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August 4, 2010 12:03 PM   Subscribe

Other than its former residents, few mourn the demolition of San Francisco's Transbay Terminal.
posted by Chinese Jet Pilot (39 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
Still nicer than (NY) Penn Station.
posted by schmod at 12:08 PM on August 4, 2010


I've been in Public Toilets nicer than Penn Station.


(Is Moyihan ever getting built or is it like the 2nd Ave subway fever dream?)
posted by The Whelk at 12:14 PM on August 4, 2010


I mourn it. It was a great place with atmosphere and history. Of course, it was also depressing, scary, and foreboding. That's part of why it was great.

Carl Nolte writes, "It's surreal -- a home for homeless, broken, ignored people, surrounded by high-rise, gleaming condo towers." Of course it's surreal. That's the way all of SF is -- surreal. The point is, you don't want people to realize and be reminded of how surreal SF is.

That's why you want places like the Transbay Terminal to be demolished -- so the homeless can be rousted and scattered, so the disparity that you allude to can be elided. Screw you.
posted by blucevalo at 12:17 PM on August 4, 2010




I like that place a lot.

When I was in college, I took a Greyhound trip across the country at least once or twice a year. There are so many cities of which I've only seen what you can see during a two-hour layover, so I've only seen the "bad parts" of lots of US cities. That was my introduction to San Francisco, and now it's just a couple blocks from where I live. At first, I lived here out of economic necessity - just like I'd taken the bus out of economic necessity - but now it's just where I live.

The Transbay Terminal represents an older, tougher San Francisco. One that you can still see from time to time, but you often have to squint.

Lots of pictures here.
posted by roll truck roll at 12:22 PM on August 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think most of Bioshock's interiors are inspired by the Transbay Terminal. I used to work down the block from the Terminal - and it WAS very unpleasant. Particularly for the women from my office who had to nagivate the long dark traffic tunnel. I won't miss it.

Also - I think the homeless deserve a better solution than living in an abandoned transit station if that's cited for a reason to keep the terminal around.
posted by helmutdog at 12:25 PM on August 4, 2010 [4 favorites]


Wow, great link, Chinese Jet Pilot. I can't believe that the same guy has been tending that patch of greenery for the entire lifetime of that huge tree.

As for the terminal itself, well, the temporary terminal already looks 100x better.
posted by breath at 12:28 PM on August 4, 2010


Chinese Jet Pilot, what a neat link. I'm embarrassed to say I never once thought about who might be taking care of the greenery near there.
posted by small_ruminant at 12:29 PM on August 4, 2010


Of all the places I've nearly witnessed a stabbing, the Transbay Terminal is perhaps the most harrowing.
posted by kittyprecious at 12:31 PM on August 4, 2010


I took the AC bus from there a lot and loved the Transbay Terminal. 'Course that was in 1976 on days I couldn't afford the BART fares to Berkeley/Shattuck. Those were lean times. I worked as a timesharing clerk for $650/month gross at 40 Montgomery, whilst taking night classes at Golden Gate on 200 Mission Street. I can't account for its demise since then.
posted by nj_subgenius at 12:35 PM on August 4, 2010


Of all the places I've nearly witnessed a stabbing

Aiyah.
posted by yeloson at 12:35 PM on August 4, 2010


The garden link is great, poor guy. I hope he's smuggled out some of the plants and moved them to greener pastures.

I'm not a fan of tearing old things down, and I loved the look of the terminal but yes, something had to be done it was falling apart.
posted by dabitch at 1:11 PM on August 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Mygod, for a second there I mis-read that as "First and Market" and thought they meant the Ferry Building. Still. I will mourn its passing a little bit. Every time I go back another chunk of my childhood has been demolished. The hospital I was bon in (St. Lukes) and my high school (McAteer -- yeah, it sucked though, architecturally) are both gone.
posted by Devils Rancher at 1:14 PM on August 4, 2010


I use the Transbay Terminal every weekday, I will not be sad to see it go. I will however mourn the loss of the dedicated East-bound on-ramp to the Bay Bridge the temporary transit center lacks.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 1:16 PM on August 4, 2010


I hope they do something with that awesome bar downstairs (see the flickr set) and those great waiting benches. I'd hate to think those would be trashed.
posted by Brockles at 1:18 PM on August 4, 2010


(Is Moyihan ever getting built or is it like the 2nd Ave subway fever dream?)

Still in progress, planning-wise. MSG kind of dicked around with the plans for a while before deciding to just renovate the current place. The 2nd ave subway is actually under construction though, so maybe they will finish around the same time.
posted by smackfu at 1:20 PM on August 4, 2010


Maybe it's a false memory of someplace else, but didn't SF have a regular old Greyhound station just a ways up Mission, somewhere near where SFMOMA is now? I loved those inner-city Greyhound stations when I was a kid. Most of all, they had a very unique smell, and everything was metal of some sort. And loud. A sensory feast for a little kid.
posted by Devils Rancher at 1:22 PM on August 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


There used to be a singles bar there called Cuddles. I never went there, but I loved imagining myself spending my later years there as a singles-barfly.
posted by freshwater_pr0n at 1:24 PM on August 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Maybe it's a false memory of someplace else, but didn't SF have a regular old Greyhound station just a ways up Mission, somewhere near where SFMOMA is now?

