The contract to study the feasibility and alternatives for redeveloping San Francisco’s 20-acre Caltrain Depot at 4th and King Streets, connecting rail to the Transbay Center (and possibly the East Bay), and reconfiguring the terminus of I-280 in the city is slated to start this month.

The first phase of the project (Visioning, Concept Development and Feasibility Assessment) will take between six and nine months and phase two (Development of Alternatives and Refinement) will take another 12 to 15 months. Project deliverables are expected in early 2016.

Follow-on phases of the Railyard Redevelopment and I-280 Boulevard project, assuming it’s deemed feasible, include the selection of a Preferred Alternative (12-18 months) and the securing of Environmental Clearances, for which 18 months to 4 years have been budgeted.

Implementation could follow sometime after 2020, “as money and priorities allow.”

93 thoughts on “SF Railyard Redevelopment And I-280 Terminus Update/Timing”
  1. Why do people think a ground-level freeway is such a good idea? Where is there a pleasant ground-level freeway? 19th Ave? Octavia?

  2. Agree [with BobN].
    And if the “study” timeline includes a selection of a “Preferred Alternative” and “securing of Environmental Clearances”, this sounds very much like a ramrod attempt by Lee and the streetsblog folks. You can expect some major blowback on this, including Octavia-style referenda to keep 280 alive and/or get rid of Lee over this.
    Funny thing is if they proposed burying 280 from 16th – heck, from south of Potrero Hill – then I’d be all for it and would even pay a special tax for it. Because then you’d have beauty *and* convenience. But replacing one of the only effective freeways in the central Bay Area with a surface boulevard is madness.

  3. Part of the freeway has already been removed and replaced by ground level street. King Street effectively carry all traffic to and from two lanes of 280. Is King St pleasant? I would think so.

  4. Exactly, the Embarcadero. This basically extends the Embarcadero west to 7th and bends it south to 16th. Easily the least terrible solution to this bottleneck and a vast improvement over the status quo… wait, make that the status quo after all those new light-blue boxes you see on the sketch. Unsustainable.
    But some people were against the previous freeway teardowns and they will be against this as well.

  5. I might be in the minority here, but I really like what they did with Octavia. I think it works well, and I say that as a driver, cyclist and a walker. I look forward to seeing 280 turned into a boulevard as well.

  6. opponents are only thinking about what the new experience will be like as a driver. remember that people are living and working beneath the freeways you take. Your travel is expedited but at the expense of others’ quality of life

  7. King St. is infinitely more pleasant than 7th St. or any other street in the vicinity of an elevated freeway.

  8. proponents are only thinking about what the new experience will be like for the people who spend time in the area. your property values are increased but at the expense of 5~10 minutes of tens of thousands of other people’s time every day.
    just look at octavia for an example: nice new restaurants along with frequnt backups along oak and added time for everyone trying to get into the city.

  9. “opponents are only thinking about what the new experience will be like as a driver.”
    And proponents are only thinking about what the new experience will be like as a pedestrian? So what? You’re entitled to view things based on your own experience. But that doesn’t mean your particular experience is worth more than others.
    “our travel is expedited but at the expense of others’ quality of life”
    Yeah, but you moved there when the freeway already existed. That was your choice. It’s like moving next to a nightclub and complaining about the noise of Friday and Saturday night.
    I don’t have an opinion on this. If San Francisco wants to make it harder to get things in-and-out of the city, whether it be people, food, etc. That’s the residents’ choice to make it more expensive to live there.
    As for Embarcadero and King St. as being great examples – clearly haven’t driven them during rush hour or game days.

  10. And I love how the pretty drawing doesn’t include any cars, let alone 6th street. No traffic here, please move on.

  11. After reading all those excellent and insightful comments against this project, I have not only changed my mind on it but I’m now also of the opinion that we should rebuild the Embarcadero Fwy and tear down AT&T Park along with all the other traffic-choking development that has happened in SoMa in the last 25 years.

  12. Is there any prospect of rerouting Caltrain in a tunnel along 7th, then under China Creek east, where an underwater wye could be built allowing for trains to go to the new TransBay Center and alternatively to the East Bay, connecting Caltrain to the Capital Corridor and offering some future prospect for HSR to Sacramento, not via San Jose?
    Or are we just conceptualizing one 20 year project at a time here, like the 2-car platforms in the Central Freeway that have no actual plan to continue to the end of the tunnel in North Beach, and so aren’t being built to handle any real capacity?
    We just spent 25 years replacing the Bay Bridge with a “new” eastern span with less capacity and no provision for ever running trains again. Does anyone imagine that there may at some point need to be real transportation built between dwtn SF and the East Bay, given that Bart was built to exclusively serve as a local-only, non-express heavy rail subway into the far flung suburbs?
    I mean, now that we have plastic bags and a ban on soda nearly under our belt, would it be OK to start operating SF & the Bay Area like a city, rather than a really big gated community of NIMBYs?

  13. The city is growing and the expressways are being pushed back, this is good news. I just don’t understand why it takes so long because the study wont be finished until 2016 and we wont see changes for another several years after that. Better late than never I guess… now what they have to do is extend the central subway to fishermans wharf then curve it back down van ness all the way to Market at least…they already have the TBMs they just have to leave them in the ground and get to work on Van Ness subway. Then they can have a Geary subway to the beach, that crosses the central line at Van Ness & Geary and stopping at Union Sq.

