Caltrain Extension (DTX)…. Side-tracked…. Again

Instead of moving the project forward, the Region backpedals. The recently-formed “Executive Steering Committee” is comprised of staff representatives from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), Transbay Joint Powers Authority, SF County Transportation Authority, SF Mayor’s Office, Peninsula Joint Powers Authority (Caltrain) and the California High Speed Rail Authority. questionsThey and their consultants have returned to reviewing such long-settled matters as the routing of the extension, an ill-conceived and unneeded Pennsylvania Avenue subway, the number of tracks leading into the Salesforce Transit Center (already studied and resolved twice) and the possible interface in the distant future between the Salesforce terminal and a second subaqueous rail tube, if one is ever built.

All this for a project approved by all relevant local, regional, State and federal agencies and jurisdictions over 12 years ago that received its State and federal environmental clearance in 2009.

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Unscrambling Politically-Inspired Entanglements

As reported in the May 22, 2018 BATWG Newsletter (click on Newsletter Archive in www.batwgblog.com), the Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority has developed a creative and forward-looking plan that would cut over 20 minutes off the time it now takes a Capitol Corridor train to travel between Oakland Jack London Square and San Jose’s Diridon Station. See https://www.southbayconnect.com/

The Capitol Corridor system affords a comfortable and reliable way of getting from Auburn via Sacramento, Davis, Martinez, Richmond, Oakland and Newark all the way into Silicon Valley. However, Capitol Corridor trains are currently detoured from the main Coast Starlight route through eastern Hayward and Union City and then along 5 miles of east-west track to rejoin the main line in Newark and for the remainder of the trip to Silicon Valley. Since the East Hayward/Union City route closely parallels BART the detour never did make much sense. And now, with BART being extended through downtown San Jose and all the way to the Diridon Station, it makes even less sense.

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SFMTA: From One Hole Right into Another

SFMTA has finally realized that trying to push 43 short Muni Metro trains an hour through the subway is…and always has been…absurdly unworkable. So now it’s decided to cut back to a more reasonable 20 to 25 trains an hour. Fully automated coupling of the K’s to the M’s at St. Francis Circle and of the J’s to the N’s at the Duboce Portal would achieve this objective by allowing for fewer but longer J/N K/M, N and shuttle trains to operate in the subway.

However for unaccountable reasons never explained, the SFMTA hierarchy continues to regard automated coupling as an unacceptably terrifying complication. As things stand, to avoid the need for coupling trains together, the MTA is planning to require all its downtown-bound M-Line riders to henceforth to get off and transfer to the K Line at West Portal and all its downtown-bound J-Line riders to henceforth get off and transfer to a Market Street subway train at Church and Market. In other words, to avoid the coupling, MTA is prepared to permanently deny at least a third of its Muni Metro riders direct downtown service.

Change for the Sake of Change?

There’s been much recent talk of BART taking over Caltrain.

But what do transit riders and would-be riders think? What do they want? One can be pretty certain that their first choice would be for an efficient, well-integrated network of trains and buses that gets them where they want to go safely, quickly and reliably, regardless of whose logo appears on the sides of the trains and buses.

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