A Very San Franciscan Transit Center

The new Transbay Transit Center offers a wide range of possibilities to California transit while integrating sustainable features.

While we wait for the completion of the 1.3 million square foot Transbay Transit Center, in 2017, we have time to think about what this collaboration between Atelier Ten, Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects, and Adamson Associates will bring to San Francisco. To reach the goal of a LEED Gold ranking, Atelier Ten, a consultancy known for engineering sustainable solutions for very high performance buildings, focused on ways to cut energy use and carbon emissions, create a comprehensive waste management system, and incorporate sustainable materials. Their emphasis for this project, however, was water conservation. Greywater and stormwater will be reused, and vegetation will be used to filter the water on-site. These moves, the architects estimate, will reduce mechanical and irrigation water consumption by 54%. The “on-site vegetation” will mainly consist of a 6 acre roof park, giving this generally plant-less downtown location a green building in more ways than one. cross-section

A roof park, natural ventilation and light, plus the  use of geothermal energy are huge steps away from what the transit center once was. The old transit center, built in 1939, and described as drafty and dark, never fulfilled its potential. By the mid-20th century, its usefulness had already passed. It had since been used as impromptu housing for the local homeless, demolished this month. A temporary transit center has been erected a few blocks away.


The Transbay Transit Center in 1939.

Photo courtesy transbaycenter.org.

The new San Francisco Transbay Transit Center, referred to as the “Grand Central of the West,” offers a wide range of possibilities to California transit. At this time the transportation is made up of independent rail centers in a handful of cities, without any connection between them, except by train. But traveling by rail often takes more time and money than it would to drive. With the impending construction of a rapid commute train system, the San Francisco Transbay Transit Center will provide a more immediate, eco-friendly, comfortable hub for public transportation in the Bay Area. It will also open the doors to a better form of transportation within the state. Coming from San Francisco, I am excited about the changes in Bay Area transportation and appreciate Atelier Ten’s efforts to enrich my city with such sustainable features as a green roof. This patch of green is long overdue for a downtown of sleek glass, concrete and steel where there isn’t even a hint of saplings sticking out of the planter boxes. The roof garden will also work to soak up the heavy fog that hangs over the bay. For the city which is known for its “peace, love, and harmony” ways and sustainable activism, the San Francisco Transbay Transit Center should be everything all of us eco-minded, roof-garden-lovers could hope for.

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