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

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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 million when 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:

19 PHOTOS
San Francisco's new transit center
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San Francisco's new transit center

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.

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.

Transbay Transit Center

Source: 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.

Eric Risberg/AP

Source: US Department of Transportation

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

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.

Transbay Transit Center

Source: Transbay Transit Center

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

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.

Transbay Transit Center

Source: 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.

Transbay Transit Center

Source: Transbay Transit Center

Natural light will pour in through a massive skylight.


Transbay Transit Center

Source: 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.


Transbay Transit Center

Source: Transbay Transit Center

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

Transbay Transit Center

Source: 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.


Transbay Transit Center

Source: Transbay Transit Center

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


Transbay Transit Center

Source: 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 ...


Transbay Transit Center

Source: 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.

Transbay Transit Center

Source: Transbay Transit Center

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.

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.


Transbay Transit Center

Source: 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.


Transbay Transit Center

Source: Transbay Transit Center

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