(Updated January 11, 2015)
No where is the lack of regional transportation leadership more evident than in the chaotic interplay of transportation agencies as they struggle to coordinate activities along the San Francisco/Penisula/Caltrain Corridor.
The Joint Powers Board (Caltrains) places a high priority in electrifying its system, but needs substantial funds from the California High Speed Rail Authority to get the job done, funds that are currently in jeopardy. Even though they will be using the same stations and have been talking about coordinating services for years, Caltrain and HSR still haven't agreed on platform height. Or platform width. Or car configuration. Or the amount of time required to turn a Caltrain train. Or the conditions under which the State of California PUC and Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) would permit passenger trains to operate on tracks shared with freight trains. Or on the future nature or even location of the Caltrain storage yard, now appropriately located at Fourth and King Streets.
Nor have the long awaited funds needed to extend Caltrain into downtown San Francisco been identified. In recent months the situation has been made even more difficult by the assorted Misson Bay development proposals emanating from the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association and one or two of the Mayor's transportation aides. In the mean time, another group plots to divert the funds needed to extend Caltrain to the building of a fourth rail line to Fisherman's Wharf.
As things stand the Caltrain extension stands environmentally cleared, designed and ready for construction. It's time for people with pet and parochial projects to sell to stop trying to "improve" the Caltrain Extension by throwing monkey wrenches into the works and instead get behind the project.
These critical outstanding issues, many of long standing, will not resolve themselves. Creating a properly integrated mix of trains and buses along the Peninsula and in southeast San Franciscio will require intensive coordination and hard work on the part of the affected agencies. There are hopeful signs that this process is now underway, however belatedly. Since the issues involve the priorities and interests of several counties and at least five different transit providers, the logical provider of that leadership would have been MTC. In the absence of MTC, it is necessary that the City and County of San Francisco, Peninsula Joint Powers Board , Transbay Joint Powers Authority and California High Speed Rail Authority, preferably advised by experienced passenger rail operators from outside California, sit down and hammer out the appropriate solutions themselves.