San Francisco’s New Terminal Waits for Trains



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.



  1. YES! The problem is the caltrain also need to be FOUR TRACKED all the way down the peninsula. Until this happens it will continue to be a disgrace. We need to eminent domain every backyard along the tracks in Palo Alto or this will NEVER happen.

    • In its two-track transbay section BART is capable of carrying over 25,000 riders an hour in each direction…equivalent to the car-carrying capacity of 13 freeway lanes. Four Caltrain tracks would be ideal, but with careful scheduling a two-track passenger rail service along the Peninsula would provide significant benefits to the Bay Area….Santa Clara, San Mateo and San Francisco counties in particular.

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