With the City having selected the Pennsylvania Avenue Alignment as the path by which trains should eventually reach San Francisco’s new Salesforce Transit Center, the San Francisco County Transportation Authority is about to set the stage for securing environmental clearances for the project, the foundational study for which is expected to take around 18 months to complete.  As such, the earliest the realignment could be completed is now likely closer to 2028/2029 (versus “2027” as originally touted).  And that’s assuming the funds for the extension can be secured.

At the same time, another team is about to kickoff an exploration of the options for relocating the existing 22nd Street Caltrain station in conjunction with the new alignment and future undergrounding.

And with the existing Caltrain station at 4th and King slated to be undergrounded as well, and the potential for redeveloping the railyard site being explored, Planning is now working on “SNACS,” the City’s Showplace/SoMa Neighborhood Analysis and Coordination Study, “to coordinate the multiple area plans and major infrastructure projects that will transform the area around the 4th & King railyard.”

53 thoughts on “Setting the Stage for Caltrain’s Realignment and SNACS in SF”
  1. Absolutely wonderful, but as Hyman Roth says : “If I could only live to see it, …What I wouldn’t give for twenty more years!”

  2. Clearly, the station should be somewhere between Mariposa and 16th for easy access to Chase Center, UCSF, and the budding Design District tech offices. That would accelerate the boom in that area. The Mariposa station has a nice ring to it.

    They should time this so after they finish digging up Pennsylvania / 7th Street, they demolish 280 and re-create 7th St as the street level boulevard that replaces 280, a la how Octavia replaced the Central Freeway. 7th St will feed on 280 at Mariposa. The former land below 280 becomes park or mixed use.

    By 2040, that area would be absolutely booming if the above plan were to be executed.

    1. Actually, it makes much more sense to keep the 22nd street station near where it already is.

      1) Moving this station to 16th/Mariposa would make the station redundant, as the existing station at 4th and King is being maintained and already services the Design District/Chase Center/Design District. This is a commuter rail line, not a subway system, and can’t be expected to have a density of stations similar to a subway. When (and if) the transbay terminal connection finally goes in, it may make sense to move the 4th and King station closer to the 7th street side of the caltrain property, to improve separation between the 3 stations.

      2) 22nd street station is used as an access point for commuters heading south, who can skip the heavy traffic around SOMA and Design District. Putting it at 16th/Mariposa would eliminate this advantage of the station.

      3) By 2029 with the completion of the Pier 70 project, the Potrero Power Plant project, Rebuild Potrero, and further development in DogPatch, there will be even more need for a station at 22nd then there is already.

      1. It doesn’t make sense to move the undergrounded 4th & King Caltrain station closer to 7th because that moves it away from the surface-running part of the T-Third Central Subway extension.

        1. Which sadly has stops far away from the station. It’s clear that customer convenience took a back seat to other interests, otherwise it’d be on 4th and between Townsend and Brannan.

          1. There’s a Muni station on 4th between King and Berry, literally diagonally across the street from the Caltrain station.

          2. Anyone taking T to Caltrain from Sunnyvale would get off at 22nd street and save 20 mins by boarding Caltrain there. Anyone coming on T from Chinatown enjoys the unnecessary extra blocks of getting off at Bryant and walking 5 mins to Caltrain. Getting off at 4th and Berry station risks getting stuck at 4th and King with its uncoordinated traffic lights.

            Then again, it’s how SFMTA likes to do it since the T stop for 22nd St Caltrain was also unnecessary placed far away on 23rd near corner full of truck parking. Sigh…

      2. We’re not going to agree on this one. UCSF, Chase Center and Design District offices will bring the overwhelming amount of demand to this area. 16th St is ideally located to solve this demand, regardless of whether it’s perfectly spaced from King. 22nd St is a No Man’s Land.

        1. 22nd Street station deserves to stay because Dogpatch is a significant, and otherwise isolated, commuting destination. This is a neighborhood with a 5:1 jobs-housing ratio and thousands more jobs coming to Pier 70 and the Potrero Power Plant site. But with no direct ferry service and Potrero Hill acting as a barrier to the west, without Caltrain, local streetcar (the T) is the only way to get there. What that means in effect is the car commute share goes through the roof.

