Today’s Headlines

  • Lawsuit Appeal Halts Muni’s Central Subway Turnaround Planned in Dogpatch (Potrero)
  • Thursday: Community Meeting on Octavia Blvd Safety Upgrades, “Freeway Revolt Memorial” (Hoodline)
  • Bulb-Outs, Rain Gardens Completed Along Oak and Fell Street Bike Lanes (Hoodline)
  • SFMTA Puts Stickers on Parking Meters to Make Tow-Away Times Clearer (Hoodline)
  • SFPD Still Searching for Robbers Who Killed Bridget Klecker in Car Chase at Calif. and Kearny (ABC)
  • Supervisor Yee: Installing GPS on City Vehicles Could Save Lives and Money (SF Examiner)
  • BART Riders Continue to Cope With “Crush Loads” as Substantial Improvements Await (SFGate, CBS)
  • Caltrain Receives Used Train Cars From LA Metrolink to Be Refurbished Over Next Year (CBS)
  • “Echo Boomers” Crave Family Housing in Urban Places (Chron), But Bay Area Fails to Build it (Biz)
  • SF Chronicle: CA’s System of High Traffic Fines Leading to Suspended Licenses is a “Debtor’s Prison”
  • Bay Area Roads See No Improvement in Pavement Quality Over Past Year (SFBay)
  • Caltrans Opens $63 Million “Flyover” Ramp in San Jose at Highway 280/880 Interchange (NBC)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

  • Andy Chow

    I was at that meeting, I heard the same statement, and I warned them that they should not approve high platform behind the scene because it will cause a repeat of the 2009 HSR debacle. The board chair Tom Nolan said that there should be a workshop held before any decision is made. I know that some Caltrain staffers have strong opinions against going high platform and would rather abandon EMU (and use electric locomotives instead).

    It is easy to tell other cities to just suck it up and accept high platforms (and assuming some agency is going to take care of the funding issue), but if the same folks don’t think they can get the SF neighborhoods to accept wheelchair ramp for all Muni Metro stops, let alone full length high platform, they should be in no position to force it onto other cities.

    The arguments for high platform (versus low platform for HSR or alternative platform design at transbay) is that it is just a good idea. Good idea for whom? Not Caltrain, not those who take bikes on Caltrain, not wheelchair users.

    I agree with compatibility in concept but unless it works for Caltrain and is meaningful, it is no different than to suggest Caltrain be replaced with BART. High platform proponents needs to demonstrate that there’s no fatal flaw with double doors or traps, that why other solutions don’t work (not just dismissed or ignored).

  • Andy Chow

    If and when HSR comes, it will be up to the train dispatchers to decide how to route a train, and I think that there’s plenty of options available to schedule and route trains at this time of the night without extra tracks. Caltrain already runs special trains to take transferring passengers from LRT after Levi’s events in Mountain View without having extra tracks.

  • Andy Chow

    There’s no reason for 4 tracks south of 4th & King through SF. HSR trains won’t run fast enough within SF to make Caltrain overtake worthwhile.

  • murphstahoe

    The Bay Bridge however, is speedy gonzales.

  • murphstahoe

    Who knows. My experience has been that opponents of projects are generally intellectually dishonest. They have a real reason that doesn’t really stand up to scrutiny (basically – ME ME ME) so they throw up a lot of random FUD.

  • murphstahoe

    Basically, the residents are asking for a turnaround that serves the growing neighborhood (i.e., one several blocks south)

    I did not know how oppressed I was when I lived at 21st and Eureka and walked to Castro Station.

  • Mr.E.

    Read below on why this is not a NIMBY issue.

  • Mr.E.

    Comparing the transit rich Castro area against the transit poor Dogpatch area is comparing apples and oranges. The level of service that you are guaranteed with the walk at Market and Castro is a lot more than what the residents of Pier 70 can expect on a walk to Mission Bay,

  • Mr.E.

    Bruce is almost correct. It is about implementation of service levels. Let’s say a driver does not show up (or any number of things happens that can cause a missed route). Does SFMTA cut the short-line T (i.e., Chinatown to Mission Bay) or a long-line T (i.e. Chinatown to Sunnydale)?

  • Mr.E.

    The SFMTA’s concern is that they would need additional cars to maintain their planned service levels if the cars go further south. You can either add about 40 seconds to headtime, or dedicate another car, and support a large number of new residents.

    As for concerns of neighbors further south, this is why a guarantee that full trips receive priority when assigning resources is important. We don’t want service to Bayview overlooked as a result of putting more service to points north.

  • OneSF

    Are you asking which line they’ll cut service from to make up for loss trips on a different Metro line? Is that what they do right now when they don’t have enough trains on a certain line?

