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The City of San Francisco has just released an official Request for Proposals (RFP) to study the feasibility and alternatives for redeveloping the 20+ acre Caltrain Depot at 4th and King Streets, connecting rail to the Transbay Center (and possibly the East Bay), and reconfiguring the terminus of I-280 in the city.

The Railyard Alternatives and I-280 Boulevard Feasibility Study will build upon the Planning Department’s 4th & King Street Railyards Study, the Caltrain North Terminal Feasibility Assessment, and past work by the Transbay Joint Powers Authority and California High Speed Rail Authority to develop a coordinated vision for the area and transportation plan for connecting the adjacent neighborhoods.

The five key components of the study:

  1. Potential refinements to the alignment and construction methods of the Downtown Rail Extension (DTX) to the Transbay Transit Center;
  2. Potential construction of a loop track from the east end of the Transbay Transit Center (TTC) allowing for future connection to East Bay and return train trips southbound;
  3. Potential construction of a surface boulevard in place of the elevated portion of I-280 in the area in order to facilitate the construction of the rail projects and connect the neighborhoods of South of Market (SoMa), Potrero, Moscone Center, and Central Waterfront for vehicles, transit, pedestrians and bicyclists;
  4. Potential consolidation and/or relocation of the 4th/King Railyard; and
  5. Land use responses to the above infrastructure changes, including economic effects and opportunities.

Proposals to tackle the first two phases of the project (Visioning and Concept Development and then the Refinement of Alternatives and Determination of Final Alternatives) are due at the end of February with a budget of $1.45 million and roughly two years to complete.

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Comments from “Plugged-In” Readers

  1. Posted by Sierrajeff

    If this facilitates getting Caltrain to the Transbay Terminal, good.
    If this is political cover for the insane idea to stop 280 at 16th Street, No!
    Though that said, if one idea is to underground 280 – whether at 16th Street, or even earlier – that could be of benefit to everyone. And if the powers that be are willing to consider undergrounding 280 all the way to 80 (there’s plenty o’ room to bring it above ground and intersect with 80 itself, just east of 5th Street … well, that would be wonderful and amazing… and miraculous!
    (I know the anti-cars would hiss at this idea, but think of the environmental and neighborhood benefits of getting traffic flowing more smoothly, and underground instead of on elevated highways and/or surface “boulevards” full of stop-and-go cars. The cars and the demand for car trips is *not* going to go away – even if *everyone* in SoMa and Potrero Hill walked and biked. Therefore the most sensible thing is to address that car trip demand in a way that’s environmentally friendly and beneficial to the city’s fabric. [And since that's the sensible thing, it's extremely unlikely to happen.])

  2. Posted by Stucco_Sux

    What they should underground is 101 where it splits Potrero Hill into two pieces. But then that would just enhance our quality of life, make the city more beautiful and right a wrong. Whereas what the 280 haircut does is open up a boatload of acreage to make developers a lotta moola. Follow the moola.

  3. Posted by Jake

    It will be interesting to see if some version of this goes into the new Caltrain Strategic Plan. A “draft strategic framework” is due to the Caltrain Board in March 2014.

  4. Posted by John Murphy

    “And if the powers that be are willing to consider undergrounding 280 all the way to 80″
    That’s billions of dollars. Let me ask you. You are now the dictator. You have a billion dollars. It will buy undergrounding 280 to 80, or rebuild every school in San Francisco, give every teacher a 10 percent raise, re-institute school music programs, buy new books for decades.
    What do you – the non-anti-car dictator – choose.
    You are on the clock.

  5. Posted by anon

    ^$1 billion would rebuild like two schools in SF, if that. There wouldn’t be any money left over for the other things that you mention.
    That said, I agree that undergrounding 280 just so that pass-through traffic can speed through the city a bit faster is an astounding waste of money.

  6. Posted by Sierrajeff

    If you think connecting 280 with 80 would mean things are only “a bit faster” then you don’t drive on the 101 much. Northbound 101 is a parking lot more often that not – late in the evenings, weekends (even weekend mornings), etc., and it’s largely because of the squeeze down to two lanes (discounting the off-ramps) at the 101/80 split. There’s just too much traffic headed to the Bay Bridge, with all traffic from the south (from 101 *and* from 280) essentially funneled into those 2 lanes.
    Granted an alternative to my idea is to fix that 101/80 split — but if the starting point for this particular naval-gazing is the mayor and the moola holders lobbying to tackle 280, then by all means let’s tackle 280 – and improve life for everyone in the process.
    After all, if the mayor gets his way the choice won’t be between 101 and 280 as they are today, versus 101 and my underground 280 connected to 80… the choice would be between 101 and 280 as they are today, versus the 101 bottleneck as it is today *plus* a 280 “boulevard” that makes Octavia look like a, er, freeway. As it is the 6th Street and King Street ramps off 280 regularly back up for a quarter mile or more, and that’s without adding N-S street traffic and cross-street stoplights to the mix. The 280 boulevard idea is downright ridiculous – but if the mayor and moola are going to get their way and 280’s going to be changed no matter what, then we might as well at least change them for the better.
    (Besides which another underlying supposed purpose of this is undergrounding Caltrain – if tunneling’s going to take place anyway, then let’s really do it. I’m not saying you can do both for the price of one – but you can certainly underground both Caltrain and 280, in one project, less expensively than undergrounding them both.)

