By Stacie Chang
San Francisco has less than one million residents, yet the broader San Francisco Bay Area claims over seven million residents. As the local economy has grown, housing prices have increased dramatically and people are increasingly moving into cheaper, distant suburbs. Congestion and pollution in the city and on the highways are becoming a serious problem. How do thousands of people travel the long distances from suburb to city? The most common means of transportation are car, rail (Caltrain), long-distance buses (Samtrans, AC Transit) and metro (BART, Muni). However, if you were to look at a map of San Francisco, the transportation system is highly disjointed and inconvenient – you are unable to reach any given location without at least one inter-line transfer.
Enter the proposed Transbay Transit Center Project. This project is not just a new transit center; it will be a new landmark within San Francisco. The Transbay Transit Center will act as a transportation hub for eleven separate transportation systems; it will also create the city’s tallest building, a new public rooftop park and a reason for people to visit a historically rundown neighborhood (EXHIBIT 1). In addition, the new terminal will reduce congestion and pollution by making public transportation a convenient and attractive option for over 100,000 riders per day. According to the Transbay Joint Powers Authority (TJPA), “The project will create an estimated 125,000 jobs, and more than $87 billion in Gross Regional Product will be generated through 2030. In addition, estimates are the project will result in at least $829 million in benefits to transit and highway users from avoided accidents and reduced emissions of non-greenhouse gases, as well as saved travel time and avoided vehicle operation and maintenance costs.” Additionally, the planned redevelopment for the area is closely tied to the goals of reducing automobile congestion. The design plan calls for more residential units, fewer car lanes, wider bicycle lanes and more sidewalk space for local businesses and pedestrian foot traffic to encourage the economic development of the area.
The total project is anticipated to cost $4.2 billion, yet only $2.2 billion has been raised (EXHIBIT 2). The project has been broken into two phases – Transbay Transit Center and Downtown Rail Extension. Phase 1, the Transbay Transit Center, has been fully funded through a combination of taxes, loans and land sales. Phase 1 also includes the development of the Transit Tower office space and additional parcels of land, which will be leased and sold for additional financing. Phase 2, Downtown Rail Extension, only partially funded, calls for an extension of Caltrain to the Transit Center as well as the planned integration of the California High Speed Rail. The remaining $2.0 billion, still to be funded, is anticipated to come from a combination of bridge tolls and additional state and federal money. This is a great example of how to use a transportation project to align the interests of multiple local constituents as well as State and Federal funding sources to transform a neighborhood and boost economic development with the help of private development companies and architects.