Transbay Transit Center Skin at Night

The projected cost of construction for the first phase of San Francisco’s Transbay Transit Center has risen from $1.6 billion to $1.9 billion. In order to cover the $300 million increase, the Transbay Joint Powers Authority plans to divert a portion of the funds which had been dedicated to the second phase of the project, the extension of track for Caltrain and High Speed Rail from Fourth and King to the Transbay Center at First and Mission:

Proposed Transbay Terminal Rail Extension

The Transbay Transit Center project which was first budgeted to cost closer to $1.2 billion back in 2007 is scheduled to open in 2017, but without the rail extension in place.

67 thoughts on “Transbay Center Project Running $300 Million Over Budget”
  1. The detail that stood out to me was that the spokesman attributed the change in the skin from glass to metal to safety and security concerns. In that story, the spokesman specifically denied that there were serious cost considerations. Now in this reporting they make it clear it was a cost issue, and I will no longer believe a word they say about that or any other matter.
    [Editor’s Note: Rising Construction Costs Getting Under The Transbay Center’s Skin.]

  2. There has been research done that indicates cost estimates are almost always low on public infrastructure projects and it is purposeful.
    ridership estimates are fraudulent as well in my opinion.
    It makes sense when you think about the incentives to do this

  3. there doesn’t seem to be any consequences or repercussions for anybody to mis-state (purposely or otherwise) cost estimates, so why not go for a low number and lock in the project.

  4. No Caltrain, Muni Metro, BART or high speed rail connections in our lifetimes. The world’s most expensive bus terminal!

  5. LMAO – Re covering the $300m shortfall
    So we’re going to build a rail transit center but not extend the trains to it –
    Mind you – I’m a full blown supporter of this project & the Marin-Sonama SMART train – and most other mass transit infrastructure…
    But I am continually amazed at the 1/2 assed approach to implementing rail and mass transit – Is ANYONE w/a civil engineering degree involved in any of these projects….?
    My dog could plan better a better system….than these _____ (Insert word of your choice here)

  6. I was just thinking the same thing as TJ.
    Even Union Station Los Angeles has a better planned DIRECT interface between subway, light rail, Amtrak and bus services.
    We only get the bus service.

  7. LMFAO is right. This city is pathetic. I can understand one misguided project slipping through, but not the majority of transit and development projects that are devised by total incompetents and implemented by greedy, short-sighted fools.
    Are we not surprised by this news? Caltrain will NEVER be extended to downtown SF, much less electrified. The Bay Area will never have an integrated transit system. End of story. Accept it and move on.
    [Editor’s Note: Electrifying Mission Bay And Transbay Transit Center News.]

  8. Look at the TJPA, BART, MTC board of directors and count how many Civil Engineer there are – not a lot. When it comes to complex engineering projects, I find that urban planners, political appointees, neighborhood organizers, lawyers and the like are improperly trained for the task at hand and often shocked by inevitable outcomes. Good people, just not the correct skillset.
    Unfortunately and eventually, the Hayward fault will rupture, the Transbay Tube will fill with water, drinking water systems will be unusable, old buildings will crumble and the Bay Area will become unlivable and maybe then, the Civil Engineers can get to work.
    In the meantime I keep a lot of bottled water and canned tuna in the cupboard.

  9. I’m a 100% supporter of HSR, but this terminal project has been a travesty from the start. Even with trains and before these overruns (which I’m sure aren’t the last), it was already going to be the most expensive station in the world, by quite a large margin, and the next most expensive station handles like 10 times the traffic this station ever will.
    The should be focusing on the train station portion, instead they are just making a pretty building that wont even handle the trains very well.
    An example would be that the original design element had columns and escalators set up in such a way that it would impede the flow of traffic getting on or off the train.
    The overall HSR project is still very worthwhile, but this station is not worth anything near what it is costing.

  10. Relax everybody. the sky is not falling.
    Cost increases are pretty much normal for large public projects. It’s not shocking.
    It will get built. We will use it. We will enjoy it.
    It will be a great asset to downtown.

  11. The real tragedy is that the city of SF is building massive amounts of office space and residential units. But basically very limited improvements to infrastructure. So one day the entire system is simply not going to work.
    HSR is not coming to the terminal for another ~20+ years. Frankly a fair portion of us will have either moved elsewhere or won’t even be alive then.

