Diridon Station design has better transfers, pedestrian connections

The Diridon Station integrated concept plan options have been consolidated to a version with the less-bad transfers and pedestrian connections to and through the station. Following strong public feedback, the team removed an option that would have resulted in 7-9 minute transfers between BART and Caltrain, worse than Millbrae today.  

The bus connections are proposed to be near the station in front of the entrance, although the proposal requires buses to turn off the road into the loading area.

And the light rail tracks are proposed to be relocated so that instead of two different stations a quarter mile from each other both with awkward transfers to other trains and buses, there would be a single station underground, one level beneath buses, two levels beneath trains (see image). The transfer from underground LRT to underground BART is still a work in progress.

For convenient pedestrian access, the proposal includes two station concourses facing Santa Clara Street and San Fernando Street. The preferred elevated station layout would remove the underpasses at Santa Clara Street and Park, and add a new through connection at San Fernando, enable people to walk, bike and scooter directly through the station.

This image shows more clearly where the light rail would be moved to.

At the DISC presentation to the Caltrain board meeting, Supervisor Cindy Chavez expressed interest in having a pedestrian/bicycle overpass at Santa Clara Street to keep pedestrians from impeding buses and cars.  This was a common design in the mid-20th century when transportation planners thought that increasing driver convenience was the best way to improve access to cities, and preventing pedestrians from crossing the street would improve safety. 

Over the last 50 years there is plentiful evidence that this is a flawed strategy that should be used only as a last resort; all the more so in urbanizing areas like the Diridon Station Area. We hope that there is good education for the public and decision makers about strategies to accommodate many more people walking and bicycling safely, including the peak crowds when there are many people coming and going to special events.

The proposed elevated station wouldn’t keep the historic station building as it is, but keeping the building as it is would greatly reduce the number of people who could use public transportation at the station. Public comments overall showed interest in keeping elements of the historic station. We hope that in the next phase of design when the design team does public outreach showing a variety of options, including ones that keep elements of the historic station with a public use; and showing the tradeoffs between levels of change for the station building and transportation benefits.  

We hope that the DISC team does not leave questions about how to preserve aspects of the current building to the Environmental Review process where changes to historic buildings are described as a negative impact that needs to be mitigated.  Waiting that long would likely make the decisions about how to preserve elements of the station more contentious.

The alignment south of Diridon is proposed to remain at grade through the Gardner neighborhood, with measures to alleviate noise and vibration in the neighborhood as more trains are expected to come though. Last week, the San Jose City Council supported the recommended alternative, except for deferring their opinion about the alignments north and south of Diridon. Those elements are expected to come back to San Jose City Council in late January, according to Council Member Dev Davis at the Caltrain board.

Refined concepts for the Diridon Station will be brought to the San Jose City Council in the Spring.

The Final Environmental Impact Report for the Diridon Station Area Plan update and approval of the Google project are targeted for the fall of 2020. But the EIR for the station itself is on a longer timeline, according to agency staff.