Downtown Rail Extension
|Downtown Rail Extension|
|Locale||San Francisco, California|
|Owner||Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board (PCJPB)|
|Operator(s)||PCJBP; California High-Speed Rail Authority|
|Character||underground commuter / high-speed railway tunnel|
|Line length||1.3 mi (2.09 km)|
|Number of tracks||2-6|
|Track gauge||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge|
|Electrification||Overhead lines, 25kV AC|
The Downtown Rail Extension (DTX) is a planned second phase of the San Francisco Transbay Transit Center (TTC). When complete, it will extend the Caltrain Peninsula Corridor commuter rail line from its current northern terminus at 4th and King via a 1.3 mi (2.1 km) tunnel. The new terminus will be close to the Financial District and will provide intermodal connections to BART, Muni, Transbay AC Transit buses, and long-distance buses. In addition, the California High Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) plans to use DTX and the Caltrain-owned Peninsula Corridor for service on the CHSRA San Francisco–San Jose segment. Because DTX uses a long tunnel, current diesel locomotives are not suitable and the Caltrain Modernization Project (CalMod), which includes electrification of the line and acquisition of electrified rolling stock, is a prerequisite.
Estimated at $6 billion, it is projected to cost more than the entire first phase of the Transit Center. Only the "train box", the structural shell surrounding the lowest level of the TTC, has been funded as part of Phase 1 construction. As of 2018[update], full funding has not been obtained for the entire Phase 2 project. The TJPA is seeking funding from various federal (Federal Transit Administration New Starts grants), state (SB1, the CAHSR project), regional, and local sources.
From about 2013 to 2018, the final route between the current 4th and King terminus and the TTC was uncertain. Former San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee had proposed an alternative route in 2015 which would bypass 4th and King, extending Caltrain and high-speed rail to the Transbay Terminal through a new tunnel branching from the existing line at the 22nd Street station, then following a route generally under Third Street to TTC. In 2018, the San Francisco Planning department announced the preferred final route: a new tunnel under Pennsylvania Avenue that would connect to the originally designed DTX route from 4th and King to the TTC. In addition, the TTC is a candidate for the San Francisco terminus of a second Transbay Tube between San Francisco and Alameda Island, which would add direct BART service.
- 1 Stations and Service Patterns
- 2 Cost and project funding
- 3 History
- 4 References
- 5 External links
Stations and Service Patterns
The design of DTX includes, as of the 2015 environmental impact report, two new below-grade stations:
- 4th and Townsend: an underground station adjacent to the current 4th and King Caltrain terminal
- Transbay Transit Center: a station on the lowest level of Transbay Transit Center that opened in August 2018.
Both stations would be fully electrified with overhead wires to accommodate electrified Caltrain and high-speed rail trains. An underground pedestrian tunnel is also planned for the Transbay Transit Center station, connecting it to the nearby Embarcadero station for transfers to BART and Muni.
Though the service patterns to these stations is not finalized as of 2018, both Caltrain and the California High-Speed Rail project intend to run trains to one or both of these stations.
The Transbay Transit Center station is planned to contain six tracks and 3 platforms for trains. The plans studied in the EIR propose allocating the two northerly tracks to Caltrain and the four southerly tracks to HSR. An April 2018 study on the proposed operations of the terminal concluded that three tracks are needed in the DTX tunnel leading to the Transbay station, and furthermore that Caltrain and HSR would need to share all six tracks at Transbay for reliable operations.
Cost and project funding
As of April 2018, the project has an estimated total cost of $6 billion.
Initially, $600 million of funding was allocated to the DTX but was reallocated due to cost overruns on the Transbay Transit Center Project Regional Measure 3, a bridge toll increase in the Bay Area that passed in the June 2018 election, allocates $325 million to the project.
Even before it was completed, in 1863 the San Francisco and San Jose Railroad (SF&SJ) was urged to build passenger and freight stations along Market Street. Once complete, the SF&SJ offered train service into San Francisco with a northern terminus at a now-demolished station at 18th and Valencia streets. Soon after Southern Pacific (SP) took over the Peninsula Commute route from the SF&SJ, SP would go on to build the Bayshore Cutoff in 1907, rerouting the line between San Francisco and San Bruno to the San Francisco Bay shoreline. The relocated station in San Francisco near Third and Townsend was soon deemed "[notoriously] inadequate even for present passenger traffic" in 1910. Instead of moving the station closer to Market, SP built a new passenger terminal, the Third and Townsend Depot, at the same location in San Francisco in 1914, anticipating the need for increased capacity to handle visitors traveling to the 1915 Panama–Pacific International Exposition.
