19 September 2021

Down the Tubes with DTX!

DTX overview
San Francisco's Downtown Rail Extension project (DTX), officially known as the Transbay Transit Center Program Phase 2, is a two-mile tunneling project to extend the peninsula rail corridor from its existing terminus in the Mission Bay neighborhood to the purpose-built basement "train box" of the Salesforce Transit Center (SFC). The project is regionally important, as there are more jobs located within a half-mile radius of the SFC than within a half-mile radius of all Caltrain stops combined, from 4th and King all the way to Gilroy. The DTX is nearly shovel-ready, in the sense that environmental clearance is in hand and engineering is being advanced to award construction contracts the moment a key ingredient becomes available: money. Gobs and gobs of money.

Too Big To Fail

The last time the costs of the Phase 2 project were tallied in 2016, the total came to $3.9 billion in year-of-expenditure dollars assuming a 2025 opening. Due to delays, we can anticipate at least another five years of escalation at 5%, bringing us to $5 billion before any changes to the project scope. One can reasonably expect that Bay Area transit agencies' proven inability to deliver mega-projects on budget or on time is quite likely to blow up costs well beyond these figures. As a recent example, the Phase 1 project, completed in 2019, cost $2.4 billion (year-of-expenditure) or about 50% more than the $1.6 billion YOE budget of May 2010, adopted after the train box scope was added.

The DTX project's regional, state and national significance is certainly not lost on our Transportation Industrial Complex. To improve the chances of getting the Phase 2 project federally funded (after which any cost growth becomes easier to fund, following former SF mayor Willie Brown's "theory of holes"), the TJPA is undertaking a phasing study to make the project appear more thrifty. The various approaches include deferring or deleting components of the project, such as a pedestrian connector to BART, an intercity bus facility, and an extension of the basement train box. This nibbling around the edges amounts to $0.4 billion in 2027 dollars or about 8% of the total Phase 2 project cost, a drop in the bucket.

A $30 million project development study is now in the pipeline to get Phase 2 to the state of readiness required to apply for federal New Starts funding by August 2023.

PAX: The World's Most Expensive Grade Separation

If you thought the cost of grade separations is exploding, you really haven't seen anything yet: meet the Pennsylvania Avenue Extension (PAX) addendum to the DTX, a grade separation project that will approach $2 billion for two crossings, reaching the stratospheric cost of $1 billion per crossing.

Even after spending $5 billion (before inevitable cost overruns), the DTX project will leave two existing street crossings at grade, at Mission Bay Drive and 16th Street. Not to be outdone, the city and county of San Francisco has performed a methodical series of planning studies to conclude that a new grade separation project is needed. Rather than taking on the challenge of bending some design rules to keep it simple and make it fit, the favored paint-by-numbers engineering solution is a bored tunnel, which averts any conflict with a planned 27-foot sewer pipe and the sacrosanct pile foundations of the I-280 viaduct, each of which are under the jurisdiction of other agencies. The combined cost of DTX + PAX is estimated at $6.0 billion. Take away the latest (2016) $3.9 billion cost estimate of DTX and you get about $2 billion added for PAX.

Link21 Crashes the Party

Meanwhile, BART is in the early planning stages for beefing up its throughput capacity between the greater East Bay and San Francisco, with a second Transbay Tube. It's worth pausing for a moment to consider what an astonishing piece of infrastructure the first Transbay Tube already is: it carries almost twice as many people during rush hour as the entire ten-lane freeway that is the San Francisco - Oakland Bay Bridge, and at significantly faster speeds. Looking past the pandemic, long-term growth trends indicate that the region must plan for a second Transbay Tube.

Transbay Tube II is the centerpiece of an enormous regional rail program known as Link21, the scale and ambition of which dwarf the DTX. While there are many decisions yet to be made about the implementation details of Link21, perhaps the most critical decision centers on what technology to put in the tube: wide-gauge BART, standard-gauge regional rail, or both.

This question is already of great concern to TJPA, which writes in its August 20, 2021 Phasing Study:

BART and Capitol Corridor’s Link21 program is currently in the early stages of development and has not yet determined a preferred alignment, technology, or rail gauge options to meet their goals and objectives for a future transbay rail crossing. As expected at this stage of development, all options remain available for consideration. For example, Link21 may determine that a second transbay crossing best meets stakeholder needs if it provides additional capacity for the BART network only and does not provide a standard gauge rail crossing of the Bay. BART’s infrastructure and trainset design, however, are incompatible with Caltrain and CHSRA standards. Most significantly, BART operates on a wider track gauge with vehicles that may not meet collision requirements, and therefore a BART-only connection would not relieve congestion and conflicts on the DTX.

We can already see a problematic mindset emerging here, where "BART" is automatically conflated with "five-foot-six track gauge," setting up a false dichotomy of BART-or-standard-gauge.

Caltrain + BART: a Necessary Merger

The false dichotomy of BART-or-standard-gauge threatens to poison the debate around Link21 alternatives. The Transportation Industrial Complex has a vested interest in this incompatibility, as it ultimately forces multiple mega-projects to be built. Why build it right when you can build it twice and get paid twice? From the standpoint of scope and profit maximization, it would then make sense to keep DTX and Link21 as separate projects, despite their overlapping purpose and need to link the greater Bay Area megaregion together using high-capacity passenger rail infrastructure. Seamless integration is good for riders and taxpayers, but not so great for consultants and civil engineering mega-firms. That's why these firms have an interest in propagating the myth that BART and standard gauge rail will always be mutually exclusive.

Removing this false dichotomy is becoming a primary reason for merging Caltrain with BART to form a single Bay Area Rapid Transit system, although there are many other reasons. BART does not have to be synonymous with wide gauge; indeed, BART already operates a seamless standard-gauge extension between Pittsburg and Antioch, and provides day-to-day management of the standard-gauge Capitol Corridor. A new BART peninsula line, while indistinguishable from Caltrain's service vision, would suck the air out of the emerging pointless debate around the track gauge of the second BART transbay crossing. The Measure RR sales tax can serve as a dowry to integrate San Mateo and Santa Clara counties into a restructured BART district.

Link21, to its credit, places equity and inclusion at the forefront of its project development process. The contrast with DTX is jarring, as TJPA's Phase 2 project can easily be viewed as just another gold-plated white-collar rail project enabling nine-to-five technology and finance types to more conveniently access San Francisco's skyscrapers from the affluent suburbs to the south, without ever having to mix with the blue-collar working class. Bringing DTX under the Link21 umbrella, and merging Caltrain into BART, immediately defuses the classism and racism that underlies this anachronistic Mad Men commuter rail vibe.

Transbay Through Running

A stub-end terminal station suffers from fundamental throughput limits related to long turn times and the unavoidable crossing streams of inbound and outbound traffic in the station approach or "throat." For a given number of platform tracks, a through-running station configuration where all trains that come in one end of the station can exit the other end will always provide more throughput capacity, whether measured in trains per hour or passengers per hour. Trains don't have to dwell any longer than necessary at a platform, and don't foul opposing traffic on their way in or out.

With the DTX as it is, past operational analysis indicated that just 12 inbound and outbound trains per hour (8 Caltrain + 4 HSR) would push the limits of the terminus design, with near-saturated platform occupancy. If you uncork the other end of the train box (by having Caltrans clear some right of way i.e. dismantle and redevelop a couple of medium-rise buildings to the East) so that the DTX can connect directly to a new transbay crossing, everything changes. A lot of new capacity is created by virtue of not having to layover or turn trains right smack where your platforms and track real estate is the most expensive.

