Saturday, December 13, 2008

Beware Post-Election Announcements

Did Santa Clara County voters know that a vote for Measure B was a vote against all transit improvements in the South Bay (CalTrain electrification, light rail extensions, even BRT) except BART?

Probably, not considering that Yes-on-B/SVLG explicitly said it was not. Yet this is what the VTA says B's (apparent) passage means (now that it can safely say so, after the election).

In other news, the CAHSR's Quentin Kopp now (again, safely post-election) thinks it'd be ok to build an HSR terminal at 4th & King, and skip the (joint HSR/CalTrain) tunnel to downtown SF. Can I have my vote back? Getting the downtown extension built was one my main reasons for supporting this thing.

Should I have paid more attention to my own doubts about this project?

Doesn't ending HSR a half-hour bus ride away from downtown SF kind of undermine the benefits of getting there from LA in two and a half hours?

It's ironic that the public was much better served when transit was in the hands of people openly motivated by avarice, like "Borax" Smith, Henry Huntington, and E. H. Harriman (as a historical side-note: CalTrain's bayshore route is part of Harriman's legacy, and if he had lived a few years longer, it might have been electrified and extended to downtown a century ago!), than those of "public servants" like we have today.


murphstahoe said...

"Doesn't ending HSR a half-hour bus ride away from downtown SF kind of undermine the benefits of getting there from LA in two and a half hours?"

This doesn't seem to stop the people who fly from LA. And who's to say that 2nd and Mission is where the people taking HSR want to get to? And of course, if SF doesn't wise up and builds the Central Subway, a MUNI LRT meeting the HSR might be more convenient than getting dropped off at the transbay for a lot of final destinations.

I do think it would be very very valuable to put this extension in, but the value is more for the daily Caltrain commuters who would then be walking a short distance instead of tripping over themselves to get onto a MUNI bus, or fighting for a Cab. But I wonder - if they open this extension, does 4th/King shut down? If I had to ride to the Transbay Terminal to get Caltrain everyday I would go nuts.

MikeD said...

The connections at 2nd and Mission will be excellent, leaving much of the East Bay quite close to HSR in terms of time (I used to take Amtrak buses south when I lived in Berkeley, and catching the bus at the Embarcadero in SF was much easier, faster, and safer at night than the connections to Jack London Square in Oakland.

Much of Bay Area transit is oriented around Market Street- HSR needs to go there to have good connections.

murphstahoe said...

I hate to think I am saying this because I am not a huge BART fanboy - but the East Bay will be connected to the HSR via BART at Millbrae.

Currently it's 16 minutes from 4th/King to Millbrae on Caltrain. It's 34 minutes from Montgomery to Millbrae on BART. The extension would have a "High Speed Train", but the train will not be able to run substantially faster than Caltrain until the better part of getting to Bayshore, including the runout from 2nd/Mission to 4th/King.

However, the Transbay Terminal is not a cross platform connection from Montgomery BART like Millbrae is. Taking an AC Transit bus instead of BART? The BART extension is getting pretty good SFO usage, compared to the KX bus back in the day, in large part because you can't take luggage on the KX. Will AC Transit be inviting people with bags on the bus?

All things being equal, the extension would be great. But is it worth the money?

MikeD said...

MUNI and BART are built around getting to Market Street. If HSR goes there, you can get almost anywhere with minimal transfers. It it doesn't, things will be tough.

Also, problems with "East Bay is Connected Through Milbrae" are many:

1. Not all HSR trains will stop at Milbrae. This kind of kills the argument.

2. Not all BART trains go to Milbrae, only one in every four trains goes there. This means up to 15 minutes more of waiting time, so a total of 50 minutes from Montgomery to Milbrae. Montgomery gives all East Bay passengers either a direct BART or a single timed transfer to a different BART train.

3. The "Across the platform transfer" at Milbrae isn't worth much more than a walking tunnel in the financial district would be. Milbrae is all outside and often cold and windy. Long underground tunnels are the norm in other cities (New York, Boston come to mind). There is also no apparent food at Milbrae, which I would have purchased on several occasions waiting for CalTrain (sorry, personal frustration).

4. SF feels close, Milbrae feels far. The time difference of 34-50 minutes vs about 10 minutes will matter to people. So will looking at a map.

Why care? The East Bay has 2 million people (approx. same population as the south bay, more than SF + Peninsula) and lots of them ride trains regularly. They will be important to HSR having enough riders, and having lots of supportive voters if another initiative becomes necessary.

295bus said...

Lets also not forget that, if Muni could be made more reliable (total science fiction, I know, but if we can actually have bullet trains in California we ought to be able to have busses and light rail that run on time...), the transbay terminal would be easily reached from all parts of the city by transit in half an hour or so.

Looks like the plans for the downtown extension still route trains through 4th & King.

(I don't think all those S curves are ideal. Oh well.)

MikeD said...

I presume a 4th and King stop would be used for some CalTrain runs (Southbound AM/Northbound PM and Giants Game Time make sense) but I would think HSR would skip that stop. Right?

S curves mean slow but at that point, you have to be slowed down for the station anyway, right?

murphstahoe said...

well, at that point - perhaps there should be a terminal in Oakland :)

murphstahoe said...

This argument neglected to mention that you can currently transfer at Embarcadero to a T or N that will take you to Caltrain. In theory a HSR schedule with less frequency than Caltrain could induce MUNI to hard schedule a trains that expressed from Embarcadero to 4th and King, perhaps even (gasp) prioritizing lights.

By the time we come up with the money to build the buried tracks that S bend into the Transbay terminal, in theory we would have the T line now going up 4th St to "connect" with MUNI at Powell St. Of course that is a project I also oppose.

Not that I don't think the extension wouldn't rock - it has more value per mile than say for example BART to San Jose - it's just that if we are going to throw out those sorts of dollars in San Francisco, I'd rather go nuts and do light rail down Geary, given that the current setup for the heavy rail is probably "sufficient".

295bus said...

Here's how I look at it--if CalTrain is going to share it's right-of-way with HSR (which means giving up space for more tracks for local service), it ought to get something substantial in return.

Not to mention that if us CalTrain riders are going to put up with the hassle of all this rebuilding and construction (this has got to be at *least* as disruptive as the CTX/Baby Bullet work that shut down weekend service for two years), then *we* deserve some serious improvements to service in return, too.

murphstahoe said...

Gavin wants it!

murphstahoe said...


When all is said and done this thing will be thrown into the dumpster of time, but many millions will have been lost in the meantime.

295bus said...

We're back to talking about BART, right?

More than millions... there's a very real chance we'll get an extension to Berryessa.

Good reading over here at VTAWatch.