California, Caltrain, High-Speed Rail, Regional Rail, Rincon Hill / Transbay / South of Market, San Francisco

Trans-Beale Terminal

The California High-Speed Rail Authority’s seemingly favorite question — exactly where should high-speed rail terminate in San Francisco? — has again reared its head. By now, we are accustomed to this agency’s shifting moods — like last year, when then-chairman Quentin Kopp opined that the Transbay Transit Center was not really necessary, and that 4th & Townsend was a perfectly suitable high-speed rail terminal. Or like earlier this year, when the CHSRA suddenly demanded significant additional platform capacity at Transbay to support 40-minute dwell times and 12 trains per hour — even while its own ridership projections demonstrate that if such low headways were actually realized, runs would be woefully underutilized.

So what’s the beef now? Rather than employ the downtown extension alignment and station location previously adopted by the Transbay Joint Powers Authority, the CHSRA would instead like to override the TJPA’s previous efforts and study alternative locations for the San Francisco terminus in its project-level EIR/EIS for the San Francisco-San Jose segment. In particular, the CHSRA has set its sight on another terminal to accommodate its exaggerated capacity requirements — the Beale Street terminal, situated parallel to Beale Street, and stretching roughly from Mission Street to Harrison Street. But this is an alternative that was resurrected from the dead. In the 1990s, a handful of potential Caltrain downtown extension alignments were considered. Most of those, including alignments leading to a Beale Street terminal, were rejected as undesirable or infeasible:

Rejected DTX alternative alignments. Courtesy of TJPA.

California has submitted project requests to the U.S. Department of Transportation, including a $400 million request that, if granted, would allow the Transbay Transit Center’s train box to be excavated sooner rather than later, using a “bottom up” construction approach. Transbay, by virtue of its completed environmental documents, is classified as a “ready-to-go” project, eligible for a Track 1 high-speed rail stimulus grant. In just a few weeks, the Federal Railroad Administration will announce the Track 1 projects that it has selected for grants.

On the surface, the CHSRA’s interest in the Beale Street alternative appears to reflect the simple desire to comply with a legal opinion it has obtained (endorsed by Gensler Architects), which stands for the proposition that Transbay will have too few platform tracks, and that the CHSRA is legally required to study the Beale Street alternative. But it does not seem coincidental that the agency’s temper — presumably largely fueled by, or embodied in, its ever-colorful former chairman, Quentin Kopp — flares up at the exact points in time when the TJPA competes with the CHSRA for access to new pots of funding that are being made available for high-speed rail. In November 2008, it was the Proposition 1A bond, and now, it’s the high-speed rail stimulus funding. Given that the FRA will announce its Track 1 selections in the next few weeks, it is perhaps the near-term implication of the legal opinion that explains why the CHSRA has resurrected the Beale Street terminal at this time.

Californians observing this process, as well as most government agencies, believe that the location of San Francisco’s rail terminal has been finalized. The DTX alignment adopted by the TJPA is, after all, long-standing, and it is supported by a Record of Decision from the Federal Transit Administration. But if the CHSRA can introduce a fog of uncertainty by evincing interest in (and carrying out subsequent environmental review of) the Beale Street terminal, then the Transbay Transit Center will lose its air of shovel-readiness and will no longer be a promising candidate for stimulus funds. What the FRA will see is that two key agencies, the TJPA and the CHSRA, cannot even agree on the answer to a simple question like where the shovels should begin digging. That strikes a chord of administrative dissonance, and it may leave the FRA with the impression that Transbay is not ready for prime time. Why, then, would the FRA dignify it with a handsome $400 million award? California’s HSR project has a high profile and is poised to become a national model. If Transbay were not awarded a grant, then surely, given the importance of California HSR, other components of California’s application falling more directly under the CHSRA’s purview would be in a better position to receive funding instead.

And for how much longer must we endure Quentin Kopp’s anti-Transbay/DTX agenda? California voters, when passing Proposition 1A in November 2008, explicitly authorized a high-speed rail line whose northern terminus is the Transbay Transit Center. A Beale Street terminal might be near Transbay; but the length of its platforms would lie orthogonal to the length of the bus station, and it would not strictly be located in Transbay, as called for by voters. The CHSRA’s essentially obstructionist reopening of alternatives also demonstrates an utter lack of respect for a years-long land use planning effort in San Francisco. The Planning Department’s work to date strives to guide the city through the complex process of transforming uniquely valuable, downtown-adjacent former freeway parcels into a living, breathing neighborhood. But that process has operated under the assumption that a significant rail and bus transit hub would eventually be built at Transbay.

Let’s allow decade-old rejected alternatives to rest in peace. San Franciscans, and a majority of Californians, have supported a high-speed train project terminating at Transbay. I do not want to sweep under the carpet, so to speak, the Transit Center’s design flaws. Those are real, albeit distinct from the CHSRA’s pet complaints; and they would ideally be vigorously addressed, rather than weakly justified. But the CHSRA’s last-minute resurrection of Beale Street does a disservice to the high-speed train project it purports to manage. If you happen to be interested in maximizing our chance of securing $400 million of ARRA federal stimulus funds for the Transbay train box — to construct the station from the bottom-up, and to extend commuter and high-speed rail service downtown, preferably within our lifetimes — then it wouldn’t hurt to mention that to the Governor’s office, which will soon send a letter about California’s high-speed rail priorities to Secretary Ray LaHood.



