$400M More And 4-Year Delay For Transbay Rail ExtensionSeptember 23, 2014
With the budget to build San Francisco’s Transbay Transit Center having already increased by $300 million to $1.9 billion, the additional $2.6 billion budgeted to extend the train tracks from Fourth and King to the Transbay Center is now proposed to increase by $400 million, raising the total budget for the 1.4 mile downtown rail extension to $3 billion.
In addition, the timeline for the extension to be operable is proposed to be pushed-back from 2020 to 2024.
The proposed $400 million increase in budget for the downtown rail extension, the second phase of the Transbay Transit Center project, includes an additional $120 million for future grade separation, an increase in right-of-way acquisition costs by $105 million, and an extension of the train box under Natoma Street, behind Transbay Block 5.
The Transbay Joint Powers Authority has already diverted a portion of the funds which had been dedicated to covering the cost of extending the track for Caltrain and High Speed Rail to reach the Transbay Center in order to cover the cost overruns associated with developing the Transit Center itself.
Comments from Plugged-In Readers
And opponents of the Central Subway thought $1 billion a mile for a Subway was expensive? We are now up to $3 billion a mile in less than a decade. No need to wonder why SF is so expensive, the proof bludgeons you in the face every day.
Of course. When we don’t prioritize game-changing projects (HSR, Geary + Van Ness BRT as examples), we get this….nothing. Not acceptable.
I’m trying to understand what “future grade separation” they are referring to. Do they mean extending the tunnel past 16th St? I’m also curious as to how the train box will be extended, seeing as how it’s been built already.
At this point does it really matter? 2024? And I’m sure this date will be pushed back too.
I’ve given up on transit in the Bay Area and seriously cannot wait until our kids graduate HS so we can move out of the area. Enjoy your overpriced bus station, folks.
Started in 1929.
These things take time. Think long term and your children will thank you. Or they’ll need to immigrate to China to find a job to feed their children. People will visit SF in 50 years like they do Venice – a tourist experience of the old word. Unemployment for those under 35 at 50% – it will be great.
These things take time because of NIMBYs and Orwellian regulations. Other countries do a lot more, a lot more quickly. And I’m not just talking China – look at high-speed rail from London to Paris. Work on the Channel Tunnel begain in 1988, and was completed in 1994. High-speed rail from central London to central Paris came a bit later, but nevertheless the fact is that these countries – with just as stiff environmental laws (and even stronger historic preservation laws) were able to do a much larger project, through as dense or denser areas, in far less time.
America is falling behind, and it seems to be doing so by choice. We’re letting nay-sayers and entrenched interests overrule common sense and progress.
I would like to see a subway from civic center to van ness, van ness all the way down to Bay, and a connector on geary from van ness to to arguello.
van ness from civic center to bay is just 2 miles and geary from van ness to arguello is just 2 miles. this 4 miles of subway line would do tremendous wonders for public transport. the proposed BRT busline is an absolute waste of time and money. the number of cars in SF and traffic will continue to increase until there is a viable option. having a bus line only idown the major corridors s not going to cut it.
I always find it humorous those who think SF is a world class city. Either you have never traveled outside the U.S. borders, or you say it sarcastically compared to a real third-world country.
agree. we have no transit infrastructure. its embarrasing that we are one of the only ciities in the country without a city subway (BART doesn’t count as is mainly a way for east bay people to get in SF )
NYC is really the only US city with a world class subway, Chicago is 2nd and as a native Chicagoan I can say it’s not that great of a system either. It’s easy to blame SF but the problem is a US mindset that is largely still stuck on the car as the main form of transportation and they fight any kind of public transportation infrastructure funding while Europe’s citizenry embraces it and doesn’t hold up projects for years in political and beauractic redtape increasing the cost while at the same time scaling it back and limiting it’s effectiveness when it does finally get done.
I relied on the NYC subway for many years. It has its merits, that’s for sure, but consider the fact that most of it was built before WWII. It’s taking nearly a century to get the first leg of the 2nd Avenue Subway constructed.
Tired of these “world class” comments, which are entirely subjective. For instance, I’ve never found the London Underground to be any more useful or convenient (or cleaner or faster) than the T in Boston, for instance. There are T stops peppered just as much throughout Boston as Underground stops in London, so what makes London’s subway “world class” and Boston’s not?
i exclusively use the subway in Boston. think its pretty great. the one in DC is pretty good. I used the one in atlanta frequently when i lived there. The one in LA is coming along nicely
Having just returned from 3 weeks in Europe visiting Berlin, Paris and London which really ARE world class cities, we don’t even come close.
We are basically a cute little village on a peninsula.
Agreed. I was immediately pegged “US tourist” in London when I ran down the steps to catch a train. Why run when there will be another one in less than 2 minutes? Because I’m used to MUNI. If I don’t catch that L train now God only knows when the next one will come.
