Category Archives: Transit
KNBR update man Dan Dibley announced Friday that he was leaving the station for 95.7 Sports Radio, where it appears he will have similar (perhaps expanded) duties. He’s a quality guy who’s from the Bay Area and knows the local sports scene (including the Quakes), which for KBWF is half the battle.
Speaking of 95.7, does anyone know where Chris Townsend is? His Twitter feed has been silent for 24 hours. Maybe he’s just getting a day or weekend off. He has worked pretty much every day without a break since the station switched formats on Opening Day, so he deserves a rest. I hope everything’s alright otherwise.
San Jose’s redevelopment king, Harry Mavrogenes, announced that he’s stepping down in a month. SJRA has been cutting staff and running on fumes for a year now, making Mavrogenes’ departure more symbolic than anything. The agency has been dying for a while, and for better or worse, will never be the same. With land acquisition and development powers transferred to the San Jose Diridon Development Authority (of which Mavrogenes was a signatory), his capacity as SJRA head was no longer needed to finish the ballpark work.
Did you know that the headquarters of Family Radio (whose leader Harold Camping is predicting The Rapture on Saturday) is on Hegenberger, just across the Nimitz from the Coliseum? There is a tangential relation to the A’s besides proximity. Family Radio bought KFRC-610 from CBS in 2005, creating a very uncomfortable combination of God talk and A’s talk/games during the 2005 season.
Jamie McCourt wants an immediate sale of the Dodgers so that she can cash out while she can. Which would be awesome for Dodgers fans who want to turn the page, A’s fans who want the team taken off the backburner, and pretty much everyone else except for Angels and Giants fans who are experiencing some deep schadenfreude.
The athletic facilities at Stanford are going to turn into one gigantic WiFi hotspot, thanks to AT&T. You know, it’d be nice if Verizon did the same for the Coliseum, seeing as they’re the telecom sponsor there.
Added 5/21 9:30 AM- John Fisher has to be taking it in the shorts this weekend as the GAP dove 17% in trading yesterday after it reset annual earnings expectations down 22%.
It would appear that new Coliseum naming rights holder Overstock.com is the snake to current signage/broadcast sponsor and hedge fund Kingsford Capital’s mongoose. Or vice-versa. Weird.
The 49ers made two big announcements yesterday. They brought in mega-agency CAA to handle its naming rights search. That comes after Santa Clara authorized the team to start selling said naming rights. The 49ers also hired former Facebook and YouTube CFO Gideon Yu to become its Chief Strategy Officer. Yu may have been bored working at venture capital firm Khosla Ventures. You know how in the past I wrote wondering how the 49ers were going to finance the Santa Clara stadium? Well, this hiring proves that there’s some truth to it, and Tim Kawakami agrees. The Yorks are having to search far and wide, looking into perhaps novel or unexplored revenue streams to pay for the stadium. For Santa Clara taxpayers’ sakes, I hope they hit a vein of gold (preferably not on their uniforms).
It’s a bad time for online security. Sony’s PlayStation Network was severely breached last week and is still down for rebuilding. Now according to Deadspin, the New York Yankees accidentally leaked a file containing the names of 20,000 season ticket and plan holders. No credit card info was in the file, but plenty of personal information was. It didn’t get everyone, though. The suiteholders and high rollers in the really expensive (and often empty) club seats were not affected. It’s good to be the king. Also, the number of tickets sold (2.1 million) and revenue pulled in just for the non-premium sections ($131 million) are absolutely staggering.
Speaking of staggering, Frank McCourt visited New York to lobby Bud Selig to approve his own personal TARP bailout by Fox. The plan, which would have included $300 million upfront that would have gone straight into team equity, was not approved by the commissioner. That prompted McCourt to hold a 30-minute press conference in which he railed on Selig, calling his actions “un-American.” Listen to the audio. There are some serious theatre of the absurd elements. I thought it was all quite entertaining until I realized that the slow legal process that will tie up MLB and the Dodgers for the next two years will cause Selig to extend his term yet again, probably through 2013-14. I was instantly depressed.