56 thoughts on “Trans-Beale Terminal

  1. I just used your handy link to email Schwarzenegger about my support for securing the $400 million of ARRA federal stimulus funds. It took mere seconds! I urge all Californians to do the same. Thanks, Eric!

    Posted by Californiality | 11 September 2009, 2:41 pm
  2. If I recall correctly, the idea of extending Caltrain to the Transbay Terminal precedes any serious consideration of HSR. The linkage between the two came when HSR was identified as a probable source of finding for the project and the (almost) essential electrification needed to achieve it.

    The idea of extending the commuter rail service (Caltrain) to the Financial District remains a sound one. However, the case for HSR at the Transbay is much less obvious. The plans for the terminal did not initially anticipate HSR or any other inter-city type rail services and the idea of shoe horning them into a commuter facility in the financial district goes against experience elsewhere. The highly peaked traffic flows and economic activity that characterise financial zones make it, a least, a lower priority to serve them with inter-city services. London, New York, Paris do not have their major stations in the financial districts. Not that there would not be benefits, but space and access to other areas have priority. The new HSR station at Stratford (London), built to access the Docklands/Canary Wharf financial district will not be served by Eurostar trains to Europe, but only domestic commuter services. Commuter services can relegated to the basement, but longer distance train should and do need something better.

    Space at the Transbay site is limited and while ‘close’ to BART it remains isolated. After the evening commute or a weekends the area is dead. The present Caltrain station not only has much space, but it is in an increasingly vibrant area and with potentially excellent transit connections to other parts of San Francisco. Here a real station could be built, serving commuters to the Union Square/Chinatown/Fisherman’s Wharf areas, as well being a Grand Terminus for HSR. It’s only flaw is BART access to the East Bay. An extension of AC Transit bus services to 4th and King, would be a partial solution, but a BART spur or loop would be needed at some point. Not cheap, but cheap is how I’d describe the plans for HSR at the Transbay.

    Posted by Mike Jones | 12 September 2009, 8:14 pm
  3. Hi Mike, yes, a commuter rail DTX was conceived at first, and then as HSR plans moved beyond dreams and brainstorms, it evolved into a commuter/intercity rail station. To some extent, Caltrain has been ‘kicked out’ of this space, since only 1 of 3 platforms at Transbay are to be given for Caltrain use, which may necessitate use of 4th/King as a terminal for many runs in any case (at least, if you believe CHSRA’s demands).

    Maintaining 4th & King as the SF terminal has its drawbacks as well. Prop 1A requires Transbay to be the northern terminus, and CHSRA’s financial and ridership figures assume a Transbay station, which is projected to attract a significantly higher ridership than Mission Bay. 4th/King’s distance from BART isn’t actually an insurmountable issue, since Millbrae (which will be an HSR stop) could be billed as the best transfer point to the East Bay.

    Mission Bay is, as you remark, becoming a destination in its own right, and that will no doubt continue as UCSF and the surrounding neighborhood continue to develop. But downtown still attracts more riders. FiDi has the highest concentration of jobs in the Bay Area; and to the extent HSR becomes a tool for long-distance commuters, businesspeople, etc., 1st/Mission is the more convenient location. The area is “dead” after hours for now, but it will become more active as a significant residential population accumulates in the Transbay/Rincon Hill neighborhood. I’m also a bit worried about the operational implications of creating a transit “pressure cooker” at 4th/King, and Muni’s capacity to accommodate a significantly larger ridership market between Mission Bay and Downtown. Muni’s 1- and 2-car Bredas aren’t quite the NY subway, Central Subway or no.

    That said, I agree that the current design and track layout for Transbay aren’t perfect, nor do they live up to superior examples abroad. First, picturing a mental image of European rail terminals, and then picturing a mental image of CAHSR rolling to a stop in the Transbay basement, and… well, you get the picture.

    Posted by Eric | 12 September 2009, 9:28 pm
  4. Actually back in 1994, early plans were made with HSR in mind. That’s 14 years before the Prop 1A vote.

    The plans were revised a number of times mostly to accommodate HSR. The 2001 plan uses a different alignment than the 1997 plan because of HSR. Drawings from 2001 included HSR trains.

    The last minute Beale advocacy is not done in good faith, when the same folks had a number of chance to comment in the past and they didn’t. They want the project not to get that $400 million fund.

    A 4th and King HSR terminal is a terrible idea. Simply the feeder transit service is not sufficient. Eric is correct that 1 or 2 car unreliable Muni trains will not be enough. The streets will also be congested as well, especially when there’s baseball.

    Transbay provides better feeder connection anywhere in the Bay Area, not just the East Bay but the North Bay connection also. It is just better access to anywhere all around.

    When you think about it, Transbay would six tracks for Caltrain/HSR, but also has six tracks worth of feeder service on Market Street. (BART + Muni). 4th & King could have 12 tracks, but guest what, it only has two tracks worth of feeder service (T-Third and N-Judah).

    There’s a false notion that Mission Bay development would somehow make the Caltrain/HSR downtown access unnecessary. But there’s no really solid logic to justify that.

    From a pure operational standpoint, more tracks mean more flexibility (you could have a long layover for deep train cleaning, etc), but Transbay is valuable real estate, and having a different operational procedure could speed up throughput in constrained spaces. The issue is the ridership and transportation benefits would make whatever operational changes worthwhile. I certainly think so.

