tends to based on emotion.

Anonymous said...

hsr is using caltrain row from sf to san jose. The eastbay will receive transit improvements as needed..

Anonymous said...

Jim, I hope you're right, but there were plenty of people who said the same thing (Just wait and see how awesome it is!) about BART to Millbrae and SFO, which is an utter disaster. And do we even need to talk about the T in SF (slower and lower ridership than the bus)? Local transit officials lost most of my confidence to "just let them figure it out" many years ago.

Anonymous said...

As of last November the whole segment was supposed to cost $4.2. Now we have a number of $3.4 billion for a few projects.

Still to be paid for:

Tunneling to transbay
50 miles of quadtracking
46 grade crossings
Intermediate stations
Rebuilding all caltrain stations
Elevated structures, berms, what have you
Temporary row during construction
downtown San Mateo
downtown Mtn View

You do the math.

Anonymous said...

anon- I use bart to sfo and find it to be very convenient. I also use muni everyday and find it to be convenient. I think that while initial predictions are often not met, eventually the numbers do appear. it took bart decades to reach its potential. and hsr not have 50 million riders in the first few years either. It takes a while to build ridership. And no matter what you build, someone is going to be unhappy.

lyqwyd said...

Anon @ 1:26:

Even assuming that number of $4.2 billion for the whole segment is true (you didn't provide anything to support that by the way), that number never included any tunneling to the transbay or any portion of transbay terminal construction. I also believe it didn't include anything for Diridon improvements beyond whatever the minimum to support HSR would be, I believe station improvements are part of the cities responsibility). So take off $0.9 billion and you have $2.5 billion being spent so far, leaving $1.7 billion for further improvements to the corridor. Doesn't seem particularly fishy to me.

Anonymous said...

the tbt is being built by SF anyway. and the city is proposing development fees to cover the cost of things such as dtx ped walkways and other tbt related costs.

Bianca said...

Whatever said:

Serious transportation people say that HSR should leave Caltrain ROW at Redwood City and cross over to connect to the East Bay.

Serious transportation people who are overlooking the fact that California needs Congress to grow the pie for High Speed Rail. The Obama Administration has allocated $8bn as we all know, but more is needed, and California needs that pie to get a lot bigger. People need to be really clear about the fact that the Speaker of the House of Representatives has the Transbay Terminal in her district, and any notions of not serving San Francisco are dead in the water. That is the political reality, and "serious transportation people" will recognize that.

This isn't to slam the East Bay, which is clearly poorly served in the current alignment. If I had a spare $20 billion or so in my pocket I'd wave my magic wand and fix it.

Having Pelosi in such a powerful position is a huge ace up San Francisco's sleeve, and will probably be a good thing for HSR in California over the long term, but we need to be clear-eyed about political realities.

Anonymous said...

The $4.2 billion is from the 2008 Business Plan which is a number inflated from adjustment from this:

The tunneling was included in the $4.2 bn.

The only cost that is in the $3.4 for Transbay is the $400mm for the trainbox, which HSR had budgeted for.

They have underestimated costs by approx $4bn at least on this segment.

Anaheim segment is now being called $3bn, in Nov it was $1.8 bn.

lyqwyd said...

I didn't take any money out for tunneling to the transbay, just the trainbox and the diridon station.

Clem said...


The $1.5 B figure for Caltrain electrification includes $0.42 B for a total fleet replacement. I don't think that buying Caltrain some shiny new trains was part of the CHSRA budget for the peninsula.

lyqwyd said...

thanks Clem, I didn't even notice that, that makes the budget picture look even better.

Hopefully they'll buy some trains that will have the same boarding profile as HSR so they can have all the platforms at the same height.

Reality Check said...

Having the new Caltrain equipment and HSR share the same boarding/platform height should be a major goal/requirement.

There is enormous operational advantage in having the ability to use all platforms for all trains -- even if you are planning for them to each have dedicated platform areas under "normal" conditions.

whatever said...

@jim --

A bunch of "foamers". Hmmm. So serious train fans know nothing about their hobby and interest?

So who would know better?

Lets trust the same person who brought us Bart to SFO (Quentin Kopp).

Some random points:

1) As part of the SFO International Terminal project, the airlines were going to be on the hook for connecting the Airport People Mover across the freeway directly to the San Carlos station.

2) If BART had stopped at San Carlos there would have been a single station and a single (free) transfer to get to the airport from anywhere in the Bay Area.