A recent through running operations analysis commissioned by the TJPA shows that the Salesforce Transit Center could handle up to 20 trains per hour per direction if no more than six of them turn at the station. Any more than six turning movements, and the excessively long platform re-occupancy times (as the study notes, due to the poor layout of the switches leading to tracks 1-4) will reduce throughput capacity to less than 20 trains/hour.

Broken Assumptions at Link21

The TJPA phasing study reports the following direct quote attributed to Link21 project team:

We have received briefings on the operational modeling for DTX and it would seem that even a three-bay DTX tunnel poses operational constraints. A robust service level through the transbay crossing is required to justify investment into Link21. Link21 is envisioning scenarios where not all trains that cross the Bay would continue to San Jose. At this point, there is no other location to turn trains around in the northern peninsula which makes flexibility in DTX important to the Link21 Program.

You read that right: the Link21 team is thinking of turning Capitol Corridor trains at the Salesforce Transit Center, a completely American idea (copied straight from Penn Station New York) that is operationally insane if you think about it for even a minute. In a through-running configuration, all trains that cross the Bay should stop in downtown San Francisco and get out immediately. The California High Speed Rail Authority is planning a huge yard in Brisbane, a perfect place to clean, service and layover Capitol Corridor trains. These deadhead (non-revenue) moves are much less wasteful of infrastructure capacity than treating a through-running station as a terminal.

As was remarked in previous discussions regarding San Jose, the act of parking or laying over trains at a station platform is the railroad equivalent of parking an empty truck in the middle of a bustling loading zone, and then concluding that the loading zone fails to function adequately. Just stop it, don't even think of turning trains here!

The Bottom Line

Here are the pros and cons of merging DTX with Link21:

 Pro
 Con
 Eliminates silly idea of a multi-gauge transbay tube project Could further delay DTX, since Link21 is at an earlier stage of development
 Increases SFC throughput capacity and bang-for-buck, making the enormous cost of DTX worth it
 Exposes DTX to political re-prioritization
 Provides faster Peninsula - East Bay connections than existing BART, and finally "Rings the Bay with BART"
 Greatly reduces scope and profits for Transportation Industrial Complex
 Makes more efficient use of taxpayer dollars by building  one project and building it right
 Requires inter-agency coordination and mergers, which agencies abhor
Provides seamless regional rail connection from SJ and SF to Sacramento, if Capitol Corridor is electrified
 

Despite the obvious political and organizational obstacles, from the point of view of a rider and taxpayer, the pros vastly outweigh the cons. The answer is then obvious: the DTX should go down the tubes of a new standard gauge Link21 crossing, with Stadler bi-level EMUs operated by BART seamlessly connecting the peninsula corridor (a.k.a. the new BART Purple Line) directly to Oakland and points beyond. DTX should be built without delay and form the first building block of Link21.

63 comments:

  1. What year it’s going to be completed?

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    1. Never. The endless "studies" and hundreds of millions of dollars of endless graft are their own reward.

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    2. TJPA is now aiming to complete DTX in 2029, which means 2032 at the earliest. Link21 is probably further out than that.

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  2. When it’s going to be completed?

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    1. I used to be active in a group called "Peninsula Rail 2000".

      Hilariously enough, it was, back in the early 1990s, a realistic goal that Caltrain might become something other than "Olde Tyme Commuter Railroading" (ie an S-Bahn) and that electrified Caltrain would run to downtown San Francisco (the Transbay Terminal being the only appropriately-sized site) every fifteen minutes, all day, every day, by the early 2000s.

      In any remotely normal remotely functioning first-world industralized democracy this might have been the case.

      Instead, we have Caltrain. We have MTC. We have still have fucking Steve Heminger. (Why hasn't he strangled himself?) We have a planet literally on fire. It is 2021, and literally everything is worse, and going off a fucking cliff.

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  3. I have to say that I'm a bit suspicious of the whole Link21 endeavor. It seems like they started with the premise that a new transbay crossing is needed, and then set out to find some regional justification for it. This seems somewhat... backwards. It seems like BART and SF trying to find someone else to pay for their infrastructure. Maybe they should just build more housing in SF instead?

    Of course we see the same pattern with DTX. Originally it was a Caltrain/SF pipedream to relocate the 4th+King station somewhere more useful. Then HSR came along and suddenly it was a "regional" project, so it was ok for SF to piss away the local funding for the station on a $2B bus station and 'park in the sky" since the rail station was now somebody else's responsibility to pay for.

    Of course the new Transbay terminal was quite successful as a real-estate project as the many new skyscrapers that resulted are evidence to. Less successful at actually improving transportation. It's pretty clear that the continued focus for the TJPA is real-estate interests. Just search the phasing report for mention of planned development at 655 Fourth St.

    Anyway that's just my cynical view. I agree that a through-running station makes a lot of sense for Caltrain (less so for HSR as the trip time to Oakland would be the same as transferring to BART at Diridon). The cost of a new crossing would be astronomical however. The real-estate cost alone of those "medium-rise" buildings that would need to be demo'd is probably the best part of $1B.

    As far as merging BART and Caltrain is concerned, it certainly sounds good in theory. However, I can't imagine a world in which SAMTRANS lets their old nemesis BART take over *their* railroad. They can barely stand to give SF and SCC a say in how it is run as it is. The recent sabotaging of a JPB meeting to even discuss regional governance options is a good indication of how SAMTRANS react to the mere thought of a BART merger.

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    1. There’s probably a negative cost (profit) to be had in rebuilding the east station throat medium rise buildings much taller. The buildings aren’t in the way; their foundations are. New towers can be built with foundation piles in places where trains can run between them, much as with Hudson Yards in NYC (way bigger and more complicated than SFC).

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    2. I guess there's profit involved for somebody in the long term. It seems unlikely that profit ever gets to the poor transit agency that builds this. I think they still need to buy the property in the short term, demo the existing building, build the tunnel and then sell the lot on to a developer to build a new taller building on after construction is done. It's true they may claw back some of the cost though

      One example "middle-rise" in the way is 19-story 160 Spear Street which sold for $200M in 2015. For reference, nearby Transbay parcel F which was entitled for a much taller 750ft tower sold for $160M in 2016.

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    3. 160 Spear is very much in the crosshairs. $0.2B is a rounding error, on the scale of these projects!

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    4. I'm with you in being suspicious about Link21. While BART was approaching capacity, it was already planning on increasing it by 50% via new cars with 3 doors, going from 22 tph to 30 tph, and running 10-car trains at all times. The new cars are already coming in, they broke ground on the extra substations at Montgomery and Civic Center, with only new signal system remaining.

      A second BART tube's best justification is to provide service to Alameda and Mission Bay, new Seaplane Lagoon ferry service, sped up Transbay buses via direct access to Transbay have lessened the need for that.

      Extending Caltrain under the bay just makes more sense given the enormous costs.

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    5. Re: 160 Spear is very much in the crosshairs. $0.2B is a rounding error, on the scale of these projects!

      You're assuming there's any SF-local or even regional appetite for anything remotely like what you propose.

      There isn't, and there's not going to be within your lifetime.