    Posted by Andy Chow | 12 September 2009, 10:49 pm
  5. The notion of a downtown Caltrain extension existed before the CHSR Commission was formed. The commission was formed quite early, so HSR has been discussed for a long time in connection with even this extension, but at that time it was more or less a brainstorm. It was most meaningful to discuss this as a commuter rail alignment with provision for future high speed rail, as in Prop H. HSR for the DTX was kept “in mind” but in a very general, not particularly rigorous way. It was basically a pipe dream, and fine-tuned changes have been made since then as HSR has emerged as more of a certainty. One always had to maintain the very real possibility that the DTX, if it even happened, would remain a commuter rail alignment, really even up till 2008. There’s also been an accordant shift in emphasis from Caltrain to high-speed rail. A “Caltrain extension compatible with high-speed rail” has transformed into a “high-speed rail terminus that Caltrain will use.”

    Posted by Eric | 12 September 2009, 11:15 pm
  6. To some extent, though, this lies to the side of the main point of this post. Andy is correct that raising Beale Street at the last minute has not been done in good faith. Carried out under the premise that HSR needs more platform tracks, this is really about depriving Transbay of the $400 million of stimulus funds that it was otherwise pretty well-positioned to receive. The word “Transbay” has literally smothered CHSRA documentation to date. And now, three weeks before Track 1 grants are announced, CHSRA claims to be interested in Beale Street? The legal opinion “proving” that CEQA requires that Beale be studied is meant to conceal this motive.

    Posted by Eric | 12 September 2009, 11:40 pm
  7. This is what you get when you have an agency led by politicians and managed by consultants. I wouldn’t worry too much about it though, it’s not like they’re about to start building HSR. They haven’t even finished their environmental studies yet, nor lined up significant funding (The state bond atuhorization requires outside funding before the Authority gets the money, don’t they?). As for how long we’ll have to endure Quentin Kopp’s agenda? My guess is until he dies, which shouldn’t be too far off given that he’s already 81. Diridon and Morshed aren’t exactly young either, and there’s a chance of the project either dying or changing very significantly with one or more of those three gone.

    Posted by anonymous | 13 September 2009, 10:46 pm
  8. Agree with anonymous. Before reading those comments, I was wondering how old Kopp was.

    It seems like we just can’t get things right in this country.

    Posted by Andy K | 14 September 2009, 10:57 am
  9. The question about Kopp was actually meant to be rhetorical, just to set up the rest of the paragraph. But given his regular involvement in local transportation issues, that’s probably right.

    Posted by Eric | 14 September 2009, 11:00 am
  10. I’m not really clear what’s so bad about Beale St. It actually seems a better location for the actual train station than the TTT basement. It’s closer to BART, meaining access for east bay people will be much improved. It’s still very close to TTT so access from there won’t be negatively impacted. It reduces the curve radius, and the number of curves, improving operations for the trains. If the $400 million is spent and it turns out causing the train portion of the TTT to be significantly worsened, then I’d rather have that money not be spent.

    I understand the argument about it not being in good faith, but you could look at it from the other side of the debate, it seems the TTT has been designed as a vanity project, and now that HSR is approved, they are trying to stuff it in to the existing plans in order to get a chunk of fed money. HSR has only recently gone from pipe dream to a real project, I would rather take a little longer and get it right.

    You mentioned the problems with the Transit Center’s design flaws, which are pretty serious too me, and by getting the federal money and building without addressing those flaws, we will be stuck with them for the next 100 years.

    Posted by lyqwyd | 14 September 2009, 1:55 pm
  11. getting americans out of their cars (or jets) and onto a train is a matter of CONVENIENCE.

    the only location that would make HSR truly CONVENIENT is to have it at the transbay terminal imho.

    i too just emailed ahnold to let him know my feelings.

    Posted by andy | 14 September 2009, 3:36 pm
  12. The Beale alternative is only slighlty closer for the few passengers who arrive in trains cars closest to the Mission Street to the Embarcadero BART. The Transbay Terminal is much closer to Montgomery BART for all passengers in the western-most cars and Embarcadero BART for most passengers on the eastern-most cars. Additionally, the Beale alignment will require an extra 4 football fields for many passegers to traverse.

    Also, it should be noted taht the entire Transbay redevelopment project will fall apart (years and years of work) because the Beale alternative will require three full city blocks that are currently slated for dense development (and building heights are severely limited over a train station for those that thing we can just build over it later). Of course a huge apartment complex will need to be destroyed and we don’t even know how well this would work given the Bay Bridge anchor.

    The Beale Alignment is way worse for connectivity two four BART lines and 5 Muni Metro lines and making a good connection to those 9 subway train lines is very important to the success of the HSR project.

    This is pure political shinanigans of the worst kind. It does seem like we just cant’ move forward in any significant way in this society. Kopp is a real trouble maker who doesn’t care a rat’s ass about what the people want and what the law says is the legal terminal for this project.

    Posted by Dan | 14 September 2009, 4:42 pm
  13. The Trans-Beale concept might have some value in using the TTC train box for Caltrain only. Commuter trains would skirt the HSR terminal (30 feet of width will do) and make a left into the TTC basement, with platforms a lot shorter than 400 meters. The total amount of curvature would be the same.

