RAB and DTX: A Letter to the S.F. Board of Supervisors

The below letter, which was hand-delivered to the SF Board of Supervisors on September 4, 2018, outlines the damage to San Francisco that would be caused by relocating Caltrain’s 4th and King rail yard to some distant location and/or by delaying the extension of Caltrain into the new SF Terminal. Please feel free to contact any of us if there are questions or a need for discussion.

Dear Supervisors,

It is our understanding that the S.F. Board of Supervisors will shortly be called upon to approve the Department of City Planning’s Rail Alignment Benefit (RAB) Report. As you evaluate it, please consider the following:

The RAB planners have been planning the full build-out of Mission Bay for over four years. They have used up their $1.7 million budget and are now looking for add-on work. Most of the RAB proposals, first revealed by the Chronicle’s Matier and Ross on May 18, 2015 and first publicly presented by RAB on February 23, 2016, have since been quietly dropped. Two remain:

  • The RAB planners still want to relocate Caltrain’s existing train storage yard to a distant and undisclosed location, thereby significantly increasing Caltrain’s operating costs and interfering with regular train service. This proposal is completely unworkable. To ensure an efficient and undisrupted flow of trains in and out of the new SF Terminal it is essential that a north end train staging and storage yard be linked to the new SF Terminal by a short three-track approach section. The best place for the yard is right where it is, either at grade enclosed in an attractive building, or depressed 30 feet to free up the current site for ground level use.
  • Second, the planners still want to shift the main line tracks from the environmentally cleared at- grade location under I-280 to RAB’s proposed multi-billion dollar subway under Pennsylvania Avenue. This would greatly increase the costs of and further delay the already approved Downtown Extension of Caltrain (DTX). Although a tunnel under Pennsylvania may at some point offer benefits it should not be used as a reason for delaying DTX, a project long needed to efficiently connect the South Bay, Peninsula and downtown San Francisco. When trainloads of travelers finally begin arriving at the now empty train level of San Francisco’s new SF Transit Center, they will bring new life to that vast structure and greatly increase Caltrain’s usefulness and value to San Francisco and the Region. Unfortunately the RAB planners do not seem to recognize the overriding importance of creating a high class rail alternative to the continuous flooding San Francisco streets with northbound cars. This is not something that can wait. The Downtown Extenstion of Caltrain (Phase II of the TTC/DTX project) should proceed without further delay. If needed, a Phase III tunnel under Pennsylvania Avenue could be added at some future date.

Instead of pushing up the costs of and unnecessarily delaying DTX, the focus should be on looking for practical opportunities of cutting DTX costs and accelerating the DTX project. It is necessary that the City and County of San Francisco and MTC assume a leadership role in making certain that Caltrain is extended without further delay. If there are questions or a need for additional information we will strive to provide it.

Sincerely yours,

Angelo Figone, for the Transportation Alliance of San Francisco
Bob Feinbaum, for SaveMuni
George Wooding, for the Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods
Gerald Cauthen, for the Bay Area Transportation Working Group
Howard Wong, AIA
Howard Strassner, PE
Michael O’Rourke, for the Transportation Alliance of San Francisco
Paul Dyson, for the Rail Passenger Association of California and Nevada

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