San Francisco Sees A Transit Center Revitalizing Downtown
Original Source: http://www.wired.com
Author: Jason Kambitsis
Original Publication Date: January 8, 2010
Even during a time of dwindling capital and stalling public works projects San Francisco is moving forward with plans for a $4.2 billion transportation center that could dramatically change how the city looks and travels.
The ambitious multi-modal hub called the Transbay Transit Center is the centerpiece of an ambitious plan to remake downtown. Although much of that plan remains in the conceptual phase, construction on the transit center could begin as early as March. It will replace the grimy and gritty Transbay Terminal and provide links to the Bay Area Rapid Transit system and California’s high-speed rail line should it be built.
Nothing in the Bay Area happens quickly, and the Transbay Transit Center is no exception. The idea’s been kicking around for 20 years.
The initial idea for the project arose from the wreckage of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake which ruined the Embarcadero freeway along the city’s waterfront. The freeway was razed, providing new access to the waterfront and opening up the area to redevelopment. Several projects, most notably the revitalization of the Embarcadero as a beautiful urban boulevard, have followed.
But the area has been searching for a way to reconnect itself to the city while making a positive impact with its prime waterfront location. The Transbay Transit Center would be the centerpiece of a campaign to build off past revitalization and transform the surrounding area by building new towers, including a 1,200-foot skyscraper that would dwarf the iconic 853 foot Transamerica Pyramid. Other plans call for a 5.4-acre park and a shopping center.
“What’s unusual about the whole Transbay redevelopment proposal is that it will expand downtown dramatically as well as completely change the physical profile of the city,” Jasper Rubin, a former city planner and an assistant professor of urban studies and planning at San Francisco State University, told The New York Times. “It’s an incredibly ambitious plan.”
So far, only the transit center is a sure thing. It is being funded through several sources. The Transbay Joint Powers Authority is actively going after bridge tolls, sales tax revenues and grants, according to The Times. It also is awaiting word from the Department of Transportation on a $171 million loan from the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act. The feds are expected to decide this month.
Should the initial funding come in as planned, construction could begin as early as March. The joint powers authority says the station could serve as many as 45 million passengers annually upon its completion in 2015.
Although the project has been met with accolades, not everyone thinks it’s a good thing. Some worry the city will be heavy-handed in using eminent domain to obtain land it can’t buy, and others say they’re being unfairly compensated for their property.
“I’ll lose this building because of eminent domain,” John Gasser told SF Public Press. Gasser’s family has owned a camera shop in the neighborhood for 60 years, and he says the city’s redevelopment agency offered him $100,000.
“I’ve heard from Realtors that this building could get $250 or $300 per square foot,” he said. “Now we’re sitting in 17,500 square feet. You do the math.”
Artist’s rendering of the Transbay Transit Center: Transbay Joint Powers Authority