    With that additional terminal capacity (i.e. more platform tracks, wider curves, a properly designed throat interlocking), you could turn 4th & King into a light maintenance and storage yard with very short (efficient) non-revenue movements. Most importantly, these would occur entirely on the SF side of tunnels 1 through 4, possibly relieving the need for all those expensive four-track tunnels proposed by the HSR consultants. The need for those is already debatable since all trains traverse the SF approach with homogeneous speeds, resulting in very high capacity on just two tracks.

    As for undoing years of work, tough noogies. Un-work (150m curves, conflict-galore station throat) is far worse than nothing at all, and I’m glad somebody is slapping the TJPA out of their complacency… I mean, they seem more concerned about public art than designing a functioning rail station!

    Posted by Clem | 14 September 2009, 10:41 pm
  14. Clem, I agree that it’s unfortunate that TJPA has been stubborn about reevaluating the station throat and the proposed over-tracked tunnels to “compensate.” Nor does it appear otherwise, as of a conversation from a few days ago. That said, Kopp’s intentions here are not benevolent ones. If he were truly concerned with technical excellence and efficiency, we wouldn’t be hearing about a “need” to, at great expense, built a below-grade rail yard at Transbay for HSR. Unfortunately, when it comes to transit expansion in the Bay Area, I’ve just about given up on getting out planning and engineering that’s better than mediocre. Invariably, administrative stubbornness from someone, with respect to something, will prevail — be it TJPA, CHSRA, VTA, BART, SFMTA…

    I mean, they seem more concerned about public art than designing a functioning rail station!
    Not unusual in San Francisco, as it turns out. See: Central Subway.

    The Trans-Beale concept might have some value in using the TTC train box for Caltrain only.
    To the extent that the Trans-Beale concept jeopardizes Track 1 HSR funds for the train box, this assumes that funding for the train box comes from some other as yet undisclosed source.

    By the way, I heard you introduced at the Palo Alto forum– sorry we didn’t get a chance to chat.

    Posted by Eric | 14 September 2009, 10:54 pm
  15. The whole Beale thing is nothing but pure distraction. The intent is not to have a better terminal, but have no downtown terminal at all. If people like Clem is interested HSR being done right, Clem should never endorse this.

    If that $400 million is gone, CAHSRA isn’t going to cough up additional billions for a station at Beale. Kopp is OK with 4th & King to protect the BART to SFO failure. HSR will not be better off.

    TBT may not be perfect from an engineering prospective, but I don’t think travels should be denied access into downtown because some arm-chair “engineers” thinks that no downtown station is better at all.

    If we want better engineering, we need to get over the politics first.

    Posted by Andy Chow | 14 September 2009, 11:54 pm
  16. TTB is too small ..3 platforms and 6 tracks..down from 5/10 at 4th and King? and this is without HSR
    A loop track is needed or we are going to a have another Muni Embarcadero station mess on our hands then something will have to no Caltrain service into TTB or another HSR station. The Beale street option should be looked at as a back up/future expansion.

    Posted by Glen | 15 September 2009, 7:44 am
  17. Is it worth the daily inconvenience for thousands of passengers just because TBT has fewer tracks? Of course this come from self-proclaim arm-chair “engineers” siding with the misguided Quentin Kopp trying to kill this project. Of course they never bother to explain how the Muni line could not to get people in and out of 4th & King.

    No matter how many tracks at 4th & King on the Caltrain side, there are two tracks going to 4th & King on the Muni Metro, served by the N and the infrequent T lines.

    Again, these “engineers” are deluding themselves that Beale is somehow a serious alternative. It is just a trojan horse in Kopp’s repeated attempt to kill any downtown HSR terminal.

    Posted by Andy Chow | 15 September 2009, 10:24 am
  18. A HSR terminus at 4th & King does not preclude a Transbay Terminal extension for Caltrain. However, apparently, extending HSR to the Transbay will exclude some Caltrain services.

    Space is the biggest benefit that the existing Caltrain station site brings, but with the completion of the Central Subway and its potential connection to the Geary corridor it would be well connected. 4th & King would also permit a new direct BART line that could connect the East Bay to all the downtown stations and THEN the HSR terminal. The Transbay site will always have that one block disconnect with BART.

    Posted by Mike Jones | 15 September 2009, 11:03 am
  19. according to the map, transbay is 1.5 blocks from any BART station, whereas a Beale station could pretty much connect directly with Montgomery BART, how is this less convenient for anybody riding BART or MUNI? Even if you were originally planning on getting off at Powell, going to Montgomery is an extra 2 minutes, versus a 5-10 minute walk to the TTT.

    The current configuration is not just non-optimal, it is actively bad, it puts constraints on the entire HSR system with curves that are too tight for certain trainsets, that also result in a much slower approach to the station.

    Posted by lyqwyd | 15 September 2009, 12:56 pm
  20. @Andy, whatever the motives involved here, a bad project is worse than no project at all. It’s time for the TJPA to stop gilding the lily and get back to the drawing board. If they lose access to $400M of MY tax dollars, so be it. I want them spent wisely.

    Posted by Clem | 15 September 2009, 1:04 pm
  21. It’s funny (or perhaps sad) that this discussion of Transbay Terminal replacement did not include any mention of actual transbay service (other than AC transit buses) until Mike Jones posted his comment a couple hours ago. What happened to foresight in transportation planning? A good terminal design would include provisions (or at least not make it impossible) for future through service.

