According to MTC, 281,000 cars travel northward into San Francisco every day from San Mateo County. This northbound influx is 40% higher than the cars entering SF from the two bridges combined. Excessive auto-commuting loads up city streets, slows down Muni, uses up parking space and generates greenhouse gas emissions. MTC projects that if nothing is done the number of cars from the South will rise to 310,000 vehicles a day by 2035. The need for a better and faster way of getting to San Francisco from the South is obvious.
Extending the Peninsula commuter rail system (Caltrain), to San Francisco’s new Transbay Transit Center (TTC) at First and Mission Street will attract tens of thousands of these auto-commuters to the trains. Fortunately the Downtown Caltrain Extension Project (DTX) is well along. All the environmental clearances and federal approvals are in place. Thanks to a $400 million Stimulus grant from the federal government, the Center’s huge below grade “train box” needed to accommodate Caltrain and future high-speed trains has been excavated. With adequate funding the DTX project could advance into its final design/build phase within a year, thereby making it possible to have Caltrain up and running in the TTC by 2022 or 2023. All that’s lacking is the strong local political support needed to acquire the remainder of the needed funding.
It’s time to connect Caltrain to the new TTC. Doing so will connect the 78-mile existing Caltrain line to San Francisco’s employment center, to 20,000 planned units of transit-oriented housing, to 10 other local and regional rail lines and to over 40 bus lines.
It is hoped that Mayor Lee will recognize the importance of this new nexus of West Bay transit lines in time to become the champion of getting Caltrain extended without further delay. If he does, the Transbay Transit Center will unquestionably become his most enduring legacy.