  7. Posted by Jake

    fwiw, SFUSD is about midway through the current 10 year capital plan which spends somewhere around a billion dollars to referb schools. Most of the money came from voter approved bond measures.
    I don’t think anyone is seriously considering undergrounding a highway (thank you Boston), but they are looking at undergrounding Caltrain north of Potrero Hill and terminating 280 around 16th st.
    And if they can find the money (Feds?), they are just crazy enough to do it.

  8. Posted by Spencer

    I love that part of 280. Such a nice view coming in to the city. A surface street is a really dumb idea. Octavia has made getting to oak such a nightmare and that central freewAy is such a shorter hack job than this would be. 280 is beautiful and functional. Why fix it if it ain’t broke? They are plenty of broken things to work on

  9. Posted by Can't think of Cool Name

    Is there any date as to when this project is hoped to be completed? Reading the post, I kept thinking of Zager and Evans

  10. Posted by formidable doer of the nasty

    It’s not about 280 being broke, it’s about the neighborhood underneath it.

  11. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    If the railway yard is redeveloped, at least zone it higher than the surrounding low rises.
    Undergrounding 280 to 80 is a nice idea but won’t help the whole system work better. There’s a big bottleneck that’s already saturated: the Bay Bridge. The “allowing for future connection to East Bay and return train trips southbound” aspect of this proposed project is the only reasonable way to address flow-thru traffic and ease the Bay Bridge congestion.

  12. Posted by BigV

    @spencer — taking down the old ramps and turning octavia into what it is today has been a major improvement for the neighborhood. It has brought that area to life and is a nicer area to walk and bike around.
    There are more important things in life than how fast you can zoom around in your car.

  13. Posted by timbad

    as Jake mentions, no one is talking about undergrounding any freeway. what is being considered is undergrounding the *rail* further south than originally planned in the downtown extension.
    this is because, if you don’t, then the intersection of rail and 16th St will turn into a mess when you have to, by law, grade-separate it.
    but apparently, you can’t underground the rail with the freeway columns there – they are in the way. so to underground the rail to avoid the messy intersection with 16th, you have to bring the freeway down to ground level, a la Octavia.

  14. Posted by Alai

    I know the anti-cars would hiss at this idea
    Yeah… Ok, suppose you’ve spent the billions to make this happen. Now, you certainly benefit the people who were already driving on 101 or 280 south of the interchange, who were heading to the East Bay. Some south bay residents, I guess? At best, you will entice some truckers to take the SF route rather than go round the bay– hooray.
    You might benefit some people heading to downtown, assuming they have a place to park. Well, nothing wrong with a little something for the 1%, I guess.
    Will it increase the tax basis of SF buildings? Hardly– I don’t see builders clamoring to replace office space with parking garages. Will it improve Mission Bay? Not much more than just eliminating the freeway.
    If you’re absolutely committed to getting more cars into the city, and at higher speeds, then it makes sense. If you’re not…

  15. Posted by formidable doer of the nasty

    Alai, do you know Godwin’s Law? If you don’t, look it up.
    There’s a very similar law called Formidable Doer of the Nasty’s Law. It states that when you gratuitously and falsely mention “the 1%” you forfeit the argument.

  16. Posted by Frank C.

    Re: undergrounding the freeway – by itself, it would cost ridiculous amounts of money – money that could be far better spent in other ways (i.e. housing). Now, if you tie this to the creation of x0,000 housing units – note there are 5 digits there – I’d say go ahead and spend that taxpayer money on removing it. But it’s got to be a *lot* of housing.
    In theory, I’d love for all urban highways to be “disappeared.” It’s a good thing, and sometimes makes sense.
    The railyard should also have minimum 5 digits of housing units. I bet it will be more like 3,000, because SF is SF.