Interesting that LA is building the Regional Connector to bring the blue line (and 3 new stations) to Union Station. Sure, it’s taking decades from concept to creation, but at least it’s being done.
Exactly Mark. Good comments. While in Europe we rode the transit systems all over: The u-bahn in Berlin is fast, efficient, and vast; trains on time and quick. Same goes for the Metro in Paris and the Underground in London. Each system is amazing, clean and covers a huge amount of urban territory.
The people who run Muni Metro here don’t have a clue about how to properly run a public transit system.
I’ve given up on MUNI…completely. SFMTA’s band-aid tactics keep being delayed which means the real infrastructure problems aren’t even a legit consideration for my generation (I’m 48) or my kids. Give the L-Taraval, for example. The recent proposed changes will do nothing to improve or speed up service on the surface portion. Come on. I ride this line every day. In my semi-logical world as a MUNI rider, the L should branch off from Forest Hills, remain underground with a station at 19th Ave.(be nice to connect to BART here, but that’s too logical for SF to implement), surface at a portal around 22nd Ave with grade-separated platform stations at 24th, 30th (transfer to the 66), Sunset (transfer to the 29), 41st and 46th (transfer to the 18). 6 stations approx. 1/3 of a mile apart, instead of the current 17 stops. My current crawl could turn into a decent commute. Just an idea.
The bulk of Muni’s problems are the street-grade service. Bury the J-Church until south Noe Valley; bury the L-Taraval as Mark notes above, etc., and a lot of the timing and reliability issues start to fall away. It’s the same on similar systems; the Red, Orange and Blue lines of the Boston T function just fine, while the Green line has huge issues with clumping, unreliable timing, etc. The difference? – the Green line trains all become streetcars at some point, just like our Muni underground lines.
The fact is, if you’re at one of the Market Street stations during rush hour, 95 times out of 100, Muni is doing something pretty amazing – they’re continuously running trains slated for 5 or more different lines, spaced often within 1 or 2 minutes of each other, for hours at a time. In fact that complexity is part of the problem – 95 times it works, and is amazing if you step back and think about it objectively. But then throw in the slightest kink – a stalled train, a problem on the tracks – and the whole thing grinds to a halt and people scream about how Muni is unreliable.
I’m not issuing a blanket apology for Muni. When I go down to Embarcadero at 8:00 p.m. and I see that the next L is in 49 minutes (no lie!), I’m glad as h#ll that I live off the N-Judah. And yes, there are maintenance and customer service issues. But I think they do a far better job than people give them credit for; I think it’s simply become dogma that Muni stinks, and barring the invention of teleportation no one will every be happy with Muni.
Welcome back! I’ve missed your posts.
Thank you! My comments are not just to drag on about how great these European cities are, but the fact is, they are very large and (for the most part) they really work well as great, world class, urban centers.
But even with congestion pricing in the heart of London, traffic still is horrendous, especially where we stayed in Soho and Covent Garden. People just seem to deal with the cars, weaving in and out of the narrowest streets. The trouble with London is that it’s just growing so fast, with so much construction and it’s just getting denser and denser.
Paris is simply very walkable, very grand and beautiful, in most areas. The sidewalk café culture is a very integral part of everyday life there; something we don’t have much of partly just due to our cultural ways and partly to our (not so pleasant and warm) weather.
Futurist, what can a city do better in terms of street design to enable more sidewalk cafes – is it wider sidewalks or quieter (less trafficked) streets? How come you say SF weather is bad? SF gets almost twice the sunshine hours than Paris. It may be a bit chilli at times, but it’s quite great most of the time.
What is the cultural element you were referring to?
Quite frankly I don’t know how we can (easily or cost effectively) create more of a café culture here. Fact is our sidewalks are narrow, the streets are pretty much fixed in width. Yes, they can be changed like what is happening on Castro, but that’s rare and costly, and does result in changes in traffic use and more congestion.
Paris just has a lot of outdoor cafes dues to the nature of very wide sidewalks and plenty of odd shaped intersections resulting in great open plazas, for cafes. Culturally, outdoor cafes are just and integral part of Paris urban life: people hang out. We don’t do that here, in general.
And it’s simply too windy here most of the time to really “hang out” for hours and watch the scene go by. Ever feel the super strong wind rushing down Market St. in the early afternoon?
Outdoor dining areas seem to be quite popular where they exist and when the weather permits (which is still at regular intervals).
Do you think more places than Castro would be willing to support widening of sidewalks if the pedestrian traffic already dwarfs the vehicle traffic? Our right-of-ways are extremely wide by European standards and sacrificing a lane on a key pedestrian corridor to create much needed urban open space seems like a reasonable trade-off. Or no?
