July 30, 2010

All Aboard As San Francisco’s Transbay Terminal Nears Its Close

Inside San Francisco's Transbay Terminal

It’s now T-Minus one week until the closing of San Francisco’s Transbay Terminal. If you missed today’s tours, or have never been inside, a reader walks you through.

Transbay Temporary Terminal To Open (Existing To Close) August 7 [SocketSite]
Transbay Terminal Historians (And Futurists) Take Note [SocketSite]
SF Transbay Terminal [flickr.com]

First Published: July 30, 2010 6:45 PM

Comments from "Plugged In" Readers

Thanks.

Posted by: ed at July 30, 2010 6:56 PM

Newsom has to "ask" homeless to leave Terminal?

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/07/31/MNQ31EMEJH.DTL

Posted by: anonfedup at July 31, 2010 2:40 PM

Hmmm.. I'm getting tired of paying property taxes. I think I'll go lay in the station for a week with my dog and see if I can score a free apartment in the Loin.

Posted by: Denis at July 31, 2010 2:47 PM

Thanks for the pics. Its easy to imagine that at one time it was a very fine space. (confusing perhaps - lots of ramps) Too bad it was allowed to decay and be taken over my vagrants.

Posted by: CameronRex at July 31, 2010 11:54 PM

Kurt Brown rocks ! thanks for sharing those photos, they'll supplement my fleeting memories of catching the 108 to TI.

Posted by: The Milkshake of Despair at August 1, 2010 9:32 AM

Why didn't San Francisco have a more grand rail bus terminal similar to the old Union Station in L.A.? The old Transbay Terminal reminds me of a gloomy mid size city post office or worse (courthouse or jail). With the new Transbay we will be going from one extreme to another.

Posted by: confused at August 1, 2010 12:43 PM

^Because there's this big body of water immediately to the east of SF, which was only bridged in the late 1930's. Until then, most rail traffic stopped in Oakland at the end of a giant pier, where people transferred to ferries for the last couple miles of the trip.

Posted by: anon at August 1, 2010 2:20 PM

@Milkshake: It's an honor to serve. 5,700 image views in one day -- a flickr record for me. Socket site drives some significant traffic!

@Confused: When the original Transbay terminal was built, in the same year as Union Station in LA, it WAS "grand." It was done in a more radically modern style (Bauhaus inspired) than the luscious deco of LA's station, but it was definitely grand.

Check out the pictures when it was just built -- you can't judge by the hacked up junk heap it is now, just like you can't look like an 80 year old woman that had a dozen botched plastic surgeries and complain about "why she isn't prettier" -- she was, when she was 20.

See, for example:

http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4144/4845418496_ec01285a91_o.jpg

http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4153/4844792237_6c7d27c199_o.jpg

http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2473/3845210759_5c87cb3f15_o.jpg

It was grand and beautiful, in 1939, and for at least 20 years, before it was mercilessly hacked to pieces, and finally left for dead.

And as for comparing it with Union Station, it's not a fair comparison. Union Station was built as the primary Los Angeles stop on a national rail network. The Transbay Terminal was built solely as the hub of an extensive regional transit system. A system that, sadly, had only 20 years of life remaining after the terminal opened its doors. So by 1958, you ended up with a very grand bus station, which was the beginning of a 50 year decline.

The new Transbay Terminal changes that -- it will be a hub for regional rail (Caltrain), statewide rail (the California HST), in addition to bus lines. BART has noted that if ever a second transbay tube is built (the current bottle neck in the BART system), that it would ideally connect to the new Transbay Terminal. Of course, we're billions in funding away from all of this, but that is the plan, and you have to start somewhere. These types of huge infrastructure projects don't just spring to life in 10 years. They are typically 50 years in the making.

As for you comment about "going from one extreme to the other"... are you saying: "because the old station was so ugly and decrepit, we should not have a new station that is so grand?" I don't understand the logic in such a statement, so I'm pretty sure I'm misunderstanding your point.

Posted by: Kurt Brown at August 1, 2010 3:30 PM

Good thing I checked back. First, Kurt, thank you for your kind response, and I do see your point that the Transbay Terminal was FAR BETTER before it was changed over the decades. It is hard for me to divorce my experience with the current condition of the building (and the homeless population problem that went with it) from what was a very attractive modern structure. Your pictures tell a different story very well. The building it its original form WAS magnificent!

I went back to your Flickr page and found what I never knew exists in our area, and that is Oakland's 16th Street Station Terminal! Your pictures of that Terminal are truly amazing. I will keep my fingers crossed that this building will continue to exist.


My "one extreme to the other" comment was more about how San Francisco will FINALLY have a large inter-city major rail terminal with the new Transbay that is worthy of this well known city, and how this will be a huge change from the bus terminal we now have. Even though the original Transbay was not a major rail hub in the way Union Station in Los Angeles, or stations in Chicago, or other cities, I still wish it could have been somehow more iconic the way the Ferry Building is. I agree that the modern style is a welcome change from Beaux Arts terminals typical to cities such as Washington and New York, but the original Transbay never achieved what I would think of as Landmark status, and in a city that tries to claim every inch is historic, this says a lot.

I still miss the SOM Transbay design, but will be happy to see the chosen Transbay built.

Posted by: confused at August 1, 2010 4:08 PM

I so agree about the Oakland 16th St Station -- such a gem.

And the Ferry Building is an interesting point. There was an article in the Chronicle that mentioned how the original Transbay Terminal was built to "take over" from the old and worn out Ferry building. It was to be new, modern, and efficient. And for a while, it did seem to be winning the race.

Of course, in 2010, the Ferry Building is now restored as a beautiful, grand, and active part of San Francisco. And the Transbay Terminal is being demolished. Just goes to show, it's hard to predict the future.

Posted by: Kurt Brown at August 1, 2010 9:52 PM

Edward Hopper

Posted by: Galileo56 at August 2, 2010 9:48 AM

where did the opaque pictures of famous women in the greyhound terminal end up? would love to keep viewing them...

Posted by: g. walton at November 15, 2012 7:11 PM

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