  14. @Toady – this project isn’t just about enhancing the pedestrian experience. it’s a precursor to bringing high speed rail to the transbay terminal and with these changes, will make that option faster and more viable.
    You’re certainly entitled to your experience – I’m just trying to point out that it’s not the only one. Since this will be happening in conjunction with a better transit route from the peninsula to downtown SF, I think it’s a smart one. It will also open up lots of land for housing development which in my opinion is a much better use of prime center-city land than a freeway.

  15. also keep in mind that the new rail-line will be able to move more people within less space than this freeway stub. This is simply about efficiently using limited space.

  16. two separate thoughts:
    1) in the drawing it shows the freeway/parkway going to/from 7th street which of course is just 1-way, but it appears there is a diagonal ramp from 6th (which is two-way). Would it not make more sense to route 8th over than to try to have a criss-cross from 6th? Alternatively, change 6th to 1-way towards market and 7th to 1-way from market.
    2) about the ‘rail to east bay’, I’d much rather see billions spent on that than HSR, and thus have caltrain go to east bay and/or allow amtrak to come to downtown SF. I’m not sure I would use it, but it would improve overall transport much better than HSR would.

  17. This is just an SFMTA study. Nothing will happen without Caltrain agreeing to underground trains at some very large and as yet unbudgeted cost and Caltrans agreeing to teardown a vital segment of 280. Neither has even funded preliminary studies, AFAIK.
    This portion of 280 is over capacity for a few peak hours during AM and PM commute and very under capacity at other times. It is not unusual for the PM southbound on the Embarcadero to backup all the way to the Ferry Building and on 6th St all the way to Market. I’ve driven in both many many times for years.
    If you can figure out a way to keep something like 10k commuter cars south of Potrero Hill and shuttle their passengers in/out of SOMA/downtown, then this could work without just making even longer backups.
    Maybe a new multi-mode hub near 280 and Cesar Chavez with both Caltrain and MUNI stations running quick (15 min) shuttles to SOMA/downtown.
    Wonder if there’s the political will to tradeoff building some parking garages as large as 5th&Mission (2600 car capacity) south of Potrero Hill to tear down less than a mile of highway north of Potrero Hill.
    FWIW, a 280/Cesar Chavez/Caltrain/MUNI hub would also help with Giants and Warriors events.
    Kinda too bad the 49ers didn’t build their new stadium on Pier 80 along with their 20k parking spaces.

  18. What a load. All these people are trying to do is free up some more space to cramming some more ticky tacky little box apartments at $1000 a sq foot. They really are murdering San Francisco.

  19. 280 needs to be buried, just like Caltrain and HSR. Further, and it needs to be linked to 101 to keep throughway vehicles off the surface streets. The cleared land would create new, transit friendly neighborhoods.
    We still need to freeway to move goods and services around, people need to drive sometimes and traffic has an environmental and economic impact.

  20. c_q, 7th is 2-way up until it hits Brannan which is 2 blocks past the curve in their drawing.

  21. Conventional rail across the bay would be amazing. I hope the MTC can keep the BART mafia’s dirty hands off of it
    In additional to regional rail if we can’t get HSR right away let’s just get back conventional rail from SF to LA and SAC that is as fast as my grandparents had. Bring back the Coast Daylight! One of the most beautiful rides in the world

  22. I really wish SF would stop dealing with fictional problems and address the problems the city is actually drowning under:
    – Lack of housing
    – Homelessness
    – Failing transport system
    – Schools
    “Let’s make SOMA more bike friendly by getting rid of freeways!” “Let’s create urban alleyways with greenery and pedestrian walkways!”
    Those are great things. But this still a city where drug addicts defecate on the streets next to schools and commercial districts, and yet those in charge of the situation will not stop to consider that their policies aren’t working. This is still a city with such an outrageously limited supply of housing that the entire nation is taking note, and yet ballot initiatives and supervisor legislation is going forward to make it HARDER to build. This is still a “transit first” city where transit is slow, unreliable, dirty, and universally despised.
    Can we stop the squabbles about cars vs. bikes and turn our attention to adding housing in centralized locations, finding an effective way to cure our homeless problem, and fix transit?

  23. JWS, you are SOOO right.
    CalTrain is not going anywhere. Where else can it go? Underground? Not likely, without several billion dollars the city doesn’t have and which Nancy Pelosi will not be able to subsidize from her powerless perch in Congress. This scheme is unaffordable and ridiculous.
    The city is going cup in hand to the voters in November for a bond issue to fix potholes, which should easily come out of the general fund if our finances were managed properly. A bond issue for a new CalTrain station. No way.

  24. @JWS this project is about making caltrain faster and more viable and providing more land for housing. they’re not removing this stretch of 280 just to add a bike lane though I do understand/share your frustrations

  25. @S, how would this project make Caltrain any faster?
    I thought it would just force it underground for an additional half mile or so, and also force it to relocate the train marshaling yard at 4th St to somewhere further south.
    Caltrain has already said that moving the yard will increase operating costs because they will have to move empty trains between 4th St station and the new yard every night and before the AM rush.

  26. JWS & James, agree with both your thoughts. I live on the north side of Pot. Hill which gives me a very good view of 280 & 7th St. for both the morning and evening commute. Putting all that traffic on surfaces streets would be a nightmare. This study will never go anywhere. There are so many better places to spend the billions that this study’s conclusions would need. I could go on and on, but why get worked up.

  27. What this project will do is remove an ugly functionless divider of neighborhoods and open up the land to billions of dollars of new development, generating hundreds of millions of tax dollars to fund other transportation programs, affordable housing, homeless services, etc. etc. and all the other programs our residents need and want…just like what has resulted along the Embarcadero, King Boulevard, and Octavia Boulevard.

