History and Accomplishments of BayRail Alliance (formerly Peninsula Rail 2000)
Peninsula Rail 2000 was founded in 1982 by a small group of transit proponents, many of them transportation professionals and regular Caltrain riders. They devised a five-point plan to transform Caltrain from a commuter rail line into a frequent rapid transit system. At that time Caltrain's ridership was at its lowest level since before World War 2. (The name "CalTrain" had just been coined as Caltrans took over funding and management responsibilities from Southern Pacific Railroad for the Peninsula Commute Service.)
Many people assumed that the 10-year-old BART system eventually would be extended from Daly City down the Peninsula to San Jose and replace Caltrain. However, BART was not in a position to expand at the time, especially not outside of its four-county district. (See an explanation for why Peninsula BART is not a viable option.)
The Peninsula Rail 2000 plan called for extending Caltrain to downtown San Francisco (from the present terminus at Fourth and Townsend--to Market or Mission Street), increasing its frequency and service hours to approach or match those of BART, operating electric-powered trains (instead of diesel), formation of a new transit district to operate Caltrain, and self-service ticketing.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Caltrans sponsored studies that have laid the groundwork for the downtown SF extension and electrification. In 1988 regional leaders agreed on a list of rail capital projects for which funding would be sought, including the downtown Caltrain extension. In the same year, San Mateo County voters approved a 1/2-cent sales tax to fund transportation projects, including the acquisition of Caltrain's right-of-way from Southern Pacific, and a portion of the cost of the downtown extension. A joint powers board comprised of the three counties served by Caltrain was formed, which took over responsibility for Caltrain from Caltrans in 1992. However, the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board (JPB) lacked the staffing resources, dedicated funding sources, and other powers possessed by BART and major bus and light rail carriers of the Bay Area.
In the late 1990s, Caltrain started to pick up political and financial mommentum. In 1999, the Caltrain JPB voted 5-4 to make electrification a top priority. San Francisco voters, by approving Proposition H, soundly endorsed moving ahead with the downtown extension. Caltrain's management, under new leadership, began to take a stronger interest in system upgrades and expansion. Local elected officials took the first significant step towards upgrading Caltrain time in 2000 with the enactment of state legislation to build the Baby Bullet express service.
Recent accomplishments of Peninsula Rail 2000
- PR2000, along with San Francisco pro-transit and environmental groups,
qualified for the SF ballot Proposition H, in which SF voters affirmed by more than two-to-one their desire to extend Caltrain to downtown. Mayor Willie Brown had opposed the extension from 1996 to 1998, and blocked completion of studies needed to build it. Brown changed his position to support the project shortly before Proposition H qualified for the ballot.
- Grassroots lobbying organized by PR2000 persuaded the Caltrain JPB to make electrification a near-term priority, instead of the "go slow" approach recommended by JPB staff.
- Another PR2000 lobbying effort led to the doubling of midday Caltrain frequency (from hourly to half-hourly on weekdays), and additional evening trains. PR2000 thwarted an attempt by the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) to break a promise made to Santa Clara County voters in 1996 that approval of the Measure A/B sales tax would provide more frequent Caltrain service.
- More lobbying efforts led to Caltrain agreeing to be the Dumbarton Rail operator
- Peninsula Rail launches an all out effort to get Assembly Bill 1419 passed. AB1419 would kick start the San Francisco Downtown extension by transfering land and development rights from the State of California to the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency. The Redevelopment Agency has pledged all of the proceeds to the rebuilding of the Transbay Terminal and Caltrain Downtown extension. This amount is estimated at $1.2B of the $1.8B cost of the project.