Thursday, August 09, 2018

Streetsblog, the Chronicle, and high-speed rail

Roger Rudick

From today's SF Chronicle:

Beneath the art-bedecked terrazzo floor of San Francisco’s Salesforce Transit Center is an enormous concrete box waiting to be filled. It’s an end point for bullet trains that may someday zip in from Los Angeles, and commuter Caltrain locomotives chugging up the Peninsula to the South of Market district. But when the center opens Sunday, that concourse will remain empty. It will likely stay that way for years.

There is no firm timeline or funding source for the long-promised train service. While transportation officials seek to build momentum for this next phase, San Francisco City Hall is touting a new approach that could raise the cost to $6 billion from an already expensive $4 billion. 

That’s caused some politicians and transit enthusiasts to worry, even as they remain adamant that the rail extension will happen. Because it must happen, said state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco. “Every major transformational transit project ever has been more expensive than we thought, had taken more time than we thought,” Wiener said. “We’ll find a way.”

Rob's comment:
The "new approach" mentioned above is a tunnel from Mission Bay to the Transbay Terminal at a cost of $6 billion! 

Scott Wiener is a fantasist on tunnels under the city and has a sketchy relationship with reality. Like other members of the Democratic Party, he's also delusional about the high-speed rail project that will never get to the Transbay Terminal:

There’s also uncertainty about what comes next — including when, or if, commuter trains and high-speed rail will reach the transit center. The current timetable calls for high-speed rail service between the Central Valley and San Francisco to debut in 2029. There’s a $4 billion budget estimate to add 1.3 miles of underground tracks from Mission Bay up Second Street into a concrete shell that now sits empty beneath the facility.

Regardless of how many billions the tunnel from Mission Bay to the Transbay Terminal will cost, the project first has to tunnel 13.5 miles under the Pacheco Pass to even get from the Central Valley to Northern California, not to mention the 36 miles of tunnels under the San Gabriel and Tehachapi Mountains required to reach LA!

Supporters of the project have always been fuzzy about its "funding source." Just the interest on the $9.95 billion in bonds authorized by state voters in 2008 will be $647 million a year for 30 years! 

Those payments will come out of the state's general fund. What will Governor Newsom do when the next recession hits? Cut vital services for people or put an end to this dumb project? Since public support for the project is already shaky, Newsom's answer to that question should be obvious.

Roger Rudick and anti-car Streetsblog support the project, since trains aren't cars, which makes them almost as good as bicycles. Rudick wouldn't have been hired as editor of SF Streetsblog if he opposed the project.

The SF Chronicle continues to support the project by avoiding a close look at the cost issue. The Transbay Terminal

...will be the downtown hub for bus commuters from the East Bay---and if all goes according to plan, for train commuters from all over the state. That's a big if, though. Without the substantial foot traffic that Gov. Jerry Brown's promised high-speed rail project would bring to the transit center, its success isn't guaranteed. Unfortunately, high-speed rail currently faces entrenched opposition, escalating costs and an uncertain future. With Brown leaving the governor's office soon, high-speed rail looks further away than ever. But the transit center is too big a project to be abandoned to the political whims of high-speed rail's naysayers and NIMBYs...

That's as close as the Chronicle ever gets to a serious analysis of the project.

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