  12. Disgruntled Civil Eng:
    At one point city planners were civil engineers who made what they saw as rational decisions for the mainstream (for better and worse) that may have been vetted through a small political class of “city father” type politicians.
    The pendulum has swung totally the other way where we have political hacks and operators and community organizing types either making corrupt decisions based on enriching themselves and their friends or mediocre decisions made by those in the process finding consensus.
    It is beyond pathetic.

  13. If anyone is interested there are different theories of urban planning.
    In the most extreme version of Advocacy planning you will have some academics tell you that engineering and rational planning are just a “white” way of seeing the world and is not any more valid than the way a brown or black person sees the world
    As someone half “brown” I found this all extremely offensive even if the point being made about power has some truth

  14. I had to look up Union Station Los Angeles because of the comment above as I was not sure it was really that well coordianted compared to what was supposed to be Transbay. Guess what? Los Angeles knows how to build a regional transportation hub, and is already expanding it in a huge way.
    Union Station Los Angeles has 15 Amtrak/Metrolink tracks, and 4 subway tracks. (not blocks away, but as part of the station) Union Station will have HSR and already has about double the number of bus lines that will go to Transbay. How could Los Angeles get this done only recently, and we can’t?

  15. “How could Los Angeles get this done only recently, and we can’t?”
    Although we are quite smug in SF, LA has been doing way better than us for about 20 years with this. This is a fact
    Everything we had invested in (BART extensions for example) are just bloated pigs

  16. @anonandon
    How? Well let me repost the always classic:
    “Despite its good intentions, San Francisco is not leading the country in gay marriage. Despite its good intentions, it is not stopping wars. Despite its spending more money per capita on homelessness than any comparable city, its homeless problem is worse than any comparable city’s. Despite its spending more money per capita, period, than almost any city in the nation, San Francisco has poorly managed, budget-busting capital projects, overlapping social programs no one is certain are working, and a transportation system where the only thing running ahead of schedule is the size of its deficit.”

  17. And thanks to Hines’ bait and switch there is also far less revenue to pay for it. This whole project has just been one disappointment after another starting with the TJPA’s selection of Pelli/Hines over SOM/Rockefeller.

  18. I said from the beginning: Let “downtown” come to 4th and Townsend as it has been inexorably doing rather than undertaking this huge money-waster. As everyone knows and some are saying, without CalTrain (at least, if not HSR), this is the world’s biggest, most expensive bus stop and will become what its predecessor was, a home for the homeless.
    Are the people who ran City College now in charge here? Seems like it.

  19. They should just drop the mediocre Pelli design for the tower, trim down the “bus terminal.” OK, let the barren lifeless rooftop park stay (and replicate the lifeless rooftop gardens of the Golden Gateway and Embarcadero Center) and just go ahead and build a functional bus terminal (as we already had with the Transbay Terminal)… what we get would be a modern bus terminal under budget..

  20. “Let “downtown” come to 4th and Townsend as it has been inexorably doing rather than undertaking this huge money-waster”
    This would help few coming from the South. The connection to the T line and the loop around the Embarcedero is not adequate or efficient

  21. Does anyone remember the commentary and opposition that rose up during the proposed construction of the Golden Gate Bridge?
    Might want to refresh your memory, and think about how that turned out.
    Clearly people can come up with a myriad of reasons not to build it (cost, usage, etc.) but no one can honestly say or predict how this will turn out. 30, 50, or 100 years from now the world and our city may view it very differently then we do today.

  22. @K&L, The problem with your example is it would be as if the Golden Gate Bridge were only built half way and then it just stopped and was declared “finished”! Without Caltrain, subway, and HSR, what’s the point of a 2 billion dollar bus station? Nobody was against this project, we just want it to work the way other transit hubs do in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.
    2 Billion could have begun the Geary subway line much discussed here.

  23. This latest development is akin to starting a gas station project but ending up building only the EZ-Mart and the air/water area. Where the heck are the gas pumps?
    I cannot find any word for this that would stay Safe for work.
    Yes: Kafkaesque.

