Maria Ayerdi Kaplan said that what became Salesforce Transit Center was a project that had been studied and debated since at least 1967 but had not been able to get off the ground. The former Transbay Transit Center Terminal was built in 1936 for the trains to travel from Sacramento, the California State Capital and Oakland and the East Bay into San Francisco along the tracks on the lower deck of the Bay Bridge.
Hence, the reason for the full loop elevated ramp structure of the former Transbay Terminal. It was used by the Key System, the Interurban Electric Railway Company and the Sacramento Northern. In 1957, the tracks were removed from the lower deck of the bridge and the Terminal became a bus only facility with East Bay buses and Greyhound as its main tenants.
Maria Ayerdi Kaplan Did Not See The Transbay Transit Center San Francisco As A Lost Cause
By the time Maria was put in charge in 1998, few people believed that the Transbay Project would get off the ground because talk of what to do with the terminal had been an ongoing debate for decades. Most people saw the idea of building a new Transbay terminal as a pipe dream.
Not Maria Ayerdi Kaplan.
To this day, whenever Ayerdi Kaplan hears the words “pipe dream” that is when she gets involved. She thrives on making the impossible happen, challenging the status quo, and thinking outside the box, all for a better world.
The Transbay Transit Center Terminal was the perfect project for her because it was challenging and would benefit the environment, public health, provide for the increasing workforce, and create new housing and open spaces. Ms. Ayerdi knew it was also an opportunity to rethink how stations were designed, engineered, and built.
The next challenge for Maria was to bring all the stakeholders together from environmental groups, to transit advocates, business groups, the unions, East Bay, Peninsula, Marin, South Bay cities, along with San Francisco and all the relevant elected officials at the local, state, and federal levels.
Under San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, she united everyone and invited groups that had previously been ignored such as a number of rail advocates and organizations. She had the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) convene a study to listen to everyone’s concerns and interests. At the conclusion of the study, everyone agreed to build a new station, keep it at its current location (which had been an ongoing source of debate for years), and have it serve rail and buses for the region, state, and across the country.
Maria Ayerdi Kaplan listened and showed she cared about everyone’s concerns and addressed them all. No one was left out who wanted to be heard. She knew that you never know what you will learn and who will be your friend down the road. The rail advocates, that had been ignored by prior administrations, ended up being some of her strongest allies and supporters in getting the project off the ground.
The next step Ms. Ayerdi took was to codify what had been agreed to in the study. She worked with grassroots organizers to draft a measure known as Proposition H that was presented to the voters in 1999, mandating that the City and County of San Francisco build a new station at its current site and that it accommodate all the modes of transit, buses, Caltrain, and High-Speed Rail. The measure also mandated that the rail be brought into the new intermodal station promptly.
SECTION 1. It shall be and is the law of the city and county that the Caltrain commuter rail line, operated by the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board or any successor agency thereto, be extended downtown to a regional intermodal transit station. To implement such law, the Mayor, the Board of Supervisors, and all city officers and agencies, including Redevelopment Agency Commissioners, with any authority over any aspect of the extension of Caltrain downtown or the Transbay land use planning and redevelopment effort (hereinafter referred to as “all relevant city officers and agencies”) shall adopt such further ordinances and resolutions and take all other actions as necessary to effectuate the prompt extension of Caltrain downtown to said station, and to protect right-of-way as identified in the Joint Powers Board’s draft Downtown Extension Environmental Impact Report from any development that would preclude the extension or increase its costs. (Highlight added. Proposition H, San Francisco, 1999)
Proposition H passed overwhelmingly by 69.1% in San Francisco. Maria understood early on that if you are going to get into the business of government and politics you must get the public on your side and one way of doing that is getting their support at the ballot box.
With Proposition H in hand and the support of the stakeholders, Maria set about raising the first seed money to get the project started. Congresswoman Pelosi provided the first funding in the amount of approximately $10 million which Ayerdi Kaplan put towards the Transbay Transit Center Program environmental review process.
Stay tuned – click here for Part Three.
Zennie Abraham is the CEO of Zennie62Media