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The Green Caltrain blog is sponsored by BayRail Alliance, an all-volunteer non-profit organization supporting green rail transit in the Bay Area. This blog and BayRail have no affiliation with Caltrain.


BART-Caltrain connection in San Jose – schedule update

VTA has updated the schedule for when they will start to share information about the “Phase 2″ of the BART-Silicon Valley project which will connect BART to Caltrain at Diridon.  VTA expects to start the environmental review process in January, and are considering holding community meetings 1-2 months earlier (November/December).

So, if you are interested in seeing a tight connection between Caltrain and BART at Diridon, watch for opportunities this fall – we’ll keep you posted.

 

Transbay developers agree to pay, a little slower

This afternoon at the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, a deal was announced between the city and the Transbay district developers to fully pay their obligation to the Downtown Extension and other infrastructure. But the bill will be paid more slowly, over 34 years instead of 30.   The final agreement was deferred for two weeks to complete the legal changes, with the understanding that the Supervisors will approve the original deal if there is a breakdown.

Transit and active transportation advocates around the city and the region including San Francisco Transit Riders Union , Friends of Caltrain and the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition spoke up strongly in favor of the developers keeping their side of the bargain to pay to support the infrastructure that will make their properties much more valuable.

Scott Boule of the Transbay Joint Powers Authority commented that delay in the infrastructure financing district would put the federal loans at risk that the Downtown Extension project depends on. Though the developers had threatened a lawsuit, Supervisors Scott Wiener and Jane Kim strongly proposed moving ahead, before the closed session in which the deal was struck.  Said Wiener, ““It’s not optional to build these buildings and leave it to later to find funding for the trains. The two go together.”

Downtown Extension at risk – developers attempt to evade deal

The developers profiting from building tall buildings in the Transbay District are now seeking to avoid paying their agreed share of the Downtown Extension to Transbay, the project to connect the Caltrain tracks to their buildings, and other infrastructure supporting the Transbay transit center that makes their properties much more valuable. The developers are represented by former mayor and power-lobbyist Willie Brown.

Salesforce Tower

Salesforce Tower

The new Transbay District is expected to add 27,000 workers in buildings including the 1000+ feet 61 story SalesForce tower, and nearly 4400 units of housing, a third of which will be permanently affordable.

San Francisco County Transit Authority forecasts the Downtown Extension will drive up to 3x increase in Caltrain ridership to/from the city. Downtown San Francisco already has more jobs near the Transbay transit center than the rest of the Caltrain line combined.

The original deal anticipated a property tax contribution of about $400 million, but because of the increase in the expected value of the area, the expected assessment has gone up to $1.4 billion – even as the developers returns are also skyrocketing.

If you don’t want to let the developers of the hook and leave a gaping hole in the budget for DTX and other infrastructure, please speak up now. If you can make San Francisco City Hall on Tuesday afternoon – please come at 3pm – the agenda item will be then. Or, please write the board of Supervisors – click here to send a letter, telling them to keep the deal and approve the financing district. Or give your supervisor a call

For more on the story, see this Streetsblog article.

Caltrain buying used rail cars from Metrolink; alludes to cost changes for electrification

At today’s Caltrain board meeting, the board approved a term sheet to buy 16 used rail cars from Metrolink. The rail cars will help alleviate Caltrain crowding – but will take up to a year to rehab and put into service. This is five more cars than Caltrain originally intended to purchase back in January. Ridership has continued to rise, and the cars will allow Caltrain to create more 6 car train sets.

The term sheet is finally on the table to finalize after eight months of assessment and negotiations to extricate the cars from a lease. The overall cost is $15million, including the cars, rehabilitation, and $1 million to adjust a few platforms for the longer trains.

Funding for the cars will come from extra cash on hand due to the strong ridership, plus revenue bonds. Caltrain disclosed in the staff report that it also plans to use revenue bonds to help fund electrification.

In the board presentation about electrification, Caltrain modernization lead Marian Lee said that Caltrain was in the process of updating cost estimates and timelines that were initially developed in 2008, and will review with the 9 regional partners in the electrification project, with the implication that costs might have increased since then.

Mike Scanlon retires; opportunity for next-generation Caltrain leadership

Caltrain announced before the holiday weekend that General Manager Mike Scanlon is retiring. Scanlon oversaw the creation of the baby bullet service that more than doubled ridership in the last decade, and forward motion on the long-awaited electrification project.

The needs of Caltrain for the next decade will be in some ways very different from the past.

Caltrain has long thought of itself as a “commuter rail” service – but land use and rider preferences have created a need for a more “transit-like”, BART-like, frequent service pattern.

Caltrain/SamTrans is a major landowner. Can it play a more strategic role its land and in partnership with cities, to foster development that takes advantage of transit and helps create great places not just revenue-generating building.

Caltrain has been gaining ridership at the same time that there has been huge growth in private shuttles, in part due to gaps in the public transit service. Can a leader think strategically about services to deliver mode shift on the Peninsula Corridor?

The Bay Area is notorious for having many transit agencies providing uncoordinated service. Caltrain and High Speed Rail will need to craft the terms for “blended operations” that will support the needs of long distance and local riders. Can a leader foster integration, with a vision based on best practices of integrated transit systems around the world?

Caltrain will continue to operate in an environment with many jurisdictions and agencies – a strong leader will need to continue to foster community, agency, and funding support in a complex environment.

What are your thoughts about the most important areas where Mike Scanlon’s successor will need to have vision, experience and leadership to take Caltrain into the future.

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  • Interactive Caltrain schedule

  • Calendar of events

    • November 5, 2014

      SamTrans Board meeting

      Starts: 2:00 pm

      Location: 1250 San Carlos Ave., San Carlos, CA

    • November 6, 2014

      Caltrain JPB meeting

      Starts: 10:00 am

      Location: Location: 2nd Floor Auditorium San Mateo County Transit District 1250 San Carlos Avenue, San Carlos

    • November 11, 2014

      TJPA CAC Meeting

      Starts: 5:30 pm

      Location: 201 Mission Street, Suite 2100 San Francisco, CA

    • November 13, 2014

      TJPA Board Meeting

      Starts: 9:30 am

      Location: City Hall, Room 416, 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place, San Francisco, CA 94102

    • November 19, 2014

      Caltrain CAC meeting

      Starts: 5:30 pm

      Location: Location: 2nd Floor Auditorium San Mateo County Transit District 1250 San Carlos Avenue, San Carlos

    • November 20, 2014

      Caltrain BAC meeting

      Starts: 6:30 pm

      Location: 1250 San Carlos Avenue, San Carlos, CA

      Description: Bicycle Advisory Committee

    • December 3, 2014

      SamTrans Board meeting

      Starts: 2:00 pm

      Location: 1250 San Carlos Ave., San Carlos, CA

    • December 4, 2014

      Caltrain JPB meeting

      Starts: 10:00 am

      Location: Location: 2nd Floor Auditorium San Mateo County Transit District 1250 San Carlos Avenue, San Carlos

    • December 9, 2014

      TJPA CAC Meeting

      Starts: 5:30 pm

      Location: 201 Mission Street, Suite 2100 San Francisco, CA

    • December 11, 2014

      TJPA Board Meeting

      Starts: 9:30 am

      Location: City Hall, Room 416, 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place, San Francisco, CA 94102