Yes on Prop. H: Extend Caltrain To Downtown SF!

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Improve Mass Transit for San Francisco
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Extend Caltrain to Downtown San Francisco!

Proposition H is the Caltrain downtown station
initiative passed by San Francisco voters by
a 69-to-31 percent margin in the November 1999 election.
See a map of the proposed Caltrain extension

Why San Francisco needs a downtown Caltrain station:
Traffic congestion in San Francisco, especially in the South of Market area, is reaching unbearable levels. Caltrain, which currently terminates on the southern edge of this rapidly growing and congesting neighborhood, links San Francisco to half the Bay Area's population to the south and the job-rich Silicon Valley.

A very small number of Muni lines connect directly to Caltrain, making connections inconvenient for people taking transit from most parts of the city or the Bay Area to the Peninsula and Silicon Valley. Study after study has shown that the vast majority of Caltrain passengers from the south are headed to the downtown area. Requiring all these extra transfers for Caltrain riders has discouraged transit readership.

For much less cost than any alternative transit proposals, Caltrain could be extended to downtown, run much more frequently, take thousands of cars off San Francisco and Peninsula streets and freeways, and enable many more San Franciscans who work in Silicon Valley to give up their cars. Caltrain has been chronically neglected by elected officials.

Questions and Answers about Proposition H

List of reasons for extending Caltrain to downtown

What Proposition H will do:
The Caltrain-to-downtown ballot initiative is an ordinance which makes it official city policy to extend Caltrain to downtown. It also requires that city officials and agencies seek the necessary funding to build the project. It specifies potential funding sources, but does not require that city funds be spent or that any one funding source be used. It also prohibits the city and its agencies from making any decision that allows construction that would obstruct the right-of-way needed to build the extension or the rail terminal at First and Mission Streets.

Recent events that led to the Caltrain initiative:
A well developed plan to extend Caltrain to the Transbay Terminal and electrify it to eliminate diesel locomotives was under consideration beginning in 1994. (See On The Right Track below.) The plan was halted in June 1997 by San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown over the objections several pro-transit and conservation groups.

However, Polling showed that San Franciscans strongly favored extending Caltrain to downtown. Mayor Brown since then has changed his position to support Caltrain to downtown.

In December of 1998, a campaign to revive the Caltrain extension and electrification of the Caltrain line collected the required number of valid signatures of registered voters to place an ordinance on the November 1999 ballot in San Francisco.

This effort is sponsored by the Better Transit Alliance, a project of the San Francisco League of Conservation Voters (LCV), Sierra Club, San Francisco Tomorrow, San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, Peninsula Rail 2000 and other groups. The SF Environmental Organizing Committee also is participating in efforts to pass Prop H.

Why a ballot initiative?
Implementing modern, convenient rail service to the Peninsula and Silicon Valley by upgrading and extending Caltrain has been an affordable, practical option for several years. Regional agencies and officials have lacked the vision to carry these projects through. Proposition H would jump-start these projects.

As a direct result of qualifying the initiative, the Mayor and the Board of Supervisors enacted legislation which supports the Caltrain extension, Bay Bridge rail, and transforming the Transbay Terminal at First and Mission Streets into a regional rail/transit hub. This action in March of this year reversed the city's previous policy.

However, this is a fragile policy. Political winds could easily shift again and the Caltrain extension and Transbay Station concept could fall out of favor. Funding for construction of the downtown extension and station has yet to be secured. These concerns prompted the grassroots efforts to qualify Proposition H for the November ballot.

Text of Proposition H

Outcome of voting on November 2, 1999:

Proposition H: Downtown Caltrain Station
YES votes received: 123,623 ...69.30% of total
NO votes received: 54,751 ...30.60% of total

On The Right Track
The official newsletter, dated March 1997, of the proposed extension project which gives all the details of how and where the extension would be built. (This document contains much verbiage and detailed information. One map provided by the SF Caltrain campaign shows the overall project, where it goes, and the improved connections it would provide.)

Architecture 21's Caltrain upgrade projects page
Architecture 21's 1999 designs for the Caltrain extension and downtown station
Further information about the Caltrain extension and its history from Architecture 21, a.k.a. Michael Kiesling. Kiesling devised and successfully promoted the tunneled alignment of the proposed extension project.