3) Before BART was built people taking Caltrain got off at Millbrae transferred to a free bus ( that was always waiting ), that delivered the passengers directly to the needed terminal.

4) One proposal was having BART connect with Caltrain at a joint station at the SFO international terminal. Caltrain would be underground.

Thankfully, serious transportation people were ignored. Otherwise we would have never gotten:

1) Caltrain passengers transfer 3 times ( fun with luggage and kids ) Go up and down numerous stairs. And it takes longer than *every other* alternative.

2) A wye where BART can go to SFO or to Caltrain but not both.

3) A free transfer now costs $1.50 with all the hassle of trying to fumble with money, kids, luggage and waiting for the tourists in front trying to figure out the ticket machine.

4) A less reliable connection from the airport to Caltrain.

5) A BART - SF downtown trip that is slower (and more expensive) than Caltrain + bus.

6) A 3,000 car garage that was built where once there was an affordable apartment building.

7) A BART train box that constricts the Caltrain ROW to maybe 3 tracks.

Definitely much, much better than that silly idea of a single unified transfer point that the "foamers" were promoting! Thankfully, the people who rarely ride the train made the decisions for us.

@Bianca --

Agree completely that any attempt to not serve SF would be silly and not successful.

No serious transportation advocate would suggest excluding either San Jose or San Frnacisco from being a destination directly served by HSR. I hope that clarifies things.

I think there was a miscommunication. Altamont (East Bay) means San Francisco gets directly connected to Sacramento and LA. Altamont means that San Jose gets directly connected to Sacramento and Los Angeles.

And the connection times for all city-pairs are better or comparable.

Additionally, this will leave money available for connection to Reno, Redding or Las Vegas. Growing the pie wouldn't you say?

Alon Levy said...

Whatever: Reno will never happen, unless an earthquake leaves a big hole in the Sierras. Redding might happen, but it's marginal.

Ultimately, the best connectivity comes from LA-SJ-SF via Pacheco, and in the future LA-Oakland-SF via Altamont and a new Transbay Tube. Altamont-through-Dumbarton inconveniently misses every major destination in the Bay Area except SF itself.

lyqwyd said...


I don't think there are many readers of this blog who thing the BART extension to SFO was a well engineered project, I think most of us would agree much of it was political.

But there is really no rational reason that HSR would cross the dumbarton from the peninsula to then go up the East Bay and end there. San Francisco is an extremely important destination for HSR and in all likelihood will be by far the most used single stop on the line. I would love for there to be more service to the East Bay, but the only way that would happen is if the Altamont alignment were chosen, or at some later date (Phase III/IV) where a spur came down from Sac, passed through the altomont and then crossed the bay via a new Transbay tunnel, crossed at Dumbarton, or went into SJ. The only people who believe HSR should not end in SF are residents of the peninsula who don't want it going through the existing Caltrain ROW; aka NIMBYs.

aphrael said...

whatever: excuse me, what? The San Carlos train station is 13 miles south of SFO.

Perhaps you mean San Bruno?

We Need No Train said...

Almost all of you are just a bunch of illogical train lovers who act like kids. This project will never be built. Too expensive, too useless! We just need more and wider freeways and fuel efficient cars. Cars and the freedom they give us is what people want, not your damn chu chu train. If I'm in a hurry to go between LA and SF/SJ I just take a plane. If those hicks in the central valley need to go anyplace and they have no flight choices, too bad. They can drive a couple of hours or they can move to civilized areas where flights are plenty. This is not Japan or Europe where they're all socialists and the government subsidizes everything. This is America, we like freedom, low taxes and cars! Enough of you guys! Go buy a LEGO train and get it over your system!

We don't Need No Train said...

There is plenty of room for more freeways. Just reconvert big bouleverds in the LA areas into freeways. Just buy a few houses along it if you need. Up in the Bay Area you can build plenty of them in the marshes along the bay. As a matter of fact you can circle the bay with a freeway along the water. We don't need no wetlands. Those damn birds can go to the Ocean and they can find all the wet areas they need. And you can build plenty of lanes in the I-5 in the central valley. If metro areas are congested then ok, build more transit in the metro area. Have more buses, more metrolink trains. With the money you need for HSR you can double the Metrolink network. The same with BART up in the Bay Area. Have you ever wandered why most people drive to work even when they could take a train or bus? Because cars are faster. I can go from my garage to my destination without having to transfer through a bunch of modes of transport. I can jst sit on my ass from door to door listening to beautiful country music. And I'll also get there before you with your damn chu chu fast train. by the time you go to the station, get on the train, travel, get there, take something else from the station to your destination, I'm already there with my car. I probably have time for a drink while I wait for you.

