San Francisco’s new $2.3 billion transit center could be the most expensive bus terminal in the world

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The Transbay Transit Center could cost an estimated $2.25 billion to build.
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Transbay Transit Center

San Francisco’s future public transportation hub, The Transbay Transit Center, has been called the “most expensive bus terminal in the history of humankind” by a city supervisor.

Its astronomical costs match the developer’s ambitions. Upon completion in 2017, the $2.3 billion Transbay Center will connect eight Bay Area counties through 11 transportation systems. It includes up to 100,000 square feet of retail space and a rooftop park.

It’s unclear if the “most expensive” superlative is true. But it might be. For comparison, New York’s Port Authority Bus Terminal – the largest and busiest bus terminal in the world – cost an estimated$24 millionwhen it was constructed in the mid-20th century.

While construction on the Transbay Center is far from over, these stunning renderings provided by the developer’s website give us a glimpse inside.


Built in 1939, the Transbay Terminal served 26 million passengers annually during its heyday at the end of World War II. When gas rationing ended in the ’40s, traffic petered out.

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Transbay Transit Center

Source: Transbay Transit Center


The bus terminal was rundown and underused by the end of the 21st century. It was in desperate need of a makeover, and regional transportation advocates rallied.

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Transbay Transit Center

In 2001, the Transbay Joint Powers Authority formed as a collaboration between Bay Area government and transportation agencies. Demolition began nine years later.

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A wrecking ball takes some of the first swings at the front facade of the old Transbay Terminal in December 2010.
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Eric Risberg/AP

Source: US Department of Transportation


Soon, San Francisco will get a “Grand Central Station of the West” in its place.

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An aerial view of the future Transbay Transit Center shows the 5.4-acre park on top.
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Transbay Transit Center

Source: Transbay Transit Center


Designed by Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects, the new Transbay Transit Center will cost an estimated $2.25 billion. Construction costs continue to rise.

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Transbay Transit Center

Source: The San Francisco Chronicle


Located at 1st and Mission Street, the complex spans over one million square feet.

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Transbay Transit Center

Source: Transbay Transit Center


In phase one of development, the Transbay Center will create access to intercity buses, included the AC Transit system, and lay the foundation for a future train platform.

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Transbay Transit Center

The bus deck will be located two levels above ground so passengers won’t feel trapped or claustrophobic in an underground, windowless station.

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Transbay Transit Center

Natural light will pour in through a massive skylight.

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Transbay Transit Center

Giant aluminum panels — perforated in a kaleidoscopic pattern to let in more light — form the building’s shell. Flecks of mica were added to the paint to give it a sheen.

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Transbay Transit Center

Source: The San Francisco Chronicle


The new Transbay Center will contain up to 100,000 square feet of retail space.

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Transbay Transit Center

A 5.4-acre city park will cover the top of the Transbay Center. Its winding footpath and botanical gardens could be reminiscent of New York’s elevated park, The High Line.

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Transbay Transit Center

The park will include a restaurant, café, children’s play area, and amphitheater and stage for programmed performances.

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Transbay Transit Center

In phase two of development, the Transit Center could finish the underground train platform, which would provide access to Caltrain and a future high-speed rail service …

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Transbay Transit Center

… however, it’s unclear if the funds raised will carry the project that far. It could require an additional $2.5 billion. Critics say the Caltrain extension may never happen.

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Transbay Transit Center

Source: The San Francisco Chronicle

The Transbay Joint Powers Authority has also proposed a block-long pedestrian tunnel that would give BART and Muni transit passengers a direct connection between the Transbay Center and Embarcadero Station. It’s unclear if funding will stretch to cover it.


Developers have a plan for raising those additional funds. They expect to lease out the roughly 100,000 square feet of retail space and sell off naming rights for the building.

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Transbay Transit Center

The center’s developer, the Transbay Joint Powers Authority, has already generated $660 million by selling unused land around the center over the past four years.

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Transbay Transit Center

Source: The San Francisco Chronicle


All said and done, the so-called “Transbay neighborhood” will create 4,400 units of new housing, 1,000 new hotel rooms, and more than six million square feet of new office space — enough to cover New York City’s Central Park more than four times over.

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Transbay Transit Center

Source: Transbay Transit Center


Once phase one of development is completed in 2017, the new Transbay Center is expected to accommodate up to 45 million people per year.

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Transbay Transit Center

Source: Transbay Transit Center