  24. Wrong Example – have they fully declared caltrains, subway and HSR dead and no longer part of the transbay terminal? No one said they’ve cancelled the caltrain extension or any of the other propoganda people post on this blog. It will take longer then anticipated and cost more but it is still part of the plan.
    This hype around it being a $2B bus terminal is the way naysayers spin information to support their argument. GG bridge example is very relevant and if you read that article the same “naysayer spin” was used 75 years ago. Glad it didn’t work then and hope it doesn’t work now.

  25. Since this country, state and city do not believe in funding infrastructure, particularly not urban mass transit, the only way to get something ambitious built is to build it in pieces, and often just get the project started and then the money will come to finish it and expand it once it’s underway. It’s pathetic, but it’s the world we live in and it’s the only way to get something built.

  26. It is somewhat ironic that we as a society can find the resources to build giant stadiums that sit empty 300 days/year, but we can’t build an effective regional transit system. Wasn’t the construction of Grand Central bankrolled by the Vanderbilts?
    Pardon the editorializing, but the bay area is home to a lot of billionaires minted over the past few decades. Where are the contemporary “captains of industry” in all of this? Their analogs from the last century built a lot of infrastructure, endowed universities, etc. Today’s robber barons are more interested in collecting mansions, buying islands, and racing yachts. How about leaving a real legacy for the ages? Like the Google Transbay Center and Facebook Station next to Apple Tower adjacent to Oracle Depot?

  27. I have no faith it will get built as planned, it just may not be in this century, and by that time, it will have to service gondolas.

  28. Re: Legacy Dude’s question ‘where are the contemporary “captains of Industry”‘.
    All of the companies you mention — Google, Facebook, Apple — run shuttles from San Francisco directly to their corporate campuses. They have all abandoned public transit.
    A number of years ago you would find a lot of Apple engineers in the bike car on Caltrain — they’d have to close the ‘last mile’ from the station to their corporate campus with their bikes, but they were dedicated. Every single one of these folks now uses their corporate shuttle.
    Who can blame them? The huge scandal of our time is that none of the executives of our public transit system have been held accountable for this. If anything, they are all off the hook as the most engaged and resourceful folks would would otherwise be leading the charge for better transit have been off-loaded onto the shuttles, leaving our the ‘leaders’ of our public transit with a far more compliant public.

  29. k&l,
    Do not confuse criticism of this latest development and criticism of public transit.
    The original purpose of this project was precisely connecting all transit options! Then they added sexy stuff to make it palatable and fluffy.
    Now the form has overtaken the substance of the project that nobody seems to want to defend! Very typical of our ADHD world.

  30. around1905: You appear to be misinformed, Apple doesn’t run any busses from SOMA to Cupertino, as they don’t want to compete with Caltrain. Apple has always had shuttles from Mountain View Caltrain to its campus, for over a decade. Those riding bikes were probably coming from the Mission.

  31. RobBob:
    The folks who were riding Caltrain to their jobs at Apple lived all over SF and biked to the Caltrain stations in SF. Now that there are stops near their homes, they don’t take CalTrain.
    The fact is, there are almost no Apple employees riding Caltrain anymore, and that goes for the rest of the elite tech companies in the bay area.
    My information, btw, comes directly from the folks I used to hang out with on Caltrain. The companeis I work with don’t run shuttles (not part of the silicon valley elite) so I’m still on Caltrain with the students and the folks working at similarly non-elite companies.

  32. This is about as sensible as extending one of SFO’s runways into downtown SF with two gates for embarking/disembarking.

  33. @ around1905, I was editorializing more about the modern day robber barons and their spending behavior rather than focusing on the best way to get to Santa Clara.
    As I mentioned, the Vanderbilt family built Grand Central and endowed universities and museums. Leland Stanford founded Stanford University, and much of the infrastructure built by the big four California industrialists is still in use today.
    The total cost of this project is now estimated at $1.9 billion. In the last 24 hours Mark Zuckerberg made literally twice that on stock gains. And there was a period of time last year when Apple had more cash than the U.S. government.
    Just trying to put things in perspective. It would be refreshing if some of the local corporate excesses were spent on something enduring like this, instead of killing one’s own chicken or yacht races. IMO.