  17. Posted by Sierrajeff

    @ Milkshake – completely agree. In fact the highest-priority project of all should be a 2nd bay tube – say, connecting the Transbay Terminal to Alameda and Oakland and points south.
    @ Alai – if *undergrounding* 280 wouldn’t benefit SoMa and Mission Bay all that much… then how is shunting all that traffic onto a slow, congested surface “boulevard” a benefit?! Don’t see how any rational analysis can decide that the latter is an improvement over the current condition, but undergrounding it would not be.
    @ Jake – I bristle a little at the Boston dig (pun intended) – having lived in Boston before and during the Big Dig, yes the process was a nightmare – but having that elevated freeway through the middle of downtown was a nightmare too, and the Boston downtown, historic zones and waterfront are all immeasurably improved now that it’s gone and the freeway’s under ground. The media (and particularly the right wing) love to point to the Big Dig as a boondoggle, and yes it ran way over budget … but the end result is nevertheless amazing.
    The fact is many places are undergrounding freeways – even Seattle finally came to its senses and voted to underground 99 along Alaskan Way. It’s the best of both worlds – a weather-immune travel route and an uninterrupted surface neighborhood.

  18. Posted by anon

    then how is shunting all that traffic onto a slow, congested surface “boulevard” a benefit?!
    By removing a gigantic overhead freeway? It’s a benefit in every way except vehicle throughput. Now obviously, that would be a negative, but the idea that there simply isn’t any positive to removing an overhead eyesore AND the nastiness that lurks beneath shows that you probably haven’t spent much time in the area at ground level as a pedestrian or neighborhood resident.

  19. Posted by hmmm

    “But then that would just enhance our quality of life, make the city more beautiful and right a wrong.”
    Yes, that is exactly the point with converting 280 to a surface boulevard and underground the train. Those facilities were built when this area was a relatively uninhabited industrial backwater of the City. It is becoming, and in some ways already has become, the new center of the City with tens of thousands of residents and workers all around it. Those impenetrable blights basically wall a huge section of the east side of the City and creates incredible bottlenecks that cause immeasurable congestion and headache for everyone who drives, takes the bus, walks, or cycles in that part of the City. This would do all of the things that Stucco Sux wants and would also raise oodles of dollars to build the Downtown rail extension, parks, create a sustainable funding stream for Caltrain, and more. It would radically change everyone’s mental and physical map of the City. Mission Bay, Showplace Square and southern SoMa would all be integrated into the City and not sliced off with no-man’s land moats around them.

  20. Posted by S

    You can’t just create a new connection to the bottle neck that is the Bay Bridge. It wouldn’t be able to handle the additional volume and it would actually make traffic worse. 280 works now (and usually has light traffic when compared to 101) specifically because it does not directly connect to the Bay Bridge. It’s the same reason that a Southern Crossing (at CC in the Mission) wasn’t built. The freeway the new bridge would connect to (880) wouldn’t be able to handle the additional traffic as it’s already very congested. The only *new* infrastructure needs to be focused on moving people in a more efficient way (transit) and new highways and bridges are not the answer.
    And just an aside… it blows my mind that people are sooooo concerned about traffic. If it was really such a big deal why do they CHOOSE to live so far from their jobs in the first place? On this site it’s not that the money isn’t there, that’s for sure…

  21. Posted by Sierrajeff

    “then how is shunting all that traffic onto a slow, congested surface “boulevard” a benefit?!”
    “By removing a gigantic overhead freeway? It’s a benefit in every way except vehicle throughput.”
    So, prettier views from afar… but slower surface traffic, with stop-and-go cars emitting more pollutants (both because they’re running less efficiently, and because they’re in a given location longer), together with the associated visual and noise polution of congested traffic. I can’t wait for the beauty of it all…
    And “vehicle traffic throughput” is a completely valid measure of whether a given project is a benefit or boondoggle.

  22. Posted by Toady

    I’m sure peninsula folks would more than happy to consider supporting undergrounding 280 when you support putting HSR and Caltrain underground along the peninsula as well.

  23. Posted by S

    @SierraJeff – I presume you’ve heard “if you build it, they will come” – well the opposite is true too. people bitch about octavia but in reality traffic there seems the same to me as when the offramp led directly to Fell/Oak. Maybe it takes 2 minutes longer but the neighborhood is much more livable and it’s attracted a lot of investment to prove it.

  24. Posted by Rillion

    I originally voted to keep the above ground off/on-ramps to Fell/Oak, but now I am glad that the Octavia Blvd plan won out. It is not difficult for me to use an alternate route the few hours a day that Octavia is backed up and most of the times I use it I zip in and out, usually never waiting more than 1 cycle through the lights at either Market or Oak/Octavia.

  25. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    S is correct. Induced demand works in both directions.

