Rincon Hill / Transbay / South of Market, San Francisco

Farewell, Transbay Terminal

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The day has finally arrived.  The Transbay Terminal — in operation since January 15, 1939, first as a rail hub, and then as a bus station since 1959 — will close permanently tonight, in preparation for its upcoming demolition. The Terminal will close shortly after midnight, following a few final AC Transit runs.  After several decades of transit service, the very last run from the Terminal will be the O line, scheduled for 12:15 a.m.  For the next seven or so years, the extensive suite of regional and Muni bus operations that have served Transbay will be relocated to tighter quarters at the Temporary Terminal, which is located in the block bounded by Howard, Main, Folsom, and Beale streets.  If you haven’t already done so, please take a moment to familiarize yourself with the new layout of bus stops.

You could call the Transbay Terminal dirty, dingy, dismal, dreary, decaying, decrepit, dilapidated — and you’d be right, as this utilitarian Timothy Pflueger structure has not aged gracefully, nor has it been maintained properly.  Still, it’s a part of the Bay Area’s history, and the Terminal, with its elevated loops hovering above downtown, remain the most visible reminder of a day in the not-too-distant past when rail operated on the lower deck of the Bay Bridge. But rail has been banished from the Bay Bridge since 1958, and a more appropriate structure to replace the Transbay Terminal is overdue.  It will be exciting to see a new multimodal transit hub rise on this site over the next several years.  Eventually, the Transbay Transit Center and the nearby high-rise neighborhood will transform what is now a littered, shadowed corner of downtown into a vibrant focal point, while providing downtown San Francisco with new, well-designed public spaces.

I had been hoping to post some new relevant content here on the blog before the August 7 closure date.  But this summer has been especially hectic for me — hence the long lapses in posting — and the opportunity slipped by.  All in due course; for now, I leave you with this photo slideshow of the Transbay Terminal and its immediate surroundings.

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Discussion

9 thoughts on “Farewell, Transbay Terminal

  1. I’m so glad I got to go by before the shutdown. What an odd, fascinating place!

    Posted by throgers | 6 August 2010, 9:01 am
  2. This building can’t come down soon enough. I tend to take the very European view of judging a city by it’s rail station, and San Francisco currently fails in this regard. Hopefully the new Transbay Transit Center will be something the city can be proud of.

    Also, I like the “have you made the move to Translink?” poster next to the Clipper machine :)

    Posted by Jon | 6 August 2010, 9:41 am
  3. The Clipper/Translink image was one of my favorites in the bunch, so it had to be included. Part of the ongoing story (tragedy?) of Bay Area transit signage and wayfinding woes.

    As to comparing the new Transit Center to a European rail station: there, I am afraid we will fall short — though the comparison is certainly an apt one, as this is being designed to be a central unifying hub not just for San Francisco, but the region. The main hall and upper bus levels look to be sufficiently grand in the renderings. But the underground rail portion is clumsily designed, and it won’t convey the same sense of space (nor have nearly the utility) of great rail stations in Europe.

    Posted by Eric | 6 August 2010, 9:50 am
  4. I hope the Emperor Norton “Pause, Traveler” plaque makes it into the new structure somehow.

    Posted by Matt | 6 August 2010, 10:58 am
  5. At the very least, the plaque is one of the historic features that will be salvaged from the Terminal before they demolish it, and some will be retained by railway museums and the Oakland Museum of California.

    Posted by Eric | 6 August 2010, 11:05 am
  6. I’ll miss the rainbow lights.

    I wonder what’ll happen to those benches. They’re pretty cool– any chance of acquiring them?

    Posted by Al | 7 August 2010, 12:39 am
  7. Great show, Eric. I agree, it’s sad to see the last piece of the Key System (and the Sacramento Northern!) finally go … but it had to go.

    Someone told me some of the benches are going to the Western Railway Museum. I can’t imagine anything of any value will be just tossed, although I’ll bet a lot of things end up in private hands.

    If the Emperor Norton plaque isn’t in a case in the center of the atrium in the new building, it’ll be a shame. Pause, traveler.

    Posted by Steve Boland | 7 August 2010, 10:20 am
  8. Very much agreed on the Emperor Norton plaque. All I’ve heard is that it will be saved, but I do hope it’s featured somewhere prominently in the new complex. More generally, a display exhibit about the history of the site would be a nice addition.

    At least some of the historical fixtures in the Terminal, including benches and the red railings, will be going to both the Western Railway Museum and the California State Railroad Museum. Other elements like the shoeshine stand are planned to go to the Oakland Museum.

    Posted by Eric | 7 August 2010, 7:13 pm

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  1. Pingback: Transbay Terminal: The Final Hour « Transbay Blog - 8 August 2010

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