Southern Pacific plans
Starting in 1909, SP purchased sixteen complete blocks in a direct line between the foot of Market and the existing Third and Townsend depot at a cost of $5 million (equivalent to $95.2 million in 2016), and the San Francisco Call believed this meant a station uniting SP with the Santa Fe and Western Pacific near the San Francisco Ferry Building was imminent. In 1911, SP purchased a key property which had previously housed a home for war veterans, and the San Francisco Call again speculated SP would shortly build a new depot at Market and Beale. When the new Third and Townsend Depot was announced in November 1912, Charles S. Fee, SP passenger traffic manager, denied the prior rumors putting a new depot at Market and Beale, saying the Ferry Building would be handling the bulk of the traffic and that a Market and Beale station could not be completed in time for Panama–Pacific service.
The San Francisco Chronicle speculated that Third and Townsend could have been announced as a bargaining tactic to knock down the asking price of the few landowners remaining between the existing station and Market and Beale. However, other observers understood the 1914 Spanish Revival Depot at Third and Townsend was intended as a "temporary" structure since SP planned to extend service to downtown San Francisco at some point in the future, as shown by the configuration of the new Southern Pacific General Office building at 1 Market Street. That building was completed in 1917 with an "E"-shaped floor plan, and Southern Pacific had retained tenancy of the first-floor spaces facing the "courtyard", implying that a ground-floor courtyard station space may have been planned for the future, but plans to extend the rails into downtown San Francisco were put on hold following the United States's entry into World War I and were never revived.
In 1955, the California Public Utilities Commission published a report to evaluate SP's Peninsula Commute service in the wake of a 1950 application to raise fares. The report noted "While the Peninsula Service furnishes a rapid rail transportation, particularly during morning and evening peak periods, it does not carry passengers within reasonable walking distance of downtown San Francisco" and "a considerable portion of the commuter's total traveling time is spent in transit between the S. P. Depot and downtown San Francisco, and at an additional expense to the commuter of 30¢ a day." By counting passengers who disembarked at 3rd and Townsend, the report concluded that 70% of passengers disembarking in San Francisco used Muni to reach their final destination, and the time spent on Muni could equal or exceed the time spent on SP's trains.
Planned BART takeover
During the planning phases of what would become BART, a planned Peninsula line would take over from the existing Southern Pacific commute service. Although that planned Peninsula line was proposed to be built on the existing SP right-of-way and enter a subway section at the intersection of 7th and Hooper Streets, a 1960 report noted SP still intended to extend service to downtown. A 1963 report to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors projected the inevitable decline of the Third and Townsend Depot once the planned San Mateo line of what would become BART was built:
The Third and Townsend depot of the Southern Pacific Railway will continue as long distance terminal and as a commuter terminal until such time as rapid transit system is developed on the Peninsula. The fate of rail passenger service is difficult to predict, but it is apparent that no major investment in new facilities is likely to occur and that the Third and Townsend depot, once relieved of commuter operations, will be used by no more than two or three train arrivals and departures a day.
Despite the plans, BART service to San Mateo County via the proposed Peninsula Line was dropped after that county pulled out of the BART district in December 1961, and SP never extended the commuter rail service from San Jose to the downtown Financial District. A 1968 Rapid Transit Service to San Francisco International Airport and to the Peninsula report for the City of San Francisco proposed an underground extension taking the SP line to Second and Market. The 1968 Rapid Transit report said "the Southern Pacific suburban railway from San Jose to San Francisco is good as far as it goes, but it does not go far enough into San Francisco. The 'Southern Pacific Depot' at Third and Townsend Streets ... is almost one mile south of the destination of 80 percent of its patrons" and called "fast and frequent service ... a prime need for by-passing and hopefully reducing peak-hour freeway congestion," along with improved transit service to San Francisco International Airport (SFO) (later realized in 2003 with the completion of the BART to SFO extension) and the Bayview-Hunters Point area of southeastern San Francisco (realized in 2007 after the new T Third Muni Metro line went into revenue service). Even though upgraded service from SP would be the "cheapest and quickest" of the options studied, SP stated they did not want to share the existing tracks (and freight service) with increased passenger rail operations, making plans to extend the rails to Second and Market unfeasible. The Third and Townsend Depot was demolished in the late 1970s after the current station at 4th and King opened one block away in 1975.