    A useful analogue (albeit from a very different city) is New York’s 63rd Street tunnel. Planned in 1963 and completed in 1985, the four-bore tunnel comprised two subway tracks stacked on top of two commuter railroad tracks (think BART on top of HSR or vice versa). The subway tracks didn’t move a lot of passengers until connected to the Queens Boulevard line in 2001, relieving congestion in the parallel 53rd Street tunnel (think current Transbay Tube). If completed on schedule, the ongoing East Side Access project will bring Long Island Rail Road service into Grand Central station in 2016, more than half a century after planning started. Still, not including these provisions for future connections in the original vision would have severely limited its future value.

    Given that we don’t expect to see a second Transbay Tube for another few decades, shouldn’t now be the time we start thinking about the Bay Area’s version of the 63rd Street tunnel?

    Posted by martindelaware | 15 September 2009, 1:25 pm
  22. martindelaware: It’s funny (or perhaps sad) that this discussion of Transbay Terminal replacement did not include any mention of actual transbay service…

    Are you referring to Beale Street, or to the currently planned alignment? For the current alignment, they’ve been considering an eventual transbay extension throughout, including for the recent adjustments made to HSR’s tangent platform lengths. As for Beale Street, the Gensler Architects opinion of course states a transbay connection is not foreclosed.

    I would side with “sad” — though I don’t think it’s surprising that no one has explicitly mentioned the transbay connection in this context. It’s decades away, after all, and the issue here (related to stimulus funding) is very immediate in nature.

    lyqwyd:The current configuration is not just non-optimal, it is actively bad, it puts constraints on the entire HSR system with curves that are too tight for certain trainsets, that also result in a much slower approach to the station.

    I’m not clear on the precise design development changes that the engineers have been working on with respect to track geometry, but the curve radii TJPA now cites as of very recently for the DTX are longer than the number ranges that they have cited in previous years, such that use of certain trainsets would not be restricted, though there were such restrictions with the figures that were previously provided. FWIW I haven’t had the chance to verify that in more detail myself yet.

    Clem:If they lose access to $400M of MY tax dollars, so be it. I want them spent wisely.
    If only we saw so much wrath and indignation from the greater Bay Area for the order of magnitude more expensive, $7.6 Billion-with-a-B-and-climbing, BART extension to San Jose.

    Posted by Eric | 15 September 2009, 2:36 pm
  23. persons worried by a six track terminal for electric commuter rail should look at Metra (formerly Illinois Central) Electric in Chicago. They handle thousands of riders everyday with a three track throat. (which also handles n inter city electric service) A simple loop arrangement forTransbay would boost throughput such that theycould easily accomodate HSR. The point of course is to have all six tracks/three platforms available as needed for ANY of the trains–think Penn Station NY where ATK, New Jersey Transit, and Long Island all use whichever track is available in a pinch. As to Kopp nothing polite applies.

    Posted by david vartanoff | 15 September 2009, 3:55 pm
  24. Well, the loop option has been off the table. And the current specifications for platform height and length prevent platform tracks from being interchangeable.

    Posted by Eric | 15 September 2009, 4:29 pm
  25. Well the different platform heights is pure stupidity, and TJPA has been saying that for years but Caltrain and CAHSRA are not listening. I guess Clem and lyqwyd can blame the TJPA for it anyway.

    As for killing the project so we can restudy the 1994, 1997, and 2004 EIS/EIRs that all found Main/Beale infeasible… Wow, you guys are just wow… I’m lost for words.

    I guess you really what HSR and Caltrain to never come downtown. Why not try actually you know, picking up the phone and meeting with the TJPA engineers instead? You might find it informative and productive.

    Posted by Brian | 15 September 2009, 5:00 pm
  26. Actually the loop is still on the table, according to Mr. Beck of the TJPA. It just is not being funded anytime soon so they are not preparing construction documents for it now. Just like the Transbay connection, just because it is not in the headlines does mean it is off the radar. TJPA is still looking to combine both in the very long term, just not now and with stimulus funds.

    Posted by Brian | 15 September 2009, 5:04 pm
  27. I understand that TJPA keeps the loop at the back of their collective minds, as they do an eventual second tube, but it would be far-fetched to say a transbay connection is “on the table” at this time. It’s not on our tables — maybe our grandchildrens’ tables. Given how much of this remains unfunded as of yet, it seems most worthwhile to discuss the features for which TJPA is actually trying to prioritize funding, which, at least right now, is not the loop. That’s what I meant by “off the table.”

    Posted by Eric | 15 September 2009, 7:45 pm
  28. The reality is politics play a major role, and that armchair engineers cannot and will not be able to insert positive influences on transbay unless the project is funded. If this project loses the money, it ain’t going to come back. There may be money for bad projects like BART extensions, but it would be even harder for all of us here trying to insert positive influences there.

    Posted by Andy Chow | 15 September 2009, 9:16 pm
  29. What is driving this project is that UGLY 1400 foot thing paying for this grand BUS station..WE are rebuilding the 1965 Penn Station right here!! dont any of you people SEE this??

    Posted by Glen | 16 September 2009, 12:03 am
  30. Glen, it’s no secret that the tower is being used to finance the transit center — though I dare to say that many of us are not overly perturbed by the concept of a taller building downtown. Also, Planning has looked at a tower closer to 1000 feet height, in light of shadows cast on parks and squares in and around downtown.