I don’t think it boils down to weather or sidewalk construction; I think it’s just a cultural thing. I was surprised in Paris how often the sidewalks were so narrow that I was stepping into the gutter to accommodate oncoming pedestrians… and the Paris weather is definitely not better the bulk of the time. Yet when I was there, in early April 2013, with temps in the 50s and 60s (F), the sidewalk cafes were still being used. Hence, I think it’s just cultural; people there expect it and want it and use it. People here don’t.
(I did note that many of the “sidewalk cafes” were often under arcades set into the building – i.e., instead of being in front of a building (the building wall goes to the sidewalk, with tables in front on the sidewalk), there’s an arcade with sheltered tables before the (inset) wall with entry door. Not universal, mind you, but common.
I think it’s just a combination of our frequently windy weather, which is true; and the fact that café life is just generally not part of our culture. Could it change? yes. maybe.
our weather is perfect.
There is a bit of “grass is always greener” to comparisons with “great” cities.
Take Paris — has nearly 4X the density of SF. The city of paris is smaller than SF (about 40 sq mi) yet has 3X the population. Far easier to fund and build a comprehensive metro under those circumstances.
Muni works pretty well in the densely populated Eastern half of SF. My commute to the embarcadero from a few blocks from Castro station reliably takes about 18 minutes door to door in either direction (helps that I can take any of the train lines). We only looked for Muni-friendly homes when we moved. Yeah, of course it is not going to be as good in the far less dense Western half of the city. I lived in Paris for a year. Sure, the metro is awesome. But to/from some places could easily take 45 minutes depending on transfer points (was faster to just walk — and just the transfer between lines at Les Halles could involve a 15 minute walk underground).
We have good friends from Paris who visit here every summer (work at UC Berkeley). We got a kick when they gushed how easy it is to drive and park in SF compared to Paris – they rented a car here for the summer. They complained that they can’t even afford a car in Paris, but they have to rent one frequently to go buy larger purchases or get outside the city (‘much faster than the trains”) but it is an expensive pain to drive around the city.
Of course Muni could be far, far better. But with the options of driving, Muni, biking, walking, and taxi/uber (I use all of these), SF is pretty easy to get around.
Excellent observations. I had a similar experience with the Tube in London – I often felt like I was walking underground half-way to my destination, just to catch a train that was no cleaner or nicer than what I find her (or D.C., Boston, etc.). I think people here just like to complain more and want everything to function perfectly (while paying the lowest taxes possible).
The Tube in London, the Metro in Paris and the U-bahn in Berlin are ALL cleaner, more efficient, more extensive than our meager little Muni by a long shot.
agree its pretty easy to get around driving and thats why most use cars. but the pub transport is 3rd world
Having ridden plenty of 3rd world transportation, I can say that Muni is definitely better — but that is a low bar.
we have pretty cool bridges
And could use another one or two of them to help alleviate traffic. Hell, if rail ain’t being built, might as well make vehicular traffic easier.
I think it’s more an international city than “world class.”
And on that note, I wouldn’t consider LA world class either. *Maybe* Chicago. So that leaves America with Manhattan as really the only “world class” city.
Kinda of arbitrary
Tell that to GaWC (namelink), whose study lumps SF into the same bucket of international heft as, um, Atlanta.
Great List kbbl, I think our little city could use a dose of reality. I’ve lived in L.A., Chicago, London, and here and no city enjoys talking more about how “world class” it is than San Francisco. Remember, this is a city who had a news broadcast that used to begin “From the Best Place on Earth, the 5 o’clock news with ….”
amen to that!
Jill – there is a subway from civic center to van ness – it’s called MUNI and BART. My mom was fond of saying, “Take the number 11 bus.” 11 means using your two legs and walk. Live closer to your work is my suggestion. SF’s traffic and myriad of problems will not be solved in your lifetime.
I think Jill’s point was a subway from Van Ness to the Bay (Fort Mason). Not all of us can afford to live walking distance to our jobs. You wanna buy me a condo in the FiDi or Marina where my partner and I work?
Speaking of Fort Mason…I was at West Portal last week waiting (20+ min during evening rush hour) for an outbound L train when an inbound “shuttle” was going about changing its destination sign. Chinatown scrolled by as well as Fort Mason. Why would an LRV have Fort Mason as a destination unless perhaps years ago MUNI was considering an extension of the Central Subway past Chinatown? Unfortunately, the train pulled away before I could tell if North Beach was there too.
Maybe you should consider bicycling. I can bicycle the 3 miles to work in 15 minutes, which is much faster than Muni and just as fast as driving a car, when you add in time parking. Plus I get the health benefits of regular exercise.
I am not sure what your budget is like, but there is quite a few of San Francisco’s less expensive areas within a reasonable bicycling distance to the FiDi and The Marina.