PERSUS and PENTAP
In 1975, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) published the Feasibility of Upgrading Peninsula Passenger Rail Service (PERSUS) report. PERSUS noted the single largest destination, San Francisco's downtown Financial District, was not directly served by the SP Peninsula Commute and called the Townsend Street station "an obstacle to the [Central Business District]-destined commuter who must expend additional time and fares, and a deterrent to the off-peak rider who must contend with less frequent transit service or pedestrian hazards on the streets." In addition, SFO was "the largest traffic attractor located between San Francisco and San Jose" and "physical conditions for establishing a [rail] link are unusually favorable" because the SP line approaches the airport quite closely. PERSUS proposed three alternatives, which could be implemented in successive phases:
- Minor Upgrade: retain the existing service and terminals, but improve access to stations on the Peninsula and San Francisco.
- Major Upgrade: move the San Francisco terminal, increase service frequencies, and begin investment of public funds.
- Transit Conversion: increase service frequencies so passengers would wait no more than fifteen minutes between trains, separate passenger and freight rail traffic with additional tracks, complete grade separation, and build an airport station.
An extension to the Transbay Terminal would be part of the Major Upgrade, with an alternative to terminate SP service at Daly City by rerouting the SP line onto the Coast Line through Colma, which had discontinued service after the completion of the Bayshore Cutoff in 1907. The Transit Conversion would free casual riders from having to look up specific timetables and plan trips, obviating the need for a Peninsula BART extension, and it was projected to more than double ridership.
PERSUS was followed by the Peninsula Transit Alternatives Project study (PENTAP) in 1977. PENTAP recommended upgraded SP service, including more frequent reverse-peak trains (southbound in the mornings, and northbound in the evenings). As an alternative to extending SP to the Financial District, PENTAP advocated for more frequent bus service to the SP terminal at Fourth and Townsend.
The Caltrans CalTrain
By the late 1970s, SP was faced with falling passenger counts and revenues, leading SP to petition the California Public Utilities Commission to discontinue the Peninsula Commute service entirely in May 1977, which received a preliminary affirmative ruling in July 1979. In response, Assemblymember Lou Papan introduced AB 1853 in 1977 to preserve the service by subsidizing ticket prices and SP's operation. Peninsula Commute ridership was so sensitive to gasoline shortages that passenger counts jumped by 40% in May and June 1979. California would take over financial responsibility for the Peninsula Commute in July 1980.
A draft report prepared in 1978 to estimate the environmental impact of the SP petition to discontinue service echoed the conclusions reached by the PUC in 1955, stating "the downtown financial district of [San Francisco] is the principal destination for a large percentage of Peninsula commuters, and most SP commuters."
After California took over the Peninsula Commute and set up the CalTrain commuter rail service, the downtown extension was called "critical to the survival of the service" in a 1982 public hearing. During that hearing, Mr. Fred Barton, Deputy District Director of Rail Operations for Caltrans, noted "the existing passenger service provided by SP is not utilizing its full potential in serving the travel demands of the Peninsula residents who are employed in downtown San Francisco. This inadequacy in service is mainly due to the location of the present SP terminal which is remote from the high density employment centers in the city's financial district. In fact, an additional twenty to thirty minute travel time and a transfer to Muni bus service is required by the commuters in order to reach the financial district."
The legislature required an annual report detailing planned improvements to improve ridership as part of 1981's AB 1010. The subsequent 1984 Rail Passenger Development Plan called for downtown station extensions in both San Francisco and San Jose. As evidence, when Muni discontinued a dedicated shuttle service between 4th and Townsend and the Financial District, CalTrain ridership dropped by 18 percent, prompting Caltrans to declare a downtown extension should be implemented no later than 1991.
Because the current San Francisco station location is acknowledged to be a major deterent [sic] to train ridership, Caltrans is arranging for increased bus shuttle service between the 4th and Townsend Streets station and primary San Francisco employment centers. During the period in which Muni formerly operated a dedicated service to the financial district, there was 18-percent higher weekday train ridership than at present. [...]
Beyond the range of the current Five-Year Plan, the extension of the Peninsula Commute Service to downtown intermodal terminals in San Jose and San Francisco would remedy the major deterrent to efficient utilization of the service. Ridership is now increasing again, but full potential can never be reached without improved service to downtown terminal locations. Without improved access, the service will continue to face the historical cycle of ridership fluctuations and the potential necessity for fare increases.
