Bayrail Alliance — an Abbreviated History

Our group began as Peninsula Rail 2000 in the early 1980s. After Caltrans (California State Department of Transportation) took over the Peninsula Commute Service from Southern Pacific, a group of environmental activists and transit professionals became concerned that Caltrans lacked vision to realize the full potential of the Caltrain service. Caltrain’s ridership had reached its lowest level since before World War II. (The name “CalTrain” had just been coined as Caltrans took over funding and management responsibilities from Southern Pacific Railroad for the Peninsula Commute Service.) The group devised a five-point plan to transform Caltrain from a commuter rail line into a frequent rapid transit system.

Many people assumed that the 10-year-old BART system eventually would be extended from Daly City down the Peninsula to San Jose and replace Caltrain. However, BART was not in a position to expand at the time, especially not outside of its three-county district. (See an explanation for why Peninsula BART is not a viable option.)

The Peninsula Rail 2000 plan called for extending Caltrain to downtown San Francisco (from the present terminus at Fourth and Townsend–to Market or Mission Street), increasing its frequency and service hours to approach or match those of BART, operating electric-powered trains (instead of diesel), formation of a new transit district to operate Caltrain, and self-service (POP) ticketing.


1980 — Caltrans takes over financial and administrative responsibilities for Southern Pacific’s 47-mile, 44-train per weekday Peninsula Commute Service.

Founding president Ron Kilcoyne (Presently the General Manager at Lane Transit District in Eugene Oregon)

1982 —  In reaction to Caltrans’ neglect and mismanagement of the former Southern Pacific Peninsula Commute Service (the 47-mile, 44-train per weekday service which later became Caltrain), an informal group of advocates begins meeting monthly at the Haven restaurant in downtown SF. Founders include Tony Bruzzone, John Holtzclaw, Doris Kahn, Ron Kilcoyne, Art Lloyd. Peter Straus suggests the name “Peninsula Rail 2000” — because they had a vision for rail that they hoped could be accomplished by the year 2000. Alas, while significant progress has been made on achieving their original vision, it still has not yet come to pass. In 2001, PR2000 became BayRail Alliance.

1983 — PR2000 releases a series of white papers, including “5-Point Program To Develop and Improve Peninsula Rail Service,” to extend Caltrain to downtown San Francisco (from Fourth and Townsend to Market or Mission Street), increase its frequency and service hours to approach or match those of BART, operate electric-powered trains (instead of diesel), form a new transit district to operate Caltrain, and use self-service (POP) ticketing. Members hand out newsletters to train riders, make presentations to Peninsula city councils, SamTrans; appear on local radio stations.

1984 — State Senator John Foran, lobbied by PR2000, sponsors Senate Concurrent Resolution 74 (SCR 74). Bill calls for a comprehensive study of rail alternatives for the Peninsula and a local agency to administer and fund train service.

1985 — Peninsula Rail 2000 (later known as BayRail Alliance), incorporates as a nonprofit. SCR 74 study findings support PR2000 plan for transit-level Caltrain frequency, downtown SF extension to attract more than twice current ridership. PR2000 receives Certificate of Achievement from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) for its proposals and efforts to promote them.

1986 — PR2000 fights a proposal to move SF Caltrain terminal further from downtown to make room for Mission Bay development. This threat would persist for several years.

1988 — Regional rail agreement settles squabble among transit agencies and officials over which projects to build. Agreement includes Caltrain SF extension opposed by East Bay. San Mateo County voters approve funding to build it and to purchase Peninsula right-of-way. Caltrans initiates study for project. Tiring from lack of official support for Caltrain plan, PR2000 leaders welcome energies of newcomer Alan Hirsch.

Jarrett Walker – International transit consultant and the author of the Human Transit blog

1989 — With new president Jarrett Walker, PR2000 membership increases, begins publishing monthly newsletters and holding monthly meetings open to general public. Publication of revised white paper attracts additional active members.

1990 — PR2000 (later known as BayRail Alliance) campaigns with TRAC and PCL to pass Proposition 116, a $1.9 billion bond measure for rail projects, including soon-to-begin Capitol Corridor trains, Caltrain right-of-way purchase. PR2000 wins MTC Award of Merit for its role in the campaign.

1991 — PR2000 (later known as BayRail Alliance) successfully fights California Transportation Commission to release Prop. 116 funds for right-of-way purchase from SP. Purchase later includes Dumbarton line, and trackage rights to Gilroy. CTC releases funds on condition that train service increase to 60 trains per weekday and a stronger local agency is created to run the service.