  • jonobate

    Caltrain deciding to buy dual height trains does not force high platforms on any of the peninsula cities. The only platforms that would need to be (re-)built as high platform would be Transbay, Millbrae, and possibly Redwood City if they decide they want HSR service. Transbay hasn’t been built yet, so no additional disruption would occur, and rebuilding the existing platforms at Millbrae and Redwood City would be far less disruptive than adding two new platforms at each city, which would be the only other option for providing HSR service if Caltrain did not buy dual height trains. (In the case of Millbrae, converting the existing Caltrain platforms to high platforms would save HSR from spending $2bn on an underground HSR platform, which is why HSR should be willing to use some of that saved cash to help smooth the transition for Caltrain.)

    Given the above, comparing this disruption to the 2009 HSR plan to build four tracks along the entire length of the corridor is completely ludicrous. Of course, Caltrain *should* rebuild as many stations as possible to high platform for their own benefit, as it achieves level boarding. But they are not required to do so, and it’s a seperate process that can take place over a longer period of time.

    The primary benefit of dual height trains for Caltrain is that they get access to up to six platforms at Transbay rather than just two. In real terms, that means they can have trains leaving and arriving at Transbay every 10 minutes rather than every 30 minutes. That’s a huge deal, and Caltrain should be jumping at the opportunity.

    The sticking point with some people seems to be that Caltrain are being forced to use HSR’s standard for platform height rather than it being negotiated between them. In a perfect world, Caltrain and HSR would have realized the need for compatibility from day one, and figured out a compromise platform height. Instead, Caltrain ignored the platform height issue until very very recently; they only seem to have been seriously considering it since they got a grilling from Scott Weiner and Jane Kim a few months ago for not having done so; and in the meantime, HSR went ahead and picked their own platform height. Now Caltrain are faced with a choice of matching HSR’s platform height or taking the massive capacity hit that comes with having incompatible platforms at Transbay. It’s certainly not an ideal situation, but the choice is what it is, and the former option is clearly preferable to the latter.

  • The mystery “Mr. E” may disagree, but this strikes me as a reverse-engineered laundry list of reasons to justify a classic “not in my backyard” stance. Did these newer residents/business really not think that the already-built spurs on 18th/19th were never going to be connected? Did condo owners not do any due diligence on what was already planned?

    The courts will act how they act, but this anonymous PR campaign using the classic “I’m not a NIMBY… I just have opinions that HAPPEN to have that exact same outcome” argument is pretty tiresome.

  • Bikes and streetcar turnaround lines interact fine on 17th in the Castro. The frequency of turnarounds + good design of the details seem like they’ll be compatible with other Illinois Street road users.

  • You wouldn’t take out the existing spur tracks?

  • Yet another example of “San Francisco’s inability to have a planning process where you have a beginning, a middle and an end, and then you move forward” (to use Scott Wiener’s words).

  • Mr.E.

    I get the argument that folks may have had notice. The question is when does a plan goes stale, and the notice is no longer relevant. These plans had been abandoned for a decade, and then were revived when the City got a TIGER grant to build the turnaround.

    If there were even a stop at the turnaround so that Dogpatch residents could board, then we’d be having a different conversation.

  • Mr.E.

    Not immediately. There is a lot of work that will go on in the area (including at 19th to accommodate BAE’s trucks). At some point, there will be some repaving. The incremental cost of removing the tracks can be looked at then.

  • Muni does it a lot less now than a few years ago, but to fix gaps and bunching nearer downtown Muni will have trains make “short turns” before reaching the outer terminal. (It’s most annoying/aggravating when they only announce it when you way out there already.)

    Creating a dedicated short-turn/shuttle line running at the same frequency is how they can reduce or eliminate the need for short turns.

  • Andy Chow

    Your Millbrae claim (actually it is from Clem Tillier) is red herring. There’s space to the north and south for a pocket track and dedicated platforms. There’s no reason why all platforms must be in parallel. Also, because of bypassing trains (passenger and freight), high platforms should not be placed on the mainline otherwise the resulting platform gap would not be ADA compliant.

    People like Clem Tillier has no background in transportation operations (he may be a good number cruncher but that’s not good enough), and his values are simply personal. His bashes things like CBOSS. While it is not perfect, it addresses other things like grade crossing downtime that matters to people who drive and live around the tracks.

    It is time that another perspective is presented given other issues are ignored and the discussion is becoming one sided (it is not about finding a common height, but making Caltrain to adopt a height that it doesn’t need except for Transbay). Caltrain and HSR has more than enough detractors so it can’t afford to make any decision without considering all other factors and alternatives that Clem doesn’t give a shit about.

  • Hey now, there is every reason for concern about construction dust and the kids health.

    But this is a small detailed in the middle of the process that might need some better mitigations: spraying more water to minimize dust more, taller/better fencing or construction walls, scheduling to minimize overlap with class, what’s typically done in these situations?

  • Bruce

    The best way to address this is by working WITH the SFMTA, rather than working against it by filing a lawsuit that only delays (and increases the cost of) the inevitable.

  • And it’s completely specious to the T-Third turnaround. She was complaining about residential construction in the article.

  • jonobate

    The $2bn Millbrae claim came from a cost estimation document produced by CAHSR shortly before the original four-tracks-all-the-way plan was shelved. This document was first brought to my attention by a commenter on cahsrblog, not by Clem Tillier. Argue the point, not the man.