  28. Agree that those who cite King as a functioning boulevard have never driven it at rush hour, or for that matter any busy weekend. It can take 15 to 20 minutes to drive from Embarcadero Center to the 4th and King – and that’s without a game at ATT Park. You can walk the same distance in 25 to 30 minutes! Meanwhile all those cars are spewing all that pollution (engines operate less efficiently at low speeds) past all those attempted sidewalk cafes and residential windows… that’s how you define success?
    Last summer I lived several months at 6th & Bluxome, and regularly walked or biked to Source, the 24H Fitness on Potrero Hill, along the creek, etc. – nothing about 280 impeded my ability to get around that area – and in fact having all that traffic above me, instead of on the surface, left the streets much quieter (and safer for biking).
    Take it from Danbo, who actually lives on Potrero Hill and can see the daily backups on 280. Short of undergrounding 280, as Mark B. suggests, putting all that traffic on surface strees will in no way “improve” the neighborhood experience.

  29. @Jim
    This “ugly functionless divider of neighborhoods” carries as much traffic as the Central Freeway.
    Shall we tear them both down?

  30. @Sierrajeff:
    You do have a valid point that the local streets will be more congested once they remove the freeway. But the effect of that can be mitigated with bike lanes and sidewalks.
    In the end, though, this really is an unfortunate culture war. Either we design a city to allow drivers to zip here and there and through at the expense of local land values and pedestrians, or we force drivers to slow down (or switch to public transit) in order to create a better living environment for everyone else. It’s a fair debate, but I’m definitely for the latter.

  31. @Matt, I cannot tell if you are being sarcastic or serious? If you are serious, it is a perfect example of how feelings and “values” are now being substituted for logical traffic planning. Creating more congestion so that you feel you will have a “better living environment” is an example of faith based traffic engineering at its worst. It must drive you crazy that cars can “zip here and there” while you sit waiting for an overcrowded slow MUNI bus, so your solution is to “force drivers to slow down”?!?!?
    There is NO transit alternative for many Bay Areans, this is why corporations are forced to provide and pay for private bus service. Have you ever thought of focusing your “culture war” on fighting for more transit instead of punishing drivers who have no viable alternative.

  32. @Unbelievable: I completely agree with you.
    “You do have a valid point that the local streets will be more congested once they remove the freeway. But the effect of that can be mitigated with bike lanes and sidewalks.” -Matt
    Seriously? You honestly think biking and walking are viable alternatives to driving on the freeway?
    Yeah, those commuters coming in from outside of the city should totally just walk or ride a bike! Traffic will magically disappear when we remove all freeways and build some more bike lanes!
    I’m all for better public transit, and more biking and walking, but some of you guys are going way into crazy land with the anti-car stuff.

  33. “What this project will do is remove an ugly functionless divider of neighborhoods and open up the land to billions of dollars of new development…”
    The “functionless divider” indeed needs to go, so that Dogpatch and Hunters Point can grow and flourish and be an integral part of the city – rather than isolated, second-tier neighborhoods.
    This is an investment in the city and its future; it’s not done to just serve the interest of pedestrians and local homeowners.
    The thing is, demolishing the highway needs to happen simultaneously with putting Caltrain underground.
    That’s going to be very hard and expensive to do.
    So, let’s see if there will be enough political will and courage to pull it through.

  34. 85-90k people commute from the valley into SF to work. About 10k take Caltrain. Some (maybe 5k?) take BART or a bus. The rest drive.
    Most of the drivers clog 101, some use 19th ave, but something like 20-30k use 280. During rush hour they average less than 10 mph on this part of 280. Not so zippy.
    San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties appoint two-thirds of the Caltrain board of directors. What do think the odds are that their representatives are going to vote to spend money Caltrain doesn’t have so that tens of thousands of their residents can be ‘mitigated’ by bike lanes to the flourishing Dogpatch?
    Maybe when we all get self-driving solar-powered jetpacks. I keep checking kickstarter, but so far nothing…
    Even for SF this is not without predictable consequences.
    During the peak commute the last quarter mile of the elevated highway acts as a giant parking structure that offloads cars at 6th & Brannan and 5th & King. It is so slow we could put toll booths there without much impact on the flow.
    If you tear down the highway the surface road becomes the giant parking structure.
    This is exactly what happened when several ramps feeding the Bay Bridge from downtown were removed after the 1989 earthquake. The Caltrans study predicted it. SF decided it was better to have the open land along Folsom et al. And we got the added congestion on the surface streets pretty much as predicted.
    Hang out on 1st Street in the PM rush hour if you want a look at what this could mean for 7th St.

  35. I walked from the Dogpatch to Goat Hill Pizza in Potrero today. I’m not really sure what’s being divided here. Sierrajeff is correct, all the cars below me would have been in my way if there was no freeway.

  36. S:” it’s a precursor to bringing high speed rail to the transbay terminal ”
    Give it up. High speed rail is dead. With opposition on the peninsula and Republicans running the House (and looking to make gains thanks to Obamacare), there’s no F-in’ way HSR will get funded in our lifetime, if ever.
    It’s too bad HSR proponents spent too much time trying to ramrod a peninsula path for HSR. Imagine all that money Atherton, Palo Alto and Menlo Park residents would have funneled into supporting a different alignment. I guess those HSR guys aren’t very smart from a political standpoint.
    Jim: “generating hundreds of millions of tax dollars to fund other transportation programs”
    Too bad this fantasy probably requires *billions* rather than just millions.