  34. The Fulton Center in NY, which is bringing 11 subways together is expected to cost 1.4 billion. It’s mind boggling that this thing is more expensive than that.

  35. 11 subway lines! (At Fulton Center in New York) I wonder if that will become the world’s biggest subway interchange station? I think that would top even the largest station interchanges in Tokyo. And we get a bus station for only about 600 million more (and counting).

  36. Where is the leadership on this? A regional transit center that doesn’t include Muni underground, BART or CalTrain?
    OMG. 1.9 billion $. Where is the outrage? Where is the Chronicle editorial board? Where are the city hall hearings?
    Pathetic, wasteful, a boondoggle.

  37. How are they able to find 40 million to “fill in” the Geary Blvd underpass, but cannot find money to bring ANY rail tracks to what was to be a regional terminal for all forms of transit on rails.
    Why do we need to fill in the Geary underpass?

  38. One of the perennial problems with SF in particular is how voting works. Thousands upon thousands of very smart managers, execs, etc. spend the majority of their week in SF, commuting from elsewhere. But they have absolutely zero voting power.
    Meanwhile, how many business savvy, worldly wise, long-term resident voters are there in SF? I’d say proportionately compared to the rest of the SF voting population it’s not very high. So many people end up moving to the ‘burbs, another part of the country or world and just don’t have a vested interest in solving local problems.

  39. Sadly I think Ninong is right. Multifacated white objects tend to end up multiple different shades of off-white as the environment acts on them in different ways. By facets I mean the smaller 3D details of the perforations.
    There is one nice aspect to replacing the glass with a perforated skin: it will be a great place to observe the next partial solar eclipse.

  40. Personally, I like the perforated skin, but I agree white is probably not the best color choice, especially for a city maintained building. They should probably just go with raw aluminum since it doesn’t tarnish / rust.

  41. 47.8 million in GG bridge tolls have already gone towards this project. I thought bridge tolls were only for bridge maintenance ?

  42. Yes, I see that bridge tolls have been used for other things for decades instead of bridge maintenance. I still do not understand the posts by some on this site claiming roads are subsidized by “their taxes”, when the SFMTA relies mostly on parking fees and fines to make up the vast difference for MUNI, as well as collecting bridge tolls to pay for Golden Gate transit busses and ferry boats instead of bridge repairs. MY taxes are going for the Central Subway which I will NEVER use.
    Don’t forget, if it was not for the major loan from Bank of America there would be no Golden Gate Bridge. (Unlike the Bay Bridge, it was not a Federal WPA project) Without drivers MUNI would shut down tomorrow.

  43. Do non-drivers not use roadways? Sidewalks, lighting, utilities, sewers, water all are all now part of our road infrastructures. How would a fire truck or ambulance get to your home, on a dirt bike path? Deliveries, bus and streetcars, repairmen, how would they all get to your home?
    I do not, and will not use MUNI, but everyone uses the roads. I believe someone pointed out even NoeValleyJim owned and used a car.

  44. ^Seriously, do some research. No one is disputing the need for roads, just the amount of cross-subsidization. In other words, we don’t have 12 lane freeways for fire trucks alone, and far too much of the funding for roads comes directly from general funds (not so much in-city roads, it’s more of a state and federal-level problem).

  45. Ed Reiskin – SFMTA director says that “Muni will be $510 million in the red each year for the next 20 years just to maintain its current operations. He calls Muni crowded, late and dirty”. (S.F. Examiner). At least he is honest!
    Yet where is our money going? To the world’s most expensive bus terminal (1.6 BILLION) and the Central Subway (1.7 BILLION). Seeing how the costs of both of these projects are rising fast, I believe MUNI could have built a Geary Subway instead.
    The Los Angeles Purple Line extension from the Mid Wilshire District to the ocean at Santa Monica (a farther distance) is estimated at 3.2 billion by L.A. County.

  46. No, that’s not what he said. You need to go back and reread the story again.
    We should be building the Central Subway, the Transbay Terminal *and* a Geary Subway. We can do all three. The businesses on Geary Street don’t want a subway though, they think that construction will disrupt their businesses. It probably will too, so I don’t know how you get around that.

  47. “he businesses on Geary Street don’t want a subway though, they think that construction will disrupt their businesses. It probably will too, so I don’t know how you get around that.”
    Ignore them? They shouldn’t get the power to veto something that is in the city’s best interest.