Some recent history of the SF Caltrain extension
Read more about recent events concerning the Caltrain extension and the future of the Transbay Terminal, especially during the summer of 1997. Here you will find links to several newspaper articles, and correspondence in support of the Caltrain extension.

Proponent's argument in favor of Propositon H from the San Francisco Voter Information Pamphlet

Rebuttal to opponent's argument against Propositon H not printed in the San Francisco Voter Information Pamphlet due to a procedural error

Paid Yes on Prop. H ballot arguments from the San Francisco Voter Information Pamphlet

Letters to the editor in favor of Prop. H

SF Bay Guardian endorsement of Prop. H

Subscribe to CALTRAIN-DTX or CALTRAIN-TALK, e-mail lists for communication amongst the supporters of the Caltrain SF extension. To subscribe, see

Some key reasons why Caltrain needs to be extended to downtown SF:

  • Caltrain needs to go directly downtown so all the transit carriers of the Bay Area connect in one place.

  • Caltrain is our only chance for a modern, efficient alternative to the congested highways of the San Jose-Peninsula-SF corridor for the next 30 years. An extension into downtown San Francisco is vital to Caltrain's success.

  • The Caltrain extension is expected to eliminate 20,000 to 30,000 daily car trips by providing faster and more convenient rail access to the Peninsula and Silicon Valley.

  • The Caltrain extension is feasible. Preliminary engineering studies show how to tunnel the Caltrain line under Rincon Hill to a rebuilt Transbay Terminal, with minimal disruption.

  • A major portion of funding for the downtown Caltrain station will come from sales of surplus public land ajoining the station site.

  • San Francisco needs a downtown rail terminal for commuter trains, long distance, and regional trains--a fixture of countless major cities of the world.

  • A downtown station would boost plans for a "bullet train" to Southern California. This proposed High Speed Rail system also would use Caltrain's tracks. Bullet trains will need to directly serve downtown to be time-competitive with air travel. Amtrak trains to the Monterey Bay area and the Central Valley also would serve the downtown station.

  • The Muni Metro Embarcadero extension to Caltrain lacks the capacity to handle whole trainloads of Caltrain transfers. Soon this Muni line will be further overwhelmed by riders to the new ballpark and the Mission Bay development.

  • People won't ride the train if they have to transfer to Muni to get downtown or make connections to other regional transit systems. Carrying Caltrain riders the last mile to downtown should not be left to Muni to handle.

  • Extended to downtown, Caltrain's direct routing offers the fastest possible access to SFO airport, the Peninsula, Silicon Valley, and San Jose--from downtown or via numerous direct Muni connections from most parts of San Francisco.

  • Foot traffic around downtown rail stations is an economic magnet. In many cities, stations include extremely lucrative joint retail development.

  • Caltrain provides disadvantaged Potrero Hill, Bay View-Hunters Point and Visitacion Valley neighborhoods with direct access to SFO airport and Silicon Valley. Prop. H would extend service to downtown, and upgrade station facilities in these neighborhoods.

  • Due to its staggeringly high cost and circuitous routing via Daly City and Colma (see map), BART is not a promising way to carry people between SF, the Peninsula and San Jose.

  • Without San Francisco's support for Caltrain upgrades, the city could lose Caltrain. Service may be cut back to Millbrae, where all passengers to and from San Francisco would transfer to or from BART. This would add 20 minutes to every trip and overwhelm BART within SF. Loss of Caltrain in SF also would eliminate service to the ballpark, Mission Bay, and southeastern neighborhoods.

  • If San Francisco doesn't support and plan for a downtown rail station soon, there may never be one, due to redevelopment pressures in San Francisco. A few parcels of state-owned land must be reserved to keep the station and extension right-of-way clear. Prop. H would prohibit any construction that would obstruct the extension in the future.

  • Access to downtown has gotten worse since freeway ramps have been demolished. More transit access is needed for downtown to retain its economic vitality. It is impractical to provide adequate parking to ensure automobile access to a downtown core.

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Last updated: July 17, 2001
The information in this archive dates from approximately November 1999.

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