          Design District is already a stone’s throw from the King Street station. To make it better, build entrances/exits on both sides of the platform: riders board at the back of the train and hop off and quickly surface at 7th Street. Actually, Caltrain should create a 7th Street entrance/exit now, as an interim measure. No reason to wait til 2028 for this.

          UCSF/Chase Center have only barely more jobs than Dogpatch, and a denser transit network that can pick up Caltrain’s slack: the Chase Center ferry terminal is right there, the 22 bus from BART (about to get a service boost and transit-only lanes), and it’s still only 2 stops away on the T from Caltrain, which transfer will be much less painful in a few years as the completion of Caltrain electrification and the Central Subway allow both Caltrain and the T to run more frequently and reliably. Protected bike lanes make it easy to pick up a rental bike or scooter from 7th & Townsend to 16th & 4th whereas that journey from 16th to 22nd contending with streetcar rails would be much more fraught.

          All of this is just my hypothesis. As part of this project, I’m sure there will be a formal study to eke out just how many transit trips would be generated, and car trips averted, with each option, and if 16th Street comes out on top of 22nd, I’ll admit I was wrong, but it is probably going to be pretty close between the two. It’s not unreasonable to think leaving the station at 22nd might be better.

      3. Does the commuter rail line distinction matter? There are these sorts of electrified lines around the world and they can be hybrid lines like BART

    2. I clearly don’t see that. The current station is already really close. The 22nd St station is fine as it is, but could be made more accessible for commuters coming from Marina and other places.

          1. I want to see some data on this. I seriously doubt any significant number of people from the Marina are driving personal vehicles to 22nd St on a given day.

  3. The Central Subway is 1.7 miles and will take 11-12 years from groundbreaking (2010) to opening (2021-2022). The Lantos Tunnel (Devil’s Slide) was ~13 years from vote to open. So I would guess somewhere around 2033 – 2035 for this stretch to be completed – at the earliest.

    1. I was thinking the same thing. There’s no way that this will be completed and operational by 2028/9 with the usual and all-but-expected delays transit projects in SF incur.

      I can’t even imagine what the city and the state of transit are going to here in 8 years, let alone 15 years. We need to move faster.

      1. It’s not hard to imagine what transit will look like in 8 years. It will look exactly like it does today. The only things that have changed about transit in SF in the 22 years since I moved here are they replaced the 15 with a slower and less frequent streetcar, and Caltrain fiddled with their schedule slightly.

        1. Indeed. I moved to SF in 2000 and have only seen a couple half baked ideas come to fruition, all over budget and years delayed.

          Given that this tunnel will support HSR some generation down the road, when all is said and done there will still be no direct train service from SF to Sacto.

          1. If you moved here in 2000, you’ve seen the Embarcadero completely redone, Octavia Street and Hayes Valley completely renewed, all of Mission Bay and much of the ballpark area go from wasteland to high end mixed use neighborhoods, and the entire Transbay Terminal district rise from essentially nothing. Dozens of park, libaries and schools have been renewed, the historic streetcar fleet has been massively expanded, and we’ve seen a massive renewal of the Mission, Mid-Market, and even the upper Tenderloin (though there’s some backsliding here).

            The most frustrating issue aside from projects spiked by NIMBYs is for sure the crazy slow/expensive progress of transit expansion.

            Since 2000, you’ve seen the T-Line amble down Third barely faster than a person riding a skateboard; you’ve seen a crazy slow, ultra deep bore, hyper expensive subway going only halfway to where it should; you’ve seen the F-line extension to the Marina spiked by neighbors; you’ve seen a single person use lawsuits to block bike lanes for four years; you’ve seen shorsighted businesses rebel at rapid transit lanes on major streets; you’ve seen the virtual collapse of Muni as a going concern, as ride share poached ridership, and policy changes led to an explosion of fare evasion.