  26. Posted by zig

    “I’m sure peninsula folks would more than happy to consider supporting undergrounding 280 when you support putting HSR and Caltrain underground along the peninsula as well.”
    Well considering they would suddenly have 20 minute access to downtown SF I think they can live with the outcome

  27. Posted by zig

    Can a HSR buff explain the situation for HSR and Caltrain
    If you tunnel from 16th you avoid an intersection but also must remove the elevated freeway to this point. I presume the train will then be marginally faster to downtown.
    If you do nothing does HSR have to run on the Caltrain track and this would then need to become a grade separated intersection (possibly auto traffic would pass under?). Freeway then remains elevated.

  28. Posted by CFL

    The idea that “the demand for car trips is not going away” is not supported by transportation planning research.
    Rather, it has been borne out time and time again that people will adjust their travel patterns to whatever is available to them. It is possible that increases in capacity steer people to more congestible modes or routes, causing the system at large to suffer.

  29. Posted by S

    @Zig I think the other issue with HSR using the Caltrain alignment is the big turn it takes as it pulls into the current Townsend station. Under-grounding it from 16th allows it to go underneath Mission Creek and have a more straight-forward alignment

  30. Posted by Toady

    “Well considering they would suddenly have 20 minute access to downtown SF I think they can live with the outcome”
    Given that HSR is on its deathbed, how is that going to happen?

  31. Posted by anon

    “Rather, it has been borne out time and time again that people will adjust their travel patterns to whatever is available to them. ”
    If that were true, why do we have terrible congestion in some places? Why don’t people in congested areas just adjust their travel patterns?
    In fact, to the extant that this is true that just shows an advantage to the system of roads and cars. It’s alot easier to change your driving route than to add a new muni line or railway.

  32. Posted by anon

    “Rather, it has been borne out time and time again that people will adjust their travel patterns to whatever is available to them. ”
    When public transportation is frequently at maximum capacity, that is pretty hard to do. It would cost billions upon billions just to make local infrastructure work on the level it is intended to, let alone make any significant capacity increases and add new routes.

  33. Posted by formidable doer of the nasty

    I don’t know what the plans are exactly but just looking at the map, the tunneling of Caltrain needs to be due north from Mariposa, not from 16th. The lot between Mariposa and 16th just east of the current tracks is still vacant so it would seem they can dig there and then drill under the UCSF campus. This line would pass straight under 4th & King to the Transbay Terminal, AND they wouldn’t have to disturb the existing tracks.
    Once that’s done (incl. electrification of the whole system) they can then remove the surface tracks and tear down the freeway. Or leave the freeway up and put more basketball and volleyball courts underneath.

  34. Posted by zig

    “Given that HSR is on its deathbed, how is that going to happen?”
    Don’t know but not having HSR doesn’t preclude building access for conventional rail to the TBT. Better money spent than sleazy BART extensions that is for sure

  35. Posted by zig

    When public transportation is frequently at maximum capacity, that is pretty hard to do. It would cost billions upon billions just to make local infrastructure work on the level it is intended to, let alone make any significant capacity increases and add new routes.”
    Yes, and?

  36. Posted by S

    @anon – people tolerate a certain level of congestion. If everyone adjusted their pattern at the first sign of congestion, then there would be no traffic and then everyone would start driving again! lol
    Just look at L.A. – they’ve built highways going every which way as well as a system of boulevards with multiple lanes. You cannot build congestion away with more lanes. The best chance you have to move more people in less space – aka MASS transit. That’s the only responsible way to manage growth in a confined space like the Bay Area.

  37. Posted by anon

    “people tolerate a certain level of congestion. ”
    So your theory is that people will just flock to some transit option untill this certain level of congestion. So we build a 1 mile subway for $1B and people flock to it untill it hits their congestion tolerance, Right? So whats wrong with building roads and letting people hit their congestion tollerance on the roads?
    Roads are much cheaper with a much quicker timeframe to plan and build. Much more flexible. The same road can allow private cars, comercial delivery trucks, Uber/Lyft car share, public buses, private shuttles,…
    Most of the transit innovations that actually seem to work and reduce my driving (employer shuttles, delivery services, car share,..) have been based on the flexibilty of the road system.
    Maybe in a different world where public works projects weren’t so ridiclously expensive and where the planning process wasn’t so broken and politicized things would be different. But in this world, the flexible, less centralized nature of the road system has huge advantages.

  38. Posted by S

    @anon – yeah pretty much. people weigh pros and cons and then decide how they want to get to work or where ever they want to go. California has long promoted roads and road building and now it’s time to give people more options to get places, especially in a place like the Bay Area where population density is there and will continue to get more dense.
    People say on this site that they would ride Muni IF it weren’t so overcrowded. OK, let’s make them put their money where their mouths are and improve the system. Let’s build out the other options like rail, bike lanes, ferries, etc. No one is saying that we need to remove roads but those other options that have been put on the back burner for all these years are coming to the forefront now and there’s nothing wrong with that.

