The Emperor Norton Project

Trading the Terminal Separation Structure for a Regional Rail Terminal

Michael Kiesling

Architecture 21

December 1992



Map of Proposed Regional Rail Projects

1948 Transportation Plan for San Francisco

State Property in the Project Area

Norton Project Proposal

Ferry Building Peristyle Project

Peninsula Railway Connection


Current proposals for a Downtown Extension for CalTrain

Project Description


Plan of Proposed Alignment

Tunnel Lengths- 2nd Street vs. Norton Proposal

Plan of Proposed Lower Level Trackage

Bay Bridge Railway Connections


Section of the Bay Bridge from 1939

Project Description


Alignment of the Upper Level Tracks     

Original Bridge Railway

Transbay Terminal Reconstruction


1983 Caltrans Plan- Route Alignment  and Perspective View

Project Description

Scheme 4, from the 1979 SFBATT Proposal

Proposed Addition to London's Waterloo Terminal

Modern Terminal Concourses

Proposed platform for the new Waterloo Station

Terminal Joint Development in Sweden

Project Funding

Cut and Cover Construction of an Underground Rail Station

Surplus Property Development

Public Funding Sources



1995 Project Alignment Plan


The Emperor Norton Project

"What if all the transit systems in the Bay Area were connected? ... More than $2 billion has gone into today's product, but the most elementary ingredient is missing - interconnection."

     -Sanford Horn, San Francisco Sunday Examiner & Chronicle  

April 24, 1983


In late April of 1983, an article was printed in the California Living section of the Sunday Chronicle and Examiner. It laid out how the trains of the Peninsula Commute System, or CalTrain, could integrate with the BART system by building a new terminal for the trains in Downtown San Francisco. In 1988, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the regional agency in charge of allocating transportation funds, passed Resolution 1876. The resolution called for the funding and construction of a downtown terminal for CalTrain to coincide with the funding and construction of a BART extension to the San Francisco Airport. This action provided the regional commitment to build a downtown railway terminal in San Francisco. But today, in 1992, BART's airport extension is progressing smoothly, but a downtown terminal for peninsula commuters seems no closer that it was ten years ago.

In the tight economic times everyone faces today, public funds are stretched to the limit. A downtown terminal for CalTrain is not high on public officials' list of priorities.The body which operates the railway, the Joint Powers Board, is comprised of government officials from the counties through which the train passes. While the members of the board work diligently to operate and improve the railway, they do not have the strong administrative support that other transit agencies have. BART has assembled billions of dollars in funding for its projects because it has a huge staff dedicated to operating and improving its railway. When in competition for public funds, the Joint Powers Board is sadly overmatched as it competes with BART for public funds.

The proposal outlined in this report emanates from a re-examination of the factors preventing the construction of  a downtown terminal for CalTrain in San Francisco. It proposes a radically new approach to the funding and construction of the extension, encompassing new opportunities for a public - private joint venture to build and operate the terminal. It also provides San Francisco with the opportunity to take the leadership role in the project. By taking an active role in the project, San Francisco not only aids in the construction of an invaluable regional transit project, it gains the opportunity to plan and develop a smooth transition between the emerging Rincon Hill residential area and the growing commercial area surrounding the Transbay Terminal and Embarcadero.

The ability for the peninsula transit system to be integrated with the BART system should be the region's number one transit priority. This proposal recognizes that and attempts to go beyond that goal to offer the public a project that has the ability to be one of the greatest integration of transportation projects ever conceived, offering San Francisco and the Bay Area the transportation hub they deserve.

Downtown Terminal Project - History

Almost ten years have passed since the first public proposal for the extension of the Peninsula Commute System to the Transbay Terminal. Since that time, the plan has been studied and reworked many times, with each version costing more than the previous. As the price grows and time passes, support for the plan drops. Today, the plan languishes because two of the three counties that comprise the Joint Powers Board, which runs the railway, are unwilling to commit local transit dollars to a regional project.

This conservative approach to the Downtown Extension is leading the entire Bay Area towards a dangerous precedent, the belief that only BART can provide the region with a viable transportation system. Since the 1988 adoption of MTC Resolution 1876, public support is a major component in the force which propels BART's extension plans to the San Francisco airport. People around the Bay region are familiar with BART, and they understand the need to provide rail service to major regional destinations. BART supporters have used the public's limited knowledge of transportation systems to support their argument that only BART can solve the region's transportation problems.