Jim West

⇒Yet to be fulfilled: Caltrain plans in 1991 called for electrification by 1996, as depicted here with “off the shelf” AEM7 electric locomotive and never-delivered California Cars. Drawing by B. Michael Dzugaj

Jim West becomes PR2000 president.

1992 — PR2000 (later known as BayRail Alliance) successfully lobbies to include Caltrain electrification in Santa Clara County T2010 plan, and in the Measure A half-cent sales tax that is later struck down by the State Supreme Court. Caltrans electrification study confirms key part of 5-Point Plan. Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board (JPB) takes over Caltrain from Caltrans. Caltrans electrification study confirms key part of PR2000 5-Point Plan. On two advisory ballot measures, PR2000 helps persuade more San Mateo County voters to support Caltrain than BART. PR2000 heads off proposed SF initiative to prohibit SFO rail shuttle from connecting to Caltrain, an issue which PR2000 ultimately would lose.

September 1992 — PR2000 working with local bicycle advocates succeeds in getting Caltrain to try a pilot Bikes-on-Board program. On November 24, 1995, Caltrain increases the number of bicycles allowed per train to 24 making Caltrain the least-restrictive and most accessible rail system to bicyclists in the country.

1993 — PR2000 member Michael Kiesling re-invigorates Caltrain SF extension with his affordable proposal to tunnel the line to the Transbay Terminal. The PCJPB purchases the rights to Kiesling’s “Emperor Norton” proposal for the nominal sum of $10.

“Staying on Track” newsletter, with 1000+ mailing list, expands to tabloid format (through 1997).

1994-95 — Kiesling’s downtown SF extension alternative nearly eliminated when SF Board of Supervisors approves studies for project. Over a year later, a variant of Kiesling’s plan is found to be the only feasible option. Many Caltrain improvements are put on hold while BART-SFO extension plan moves forward. PR2000 fights proposed JPB ordinance to limit free speech at stations.

1996— PR2000 joins in lawsuit against BART-SFO project now planned to extend to Millbrae, precluding the promised direct connection between Caltrain and SFO AirTrain. Suit ultimately would prove unsuccessful.

⇒ PR2000 held its general meetings at the San Carlos Depot Cafe for 10 years. Pictured:Michael Kiesling, downtown extension advocate; Adrian Brandt, president of PR2000,1996-2000. Caltrain JPB paid Kiesling $10 for his SF extension proposal in 1993.

Adrian Brandt takes over as president from Jim West.

1997 — PR2000 launches website, and publishes “Unlocking Gridlock” white paper revision.

1996-98 — San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown opposes the Caltrain downtown extension, and blocks completion of studies needed to build it. This results in reprogramming of funds to “Rapid Rail” plan, emphasizing rehabilitation of rail line before any major upgrades. After SF activists including PR2000 campaign to place a ballot initiative to move the downtown extension project forward, Mayor Willie Brown reverses his position again, to support the downtown extension, shortly before Prop H qualifies for the ballot.

1998 — PR2000’s President Adrian Brandt successfully lobbies Caltrain to include blended brakes and separate head-end power on locomotives that are planned to be overhauled. Blended brakes (dynamic braking + friction braking vs. friction braking only) help improve braking performance. Separate head-end power (a separate engine to power lighting and air conditioning in passenger cars, rather than using the main engine) reduces fuel consumption and noise. All of the locomotives have blended brakes and 15 of the 20 locomotives have separate head-end power.

April 1999 — Newcomer Margaret Okuzumi helps PR2000 (now BayRail Alliance) mount pro-electrification faxed letter campaign. The JPB votes 5-to-4 at their May 6 meeting, to make electrification a near-term priority, instead of adopting the “go-slow” approach recommended by staff.

November 2, 1999 — After a campaign by SF-based groups and PR2000, SF voters pass Prop. H with 69% of the vote. It requires city officials to seek funding for, and build, Caltrain downtown extension to a new or rebuilt terminal on the present site of the Transbay Transit Terminal, to protect right-of-way for the extension, and also to “pursue electrification of the Caltrain line from San Francisco to San Jose prior to or concurrent with the extension of Caltrain downtown”.

Margaret Okuzumi

Margaret Okuzumi — BayRail Alliance Executive Director 1999-2009

2000 — PR2000 successfully lobbies the Santa Clara County board of supervisors to keep a 1996 Measure B promise to voters for more frequent Caltrain service, which results in them putting the squeeze on VTA. VTA provides funding to help boost weekday Caltrain mid-day service from hourly to half-hourly, with matching funds from San Francisco and San Mateo counties.

Caltrain installs ticket vending machines and switches to a “proof-of-payment” system, fulfilling one of BayRail Alliance’s original goals for Caltrain. As a result, fare evasion decreases and Caltrain collects more revenue.