      Hey, you know that Transbay Terminal that doesn't have any trains and which is designed to make train and passenger access to the platforms impossibly slow and congested and that was hundreds of millions and years late? And you know that whole Millenium Tower thing? Yeah, well, we want billions more, to Do It Right Trust Us this time, and we're going to take out a bunch of office buildings to do it and really it's going to be great. Also, no private party would ever think of greasing the palm of the SF Mayor or, just for a totally random example from the recent past, the palm of an unexplicably-unindicted SFCTA Executive Director, in order to demolish a "rounding error" building and build something more profitable on the site, its foundations unencumbered by several train-sized holes.

      Sure, the entire political class of SF will line up behind this.

      Transbay Terminal is the end. It's terminal. It's not the beginning of anything. The grotesque misdesign mismanagement and fraud ("architectural competition"!) associated with this non-train non-station park-in-the-sky is fatal poison. Nobody wants more of this. And nobody but some train nerds are going to go to bat for "more of this" against actual commercial developers with actual plans and actual (it's super cheap! Ask Willie for his rates! You'll be surprised!) ability to buy votes and make actual money. This is the sort of thing that's a go; crayon minimum-40-years-off Caltrain through such sites to mumble-mumble-mumble east-bay-ish somewhere isn't.

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  4. With any luck, link 24 does a new EIS and picks a better (non zig-zag) route for DTX (down 7th and up Howard) with a few new stations (and 4 tracks) along the way. It seems like transit in the bay area is planned based on what's the most expensive least effective option.

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    1. Here here to that. If they do pick the Howard/7th alignment, might as well restore full-length 16 car train (400+ m) platforms while there at it.

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    2. I gather the main criticism of Howard / 7th was that it didn’t include their sacrosanct third approach track, which the DB run-through study shows is not needed if trains run through. Imagine that.

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    3. The non zig-zag route would be to proceed straight from 4th/King out towards the East Bay, bypassing SFC entirely. It is insane anyone still thinks $5 billion is a reasonable expenditure just to get trains .7 miles closer to downtown.

      First law of holes: stop digging.

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    4. I believe that one of the reasons that Howard / 7th wasn't considered is because of the already permitted massive sewage pipe. Another reason was because of the Central Subway tunnels which would have caused any tunnel under Howard to come up at a gradient of a little over 3%.

      These "reasons" are quite pathetic though. The sewage pipe can easily be re-engineered and re-permitted to fit in with any tunnel/underground station at 7th. Furthermore, Caltrain and HSR are using EMUs so steep gradients are a nothing burger. If the Shinkansen is capable of sustained 180mph on 3% slope, I'm pretty sure that a Stadler KISS would be able to climb 3% at 60mph.

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    5. Also re Seventh to Howard: Moscone East and Moscone West have a huge (and recently enlarged) underground connector. Any tracks under Howard are going to be REALLY DEEP, and any station under Howard is going to be REALLY DEEP and crazy expensive, with crazy long escalators. Just think about what would go into excavating a 420m long 66m wide (2x11m island platforms) station box under Howard. Oh hang on, Howard Street isn't 67m wide! Now you're talking four tracks stacked two over two a squillion feet below surface.

      Hey, Amtrak's consultants just called and have a Penn Station South to sell you, along with several bridges and tunnels.

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    6. Why would you need a 66m wide station under Howard (4 tracks, 2 island platforms)? DTX only needs two tracks to Transbay, and extra tracks are certainly no use if there is only a two track through running tunnel under the Bay.

      If your answer is for some trains to bypass the station while others stop there, don't do that, have every train stop. A stop at Howard/4th access a huge pool of jobs and destinations at Moscone and Union Sq. plus the connection to the Central Subway.

      Even if you did have four tracks and two 11m platforms, this should be somewhere in the range of 40m wide (4x 4m tracks, 2x 11m platforms, 2 x 1m walls - note track centers nominally 5m but only 1.5m from platforms for level boarding) not 66m.

      As Drunk Engineer notes below, including passing movements and staging for tunnel entrance in the approaches to DTX via extra tracks makes infinitely more sense than including extra tracks in the tunnel itself. Why spend vast sums creating passing tracks in the most expensive possible place to build?

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    7. "DTX only needs two tracks to Transbay, and extra tracks are certainly no use if there is only a two track through running tunnel under the Bay ..."

      The throughput limit on central-city transit is dwells of stopped trains at platforms at the most heavily used stations, not the signal headways of free-running trains on tracks between stations.

      A typical contemporary arrangment, globally, is one approach track bifurcating to serve two platform tracks across one passenger platform, allowing close-headway trains to overlap their dwell times. Whether some particular service arrives on the left or the right side of the platform is of no practical consequence to passengers and to train throughput. (Zürich Hauptbahnof has done this twice, with two adjacent underground two-track lines serving two adjacent four-track through platform new station additions. Likewise Stockholm. etc. etc. etc.)

      And if you're not modelling level of train throughput at which CBD station dwell delays aren't the limit on your several-tens-of-billions-of-dollars capital project then why the fuck are you even thinking about spending billions in the first place? Under 8tph is "are you joking why WTF just stop it" territory. (Meaning, all of the USA USA USA.)

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    8. SEPTA runs 15 an hour through Jefferson during rush hour. Last time I checked Philadelphia is still in the U.S.A.

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    9. Richard, thank you for the informative reply.

      This raises a question, however. How do subway systems maintain such close headway using just one platform track per track entering the station? Even BART manages to operate 24 tph through SF using two tracks and one island platform, despite 10 car trains that are as long as 8 of the KISS derivative cars that Caltrain is getting (or two 100m FLIRT combines).

      Even if you have to have two platform tracks per running track, this still doesn't preclude a Howard alignment. Alternatives are:
      1) No station, Moscone is only 1 km from Transbay, this is subway level spacing and not required for commuter rail let alone intercity service.
      2) Four tracks but one platform, in a 4-3-P-2-1 configuration. Some trains would serve the station using tracks 3 & 2, while others would address the throughput issue via "false stops" on tracks 1 & 4 (slowing through the station but not stopping). With a 9m platform this fits under Howard's 29m width.
      3) As I noted even with 11m platforms the station width would be only 44m, and this could be shaved with 8 or 9m platforms. There is no reason the station has to fit fully under the street. Moscone West is a hard barrier on the north side of Howard, but to the south there are a mix of buildings that are 2-7 stories; undercut them a few meters or just remove them to build the station then redevelop the land on top after.

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    10. I should also point out I am in favor of the current general alignment because:
      1) The zig-zag doesn't lead to a longer tunnel because of the taxi-driver problem (straight then right is the same distance as right then left on a street grid).
      2) As Richard notes below the zig-zag should actually be a shorter tunnel if you are smart and trench the existing ROW to get closer before the TBM starts.
      3) 4th & King is far enough from Transbay that a station there would serve meaningfully different neighborhoods (South Beach and Mission Bay) while still connecting to the Muni T. A station at Moscone is really too close to Transbay.

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    11. Richard, I don't think putting a station underneath Howard would be necessary. I was thinking of putting an underground station at 7th and Townsend, near where Amazon just bought up a huge property. A station there wouldn't need to be very deep. From there, the tunnel would then start descending deep enough to pass under the Central Subway tunnels. Maybe the Central Subway tunnels can act as a vent shaft for emergency alightments.