  39. Posted by anon

    And “vehicle traffic throughput” is a completely valid measure of whether a given project is a benefit or boondoggle.
    Sure, it’s a valid measure. But it’s not the only measure, that was my point. You seem to only be concerned about vehicle throughput, brushing off other concerns as unimportant, or claiming that a free flowing road with much higher volume would have lower pollution than a congested street with much lower volume. It might, sure, but it’s not some kind of open and shut case. Doubling or tripling the volume would almost certainly increase pollution by more than congestion increases it.

  40. Posted by anon

    Roads are much cheaper with a much quicker timeframe to plan and build.
    Definitely. Just take a look at that cheap $6 billion half a bridge that only took two decades to plan and build!

  41. Posted by chitrana

    I thought it was 9 billion?
    Or what about $22 billion to reroute a freeway (big dig)?
    No way freeways are cheaper… nor is there less NIMBY opposition to freeways.. if anything more.

  42. Posted by Richard Mlynarik

    Tearing down I-280 has next to nothing to do with extending Caltrain, other than making some of the construction marginally simpler.
    See “Focus On: Mission Bay Grade Separations” on the excellent Caltrain-HSR Compatibility Blog.
    The problems with the Caltrain downtown extension are first that the Transbay Terminal itself is an unusable clusterfuck that guarantees minimum train capacity and terrible pedestrian accessibility (but it has a park on top, so that’s OK!);
    and second that the costs of the project are more than twice what anybody in the world would pay (and by “anybody in the world” we’re including such notoriously low-cost places as Zürich).
    So basically, America’s Finest Transportation Planning Professionals (the local consultant mafias were and are very very careful to never allow anybody who has ever had anything to do with a successful passenger rail system to have anything to do with Transbay or Caltrain, or California HSR for that matter) have designed something that can’t work as a useful train station, will barely function as a big bus stop in the sky, and costs billions too much.
    It’s a win-win-win, provided you work for or consult for or contract with any of the agencies involved. Not so great for the public, but really, who cares about them?

  43. Posted by anon

    @chitrana & anon – So, what fraction of the road system do the big dig and bay bridge stretches make up?
    One advantage of the road system is precisely that most of it doesn’t have to be these large scale public works projects that have been turning into politicized money pits.
    Average road segments are absolutly cheaper.
    “No one is saying that we need to remove roads ”
    But they are saying that and that’s the problem. The idea of the day, “mode shift” (i.e. trying to make people adjust their travel patterns), is exactly to make driving and parking worse in an attempt to shift people away from driving.
    There’s nothing wrong with having more people take transit or other modes, it’s just that I see a lot of progress on transit that actually seems to work for myself and my social circle (everything I mentioned above, plus tesla and the ability to telecommute enabled by technology/tech jobs) coming from outside the typical transit lobby folks. The transit lobby seems more bent on hobbling other modes. Worsening congestion and cheering when a few stretches of road are pulled down into the morass of large scale public works projects.

  44. Posted by S

    @anon cars are probably the least efficient mode of transportation. They are 3 tons and carry about one person most of the time.
    The complete streets movement is just that – it’s about making a street compatible for more uses than just private auto transport. That includes bikes, buses, taxis, pedestrians, anything. Re-appropriating some of the limited space we have on our roads for more modes of travel that accommodate MORE people with LESS space is what it’s about. Acknowledging that there is no more room to accommodate more private car traffic is the impetus to limiting parking in certain areas. It’s not about someone saying one way of getting around is better, it’s about using what little space we have as efficiently as possible.
    San Francisco is a very diverse place and people have different needs. Telecommuting or driving a Tesla may work for you but there’s probably 8/10 people that doesn’t make sense for. I think things come down to “hobbling” because most people are not willing to see past themselves to what’s good for society (ie removing street parking for the addition of transit-only lanes) and at the end of the day we get a watered down version of everything.

  45. Posted by moto mayhem

    cant you create a grand boulevard for bikes and pedestrians and gocarts and leave the elevated freeway for cars.
    otherwise we get increased congestion. who really wants increased congestion on city streets? think 19th Ave?
    and that elevated freeway is not ugly. i agree with others here, that this particular one is quite beautiful.
    stop wasting money on dumb shit and build a subway under geary

  46. Posted by Sierrajeff

    @formidable – how dare you offer something sensible! (your idea to dig from Mariposa) LOL
    @S – I’d love to have more Muni options (a line under Geary, a line to the Marina, and I’ve even discussed here the need for a 2nd E-W [or NE-SW] main line paralleling Market, such as under Folsom or Harrison [much as there are parallel subway lines in New York]). And I’m on the record here as saying I’d gladly pay hundred$ more a year in taxes to make it happen.
    My point with my original post, and original responses here, is that the *specific* question that’s the topic of this SS post is Lee’s proposal to tear down 280. So the choice is tearing down 280, or not – there’s not currently a choice to build a Geary line, or a SoMa line, etc. I’d fully support those if they were on the table, but they’re not for purposes of this specific Lee administration proposal.