  37. So far, I’m hearing a lot of complaining from people who sound like they come into the city for work and/ or pleasure and probably think of the city as being like a really big mall. I suppose it’s shocking to think that the people who live here might prefer to have more housing, parks, and walkable streets at the expense of someone else’s commute.
    It’s too bad there aren’t better transit links between the South Bay and San Francisco. Should have voted for BART when they had the chance.

  38. Not only is HSR dead to the Transbay Bus Terminal, but I thought Caltrain was as well, or will it be extended to Transbay within the next 25 years? Compare that with the multi subway/rail terminal that already exists at Los Angeles Union Station and is now being expanded with additional subway and rail lines.
    We get the bling tower and curved metal panels, Los Angeles actually gets a regional transit hub within the next couple of years.

  39. zouaf
    I think you are making some major assumptions. For example, I kinda love 280 and do just about anything to avoid 101. I work next to 280 and I live in SoMa and mostly take the T line to work, but I own a car and like having a rapid way into and out of the city. I’m very happy making the sacrifice of having to walk over a bridge or under a tunnel when I need to.
    It seems best that cars, bikes, and pedestrians be as separated as possible from each other. I’m not sure why anyone wants to walk through a sea of cars or why anyone would think that makes a city more livable. And this city has a ton of parks. If you want to live in a forrest, move to Pennsylvania.
    And before you bring up the embarcadero freeway, the waterfront is completely different than most of the areas 280 goes through.
    People like you don’t speak for me.

  40. “So far, I’m hearing a lot of complaining from people who sound like they come into the city for work and/ or pleasure and probably think of the city as being like a really big mall. I suppose it’s shocking to think that the people who live here might prefer to have more housing, parks, and walkable streets at the expense of someone else’s commute.” -zouaf
    Believe it or not, but it’s possible to build more housing, parks, and “walkable streets” without tearing down the few freeways that SF does have, which ARE heavily used by residents and commuters alike.
    And in case anyone forgot, the majority of households in SF own at least one car, and the majority of SF workers drive to work. You won’t force many people to get out of their cars by making it harder to drive, but you will frustrate them all. A lot more people will willingly stop driving so much when transit sees improvements.
    And for the record, I’m an SF native. I’ve lived in SF my entire life, I ride muni daily and have been doing so since I was a kid, I walk all over the place, I would love to see huge transit improvements and tons more housing built (including highrises), and I don’t own a car. And no, I don’t think SF is a “really big mall”.

  41. @zouaf
    “the people who live here might prefer …”
    280 and Caltrain are regional transportation resources, paid for and managed by regional and state level authorities. SF doesn’t just get to decide what to do with them.
    If Caltrain doesn’t agree to spend money they don’t have to relocate their marshaling yard and bury their right-of-way, then there is nothing SF can do but waste money on studies to nowhere.
    Caltrain is still trying to find something like $3-4 billion for the downtown extension and SF is penciled in for more than $1 billion of it, pending approvals that will almost certainly include voter approval of new taxes.

  42. “You won’t force many people to get out of their cars by making it harder to drive, but you will frustrate them all. A lot more people will willingly stop driving so much when transit sees improvements.”
    Not making a value judgement here but this is totally incorrect. Making it harder and more expensive to drive does shift people to other modes clearly. This is not debatable. And in fact you can have very nice Light Rail like they do in San Jose and it will never be competitive with cars unless it is a combination of faster and cheaper (this calculation varies from person to person of course.
    So yes, you make it really hard and expensive to drive to other parts of SF and they will have a mode shift like the FiDi has

  43. I agree Zig. What most of the Bay Area has done is the opposite: made car travel quick and easy at the expense of causing transit to be slow and inefficient (i.e. double parking, congested streets, circuitous light rail routes, transit stops surrounded by big parking lots in the middle of nowhere, etc.).
    The people who rely on transit have endured this 2nd class citizenry for decades. Now SF has taken the hard political decisions required to make transit work more efficiently. Since this sometimes impacts the ease of car use then of course people will complain.
    Those who complain of carmageddon every time a change is proposed that might impact car travel are experience what I call “mode locking”: the inability to imagine that anyone is flexible and adaptable enough to figure out another way, even if that simply means driving their car down different roads. In reality people actually have brains and will adapt to changes.
    [And Zig you will be happy to know that the Coast Daylight is alive and well. It runs daily though you’ll have to travel to Oakland or San Jose to transfer (The SJ transfer is far faster). Though the train is called the Coast Starlight these days, the Bay Area to LA segment runs on a timetable approximately the same as the old Daylight. It still takes forever, but good for a vacation outing. One of the most beautiful train rides in the USA.]

  44. @frog, you’re right that San Francisco has plenty of parks if you live in Pacific Heights, or Nob Hill, or the Marina, or next to Golden Gate Park. In my neighborhood, the nearest public green space is a 20 minute walk away. My neighborhood has tons of families with young kids and a big chunk of the city’s remaining blue collar population. We need green spaces and housing more than drivers need an elevated freeway.
    @cfb, not sure where you got the figure that a “majority” of residents drive to work. Different studies by the SFMTA and the federal government put the share of drivers at 35% or 38% while transit is 32% or 34%, walking is 8% and riding a bike 4%. Given what traffic looks like at 5pm on a weekday, it seems pretty clear that transit will only increase.
    What would you think of a sunken freeway, like San Jose Avenue between Glen Park BART and Mission? Could be a lot more pleasant than putting that number of cars at surface level.

