By Carolyn Said, San Francisco Chronicle, April 25, 2023
Editorial Team Note:
“Two distinct realities — vibrant activity and eerie emptiness — are juxtaposed at Transbay transit center, the three-block-long behemoth cloaked in curvaceous white steel located south of Mission Street, running from Beale Street to just shy of Second Street.
“One of the Bay Area’s biggest infrastructure projects in decades, the transit center sees its ambitions reflected in the moniker ‘The Grand Central Station of the West.’
“There’s no question that the pandemic still drastically affects the terminal. AC Transit, its main transit provider, is running only about 57 percent of its pre-pandemic routes.
“In some ways, the transit center is a microcosm of San Francisco’s moribund downtown, which is having the slowest recovery among U.S. cities, with only about 36 percent of pre-pandemic workers returning to offices — and that was before the recent waves of tech layoffs.
“As Supervisor Aaron Peskin once said, without rail connections, the $2.2 billion structure ‘looks like the most expensive bus terminal in the history of humankind.’
“Alicia John-Baptiste, a board member of the Transbay Joint Powers Authority, which owns and operates the center, sees bringing trains there as crucial, not just to the building itself, but also to the Bay Area.’
“The complex’s most bustling area is Fitness SF, a 35,000-square-foot second-floor gym that attracts hundreds of people a day … It’s accessed from escalators on First Street, so its patrons often rarely set foot in the rest of the transit center.
“After eight years of construction, [the transit center] opened with splashy fanfare in August 2018, only to abruptly shut down six weeks later when workers found cracks in some of its steel beams.… As is all too common, the initial construction was marked by delays and cost overruns, which is why the board agreed to a 25-year deal to sell naming rights to Salesforce, the city’s largest employer, for $110 million. The space is publicly owned and operated, despite the Salesforce moniker.”