      I'm not against the "zig-zag" because of the length of the tunnel. I'm against the current alignment because of how slow it is. Three tight, 90 degree turns are limiting trains to under 40mph. Just from eye balling on Google maps, one smooth curve from 7th after passing underneath the 101/80 freeway onto Howard would provide trains with only one braking point. Speeds would definitely be higher that 40mph on that curve. No need to accelerate, then brake, accelerate, then brake, then accelerate again.

      Personally, stacking tracks is what I originally imagined when Prop 1A was passed. I admire the Japanese rail model so I would prefer that Caltrain and HSR have dedicated tracks and therefore dedicated train levels at Transbay, but hey that's just my opinion.

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    12. Hi Mister DudeSF,

      I guess I can't agree with any of your premises -- don't attempt to put a station anywhere near the SF CBD, meaning anywhere near by by far the greatest ridership site anywhere north of downtown Los Angeles); prioritize meaningless increases in speed over serving passengers at stations; put concrete before organization and build insanely duplicative redundant facilities -- so I can't really engage with this.

      Since the late 1980s there's only been one feasible and suitably sized station site near the SF CBD. Since 2000 there's only been -- because real estate developer payoffs to Willie Brown and the SF Planning Department destroyed superior alternatives -- one feasible route to connect the Caltrain line to that station site.

      I don't see the choice as being PTG's DTX with the utterly bat-shit fraudulent multi-billion "Pennsylanvia Avenue" scam versus herp derp Link21 herp derp regional herp derp more studies herp derp.

      I see it as cut-cut-cut-cost lemons-from-lemonades not-entirely-insane revised DTX (meaning just go back to what we always proposed, not what PTG's criminals have inflicted on us at a "design" cost measured in the hundreds of millions, and climbing) in a decade vs nothing for 40 or 50 years.

      I'm intimately familiar with nothing for decades on Caltrain, nothing at all, and I'd prefer to die without another couple more decades of the same but, hey, that's just like, my personal preference.

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  5. Caltrain doesn't need to serve the existing but awkwardly-located 4th and King station. Instead, replace the existing SF stations with stops at Oakdale, UCSF / Mission Bay at 7th / 16th Sts, and SoMa at 4th / 5th Sts. Past SFTC, the tracks can link up with the existing CC line / proposed wBART line via Emeryville to Hercules.

    Long-term, a southern branch could be built to Bay Fair via Oakland JLC, and linked to a re-gauged Dublin / Pleasanton branch. This would allow for one unified standard gauge line between SF and the Central Valley via ACE and Valley Link, and more BART trains to run to Hayward / Fremont / SJ.

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    1. I like the idea of a re-gauged Dublin/Pleasanton branch. This makes much more sense as a route for Altamont HSR than tunneling under Fremont + Dumbarton. The only reason it was ruled out originally was the cost of a new transbay tunnel I think. Run HSR through SF and terminate at Bayshore maintenance facility / park+ride. Serve SJ via BART transfer or a spur via Alviso.

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  6. Instead of a second tube (a very expensive underwater expedition), perhaps BART should implement passing tracks (on land) so that it can have express trains, and increase the utilization of the existing tube (which is only busy doing commute time and only in the "SF commute" direction).

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  7. OK. So everything about this is wrong.

    Unless you never, never in anybody here's lifetime, wish to see Caltrain run anywhere in SF besides Fourth and Townsend.

    So ... The problem: PTG (primary "desigb" criminals)/TJPA/PCJPB/SFCTA/CHSRA have an utterly shitty plan that involves far too much tunnelling, has blown out its budget several times over, is decades late, has descoped into meaninglessness, and has nothing at all to show but tens of millions of dollars (may be hundreds of millions now -- it's too depressing to go and look and add it all up) for "studies" and "planning".

    And so ... The solution is MORE TUNNELS. MORE STUDIES. MORE ALTERNATIVES ANALYSIS.

    This time for sure.

    PS I've been around the Bay Area long enough to have seen least four, perhaps more, iterations of MTC-shitfest consultant porkfest do-nothing-ever "Link21" type studies come and go. This is no different. Same house, same call.

    But this time for sure! MTC is going to study integrated ticketing! Everybody's up fo studying an integrated regional rail network! It's going to be great! Just sign this blank check and sign up for doing nothing for another 20 years. You're going to love the thick binder of map-crayons we're going to deliver ... eventually.

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  8. Re regional rail to the East Bay: the issue is that THERE IS NOTHING TO LINK UP WITH.

    NOTHING.

    You run Caltrain through a new transbay tube to Oakland ... THEN WHAT?

    Have any of you people actually seen the freight/Amtrak route and tracks from Oakland to Benicia? THERE IS NO THERE THERE.

    You run Caltrain through a new transbay tube to Oakland ... THEN WHAT?.

    Having anything to connect to on the Oakland side is so many decades away that SF DTX seems realistic, timely and cost-effective.

    I mean, maybe you can turn the very-soon-to-be-underwater Alameda Naval Air Station into a parking lot and turnback for Caltrain so that Clem gets his through-running in SF. A few billion for a bunch of deadheading, but hey, through-running! But beyond that? So many hundreds of billions and so many decades away that ... THERE IS NO THERE THERE

    Oakland is totally "there" in terms of regional centrality. It's awesome. It's where I'd chose to live if I weren't settled where I am. It's the core of BART. There's so much potential for urban development and realistic (surface!) transit improvements, some of them even haltingly happening. Maybe some decade the hateful crimes of the city-destroying freeways will be homeopathically band-aided. But none of this changes the fact that there are zero standard-guage high-passenger-train-frequency-compatible corridors for a standard-guage non-freight high-frequency trans-bay rail line to connect with. Nothing!

    Get out there, ride BART or your bike or around and look around Oakland. Hell, even Google Earth can sort-of show you. Stop with the crayons!

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    1. That's my worry too. One idea I had would be for CC to run underground between Coliseum and Emeryville stations to bypass the slow street running on JLS. Since I'm dreaming, there would be an underground station below 11 St BART stations. Trains heading south from there would branch west towards 2nd Transbay Crossing to SF Transbay Terminal (and it wouldn't be a terminal anymore).

      This would provide a better CC connection to BART than the slow and circuitous one via Richmond, Berkeley, and Oakland.

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    2. The Bay Bridge is the second busiest in the country, with at least a quarter million people crossing it every day, apparently going to and from nowhere....

      There is very little from Richmond to Benicia, but plenty from Richmond to Fremont. The inner East Bay is 1.5M people in a 6x55km corridor. This is the size of Santa Clara county (but closer to SF) or of SF + San Mateo county (albeit a slightly longer corridor). If it is worth having Caltrain it is worth bringing a line to the East Bay.

      There are two rail corridors south of Oakland, and one north (although more poorly sited). There is existing passenger rail service on two of the corridors today. Major improvements would be needed if a standard-gauge tube were built (electrification, high platforms, an ~1.5km viaduct through DT Oakland) but complaining that a high-passenger-frequency line doesn't exist today is foolish when Caltrain doesn't meet this standard yet. The existing lines are about where Caltrain was in infrastructure/service when it started, no reason they can't be brought to where Caltrain is/will be.

      Also, as you note, Oakland is the central rail hub for Northern California. There are existing services going beyond where an E Bay Caltrain (or Clem's 'actually BART') would make sense. Ridership on Cap Corridor and the San Joaquins would soar with direct service to Transbay and beyond to Stanford, etc. HSR Altamont-Oak-SF makes more sense than through SJ (DT Oak has far higher employment and residential density than DT SJ or anywhere in SV).

