Thousands of bus passengers arriving in downtown San Francisco on Monday morning will be deposited in and around a congested and potentially confusing new outdoor bus terminal.
The dreary Transbay Transit Terminal, which was built in the 1930s as a train station before being converted in 1959 to a cavernous bus stop, will be replaced with a multimodal station for buses and trains.
Demolition of the existing building should begin this month and a vacant nearby city block will serve as a replacement bus hub for seven years while passengers wait for a glass-cloaked replacement to be built.
The temporary terminal will begin operating Saturday, but the real test will come during peak hours on Monday morning.
The new $1.6 billion terminal, scheduled to open in August 2017, will include stores and waiting areas, bus terminals, an underground train station designed to eventually serve Caltrain and the California high-speed rail and an expansive rooftop park.
Vacant parcels of land surrounding the area, which were previously occupied largely by freeway connectors, are planned to be used for high-density housing.
Redevelopment Agency official Mike Grisso, who is overseeing plans to build thousands of new homes and offices around the center, said the existing facility is a source of blight and the new one will revitalize the surrounding neighborhood.
“The transit center will provide not just connectivity with the rest of the Bay Area, but an attractive, vibrant facility that will be the centerpiece of a mix of uses including housing, office, retail and a park,” Grisso said. “It will have thousands of people going in and out of it every day and that’s really important for the neighborhood.”
An office tower that could reach up to 1,200 feet, making it The City’s tallest building, is planned as an anchor for the area, which will shift San Francisco’s downtown area southward.
The temporary terminal, flanked by Beale and Main streets and Howard and Folsom streets, is too small to accommodate the scores of bus services that use at the Transbay Transit Terminal.
As a result, temporary bus stops were also installed in the streets surrounding the temporary facility.
Adding to the space woes, a bus ramp that protrudes from the existing center hangs low over roughly a quarter of the temporary site, reducing available land until it is demolished later this year.
A Greyhound terminal, AC Transit bus stops and a WestCAT Lynx stop will occupy the heart of the temporary terminal.
Scores of additional AC Transit stops will operate near the Folsom Street end of Main Street.
Muni services were scattered around the peripheries of the block, where most services will terminate along Howard Street or its cross-streets.
Customers using the 38-Geary and 38L-Geary Limited services will be dropped off at a Howard Street location that will differ from the boarding point.
Golden Gate Transit passengers will use bus stops on Main and Howard streets, while SamTrans services will pick up and drop off along Main Street.
In an effort to inform passengers about the changes, a team of ambassadors is handing out maps and answering questions at the current Transbay Terminal.
“They’re going to be onsite at the current terminal until it closes at midnight on Aug. 6,” Transbay Joint Powers Authority Executive Director Maria Ayerdi-Kaplan said.
Those ambassadors will move to the temporary site when it opens.
The intergovernmental agency held community meetings with neighbors and merchants regarding the upcoming changes and published information and maps at temporaryterminal.org.
“My hope is that it will be a smooth transition, and I suspect that it will be,” Ayerdi-Kaplan said.
Downtown streets will be suspended for years above a gaping hole.
Demolition of the Transbay Transit Terminal is planned to begin this month, followed by more than two years of digging at the site and a subsequent four-year building effort.
Earth will be scooped out of the area beneath the transit center site to make room for an underground train station.
“It will take us about two years to get to the bottom of the excavation and then about a year to come back up,” Transbay Joint Powers Authority Program Manager Robert Beck said.
The station, which will be built with $400 million of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds, could eventually be used by Caltrain and bullet trains.
The station will include an upper level waiting area above lower-level train tracks.
It’s unclear when the station will open because billions of dollars needs to be raised in order to extend rail lines 1.3 miles to the site from Fourth and King streets. Buses will run on an upper level.
The train station will stretch under Beale, Fremont and First streets.
Temporary bridges will be built over the construction site to keep each of those streets open for traffic and pedestrians during the long construction phase.
The new center will be built over and around First Street, which will continue operating during construction and after the center opens.
The hole for the train station will be 65 feet deep, but shoring walls surrounding the new center’s footprint must penetrate roughly twice that depth to reach a deep layer of clay.
Water must be kept out of the deep hole and clay acts as a water barrier, as will the shoring walls.
“That will give us a bathtub that we can dewater and excavate without trying to dewater the broader neighborhood,” Beck said.
The overhaul of the Transbay Transit Terminal will affect the surrounding neighborhood as well as those using public transportation.
26M Rail passengers who used the old transit center annually after World War II
45M Rail and bus passengers expected to use new center annually
$1.6B Cost of new center
30 Bus bays in new center
2,600 New homes planned around new center
1,354 Sheets of engineering designs prepared for new center
Source: Transbay Joint Powers Authority
Saturday: Commence operations at temporary transit center
Aug. 14: Begin demolition of old transit center, starting with a bus ramp
March 2011: Begin construction of underground shoring walls
July 2013: Complete excavation of hole needed for train station
June 2014: Complete below-ground construction work
August 2015: Complete construction of transit center superstructure
October 2016: Complete construction of a rooftop park
August 2017: Begin operations at new transit center
Source: Transbay Joint Powers Authority
“It’s a little congested there. We’re creatures of habit; when you’re in one place for a long time, you stay.”
— Jim Serrano, on the temporary terminal’s site at Howard and Folsom streets
“I guess we do need a temporary terminal, it just seems like a lot of money to spend on a temporary terminal.”
— Joseph Hren, on the transition between the two terminals
“Really, I have more concerns about whether AC Transit is going to run or not.”
— Merle Kesslar, on the service changes associated with the project