An unfond farewell to San Francisco's dingy, dark, fetid Transbay Terminal

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Todd Lappin has a terrific photo essay about the soon-to-be-closed Transbay Terminal in San Francisco.

The structure has barely changed since it opened, and today an unknowing visitor might be forgiven for wondering if it hadn't been cleaned since, either. The Transbay Terminal is a dingy, depressing, and fetid place -- think New York's Port Authority Bus Terminal, but without the bustle of crowds to at least provide some vitality. This probably explains why so little nostalgia has accompanied the announcement that the Transbay Terminal will close permanently on August 7, 2010. Thereafter it will be demolished, and eventually replaced with a gleaming new facility that will be home to a César Pelli-designed high-rise tower, a 5.4 acre rooftop park, and an underground train station for (hopefully) high speed rail service to Los Angeles.
One problem -- Todd's photos are so good, he makes the Transbay Terminal look awesome.

An Unfond Farewell to San Francisco's Dingy, Dark, Fetid Transbay Terminal


  1. All of San Francisco is nasty… don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love San Fran, but I call it “The City That Never Sweeps.”

  2. Aw, I like these old noirish parts of SF. When the skies are grey and if you squint a little, you can see Bogart hopping into a Packard, trying to escape some goons and Peter Lorre.

  3. I’ll always remember the Transbay Terminal as the embarkation point for my first Green Tortoise trip, way back in ’91.

  4. I’ve taken the Greyhound up to Garberville a few times from there this year … It’s an awful place, dark and scary during the daytime. I’ve no idea what it’d be like in there after dark, and I don’t want to know. It’s a shame, though, because the building itself it not terrible, it’s just devoid of the soul and bustle that great transport hubs should have.

  5. Despite the fact that I have lived and worked a good portion of my life within a few miles of the Transbay Terminal I think I have actually been inside it only twice…and it smelled like pee

  6. But I like dingy, depressing, and fœtid.

    Guaranteed there won’t be a shoeshine booth in the new place.

  7. I was there two weeks ago. It’s a far cry from the way it was during WWII. The Key System trains departed from there via the lower deck of the Bay Bridge. It was a very busy place with cab lines down both sides. There were news stands, boot blacks, and even a restaurant. Now the ticket windows are boarded up. There were posted signs saying there was a ticket machine somewhere but I never found it. It only takes time to move from the center to the outer edge and then vanish.
    Across the street there was a Foster’s cafeteria with a mosaic done by Benny Bufano. He had a lifetime meal ticket from Foster’s.

  8. “Aw, I like these old noirish parts of SF.”
    “But I like dingy, depressing, and fÅ“tid. ”
    I agree.

    Does anyone else feel like Yerba Buena Gardens is a glorified prison yard? It’s nice and clean, and is surrounded with surveillance cameras and security guards. All it needs are snipers.

    I think SF is just trying to make it incredibly difficult for the homeless to find places to sleep at night (or day).

  9. The only reason it looks awesome is because you can’t smell it. I’m in the terminal every day on my commute in and on my commute out and the place is vile and creepy. The waiting area for the busses is ok, but I hate walking though there late at night. Hopefully the new terminal will be better but we’ve got a long wait before we’ll know.

    And the shoeshine thing was behind a wall until recently according to the SF Chron.

  10. Yahhh: Good Riddance! Ugly and underutilized.

    Though as a respectful shout out to the partisans of decay I kinda hope they never rehabilitate the Hunters Point Navy yards: the old factories and warehouses half destroyed and listing, broken windows and cracked masonry walls, smoke stacks and razor wire: my little piece of post-apocalyptic heaven.

    Nothing more fun than sneaking around a Superfund site: nibble a few paint chips, rub some dirt on your arms, throw rocks haphazardly. . .WAY more fun than Six Flags

    Full disclosure: I’m sure I’ll find fault with the new Terminal too.

  11. One man’s “dingy, dark, & foetid” is another man’s “normal”. Too bad they’re tearing this down instead of renovating it. It’s a damn shame that this architecture will be replaced with something more mall-like.

  12. I, for one, will miss it. It was part of my morning commute for years. I loved that building, smog and all. Its replacement is ghastly.

  13. Under the willie brown administration, all the small businesses inside the terminal were forced to shut down / vacate. Prior to that, the terminal had a life to it…with bars, restaurants, newstands, etc. After…well….to call it a urinal would be generous.

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