First SF Muni buses depart from new Salesforce Transit Center

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The giant new Salesforce Transit Center downtown is already up and running -- technically. (KGO-TV)

The giant new Salesforce Transit Center downtown is already up and running -- technically.

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San Francisco's Municipal Transit Agency took the historically light commute the day after Christmas to move a single bus line into a just-finished corner of the new structure, even as construction continues around it.

"A lot of people are off for the holiday week, and we really didn't want to inconvenience people as we get our bearings," said SMFTA spokesperson Erica Kato.

With many office workers on vacation, Kato said the holiday provides a chance for Muni to work out the bugs in its new location while downtown is a ghost town.

"Since December 6, we've been out here testing our different sized buses to make sure we can make the appropriate turns," she said.

For now, only the 5-Fulton bus line will depart from the new terminal -- a line that technically comes in three "flavors:" rapid, regular and short. The all-electric rapid buses, which skip stops, will continue to leave from the Temporary Transbay Terminal around the corner, along with the regular buses that go all the way to Ocean Beach. Only the "short line" buses -- the ones that only go as far as Golden Gate Park -- will leave from the new terminal during the test phase.

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Muni "ambassadors" in orange vests will greet 5-Fulton riders at the Temporary Transbay Terminal to let them know about the route change and encourage them to try out the new bus stop a block and a half away.

"I think it's gonna be cool to have a fancy brand new terminal right here in the heart of San Francisco," said Rick Pal, who we found at the old 5-Fulton stop near the temporary terminal.

The "fancy new terminal" is a long time coming. Since the demolition of the old Transbay Terminal in 2011, construction on the sprawling new complex has been nearly non-stop. It stretches three city blocks -- twice the length of the Transamerica Pyramid -- with a five-acre rooftop park that's already beginning to take shape. With hopes that Caltrain and high-speed rail will ultimately connect to the center underground, the price tag is expected to top $6 billion by the time it's complete.

"All the construction and all that -- I think it'll be best when it's finally open," said Donna Lucas, who was waiting to cross the street with two small dogs.

Indeed, the construction and the rerouting of buses to the temporary terminal have both had an impact on traffic -- something the new transit center is expected to help, with Transbay buses routed directly into its upper deck from a freeway flyover ramp. AC Transit, SamTrans, and Greyhound all have plans to move in -- perhaps as soon as June -- giving passengers shelter from wet weather by the time San Francisco's rainy season begins in October.
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Still, Muni has its perpetual haters, and some of them may never be satisfied.

"Now, there's a lot of people with big bags of bottles and cans and some smelly people," said Cary Friedman, who says he's ridden the buses for many years. He was quick to add: "Some bus drivers are really nice -- but it's not a fun ride. For anybody."

Click here for more stories, photos, and video on the Salesforce Transit Center.
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trafficmass transittransportationpublic transportationsalesforceSalesforce Transit CenterBARTmunibusSan Francisco
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