Cost of adding second floor of underground platforms makes stopping some trains at 4th and King more desirable
I wrote a month ago on San Francisco’s proposed terminus for California’s high-speed rail system, and argued that it would make the most sense to terminate trains at both the proposed Transbay Terminal Center and the existing Caltrain terminus at 4th and King Streets. Original plans for Transbay would have deposited all arriving high-speed rail trains in the Center’s basement, but California High-Speed Rail executive Quentin Kopp has argued not only that the building won’t have the capacity to handle future train service (12 trains/hour at rush hours), but also that the building and the tunnel necessary to bring trains there have “all the earmarks of San Francisco’s Big Dig,” referencing Boston’s huge and budget-busting downtown highway project.
The Bay Guardian reports that a compromise solution – allowing eight trains an hour to continue to Transbay and four trains an hour to stop at 4th and King – will eliminate the required construction of a second underground platform level at Transbay and the associated massive increase in costs. This is an appropriate mediation of the issues, and as I pointed out before, it will provide for the improvement of the existing station, which, with the eventual completion of the Central Subway, will be quite well connected to downtown, Chinatown, and potentially Fisherman’s Wharf.
Rafael over at California High Speed Rail Blog wrote a few days ago on the possibility of building a separate high-speed rail station under Mission Street, in between the Transbay Terminal and the BART lines over on Market Street. The advantage of such a station would be allowing a full load of trains as well as easier connections to BART – it would also allow the use of existing Japanese train technology, something that may be precluded from existing plans for the Transbay tunnels because of turning radii. As I see it, though, the lack of a built station complex is a fatal flaw that would diminish the appeal of using high-speed rail in San Francisco. The Transbay complex is going to be a fantastic, impressive structure that would be an worthy welcome into the city for rail passengers – abandoning that to a simple subway station would be a disappointment.