“I can bicycle the 3 miles to work”
We all don’t live 3 miles from work! As nice as you seem to think it is that the MTA is basically handing out six figure salaries to former SF Bike Coalition employees, some of us would still rather see the terrible transit system of this city fixed and expanded instead of giving up and riding a bike. Only 3.4% of trips taken are on bikes. but a lot more people need and use public transit every day and THAT is where the focus should be. Welcome to the world outside the Streetsblog bubble.
How far do you live from work? Most trips from within San Francisco are less than two miles.
4% of trips are taken on bikes, just for your information, not 3.4% and 6% of San Franciscans ride bicycles every day. 17% ride every week.
I 100% agree with you that we need better transit too. It is all part of the equation though. I sincerely hope that we get the money we need to improve Muni, it is going to take a lot. I hope you are out there pushing for Prop A, that is a much needed start.
obro – LOL. There is a shortage of factory workers in China. We should ship some of our chronically unemployed there. But, workers will need to speak Chinese. Too bad.
Fact is that some of the readers of this website won’t even be alive when this extension is finally complete.
The 18.5 mile 265mph Shanghai Maglev train from the airport to central city took 4 years to build for a cost of about 1.5 billion USD.
I’m completely convinced that California needs to keep moving forward with high speed rail. We rode the ICE train from Frankfort to Paris at top speeds of 360km per hour; about 230 mph. Amazing, smooth and quiet.
We need to do this. We can do this.
Which is more likely in my lifetime:
HSR light will be built and will terminate at 4th and King
This tunnel will be built to the TBT without HSR money for intra-city service
I have no problem with a HSR/Caltrain terminus at 4th/King…just extend the N train to the Arena to relieve congestion on the T during events. The center of the SF universe isn’t the financial district. Also, considering the TTC isn’t even going to connect to MUNI/BART on Market St., the couple billion earmarked for the Caltrain extension could be spent on other infrastructure projects. I wouldn’t mind money going towards extending the CS to the Bay or undergrounding parts of the N Judah.
I don’t think you understand the capacity mismatch with LRT let alone the inefficiency of switching to different trains. Lastly Caltrain losing access to downtown
Trust me, I understand your point. I guess I should have been clearer in that what I proposed would be an acceptable option given that the TTC will most likely end up a really expensive bus station. I’d love Caltrain, BART and MUNI to be expanded to reach more riders, but it doesn’t appear that’s going to happen.
Capacity mismatch and inefficiency? I agree, but keep in mind that “central” train stations were often built outside of downtown cores. Union Station in DC requires a transfer to the Red Line unless you live/work nearby. Same for Penn/Grand Central. I took NJT to Penn every day and then walked 1.2 miles to my office on Park in Midtown rather than take 2 subway lines.
I’m of the opinion that underground transit is the only long-term viable solution to truly efficient mass-transist short of banning, or severely limiting the # of cars allowed in the city at any given time. So I don’t really care what it costs, just get started already.
Absent Hyperloop, CA should get along with HSR and sooner the better. But like Ford said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Someone ought to do a feasibility study on Hyperloop and figure it out.
The Venice analogy is spot on.
SF is a city with too much money (from tourism) chasing after non-essential, non-acheivable goals while ignoring the basic needs of its property paying citizens, like decent roads, sewers, public transportation, reliable police and ambulance service, clean, well-lit parks, and public schools that meet basic standards.
As for HSR…if it does ever get built, please consider an East Bay alignment that connects SJ to OAK to SF, a 4-track tube that can handle HSR and additional standard-gauge commuter rail, and while we’re at it (I feel like I’m sitting on Santa’s lap with my holiday transit wish list)
i prefer a geary subway over HSR.
Let’s see, what to do…. A project that benefits a few million Californians or a project that benefits Jill?
Have you been on the 38 line? Ever? Geary is one of the most heavily used transit coridors in the entire western part of the country. Geary rail should have been built decades ago.
So do I, but when it was brought in front of the voters, the voters shot it down. Until you change that reality, nothing will change, especially since the usual crowd of vocal crazies will come out to fight against it.
i guess my point is that our politicians arent even strong enough to get a subway in the central thoroughfare in SF. How can we expect HSR. in 2014, the only mode of transit within SF are buses. its ludicrous
I’m not picking on you jill but our elected officials can’t do it alone. Have you (or any posters) written to your reps to let them know you support transit improvements? Do you attend public hearings to let your concerns known? Are you active in your community? Did you vote “yes” on the HSR bond measure and do you continue to support it? Did you vote “yes” on the various transportation sales tax increase measures? Or are you like most of us (many times myself included) and just leave anonymous comments on websites lamenting the sad state of public transportation in the US?
I vote and have talked to supe. I can’t attend meetings as is an issue for people who work full time. Until we can get more than 25% of residents to vote, nothing that passes through resolution is a mandate imo.
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