San Francisco's $2.2 billion transit center finally reopened after a cracked beam kept it closed for the better part of a year — take a look around


san francisco transbay terminal salesforce transit center 112

  • San Francisco’s four-block-long Salesforce Transit Center and its rooftop park are now officially reopened to the public after an almost 10-month-long hiatus following the discovery of a cracked beam in the terminal’s third-floor deck.
  • Bus service through the transit center remains closed, but when it eventually restarts, eleven bus lines will stop at the station, and transit officials plan to eventually connect it to rail lines as well. 
  • A project almost two decades in the making, the transit center was designed to be a central nexus for local transportation.
  • The $2.2 billion transit center is being hailed as the “Grand Central Station of the West,” and some have compared its park to The High Line in New York.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

San Francisco’s highly-anticipated Salesforce Transit Center and the new park located on its roof are officially reopened to the public after the discovery of two cracked beams closed the center just six weeks after opening in September 2018.

Located in a colossal white building that snakes its way through the city’s downtown South of Market district, the transit project was almost two decades in the making and was designed as a much-needed improvement to San Francisco’s notoriously clogged transportation systems.

Bus service through the transit center remains closed, but routes on eleven bus lines will eventually stop at the transit center. In the future, the Caltrain commuter rail system will stop at the transit center, as will California’s long-promised high-speed rail system, which would connect the city with Los Angeles. 

The center’s urban design has drawn comparisons to New York’s new Oculus transit station, while its rooftop park has been likened to The High Line in New York, a park that’s located on a former elevated rail line. But its new nickname harkens back further into Gotham’s history.

The center has been dubbed the “Grand Central Station of the West.” It’s an apt moniker, given the building’s scale and $2.2 billion price tag.

Take a look around San Francisco’s “Grand Central Station.”

SEE ALSO: There’s a ‘water bar’ in San Francisco that will pour you shots of fruit water, not booze — take a look inside

The transit center’s bulbous white facade spans four blocks in downtown San Francisco. It’s hard to miss.

Its exterior is made from perforated white aluminum that was shaped into wave-like forms.

The main building consists of five levels, including the rooftop park and the Grand Hall on its ground level.

The Bus Deck is above the ground level. The structure’s two other levels are below-ground floors that were designed for rail lines but aren’t yet in use.

Source: Transbay Program

The transit center has a street-level entrance directly across from the new Salesforce Tower that provides easy access for the company’s employees.

The cloud computing giant shelled out $110 million for naming rights to the transit center.

Salesforce’s corporate sponsorship has been a contentious issue among San Francisco locals. Originally, the structure was going to be called the Transbay Terminal, the same name as the building it replaced. 

Source: Business Insider and Business Insider

Ground-level visitors enter into the Grand Hall, which is marked by large skeletal beams.

Overhead, a giant domed skylight bathes the Grand Hall with natural light.

The design is reminiscent of New York’s Oculus transportation hub.

Like Salesforce Transit Center, the Oculus is a futuristic white shell of a building. Some have compared it to a dinosaur skeleton or a whale carcass.

Source: Business Insider

Like the Oculus, the Salesforce Transit Center is designed to accommodate a mass influx of people — 45 million each year in its case.

Eleven transit systems, including Greyhound, Amtrak, and San Francisco’s Muni, have bus routes that stop at the station. Those bus routes provide connections to the eight surrounding counties and points beyond.

Source: Transbay Program

Commuters can find their bus connections and arrival times listed on a giant display board.

The center has several street-level exits.

Parts of the transit center are still under construction.

When the work is done, there will be entrances all around the center, including this one, which is directly across from Business Insider’s San Francisco office building.

Inside the station, lit pillars indicate where commuters should go, with food and transit lines one way …

… and other bus routes another way.

You can take the stairs or escalators up to the food hall.

But that, too, isn’t quite finished yet.

Eventually, the transit center will have 100,000 square feet of retail space.

Source: Business Insider

Although it’s not yet finished, the transit center is already being used by commuters, like this man who ran past to catch a bus.

He’s a part of a large community of San Francisco Bay Area commuters who can now get into and out of the city from one central terminal.

The station’s bus deck is above ground and offers a refreshing alternative to cramped subterranean stations.

The structure’s perforated exterior lets plenty of natural light into the bus loading areas.

The bus deck features a succession of loading bays for different lines.

A digital display in each bay shows expected arrival times.