    Posted by Eric | 16 September 2009, 8:17 am
  31. Jsut build it as planned and be done with it. If people keep arguing about every inch of this hsr project we will still be sitting here in 2250 wondering when the first train will run. Too many chiefs and not enough indians if you ask me. Everybody has an opinion. As for the curves, so what as long as the trains can get in and out. as for capacity. Not every train has to term at tbt. some can term at san jose some can term at 4th, and some can term at tbt. Not every caltrain has to proceed all the way to tbt either. there are people for whom 4th is a better destination.

    Posted by jt | 16 September 2009, 9:44 am
  32. The HSR demands seem lazy from an operational standpoint. In the 1980s Germany — which has a lot of stub end stations — was scheduling one minute turnaround at those stations, and that’s with locomotive-hauled trains. In other words, they pulled a train into the station, uncoupled the front locomotive, coupled a second locomotive onto the back, and pulled back out in the opposite direction in 60 seconds. CHSR needs 40 minutes to turn around a train with a driving cab on both ends?

    Posted by intermodality | 16 September 2009, 10:12 am
  33. no, having many of the trains either CT or HSR terminate short of Downtown is crippling the system from the get go. I reiterate that the track/platform/catenary MUST be compatible so that any train can be on any track. Properly managed cleaners, stockers can ‘turn’ a train very quickly so there can be adequate throughput.

    Posted by david vartanoff | 16 September 2009, 10:12 am
  34. Thank you to all who are refuting the notion that TBT is somehow not a good project. Yes, it is true to the site is constrained somewhat by tall building that are to big to remove. What is not true is the TJPA is somehow diabolically unwilling to design proper turning radii. They are dealing with an urban environment with the aforementioned constraints. However, they have managed to meet and somewhat exceed commonly acceptable turning radii based on international standards. These types of constraints are common around the world in dense environments and they are dealt with. So yes, to operate the TBT terminal will require good management in terms of turn around time. And yes, trains may have to slow down a bit as they approach the terminal than if the radii was a bit wider. But so what? The train is just about to arrive at the station anyway where it must stop. Unfortunately, it appears that many worry so much about perfect designs (that are only possible in a green field where there are no people), that they end up opposing a great project in terms of connectivity.

    Also, the Beale street alternative will not connect directly to a BART station unless several highrises are blown away between Market and Howard. The map is misleading. Trains would only be able to go just north of Howard Street and then would run into a massive high rise building. And as I mentioned before, most riders would be gettting off the train well south of that point due to the north-south configuration of the beale street alternative.

    Finally, I want to urge people to think a little more critically about the politics going on here. It is very transparent. Kopp said in February he wanted HSR to stop at 4th and King. Later, realizing that wasn’t flyng, he suddenly created massive new demands for TBT (of which he said he doesn’t support). Finally at the 11th hour, he resurrects an alternative that has long been dead. Doesn’t pass the smell test. It is smoke and mirrors to kill TBT. Please don’t give credence to the notion that the TJPA is the problem here when Kopp explicity said in public he against the train going TBT.

    The project is sound and we need to stop falling for these bogus arguments generated from the TBT-hating Kopp.

    Posted by Dan | 16 September 2009, 11:08 am
  35. Dan, go read the Transbay Blog article about the TTT’s problems:

    nothing has been fixed, although the curve radius being too tight for certain trainsets might have been resolved. I hope it has, at least that would be a little progress on the many problems with the current design of the TTT.

    Beale street intersects directly with Market, and there are BART entrances to both sides of Beale, so yes, the HSR stop could interface directly with the BART station if the HSR station went up to market. The station could be built entirely under Beale without knocking down any buildings.

    I think a lot of people are looking at the whole problem the wrong way. The only reason to rebuild the terminal is for HSR and Caltrain, otherwise it’s just a multi-billion dollar bus station. Therefore the terminal should be built to best support HSR & Caltrain.

    Nobody has yet explained why the train station needs to be in the basement of the TTT. It can still interface quite well with the TTT by being at the end of it.

    I agree that there’s no need to have trains wait 40 minutes in the station to be reprovisioned, but that’s not the discussion at hand.

    Posted by lyqwyd | 16 September 2009, 12:12 pm
  36. LOL at all the frantic wails of doom about Beale vs. TBT. A Beale station would literally be right across the street from the TBT! An overhead or underground pedestrian passage would effectively make it a single facility, similar to London’s St. Pancras/King’s Cross/metro interchange. Ridership will survive walking a whole extra minute to the bus, especially since BART, MUNI, and the ferries would each be a similar minute closer.

    Posted by Forest | 16 September 2009, 1:00 pm
  37. The “infelicities” of the DTX can be resolved within the scope of its current routing, without reopening an alternative that has already been eliminated, and which calls for building an underground rail yard abutting a Bay Bridge anchorage.

    Posted by Eric | 16 September 2009, 3:12 pm
  38. lyqwyd, are you aware that the the whole “12 tracks or bust!” things was total bull and the CA HSR Authority agreed to drop it months ago right?

    Are you also aware that in the CA HSR Authority 2008 EIS/EIR states they want to share 6 tracks and 3 platforms with Caltrain using the TJPA design? It is there in black and white on their official documents.

    You state: “Nobody has yet explained why the train station needs to be in the basement of the TTT. It can still interface quite well with the TTT by being at the end of it.”

    Actually four or five different EIS/EIRs and other studies, done over 15 years, have explained why already. I would suggest you read those first.