  47. Posted by moto mayhem

    “people bitch about octavia but in reality traffic there seems the same to me as when the offramp led directly to Fell/Oak. Maybe it takes 2 minutes longer ”
    You must be joking. It is so much worse coming from Oak to Octavia than popooing on the freeway. it takes at least 10 min longer. For me, thats OK, but for 100,000 commuters per day, that is a lot of wasted manhours and increased pollution and congestion.
    I do agree that the neighborhood is nicer and octavia plan accelerated that.
    The difference here is that the stretch of 280 is way longer than the central freeway onramp, and i dont see the area under 280 suffering too bad as it is.

  48. Posted by Sierrajeff

    “You seem to only be concerned about vehicle throughput, brushing off other concerns as unimportant”
    Hardly true – from my first post on, I emphasize the neighborhood benefits of having neither an elevated freeway nor a congested boulevard, and in later posts I note the benefits to Boston – walkability benefits, greenery benefits, open space benefits – of having undergrounded the Central Artery there. There’s no question that *all other things being equal*, that area would be improved by eliminating a 6-lane overhead freeway and spaghetti web of on- and off-ramps.
    But all things aren’t equal, and I simply disagree with the proposition that a surface-level boulevard would be an improvement, and my proposition is that it would certainly not be the optimal improvement.

  49. Posted by Alai

    Roads are much cheaper with a much quicker timeframe to plan and build.
    Another example is the LA 405 widening project– one lane, ten miles, $1 billion.

  50. Posted by Adam

    That part of town needs a big park. There used to be a block-sized park where the Hall of Justice sits now. Take one block of the train yard, maybe the middle part between 5th and 6th, and make it into a nice new open park. The real estate around it can only benefit, and the people who live there too I might add.

  51. Posted by anon

    Average road segments are absolutly cheaper.
    Um, so are average rail segments. What’s your point? We’re not talking about average rail or freeway segments.

  52. Posted by anon

    So the choice is tearing down 280, or not – there’s not currently a choice to build a Geary line, or a SoMa line, etc.
    Yet your first post proposed spending tens of billions on undergrounding a freeway, which would certainly be taking money away from a potential Geary subway. If you want a Geary line, why are you proposing spending tens of billions for a freeway tunnel?

  53. Posted by soma

    @sierrajeff
    Freeways are of no benefit to us that live in the city, they are merely for the convenience of the suburbanites. So traffic throughput is totally irrelevant to us- why do we care that it takes them an extra 30 min to get to oakland.
    I got one advocate tearung it down. Im tired of soma streets being used as high speed onramps by aggro dbags wantonly flouting oedestrian safety to shave 30 seconds of their miserable commute.
    Take the train people!!!

  54. Posted by Jimmy (not a Real San Franciscan (TM))

    reeways are of no benefit to us that live in the city, they are merely for the convenience of the suburbanites.
    This is the very definition of parochialism. (And I mean that in a perjorative sense). Listen to yourself.

  55. Posted by formidable doer of the nasty

    “Im tired of soma streets being used as high speed onramps by aggro dbags wantonly flouting oedestrian safety to shave 30 seconds of their miserable commute.
    Take the train people!!!”

    You seem like a really interesting and smart person. Clearly you add more value to our city than “aggro dbags” who commute.
    Btw, if people are commuting THROUGH SoMa to get to the southbound freeway, what train would you have them take? Ever consider why Google, Apple, Cisco and all those other companies spend millions on those shuttle buses I’m guessing you hate too?

  56. Posted by Jimmy (not a Real San Franciscan (TM))

    Of course, eliminating a huge swath of freeway will definitely ameliorate the problem of people DRIVING THROUGH THE CITY TO GET ON THE FREEWAY.

  57. Posted by anon

    Some of you people need to take an economics class if you truly believe that making getting to the freeway more costly (in terms of time) will have no impact on use. This is basic econ 101 stuff.

  58. Posted by Sierrajeff

    And some others need to take an economics class if you believe that making travel to and from the City (even) more difficult will have no impace on the City’s economy. Those derided “suburbanites” who are supposedly the only ones who’d benefit from freeway improvements (I guess people who live in the City never leave it) come here for jobs, and to spend money shopping and dining and recreating and visiting museums.
    Just as some think tearing down the freeway won’t result in traffic jams because “basic laws of economics” will mean a shift away from car use… well, by the same logic some of those averted car trips will be people *not* coming to the City to work and spend money.