Caltrans proposes the extension of the Peninsula Commute Service to new intermodal terminals in downtown San Francisco and San Jose. When completed, these extensions will provide the Peninsula rider with a single uninterrupted ride to either of the two major downtown destinations, as well as provide the Peninsula Service with closer connections to the other major transit carriers in San Francisco and San Jose. These extension proposals can and should be implemented in the next 5 to 7 years.— Caltrans, Rail Passenger Development Plan (1984)
Caltrans went on to publish the 1984 San Francisco Terminal Relocation Study, which called for a below-grade alignment from I-280 and Sixth to the Transbay Terminal and predicted that a downtown extension would attract 30,000 new boardings per day. The 1987 Interim Upgrade Study called the downtown extension "the single most important improvement that can be made to the Peninsula commuter line at the present time." In 1989, the Federal Transit Administration authorized a draft environmental impact report, which was completed in 1991 but never published or reviewed as the share of local funding for the terminal relocation never materialized.
However, Caltrans was being pressured to drop funding for CalTrain. By state law, the subsidies for the rail service would have been discontinued as the farebox recovery ratio failed to breach 40%, unless a waiver was granted. Once the state determined the train service provided mainly a regional, and not a statewide benefit, control of CalTrain should more appropriately be passed to a regional agency. Accordingly, a three-county agency, the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board (PCJPB) was formed in 1991 and with the help of state funds, PCJPB purchased the Peninsula Corridor line and right-of-way from SP in 1992 for $202 million.
Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board: First attempt
Once PCJPB took over the stewardship of Caltrain in 1992, the downtown extension was identified as a high-priority project, and a study was undertaken in 1993 to evaluate nine project alternatives. PCJPB leadership voted in March 1994 under Resolution 1994-8 to extend service to downtown by 1996. Projected weekday Caltrain ridership was anticipated to double (compared to 21,700 daily passengers in 1995) with the completion of a downtown extension. Under Resolution 1994-8, electrified trains were planned past 4th and King down either King, Townsend, or Brannan, bringing tracks underground at Fourth Street, and then to one of two alternative downtown terminal sites selected for further study: a locally preferred alignment, which terminated at Market and Beale, nearly the same alignment as the 1911 plans; or the Transbay Terminal. A new terminal at the Market and Beale site would have either two or three underground levels and either two or four tracks terminating at Market or Mission Streets. Alternatively, if selected, a new terminal at Transbay would be either an aerial or underground platform.
Other alternatives identified during early studies included short or long tunnel options, different locations for the tracks to turn north, and two different tunnel construction methods. An additional east–west alignment along Brannan was dropped from consideration in 1995 to avoid disruption to local business. Ventilation requirements would depend on the length of the tunnel selected, and some options would require new locomotives powered by natural gas or electricity to replace or supplement the existing diesel-powered fleet, increasing the costs. In 1995, estimates for the new terminal were projected to cost from US$491,000,000 (equivalent to $788,600,000 in 2017) to US$686,000,000 (equivalent to $1,101,700,000 in 2017).
|Tunnel under||East–west portal locations[b]||Construction Method||Market/Beale Terminal (LPA)||Transbay Terminal (TB)|
|Short Tunnel||Long Tunnel||Tracks turn north at[c]|
|Townsend||Fifth / Townsend||S of Berry / Seventh||cut-and-cover||Townsend / The Embarcadero||Brannan / Colin P. Kelly|
|King||Sixth / King||mined||Third and Townsend|
- This should be understood as four independent design options: first, an east–west alignment (fixing the location of this portion of the tunnel to under King or Townsend); second, a tunnel length (fixing the entrance portal location); then third, a downtown terminal location (either Market/Beale or Transbay Terminal); and finally, the construction method (which dictated route and where the tunnel turns north).
- Defines the location of the entrance portal to the downtown extension tunnel. These were divided into short and long tunnel alternatives.
- Defines the location where the tunnel would turn north. There were two alignments selected for further consideration, the Locally Preferred Alternative (termination at Market/Beale) and the termination at Transbay Terminal.
In December 1995, the Market and Beale site was dropped for consideration as City of San Francisco planners were considering that location for a bus station. Since the Transbay Terminal itself was scheduled for demolition and redevelopment, the site of the Transbay Terminal was endorsed by PCJPB as the future downtown terminal.
Transbay Transit Center development
While a draft environmental impact report was prepared in 1997 for the downtown extension by the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board, the report was never certified and was abandoned in an incomplete state. Subsequently, the voters of San Francisco reaffirmed the project in the November 1999 election by approving Proposition H, which mandated the extension of Caltrain to a newly rebuilt Transbay transit facility and the electrification of Caltrain. At the time, the downtown extension was estimated to cost $600 million. In 2000, the City and County of San Francisco and the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Authority begin the environmental review process for the revived project. The Transbay Joint Powers Authority (TJPA) is established in 2001 in order to manage the project and oversee its design and implementation. The environmental review process concludes in 2004 with the publication of the final environmental impact report (FEIR), which is certified by the TJPA.
