Thursday, May 5, 2016

Green Caltrain: One seat ride to San Francisco is goal for High Speed Rail first phase, says updated business plan


In response to comments on the 2016 business plan, the High Speed Rail Authority clarified that their goal is to connect the first operating line with a one seat ride from Bakersfield to San Francisco, in an updated version of the business plan responding to comments.  The Authority needs to fill a budget gap of at least $2.9 Billion to achieve that goal, and intends to seek federal funds to do so. While the authority’s goal is to connect to San Francisco on the first day of operation, the plan still lists two dates, 2025 for initial service and 2029 for full phase 1.
Letters from City of San Francisco and others had expressed concern that stopping in San Jose would cut expected private investment by more than 50%,  with ridership depressed by 40% and revenue lower by more than a third.   
The refinements to the business plan include more language about collaboration with San Jose and transit agencies for improvements to Diridon station, and service planning for timed connections and integrated ticketing at Diridon.  No additional funding is identified for these goals.
The changes to the business plan don’t include any stronger language about funding for the Downtown Extension to Transbay, which would be expected to bring even greater ridership and revenue.   Nor did the changes include further mentions of the improvements needed to provide blended service on the Peninsula corridor while maintaining high-quality Caltrain service.
Other changes in response to comments include:
  • Using Wasco’s Amtrak station as the interim station on the way to Bakersfield, rather than a brand new station in the middle of an almond orchard in Shafter, if money can’t be found to extend the line fully to Bakersfield
  • A plan to connect Merced to San Jose as part of initial operations
  • Connection to Amtrak’s San Joaquin service at Madera
  • Planning for improvements in the Altamont corridor to San Joaquin and Altamont Corridor Express, including new stations and increased frequencies
  • Stronger language about goals for infill development and affordable housing in station areas to prevent sprawl
The full list of changes is here.  The High Speed Rail Authority approved the 2016 business plan, with the changes, for submission to the legislature as required by May 1. The High Speed Rail has a legal requirement to submit the business plan to the legislature, but there isn’t any further need for legislative approval of the plan.

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