Proposed Transbay Terminal Rail Extension

Last November Judge Quentin Kopp, chairman of the High Speed Rail Authority, spoke out against extending California’s proposed high speed rail line beyond the current Caltrain station at Fourth and King. And according to the Examiner, the California High Speed Rail Authority appears to be following their chairman’s lead:

California High Speed Rail Authority staff directed their environmental consultants to investigate two potential sites for a train station in San Francisco, neither of which is the planned Transbay Transit Center location, according to Andrew Schwartz, outside counsel for the Transbay Joint Powers Authority.

The sites being investigated include the existing Caltrain stop at Fourth and King and a city block bounded by Beale, Main, Mission and Harrison streets, according to Schwartz.

“We’re going to be providing information to the attorney general to show that the Beale Street and Fourth and King alternative locations are not physically, technically or financially feasible alternatives to the Transbay Transit Center location,” Schwartz said during a directors’ meeting Thursday.


28 thoughts on “More Evidence Of A High Speed Snub For The Transbay Transit Center”
  1. The NPR story is nonsense.
    Think of high speed rail as something like a short-haul airplane flight and the major stations as airports.
    What you need are well-placed stations and regional public transit that connects easily.
    NYC has several stations that serve incoming trains, and people hop off them and onto the subway. No worries.
    If the caltrain station offers a good conneciton to MUNI and BART, as well as Caltrain, it’s a good intermodal facility potentially.
    And money is not unlimited.

  2. Ideally, one would be able to walk between high speed rail and BART, e.g., underground from Market to Mission Sts. Not as good as having BART and CalTrain in one station, but reasonable. The current CalTrain station requires one more transfer, onto Muni, for BART riders. For those with luggage, that is not ideal.

  3. somacommute-
    How is the NPR article nonsense? If the high speed trail terminus is going to be inconvenient, why not just fly? The whole point of high speed rail is that the beginning and end of the trip are more convenient than a trip to the airport, even if the actual trip itself takes a bit longer. If you’re making it just as inconvenient as a trip to the airport: guess what, people are just going to fly.
    And I really don’t get your point about NYC – are you trying to say that Penn and Grand Central aren’t centrally located?

  4. Another blow to the monstsosity of a jungle of tall, street darkening and cold towers one tim planned for the Terminal area.
    With the economy taking years to recover and SF Business Times reporting a month ago that it will likley be a decade plus before a condo tower goes up again SOMA, will all this be enough to cause a rethinking of the Terminal vision? In favor hopefully of something smaller in scale. SF does not need any more 30 plus story towers.

  5. “…are you trying to say that Penn and Grand Central aren’t centrally located?”
    If Penn and Grand Central are centrally located then it means that the center of NYC is over a mile in radius : those stations are over a mile apart.
    As Dan mentions, the main benefit of bringing HSR to transbay is to ease the connection to BaRT. There really aren’t many other compelling advantages. Sure, the transbay location is denser now, but the 4th and King area is catching up. It is quite possible that in the future that 4th and King might be more central than transbay as population and workplaces shift to SOMA.
    I’d prefer to see HSR end at transbay. But it isn’t worth risking the whole 400 mile project to make this happen. Transbay designs should ensure they do not preclude a HSR connection so this could be completed as a later phase if that works out better (practically, financially, and politically.)

  6. If the caltrain station offers a good conneciton to MUNI and BART
    Um, Caltrain at 4th/King offers neither. After the Chinatown subway is completed it will offer an “okay” connection to MUNI, but not a good connection. And there will still be no BART connection (which is more important).
    The stupidest thing is that the only way E. Bay folks will have a convenient connection to HSR is if there is a good BART connection at Embarcadero or Montgomery. Terminating HSR at 4th/King doesn’t just inconvenience SF passengers…it basically removes the E. Bay as a potential source of passengers.

  7. “The stupidest thing is that the only way E. Bay folks will have a convenient connection to HSR”
    IMO the stupidest thing is terminating HSR in SF. An Oakland terminus would have direct BART access allowing passengers an easy way to get anywhere in the Bay Area via public transport or car transport.
    The wrongheadness of the SF terminus is made even more apparent with a 4th and King location.