  59. Posted by gentrified is a dirty word for clean

    anon, only if there’s a cheaper (in terms of time) alternative. Now go request a refund of the tuition you paid for your econ 101 class.

  60. Posted by Jake

    To anon’s point, SFMTA data for the Central Freeway show a 30% decline in traffic from before the 1989 quake to the current configuration. That’s about 25,000 less cars/day.
    Some of that change shifted traffic to SOMA streets and some shifted value from Nob Hill, Cathedral, etc to Bernal, Noe, Glen Park, etc.
    The closing of the Embarcadero Freeway had a big reduction in traffic to Chinatown and North Beach and increased traffic as far away as 19th Ave.

  61. Posted by anon

    @Sierrajeff, I certainly never said that it wouldn’t have an economic impact. I was just responding to the “traffic stays the same” hogwash, indicating that level of car throughput is somehow static regardless of cost. I said nothing about a decrease in traffic jams.
    It certainly may cause more economic harm than benefit.
    @gentrified, nope you need to enroll again. Raising the cost decreases demand, period. The only way that it wouldn’t is if demand is 100% static, which is absurd when we’re talking about something like this where there are literally hundreds of alternatives, including simply staying at home (which is certainly cheaper in terms of time). Not everyone, or even the majority of people on the road at any given time absolutely MUST be on that specific route.

  62. Posted by gentrified is a dirty word for clean

    Jake, in those 25 years commuting patterns have changed dramatically in the Bay Area. Back then it was most common for people to live in the suburbs and commute to SF for work. Nowadays there are tens of thousands who commute to Silicon Valley and live in SF – not only that, but they live in places like Noe Valley, Soma and the Mission (which were blighted and unsafe dumps back then) and therefore wouldn’t use the Central Freeway. So I doubt very much that it’s just the extra few minutes it now takes to use Octavia instead of an overpass straight to Fell/Laguna that’s responsible for any reduction in traffic.

  63. Posted by anon

    And again, I’m not even arguing that we should tear this down, just responding to folks making ridiculous claims or throwing out suggestions that spending billions and billions on a new underground freeway will solve congestion or not take away from money to use for other things.

  64. Posted by anon

    @gentrified – are you claiming that downtown employment is down from 25 years ago? (it’s not)
    It doesn’t really matter if more people are commuting out of the city, because more people are STILL commuting downtown than was the case 25 years ago. Why do you suppose that more PEOPLE are commuting downtown vs 1989, but fewer cars?

  65. Posted by gentrified is a dirty word for clean

    My point is, the geographic PATTERN of commuting is different. Come on, don’t play dumb. Yes, more people are commuting on Muni today than in the 80s but that’s because they live in places served by Muni, not because a few miles of freeway were torn down.

  66. Posted by anon

    Your claim was that fewer people are commuting to downtown by car because they’re going to other places by car. That simply isn’t true. More PEOPLE are commuting downtown than 25 years ago, so your “pattern change” of commuting doesn’t account for the drop in traffic along the Embarcadero (because more people are still commuting to the area served by the old freeway).

  67. Posted by anon

    And no, more people are not commuting via Muni. Muni ridership is down from 1989. BART and Caltrain numbers are up drastically though compared to that time.

  68. Posted by anon

    Looking at census numbers, looks like walking and biking commute share are both also up triple digits from 1989.

  69. Posted by moto mayhem

    “Freeways are of no benefit to us that live in the city”
    Many of us live in the city and commute to the peninsula. i would be willing to bet the majority of people who use that stretch of 280 actually live in SF

  70. Posted by S

    Despite tearing down the Central and Embarcadero freeways, population in SF is the highest it’s ever been, has a 4.8% unemployment rate, and created 10% more jobs in the last year. Tearing down a portion of 280 simply won’t have the catastrophic impact some of you think it will. Urban planners typically have Masters and PHDs – they’re not idiots.
    Removal of the UNDERUTILIZED freeway frees up acres for high density housing and with that comes property tax revenue. If we’re going to hit 1 MM people housing has to be built somewhere and it’s certainly not going in established neighborhoods in the numbers it needs to be.

  71. Posted by anon

    “Despite tearing down the Central and Embarcadero freeways, population in SF is the highest it’s ever been, has a 4.8% unemployment rate, and created 10% more jobs in the last year. [...] Urban planners typically have Masters and PHDs – they’re not idiots. ”
    Plenty of cities have fallen into decline under the watchful eye of PHD urban planners. The jobs and people coming to SF are due to tech, not urban planners. All the good transit innovations that seem to be working I mentioned above are coming from tech and new thinking.
    Some PhD flying in from central suberbia where he/she probably owns two cars and preaching about the evils and ineffeciency of the private automobile is not going to make people give up their car for a bike. Telecommuting, employer shuttles, streaming media and Amazon Fresh Prime (or it’s competitors) is what is going to make people drop car owership.
    One of the pilars of legacy urban planning seems to be a belief that people are irrationally attached to driving and the wise urban planner knows whats best and needs to pick a better transit mode for them. But what I read from the success of these new transit innovations (Uber, Lyft, ZipCar, online delivery, employer shuttles,..) is that people will jump at the chance to reduce private vehicle trips *if you provide them a better option from their point of view*.
    “It certainly may cause more economic harm than benefit.”
    Yup and since most of the transit innovations I mention above are either based in this area or built upon tech based in this area, I see that causing economic harm in the bay area only hinders true transit innovation.

