SF Central Subway vs. California High Speed Rail

November 10, 2010 by MrEricSir

A while back, San Francisco’s MTA got a big bundle of federal cash to build Muni’s “Central Subway” project. This new subway line will create an underground connection between CalTrain’s 4th and King station, Union Square, and Chinatown.

This area is horribly congested with traffic so the idea has merit. It would allow folks from the peninsula and South Bay to hop off Caltrain and take a quick subway ride to Union Square and Chinatown.

Meanwhile, there’s another plan being developed separately — a plan that would build a high speed railway from Los Angeles to San Francisco. Between SF and Gilroy, the new railway would follow the existing CalTrain route.

But instead of terminating at 4th and King, the new High Speed Rail line — as well as CalTrain — would be extended via subway and terminate at 1st and Mission. Construction on the new station and subway train box is already underway.

Now, any reasonable person looking at a map can see that 4th and King is awfully close to 1st and Mission. Especially for a train. So close together, in fact, that keeping the existing 4th and King station seems excessive.

Which leads me to wonder: aren’t these two plans mutually exclusive? Either the 4th and King station will be gone, and the Central Subway will effectively go nowhere, or CalTrain will have to keep an awkwardly placed station just to connect to the Central Subway.

Overall, I think the High Speed Rail makes a lot of sense. It’s fast, electric, can be powered by renewable resources, and trips will take less time than an airplane. But there’s something being lost in the planning process, and it needs to be fixed if they’re serious about building it.