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Political Noise about High Speed Rail

Photo taken by Jamie Whitaker
Videotaping of folks to insert
into Transbay Terminal media
November 5, 2008

There was a completely asinine statement about the location of the San Francisco terminus for the planned California high speed rail project in the San Francisco Examiner the other day from Quentin Kopp, Chairman of the High Speed Rail Authority. I assume the quote is accurate, though you never know these days. I also assume it was primarily political posturing by Mr. Kopp to try to encourage other revenue sources to step up to the plate.

The quote said:

“We do not need First and Mission. I am satisfied with Fourth and Townsend,” said Judge Quentin Kopp, chairman of the High Speed Rail Authority. “We are not going to pay an extra billion-plus dollars to take the high-speed rail an extra 1.4 miles.”

Does anyone believe for a second that a high speed rail station will be left 1.4 miles away from the heart of the Bay Area’s transit system, the Transbay Transit Center? If the high speed rail project is meant to succeed, can you believe for a nanosecond that they would not do everything they can to link up to a downtown San Francisco BART station and as close to the terminus of other modes of transit (ferry boat, bus, light rail) to help encourage people to use this mode of transport? Um, yeah, me neither.

You can read the actual text of 2008’s Prop 1A to see what the voters of California passed last Tuesday. It mentions that the high speed rail line will terminate at the Transbay Terminal. I believe that Prop 1A was the California High Speed Rail’s baby – not the City of San Francisco nor Caltrain. While I would not expect the High Speed Rail Authority to fund the entire amount to extend Caltrain from 4th and Townsend over to 1st and Mission, I do believe they’re obligated by the wording of Prop 1A to kick in some bucks.

Article 2. High-Speed Passenger Train Financing Program 2704.04. (a) It is the intent of the Legislature by enacting this chapter and of the people of California by approving the bond measure pursuant to this chapter to initiate the construction of a high-speed train system that connects the San Francisco Transbay Terminal to Los Angeles Union Station and Anaheim, and links the state’s major population centers, including Sacramento, the San Francisco Bay Area, the Central Valley, Los Angeles, the Inland Empire, Orange County, and San Diego consistent with the authority’s certified environmental impact reports of November 2005 and July 9, 2008.

Also worth noting is that the business plan released by the high speed rail authority last week talks about the terminus at the Transbay Transit Center.

Bob Beck from the Transbay JPA spoke at the Transbay CAC meeting last night, providing some updates on the Transbay Transit Center project. While he pointed out there’s still a funding gap to finally carry out San Francisco voters’ wishes from 1999’s Prop. H measure and extend Caltrain to the Transbay Transit Center, he did discuss potential sources to fill the gap. One thing Bob also mentioned is that the Caltrain station at 4th and King won’t go away because it is highly unlikely that Caltrain will be able to completely replace their diesel-only engines. Only those engines that use electricity, or maybe switchable between electricity and diesel, would be making their way underground and heading to the Transbay Transit Center. The station also comes in handy for San Francisco Giants baseball events and other purposes.

The train box at the Transbay Transit Center is likely going to have 4 platforms for high speed rail and 2 platforms for Caltrain.

High speed rail is moving closer to reality thanks to the voters of California … and this is great news for Californians, San Franciscans, and residents of the Rincon Hill neighborhood in particular because our status as the transit hub for the Bay Area will only get stronger with this and increased ferry boat lines that WETA is working on for the Ferry Building.

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