While you’re waiting for your ride, you can get your tech fix at a Best Buy vending machine — the same kind you can find at some airports.

Some bathrooms on the level are available only to bus drivers.

You can take an elevator to the station’s different levels.

Such as the fourth level, where you’ll find Salesforce Park.

Sitting on top of the transit center, the park is open to everyone.

The 5.4-acre space includes winding pathways, plentiful foliage, and numerous seating areas.

It’s similar to New York’s High Line, a former elevated rail line on the west side of Manhattan that was converted into a park.

However, the Salesforce Transit Center is much smaller than the High Line.

Tiny, one-person benches line the park’s walking paths.

Some people sat on them taking calls. One couple I saw squeezed onto one together.

A spacious lawn runs the length of the park, with moveable chairs and tables for people to use.

Parts of the space look grown-in already, and people are already taking advantage of them by relaxing in the grass.

Attached to the railings that line the walking paths are metal plates detailing the origin and nature of the plant species bedded in the gardens.

In some spots, the greenery was lush and high enough that I felt like I was in an arboretum.

The air smelled nice and earthy too. I forgot that I was in the middle of one of the most technologically advanced cities in the world.

A quick look around, and up at the imposing Salesforce tower, reminded me where I was.

The hashtag icon of office messaging service Slack was in view, albeit hidden through the trees.

I spotted the office housing investment firm BlackRock’s iShares branch along the south edge of the park…

…as well as Charles Schwab offices…

…and LinkedIn’s new black cube-like headquarters loomed in the distance.

Source: Business Insider

It was like an outdoor museum exhibit of some of the city’s most prosperous companies.

I could see San Francisco’s newest skyscraper at 181 Fremont too.

Facebook’s Instagram branch will soon make 51 floors of it their new headquarters, and a number of multi-million-dollar condos take up the top portion of the tower.

Source: Business Insider

The Instagram offices are currently still being developed. I could spot some nifty technicolor-lit pillars from the park.

Instagram’s employees and residents in the building will be able to walk right into the park through a special access point.

The same goes for Salesforce employees from their offices across the way. They’re the only two buildings with direct access to the park.

They, and others in the park, have some uniquely striking sights of the city. Besides office views and ritzy high-level restaurants, perspectives of the city like this can be hard to come by.

I could easily get lost walking around — it’s a 5.4-acre park after all — but these posted icons were scattered around the space, which were actually really helpful.

Over on the west side of the park, the six-block-long “mini Bay Bridge” can be seen, where buses can easily enter the Bus Deck from the actual Bay Bridge without having to maneuver through the city’s congested streets. Its cables mirror the bone-like design of the rest of the center.

Source: The San Francisco Chronicle

Also from the west section, I could easily see into a couple of residences. It made me wonder how the occupants felt about their privacy being impacted by the new structure.

A stage that will be used for concerts and other events is on this side as well.

Toward the east side of the park is a plaza of sorts. A giant dome serves as the skylight that hangs over the grand foyer below.

Fitness classes are scheduled through the end of October, likely to ramp up involvement and attendance in the park.

People made themselves at home on the picnic tables, playing board games provided by a games cart. A family of three hashed out a round of Connect Four behind it.

A foosball table was up for grabs…

…and food vendors offered reasonably priced hot dogs and sandwiches. A more permanent restaurant is planned to eventually go up in this spot, so the vendors are temporary.

Source: Business Insider

Park goers lined up at the bar, where you could get a beer for $7. Not bad by San Francisco standards.

As I was making my laps, the pathway along the north edge split into two, with one slice of it decked out with tiles. I didn’t know what it was at first…

…until I saw spigots along the middle spewing water! A plaque further down described how the installation was designed.

As buses pass on the Bus Deck below, sensors are alerted to their movement which then activate the water jets. So the more traffic there is, the more fountain activity — pretty nifty.

Near the bus fountain is where the park’s glass aerial tram will spit out passengers.

The glass elevator was included in the Transit Center project to encourage passerby on the street level to check out the city park above.

But it can only transport 20 people at a time, which will likely result in some fairly long lines. It was poised to open in June, but that date has since been pushed back.

Source: Business Insider

Until then, park goers can use elevators, stairs, and escalators. Elevators are placed at the far ends of the park, as well as toward the middle.

Though with a transit center right smack in the middle of the city, it’s easy to access any part of it.