Escondido’s AAA ballpark plan for the Padres may turn into a tech business park if Mayor Sam Abed has his way. Now that was quick.
Doctors are trying to reduce medication to Bryan Stow so that he can emerge out of his coma. #rootingforhim
Two different visions for old deflated domes:
- The H.H.H. Metrodome is quickly getting its roof repaired. The new roof by Birdair won’t end Zygi Wilf’s quest for a new Vikings Stadium. It will be there in time for the Vikings’ 2011 season, assuming that the league starts on time. The replacement is being paid for by the stadium’s insurance, so there’s no new public cost.
- B.C. Place in Vancouver is getting a unique cable-supported retractable roof built on top of the existing stadium, replacing the original roof. Construction of the roof and related improvements started shortly after last year’s Winter Olympics, with the price tag rising from $350 million to $458 million and now $563 million. The remodeled, reroofed venue will be home to both the B.C. Lions CFL team and the Vancouver Whitecaps MLS team.
More news today as it gets reported.
Added 11:40 AM – BART is workshopping different types of seats for its trains. The agency was prompted in response to rising cleaning costs for the fabric covers on the existing seats. They’re also playing around with narrower seats with less legroom, which I’m sure is a crowd pleaser. This change follows a switch from carpeted floors to rubberized floors, which is ongoing. Personally, I think wide and tall vinyl seats, such as those used on Caltrain’s Baby Bullet cars, would work well.
The Merc’s authority on all things local transportation, Gary “Mr. Roadshow” Richards, fielded a question about redoing streets in the Diridon area and a ballpark’s effect on traffic.
Q Maybe it’s a little early to ask this, but how does San Jose figure on making up for the loss of Montgomery Street if an A’s ballpark is built next to the Diridon train station? A two-way Autumn Street? Reversible lanes? Seems that when events let out at HP Pavilion, it would be a nightmare to get to Interstate 280.
A The plan is to close Montgomery and convert Autumn Street from a three-lane, one-way road to a two-way street with two lanes in each direction. This would be a key connection to and from HP Pavilion to I-280. Traffic signals on Autumn would be managed to accommodate traffic exiting HP Pavilion. I would not worry too much about this. When the Sharks began playing downtown, naysayers said traffic would be a mess. It hasn’t been as the city has proved it can move people in and out efficiently. Baseball games would attract larger crowds, but light rail, BART, Caltrain and Amtrak would all be within an easy walk of home plate.
We may run into scale involving capacity at Diridon. The are plenty of intersections that don’t rate well. Still, traffic going through the area isn’t anywhere near the catastrophic gridlock predicted before the arena was built (hint: Julian Street is almost always clear). With vigorous enforcement of a revised TPMP, a ballpark and arena combo shouldn’t be gridlock either. A little worse, yes, but not gridlock.
It’s official. Caltrain is drastically cutting service starting on July 1st because of its $30 million budget deficit. Twitter user DCdoozy has been keeping a running log on today’s hearing.
Up to seven stations will have service suspended for the upcoming fiscal year. To add insult to injury, a 25-cent fare increase will be instituted. The service will essentially be a commuter train only based on the hours, with virtually no leisure service possible. VTA offered a $7.1 million payment it already owes Caltrain, as well as an offer to buy Diridon Station from Caltrain (that would’ve been interesting). VTA’s proposals went nowhere.
An example of leisure service is the Wet Your Whistles pubcrawl, which occurred during Beer Week. It was the third annual crawl and was held on a weekend. That kind of scheduling is no longer possible. I’ve been trying to get my friends who run the site and the crawl to do it once a quarter. Now it’s going to be difficult to do it just once a year.
We’ve had a lot of talk among local business interests, from the Giants to SVLG members, about saving Caltrain. Very little action emanated from those town halls. Come July we’ll see how this affects the Giants, as the service drop will occur right before a homestand.
Marc Morris of Better Sense San Jose argues against using scarce San Jose redevelopment funds for a ballpark. He makes very good points about cuts to neighborhood business districts and other smaller projects. At the same time, the claim that stadiums don’t provide much economic benefit is a stroke too broad, considering that locally we have two examples that have provided such benefits: AT&T Park and HP Pavilion. Morris was against the arena 20 years ago, and I sense that he’s tilting at windmills as an encore.
