16 December 2010

Progress at Transbay?

The many failures of the Transbay Transit Center design, as a train station, have previously been pointed out (see here and here). A November CAC briefing on the latest design iterations of the platform levels finally shows some incremental progress. After digging that $400 million hole, we may actually find signs of intelligent life down there.
  • Caltrain tracks are moved to the northwestern edge of the train box, closest to downtown. While this change was advertised to avoid the foundations of the high-rise at 201 Mission St, (TJPA headquarters!) a better reason is that Caltrain ridership at Transbay will likely exceed anything HSR can muster. In this case, two wrongs have inadvertently made a right.

  • With Caltrain tracks switched around, the future plans for tail tracks are now infeasible, and rightly so because underground tail tracks are the most expensive way you could possibly think of to park trains while they are not producing revenue. Again, two wrongs (the desire for tail tracks, and the competing desire for ramrod-straight platforms) make a right (no more tail tracks!)

  • A new entrance is provided on Beale Street, with an escalator bank perpendicular to the train box, reaching towards downtown. Caltrain passengers can directly access the Caltrain platform without any scenic detours through the rabbit warren of sequential, airport-like functional spaces intended for HSR, which make absolutely no sense for the daily commuter. This new entrance is a big step forward because it suggests for the first time a concern with minimizing the overall travel time of Caltrain passengers. If it's not too much to ask, two more such perpendicular access points should be added at Fremont and 1st streets (better yet: emerging north of Mission, so pedestrians don't have to wait to cross those busy intersections.)

  • Additional curved turnouts seem to have sprouted in the station throat, thankfully not labeled "emergency crossover", suggesting the possibility of improvements in operational efficiency and flexibility--although once again, nothing would beat a common platform height.
Happy Holidays to everyone.