      I look around Oakland and see high-rise office towers and lots of mid-rise (some high-rise) housing development. If that doesn't justify commuter rail service to the regional center, what does?

      Delete
  9. Re PAX: The World's Most Expensive Grade Separation.

    Everybody knows this is insane, but it is extraordinarily profitable.

    As has been stated over and over, the first law of holes is stop digging.

    There can and should be zero new tunnelling between the DTX interface at the portal of the existing Tunnel 1 in SF (south of 16th Street, below the Mariposa Street overcrossing) and the intersection of Fourth and Townsend Streets where the two-track-only cut-and-cover tunnel under Townsend starts.

    Following approximately the existing alignment under Highway 280, it is perfectly feasible to trench -- not cut-and-cover TUNNEL, and absolutely not, as some insane eliminate-strawman-alternatives clowns at SFCTA claimed, drive a god-damned TBM -- between the Mission Bay Viaduct highway footings, with only two or three foundations causing any sort of trouble at all.

    It is perfectly feasible to site a thee-track, three-420m-platform trenched and not covered station on the northern edge of the Sixth/Townsend/Fourth/King site, occupying less than 40% of the existing "rail yards". No tunnels! No insane mezzanine levels. No out-of-control fire safety pork. Just a station, open to the sky, with rain canopies over the platforms, connected by escalators and elevators to the streets above, serving passengers.

    As for the "mandatory" three-track minded tunnel from Mission Bay to Transbay -- the people who came up with this are at the same time the very stupidest and most corrupt excuses for humans you could ever meet. It's purest pork.

    I mean, just think about it: under what circumstance are three trains going to be moving in this section, and if so, why, meaning what scheduling mistake did you make? A third track is simply a nosebleed-cost parking track, underground.

    The place to sort things out is at a three-track shallow-trenched comparatively-low-cost Mission Bay station. Dispatch trains into the short, massively-expensive tunnel only when they have a place to arrive at the terminal. Hold trains as necessary in the open air to make this work -- don't park them in a three-track tunnel under Second Street.

    The whole scam is both criminal and insane.

    This is not how anybody else in the world does things.

    Solely America's Finest Transportation Planning Professionals. They should be in prison, all of them.

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    1. It definitely makes more sense to build the station in a trench, and they could still build on top of it, maybe let a developer pay for structural columns and a cap (could help offset the cost). And maybe they don't get to have an underground parking garage underneath, but boohoo, it's directly over a transit station.

      What do you think of including an extra platform or two in said trench to allow some trains to turn back without blocking the tracks into the Transbay? Might be useful for evening events at the arenas.

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    2. "What do you think of including an extra platform or two in said trench to allow some trains to turn back without blocking the tracks into the Transbay? Might be useful for evening events at the arenas."

      I thought that was an idea (not a good idea, but something perhaps nearly "free", so hey, whatever) 15 or so years ago, but I was wrong.

      Besides not really being geometrically feasible and leading to bad compromises, and besides the large cost and complications of shoring up an unnecessarily wide trench in bad soil just for an "emergency use" (meaning useless, in practice) terminal track short of The Terminal, this buys into the quite literally insane concept permeating Caltrain "planning" that Giants baseball events are the peak load drivers and the construction window blackout veto driver and that, fundamentally, the SF CBD is just negligible shit compared to a few baseball games a year, because hey, we don't go to the actual hyper-dominant regional CBD and never will, herp derp, how about that Googleplex?

      I mean, just look at how BART, which is pretty well run, all things told, runs things -- run a ton of trains, all the time, to places in SF people want to go and will actually use, and then some "special event" blips are just running a few more trains at some times on top, not the overriding determinant.

      (For decades Caltrain daily riders have been totally fucked over by Caltrain staff prioritizing uninterrupted Giants baseball over regular "service" when any sort of construction anywhere between SF and SJ has been considered.)

      Caltrain should be running 6tph to and from Transbay most hours of the day every day. If some of those trains happen to pick up some drunk entitled suburban baseball fans and cater to a far-right sportsball oligarch's economic interests while on the way, sure, great, whatever!

      Anyway, a basic 3-track 3-platform Mission Bay station -- especially with 420m platforms and mid-platform crossovers splitting two of those platform tracks into double berths for four 150m (6 "car") Caltrain sets -- just happens to function pretty damned well as an emergency turnback location, while serving its primary function as a traffic-flow staging and smoothing point for traffic to the SF CBD.

      Delete
    3. @Adam,

      It misses the point to build on top of the trenched station because it then becomes an underground station, which leads to much high costs relating to ventilation, fire alarm, smoke control, etc. Richard's whole intent is to minimize cost by taking advantage of existing ROW and avoiding the "subway" costs that come from tunneling underground when no ROW exists.

      Delete
    4. Richard, since the route is mostly fixed at two tracks starting with the four existing SF tunnels, wouldn't the place for a three track station for the purpose of dispatch be at Bayshore station?

      Delete
    5. "Richard, since the route is mostly fixed at two tracks starting with the four existing SF tunnels, wouldn't the place for a three track station for the purpose of dispatch be at Bayshore station?"

      There also, but for different reasons -- eg a shuffle to put a non-stop train ahead of of stopper if the total person-delay were lower, etc. But a shuffle to run wrong-track is going to be very rare given (what has to be) pretty constant bidirectional travel.

      A Mission Bay traffic buffer ahead of Transbay has far more to do.

      First, you don't want to put trains in a tunnel (for crazy made-up bullshit US fire safety reasons for sure; but also because a $$$ tunnel is a terrible place to park unmoving trains.) Temporarily holding a train at a nice station with platforms and open air beats the hell out of a dark hole deep under Second Street.

      Second, even if the approaches to Transbay hadn't been fatally sabotaged, for no reason at all, by some the very stupidest, incompetent and unprofessional subhumans on the planet (especially Parsons Transportation Group, who are still sucking down millions of public cash for DTX "design" -- endless criminality), there are still going to be of cases where "wrong track" (left-hand) running through the Mission Bay to Transbay tunnel section is going to result in freer traffic. Basically, with only flat junctions in the approach to a multi-track station, you have route conflicts, but sometimes you can use a second interlocking (set of flat crossovers) further down the line to resolve some of these conflicts.

      So ... what you want at Mission Bay is, first, an island platform with two platform tracks interchangeably serving all stopping outbound trains. This allows trains to be dispatched through the tunnel to whichever side of that Mission Bay platform improves traffic flow, without messing up passengers waiting to leave SF. (Just another example of why island platforms should be used uniformly everywhere along the line, and always FSSF.

      (Note that this doesn't matter for inbound traffic -- ridership from Mission Bay to Transbay is of zero importance ... and even if if not, guaranteed another train is coming within 10 minutes.)

      The second thing you want is at least three platform tracks so that you can indeed buffer inbound traffic there a little to smooth out terminal throat track conflicts further down along, and, again, to not stall trains in a harder-to-evacuate $$$ tunnel.

      The last optional (but basically free, so do it!) thing you can have an Mission Bay are platforms long enough (the standard 420m everybody uses, and that we can have here and Redwood City and SJ Cahill Street -- just like grown-ups are doing in places like Madrid Atocha) to double-berth shorter (150m, 6-car) Caltrain sets with space between them for mid-platform-track crossovers, sort-of giving you four service platforms in the space of two, and superior possibilities for turning some trains short of Transbay in exceptional (never regularly timetabled, that would be insanity!) circumstances.