The TJPA's plan for the downtown extension splits the project into two phases. The phased plan was approved in 2006 with the adoption of the First Addendum to the 2004 FEIR. The first phase consists of the construction of the Transbay Transit Center, which contains a train box on its underground levels to accommodate Caltrain and high-speed rail. The second phase consists of the actual downtown extension, with an alignment that will carry trains from an underground station near 4th and King Station to Second Street via Townsend Street, and then from Second Street into the train box in the Transbay Transit Center. The first phase broke ground in 2010 and opened to the public on August 11, 2018.  
The Railyard Alternatives and I-280 Boulevard Feasibility Study
In 2013, Mayor Ed Lee pushed for a revised downtown extension plan that could substantially differ from the alignment approved in the 2004 EIR. The suggested revisions included moving the alignment to the Mission Bay neighborhood in order to accommodate new housing development and the new Warriors stadium that was in planning at the time. With the 2015 alternative alignment, trains would potentially run underground along Third Street in Mission Bay. The trains would then miss the existing Fourth and King station, enabling the redevelopment of the Caltrain station and potential addition of infill housing. Another suggested revision included demolishing part of Interstate 280 to facilitate further development. Other proposed DTX routings included a loop so that trains may leave TTC as other trains are pulling in.
The study for these revisions, coordinated by the San Francisco Planning department, was called the Railyard Alternatives and I-280 Boulevard Feasibility (RAB) Study and was initially projected to complete in eight months. After five years, the results of the RAB study were released in May 2018.  The RAB study considered three possible alternatives that would extend or replace the environmentally cleared DTX tunnel alignment: a trenched extension of DTX, a tunneled extension of DTX on Pennsylvania Avenue, and an alternative alignment along Third Street in Mission Bay. The study ultimately recommended the second alternative in order to improve street connectivity (avoiding poor connectivity in the first alternative) and to avoid the engineering, cost, and environmental difficulties associated with the third alternative through Mission Bay. The new proposal has an estimated cost of $6 billion and is projected to be complete in 2027.
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- San Francisco Transportation Technical Committee (May 1960). Report on a plan for rapid transit in San Francisco consonant with the Bay Area Rapid Transit System (Report). City of San Francisco. pp. 6, 27–28. Retrieved 26 February 2017.
It was an assumption common to these plans that service to the Peninsula would continue to be furnished by the Southern Pacific Company, from the existing terminal at Third and Townsend Streets, with provision for ultimate extension to the Market Street Subway.
The shortest and most direct transit route into San Francisco from the south Peninsula communities is over the existing main line right-of-way of the Southern Pacific Company, shown on Plates 12, 13, 14, and 15.
The practicability of adding an additional track, widening or constructing additional tunnels, providing necessary switches and cross overs, effecting grade separation, and equipping this line with a modern train control system has been studied and found to be both feasible and economical. [...]
Under this plan the commuter service of the railway would be absorbed by the proposed Bay Area rapid transit system. [...]
North of the San Francisco county line the route would occupy a part of the Southern Pacific Right of Way to the vicinity of Seventh and Hooper Streets, where the two tracks allocated to rapid transit would enter a subway section and follow under Seventh and Leavenworth Streets to Post Street. Here the Peninsula line would joint that of the proposed Marin-Richmond route and continue eastward under Post Street to Market and under Market Street to the transbay tube.
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14031.9. (b) Any existing commuter service funded under Section 14031.6 shall be eligible for those funds, commencing with the 1984–85 fiscal year, only if it maintains a ratio of fare revenues to operating costs of at least 40 percent during the previous year of operation.
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In December 1991, San Mateo County Transit District, the City and County of San Francisco, and the Santa Clara County Transit District (the member agencies) established the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board (Joint Powers Board) to operate commuter trains using the Southern Pacific Right of Way in the three counties. The purchase price of the Right of Way was $202 million. Through a bond issue, the State of California contributed $120 million. Payment of the balance was allocated by the Joint Powers Board among the three member agencies based on a mileage formula. San Mateo's share was $39.1 million (47.7 %), Santa Clara's share was $34.6 million (42.2%), and San Francisco's share was $8.3 million (10.1%).
Due to the lack of funds from San Francisco and Santa Clara Counties at the time the agreement was signed, San Mateo County Transit District (SamTrans) agreed to contribute Santa Clara's and San Francisco's shares in order to insure [sic] acquisition of the Right of Way. All parties to the agreement understood that neither San Francisco nor Santa Clara had any legally enforceable obligation to repay the contribution. Santa Clara and San Francisco Counties may at their election undertake good faith efforts to repay the contribution in a lump sum or through a repayment schedule.
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