2001 — PR2000 changes its name to BayRail Alliance and launches a campaign for the passage of Assembly Bill 1419, which the state legislature approves by a 1-vote margin, to transfer Transbay Terminal land and development rights from Caltrans to San Francisco Redevelopment Agency to build new terminal and Caltrain extension. The Redevelopment Agency has pledged all of the proceeds (tax increment) from the development to the rebuilding of the Transbay Terminal and Caltrain Downtown extension. This amount is estimated at $1.2B of the $1.8B cost of the project. Governor Davis vetoes the bill, but directs Caltrans to support the land transfer administratively.

2001 — BayRail’s lobbying efforts help lead to Caltrain agreeing to be the Dumbarton Rail operator. Caltrain agrees on the condition that it would not be required to fund any of the expenses of operating the  Dumbarton service.

2002 — BayRail sponsors high speed rail forum in San Jose, its most ambitious event to date, shortly following Gov. Davis signing into law SB 1856 HSR bond package for Nov. 2004 ballot.

September 2003 — After years of delay, Caltrain implements full proof-of-payment fare collection, thereby realizing one of BayRail Alliance’s original five goals for Caltrain.

April 22, 2004 — BayRail Alliance, working with other groups in San Francisco, overcomes opposition from a greedy developer and some neighborhood interests and convinces the SF Board of Supervisors to approve environmental documents for the Transbay Terminal project, which includes extending Caltrain and future high-speed rail.

June 15, 2004 — In an exhausting hearing that ended past 3 a.m. the next day, BayRail Alliance and other groups succeed in getting the SF Board of Supervisors to unanimously uphold the Transbay EIR against appeals filed by some neighborhood interests and a private developer.

June 7, 2005 — BayRail Alliance, working with TRANSDEF, files a “friend of the court” (amicus) brief along with the Sierra Club, TRAC, San Francisco Tomorrow, and TALC, requesting speedy appeal of a ruling on the Transbay Terminal project’s Environmental Impact Report (EIR). A ruling by a judge in favor of private developer Jack Myers has halted preliminary planning and engineering for the project. The groups ask the appeals court to stay (halt) the judge’s order pending appeal. This succeeds in producing a speedy stay of the order, allowing planning and engineering for the Transbay Project to proceed. Myers later drops the appeal after the City of San Francisco agrees to pay $34 million to acquire his property through eminent domain.

June 2006 — BayRail Alliance helps generate calls in support of California high-speed rail to Governor Schwarzenegger, who was threatening to use a line-item veto to cut all funding for work on HSR. Perhaps as a result, the $13 million for the High Speed Rail Authority is preserved in the 2006-07 budget.

2007 — BayRail Alliance launches newly redesigned website, the culmination of more than a year of effort.

August 2008 — BayRail Alliance joins TRANSDEF, Town of Atherton, City of Menlo Park, Planning and Conservation League, and California Rail Foundation in a lawsuit against the High Speed Rail Authority over the adequacy of the EIR. Despite the litigation, BayRail continues to support Proposition 1A High Speed Rail bond.

May 2009 — BayRail begins a campaign to save Caltrain as the agency faces a $10.1 million deficit.

August 2009 — A judge rules in favor of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed by BayRail, TRANSDEF and others against the High Speed Rail Authority.

March 2010 — BayRail launches the Green Caltrain blog to offer views on current rail topics.

June 2010 — Caltrain receives permission from FRA to pursue modern light weight electric trains. Light weight trains have been part of BayRail’s vision for electrification of Caltrain.

August 2010 — The old Transbay Terminal closes and demolition begins. A new terminal will be built in the same location with underground train box for eventual rail extension from 4th & King streets. The Transbay Terminal and Downtown Extensions are top priorities for BayRail.

January 2011 — BayRail Alliance, along with a broad coalition of train riders and public officials known as Friends of Caltrain, host a Summit to Save Caltrain. Congresswoman Jackie Speier and Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune are the keynote speakers of the summit.

February 2011 — Facing a $30 million deficit, Caltrain board declares fiscal emergency. The staff proposes cut all midday, late night, weekend, and Gilroy train service, along with numerous stations to close the deficit.

April 2011 — With sustained advocacy by BayRail and others, the Caltrain board adopts a zero cut scenario and asks three county partners and MTC to make such scenario possible.

March 2012 — Caltrain, MTC, local entities, and High Speed Rail Authority reach an agreement to adopt the blended scenario for High Speed Rail and to support Caltrain electrification as a part of early investment. This agreement closes the budget gap for electrification.