      In short http://www.pobox.com/users/mly/TTT-200909/200909-Mission-Bay.pdf

      * 420m open-air trench stretching from Sixth to Fourth Streets (under a restored Fifth Street!)
      * Three through tracks; three platform tracks
      * Island platform between northernmost tracks; side platform for the southmost
      * Full universal any-track-to-any-track three-to-two-track interlockings at both the outbound (under 280) and the northbound (under Townsend Street) ends;
      * Scissors crossover pair right in the middle of the adjacent platform tracks for extra fun.

      You're welcome. $200 million plus 10% of costs saved ought to cover my services.

      Delete
    6. Richard,

      Thank you for the informative reply.

      Delete
  10. I fail to see how any of these plans (including putting a station in a trench) is better than the current arrangement. The existing 4th/King station is perfect as it is. The access is all at-grade, so absolutely no elevators or escalators or mezzanine levels. And it certainly doesn't lack for platform space. If you want a European-style central station, this is as close as you will ever get.

    As for the existing at-grade crossings, just do a standard road under-crossing (and by standard I don't mean the option "studied" by SFMTA which entailed running 0.6 mile tunnels 10 stories down). Then take the $10+ billion you saved by not digging tunnels or trenches and spend it on some actually useful project.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Put a signature / iconic shed over the top of it and done

      Delete
    2. "If you want a European-style central station, this is as close as you will ever get."

      I can't even.

      Delete
    3. The trend in Europe over the past 50 years has been to move away from the "European-style central station" (i.e. at-grade terminal) in favor of underground through running for commuter/regional rail. See: RER, Crossrail, Hirschengraben/Zurich HB SZU (then later Weinberg Tunnel/Löwenstrasse Station), Stuttgart 21, Munich Stammstrecke, Stockholm Citybanen/City Station, Oslo Tunnel/Nationaltheatret Station, Milan Passante, Frankfurt City Tunnel, etc.

      Note that Stockholm built Citybanen for better access to Centralen even though it already had at grade through service at Stockholm Central Station. Berlin was of course a pioneer in this respect with Stadtbahn dating to the 1880s and Nord-Sud built in the 1930s.

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    4. The projects you mention are generally through-running services. They generally don't terminate at a badly designed station at the city center. And their cost was order(s) of magnitude less expensive (Crossrail might be an exception?). I don't see any similarities between those projects and DTX.

      I would add than in the case of Milan Passante, the suburban network does not connect to Centrale, and there are no plans to do so.

      Delete
    5. This blog post specifically addresses DTX in the context of through-running using the proposed Link 21 transbay crossing.

      It is true that Passante does not connect to Milan Centrale, however, Republica and Porta Venezia are closer than Centrale to the historic core of central Milan, while Porta Garibaldi is closer than Centrale to the CBD of Pora Nuova. That is the point: Passante (the "downtown" tunnel) does a better job for commuter rail of getting people closer to where they want to be than the "European-style central station" that is Centrale.

      It is true these projects cost less than DTX is projecting, but there are ways to lower costs, people in these comments have provided several already. More importantly, arguing that the cost-benefit analysis is poor is far different than arguing the benefits are lower, as you did by suggesting that 4th & King is perfect or better than Transbay would be. No one in Europe would propose a location/layout like 4th & King for a new commuter rail station, and where commuter rail does use similar stations they are actively building DTX style infrastructure to replace them. See for instance RER E: lines that used to terminate at Gare D'Est were taken in a tunnel across the city to currently terminate at Hausmann the way DTX only would at Transbay. Extension for through-running is underway, but the point is to take Transilien J trains that terminate at St. Lazare the way Caltrain does at 4th & King and bring them into center Paris.

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    6. As was previously commented, Caltrain run-through service makes no sense as there is nothing in the East Bay to hook into. The Amtrak service will always be a joke operation so long as UP controls the ROW.

      Past history suggests that Link-21 will either be vaporware, or else used as a pretext for BART to cannibalize Caltrain DTX funding.

      Delete
    7. Right now, the Capitol Corridor is the only thing that makes sense to use a new tube

      Delete
    8. "Right now, the Capitol Corridor is the only thing that makes sense to use a new tube"

      Exactly right, except for the "sense" bit.

      SF-Oakland-Hayward? Seems there's already a perfectly servicable high-frequency train line there.

      SF-Fremont(-Livermore-Tracy-Sacramento/Los Angeles)? I have an actually useful tunnel to sell you.

      Fremont-San Jose? Hard to undo the criminality. Prosections, starting with Steve Heminger would be a good start.

      SF-San Jose? Seems there's a train line there already.

      SF-Oakland/Alameda? Maybe you get one East Bay station, connected to nothing else. (Exercises for the reader: show exactly where you've found the site for a rail passenger terminal station of a size and ridership potential remotely commensurate with the costs of a brand new SF-Oakland/Alameda rail tunnel and approaches.)

      Oakland-Richmond? Seems there's a pretty good passenger train line there already.

      Richmond-Crockett/Martinez? You and what army?

      Crockett/Martinez-Benicia? You and what army?

      Benicia-Davis-Sacramento? UPRR would like a word.

      SF-Sacramento? I have an actually useful tunnel to sell you.

      Oakland-Sacramento? Would have been nice, but endless profits for Steve's very very special buddies at WSP (née Parsons Brinkerhoff) and Tutor-Saliba were far more important than the core of the urbanized region, or the earth's environment, or anything else.

      A non-BART SF-Oakland/Alameda Transbay line has nothing at all to connect to this side of mutiple hundreds of billions of brand new rail line construction in brand new rights of way. It's simply a nonsense crayonista fantasty (for rail fans) or rent-seeking (for "transportation consultants") to waste a minute of thought of this at any time after around 1999.

      Link21 is just another consultant-enriching MTC attention-diversion scam. Many of us have seen exactly the same agencies do the same thing several times already over the decades. EXACTLY the same thing. The answer is always "more studies" and "oops even more BART extensions drank your milkshake".

      Delete
    9. A standard gauge transbay tunnel would require new rail line construction (for the electrification if nothing else) but by no means in new right of way. There are three very serviceable ROWs heading out of Oakland, one to the north and two to the south. There are two further lines heading east branching off of these.

      Cherry picking small case studies and finding fault is literally failing to see the forest for the trees. Look at the totality: 1.5M people just to the west of the Oakland Hills, 3.2M in Alameda, Contra Costa and Solano counties. Several million people is more than enough to justify multiple rail lines (not just one BART line), plus regional service to other areas, plus the major connection (the tunnel) to DT SF that is the ridership driver making it all work. One could use your "case studies" to conclusively prove we should shut down Caltrain ("SF-Millbrae? Seems there's a train there already." "High platforms preventing freight traffic? Port of SF would like a word." "SJ-Blossom Hill? You and what army?")


      The SF and Sac CSAs combine for over 12M people with a GDP over $750 Billion. The idea that an area this size is adequately served by an unbranched 77mi commuter line and about 130 mi of subway/regional rail hybrid ("we have one line from SF to the East Bay, we're done!") is not tenable, as is the idea that the three major cities/employment centers of that region should not be all directly connected by rail.