            Lots of stuff is happening in town, but the transit situation is just crazy.

          2. same here. ive been here for 22 years, and have seen no improvement in transit at all. the only change is the congestion of the streets with Uber and Lyft and the removal of car lanes. and the only thing even under construction is the central subway.

          3. Over about the last ten years, Muni’s bus lines have seen service improvements with red transit only lanes on Mission, Market, parts of Haight, Church, 3rd St., Judah, Lincoln (for a transit-only left turn lane)… and there has been bus stop consolidation, the implementation of rapid lines (and elimination of limited service), hundreds of new and more reliable (and lower floored) buses, and the implementation of all-door boarding system-wide. Clearly, changes and improvements to the light rail/Muni Metro system are frustratingly slow but, at least, bus service in this city has improved.

    2. This whole alignment is designed to fail. The extra tunneling and coordination not to mention coming up with $6 Billion is just never going to happen. It’s a shame too because the shorter tunnel from the current terminus just might have been possible.

      1. They specifically chose this alignment so that the DTX (the tunnel portion from the current 4th & King terminus to the SFTC) could be built and financed separately from the full alignment.

        Quote: “Maximizes options for phasing the project: DTX first, Pennsylvania Avenue extension opening quickly thereafter subject to funding availability”

      2. Considering initial funding for the DTX was used to cover cost overruns for the STC I am not holding my breath that any of this will ever happen. No, I’m not being a pessimist. I’m being a realist.

  4. in 1987, I asked one of the execs from Southern Pacific Railroad, who used to own, then operate, Caltrain, about the downtown extension, as it was being discussed then. He said “I’ll never live long enough to see it.” He’d be around 90 by now and had already had one heart attack at the time, so I’m sure his prediction has already come true.

    His reasoning was that Muni would never allow it. Right now, they have absolutely packed buses that run from the station into the FiDi, about a ten minute run, that make a mint for Muni, with everyone buying monthly passes, yet not using Muni for anything else nor using it on the weekends, and those fares literally subsidize the entire system. Without those fares, Muni collapses.

    So arguing about details on this plan is like arguing about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. It’s an entirely theoretical exercise that literally has no solution. Will never happen in our grandchildren’s lifetimes.

    And put a Caltrain station near Chase Center? Muni made that mistake with the Giants ballpark and will literally NEVER allow that to happen.

    1. Gonna need some evidence to support the dubious assertion that the 4th & King to FiDi Muni routes are financially propping up the entire system.

        1. I agree (with the dubiousness of the “propping” assertion)…maybe we can settle on “without it the RR would be ~20%?

    2. I doubt it. There’s still plenty of upside for transit. Maybe there are a bunch of people buying Muni passes for that particular trip, and maybe there aren’t. But the downtown extension makes Caltrain a lot more convenient for a lot more people, such as those on the west side, which will itself drive more trips on Muni.

      Also, packed commuter buses aren’t necessarily a great moneymaker. Sure, they generate a lot of income from fares, but they’re also the most expensive to run, because that’s exactly when the buses and drivers are running at full utilization. This means that every additional rush-hour bus requires the agency to buy another bus and hire another driver, even if you only need them for a few hours a day.

    3. What are you talking about? The current Giants ballpark was built long after the 3rd and Townshend Caltrain station. That whole area of SoMa used to be a sad wasteland of empty lots and old buildings. The Giants were VERY smart about the location of the current ballpark, and its proximity to an existing Caltrain station was one of those considerations.

    4. Of all of the unsupportable postings on SocketSite, this one is way up there. The buses from Caltrain into the Financial District/Union Square (the 30 and the 45) usually have 10-15 people get on at the beginning of the route along Townsend Street. It’s literally Trump-level ludicrous to suggest that fast passes bought by people who ride these two buses “subsidize the entire system”.

      If you wanted to even begin to make this argument, but it would still be unsupportable, you would cite the much larger number of people who ride the light-rail trains from Caltrain on King Street into the Financial District. But still it would never support the bizarre notion that Muni would “collapse” if the train were extended.