  48. My point was the cost of the Geary subway roughly would equal the cost of Transbay and the Central Subway extension, if one looks at the cost of the Purple Line extension in Los Angeles out to Santa Monica (3.2 billion). I just think a Geary Subway would be a better use of 4 billion.
    (NVJ- the director of the SFMTA is on record saying they already have no money to even cover operating and maintenance costs for the next 20 years, so how you think they could do all three projects is beyond me. )

  49. Where in the world are you getting this $3.2 billion for the Purple Line extension? Most recent estimates of the chosen alternative are pegged at $4.4B, but we’re still in VERY early stages. I’d be pretty shocked to see the final number come in below $10B.

  50. From Jim’s report:
    “Since 1947, America’s spending on highways at all levels (federal, state and local) has exceeded the amount of money collected in gasoline and vehicle taxes and tolls by more than $600 billion
    (2005 dollars).”
    So with 300 million people in the US, thats $2,000 for 66 years of construction and maintenance for ALL roads, federal, state and local? $30 bucks a year?
    Meanwhile Muni is losing $510 million per year just from operations for a city of population about 900k costing $570 per person per year? And that doesn’t include the billion dollar new construction costs??

  51. You are just full of nonsense, aren’t you GSF? The purple line will cost $6.3B, not the $4B you claim.
    “6. What will the project cost and how is it funded?
    The total project is forecast to cost $6.3 billion based on the three-phase scenario and schedule shown in the chart in Question 4.”
    Rieken said:
    “For Muni and other aspects of our current transportation system, we need $510 million per year for the next 20 years. However, our budget only covers half of these needs. ”
    He did not say that the Muni budget was $510M in the red.
    Why do you spread this kind of false information? Do you get some kind of kick out of misleading people?

  52. NoeValleyJim, the cost of the final leg of the “three phase” plan for the Purple Line is 3.2 billion. The Purple Line is far larger and longer than what would be the Geary Line so I did select the part I thought was most appropriate.
    Reiskin wrote recently that through various initiatives the SFMTA has now been able to cover half the 510 million yearly repair(s)deficit (See various articles on MORE parking meters), but when he took over the SFMTA, he wrote there was no money in the budget to cover this operational deficit. I was incorrect in that I googled a 2011 SFMTA budget deficit article before. You are correct, the deficit for operational repairs is now ONLY 260 million a year.

  53. If LA can build that portion of the Purple Line for $3.2 billion I’ll be mighty impressed. We just managed to build half a bridge for only double that amount, so I’d assume that a Geary subway would be in the tens of billions.

  54. It has been a dream of planners to build a subway along Geary for a very long time, since the 30’s at least:
    The money to do it has been voted down at the ballot box a number of times.
    I don’t know how much one would cost but $3.2B seems like an underestimate to me. In NYC, they have spent $17B to build a 7.5 mile subway. I would expect that a Geary line would fall somewhere between those two in cost.

  55. “30% of Muni’s budget comes from meters, fines and fees. Muni has operated in the red for years. As drivers’ costs have escalated, Muni’s services have gone steadily downhill. Earning money is not MTA’s problem, spending is”. (From ENUF -SF)
    MTA’s solution for fixing MUNI is to raise parking fines and fees by metering after 6pm and on Sundays, as well as blanketing neighborhoods with meters.
    @NVJ- it would seem the MTA needs cars to keep afloat.

  56. We can talk about MTA’s spending problem (which is definitely real), but let’s also be real about meters. We don’t have enough of them, and the price charged is way too low.
    The city should install market-based meters everywhere in the city with dynamic pricing to keep around 15% of spots always open (meaning some places would lower prices or even be free at times), with revenue used to lower other taxes.

  57. One answer is a 2nd transbay tube, enabling a line to run from downtown Oakland, through Alameda, to SoMa – stopping at the Transbay Terminal – then crossing at Mont’y or Powell and running out Geary. BOOM, multiple problems solved. We need to create a positive P.R. campaing about these ideas now if they’re ever going to get built.

  58. ^if we’re tossing out completely unrealistic ideas, how about investing in teleportation? This is the innovative Bay Area, right?

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