City Hall undermines the most important transportation project in half a century

By Gerald Cauthen : sfexaminer – excerpt

Under the Ed Lee Administration, transportation in San Francisco is heading toward a cliff.

For starters, City Hall is neglecting, if not actively impeding, the downtown extension of Caltrain (DTX), a project that would connect Caltrain to six Muni rail lines, four BART lines and more than 40 bus lines at one spacious location in the middle of San Francisco’s 340,000 person employment center.

In November 1999, voters recognized the value of DTX by approving Proposition H by 69.3 percent. Prop H specifically calls for Caltrain to be extended to the new Transbay Transit Center at First and Mission streets. In November 2003, voters approved Proposition K by 75 percent, which provided $270 million for the extension. In June 2010, the voters approved Proposition G, calling for high-speed trains to also terminate at the TTC. This measure was approved by an overwhelming 83.8 percent. Yet it appears the public policy implicit in these three propositions was lost on City Hall.

At a recent meeting, Supervisor Jane Kim was asked why City Hall was so “ambivalent” toward the long-awaited DTX project. Kim replied, “We all support DTX, but it’s very expensive, and we don’t know where we can find the money.”

Kim’s answer is reflective of City Hall’s apparent lack of understanding of the importance of DTX to San Francisco and the region. It doesn’t explain why, in the 16 years after Prop. H passed, The City has contributed only 2.8 percent of the project’s cost, compared to the 34.8 percent allocation it has already made to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s low ridership Third Street/Central Subway project. Nor does it explain why even today, city officials talk of finding the additional funds needed to extend the Central Subway, build Bus Rapid Transit on Van Ness and Geary, bring the Warriors to town, “beautify our streets” and send a special subway into the privately owned Park Merced development, all the while seldom, if ever, mentioning DTX…

San Francisco has the savvy, the financial muscle and the political clout to pull the DTX program together. But it will take effort and it will take leadership. If San Francisco gets going on this, DTX construction could begin in the next 18 to 24 months, and the Caltrain trains could be up and running in the Transbay Transit Center by 2023.

Gerald Cauthen, is co-founder of the Bay Area Transportation Working Group and SaveMuni. He has managed the design and construction of Muni, San Francisco Water Department and Hetch Hetchy infrastructure projects.(more)

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