  45. Surface streets are tributaries of the freeway. Not all the traffic flows into a single channel. It quickly dissipates to become much less impactful at any given location. That’s what would happen here. Some people will turn on 16th to the Mission, others towards Soma. Within Soma, some will head east, others toward Civic Center. And so on. It’s not like every street will bear freeway conditions. It will also help activate Mission Bay as people become familiar with it at street level (even commuting through). Freeways are death to neighborhoods. Remember Hayes Valley pre-2000? The city is right to consider this plan.

  46. Milkshake, Zig,
    I agree with you, car use is dominant and has been that way for a very long time. That’s exactly the problem. Many people have based their entire life on driving. They’ve decided where to live, what school to go to, where to raise a family and where to run their business based upon the status quo. And you want to make their lives worse, but are not proposing a viable alternative.
    If I want to get from my place in SF to a specific address in Palo Alto that’s a few miles from a caltrain stop, you just increased my travel time by 20 minutes. And I’ve got nothing to show for it.
    Tell me how these changes make my life better, and I’ll support them. But I’ve never wanted to go to a park and then couldn’t find one. There are plenty of places to build that aren’t the freeway. There’s no great waterfront, like the embarcadero, to attract tourists or make life better for people in the city. So tell me how these proposals help me, and you’ve got my support.
    (I set up my housing and my business on the same muni line and therefore take public transit most days, and I still like 280, when I do need to drive.)

  47. Just completely bury sections. Hey, if Oslo, Norway can do it, so can SF.
    I beg to differ on the success of Octavia Blvd. Traffic is always backed up on the Central Freeway from Market St., then inches along Octavia.

  48. frog – almost all changes result in temporary inconvenience. That’s life. In another thread I mentioned that creating a Geary subway would result in years of inconvenience and that’s one of the main reasons why we don’t have it.
    Unfortunately good efficient transit is neither cheap nor without its transitional headaches. If we want improvement then we need to take a longer term view than just the next ten years.

  49. spur had a lunch time presentation on this prospect last year. a number of agencies were represented. there was a gaggle of highly educated people on the panel with serious slide decks.
    taking out 280 is a really interesting and complex scenario. there’s a lot of moving parts.
    I’d just caution those tempted to have a feeling or reaction based on a couple minutes reading about it and maybe a bunch of gut — there’s a lot of serious analysis that’s been done and that will need to be done. it’s pretty complex.
    I have to fault spur for not making any effort to provide written meeting minutes and / or video archives for these kinds of events so that people who are really interested in the subject can read about what the experts are thinking and follow the Q & A sessions etc.

  50. @zouf
    The commute stats depend on whether you want to know about the working residents of San Francisco or the people that work in San Francisco regardless of their residence.
    Here are the basics as I understand them from the US Census and the MTC.
    About 45% of the people that work in SF commute in from other counties, mostly from the east bay. About two-thirds of them drive. That means about 30% of the people who work in San Francisco drive in from other counties.
    About 38% of the residents of SF that work commute by driving alone, while another 7% car pool. But about 20% of the people that live in SF and work, commute to locations outside SF, mostly San Mateo. Roughly two-thirds of them drive.
    That means that about a third of the residents of SF that work drive to somewhere in SF to work. And they make up about 25% of the people that work in SF.
    So, about 55% of the people that work in SF drive to work. And most of them drive in from other counties.
    And about 45% of the working residents of SF drive to work.
    Both of these percentages are slowly declining, though not as fast as the growth of jobs in SF, which means the absolute number of drivers is projected to increase.

  51. BobN: Uh…been on the Embarcadero?
    Uh… where is the connection between the highway and the Embarcadero? There isn’t one. The Embarcadero doesn’t carry traffic that’s come off the end of a highway.

  52. “Tell me how these changes make my life better, and I’ll support them.”
    Well Frog this mentality is the problem. The changes make many people’s lives much better but not everyone’s. I would say it would be a big win for the generations that have followed yours and for many other groups and not that big a chance for you
    But your mentality is part of the why we are where we are.

  53. Jake
    interesting stats. Do you know the percentages for the the FiDi or downtown alone? I am sure a bit higher
    The more congestion increases outward and parking is priced in more areas the fewer people will drive to other parts of SF

  54. opponents are only thinking about what the new experience will be like as a driver
    Not me. I don’t even know how to drive. I lived near Hayes and know how walking around the neighborhood was before and after Octavia Boulevard replaced the overhead highway. Yes, you had to dodge hookers, but walking around was relatively quiet, didn’t smell of car exhaust, and it was easy to cross streets. I’m sure looking out your apt window onto a freeway wasn’t so good, but that’s really a problem for most of the length of 280 they want to tear down.
    These overhead structures don’t “divide neighborhoods”. It’s the lack of ability to pass under them that does. The area under 280 is impassable for pedestrians almost along its entire length. Yes, there are train tracks there, too, but they’re not that heavily used and could have more pedestrians crossing opportunities. Unless the trains go underground, combining them with six or eight lanes of heavy traffic sounds like pedestrian hell.

  55. The reason this needs to come down is to make room for HSR. HSR will be able to carry more people per hour than this freeways does. I remember when 101 and The Embarcadero were torn down, we heard shrill complaints about the “Carmageddon” back then and both Hayes Valley and The Embarcadero are much better places today.
    Up to 25% of the traffic currently on 280 will go away, some of it to off hours, some of it to other modes and some trips just won’t get taken.