The Federal Transit Administration approved full funding of the first part of the BART-to-Silicon Valley extension. This approval is only for the initial phase, which would terminate three miles northeast of Diridon at Berryessa. The second phase is the Downtown San Jose tunnel and further route up to Santa Clara/SJC. Next, the funding must be approved as part of the next federal budget.
There’s a ton of coverage of the Wilpon-Madoff situation, which seems fluid and with a higher price tag for Fred Wilpon, Saul Katz, and in the end, the Mets. ESPN’s Outside the Lines has a thumbnail sketch.
The Los Angeles Lakers are partnering with Time Warner Cable to have all local game broadcasts on a pair of new regional sports networks: one in English and one in Spanish. Unlike most sports networks which utilize SAP for Spanish audio while using the same video feed, the twin Spanish network will have its own audio/video and production. Update 9:43 AM – Multiple sources have the new deal pegged at 20 years, $3 Billion. Even if two-thirds of that were given over to network operations and revenue sharing, that would leave $50 million per year for the team – nearly enough to take care of team payroll by itself for the next 2-3 CBAs. Also, the deal may have an effect on the Dodgers in that Frank McCourt has been talking about starting up a similar twin-language RSN. He may choose to jump to the Lakers-TWC network if the price is right, or use that as leverage to get a better deal from Fox. Fox recently gave McCourt an additional $111 million over the next three years to cover expenses associated with running the ballclub, so there’s a question as to who really has the leverage here.
A pair of articles by Neil deMause (for Baseball Prospectus) and Pete Toms (for The Biz of Baseball) on the upcoming MLB CBA negotiations should give you an idea of where the two sides stand at this point. One word missing from either article: contraction.
Deadspin has a tale of two guys who had the run of Camden Yards after an Orioles game was postponed. Is it true? Does it matter?
CBS College Sports Network will be renamed CBS Sports Network. Hmmm…
The Save Caltrain Summit, held in San Carlos and sponsored by Friends of Caltrain, just wrapped up. I’d like to say I came out of it the session hopeful, but I can’t. Yes, this session and the many town halls to come were prompted by service cuts amidst the ongoing transit fiscal crunch. Moving forward, Caltrain’s problems are more linked to what it really is and how it wants to be perceived.
A few years back, Caltrain ran nearly 100 trains up and down the Peninsula every weekday, including every 30 minutes during middays. Right now it runs 86 trains on weekdays, and this summer will run 48 per weekday (commute hours only) unless Jerry Brown gives the transit agency a $30 million gift.
Amidst all of the debate over electrification, grade separations, and degrading service was a specific question: What kind of service does Caltrain want to run? Does it aspire to be a rapid metro service like BART or a much simpler commuter train?
Obviously, that’s a question easily answered in good times. In lean times, not so much. Should Caltrain roll back its service to commuter only, the perception of it as infrequent – and therefore inferior – will only grow. Ridership will decline dramatically as the agency finds itself in a funding death spiral.
Should austerity prevail long term and limit Caltrain to only commuter service, it won’t just affect a San Jose A’s team as well as the Giants. While it would be easy to get to an A’s game on Caltrain, getting back home would be an entirely different kettle of fish.
The problems Caltrain faces are severe enough that it is fielding bids for outside companies to run its operations. It’s quite possible that at some point in the near future, BART could run Caltrain just as it does Capitol Corridor. Clem Tillier, who runs the Caltrain HSR Compatibility Blog, thinks Caltrain trains with BART livery and logos wouldn’t be a bad thing, as it could at reduce some of the bureaucratic overhead and lead to better synchronization of the services. It would also be a step toward unification of all of the disparate transit agencies into one, which would help riders. BART is set to startup its own commuter eBART service, a DMU service which will run from Pittsburg/Baypoint to Antioch.
