October 26, 2006
The Transbay Redevelopment
A tipster forwards a response from the Transbay Joint Powers Authority in response to an inquiry concerning the “disgusting bus ramps” that currently seem to define the Transbay area.
The new Transbay Transit Center, when completed, will include one elevated ramp coming in on the west side of the building, for the buses coming and going from the Bay Bridge. The east loop ramp will be eliminated, freeing up this land for development.
While the current ramps were designed for rail, the new ramp will be designed for buses only and will be taller, slender and less obtrusive, allowing for more natural light in the area.
In fact, the new Transbay Transit Center is just one piece of an ambitious plan to replace the “outmoded” Transbay Terminal, to extend Caltrain service from Fourth and King Streets into the new Transbay Transit Center at 1st and Mission, and to create “a new transit-friendly neighborhood with 3,400 new homes (35% of which will be affordable), and mixed use commercial development.” Keep in mind that the Transbay timeline calls for construction to commence in 2008 with a target opening of the Transit Center in 2014 and an operational Caltrain extension by 2018.
And while interesting, we have to admit that the actual Transbay Redevelopment Plan didn’t make for the most exciting reading. On the other hand, we did quite enjoy perusing the Design for Development that “establishes [a] conceptual frameworks for land use, urban form, street and public spaces in the Project Area…”. Our favorite part: the series of “Undesirable versus Desirable” examples of urban planning.
First Published: October 26, 2006 12:00 AM
Comments from "Plugged In" Readers
Great aerial photo, guys. One additional tidbit that I didn't know about is that the plan to redo the Transbay Terminal actually involves its complete demolition and rebuilding. I had just sort of assumed that the original building would be renovated. Not so.
"The entire Transbay Terminal will be torn down as part of the Transbay Transit Center Program, so these archway sections will not exist. Demolition is scheduled to begin in late 2009. The new building will be designed to be the centerpiece of the new neighborhood, making it very pedestrian friendly. Early next month the TJPA will be launching a Design and Development Competition to bring on board the architect who will design and Transit Center and adjacent Transit Tower. You can follow it at
Posted by: Tipster at October 26, 2006 12:06 PM
Can anyone speculate on how good or bad the owners will do who will get eminent domained on this project (assuming amenability to getting bought out)?
Posted by: pwb at October 26, 2006 1:37 PM
Anywhere in these plans deals with traffic?
They talk about Folsom St being a pedestrian friendly street with widened sidewalks, outdoor cafes, marketplaces and street level housing...
How nice will it be with gridlocked traffic in all directions during afternoon commutes? Especially if they take away lanes on many of the streets.
Posted by: SF Living at October 26, 2006 2:06 PM
I imagine that it should be just as nice as any "pedestrian friendly" traffic laden street in Manhattan...
Posted by: Anonymous at October 26, 2006 2:37 PM
Does anyone else find it ironic we're talking about building the west coast's equivalent of Grand Central Station - essentially a hub of MASS TRANSIT - and people are asking myopic questions like "how will this affect me in my car?"
The whole point of this massive project is to get people out of their cars.
Posted by: Dude at October 26, 2006 2:44 PM
"The whole point of this massive project is to get people out of their cars."
Posted by: will at October 26, 2006 2:58 PM
I've sort of lost track of the other aspects of this project but without HSR and an undergroud Caltrain that is one expensive bus station
Even with Caltrain, without HSR, we are taking about one commuter rail (or two if they can get that rail over the Dumbarton)
I totally support tranist. I just hope this can be a catalyst for the future projects to make it worthwhile
Posted by: Zig at October 26, 2006 3:27 PM
My point is in responce to the "west coast's equivalent of Grand Central Station" sentiment
I wish but its hard to even speak in the same breath without way more commuter rail
Posted by: Zig at October 26, 2006 3:29 PM
Agreed - rail and subways are definitely the way to go. If I was a gazillionaire I'd personally pay to have subways built throughout SF - my gift to the city & my own version of Coit Tower or the Palace of Fine Arts.
Posted by: Dude at October 26, 2006 3:39 PM
First, to the SF Living responders. Thank you. It's actually pretty funny when someone misses a point that badly.
I hate the fact that I agree with Zig because for the immediate future once completed, all the new Transbay Terminal will be is a glorified bus station. They've got to step up the rail transit options (which I know is the plan) if they really want this thing work.
I do, however, agree with the statements "West Coast's" equivalent of GCS. The key to the phrase is "West Coast." We'll never be like NYC, but more importantly, why we ever want to? SFO is SFO and NYC is NYC. They're 2nd cousins at best.
Posted by: Anonymous at October 26, 2006 3:42 PM
I think it's is important to stop supporting Bart extensions to places like San Jose and to support commuter rail because Bart is simply to expensive
IMO A huge lost opportunity was to include a rail option on the new Bay Bridge that could have brought in commuters to this new TransBay terminal but I digress
We really need regional transit planning and goverance but I might not see that until I am a senior
With Caltrain and HSR this is still a great project
Posted by: Zig at October 26, 2006 5:39 PM
I still think you need BART extensions, it's just that right now those should take second priority to overall regional transit planning. The reason you still need BART extensions is because people who keep moving further and further out will be left with no choice to but to drive to the closest BART station, which might not be that close, so they probably would just end of driving into the city, which is exactly what we should be discouraging.
