Save Caltrain/HSR Downtown Extension, Stop the Beale Street Terminal Trojan Horse

October 1, 2009 – 3:00pm

After years of planning, the Transbay Transit Center/Downtown Extension is nearing shovel-ready status. However, California High Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) is attempting to kill this project with a bogus idea of a having a downtown station on Main and Beale Street.Transbay Transit Center opponents are claiming that the Transbay Joint Powers Authority (TJPA) needs to restudy their alternative as a part of the environmental clearance process. If their claim holds true, it would make the Transbay Transit Center project no longer eligible for the $400 million in Stimulus funds. If the project receives that fund as planned, construction would start within months.

Why are they doing this?

For political reasons, CHSRA (then under the leadership of Quentin Kopp) suddently withdrew support for the Transbay Terminal project after the passage of Proposition 1A last November. While the exact reason is not clear, former chairman Kopp (once a Transbay Terminal/Caltrain extension supporter himself) was a strong advocate for the BART extension to SFO. If Caltrain/HSR were extended, ridership on the BART line could go down.

Whatever you feel about BART, there’s no good reason for what they do other than playing politics. There’s no point in denying commuters and travelers direct access to Downtown San Francisco.

Has the project planned with HSR in mind?

Since 2001, TJPA has planned the project with HSR in mind and has consulted with CHSRA engineers. Even as far back as in 1994, planners had envisioned that one day HSR trains will use the new downtown station.

Is the Beale Street terminal a serious alternative?

No. They propose this trojan horse in the last minute in an attempt to persuade the federal government not to give the stimulus funds for the project. They never express their opposition when they had their chance years ago during the environmental study.

Is the Beale Street terminal possible?

No. The land cited by Transbay opponents for the Beale Street terminal is slated for private high density developments. The current terminal has most of the right-of-way secured. Having an off site train station from the bus terminal would increase cost even more and is infeasible under the current funding plan.

Has the Beale Street terminal been studied before?

Caltrain/HSR downtown extension has been studied since the 1970s. Beale Street terminal was considered in several studies (including a report in 1994) and was rejected each time.

Have we voted for the Transbay Terminal already?

San Francisco voters approved Prop H in 1999, which made the construction of the train and bus terminal at the proposed site the official city policy. Voters in California also approved Proposition 1A last year, which mandated the northern terminal to be specifically located at the Transbay Terminal.

The CHSRA needs to follow the will of the voters as stated in Proposition 1A. Their proposal for a Beale Street Terminal simply violates voter mandate. CHSRA cannot cherry pick what in the Prop 1A to obey.

Can’t we just have the HSR station at 4th & King?

4th & King simply does not have enough transit connection necessary to deliver passengers to and from the HSR, and the roads are congested especially during baseball games and other AT&T Park events. One or two car Muni Metro trains will not be enough to take connecting passengers from HSR to other parts of the city and the Bay Area. If people will have difficulty accessing HSR, ridership will suffer.

What do we have to lose if Transbay opponents win?

The construction of the $400 million train box will bring thousands of jobs to the Bay Area. If this project loses the stimulus money, other states would receive it instead. The money will not be diverted to another HSR project anywhere in California since the project is still in the study and engineering phase. California now has a double digit unemployment rate, any effort will help improve our region’s economy.

Losing the stimulus grant also means additional local funds will have to be spent on redesigning the bus terminal, which would delay the long awaited project. Because so much funds would have been lost or spent on doing studies, there would be no funding for the Beale Street terminal.

The choice is not between Transbay Terminal and the Beale Street terminal, but whether Caltrain and HSR will ever reach Downtown San Francisco, making direct connection with BART, AC Transit, Golden Gate Transit, and ferries. Now is time for economic stimulus from the construction of this project, not the time for petty politicking.

Without this critical project to fill the most important transit gap in the Bay Area, point to point service between Downtown San Francisco and Downtown Los Angeles will not be possible, which is what the success of the future HSR project will depend on.

What can you do?

Call or email the following Congressional representatives:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (San Francisco) – Email, Phone (202) 225-4965

Senator Barbara Boxer – Email, Phone (202) 224-3553

Senator Diane Feinstein – Email, Phone (202) 224-3841

Tell them that:

  • You support Transbay Transit Center Project
  • Transbay Transit Center is fully eligible for and should receive the funds from ARRA (Stimulus)
  • Beale Street terminal alternative is not feasible and violates voter mandate
  • Federal Rail Administration should dismiss arguments from Transbay Transit Center opponents