AC Transit Transbay Commuters from the East Bay disembarked at the new SF Transit Center this morning, kicking off a new era for transportation in our region.
After the near decade-long construction on the officially-named ‘Salesforce Transit Center’, officials held a ribbon cutting event on Friday and a Neighborhood Block Party on Saturday to celebrate its opening to the public.
— San Francisco Chronicle (@sfchronicle) August 6, 2018
The Transit Center replaces both the Temporary Transbay Terminal and the old San Francisco Transbay Terminal on Mission at Second. The original building opened in 1939 to accommodate the popular Key System, a streetcar system that covered much of the inner East Bay.
Towards the end of its existence, the terminal earned a reputation from its riders as a gritty and undesirable. Its 2010 demolition was necessitated by the fact that it did not meet seismic and accessibility standards.
Friday Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony draws Local Dignitaries
On Friday, elected officials held a ribbon cutting ceremony to commemorate the completion of the years’ transportation long project. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, newly elected San Francisco Mayor London Breed and former Emeryville Councilmember/AC Transit Board Member Greg Harper were among a large panel of agency representatives and elected officials on hand.
The ceremony included speakers, a ceremonial ribbon-cutting and the activation of an oversized real-time arrival display in the Grand Hall.
The million square foot, four-story “Grand Central of the West,” as San Francisco Assemblyman David Chiu referred to it at the ceremony, was built to bring together multiple modes of transportation in downtown San Francisco.
“It’s an example of what happens when we work together. Public, private, and community,” said House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. “Not only will it curb congestion, it will transform how we live and travel.”
“Unless we think regionally, move regionally, house regionally, we won’t succeed…If we don’t deliver, our economy is at stake, our lives are out stake,” said San Francisco Assembly member Phil Ting said.
“Grand Central of the West”
The new center will house almost three dozen bus lines from multiple transit agencies, featuring new third floor bus bays, dedicated on- and off-ramps from the Bay Bridge, and other improvements. The dedicated ramp is expected to shave as much as five minutes from a passengers stop-to-stop commute time.
AC Transit General Manager Michael Hursh says the center could accommodate up to 24,000 riders an hour, which is a significant increase from the Temporary Transbay Terminal’s current usage of 13,000 riders a day. Many of them riding his agency’s buses, as AC Transit is the main user of the facility.
The center features 100,000 square feet of retail and restaurant spaces, a grand hall, and a 5.4-acre rooftop public park.
Adorned with over 16,000 plants and 600 trees, the four city blog long rooftop park is the most eye-catching feature within this project. Described by some visitors as San Francisco’s version of New York City’s High Line, Salesforce Park offers a children’s playground, outdoor amphitheater, open grass area, and a restaurant scheduled to open in 2019. While most of the retail remains vacant, the leasing team had letters of intent from 18 prospective tenants as of the end of June.
The main walking trail resembles a meandering oval and has plenty of lookout areas for visitors to take photographs at. Park programming will be offered, including dance parties, concerts, fitness classes, and arts & crafts. And workers in 181 Fremont and the Salesforce Tower will be able to walk directly into the park through a dedicated employee entrance at the same level.
Some areas of the park also sport a unique water feature that will activate corresponding water jets synchronized with the passing of a bus directly underneath.
Dedication to public art continued within the facility with a terrazzo floor in the grand hall, a LED light installation above the grand hall, a white LED sign display opposite the main center escalators, and a parallel light installation in Shaw Alley. In addition, starting in September, members of the public will be able to ride a Gondola for direct access from the corner of Fremont and Mission to the rooftop park.
In addition, the transit center was designed with environmental sustainability in mind. With a Gold LEED certification, the center brought in lots of natural lights, naturally ventilated spaces, a geothermal system, and greywater recycling. Also, the rooftop park is designed to absorb carbon dioxide form buses below as well as absorb and filter storm water.
A gondola, which will carry visitors three floors from the entry plaza to the rooftop garden, is scheduled to be up and running by September 24th.
Neighborhood Block Party draws Crowds
An AC Transit O-line bus from Alameda dropped off the first official passengers to use the center on Sunday Morning. The bus’s 5:39am arrival caps off a multi-day celebration leading up to the center’s opening and the beginning of a new chapter in Transbay transportation.
Tens of thousands of visitors had the opportunity to explore the Center on their own. crammed into see the one-of-a-kind facility for themselves. The center’s owner and operator, the Transbay Joint Powers Authority, offered free snacks, collectibles, and guided tours. But visitors seemed most enamored by the rooftop park and the park’s event programming.
By 2pm, hundreds of visitors were being held back by the San Francisco Police from accessing upper floors of the center, as its upper levels grew uncomfortably crowded and escalators were unable to accommodate the large flow of visitors.
The new bus deck does not require pedestrians to cross into oncoming bus traffic to reach the proper bus, as happened at the temporary terminal. But riders should allow extra time for the first few weeks to familiarize themselves with the new facility.
The Salesforce Park on the rooftop will be open to the public 6am to 8pm from November to April and 6am to 9pm from May to October.
Former Emeryville Councilmember Greg Harper at center of initiative
Advocating for the interests of East Bay commuters was longtime Emeryville Cooperative resident, three term councilmember and AC Transit Board member Greg Harper. Harper sees the transit center as helping improve future connections including Greyhound & Capitol Corridor service which, as of now, will disembark at the temporary terminal on Howard & Main.
“AC Transit has been asked if it is interested in taking over the Capitol Corridor/Amtrak service to SF. It is interested, and is looking into how best to do so,” noted Harper when we reached out to him.
Harper also noted that AC Transit and the City of Emeryville are also looking into how space in the Public Market area across from the Amtrak station might become a center for more transbay trips.
The Wareham Transit Center adjacent to our Amtrak Station could also be a hub for transbay commuters. “To what extent the Wareham Transit Center will be used in conjunction with these initiatives, remains to be seen,” Harper added.
Next Phase: BART, Caltrain & High-Speed Rail Connection?
Funding for the Transbay Program came from the U.S. Department of Transportation, the State of California, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, the City and County of San Francisco, the San Mateo County Transportation Authority, and AC Transit. A naming rights agreement with Salesforce provides partial funding for operation of the Center.
The project experienced plenty of hurdles along the way including cost overruns that increased the budget from $1.6 billion in 2010 to $2.3 billion necessitating a $260 million dollar loan approved by SF officials.
There are also plans for a BART pedestrian tunnel under Beale Street that would connect the east end of the Transit Center’s Lower Concourse with the BART/Muni Embarcadero Station according to curbed.com.
The terminal has been criticized for being an expensive bus terminal but was built to accommodate rail connection including Caltrain and eventually High-Speed rail. This connection is currently unfunded though and likely over a decade away.