      I believe your "actually useful tunnel" refers to a Dumbarton Tunnel, which is absurd. Dumbarton crosses shallow water with no shipping and existing rail ROW right up to the approaches where there is no difficulty building a viaduct bridge (already built 4 there before, easy) so there can be no justification for the expense of a tunnel. The Dumbarton Bridge sees only 80k passengers per day. SF-Oak crosses a major shipping channel and the Bay Bridge sees 300k pax per day. All of your arguments of "there is nothing there" regarding Oak/E Bay evaporate and ring hollow when you propose a major piece of infrastructure (an underwater rail tunnel!) connecting the not-even-second-tier regional centers of Fremont and Redwood City but depreciate the same for connecting the two largest downtown employment centers in all of Northern California.

      Note there should absolutely be a Dumbarton rail crossing, via bridge, ideally sharing tracks and a station in the vicinity of Newark with the Oak-SJ line for an "actually useful" cross platform transfer between lines.

      Delete
    10. I've said nothing at all about the desirability or otherwise of an additional SF-Oakland rail connection.

      I do have opinions about "herp derp through-running Caltrain to, ugh, something herp-derp defer DTX for another 40 years and meanwhile hourly headways any six limited stop services are cool herp derp do some more studies herp derp and then a miracle occurs herp derp "standard rail, because standard" herp derp.

      Re Dumbarton: building useful things sometimes works differently from the way people first imagine it might, especially if they do anything more than glance at a map and pronounce.

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    11. Richard,

      An additional BART tube as a rail connection would be useful, but would do nothing to address regional transportation needs. The mistake of BART was trying to be a subway and a commuter rail system, thus the spectacle of ripping up tracks to lay new tracks to get to San Jose when the tracks ripped up could have been running 'CalTrain East' decades earlier instead (only one example of many). There is no need to continue this fundamental mistake. A new BART tube for better core subway service is fine, but it doesn't allow use of existing track throughout the East Bay and beyond to provide service to DT SF, the place the most people want to go.

      There are rail lines with passenger trains running on them many times a day from Oakland right now, all of which would see vastly higher ridership if they went to San Francisco. Through running wouldn't connect to "something" as if it were vaporware, the infrastructure is there, just poorly used.

      I agree that through-running should not delay DTX, Caltrain should get to TBT as soon as possible.

      Dumbarton would be a very useful crossing for CalTrain and CaHSR, but there is zero justification for it being a tunnel, ever. Actually less than zero, a tunnel would be a negative transportation investment from the perspective of vastly higher upfront costs, higher operating costs FOREVER (paying to run, maintain, test, and eventually replace pumps, lights, fans, and fire alarm systems), and less operational flexibility (no crossover tracks to route around damage; incidental maintenance - like on those fans and lights - causing track shutdowns due to clearance issues, as opposed to fan maintenance at all or unavoidable maintenance like signals happening trackside in the open air without blocking trains).

      You are completely right that PAX should be trenched rather than tunneled until DTX starts at 4th&King. Using existing ROW and tracks/stations in open air are much less expensive than tunnels. How could you possibly justify a tunnel at Dumbarton instead of using existing ROW, at grade, with not even a trench needed? PAX runs right through a city, the Dumbarton ROW runs through absolutely nothing you need to go under to avoid, and except for the burned out trestle the entire ROW is intact down to the ties and rails. Why would you waste money trading cheap ROW upgrades and a simple new bridge for expensive new tunnel? (You honestly sound like a transportation-industrial complex consultant on this one, advocating for the more expensive option when the easy cheap one is right in front of you.)

      Delete
  11. @Drunk Engineer, as I previously commented there are three rail lines heading out of Oakland, plus 1.5M people and 0.5M jobs in the inner East Bay alone. Include everything beyond the Oakland Hills and possible conversion of BART's Concord and Livermore lines and there is plenty to connect to, both in the operation sense and the demand sense. Close to 300,000 people cross the Bay Bridge each day (or did before Covid) which is about 20% more than enter SF from the south on 101.

    Would you oppose additional Hudson River tubes (ARC, Gateway) because the Portal Bridge has only two tracks therefore "there is nothing in NJ to hook into"?

    ReplyDelete
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    1. "possible conversion of BART's Concord and Livermore lines"

      No no no just stop it!

      Sure, the Dublin line should never have been built. But it's there, glorously sited in the middle of a freeway, with civil structures designed around BART train dimensions and BART train loads; deal with it, try not to throw a cent more than absolutely necessary at it, we tried and tried and tried to stop it, we couldn't, it's a black hole of capital misallocation and endless subsidy, but it's there, it's not going anywhere (hah hah, literally!)

      As for the Concord line? You know, the most heavily used section of BART outside the SF-Oakland-Berkeley core? Stop with the nonsense crayons! (Some day the Hawyard Fault will go and the Oakland hills tunnel will collapse or be years out of service -- the answer will be to rebuild another tunnel for BART trains from the BART tracks on one side of the former tunnel to the BART tracks on the other side.)

      BART's here. Deal with it. Don't repeat mistakes and don't build more of it. It carries hundreds of thousands of riders. It's essential. It's much better operated than you may think, especially given the infinite insanity of local politics. Make the best possible use of it. (I'd start with halving fares in the cost-effective, suburban-subsidizing core urban areas, and tearing out the pure-Cubic-rent-seeking-private- profit faregates, myself.)

      Delete
    2. I agree with you that BART is not nearly as bad as some of its detractors claim (the "it's not standard gauge" red herring being particularly bad since no one seems to claim that the Toronto Subway or the Market-Frankford line in Phila. are somehow flawed).

      Civil structures designed for BART should have no trouble with M8 size equipment used by the two busiest commuter rail services in the country.

      Saying that Concord is the most heavily used line outside of the core isn't terribly useful, its a little like saying "the warmest place north of Montana in the winter" - guess what, it's still cold. The ridership outside of the core is abysmal. If Union Sq were Times Sq then the farthest reach of the NY Subway (the one tiny little line all the way to Far Rockaway) would barely reach Walnut Creek, let alone Concord, Pittsburg, or beyond. Out that far is commuter rail territory, trains should be stopping once in DT Oakland with transfers to local destinations instead of stopping places like Rockridge or W. Oakland. Let BART focus on the core between Millbrae, Richmond, and maybe Hayward, focused on SF-Oak, as a subway should be. The NY Subway took over many mainline rail lines that were too close to the city in the early 1900s, no reason an alternative service cannot take over BART lines too far from it.

      Delete
    3. I've nothing else to say about this.

      There's nothing stopping anybody from ignoring what actually exists in the real world, and enjoying a box of crayons. I'm not going to be reading it or writing about it though.

      Meanwhile I'm free to ignore hideous political and institutation and corporate reality and posit perfectly simple and feasible and obvious and cost-effective things that won't be ever be considered let alone built, but not because I choose to fail to observe the actual built environment around me. I prefer my imaginary model train set over the alternate-history ones, especially having watched too many totally fucked-up actions taken to create current-day reality, but that's just a personal choice, and one without much traction.

      Delete
  12. A new Caltrain station in the Bayview: Here’s the plan

    SF planners are starting community outreach about building a new Caltrain station somewhere in the Bayview neighborhood to restore service to the historically underprivileged neighborhood for the first time since 2005, when the Paul Avenue station was decommissioned due to low ridership.