    – The “original” Beale street just in the street R-o-w would take two levels to fit 6 tracks no less 12.
    – The”new” Main/Beale would take up three or more entire blocks between Beale and Main. Goodbye redevelopment potential = goodbye local funding to build the terminal = nothing gets built.
    – Both would dig under/through the Bay Bridge anchorage. But who needs that bridge to stay up anyhow, right?

    Posted by Brian | 16 September 2009, 5:09 pm
  39. Brian, are you aware that being snide is not a legitimate substitute for providing a valid argument?

    EIRs done by whom? Apparently not the CHSRA since they say other alternatives must be studied. Many parties interested in the HSR project have also pointed out major flaws in the TTT design. Including the author of this blog.

    If you’ve read those previous EIRs and you think they explain why Beale is a non-option, you should be able to explain those reasons here.

    So what if the Beale station takes two levels? If you think that’s unacceptable then explain why.

    I don’t really care if the TTT gets rebuilt, I just care that Caltrain & HSR get a well functioning station, Make the temporary Transbay BUS terminal permanent and there will be billions for a great TRAIN station on Beale.

    “Both would dig under/through the Bay Bridge anchorage” That’s just total BS, the tracks would go near the anchorage, not under/through.

    Posted by lyqwyd | 16 September 2009, 9:22 pm
  40. Starting over after 15 years of planning will result in no functioning station at all. At some point society makes decisions, and things must move forward, or nothing gets done.

    BTW,even if anti-TTT people are successful, it will not stop the high rise development on the blocks required for the Beale alternative, thereby precluding the Beale alternative already. The CHSRA will not be able to undo all the complex negotiations that have already taken place regarding the development around the TTT.

    Posted by Dan | 16 September 2009, 9:31 pm
  41. being pro-Beale alternative is not anti-TTT, it’s just anti forcing the train station into the basement of the TTT when there might be better options. It’s pro improving HSR & Caltrain by getting them closer to where people are trying to go.

    As I said before a Beale train station can work just fine with TTT since Beale St is adjacent to one end of the TTT.

    Posted by lyqwyd | 16 September 2009, 9:57 pm
  42. Transbay and DTX are simply appallingly badly designed/engineered projects and anything that can be done to throw a spanner in the works can’t hurt.

    Look at it this way: if things go ahead the wasy they’re “designed” we’re guaranteed to be screwed for decades to come by billions of dollars wasted on train station that doesn’t work and can’t be retrofitted to work; while if things go tits up then at least there’s a tiny non-zero chance that something better could possibly happen.

    I’ll take infinitesimal non-zero over zero.

    The catastrophic incompetence of the TJPA and its consultants and contractors (especially Parsons Transportation Group, who are responsible for the rail disaster) means that most Caltrain service will not operate to Transbay — quite unlike what we worked for, voted for, and were promised for a Caltrain Downtown Extension.

    They’re NOT building a Caltrain station in any meaningful sense. Why should anybody support them?

    And even for those trains that do reach basement of the the “Slap a Park on that Pig” Big Bus Station in the Sky, the passenger ciculation from the platforms to and from surface destinations is so completely and deeply and unnecessarily compromised that, together with the low running speeds and designed-in train conflict delays of the track route, it is easy to imagine much of the time advantage of this $4bn catasrophe disappearing altogether.

    So it Quetin wants to take his mythical 8 ot 12 or 200 trains per hour and put them in some mythical station — fine. The worst that can happen is that Caltrain runs on the Caltrain downtown extension.

    The best that can happen is that somebody blows up the Transbay Joint Powers Authority, kills the utterly inept and unworkable and amateur “architecture” and “engineering” of the TTT, and some adults (independent of corrupt Kopp and his henchmen) get a chance to do the simple and obvious things that can be done to make the train line and train station work for trains and train passengers.

    But pretending that the inept losers of the TJPA consultancies have done anything like competent alternatives analysis, design or engineering of anything associated with the extension, and that we should all just sing along and support the squandering of $4 billion on an edifice that can’t work as a train station because, well, we can’t turn back, is crazy.

    The TJPA staff have taken us all for a ride for years, promising “just help us get over this hurdle and we can fix the problems later.” They were lying then, and they’re lying this time. It’s all about landing the cash, not building something of any use.

    Bad projects actively drive out good ones, and shouldn’t be supported.

    Posted by Richard Mlynarik | 16 September 2009, 10:01 pm
  43. While it may be tempting to take sides in this TJPA v. CHSRA power struggle, as I see commenters doing here, the fact of the matter is that both agencies are responsible for the current mess.

    The inefficiencies inherent to the DTX LPA, with its three-track tunnel under 2nd St and capacity-constraining throat, have been clearly apparent for awhile for anyone who has bothered to look. It is frustrating that TJPA has not taken steps to correct those deficiencies, which it could do within the DTX routing it has already adopted.

    However, folks should not rush forward with arms outstretched toward the CHSRA’s “alternatives.” They have not been offered for altruistic or even good reasons. The CHSRA’s projected “operating plan” is not based in a meaningful or rational way on operations elsewhere in the world, or even on its own numbers. If Kopp and the CHSRA were truly interested in a successful downtown extension, their reaction to the events of the past several months would have been different. CHSRA has introduced problems and struggle, not solutions.

    Sorry, but when you get down to it, both of these agencies have misbehaved, and neither has successfully served the public interest recently. That they carry themselves in this manner is a manifest injustice to one of the most important transportation and land use planning projects currently underway in the United States.

