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What is ‘The Portal’? San Francisco’s Future Downtown Rail Line Plan Gets a New Name, and Merch

Written by Joe BurnPublished Sep. 12, 2022 • 4:21pm
A cross section renderings shows where The Portal station will end at Salesforce Transit Center. | Courtesy of Transbay Joint Powers Authority


San Francisco’s planned Downtown Rail Extension, an expensive and controversial project that transit advocates view as a lynchpin for the region’s long-term needs, is set to be renamed “The Portal” when transit bosses meet next month.

The proposed rail tunnel will connect Caltrain—and future high-speed trains—at 4th and King Street Station to the massive new Salesforce Transit Center, where a newly built station awaits.

The new moniker, boosters hope, will “generate excitement” and “social media buzz” about the project—and maybe help secure the cash to get it done, according to the Transbay Joint Powers Authority. But others remain unconvinced.

New branding and merchandise have also been teased, including tote bags and clothing, but nothing concrete has been released on whether the items will one day be for sale. 

New merchandise for The Portal, which is the new name for the Downtown Rail Extension (DTX). It is unclear whether the items will ever be on sale. The new name is meant to “generate excitement” about the high speed rail line. | Courtesy of Transbay Joint Powers Authority

The rebrand comes after the authority surveyed 400 voters along Bay Area major transit corridors and found that just 12% were “very familiar” with DTX, or the Downtown Rail Extension, while 28% were “somewhat familiar” with the project.

The authority also conducted three hour-long listening sessions with key interest groups and organizations related to the project, but found that people who aren’t transportation advocates don’t know much about it.

A futuristic element to the new name was also touted as a reason for the rebranding. 

“People understood the sci-fi connection to the name and mark [logo] and felt it would help convey that this project is future forward,” authority documents said. 

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Madjus Wu, a spokesperson for the Transbay Joint Powers Authority, said it would bring “California’s statewide high-speed rail service into Downtown San Francisco at the TJPA multimodal facility, Salesforce Transit Center, which currently connects nine transit systems (found within and around) to eight Bay Area counties.”

The authority is set to approve the rebrand at their next in-person meeting on October 13. Construction of the new rail line is tentatively slated to begin next year.

Caltrain has been contacted for comment.


Joe Burn can be reached at [email protected]

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