By Meghan Hall
San José’s Diridon Station has attracted a lot of attention—from the larger Bay Area community, developers and growing companies—as a major hub for future growth. As the nation’s 10th largest city continues to evolve and the addition of BART and the California High Speed Rail Service anticipated for 2026, Diridon Station is anticipated to become one of the busiest intermodal stations in North America. With that new reality on the horizon, the City of San José, Caltrain, the California High Speed Authority and the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority—in BART’s place while it constructs BART in Santa Clara County—have partnered to facilitate the creation of a plan that would outline Diridon Station’s future usage. While that plan is in its preliminary planning stages, the partners hosted its first community kick-off meeting at the beginning of December 2018 to garner public feedback.
“This is really an attempt to focus in on the station itself, how it functions, how it integrates with the immediate neighborhoods surrounding it and how people can use it effortlessly,” said Colin Heyne, the public information manager for the City of San Jose’s transportation department. I think employers and developers that are looking at the area see that we are looking at making San José denser, but not on the back of the single occupancy automobile. We’re really looking at transit as a space efficient means of getting people into and through San Jose.”
Last Monday’s meeting was the beginning of the public planning part of the process, informing the public about the Partner Agencies’ vision for the project, its scope and impact. According to Heyne, the meeting was better attended than anticipated, with approximately a hundred community members present. The group generally supported the plan, with community members expressing interest in maintaining the original station’s historical character while increasing its size and efficiency. Others expressed concerns with the timeline for the project given that four different agencies are involved in the future redevelopment of the station.
“We were really impressed with the turnout,” said Heyne. “Our goal was 75 people, and we blasted past that. People were actually really excited about the prospect of getting out and around the greater Bay Area region by transit. People are hopeful that we are going to do that right, so it is seamless.”
Inspired by train stations in the Netherlands and elsewhere in Europe, the partner agencies hired two Dutch companies, Arcadis and Benthem Crowel—called ABC by the project team— in October 2018 as consultants following a competitive request for proposal process. Currently the firms are working with the partner agencies to develop several scenarios for an integrated, multimodal transportation facility that will delineate how the station is laid out and how its users will transfer between types of transportation. The first phase of the Concept Plan will also lay the groundwork for how the partner agencies will operate and work together in the future to execute the concept plan and maintain the station once its redevelopment is complete.
“In the past decade, an incredible redevelopment of the largest train stations of the Netherlands has been accomplished. The train stations of Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht and The Hague have been transformed into future-proof multimodal hubs,” said Daniel Jongtien, partner at Benthem Crouwel Architects in an October statement. “We have changed the perspective from infrastructure to passengers, from disconnected transit systems to integrated solutions. Arcadis and Benthem Crouwel have successfully collaborated on many projects. We can’t wait to take this joint experience to Silicon Valley.”
ABC will come up with three separate scenarios incorporating public feedback about what the station could become before narrowing it down to a single option, which will signify the end of the first phase of the concept plan. The initial phase, which the development team anticipates will take 9 months to complete, will cost around $6.4 million dollars. According to Heyne, the first phase of the concept plan will not focus on design, just the values, themes and concepts that the public and partner agencies hope to see incorporated into the transit center. The team hopes to release a preferred option in the spring of 2019 for the general public to review. The second phase, which includes design, will take an additional nine months.
“We wanted to build a framework for creating a harmonious relationship between the station itself and its surroundings,” said Heyne.