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Guest Editorial: An Open Letter to Mayor Ed Lee About Transbay

Now is the time to get trains into San Francisco's train station

Dear Mr. Mayor:

Thanks for the world's most expensive bus stop.

Last week your administration announced a plan to connect Caltrain and California High Speed Rail to the Transbay Transit Center and remove I-280.

It’s exactly the sort of bold thinking that people want from their mayor. It would “open up land for housing, connect neighborhoods, and bring the bullet train and Caltrain downtown," as Streetsblog pointed out in a past article.

But my dear mayor, I want to know: Why haven’t you said a word about it?

Visionary ideas have an impact. They’re expensive. And many people who drive today can’t imagine a world where people will get around by bikes, buses, trains, and their own two feet.

To gain support for a project of this scale, its benefits must be sold. People need to understand the potential of such a bold plan. And the person to sell that big idea is, without a doubt, our mayor.

When the Transbay Transit Center opens next year, it will be a marvel--and it ought to be for $4.5 billion. And it will also be incredibly embarrassing for you and the supervisors if there’s not even a plan in place to connect it to rail.

Streetsblog trumpeted The Case for Removing the 280 Freeway. And Gerald Cauthen said in an OpEd, SF Needs to Get Serious About Connecting Caltrain.

But Mayor Lee, what have you said?

There was no press conference. No fanfare. Despite this project’s potential to reshape our city’s transportation options and make a dent in our housing crisis, the plan seemed to emerge from City Hall like a hot potato; quick, throw it out there, let the sharks tear it apart, and then slowly back away. Your silence has allowed one of your most vocal critics to drive the conversation. Former Mayor Art Agnos told the San Francisco Examiner “he will personally combat any effort to tear down I-280.”

It’s incredibly frustrating that you have been invisible when it comes to using your influence to advocate for better public transit. I can’t think of a single instance when you’ve publicly used your influence even for a modest purpose like calling for an acceleration of projects that have languished for years such as Bus Rapid Transit, the extension of the Central Subway, or Better Market Street.

In fact, you recently put forward your Transportation 2030 ballot measure that was accurately summed up as “Meaningless, Hypocritical, and Divisive at the Same Time.

And of course, you’re almost never seen riding our city’s troubled transit system.

Mayor Lee, where are you?

It’s time that you stop hiding in that Chevy Volt of yours and take a train to the site of the new Transbay Center (it’s only three stops on Muni, you’ll survive). Once there, you should do what mayors do: get behind a podium, stand up to this project’s critics—and promote this plan of yours.

Andy Bosselman is an entrepreneur and transit activist.

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