Personally, I'm all for the idea of a Central Business District driving permit that would apply on weekdays. If you want to drive within the downtown area Mon - Fri, say between, 7:00 am and 7:00 pm, you have to buy the right to do so, and it should be expensive. Hey, this is California. If you play, you pay. Even if people end up having to drive into the city and find parking outside of the downtown area and then muni in, so be it.
Posted by: Anonymous at October 26, 2006 5:51 PM
Grand Central Station is a graceful commuter rail terminus where all of the rail approaches are underground. The surrounding streetscape is the heart of financial midtown Manhattan. It is not the approach to a major exit route to the city, although you wouldn't want to drive near it during rush hour.
Port Authority is a bus terminal between 8th and 9th avenues. I used to live at 45th and 9th, so I know the neighborhood. The streets surrounding it are noisy and clogged with traffic. During rush hour (including weekends) it is gridlocked as commuters and trucks line up for blocks to get out of town on the Lincoln tunnel. Aside from the other problems that areas has, no amount of mitigation will make Port Authority a pleasant place to walk at 6:00 p.m.
I commute by bike myself; just be realistic that even if you drop 20% of the traffic in this part of town though beautiful transit planning, you still have a smoggy mess on your hands.
Posted by: WrongNYCLandmark at October 26, 2006 5:56 PM
A "smoggy mess?"
I walk to and from Rincon Hill and the financial district every morning and even under the existing traffic levels, I have yet to see a foggy mess. People are really making to big a deal of this unpleasant pedestrian environment because of traffic thing.
I throw on my iPod heads, head out the door and don't really notice anything that's going on in the street.
Posted by: Anonymous at October 26, 2006 6:00 PM
Check that....I've definitely seen foggy messes....this is SF afterall!
What I have never seen, however, is a smoggy mess.
Posted by: Anonymous at October 26, 2006 6:01 PM
Sorry, guys, the caltrain extension will never be built. They've been talking about it since the 80s. Muni makes so much money taking all those people 6-8 blocks. It costs them practically nothing to do it and they rake in a small fortune doing it.
Get rid of that full price, but low cost to provide, service, and watch muni collapse. That's why the extension is "planned" for construction to START in 6 years with zip for funding. You'll never see it in your lifetime.
Posted by: tipster at October 26, 2006 8:52 PM
I'm not sure that tipster's got all his facts straight, but he has a point. The Caltrain extension will be phenomenally expensive. And the ironic thing is that while it would be great to move Caltrain downtown, downtown has been moving to Caltrain as Mission Bay/South Beach has been developed. Muni metro meets Caltrain, although it's a bit roundabout along the Embarcadero. But the central subway extension, which is looking more and more likely, will do a straight shot to Market (nr Powell), making downtown even more accessible.
While Grand Central is literally central, many cities have more outlying major trains stations that then link to the local subway system for further distribution of passengers. (e.g. London, Paris, Boston). It's all a matter of acreage...cause rail terminals take up a lot of room and it's hard to jam them in the very center of things.
And I hope dude wins the lottery, cause I'd love to see more subways!
Posted by: curmudgeon at October 26, 2006 11:01 PM
Though the whole Transbay Terminal redevelopment is a good thing and will get some folks out of their cars, it will not be enough to mitigate the traffic gridlock in that area.
Now, no one has answered whether there has been ANY study on how traffic will be impacted due to all this development. You think with all the studies done, there would be one to access the traffic situation. I don't think there has been one...
Posted by: Anonymous at October 27, 2006 1:14 AM
Here is a page with all of the studies they have done so far. Believe me, they will analyze traffic impact, it's law. All the pieces are coming together. This thing will get built. HSR will link it to LA and it will be amazing. Some of the best planning I have ever seen has been done for this. Take a look for yourself:
Posted by: sean at October 27, 2006 9:55 AM
A traffic study probably was done and the results of the study likely caused someone to pull out the old adage......
"If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all."
And that's why we have no info. on that front. I think others on this blog, including the editor, have opined that if anything, traffic will, if anything, get marginally worse once redevelopment of the neighborhood is complete. If that's true, I am confident though that it will be more along the lines of, "it will get worse before it gets better." Noone will be in any position to judge how pleasant the neighborhood will be until, I'd say, 2020.
Posted by: Anonymous at October 27, 2006 9:59 AM
This thing has been kicked around for years. Besides the lack of money for the Caltrain extension, the construction will pretty much devastate SOMA. 2nd and Howard will lose a number of buldings, and a number of buildings along Townsend will have to be destroyed. It should have been down 20 years ago before all the development.
Posted by: Mike at October 27, 2006 10:20 AM
Sure, it's been kicked around for years. But that's just the problem - we've been "kicking it around" instead of doing something about it. Just look at the aerial photo and see how much vacant space (surface parking) there still is around Transbay. And getting the train into the core of downtown will be important no matter how much development takes place in South Beach or Mission Bay.
Imagine if we wait another 20 years - then we'll really be kicking ourselves for not having some vision and commitment back in '06. The current plan is a great one - let's move it forward!
Posted by: Adam at October 27, 2006 1:31 PM
I think we all agree it's a great "plan". But until it's implemented (and they've been talking about this for years), it's just a plan and it's just hard to envision. I'm sure things will change in 20 years, but man that's a long ways away...
Posted by: Anonymous at October 27, 2006 2:22 PM
For the record, the official name for NYC's Grand Central 'Station' is Grand Central Terminal.
Posted by: fogdog at April 9, 2007 10:00 AM