Frankly, I think it’d be a great idea to bring all heavy rail service (BART/Caltrain/Capitol Corridor/ACE) under a single body with one brand, while the individual bus/light rail services act as “last mile” customers/partners. Each of the rail agencies is tied to a separate joint powers agreement between counties, creating a huge amount of overlap and waste. Caltrain’s dependence on other agencies and not a separate operating subsidy makes it a candidate for merging with BART.
Does Caltrain have to be killed to save it? In one sense, yes. Due to the dire situation Caltrain faces, it may be time for someone else to take the controls. As gas heads back to $4/gallon and the roads start to get clogged due to the Bay Area’s growth, citizens need solutions that work. As Caltrain is reorganized, residents can create the proper framework by which Peninsula rail will operate for the rest of the century.
My dad moved the family from San Francisco to Sunnyvale in December 1979, when I was 4. My mom still loved the City after the move, so she would take my brother and me to SF to visit relatives or go to Chinatown regularly. She didn’t even get a driver’s license until the mid 80′s and was terribly afraid of driving on freeways. Back in the 80’s the change to Caltrain wasn’t yet complete so we called it Southern Pacific, after the old rail company that was contracted to operate the service. Caltrain grew and gained a foothold in the community. The trains even inspired the design of what would be HP Pavilion. Caltrain may be the Peninsula’s rail service, but that identity does nothing for it outside of the Bay Area. Let’s cast aside the perverse tribalism we’ve created in our transit world, and let’s get going.
Silicon Valley Leadership Group may be full-throated in their support of a San Jose ballpark, but their key issue this year appears to be saving Caltrain. The transit agency is dealing with a $30 million deficit in the next fiscal year’s budget. As expected, the remedy comes in the form of service cutbacks. Service would be eliminated on weekends and middays on weekdays. Also gone would be service to Gilroy and dedicated Giants service.
For several years, Caltrain has been running special trains going to AT&T Park for day games, and two extra trains coming back south after every game (day or night). Around 5% of fans take Caltrain every home date, so a midseason dropoff in service, whether it’s the special trains or weekend service in general, is going to be extremely jarring. Public transit usage for the ballpark is at around 34-41% currently, a steady rise over the last decade.
Today, SVLG had the first of many “summits” to figure out how to preserve service. This one was held on the Stanford campus. Next weekend (1/29), a public session will be held in San Carlos at samTrans headquarters. Much of the shortfall comes from lower contributions by the three member transit agencies that make up the Caltrain Joint Powers Authority: SCVTA, samTrans, and Muni. Caltrain can always raise fares, but even that will only go so far.
I’ll be at the session next Saturday, and if worse comes to worse this summer, I’ll probably head out to China Basin to see how bad things get. Fans won’t be expected to stay away, instead they’ll drive.
I left the Planning Commission study session last night around 10. After walking three blocks to my car at the corner of 14th and Webster, I decided to drive by Victory Court. As I drove down Oak Street, I heard some bells ringing and was forced to stop for this:
Some Victory Court supporters, in an effort to minimize the impact of trains, are saying things like, “Trains only run 15 mph along the Embarcadero” or “Seattle built a stadium next to train tracks” without really going into why or how these situations came about. Frankly, it shows a reckless kind of ignorance that, thankfully, the California Public Utilities Commission and rail operators Union Pacific and Amtrak cannot abide by. Let’s go into the statements.
- “Trains only run 15 mph along the Embarcadero” – You bet they do. And for good reason. If a freight train were running 55 mph along the Embarcadero, it would take over a mile to stop, or the distance from the Jack London Aquatic Center to Howard Terminal. If you’re going to mix trains at grade with multiple vehicular and and pedestrian cross, those trains need to go slow. Even then, it’s dangerous, as a freight train going 15 mph would take over 1,000 feet to stop, which happens to be the length of the passenger platform and the Amtrak JLS station. Note: You may remember back to the summer, when during my midwest ballpark trip, an Amtrak train on which I was traveling from St. Louis to Chicago hit a car, delaying the train for well over an hour and putting the driver of the car close to death.