I think it was near Mission & 7th. I do remember the station when I lived in the Tenderloin. If I'm correct, then it's a parking lot today.
posted by Chinese Jet Pilot at 1:36 PM on August 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


The Whelk: "I've been in Public Toilets nicer than Penn Station."

For a while I lived in Carteret, NJ and worked at a club in Manhattan. I had to commute through Penn Station at around 3 or 4 AM. On weekends.

I had to use the bathroom in Penn Station often. The horrors that I have seen...

Thanks for reminding me.
posted by Splunge at 1:38 PM on August 4, 2010


Grandmother was mugged twice there.
posted by pianomover at 1:38 PM on August 4, 2010


I've been in Public Toilets nicer than Penn Station.

So you can imagine what Penn Station's public toilets are like.

No, seriously. If you value the contents of your stomach, do not go there!
posted by schmod at 1:39 PM on August 4, 2010


In regards to the proposed San Francisco Transbay development: the 1980s called, and they want their future back. I'm surprised the conceptual rendering people didn't slip a hover car in there for fun.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:44 PM on August 4, 2010


I've been in Public Toilets nicer than Penn Station.

Most public toilets have less piss on the floor than the Transbay Terminal. I've seen cars have to change lanes because some raggedy dude was standing on the sidewalk shooting an arc out into traffic. Lots of turds in the tunnel as well.

Of all the places I've nearly witnessed a stabbing

I've had to find street parking because the cops were collecting evidence from my parking spot at the Transbay Terminal (three people were shot a couple hours prior).


The Transbay Terminal is a concrete cesspool populated by insane homeless people, drunk club-goers, and all their piss, shit, blood, and vomit. It can't be torn down fast enough.
posted by ryanrs at 1:45 PM on August 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


Thanks for the link about the gardener, awesome and sort of sad. It's unusual for a gardener to be ble to care for a public garden over so many seasons. I'm glad he got to see it grow up.

The Chronicle also visited the terminal when they opened up the old restaurant and bar for the last time.
posted by oneirodynia at 1:53 PM on August 4, 2010


I hope somebody can salvage these benches or these shoe-shine seats. They're probably too big for any kind of residential use and they're probably riddled with cooties (or hepatitis C) but still.
posted by mhum at 1:54 PM on August 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


I rode the AC Transit F bus from the terminal to UC Berkeley nearly every day for four years, so I spent a not-inconsiderable time in this building. It was terrible--waiting outside would have been better. Nothing like the stench of urine mixed with bus exhaust to start and end your day. That boarded-up cocktail bar is neat, though.

I do hope they keep the Emperor Norton plaque.
posted by hal incandenza at 1:55 PM on August 4, 2010


For a while I lived in Carteret, NJ and worked at a club in Manhattan. I had to commute through Penn Station at around 3 or 4 AM. On weekends.

I had to use the bathroom in Penn Station often. The horrors that I have seen...

Thanks for reminding me.


I once saw a disheveled man walk out of the Penn Station bathrooms, nonchalantly, carrying a wooden test tube holder. In the holder were various liquids, ranging from a very light golden to dark amber color.

I could only assume he was procuring new urine samples for his collection.
posted by defenestration at 2:20 PM on August 4, 2010


The latter day Transbay Terminal is one of the sketchiest places I've ever passed through more than once, and I've been in a lot of Greyhound stations. Something about it is claustrophobic like a bad zombie movie or video game, like someone built a transit center on the site of an old, scary insane asylum and the patients kept coming back.
posted by loquacious at 2:44 PM on August 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


What an ignominious end to what looked to be a very beautiful station in its first incarnation. The pictures of the old diner, bar and shoeshine from the FPP's first Flickr link stand proof of that.

But somewhere along the way, it seems They just stopped caring. It is sad to watch the deterioration of an abandoned building, but the deterioration of a functioning public facility is even worse. If it hadn't been left with barely-minimal maintenance, I wonder what the chances would be that the building would have been good enough to withstand a renovation and expansion instead of total demolition.

There was also a picture of a homeless outreach center in one of the Flickr galleries. What's going to happen to them?

Are there any plans or designs for the new high-rise, high-rail-whatever station? I won't presume that the firms behind the new one don't do things at all like whoever designed the old place. There's grace in that building if you look hard enough. The tall windows above the entrance are lovely and the benches are amazing. Even the old wooden phone booths with the little seats built into the wall. I miss those.

And while Penn Station in NYC is dire for rail (the Amtrak platform is stiflingly muggy, the rest rooms best ignored and I will always, without fail, manage to wind up at the 1/2/3 gates when I need an E train) Port Authority is hell for buses.