    Posted by Eric | 16 September 2009, 10:24 pm
  44. Eric, I definitely agree that both agencies are responsible for the problems going on with the transbay terminal, I also agree that they have not offered an altruistic alternative, but I do think it’s a good alternative, and very possibly significantly better than the station being immediately below the terminal.

    Fewer curves, higher radius curves, integration with a BART station, closer to financial district, those are significant benefits in my mind.

    Posted by lyqwyd | 17 September 2009, 9:17 am
  45. lyqwyd: Direct integration with BART isn’t necessarily easier with the Beale Street station because the northern end of the Beale Street station would be south of the TTC. And the far end would be down by Harrison, which is indeed far removed from the Market Street transit spine for anyone riding the train near the tail end. And it’s also quite a hike for a transfer to the far side of the TTC.

    Moreover, curves are, by far, not the only engineering issue that is relevant, though that particular issue has attracted a lot of attention. You, and others, should be skeptical of this until you know more about it, and at this point, we know very little — except that it would be more expensive than Transbay, and that similar proposals have already been reviewed and eliminated years ago.

    A word of caution for transit enthusiasts: there is always a danger in judging a transit line based on how attractive it looks when drawn on a map. The Central Subway should be enough to tell you that. At this stage, that is all CHSRA has done.

    Posted by Eric | 17 September 2009, 9:47 am
  46. Eric, I could be interpreting this wrongly (I checked google street view), but Beale at Market has BART Entrances within about half a block from Beale on both sides, which to me implies that Beale intersects with the BART station. If that is correct, then a train station that goes up to market would provide a direct connection to the BART station.

    Tight curves most certainly reduce the max speed a train can achieve. A tighter curve also results in higher wheel screech and higher wear on the wheels and track resulting in higher maintenance costs and/or more noise on the rest of the line due to more wheel imperfections. Beale most definitely has fewer degrees of turning (half of the TBT station), and very likely has significantly looser curves. One can argue the importance of these issues, but Beale is clearly superior in this regard.

    “A word of caution for transit enthusiasts: there is always a danger in judging a transit line based on how attractive it looks when drawn on a map.” This applies just as much to the insistence that the train station goes directly below.

    It seems to me we are putting the cart before the horse, the HSR alignment should be designed for maximum benefit, then the station should be sited to best support that, but right now it seems like the priority is the TBT, and then shoving the train station wherever the TBT wants it. Everything I’ve heard and read, including from this blog, has shown some serious flaws in the TBT with regard to the train station.

    I love the design of the TBT, and would love to see it built, but not at the expense of an effective HSR system.

    Posted by lyqwyd | 17 September 2009, 11:20 am
  47. lyqwyd: Your understanding of the placement of the Embarcadero BART/Muni station is correct, but the Gensler opinion doesn’t propose a station that goes up to Market Street. It proposes a station that goes no further than midway between Mission and Howard, with the south end at Harrison. The above map (in the post) documents older alternatives, but not the precise alternative at issue here. The connection from the Gensler proposal to Embarcadero station is therefore not direct. Both Beale Street and TTC will require an underground pedestrian connection to the Market Street spine. The TTC, however, is oriented parallel to Market Street, so no rider is too far from Market or the bus bays in the upper levels of the terminal. With Beale Street, many passengers will have a significant walk to either Market Street or the TTC bus bays.

    The issues posed by curves are well established, but they also aren’t unprecedented and are sometimes dictated by the urban environment. The TJPA has recently made progress on at least that issue, though so far hasn’t moved forward on the capacity constraints of the station throat. My basic point is that when considering an entirely new alignment like Beale Street, it’s premature to focus in on one or two “pet issues.” One must consider the whole package. There is much more that goes into the question of “feasibility” than curve radii. Remember that the reason why we’re now focused on curve radii with respect to TTC is because the TTC has already been cleared for a long list of other concerns. Beale Street alternatives were eliminated years ago when weighed against the TTC on those same threshold considerations. If the CHSRA seriously wants to go forward with this Beale Street alignment — a separate assumption, on which CHSRA’s behavior to date casts significant doubt — it has the burden of overcoming that previous analysis.

    Posted by Eric | 17 September 2009, 11:39 am
  48. Does anybody have any idea WHY Kopp is trying to derail the Trandbay Term.? Obviously there is politics here. I’m trying to understand the subtext of this fight.

    Posted by Missiondweller | 17 September 2009, 12:18 pm
  49. “the Gensler opinion doesn’t propose a station that goes up to Market Street. It proposes a station that goes no further than midway between Mission and Howard, with the south end at Harrison.”

    Ah ha! Now that is a good argument against a Beale alternative! Much of my support is based on a much better connection to BART, but if the alternative they are suggesting does no better, and perhaps worse, then I retract my support for it.

    Posted by lyqwyd | 17 September 2009, 12:27 pm
  50. The rumour as to why Kopp is trying to stop the TJPA is that one of his former mentees (I forget her name) is now working for the TJPA and that she turned on him at some point in the past – possibly over the BART to SFO. I forget the exact details, sorry

    Posted by Dave | 18 September 2009, 5:00 pm
  51. Another Machiavellian fact: the Trans-Beale concept would require demolition of the high-rise at 201 Mission, which houses the TJPA offices.

    Posted by Clem | 18 September 2009, 9:38 pm
  52. Kopp says the developer for the TBT has withdrawn from the project due to market conditions.

    I don’t see anything about this. What is he talking about?

    Posted by looking on | 20 September 2009, 6:14 pm


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