The Benefits of Extending Caltrain to San Francisco, the Peninsula and the Region

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Four incoming traffic lanes enter San Francisco from the North, five from the East and eighteen from the South. Unsurprisingly, Metropolitan Transportation Commission shows 280,000 cars as crossing the San Mateo/San Francisco County Line every day, almost 50% more than from the two bridges combined.

In order for Muni to operate effectively, the amount of traffic clogging San Francisco’s streets must be reduced.  One effective way of doing this would be to give northbound Peninsula drivers a faster and classier way of accessing San Francisco.

This need puts the early extension of Caltrain into downtown San Francisco at the top of the priority list.  Squeezing out cars, buses and emergency vehicles by building obstructions into city streets is a heavy-handed and short-sighted way of cutting traffic. Giving people better transportation options should be the first choice.

When Caltrain is extended into the heart of the Financial District, adjacent to a 400,000 person jobs center, near a projected 20,000 units of new transit-oriented housing and linked conveniently to the  Market Street subways, San Francisco’s new Transbay Transit Center will serve a total of 11 commuter rail, subway and surface rail systems, and over 40 separate AC Transit, SamTrans, Muni and Golden Gate bus lines.  It will also eventually become the northerly terminal of California’s high-speed rail system.  With Caltrain operating in its lower level San Francisco’s new terminal will come to life.  In fact it will quickly become one of the most important transit hubs in North America.  In 1999 the people of San Francisco voted overwhelmingly for the Downtown Caltrain Extentension (DTX).

In recent months there have been some positive developments.  A Mello Roos District has been established to require property owners whose real estate values have soared based because of the forthcoming rail/bus terminal to pay back a portion of their gains to help pay for the extension.  Despite a spate of back-room complaining emanating from a gaggle of lobbyists and attorneys working on behalf of two huge property owners, City officials, led by Mayor Lee, refused to reduce the Mello Roos tax rate below the appropriate level.  As of this date, the municipal objectives appear to be, and certainly should be:

a.)  to establish the Mello Roos District without delay, such that benefiting property owners will begin to pay the taxes due to help complete the DTX project,
b.)  to avoid other actions designed to delay or impede DTX.

Getting Caltrain extended should be the first transportation choice of San Francisco County, San Mateo County and the Region. If you haven’t already done so, please make your favorite set of opinion makers aware of the importance of DTX.  This is one that everyone can get behind.

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