Anonymous said...

"Cars and the freedom they give us is what people want, not your damn chu chu train."

uh hello, ...They're called Choo Choo trains,fool, not chu chu trains - unless we buy them from taiwan. (maybe cheaux cheaux trains if we the french model)


YOUR "ideas" are insane of course...YAA all the nimbys of the world are going to just let 12 lane freeways be built next to them!look at the crap from just widening a 140 year old railroad a whopping 10 feet. listen to your beautiful county music.. on a Texas freeway..We will have HSR.

Anonymous said...

Theres was noting wrong with the black dial telephone I used to use in the 70s, but be wound up with these damn cell phones anyway. Darn newfangled progress. It's the commies I tell you. its those damn pinko commies. If it weren't for them I'd still be chopping down trees to build my log cabin and carrying my water in a bucket and taking a dump behind a tree and wiping my ass with the sears catalogue the way god intended!

Anonymous said...

i'm so gosh dern mad about this train I could poke a stick in a frog's eye.

We Don't Need No Train said...

Your're a bunch of socialists Obamaniacs. You want socialized medicine I bet, and socialized trains, and socialized everything. On the taxpayers' back. We don't need CHOOOO CHOOOOO trains (happy now, Jim?) to take people from Fresno to Bakersfield. Those people in the valley wouldn't use the train anyway even if they had a station in their backyard. They're more addicted to the comfort of driving than us in LA or SF. Those peoople there don't even go downtown in their own city because it's in bad neighborhoods. And you think they'd go there to catch a train? And you think they'd come to downtown LA? They all think that downtown LA people kill each other all the time. And you think somebody from Fresno will go to Union Station and wait outside for a taxi? Hell no! They'll drive from home to home of the friend or relative theyre visiting without ever getting out of the car! You should talk to those folks and see how they think like. Americans are not made for trains. Only cars and planes. Get over it! We just need to shoot those arabs more so they give us cheaper oil. And we also need to drill offshore more, so we get our own gas without listening to their nonsense.

Anonymous said...

@whatever- TRAC would be happy if we were all riding around on steam powered choo choos from the old west operated by men in striped overalls and matching caps while coal embers land on our flap jack breakfast.

Anonymous said...

well "nofing train" Ill be sure to let my passengers know on monday, that they no longer prefer to ride the train cuz you said so.

Anonymous said...

Actually, no fing train, I'll be honest with you. I happen to have inside information from my socialist agenda which was faxed to me just yesterday afternoon, that the high speed train will be used to take californians to a centralized hospital in Fresno for all medical care. In addition to that, married gays will be given first class seats at a discount and all california children will be transported to a central school via high speed rail where they will be taught how to drink vodka and unionize their parents' workplaces.

Anonymous said...

The deal that Caltrain and HSR have is that HSR will get them the money they don't have for electrification and positive signal. The train cars are already accounted for from MTC.

This link should clear up some mysteries and maybe create others:

1) The SF-SJ Corridor, which Mr. Diridon insisted be put on the HSR wish list, is noticeably absent from this list. My sources tell me MTC will carry the most weight in this process.

2) Caltrain electrification will happen prior to HSR????

3) There really is just $1.6 bn in requests. That still is serious cash.

Anonymous said...

All requests from stimulus funding, from all the agencies will be funneled through CalTrans --- this was agreed sometime ago in Sacramento.

The CalTrans list will be what is going to be submitted to Washington, for funding.

Thus MTC can or CalTrain or CHSRA or Diridon/San Jose can compose their own lists, but whatever is sent to Washington, will be filtered by CalTrans. That list right now is of the order of $4.3 billions.

Anonymous said...

Any decision or date of when and where the first shovel of dirt will be turned? would be nice to see it soon. I did see where they are having some deal in sacramento to invite contractors to start bidding.

Anonymous said...

Newsom would do anything to spite the Peninsula because they are stealing the '49'ers.

gas safety london said...

hsr is using caltrain row from sf to san jose. The eastbay will receive transit improvements as needed