- “They have those trains that run by AT&T Park” - Electrified light rail trains, like the ones in SF and the South Bay, are far lighter and easier to start and stop than their diesel cousins. Often, they travel very slowly along shared streets just to be safer and more cautious. They’re built to operate in an urban environment. Diesel freight (UPRR) and commuter/intercity (Amtrak) trains absolutely are not. The fact that trains run through JLS at grade, sharing the road with cars and people, is an anomaly that should not be duplicated. The only other local example of such a train is the Roaring Camp/Big Trees Railroad, a tourist excursion train that runs between the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and Felton. Coming in and out of the boardwalk, the train runs at a crawl.
- “Seattle built a stadium next to train tracks” - Actually, they built two, Safeco Field and Qwest Field. But if you walk around the back of Safeco where the roof is stored, you’ll notice that you’re overlooking the tracks. All but one of the pedestrian and vehicular rail crossings around both stadia are overpasses with full grade separation, and the one exception was obviated this year when a new overpass was completed. If trains and cars don’t share space, you can’t have accidents. Grade separation isn’t really possible at JLS as the construction would be extremely expensive and disruptive, so other measures have to be taken to ensure safety. To that end, it’s possible that one or more pedestrian bridges will be required. Already there are three such bridges in place, connecting the waterfront to the JLS parking garage and Amtrak station, plus the ferry terminal’s connection to Yoshi’s. Through the EIR’s circulation analysis, it may be found that these bridges, with some modification, will be adequate for whatever the new pedestrian load is. Then again, maybe not. Even if a new overpass is needed, it will probably be cheaper than a lawsuit emanating from the negligence associated with not addressing the issue.
Still not convinced? Consider this: let’s say the ballpark pulls in 2.5 million fans a year. It’s reasonable to think that 20% of them (500,000) will be going to JLS to eat, drink, or shop before and after games. The popularity of the ballpark will create a snowball effect, making it more likely that even more retail establishments and restaurants call JLS home, further driving up traffic – which is what Oaklanders want. It’s possible that 1 million new visitors will come to JLS annually. To try to cut corners on safety (occasional police presence as the main mitigation, for instance) just so that the project is more affordable or “feasible” is downright foolish.
As for cars, there isn’t much that can be done. I suppose a vehicular/pedestrian overpass from Oak Street to First Street is possible, but the limited amount of car traffic may not warrant the cost.
After the Draft EIR and its findings are made public, the PUC, Amtrak, and UPRR will have a chance to formally comment on the project. They may already have submitted comments based on the project as it stands now. In the PUC’s case, it has the power to dictate how the EIR progresses. It’s incumbent upon the project applicants – in this case, the City of Oakland – to do their level best to make sure the EIR is complete and mitigation measures are properly in place. If not, it’s only going to delay groundbreaking and construction. Given MLB’s 2015 deadline, that’s not something on which Oakland or Keep-the-A’s-in-Oakland types should be gambling.
(Watch about halfway through for a treat.)
I’ve commented in the past on the tenor of the San Jose Good Neighbor sessions. When talking about the ballpark, opposition was present albeit mild. When it comes to the high speed rail project, well, it’s practically Katy bar the door. The largely critical attendees at tonight’s session had plenty of questions about the project’s impact on adjacent residential neighborhoods, including Cahill Park, St. Leo’s, and Gardner. The story, at least when it comes to HSR, is a sadly familiar tale. To conserve costs and get the project built as quickly as possible, the High Speed Rail Authority wants to build several stretches of aerial or elevated tracks down the Peninsula down to and through San Jose. The new Diridon station platform, which would be only a few hundred feet from Cisco Field, would be 60 feet above the ground, with a roof perhaps 30 feet or more above that. Last week, Palo Alto chose to get out of consideration for its own HSR station, leaving Redwood City and Mountain View as possible locations.
In San Jose, residents fought the rubber-stamping of an aerial alignment, which led the Authority to consider several underground options. All have pros and cons, and all are more expensive than an aerial.
- Light blue: Deep Tunnel option. Tracks would be bored or “mined” 140 feet underground. Existing light rail and future BART would run between the tunnel and the surface. Cost: $3 billion. Option was dismissed because it was considered impractical (though not infeasible).
