Airy Multimodal Terminal Takes Shape
After years of debate by San Francisco and East Bay officials on what to do about the aging
Transbay Terminal in downtown San Francisco, a grand plan is winning kudos from all
Dubbed "Great Expectations" by the architect and planners after the Dickens novel of the
same name, the concept is to build a new terminal on the existing site (which has direct
access to the San Francisco/ Oakland Bay Bridge) that would serve AC Transit, San Francisco
Muni, San Mateo County Transit District (SamTrans), Golden Gate Transit and Greyhound
buses, plus provide underground space for a future downtown Caltrain commuter rail
The 61-year-old, gray concrete terminal would be replaced by an airy, four-story,
glass-and-steel structure extending over three blocks between Beale and Natoma streets.
Muni bus and streetcar lines and Golden Gate Transit and SamTrans buses would run along the
street level; shops, restaurants and other businesses would line a second-floor concourse;
AC Transit would have 30 bus bays on the third floor, allowing a 50 percent increase in its
transbay bus service; and Greyhound and other private bus carriers would occupy the top
level. The underground rail station could accommodate six tracks.
|Renderings of SMWM's new terminal
design (click each to enlarge)
The design is the outcome of a two-year, $2.2 million study commissioned by MTC and
conducted by a consulting team led by the San Francisco architectural firm Simon
Martin-Vegue Winkelstein Moris (SMWM). A Transbay Terminal panel -- with representatives
from AC Transit, the city and county of San Francisco, Caltrans, MTC and other key
stakeholders -- was charged with overseeing the study and resolving long-held differences
over whether to replace, rebuild or relocate the terminal. By all accounts, the panel
succeeded. According to MTC's manager of Bridge and Highway Operations, Rod McMillan,
"Everyone actually applauded when the consultants made their final design
"This was the most open and extensive public outreach process I have ever encountered,"
said Maria Ayerdi, San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown's project director for the terminal.
"It is a magnificent design, and it will become the West Coast's own Grand Central
The panel's next hurdle promises to be as challenging as reaching consensus on a new
terminal: finding funds to pay for its hefty $900 million price tag. The consultants
estimate $140 million could be secured from existing federal funds and bridge toll revenues
$350 million raised from joint development of publicly owned property around the
terminal site. They propose closing the remaining $400 million funding gap with state or
federal grants or potential new toll revenues.
The Transbay Terminal panel will oversee refinements to the current design, as well as
specific plans for funding, construction and operation of the new terminal. If all goes
well, a terminal could be under construction by 2003 and completed a few years later.