  5. Can someone explain why they’re moving the 22nd Street station what looks like a 1/2 block from its current location, as the diagram sends to show? That station seems 100% fine as is.

    1. Yeah, it’s the same reason that BART to SFO ended up as the cluster-f that it was. And why the Warm Springs BART station is designed to make you miss your train. And why the Central Subway takes two phases with separate tunnel boring machines and extractions to go to Fisherman’s Wharf. The two or maybe three contractors that own big construction projects in the Bay Area get paid to make it that way. And the people on one side of the line shuffle back and forth through that very lucrative revolving door.

    2. Keeping the existing station was ruled out in 2017 because of the at-grade approach. Not sure I 100% agree with the reasoning, but I do find it annoying to snake through the 280 supports at 15mph.

    3. They’re moving it so they can keep Caltrain underground. There will be a new tunnel underneath Pennsylvania, so the train’s angle of approach needs to be adjusted.

  6. I love how everyone is arguing over the location of commuter rail line in desolate (Potrero Hill) or hopes-and-dreams parts of town (entirety of Dogpatch and Mission Bay). Meanwhile, the entire west and north halves of the city are gasping due to a lack of transit. You know, the areas where people actually live right now.

    But sure, let’s argue about municipal planning on the potential growth areas. Bang ‘up job armchair urban planners. (Even though I’m sure that, pathetically, some of you actually are urban planners)

    1. 100% correct they are funneling too much money into downtown transit ignoring where the density is occuring in D7/D10/D11. If they don’t focus on bi-county investment and lessen the impacts on the Ase and SW portions of the city we will see worse than gridlock….

    2. Dogpatch and Potrero hill are/are on track to be much denser and closer to existing non-bus transit lines than the far northern neighborhoods. It makes complete sense why the train lines would be altered and improved there first.

      1. bzzt! No one lives in Mission Bay except 280/101 commuters. It’s not real San Francisco. It might as well be Pittsburgh.

        1. Since I’m from Pittsburgh, I’ll assume you meant Pittsburg.

          “Real San Francisco” tends to holler bloody murder anytime someone wants to sacrifice a few parking spaces to accelerate bus service. Far as I can tell Richmond has learned to live with the 38. And not enough people in Sunset seem to want the N or L to work for people in a hurry.

          Undergrounding M through Stonestown and Park Merced would be awesome, but that’s also a story about building stuff for people who aren’t yet there.

  7. Not really buildable in a reasonable time frame. A better solution would be to bypass 4th station. Just keep going up 7th until it gets to Howard and then turn right. Could keep the existing system operating without interruption while the new one is being built. Only has one 90 degree turn instead of three. Requires the purchase of only one building – the SF Champagne society for ROW. Moscone tunnels would have to be reconfigured – but that is entirely within City control…

  8. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. When do you hear of a problem at the 22nd street station? The only reason to move stations, rail lines and freeways is to create more work for contractors and workers who are already in short supply. Billions of taxpayer dollars should be spent elsewhere.

    1. You hear of a problem every time a person with a mobility disability attempts to go down those stairs, for one. . .

  9. Hire the Norwegian government to do it. They have tons of experience building railway tunnels below ground. They might cost more money up front but then it wouldn’t take 57 years.

    Also, I think that public transit projects should be largely exempt from CEQA because they are so clearly better for the environment than our current auto addiction.

        1. That, and they’d stick NIMBY there as well for duration of the project. Along with re-education about the benefits of it.

  10. I don’t know why they decided to place the Transbay Terminal where they did, it’s absolutely central to nothing. A long tunnel to the nearest BART station, it doesn’t align with the new Chinatown line…Regardless, unless there’s a massive infusion of cash from the Federal government, we may not see the totally realized potential for another 20 to 30 years.

    1. New buildings in SOMA has shifted the center of SF’s downtown to the southeast, so it is getting there !

      I agree with your conclusion that federal help is needed to complete this project within a reasonable timeframe.

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