    The City is studying 3 potential station locations at Williams, Oakdale, and Evans avenues. In surveys dating back to 2005, residents had indicated support for the Oakdale location, but planners wanted to see if that still made the most sense for the community. The study will consider transit, bike and pedestrian connections and opportunities for new housing surrounding the new station.

    If all of The City and Caltrain’s plans come to fruition, the longtime commuter railroad would look more like an urban rapid transit line, with stops in the Financial District, South Beach, Potrero Hill, Bayview and Bayshore, connected to communities down the Peninsula.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. SF Department of "Planning".
      SF "County Transporation Authority".
      We are truly blessed, here in the best of all possible worlds!

      https://sfplanning.org/project/southeast-rail-station-study (there's nothing here, other than an implied and unbreakable promise to incinerate plenty of cash on Moar Studies.)

      Moar studies! MOAR!

      Here are some studies from 2005 and 2014 (don't be fooled by the "2019-03" in the URLs) to get you started:
      BAYVIEW-OAKDALE CALTRAIN STATION STUDY / Design Feasibility Assessment and Station Concepts Final Report / February 2005 / Prepared for The San Francisco County Transportation Authority by HNTB Corporation
      (If you find yourself looking for a broken link to "https://www.sfcta.org/BayviewOakdaleCaltrainStudy-Final.pdf.pdf", the above is link is that file, at least until some Web Designer breaks all the links yet again.)

      Caltrain Oakdale Station Ridership Study / March 2014 / The collaborative efforts of many individuals made this study possible. Gratitude and thanks to ..." (Excuse me, I need to pause ... I'm coming over with quite the kumbaya feels; gratitude floods my soul, especially but not exclusively towards "HNTB Corp.")

      Delete
  13. Maybe $7-10 billion (or more) for DTX + PAX is just not worth it. There's undoubtedly a ton of bang in serving the financial district directly from the peninsula, but wow that's a lot of buck, so much that maybe the bang-for-buck value just isn't there. If that's where it ends up, better than waiting for another 40 years, how about never?

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    1. "Maybe $7-10 billion (or more) for DTX + PAX is just not worth it."

      Perfectly agreed.

      Which is why killing PAX and killing everybody in any way associated with it is the first step.

      What we have is a project and a project team and a corrupt consultant mafia operation that cannot be supported and cannot be allowed to continue. Agreed.

      That doesn't mean that a grade-separated connection from the existing Caltrain tunnels to the shitty mushroom farm basement under the $2.5 billion Transbay Useless Park in the Sky facility is completely unsupportable.

      Straw man alert!

      * Trench from slightly north of existing Caltrain Tunnel 1 under the 280 viaduct and grade separate 16th, Common and 5th streets. No PAX, no TBM, no problem.

      And no, contra TJPA/SFCTA lies, this does not imply suspending all service to SF for "several years".
      The construction phasing may in fact be comparatively straight forward, as these things go, and it is possible that service interruptions may be no longer than weekends-long.

      * Trench Mission Bay station, as shallow as possible, nearly entirely withing the existing Caltrain terminal site, NOT UNDER a worse-than-useless mezzanine UNDER a utility-crammed (so much sewer!) city street.

      The "joint development" returns of placing buildings on the entire existing terminal rail right-of-way while forcing the station under a street under a mezzanine are negative hundreds of millions of dollars. There is no way that this "other people's money" (bilk "transporation" budget several hundreds of millions in order to score maybe max ten million from a real estate developer) comes close to passing a laught test. (See also, absolutely everything to do with the Transbay Terminal, Salesforce Tower: absolute total unmitigated reaming of the public budget, out-of-control give-aways to the developers and construction mafiosi.)


      * Cut-and-cover TWO TRACK tunnel for the shortest feasible distance under Townsend Street -- very roughly just the block from Fourth to Third Streets.

      America's Finest Transporation Planning Professionals (inexplicably-unindicted ex-SFCTA executive director! ex Amtrak Capitol Corridor honcho! more of the same!) sand-bagged their three-track budget-inflating "studies" way beyond any laugh test. There's no way in 100 years that the "redundancy" of dead tracks in the very most expensive to construct sections could ever even remotely be commensurate with the tens of hundreds of millions of dollars of extra tunnel construction bloat.

      * Actively investigate actual technical feasibility and cost-effectiveness of relocation (laterally transferring load of crazy unused park in the sky) of PTG-"designed" service-killing structural columns at the entrance to Transbay. It may cost, it might be fiscally impossible, it probably is; or it might both be an enabler of higher sustainable train throughput and a disabler of three-track connecting tunnel insanity, perhaps paying for itself this way.

      Delete
    2. A trench or tunnel anywhere near China Basin just seems like a really bad idea:

      https://default.sfplanning.org/plans-and-programs/planning-for-the-city/sea-level-rise/SLRVCA_Report_Executive_Summary.pdf#page=2

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    3. That sea level rise map seems like a strong argument for a bored tunnel along 7th & Howard.

      Delete
    4. Fortunately Highway 101 is safe (within SF, for a while, on this map, and for much less time than you may think) so you all get your wishes: no meaningful Caltrain ridership, ever, and lots and lots and lots of studies meanwhile.

      Enjoy the pyrocene!

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    5. The sea level rise map is in no way an argument for a tunnel along 7th & Howard.

      First, it is not a sea level rise map, it is a map that shows flooding with *maximum* sea level rise in 100 years *and* a worst case storm surge. In other words it is not showing areas that would permanently underwater anytime soon, or permanently underwater ever.

      Second, if those blue areas actually precluded a tunnel then it becomes a map not to build DTX at all. Half of the TBT is "underwater" and unusable by that criteria, so there is nothing for the "dry" tunnel on 7th to connect to. To say nothing of the fact that huge swaths of the financial district, Mission Bay, and SoMa are unusable so there would not longer be any point to bringing Caltrain downtown since hundreds of thousands of jobs and residents are somewhere else.

      But its all academic since that level of flooding is unlikely to happen. The map represents worst case sea level rise of about 17mm per year for a century. There is more than enough time to build the necessary sea walls to protect low laying areas in SF (unless you think tens of thousands of residents and business interests representing tens of billions worth of real estate will give up and do nothing). Passing on infrastructure because of the chance of a disaster a century away would be like New York not signing the dual contracts in 1912 because Hurricane Sandy was coming in 2012. Even that actual flooding disaster didn't mean route choices in lower Manhattan were wrong - the New York Subway saw its highest postwar ridership in 2014-2015, just a few years after the Hurricane Sandy's flooding.

      The route for DTX, like everything else, should be decided based on what provides the best service to the highest demand areas, at the lowest reasonable cost, on a *day-to-day* basis. One-weekend-a-year festivals, special sporting events, and once-a-century disasters need not apply. (Note, this does not mean ignoring the risk and leaving out fire alarms or sump pumps, just that you pick the best route and mitigate the risks, instead of picking a risk free but lower-transportation-value route). In this light Richard's trench-as-far-as-you-can-by-using-ROW-to-4th-&-King with a station close enough to serve the booming Mission Bay, South Beach and SOMA neighborhoods is clearly the best DTX route.

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  14. "Passing on infrastructure because of the chance of a disaster a century away would be like New York not signing the dual contracts in 1912 because Hurricane Sandy was coming in 2012."

    The new South Ferry station was done more recently (on 9/11 basically). And it wasn't very long after that for it to get demolished by Sandy. Fixing that destruction cost $340 million and 5 years.

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