  56. “not sure where you got the figure that a “majority” of residents drive to work. Different studies by the SFMTA and the federal government put the share of drivers at 35% or 38% while transit is 32% or 34%, walking is 8% and riding a bike 4%. Given what traffic looks like at 5pm on a weekday” -zouaf
    Sorry, I was remembering wrong. It’s a plurality, not a majority.
    Also, those SFMTA numbers are just for people who drive alone, not everyone who relies on personal vehicles. According to the latest census stats, SF has 439,726 workers, of which 203,041 drive a vehicle or carpool to work (including a few thousand on motorcycles). That’s 46% of SF workers using personal motor vehicles to get to work.
    Also, in case anyone is wondering 69% of households in SF have at least one vehicle available.

  57. Zig,
    I’m a mixed mode traveller: bike, car, muni, foot. And under no circumstances do I see the removal of 280 making my life better. The Embarcadero makes driving worse, but it benefits foot traffic and biking and it truly makes the city a nicer place. I’ve enjoyed walking under the bay bridge many times, thinking about what an amazing place this is. There is nowhere below the current 280 exit ramps that I look and and think, “man, this city would be totally awesome if I could just hang out at the 16th street train crossing without that pesky highway overhead.”
    Now if we really are talking about trading a highway stub so that I, and thousands of others can walk half a mile and emerge in LA, well, that’s awesome and worth considering, if it’s the only way.
    The problem I have as a driver, pedestrian, biker, muni rider is that so much of city planning seems to be aimed at punishing the driver side of me and yet benefits me very little in every other way.

  58. MoD: “made car travel quick and easy at the expense of causing transit to be slow and inefficient”
    No. It’s the opposite. Cars made the suburbs possible. Simply put – there’s not enough density to support sufficient transit in San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties (except for San Jose)/
    NvJ: “HSR will be able to carry more people per hour than this freeways does.”
    Here we go again. Aside from HSR being dead – HSR is not a replacement for local transit. That’s the lie that HSR proponents want you to believe. HSR is geared for LA-SF-SAC transit. HSR will not impact commuting within the Bay Area or within the LA basin.
    Anyone who says that doesn’t get it or is being disingenuous.

  59. why do we need any freeways anyway? 99% of the city will be biking by 2020. And all the people delivering goods to SF will also deliver with the basket on their bike. and only people who li e in SF will work in SF. everyone in the entire city will work

  60. The reason this needs to come down is to make room for HSR.
    Name one city in Europe, even of moderate, even small size, that has ground-level rail.

  61. @cfb, again I have to disagree. According to the SFMTA mode share study from 2011 (the first thing that comes up in a search, I assume it’s the most recent) 27% of city residents drive to work alone and 7% drive to work with others. That’s 34% combined.
    This same study breaks it down by neighborhood, so you can see that Zone 1 (North Beach, Chinatown, FiDi, SoMa, northern Mission and Potrero Hill)actually has the lowest share of drivers at 26% combined. Meanwhile, fully 60% of Zone 1 residents take transit, walk or bike to work. This is pretty strong evidence that transit should be a higher priority than car access for this part of the city.

  62. @zouf
    Have to be extra careful using the SFMTA mode share study because:
    – 20% of respondents “Do not work”
    – 110% total as they accept multiple responses to the question “how do you usually…?”
    If we try to normalize their numbers for people that actually work you get 34% drive solo and 9% carpool “usually”, which is around the numbers the Census provides, especially when you allow for their 4.3% margin of error. Not sure how to fudge the 110%.
    BTW, that lame one-time phone survey is not as reliable as the US Census commute to work stats.

  63. Toady – I’m not seeing how “cars made the suburbs” disproves that the car infrastructure interferes with a fast and efficient transit system. Yeah, there’s not enough density to support good transit because places are so spread out to make space for cars. Well that’s one of the reasons at least.
    Transit stations in the middle of freeways? The very same freeways that block other local transit? Transit stations in the middle of huge parking lots? Freeways that block pedestrian and bike travel? Big box shopping centers and office buildings that insert a few hundred yards of dead parking between the street and the front entrance?
    Some of the things that make driving easy (expansive parking, wide freeways and expressways) interfere with all other forms of getting around. Unfortunately some of this stuff is a zero-sum game (roadway width for example) and the referee has been unfairly awarding points to the automotive team for over half a century.

  64. Interesting statistics regarding CBDs in America and what percentage of jobs they contain and how those workers get there.
    Of course the cover picture of Chicago will drive Chicago haters crazy as well as the fact that San Francisco and the Bay Area are not the same urban model as NYC.
    Regarding the suburbs; “Outside of downtowns, transit’s share of commuting is much smaller. In New York it’s 16 percent, which is higher than in any metro area as a whole (including downtowns). But in the next eight metro areas its just 5 to 9 percent; it’s 4.3 percent in Portland; and in the remaining metro areas its just 0.5 to 3.5 percent.

  65. HSR will not impact commuting within the Bay Area or within the LA basin.
    HSR projects that there will be over 3M total trips per year inter-Peninsula, from San Jose to San Francisco or Redwood City to San Francisco.
    The projection for LA basin trips is for 3X that.
    So there is that.
    But it is mostly a method for traveling between regions, yes.
    Aside from HSR being dead
    Wanna bet? They will start laying track in less than two years and there is nothing you nay-sayers can do to stop it now.

