With just four days left before bus service at the Transbay Transit Center migrates to a temporary terminal at Mission and Howard streets, transportation officials have been making a last ditch effort to inform riders of the looming changes.
Hundreds of transit riders flowed in and out of the temporary terminal Tuesday during an open house event meant to introduce the public to an open-air space that will house bus service for the next seven years during construction of the replacement terminal.
Representatives from AC Transit, Golden Gate Transit, Greyhound, Muni, SamTrans and WestCAT Lynx, all of which will run buses out of the temporary terminal, were on hand to distribute maps and reorient riders.
Also at work were homeless outreach teams, who were trying to place the last of roughly 100 homeless people who camp out around the existing terminal before demolition set to begin Aug. 13 pushes them out.
“Some of these people have been able to carve out a low level of existence and haven’t been willing to move,” said Dariush Kayhan, director of homeless policy for the city’s Human Services Agency.
Over the last three months, the homeless outreach team has increased their efforts, setting up a remote office on the lower level of the terminal to better reach the homeless population in and around the terminal.
Roughly half of the encampment is made up of people who stay a day or two before relocating, Kayhan said. Of the remaining 50 people who take shelter there long-term, 26 have already moved into transitional housing managed by the agency.
Placement in permanent housing can take up to 6 months for those who opt for the transition, but housing is just one part of the equation, Kayhan said. The outreach team offers help with detoxification and alcohol abuse to provide solutions that last and help his clients “thrive,” he said.
“But that demolition date has given us a healthy dose of leverage,” Kayhan said, referring to midnight Aug. 13, when crews will begin tearing down an overhead ramp that is blocking completion of the temporary terminal.
As the days before the construction work grow thin, Kayhan said that more of the homeless people have reconsidered the offer as they’ve seen their neighbors leave for the housing.
“People they’ve slept next to have moved out, and those are they people they know and trust,” Kayhan said. In such situations, his team has even been able to place neighbors in the same building to help keep their sense of community alive.
But it wasn’t just the homeless who expressed skepticism over changes brought about by the temporary terminal – some transit riders who were out this afternoon said they were frustrated that they’ll soon been exposed the elements in the outdoor space.
“In the name of getting a new terminal, if this is part of the change, then so be it,” said Berkeley resident and commuter Mamie Lai, who rides an AC Transit express bus. “But, I’m worried about winter.”
Other riders said they would have preferred a sprucing up of the existing structure.
“It functions fine for me right now, even with the smells” said Alameda resident Keenan Lin. “As for the rain, I guess I’ll have to deal.”
As with any change, some said they were sad to lose the existing structure, built in 1939 as a terminus for trains that used to cross the Bay Bridge and renovated to later accommodate buses.
“The first time I ever saw San Francisco it was when I walked out of the terminal,” said San Francisco resident Kathy Velykis. “It’s got sentimental value, it’s a shame it’s all over.”