The Peter Pan/Greyhound bus you take to get to Boston boards at the very very very very end of the lowest tunnel on the lowest level of the gates. The damn hallway slopes downward, fer crying out loud. The ceilings are low and the atmosphere is dismal. Everybody's tired, everybody's been waiting forever, everybody's heard the fellow Not-Really-In-Perdition trying to raise money for a "bus ticket to Albany" so many times that the destination and travel directions have changed twice. To complete the theme, you are surrounded by reddish-orange tiles.

Add to that the fact that Greyhound overbooks their buses so that even if you show up damn early for your 6:30 bus there might be so many people already waiting that you end up taking the 11:45 bus instead, and the lesson is clear: you go to Hell when you go Greyhound. (And you best not go alone, so that a trusted friend can save your spot in line if you need to brave the rest room or something.)

Luckily the new profusion of Boston-NYC bus lines, some of whom actually go so far as to sell only as many tickets for a bus as they have seats, means that you don't have to go through any of that again unless you're truly masochistic.
posted by Spatch at 3:06 PM on August 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


I lived on Third between Brannan and Bryant from 93 to 00 (across Third from the A-hole and South Park) I'm haven't lived there for 10 years so maybe I'm remembering in sepia tones but I feel at home in the scruffy parts. Safety in San Francisco is usually pretty close if you have the legs and ego to run. South of Market was an acrid palate cleanser when I was working at 235 Montgomery. I liked when they built the ballpark and added some newer buildings that at first made for a nice mix but I was back there last fall and I hate what my old slum has become.

Fact: The Men's at the Iron Maiden / Scorpions concert in '93 at the Oakland Coliseum is the worst bathroom in recorded history.
posted by vapidave at 3:25 PM on August 4, 2010


Luckily the new profusion of Boston-NYC bus lines, some of whom actually go so far as to sell only as many tickets for a bus as they have seats, means that you don't have to go through any of that again unless you're truly masochistic.

Unless said new bus line (Bolt, in my case) is running late and so you miss your connection in NYC. They boarded last-minute show ups before those of us who got screwed by their lateness- and so many of us didn't make it. It was their advice to go try Port Authority to see if we could get tickets there instead.

(Port Authority is some kind of awful, and we never did get tickets, so we ended up taking another Bolt bus something like 6 hrs after our scheduled one). Lesson: Bolt is not like an airline, and sees no reason whatsoever to try to help out customers who miss connections. No more connections on Bolt for me.


Ah, also: I was always a little worried about taking the buses in SF that terminated at the Transbay; more than once I made the choice not to make the trip rather than to go through there late at night or alone. I don't feel bad about that choice, but I can't have been the only one making it. I wonder how many more passengers those buses will get now?
posted by nat at 3:27 PM on August 4, 2010


Are there any plans or designs for the new high-rise, high-rail-whatever station?


Here you go.
posted by oneirodynia at 3:39 PM on August 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ah, clean, sterile stainless steel and tinted glass. A generation's architectural legacy continues to grow.
posted by Spatch at 3:59 PM on August 4, 2010


Bolt is not like an airline

BoltBus is a joint venture of Greyhound and Peter Pan, so this is not really surprising. AFICT it's basically the same old service with some turd polish applied.
posted by Kadin2048 at 4:09 PM on August 4, 2010


I spent a lot of time there as a teenager in the early 80s, waiting for the "A" bus back to the eastbay after seeing a show at the Mab or the On Broadway.
There used to be a sketchy arcade across the street with the unintentionally appropriate name of "Fun Terminal" (memorialized on the cover of the Mutants' album of the same name.)
Since I work nearby, I went to take one final look around. I was glad to see that the "Platform Type Shoes Can be Dangerous on Ramps" warnings that seemed dated decades ago were still there.
posted by zombiedance at 4:12 PM on August 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


As far as I know, the Transbay Terminal is the last remnant of mid-century public-transportation architecture in the Bay Area. The railings, the signs, the layout of the platforms, the warren-like maze of passageways; everything there conjures up an image of flocks of men in drab wool suits and hats, briefcase in one hand, newspaper in the other. It's beautiful.

I wish that it could be preserved, brightened up, carefully restored as a showcase of its achingly American (to my mind) style. But I understand that its problems aren't fixable, and I won't argue that it isn't kinder to just put it out of its misery. I can only hope that its replacement does it the justice that it certainly deserves.
posted by clorox at 5:28 PM on August 4, 2010


San Francisco is a Godawful place to be homeless. The streets stink and the Transbay Terminal sounds like The Black Hole of Calcutta only American.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 8:30 PM on August 4, 2010


As far as I know, the Transbay Terminal is the last remnant of mid-century public-transportation architecture in the Bay Area.

Calling it "midcentury" gives it too much credit. It's Depression-era rather than post-war and the "depression" part is particularly apt. There are a handful of nice architectural touches but they're a lot less impressive in person than they are in photos, where the framing can hide the drab gray ugly of their surroundings.

My walk from BART to work takes me down Fremont and under the building. The only thing I'll miss about the terminal will be not having to pick my way through an active demolition project on the way to the office every morning.
posted by Lazlo at 1:10 AM on August 5, 2010


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