  8. Gil – The Oakland terminus would skip the Bay Area’s largest population center : the south bay. That’s the main reason why the Oakland route is inferior.
    And the south bay is a good connection point for east bay HSR passengers. Even with the existing slow Capitol Corridor service, transferring to HSR in San Jose is only about 10 minutes slower than transferring at the proposed transbay.
    Capitol Corridor currently runs on old crufty freight lines and could be sped up with a little infrastructure investment, making the SJ connection more attractive to East Bay passengers compared to SF.

  9. The only thing dumber than the 4th/King terminus is the idea of having an Oakland terminus. Continuing with the New York analogy, that would be like taking a train to NYC but getting dumped off in Newark instead. The idea of having the train should be to have it go to where people want to travel. And that would be San Francisco, not Oakland.

  10. didn’t the ballot language say that HSR had to end at the transbay terminal?
    Or will Kopp circumvent the will of the voters by stealing the name for the new station located near 4th and King? (despite the lack of trans-bay transportation options)

  11. There isn’t even a good Oakland terminus, at least for BART interconnectivity. The current rail line goes through Jack London Square. So any Oakland terminus would require a shuttle to get to BART too. It would perhaps be ideal if HSR connected directly to the heart of the BART system at 12th/19th Street, but it’s completely infeasible to do so.
    Milkshake makes a good point though…Capitol Corridor will connect East Bay with San Jose, and actually, BART to San Jose will do the same thing (although it’s looking like there will be an interim terminus for that short of the HSR station).
    Ideally, transbay is it, as the Market Street spine is really the best way to serve the City and the East Bay. But if it doesn’t make it that last mile, it will still be a very valuable addition.

  12. uh, there’s a building here:
    “a city block bounded by Beale, Main, Mission and Harrison streets”
    Guess the post office hub/DEA office is getting torn down? Why does that make more sense than going a couple more blocks to Transbay? That’s not a “last mile” problem. That’s a last two tenths of a mile problem.

  13. DIdn’t SPUR recommend a new BART line that basically would extend BART to 4th and King? That would help make the caltrain HSR stop work rather well, at least in the short term. Agree with the poster above who said HSR needs to connect well to MUNI and to BART.

  14. I am beginning to think I won’t see this in my lifetime with out some radical re-engineering (and simplification). How about expropriating part of the Embarcadero (from King to Market) to run the trains from 4th and King to a terminus in front of the Ferry Building. I am only half-joking…

  15. I cannot believe our local politicans are sitting on their hands while Quentin Kopp is gambling with hundreds and upwards of thousands of jobs that could be created from the $500 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 funds that the Transbay JPA is requesting from the Federal Railroad Administration in order to build the train box the smart way – from the bottom up during Phase I construction of the Transbay Transit Center.
    Mayor Gavin Newsom – are you listening? You’ve never passed up a political opportunity before. Attorney General Jerry Brown is the legal advisor to the California High Speed Rail, and it seems to me that Mr. Jerry “let’s do this governor thing again” Brown has a personal incentive to not piss off the labor the unions in this state, ney the environmentalists and public transit advocates, by allowing this circus at California High Speed Rail Authority to continue. Attorney General Brown (and the Governor, for that matter) can tell the CHSRA that the terminus will be at the Transbay Transit Center, period.
    While anyone who bothered to read the Prop 1A wording on the ballot in November 2008 understood that the voters were passing a $10 billion bond issue for a high-speed rail system with a terminus at San Francisco’s Transbay Transit Center … not 4 football fields away from the Transbay Transit Center on Main and Beale and certainly not at 4th and King Streets … Mr. Kopp appears to be pretending that the issue isn’t settled.
    While the reasoning for looking at other station spots may be “we need 12 trains an hour capacity” or whatever number they’ve jacked it up to from 6 per hour, the real reason appears to be nothing more than a political money grab … fears that if Transbay JPA gets the $500 million they requested for the train box construction may be tied to the CHSRA not getting as much money for projects further south. Such selfish and myopic reasoning is typical of old school politicians … politicians who should be fired and removed from boards/commissions/etc. because they’re not looking out for the greater good for Californians.
    Call up Attorney General Brown and Governor Schwarzenegger and urge them to tell Kopp that the San Francisco terminus is settled and that CHSRA should send a letter to the Federal Railroad Administration stating as much. As long as CHSRA is monkeying around and pretending the terminus location hasn’t been picked, it makes it appear as though Transbay JPA does not have a “shovel ready” project – and thus the ARRA $500 million is less likely to be awarded to provide hundreds to thousands of jobs in San Francisco in the near term.
    As an aside, commuters may be the primary users of California high-speed rail, but tourists would also utilize it … and would probably appreciate a terminus somewhat near The Palace Hotel, Courtyard Marriott, Hyatt, etc. Also, the idea of setting up the High Speed rail station between Howard and harrison and Main and Beale means they’d have to buy the block from the USPS (and maybe buy out Tishman Speyer’s option to buy the northern half, ie 201 Folsom) … and what will the State of California have to say if San Francisco does not utilize the Caltrans properties along Folsom to create 35% affordable housing stock? Big can of worms …
    Mayor Newsom, this is your opportunity to make some friends or solidify friendships among the labor unions and to prove that you can lead (and not just railroad your ideas through processes).