- Purple: Shallow Tunnel. A massive cut-and-cover operation would occur between The Alameda and Park Avenue, disrupting the area’s light rail line and the ballpark because the alignment cuts right through the northeast block of the ballpark site. BART tunnel would also have to run deeper than originally planned. Construction time would be 5-7 years, which means that the affected area couldn’t be developed until perhaps 2020 or thereabouts. Option was considered too disruptive, City won’t go for it.
- Yellow (5100′) and White (Thread the Needle). Both of these options were floated by a residents’ group interested in locating the new HSR platforms underneath the existing Diridon station and platforms. Both would run underneath the southwestern corner of the ballpark site. These were dismissed because they were considered dangerous for existing rail services (Caltrain, ACE, Amtrak, UPRR Freight, VTA Light Rail), particularly the danger of collapse.
To the attendees’ collective chagrin, the Authority’s project principals told the crowd that the best option moving forward would be the aerial alternative. Look at the risk assessment table below and you’ll see why.
The subject of compensation for lost property values came up, and the discussion wasn’t pretty. I doubt that the Authority is budgeting for a massive amount of cash payouts to homeowners in every affected city statewide, as the combined value of the settlements would absolutely kill the already astronomical budget while providing no actual value for the project. HSR has a difficult battle on its hands, given that several Peninsula cities have banded together in the same cause. The funny thing is that there’s an argument along the Peninsula that HSR would be best if it terminated somewhere in San Jose instead San Francisco, and I heard at least one argument tonight that HSR should terminate in some undeveloped land in South San Jose or even Gilroy. Either sounds great, as long as you don’t want people actually riding the thing.
Speaking of people not riding, the
Authority chose Feds mandated that the Authority take the first $4.3 billion in federal and state funds and build the initial segment in the Central Valley, between Merced and Bakersfield via Fresno. That section will be the cheapest to build in the entire system and have the highest attainable speeds. In addition, maintenance and testing facilities are expected to be built in the area. Beyond those funds, additional money will have to come from the 112th Congress, whose House of Representatives will have a Republican majority that is normally transportation funding averse.
If they ever get these alignment questions and NIMBY issues settled, there’s a chance that the train could look like that animation at the top. Kind of strange, though, that San Jose would get a distinctive, skyline-worthy bridge within city limits; a bridge that could only be used by trains.
Some other notes:
- The animation is the first I’ve seen that shows both the Plant 51 and Cahill Park developments as they are. Previous images and videos showed generic buildings.
- The ballpark shown is also generic, as it doesn’t appear to have the same seating bowl shape as new Cisco Field renderings.
- Again, I don’t know what the buildings are between HP Pavilion and Cisco Field. For all we know, it’s a blank slate.
- San Jose Economic Development head Paul Krutko, a noted power-behind-the-throne for the ballpark project among others, abruptly resigned earlier today. I’m not an insider, so I have no idea what happened. What I do know about Krutko is that he wasn’t always the easiest guy to work with. The article hints at different kinds of scandal that could be catching up with him. Whatever the case, his services in terms of keeping the ballpark project alive and on the radar haven’t been needed in at least a year.
- After a lackluster home playoff game versus the New York Red Bulls, the Earthquakes staged a furious rally and beat the NY 3-1, including the series clincher – a beautiful header by MLS leading scorer and Danville native Chris Wondolowski. That combined with the 1-0 loss over the weekend gives the Quakes an aggregate lead in goals scored, and thus a series victory (I can see eyes rolling as I write this). Next up: either Columbus or Colorado a week from now. Hey Lew – Build them the damned stadium already.
Here in front of Diridon Station. Jeffrey, fc and Sam are on hand, along with Dennis Korabiak and Kip Harkness from City. Michael Mulcahy as well. 40-50 in total.
Someone just asked when the ballpark would open. Korabiak replied, “2015.” More on that as it comes.
Korabiak just said that the renderings will be officially released by City tomorrow.
Harkness mentioned that the water table is 14 feet below the street.
Mulcahy finished off the tour with a brief speech about supporting the plan.
At least two people asked about what happens if baseball doesn’t come. It’s way off in the distance, say Harkness and Korabiak. Developers won’t make a move until they know baseball and BART are coming.