  66. NVJ, they will start to lay tracks between Merced and Bakersfield if they can win all the lawsuits.
    BTW- Have you read where HSR management NOW says that a 2 hour 40 minute trip from SF to LA will not be possible on regularly “scheduled service”. It might be achievable with a demonstration train that would not make any stops and run at top speeds without rail traffic delays. A 2 hour 40 minute trip (promised to voters in 2008) would require additional express tracks that would bypass stations. HSR is now saying an average trip between LA and SF will be “about 4 hours”. (From today’s Los Angeles Times). Also, they are about to release a new cost estimate and we can expect it will be well above 68 billion.

  67. NVJ,
    – Caltrain does more than 15 million trips/year
    – BART does 118 million trips/year and grew by 14 million trips/year over the past two years
    – BART already does 4 million trips/year just to SFO
    A faster train in 10-20 years that adds another 3 million capacity is nice to have but it isn’t going to make much difference for commuters within the bay area.
    HSR competes with SFO.

  68. NVJ – you are citing statistics that are complete BS. They come from an already disproved and heavily criticized business plan that didn’t pass muster. Courts threw that business plan out a long time ago.
    Look – Any HSR system is optimized for long distance and speed, not local transit, and the cost structure (and pricing) will reflect that. Just because you could conceivably fly between SFO and SJC (or OAK) for that matter means that an airport will reduce traffic.
    I don’t see anyone claiming that the TGV reduces traffic in Paris, do you? No, because it’s ridiculous – just like it’s ridiculous to claim that HSR will reduce traffic congestion in a local area.

  69. As for MoD:
    “Toady – I’m not seeing how “cars made the suburbs” disproves that the car infrastructure interferes with a fast and efficient transit system. Yeah, there’s not enough density to support good transit because places are so spread out to make space for cars. Well that’s one of the reasons at least.”
    They are not directly connected, and what I was responding to was S’s confusion between the actual cause and effect. But let me disagree with you on car infrastructure interfering w/efficient transit.
    Sorry – it’s all about density. Transit is all about capital infrastructure and the costs to maintain it. (Of course, in SF, there’s the heavy tax of unionized workforce that rarely shows up for work on time). Even in New York, there are plenty of boulevards and avenues to support cars, taxis and buses. San Francisco may feel dense, but it’s nowhere near the density of large cities with good transit infrastructure.
    (there’s that BS about being the second-most dense after Manhattan, but that’s all about North Beach. You’re telling me that the Sunset is as dense as Manhattan?)
    It’s about building up and densifying to have enough people that will take transit to make it break even. That has nothing to do with “car infrastructure.”
    Even SF isn’t dense enough as a whole to support MUNI. And you think tearing out car infrastructure will fix that? Sorry – NIMBYs and anti-growth progressives are your real enemy to good transit.

  70. HSR is now saying an average trip between LA and SF will be “about 4 hours”.
    From the LA Times:
    Regularly scheduled service on California’s bullet train system will not meet anticipated trip times of two hours and 40 minutes between Los Angeles and San Francisco, and are likely to take nearly a half-hour longer, a state Senate committee was told Thursday.
    In what world is 2 hours and 40 minutes plus 30 minutes “about 4 hours”?

  71. What is your projection for regional traffic then Toady? Zero?
    You don’t like the CA HSR Authority plan, what is your source for an alternative estimate? Of course some people will take the local trip, it will be faster than any alternative and some people are not very price sensitive.

  72. NVJ,
    If the time estimates for a trip between SF and LA follow the trajectory of the cost estimates for HSR, the sky is the limit.
    But let’s look at the following scenario. You are a family of four in SF wanting to visit family or friends in Pasadena.
    Flying is a pain. You have to pay for four tickets, get to the airport, go through security, spend a bit over an hour on the plane, get a rental car and drive to your destination.
    I don’t see how HSR improves much on that scenario if the actual train trip takes 3-4 hours. You still have to buy four tickets, get to the station, get a rental car, etc.
    How about driving your own car? The Google Maps estimate is 5h, 33 min and 382 miles. So hardly a lot more time than other alternatives. The cost? If you assume that your gas-guzzler only gets 20 MPG highway and that gas is around $4/gallon, we are talking about something of the order of $150 roundtrip. Plus the wear and tear on the car. Still, probably a lot less than flying or HSR.

  73. Zig,
    The SF Planning Dept pulls together US Census data by neighborhood in a doc they call ‘San Francisco Socio-Economic Profiles’. Among the many stats are how different areas in SF commute to work. This is organized by where the people live not where they work. For example, 0% of Twin Peaks residents bike to work.
    A slightly higher percentage of North Beach drive to work than use transit. Even Castro/Upper Market is about even at 40% for both transit and car.
    FiDi (includes NE SOMA to 4th & Folsom, but only 680 workers) 60% walk, 20% transit, 16% car.
    SOMA (14k workers) 29% walk, 26% transit, 29% car.
    Chinatown (6k workers) 40% walk, 34% transit, 16% car.
    Inner Richmond is very close to the SF averages for every mode.
    The neighborhoods with the highest bike to work percentages are Mission at 8%, Haight at 7%, and Bernal and Western Addition at 6%. These four neighborhoods have almost half the bike commuters in SF. Though even in each of these neighborhoods at least 30% drive and in Bernal it is a majority.
    Bike commuting is 0 or 1% for almost all of the western and southern neighborhoods in the arc from Outer Richmond to Outer Mission to Bayview and the northern eastern neighborhoods from North Beach to Nob Hill to Pac Hghts to Marina.
    One city with many transit mode mixes.
    Here’s a link to the pdf of what I think is the most recent version. It is based on the 2006-2010 ACS.

