Last Tour at Transbay Terminal
July 27, 2010
The public is invited to take one last look around Transbay Terminal this Friday. The formidable ediface, which started life as a modern (and Moderne) home for trains from three different companies and is finishing it as a forlorn bus shed, was built by the State of California as a terminal for trains crossing the Bay Bridge from the East Bay and beyond — as far as Chico on the old Sacramento Northern.
They built it…but they did not come, at least in terms of adequate numbers of passengers on the long distance interurban trains. Within a couple of years, only the Key System was still running trains across the bridge, and by the late 1950s, that ended too, as the lower deck of the Bay Bridge was converted to accommodate the burgeoning suburban automobile count. Since then, AC Transit buses have been the predominant tenant.
Streetcars ran to the front door of the Transbay Terminal, too — three tracks in front, serving both Muni and the old Market Street Railway. On opening day for streetcars to Transbay, the confusion caused by splitting the terminal between the Ferry Building and Transbay created what is arguably the greatest traffic jam in Market Street history. The last streetcar, on the F-line, ran in 2000, just before the line was extended back to the Ferry Building and on to Fisherman’s Wharf.
To mark the closing of Transbay Terminal and its replacement with what backers envision as something like “Grand Central Station-West,” Caltrans has organized public tours this Friday, July 30, at 12 Noon and 1, 2, 3, and 4 p.m. Meet at the ground floor entrance on Mission Street between First and Fremont Streets. They promise a behind-the-scenes look at areas that have been closed off, including Cuddles Bar, the shoe shine shop, and the Terminal jail. Click here for more information on the new Transbay Center.
UPDATE: Carl Nolte’s great Sunday Chronicle column, “Native Son,” has now been posted online, with lots of detail, including an interview with Market Street Railway member Grant Ute.