Transbay Transit Center
The transit center, rooftop park and bus bridge, seen from Salesforce Tower
|Other names||Transbay Transit Center|
|Location||425 Mission Street, San Francisco, California|
|Owned by||Transbay Joint Powers Authority|
|Platforms||5 side platforms (ground level bus plaza)|
1 island platform (bus deck)
|Bus operators||AC Transit, Golden Gate Transit, Greyhound, Muni, SamTrans, SolTrans, WestCAT Lynx, Amtrak Thruway Motorcoach|
|Connections||BART and Muni Metro (via future pedestrian tunnel to Embarcadero station)|
|Status||Open for bus service; rooftop park open|
|Website||Salesforce Transit Center|
|Opened||August 12, 2018|
|Opening||July 13, 2019(partial)|
|Closed||September 25, 2018(temporary)|
Salesforce Transit Center (during planning and construction known as the Transbay Transit Center) is a transit station in downtown San Francisco. It will serve as the primary bus terminal — and potentially as a future rail terminal — for the San Francisco Bay Area. The centerpiece of the San Francisco Transbay development, the construction is governed by the Transbay Joint Powers Authority (TJPA). The 1,430-foot (440 m)-long building is located one block south of Market Street, a primary commercial and transportation artery in San Francisco.
Construction of the new terminal was necessitated by the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, which damaged the 1939-opened Transbay Terminal, and voters approved funds for the new Transbay Transit Center in 1999. Construction on the first phase, the aboveground bus terminal, began in 2010. Limited Muni bus service began in December 2017, and full service from AC Transit and other regional and intercity bus operators began in August 2018. Full funding has not yet been secured for the second phase of construction, the Downtown Rail Extension, which hopes to add an underground terminal station for Caltrain and California High-Speed Rail.
The transit center was abruptly ordered closed on September 25, 2018 following the discovery of a crack in a steel beam supporting the rooftop park. A crack in a second beam was found the next day. Repairs to these beams were completed in May 2019, while construction and road closures related to building issues were still ongoing. The rooftop park reopened on July 1; bus service that uses the surface level resumed on July 13. Full bus service resumed at the transit center on August 11, 2019.
Designed by Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects (PCPA), the Salesforce Transit Center is about 1,430 feet (440 m) long and 165 feet (50 m) wide. It occupies the entire the block between Minna and Natoma Streets (just southeast of Mission Street), and stretches from Beale Street to 140 feet (43 m) east of 2nd Street. The first phase of the project includes the aboveground structure plus a belowground shell for the second phase. The structure has four levels: the ground floor with entrances, retail space, ticketing, and Muni/Golden Gate Transit boarding platforms; the second floor with retail space, food hall, offices, and Amtrak/Greyhound ticket counter and waiting room; the bus deck with bus bays surrounding a central waiting area; and the 5.4-acre (2.2 ha) rooftop park.
The bus deck has a dedicated highway ramp (consisting, in part, of a cable-stayed bridge) to the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge and an off-site bus storage facility under the western Bay Bridge approach. In order to allow buses with doors on the right to serve the central (island) platform on the bus deck, buses circulate clockwise (i.e., driving on the left) while inside the terminal. The bus bridge includes a traffic light to facilitate the transition between right-hand traffic (outside the transit center) and left-hand traffic (inside the transit center).
The rooftop park, designed by PWP Landscape Architecture, includes an amphitheater, a restaurant, and water features. The inclusion of the park was part of the winning bid in the architectural design composition for the structure.
The building includes a free aerial tram to provide access from the street level (at Mission Street and Fremont Street) to the rooftop park. The tram vehicle has a capacity of twenty passengers. Upon completion (anticipated by September 24, 2018), the system will be the first aerial tram to operate in San Francisco since the closure of the tram at the Cliff House in 1961.
The second phase of the project, constructed as part of the Downtown Rail Extension, will add a two-level underground train station to be served by Caltrain and California High-Speed Rail. The platform area will have three island platforms serving six tracks. A mezzanine with ticketing and waiting areas will be located above the platform and below the ground-level entrances. A pedestrian tunnel will be constructed below Beale Street to Embarcadero station, connecting the Transbay Transit Center with BART and Muni Metro. The proposed second Transbay Tube, which may be used by Caltrain, CAHSR, and/or BART, may also connect to the Transit Center. This extension would cost as much as $6 billion on top of the $2 billion already spent, and is currently unfunded.
Based on the policies established by the FTA encouraging the inclusion of public art in transportation facilities, the TJPA committed $4.75 million to fund the creation of public artwork for the Program. Working with the San Francisco Arts Commission, the TJPA oversees the planning and development of the public art program. Initially there were five artists included in the program: James Carpenter, Julie Chang, Tim Hawkinson, Jenny Holzer and Ned Kahn. In June 2017, SFAC and TJPA announced the planned Hawkinson installation would be cancelled as "the nature of the materials, the sculpture's size, and its location" made it "a particularly complex engineering task."
