Welcome to the Transbay Blog. This is a blog about public transportation, transit-oriented development, and city planning in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Over the past several decades, the Bay Area has made some rather poor decisions with respect to dealing with growth patterns, favoring the construction of freeways and new exurbs that move ever farther from the urban core. The result is a metropolitan region whose citizens, in large part, rely on automobiles not only to carry them through their often horrifically long freeway commutes, but also just for day-to-day activities.
More recently, city planners have revised their thinking in order to implement smarter, more sustainable growth patterns: building housing closer to job and retail centers to minimize long commutes, and building denser housing on major transit corridors to encourage use of public transportation as much as possible. All this falls under the designation “transit-oriented development”, or TOD. Another critical component is to develop streetscapes that are pedestrian-friendly and encourage walking, since walking and public transit are flip sides of the same coin.
This blog will attempt to chronicle the efforts in the Bay Area to improve public transit service and to embrace more sustainable growth patterns. The reason for choosing the name “Transbay” is hopefully not so mysterious. The still-evolving plans concerning the Transbay Terminal in downtown San Francisco are shaping up to be the single most important transit project in the Bay Area. The current bus terminal at 1st and Mission Streets is aged and depressing, but in time, it will be transformed into the “Grand Central Station of the West”, an important hub combining BART, Caltrain, Muni, and various regional bus agencies — hopefully even California High Speed Rail — all in one place. Capping it all off will be a new mixed use highrise district that may form the new focal point to the downtown area, in addition to containing the Bay Area’s tallest skyscrapers. Since this district is centered on the Transbay Terminal, these plans represent the most ambitious example of transit-oriented development in the Bay Area. (Please note, however, that this blog is no way affiliated with the Transbay Joint Powers Authority or any other agency working on the Transbay Terminal project.)
To be sure, Transbay is crucial for its unification of transit services and for its very substantial TOD component — but it is only one part of a much larger picture. The principles that are at play in Transbay should, ideally, be applied all over the Bay Area, if only in more miniature form.
In this blog, I hope to discuss any manner of news relating not only to the Transbay Terminal, but to Bay Area TOD in general. The Transbay Terminal is a big project, though, and it will probably get a good amount of air time. A successful public transit system is, of course, critical, so a large component of this blog will be devoted to discussion of transit service and infrastructure, both current and planned.
Oh, right — I should probably introduce myself, as well. My name is Eric, and I live in San Francisco. I’m not a city planner, but as a lifelong citizen of the Bay Area, I care deeply about how this corner of the world grows and evolves in the future, and have come to be very interested in issues pertaining to transit and development. I am completely car-free, but do not own a bike. So all of my trips are on foot or by transit, which means that improvement of both the transit experience and the pedestrian experience are topics I think about pretty frequently.
At the heart of the matter: this blog is an excuse for me to learn more about these issues and to present them in a way that’s hopefully useful and interesting, as well as to have discussions with other transit geeks. If you actually made it to the end of this introduction, thank you for your patience, and welcome to the Transbay Blog!