  16. Seem there must be some inside politics to this. I hope we hear more about it. Kopp seems hell bent on snubbing SF on this. My understanding was that we secured the Federal funding for the “trainbox” between the Transbay Terminal and the current Caltrain station which raises the question: “what the hell is going on over at CHSRA”?
    I e-mailed the qustion to them, it will be interesting to see if they respond.

  17. It is so stupid that the high speed train will not go into central San Francisco (Transbay Terminal). Why not end it at SFO (lol).

  18. True, but less than half of those trains reach San Jose. Which really isn’t a big issue.
    More importantly, the ROW used by the Capitol Corridor has the capacity for a higher level of service frequency : several trains per hour. The main reason there are not more trains is that the demand is not there. HSR will definitely increase demand on the OAK-SJ link and we can expect more trains to be scheduled and timed with the SJ-LA departures and arrivals.
    There’s no reason why the OAK-SJ link couldn’t be improved to support 100MPH service within the existing ROW. It would cost millions, but is certainly feasible.
    Better yet would be to upgrade to a full HSR link from OAK to SJ. That would allow LA trains to split at SJ with some terminating in SF and others terminating in Sacto. A little beyond the scope of the current project though 🙂

  19. thanks jaime for the link — that is a good summary.
    i just emailed the governor a quick note to let him know my support for getting High Speed Rail ALL the way into SF at the Transbay Terminal.
    we only have one chance to get the train where all the people/jobs/tourist attractions are.
    it takes 2 minutes… just go here.

  20. This is the same Quentin Kopp who, as a state legislator, insisted that Bart had to run directly into SFO, correct? That extension has proven to be somewhat of a disaster… I’m worried for the HSR.

  21. If I recall correctly, the scuttlebutt on BART to SFO was that parking revenue concerns led to the peoplemover idiocy, pre-empting BART to the terminal. I do not know what if any role Kopp played in that.
    As a fan of the Heathrow Express and Metro to Washington National, all I can say is, world-class city, my ass. I prefer to fly out of OAK these days.

  22. this move by Kopp is a pure cynical political ploy to throw a shadow of bogus “uncertainty” into the Transit Center project as a potential HSR terminus in order to torpedo the TJPA’s request for ARRA dollars so that the dollars would instead flow to SoCal. It’s no coincidence that the new head of the CAHSR Authority is the mayor of Anaheim. Quid pro quo anyone? The “alternatives” put forward by Kopp and his friend are completely absurd, nonsenical, and infeasible, not to mention sophmorically conceived and completely duplicative of countless analyses that the City and MTC did over the past 20 years. Not to mention that the “alternatives” are not consistent either the will of SF voters in 1999’s Prop H and Cal measure 1A just passed in November, which explicitly mentions the Tranbay Transit Center as the terminus. It’s pure political maneuvering to keep control of the HSR money. Kopp is a contrarian control freak and his idiocy is threatening to sink the plans of the state of CA, the City of SF, and anyone else who doesn’t let him call all the shots.

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