- James Carpenter's planned installation, titled Parallel Light Fields, consists of illuminated ceiling segments and benches along Shaw Alley, a pedestrian/retail corridor at ground level beneath the Transit Center.
- Julie Chang's installation, titled The Secret Garden, is the decorated terrazzo floor of the Grand Hall in the Transit Center.
- Jenny Holzer's installation, titled White Light, is a large scrolling LED sign approximately 11 feet (3.4 m) high, displaying text specific to the San Francisco Bay Area. The sign is installed just below the elliptical skylight of the Grand Hall in the Transit Center.
- Ned Kahn's installation, titled Bus Jet Fountain, consists of water jets on the rooftop of the Transit Center. The jets are designed to respond to the flow of buses on the deck below.
- Tim Hawkinson's planned installation was a 41-foot (12 m) high sculpture to serve as a "guardian" for travelers. It was to have been partially constructed from material salvaged from the demolition of the Transbay Terminal, but due to cost and engineering issues, was cancelled.
The original Transbay Terminal opened in 1939 to serve Key System and East Bay Electric Lines commuter trains and Sacramento Northern Railway interurban trains operating over the new Bay Bridge. It was converted to a bus terminal in 1958 and began serving AC Transit commuter buses. The structure was damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, necessitating replacement.
In 1995, Caltrain agreed to study extending its commuter rail service from its Fourth and King terminus closer to the Financial District, including whether the obsolete Transbay Terminal should be removed, remodeled, or rebuilt. Ultimately, it was decided that the Transbay Terminal should be rebuilt, with the rail extension entering the Terminal under Second Street. In November 1999, San Francisco voters adopted Proposition H declaring that Caltrain shall be extended downtown into a new regional intermodal transit station constructed to replace the former Transbay Terminal. The Transbay Joint Powers Authority (TJPA) was founded in 2001 as the administrative joint powers authority for the project.
The final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) was published in 2004. The project was divided into two phases, with Phase 1 being demolition of the original terminal and construction of the Transbay Transit Center, and Phase 2 being the downtown rail extension (DTX).
In 2006, developers agreed to a new Mello-Roos tax district in the area surrounding the Transbay Transit Center in order for permits for higher buildings to move forward. San Francisco set the tax rate in 2012 at 0.55 percent of assessed value; due to rising real estate prices, however, the 2014 tax burden had risen by nearly 50% compared to the 2012 tax burden, and the developers threatened to pull their building plans entirely or sue the city. The lawsuits never materialized, however.
The first phase of construction consisted of the aboveground bus terminal, including retail spaces and the rooftop park, plus the concrete shell of the underground rail levels. It cost $2.4 billion, of which $500 million was for the underground shell. On August 7, 2010, all bus service was moved to the interim Temporary Transbay Terminal. The $18 million outdoor terminal is located on the block bounded by Folsom, Beale, Howard and Main Streets in the South of Market district, two blocks from the site of the former Transbay Terminal. Ground was broken for the new Transbay Transit Center four days later. Much of the initial construction work was underground, and aboveground evidence of construction did not appear until late 2014. As originally planned, the Transit Center was anticipated to be complete by late 2016, with bus operations expected to commence by August 2017.
Demolition of the former Transbay Terminal and ramps was completed in September 2011. Amtrak Thruway bus service, which connects to Amtrak trains at Emeryville station, moved from the Ferry Station Post Office Building to the Temporary Transbay Terminal on March 2, 2015. Under a naming rights deal announced on July 7, 2017, the transit center was given the official name of Salesforce Transit Center; the adjoined City Park took the official name Salesforce Park.
The first phase of the new Transit Center was originally to be completed by the end of 2017. This was delayed to March 2018 in July 2017, and to June 2018 that December. On December 26, 2017, Muni began operating route 5 buses into the ground level of the terminal in order to meet the federal deadline of some service to the terminal beginning in 2017. On June 16, 2018, Muni began operating all 5, 5R, 7, 38, and 38R buses to the surface level of the terminal.
The first phase opened for full bus service on August 12, 2018; the rooftop park opened on the same date. Greyhound and BoltBus service moved from the Temporary Transbay Terminal three days later on August 15, leaving Amtrak Thruway as the sole remaining bus operator utilizing the Temporary Transbay Terminal.
The transit center was abruptly ordered closed on September 25, 2018 - six weeks after opening and during Salesforce's annual Dreamforce conference - following the discovery of a “major crack” in a steel beam supporting the rooftop park. Beale, Fremont, and First Streets were also closed beneath and adjacent to the transit center; Beale and First reopened soon after. The Temporary Transbay Terminal, which had been in use during construction of the new transit center, was hastily reopened to serve riders.
The following day, a second, parallel beam was also found to be cracked, causing the transit center and Fremont Street to remain closed at least through the end of the following week. On October 2, 2018, it was reported that the Transit Center would remain closed at least through the end of the month. Fremont Street reopened on October 15.
A Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) peer review panel investigated whether the cracks may have been caused by flaws that developed in the steel during fabrication, plus by stress concentrations arising from weld access holes or weld termination holes cut into the beams, that were added after the shop designs were submitted for approval. Weld access holes have more stringent building code requirements than weld termination holes, and it was not clear which type of holes were added. In February 2019, the TJPA announced that it expected repairs to be completed in June 2019, but cautioned that the center would not reopen until the MTC peer review panel published its final report. In April 2019, it was determined that the cracks were caused when crews welding the beams together skipped a crucial step - mandated by the building code - that led to tiny micro-cracks forming. Multiple inspections failed to notice the skipped step, and those micro-cracks grew into larger ones.
The facility is under warranty for two years "after substantial completion", placing financial responsibility for the issue on contractors, Webcor Builders and Obayashi Corporation, and their subcontractors. The beams were fabricated by Herrick Corporation in Stockton as part of a $189 million contract between Skanska USA Civil West of New York and the TJPA.
The TJPA announced on May 10 that repairs were complete. The rooftop park reopened on July 1, 2019. Muni and Golden Gate Transit buses resumed using the surface bus plaza on July 13, and the full facility reopened on August 11.
Other issues and criticism
The park has been criticized for having a commercial company having the naming rights. It has also been criticized for not having enough bike lanes connecting other major transit routes.  Wired criticized the park for its control over access, claiming that there could never be a political demonstration at the park.
In September 2018, just a month after the transit center's opening, the TJPA revealed that the walkway around the rooftop park, made of decomposed granite, had begun to deteriorate much faster than expected. Repairs on the pathway were completed in May 2019, but it is not clear if the costs fall under warranty.
Along with the new transit center, thirteen towers have been built or proposed on adjacent parcels, ranging from 300 feet (91 m) to 1,070 feet (326 m) tall, on land freed by the demolition of the former terminal and bus and freeway ramps. The most prominent of these is the city's new tallest building, Salesforce Tower. Two of the skyscrapers, Salesforce Tower and 181 Fremont, are linked directly to the rooftop park. Salesforce Tower has a dedicated pair of elevators, open to the public and accessible via the rear lobby, which serve as one of the access points to the park.
Future rail service
The Transbay Transit Center project was designed to include a tunnel (the Downtown Rail Extension or DTX) extending the terminus of the Caltrain commuter rail line from its current location at Fourth and King Streets; the downtown Caltrain extension is projected to alleviate roadway traffic and Caltrain rider delays, resulting in an estimated $20 million savings per year. The Caltrain extension depends on the electrification of its rolling stock, as the current diesel engines are not appropriate for tunnel service. When this project is completed, Caltrain riders would no longer need to transfer to Muni in order to reach the downtown financial district. Additionally, the heavy rail portion of the terminal would be designed to accommodate the planned High Speed Rail from Los Angeles, which shares the right-of-way (Peninsula Corridor) with Caltrain between San Francisco and San Jose. BART has expressed interest in having their proposed Second Transbay Tube connect to the new terminal and Alameda.
DTX was initially[when?] scheduled to be open to rail service in 2019 at a budgeted cost of US$2,600,000,000 (equivalent to $2,800,000,000 in 2018). The DTX scope also includes moving the existing 4th & King Caltrain station underground. Part of the DTX project also includes building out two below-grade levels below the TTC; one level would serve as the actual train platform, hosting six tracks and three platforms to accommodate Caltrain and HSR service; the other level would be a passenger waiting area, including ticket sales and retail amenities. The waiting area would be connected via tunnel to the BART/Muni Metro Embarcadero Station.
As of August 2018, cost projections for the extension run as high as $6 billion, of which only $1 billion in funding sources has been identified. The project would not be completed until 2029 at the earliest. It is also doubted if the terminal as built can handle the expected amount of Caltrain traffic.
Cable-stayed bus bridge, viewed from the rooftop park
The Grand Hall, with escalators to the 3rd floor bus deck and a portion of Julie Chang's terrazzo floor, titled The Secret Garden
Grand Hall atrium, with Jenny Holzer's work White Light visible behind the central columns
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Relocating Caltrain’s San Francisco terminus to the Transbay Terminal area has been projected to result in a seven percent reduction in the number of person hours of auto travel. Morning peak hour delay would be expected to be reduced by 20 percent. Implementation of the Caltrain Extension would result in daily travel time savings of 7,200 person hours, which includes 5,700 person hours saved for Caltrain riders and 1,500 person hours for roadway travelers in the corridor. Using FTA procedures, this represents an approximate $20 million per year savings (7,200 hours/day x $11.26/hour x 250 work days/year).
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- "Downtown Rail Extension (DTX)". Transbay Transit Center. 2015. Retrieved 28 March 2016.
- Matier, Phil (24 Feb 2019). "Transbay Terminal — yet another problem. Train space might be too small". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2019-02-24.
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