  72. Posted by anon

    Yup and since most of the transit innovations I mention above are either based in this area or built upon tech based in this area, I see that causing economic harm in the bay area only hinders true transit innovation.
    Do explain. Most of the innovations that you mention are not self-financed from the Bay Area, but rather from global venture capital.

  73. Posted by anon

    ” Most of the innovations that you mention are not self-financed from the Bay Area, but rather from global venture capital. ”
    But the employees are here. Causing economic harm either imposes a cost in time or desirability making employees less productive (time spent stuck in traffic is time not producing something useful) or a financial cost to bypass this economic harm.
    Intentionally crippling the transit system here may very well reduce transit utilization. But the point is that the people who were previously able to use the transit system were actually doing somehing useful.

  74. Posted by anon

    But the point is that the people who were previously able to use the transit system were actually doing somehing useful.
    Or not. As was shown to be the case with two previous freeway teardowns in this exact same city.
    I have no idea whether it would be a good idea or not, but just going by the “people use it now” is not a good way to determine whether it’s a good idea or not. We’re intentionally crippling the transit system already by not charging market price for its use, but no one notices that since it’s the status quo.

  75. Posted by Jake

    @gentrified
    Two points:
    First, you wrote “in those 25 years commuting patterns have changed dramatically in the Bay Area. Back then it was most common for people to live in the suburbs and commute to SF for work. Nowadays there are tens of thousands who commute to Silicon Valley and live in SF”
    Here is some data from the US Census:
    In 1990 87k commuted from San Mateo and Santa Clara counties to SF for work. In 2006-2010 the average was 85k. The reverse commute SF to SM/SC was 41k in 1990 and 62k in 2006-2010. So, yes, there has been an increase in how many people are commuting to the valley, but it is hardly a new phenom. And, more generally, the ratio of SF inbound to outbound commuters is similar now to what it was 25 years ago (~2.7:1).
    FWIW, the current number of riders on the various corporate buses is more than 17,000, which may account for much of the SF to valley increase.
    Second, you wrote “I doubt very much that it’s just the extra few minutes it now takes to use Octavia instead of an overpass straight to Fell/Laguna that’s responsible for any reduction in traffic.”
    Well, when the old ramp was there it drew traffic from east of Van Ness around Nob Hill and the Civil Center. Now it is often better to use one of the SOMA on-ramps.
    According to SFMTA, 50% of the Polk traffic that crosses Market southbound is headed for the highway at 10th St. And 9th and 10th carry as much traffic as Octavia.
    And it’s not just the extra few minutes to drive to Octavia. The wait to get on the ramp is much greater because there are now only two lanes on instead of four (one on-ramp instead of two) and the Octavia traffic has a lower priority than the Market St traffic, whereas it was the other way for the old on/off ramps in Hayes Valley.
    At times of low congestion I don’t think any of this matters much. I’m glad we tore it down.

  76. Posted by Spencer

    “In 1990 87k commuted from San Mateo and Santa Clara counties to SF for work. In 2006-2010 the average was 85k. The reverse commute SF to SM/SC was 41k in 1990 and 62k in 2006-2010. So, yes, there has been an increase in how many people are commuting to the valley, but it is hardly a new phenom. And, more generally, the ratio of SF inbound to outbound commuters is similar now to what it was 25 years ago (~2.7:1).”
    That ratio look dramatically different to me, and I bet it is even more pronounced in 2013 than in 2006-2010

  77. Posted by Jake

    Sorry if I wasn’t clear. By ‘more generally’ I meant for all inbound/outbound SF commutes, not just for the valley.
    On an average 2006-2010 workday, San Francisco inbounded ~260,000 workers and outbounded ~96,000. Back in 1990 the ratio was similar but about one sixth lower: 230,000 and 81,000, respectively.
    About half the increase of people commuting to SF is from distant counties (Sonoma + Solano + San Joaquin).
    Also, while aggregate toll bridge traffic in the Bay Area has not changed much in 25 years (

  78. Posted by Jake

    Also, while aggregate toll bridge traffic in the Bay Area has not changed much in 25 years (

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