  74. Maybe, NVJ, because riding the train can be fun.
    Great way to see the land. Best way to travel thru Europe and Australia too. I’ve done both several times.

  75. My understanding of HSR improvements is it allows Caltrain and (eventually other local rail services) to go electric, have all grade separated crossings and to most importantly get to the transbay terminal. The service will blow BART out of the water for all but the shortest trips. I can’t see this ever happening without HSR.
    Some point in my kids future you can imagine the same being repeated with a second bay crossing connecting not only for HSR to SAC but local rail to SF and points east.
    Dream a little bit. BART is a dead end and needs to be refocused to the core and never be extended again

  76. Toady – We’re totally in agreement on how density and transit work together. But there’s also a conflict between transit and auto travel. I can’t blame you for noticing if you don’t use alternative modes much. Here’s a few examples of how priority given to auto travel handicaps alternative transit:
    – double parking combined with lax enforcement delays buses
    – freeways block bike routes, sometimes for several miles (not so much in the city, but plenty of examples in the greater Bay Area)
    – intersections are missing crosswalks in order to allow car traffic to make speedier turns around corners. Example: 4th and Harrison
    – street width to narrow to allow bikes and cars to ride side-by-side. Could be fixed easily by removing parking. Example: all over the place
    – the aforementioned parking lot situations the put a long distance between bus stops and front doors.
    – rail transit routed circuitous slow routes to work around freeways. Example VTA LRT in north Sunnyvale around 101.
    – larger corner radii to enable traffic to make speedy right turns interferes with and even endangers pedestrians crossing the street.
    … plus the items I mentioned earlier about wrapping transit stops with parking lots and freeways doesn’t make them nearly as useful as if they were in the middle of “people space” instead.

  77. NVJ: “What is your projection for regional traffic then Toady? Zero?”
    Yup. For HSR to make money, it needs to cover the cost of its infrastructure from end-to-end. It will not be cost effective to allocate any significant number of seats for people just riding HSR from SF to Palo Alto or San Jose. It needs to fill them with people riding between San Francisco and LA to even have a chance to break even. Fares will be priced accordingly, and “local” fares will not even be close to Caltrain fares. That’s why it’s not supplanting Caltrain, a system *designed* for local transit.
    I do use alternative modes quite a bit (Caltrain and MUNI, along with driving). All the things you’re stating have nothing to do with being “optimized” for cars – in fact, many of your examples show that they aren’t optimized enough for passenger vehicles.
    Let’s be serious here. San Francisco has had a Transit First policy for quite some time. To claim that there is a “priority” on cars in San Francisco is quite laughable given all the changes that negatively impact using cars in the city. Give me a break.
    Bottom line is that until NIMBYs and anti-growth progressives are no longer in power as the establishment in the city, San Francisco will have to accommodate cars. Period. All these nips and tucks around trying to make it harder for cars won’t change a thing.

  78. @jake – sorry late to the game 🙂
    removing the spur makes caltrain faster because it allows it to be buried underground at an earlier point and it allows it to follow a straighter path as well that allows it to not have to slow down to make sharper turns. as it is, the land here is all reclaimed and the pillars that currently support 280 make it impossible to bury the tracks in the right of way (which is under 280 now).

  79. “intersections are missing crosswalks in order to allow car traffic to make speedier turns around corners. Example: 4th and Harrison”
    So walking across the street is considered “transit”?

  80. anonanon – Unless you have door-to-door transit service, some walking is required as part of every transit journey.
    Toady – One obvious way to see how SF is a “Cars first” city is to look how space is allocated. Compare how much space is dedicated to cars vs. transit vs. biking vs. walking. Heck, we have more space allocated to simply storing cars than we allocate to all other modes put together.

  81. MoD,
    Being walkable is an important concept for a city in its own right. Being able to cross the street certainly belongs in any such discussion. But “walkable” to me is different from “transit” in the sense of HSR, BART going to SFO, Caltrain, etc.

  82. MoD:
    Whatever. There’s is a Transit First policy. Period. That’s been in place for 40+ years. Go look it up. Government policy has been to continue to constrict and restrict driving and parking, and taxing heavily to fund a dysfunctional transit system.
    Fact is that because of NIMBYism and progressives, Transit First has been and will continue to be a failure. You can look at cars as “evil,” but where San Francisco is and will continue to be from a density standpoint, they will be necessary evils.

  83. Toady – I don’t doubt that we have a transit-first policy on the books. That doesn’t mean that policy is being implemented. The unions are quite good ad puffing up the operations budget while starving capital expansion. And then NIMBYs push back on simple stuff like Geary BRT. There are some positive changes being made but those are small and receive a lot of opposition. Yeah, more density would definitely help. It need not be city-wide upzoning that radically changes historic neighborhoods. Just upzone along main corridors like Geary, Van Ness, 19th, etc. The rest will follow.

    1. Sorry – just upzoning in a few places isn’t enough. The whole city needs to be densified to support transit.

      You can’t have your cake and eat it too, unfortunately. Upsize and get transit, or keep nibbling at it and you get the crappy experience you have today, only worse.

  84. It is always hard to argue for how SF is transit first because of how bad MUNI is at transit any.
    Much easier to see that since the 1989 earthquake (25 years) the rising tide of cars first ebbed:
    – SF tore down miles of elevated highway. And the remaining highways and bridges that weren’t earthquake proof were rebuilt without increasing their capacity.
    – built huge amount of downtown and soma office space at much lower parking ratios than before.
    – BART ridership doubled while bridge traffic about the same (a little more bay bridge and a little less GG).

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