    It makes very little sense to locate HSR platforms north of Millbrae, because then passengers transferring from HSR to BART or Caltrain would have to walk the length of the 400m platform to get to the existing BART or Caltrain platforms. If you must have separate platforms for HSR at Millbrae, the best way to achieve this is to remove a BART platform and give it to HSR; or simply demolish the entire station and start over. Either option would be cheaper than a $2bn tunnel, but neither would be as cheap as simply having HSR and Caltrain share the same platforms.

    It’s also false that high platforms cannot be placed on the mainline because of bypassing passenger and freight trains. It’s true that there is currently a CPUC regulation preventing this, but as freight trains on the peninsula do not carry oversized loads, there’s no technical reason why this can’t be waived.

    “it is not about finding a common height, but making Caltrain to adopt a height that it doesn’t need except for Transbay”

    That’s a HUGE ‘except’. The biggest problem with Caltrain right now is that, unlike BART, it doesn’t have a station in the Financial District of SF. Once Transbay is connected to the Caltrain line, the vast majority of people using Caltrain will be headed to or from that station, so it’s imperative that every Caltrain serves Transbay, which in turn requires a common platform height with HSR. Otherwise, each half hour you’ll have three train loads of people trying to cram on the one train that does continue to Transbay.

    Anyway, the decision makers appear to be moving in favor of compatibility, so what you and I think is not going to be relevant to the outcome.

  • Yep. Clinching proof the kids are being used disingenuously.

    I don’t think it’s completely specious for parents/teachers really concerned about the kids health and this supporting this lawsuit is a way to force SFMTA to address the problem.

  • It’s more complicated… 4th & King is a clusterfuck and interlining the T-line trains was only meant to be a temporary solution until the Central Subway is completed:

    Currently the turning T-line trains create an extra light phase that blocks a few lanes of traffic and the N-Judah trains have to give each other some buffer space. This works at other branching points because they aren’t located at a major freeway offramp.

    When the Central Subway opens they will pass perpendicular, with through-moving traffic and happily sharing signal phases.

    In the meantime traffic gets backed up at 4th & King into Mission Bay that just interferes with T-line trains even worse and I had trouble getting a staffer to even admit it, but there were some intersections they gave cars priority to clear them out. I think Mariposa was one (the freeway offramp again) because more traffic that turns away at Mariposa, the less there is clogging up 4th & King.

    There will always be those who bitch about giving transit priority, but the SFMTA put a couple years of study, trial, and constant adjustment to find a balance that was about trying to keep frequency in Bayview evened out and do what they must to make the best of 4th & King until the Central Subway opens.

    I chaired the SFMTA’s citizen’s advisor council’s planning committer during the TEP and Central Subway’s environmental study. I have no idea how normal people would ever be able to wade through these things on their own (everyone is welcome to the advisor council meetings and the committee meetings where the council and public can directly ask staff WTF? and get an understandable answer) but I’ve read through iterations of the things and here’s a few details:

    A new option the Mission Bay loop opens up for Muni is to fix gaps further down the line by dispatching a shuttle all the way down to Sunnydale.

  • Andy Chow

    …and that the $2 billion plan is just an idea, a bad one at best, and why would anyone bring it out as a serious alternative.

    It is not CPUC, but physics. Read up on the issue of dynamic envelope. Trains sway sideways when the train moves, due to track imperfection, wind, shifting loads, etc. The faster they move, the more they will sway. Many of the high platform stations in the East Coast are not exactly ADA compliant for this reason.

    ADA is not in effect in any other countries, and their ADA equivalent may allow much wider platform gaps or assisted boarding than ADA would allow. Something that may be acceptable and legal in Russia isn’t going to be okay with any disabled advisory committee around here (look at opposition to center poles in BART new cars).

    I am in favor of more Caltrain to Transbay, but I believe that there are other options to address the problem that has not been considered. I think the problem should be reframed as how to make Transbay platform compatible for different trains and allow unassisted boarding for all passengers.

    I have been in this business for more than 15 years. Why are you here if you think that you’re not relevant to the outcome? I cannot disagree with you more about this. Projects get slowed down if not stopped because the decision process was flawed and reasonable ideas were dismissed without consideration. Part of good planning is to take care of these issues early.

    Caltrain in 2011 pulled a fast one on the CAC and asked them to adopt eliminating Baby Bullet service to fill the budget gap (without presenting it to anyone before hand). The CAC members felt like that they had no choice but to accept the staff recommendation, which they did, but I told the committee that I object to the plan. A week later the JPB voted to keep not to adopt service cut but keep the existing service levels. So if I am the type that just go along to get along, then Caltrain certainly isn’t going to get 60000 daily ridership today.

  • murphstahoe

    I have been in this business for more than 15 years.

    Interesting, I did not know this. What train agency have you worked for?

  • I used to live on 18th Street. The constant roar from the freeway had a major impact on my quality of life. But hey, Muni makes things shake, you know?

  • The clue train is loading at a different station.