Options for Diridon station could have good or bad transit connections

The consortium working on upgrades to Diridon Station connecting BART with Caltrain and other local, regional, and long-distance transit has come up with preliminary design options. And the options differ wildly in terms of the quality of transit connections. If you want good transit connections in San Jose for the next century or so, please watch and participate….

The design team for the Diridon Station is working on a mix-and-match set of options with variables including:

  • At grade or elevated platforms
  • Station location at San Fernando, Santa Clara Street, or Stover Street
  • Track alignments North and South

At the Diridon Joint Policy Advisory Committee meeting on Friday, the design team presented three different mix-and-match sets.

At Grade – San Fernando

This option keeps the station at grade, and the entrance where it currently is. This would create the longest walks between BART and Caltrain, light rail, and bus connections. The most convenient transfers would be to taxis and Uber/Lyft.  But it would avoid major changes to the station.

Elevated option – Santa Clara Street

The second option presented elevates the tracks, and moves the station entrance toward Santa Clara Street, and moves the light rail platforms close to the BART entrance.   This provides a close and direct connection between all the rail modes, although bus connections are a bit further away; taxis and TNCs are the furthest from the station entrance.

This option would also add a second entrance facing the Alameda neighborhoods, and connect the streets – Santa Clara, San Fernando, and Park, at grade through the station, providing greatly improved crosstown connections for people walking, bicycling and driving.  

The Santa Clara option, and the third option at Stover Street would require the relocation of Caltrain’s maintenance facility, likely to a location further South.

Elevated option – Stover Street

Lastly, an elevated option even further North brings the local bus loading area between BART and Caltrain/conventional rail, with some bus space under the tracks, and also moves light rail closer.  This option includes an elevated platform providing curb space for taxis, TNCs, and company shuttles, with ramps from Julian.

Also, the variations being considered include an option that would send High Speed Rail south on the 280 corridor, a proposal to reduce impacts from increased at-grade train service on neighborhoods south of Diridon.  This option would have Caltrain tracks to the west, diesel in the middle, and High Speed Rail trains to the west in order to swing south on the 280 right of way.

Support for future rail service

Update: we checked with Caltrain staff about how these options would support future rail service. According to analysis to date, all of the options on the table would be able to support the high end of Caltrain’s 2040 Vision scenarios, which could carry over 200,000 riders and replace the equivalent of another Highway 101’s worth of cars.

A significant benefit of options with elevated stations, that would require replacing the maintenance yard north of the station with an alternative further south, is that this would allow Caltrain and other conventional trains to run through the station to the place where they would be stored and maintained, instead of having to back out of the station. Logical inferences are that this would be less cumbersome for higher train service frequencies, and logically might make it easier to support regular schedules and recover more easily from service disruptions.

Mix and match

The various options are composed of a mix-and-match set of puzzle pieces transit connections and station access, so it is possible to have variations on these themes.  But not all options fit together. Your blogger’s understanding is that there will be an online tool allowing people to experiment with different combination of options for vertical alignment (elevated or at grade), station location, and how the various modes are brought tother.

Weighing the options: transit, transfers, walking and bicycling

An earlier study forecast that in 2040, the station would see about as many transfers as it does transit trips today. So the quality of that transfer experience seems very important for the amount of ridership at the station in the long run.  Also, the City of San Jose has ambitious goals to reduce solo driving in the city. Having a station design that makes it easy to get to the station, and through the station without driving will help achieve that goal, and having a lively, pedestrian-friendly place, will help achieve the goals.

The options will be evaluated based on their effectiveness at transit operations, providing integrated multi-modal connections, station access, and integration into the urban fabric, including the potential for new development; and benefits/drawbacks for the community and natural environment.

If you care about having seamless connections among transportation modes and better connections across San Jose with less driving, this is important to pay attention to.

There will be opportunities for public comment at a variety of venues:

  • City’s Diridon Station Advisory Group (SAAG): May 22, 2019
  • City Council & Agency Boards: June 2019
  • Community Meeting #3: June 10, 2019
  • Community Meeting #3 (in Spanish): June 15, 2019
  • Online Feedback Tools
  • Pop-ups at Diridon Station and community events
  • Presentations/discussions with community groups

If you are interested in discussing the benefits and drawbacks of various options at a meetup up in San Jose, please share in comments or tweet to @alevin.