The future of the over-budget and oversize $2.5 billion Transbay Transit Center is a fearful topic for the Chronicle's Matier and Ross, with the twinning mustache journalists writing that a major operating budget has officials "scrambling."
The Transbay Transit Center was pitched as the west's Grand Central Station, a transportation hub for buses, trains, and more. But from that, subtract the "trains," and perhaps the "more." California Republicans in congress have delayed, maybe indefinitely, the $674 million federal grant earmarked to electrify Caltrain, an essential part of connecting the high-speed rail project between San Jose and San Francisco. In fact, the entire high-speed rail project is in turmoil under the Trump administration, although, to be fair, the Downtown Rail Extension project, which would extend Caltrain from the current 4th and King Station to the Transbay Transit Center, wasn't exactly running on schedule when we last checked in before the presidential election in November.
But these days, without even a timeline for the high-speed rail, figures for visitors —as many as 100,000 a day were once expected — have been hastily revised. For the time being, we're looking at "the world’s most expensive bus station," in the words of the Chronicle writers, "serving mainly the 14,000 transbay bus commuters who roll in and out daily on AC Transit." Without the added foot traffic from high-speed rail riders, the mall space in the Transbay Transit Center is less attractive to businesses who might rent it, and the Transbay Joint Powers Authority, who are building the project, may end up offering a lowball price to attract a renter.
"The elephant in the living room is solving the operating subsidy problem, which could be as large as $20 million a year — and without a source of revenue,” Chair of SF's Transportation Authority Aaron Peskin tells the Chron. Indeed, the center will operate 24/7, employing at least 65 private security guards, bolstered by police and sheriff's deputies. For his part, Mark Zabaneh, the executive director of the Transbay Joint Powers Authority, says flat out that he expects to operate at a deficit.
In the end, Messrs. Matier and Ross speculate that "taxpayers and bridge commuters will probably be on the hook to pick up millions of dollars in costs, although the exact amount still isn’t known." Bridge commuters have already chipped in $350 million to help build the center, and the transit authority appears poised to add a toll-increase to the Bay Area ballot next year.
Meanwhile, Salesforce, which lent its name to the massive Pelli Clarke Pelli tower, previously the Transbay Tower, in 2014 could be of some assistance. Salesforce has told City Hall it's willing to add its name to the garden, which is slated to sit on top of the Transbay Transit Center, for $3 million a year. That's a start, but sources to the Chronicle say a deal hasn't yet been inked. Maybe there's room to expand upon it, then: "The Salesforce Transbay Transit Center, Salesforce Park, and Salesforce Tower complex" has a certain ring to it.
Related: It's Come To This: Caltrain Launches Online Petition In Effort To Save Electrification Plan