Salesforce Transit Center Opens

This weekend, San Francisco will celebrate its new Salesforce Transit Center—a facility that will unite multiple transportation modes and public amenities in one spectacular downtown hub.

Located in the Transbay section of downtown San Francisco, the five-story, 1.5 million-square-foot center includes a ground level featuring a Grand Hall and 35,000 square feet of restaurant and commercial space; 56,000 square feet of commercial space on the second floor, a bus deck on the third floor, and a 5.4-acre urban park on the top floor. The train platforms are located below the ground floor.

The $2.4 billion complex will be introduced to the public during a grand opening block party on Saturday Aug. 11, when the community will get its first look at the interior of the transit center and its Grand Hall, and a chance to explore the public park on the roof of the building that covers four city blocks.

Bus service will begin at the transit center on Aug. 12, following the closure of the temporary Transbay Terminal, which has served as the bus terminal since the original Transbay Terminal closed in 2010. The new terminal will handle 900 buses that will serve an estimated 37,000 riders every weekday.

Salesforce Transit Center is very important to the city of San Francisco,” said Caroline Fenlon-Harding, principal-in-charge for WSP USA. “It has been a monumental project that links the Transbay neighborhood to other areas of San Francisco and a key addition to a vibrant and vital city center.”

WSP is the mechanical and electrical engineer of record for the project on behalf of the owner, Transbay Joint Powers Authority (TJPA) for the transit center, the rooftop park, and for the adjoining 61-story Salesforce Tower, which opened to tenants earlier this year. The firm is also responsible for smart building consulting and building technology systems by their technology consulting team, and sustainable design by the firm’s Built Ecology team. Pelli Clarke Pelli is the building’s design architect and Adamson Associates is the executive architect.

It is estimated that when in full service, the transit center will serve 100,000 passengers daily, and 45 million annually.

Changing Tides

The building features several groundbreaking design features that will reduce the building’s energy consumption.

The geothermal system within the Salesforce Transit Center uses underground tides and other natural ground source capabilities to save energy and lower water use for the facility.

Using more than 10 miles of high-density polyethelyne piping located underneath the foundation of the building, the ground loop heat exchanger supported by underground tidal flows will help the facility reduce its cooling and heating loads by extracting and injecting heat into the geothermal system.

With the soil naturally maintaining a steady temperature of 55-65 degrees Fahrenheit, it provides an enormous source and sink for energy exchange. In the summer, heat is removed from the building by the cooling system, transferred into the piping, and then stored in the ground. In the winter, heat is extracted from the ground and used to heat the building.

The system includes long-term ground thermal storage that can hold the geothermal energy for weeks or months; as well as short-term storage in the rain and graywater recovery tanks, which are refilled daily. The building’s automation system is programmed to control geothermal heating/cooling temperature for maximum energy efficiency.

“Using the tides and ground source to save energy and reduce operating costs by extracting and injecting heat into a geothermal system is among the most highly touted features of the building,” Fenlon-Harding said.

The project has small cooling towers to supplement the geothermal system. The towers take advantage of cooler outdoor conditions to further improve efficiency and lower operating costs.

The new transit center will use about 35 percent less energy than levels already required by California’s energy efficiency standards and ASHRAE’s 90.1 energy efficiency standard. WSP assisted with preparations for the design of the project to meet the requirements to achieve LEED Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

Alternate Ideas

An energy-efficient natural daylighting system uses 118-foot-tall light columns to bring light down from the rooftop park to the train station concourse and platform levels illuminating the structure and enhancing the commuter experience.

A dynamic lighting control system monitors occupancy with sensors that adjust the lighting based upon the available daylight. The building uses efficient LED lighting to further reduce energy costs and extend the system lamp life.

Another way WSP helped TJPA lower its energy cost was by negotiating a lower price through an alternate energy supplier.

“The TJPA was approached by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission to consider purchasing electricity from a supplier other than the primary electricity provider,” Fenlon-Harding said. “We assisted the client with review of the alternate provider’s capabilities to ensure that they could provide a solution equal to the traditional supplier, specifically with redundancies and back-up systems.”

Not only will TJPA will realize significant savings on its electricity costs without sacrificing service or quality, but this could have far-reaching benefits for other projects in the Bay region.

“This is a milestone project that has opened the door for others to consider alternative utility providers,” Fenlon-Harding said. “Salesforce Transit Center will be the largest single client for this provider, so it will be watched closely by others who are interested in different ways to buy and potentially to sell power in the region.” 

Smart Ideas

WSP served in a strategic consulting role with the design of the Salesforce Transit Center’s integrated smart technology, which will make it one of the most technologically advanced transit centers of its kind in the U.S.

WSP was specifically challenged to create a facility that creates a memorable and safe venue experience enhanced by advances in technology solutions.

“Its smart features make this more than just a transit center,” said Herbert Els, lead SMART consultant for WSP. “It is a public venue, with technology capable of generating revenue streams that this type of building would typically not have.

“We designed a data network that converged all intelligent buildings systems on one network. The systems are able to talk to one another and make use of shared data, not only enhancing building performance, functionality and environmental sustainability, but also provided a much more secure and reliable data network.”

WSP also integrated the necessary infrastructure and advised on the development of a mobile wayfinding app that will provide information to users, including train schedules, maps to locations, and emergency alerts. It will also provide critical data for TJPA that can help improve the center’s service to the public.

The future mobile app and the digital information display systems would create a combined digital platform meeting expectations of today’s digital age users. The mobile device platform solution will have location and context-aware capability delivering facility operational services, interactive content and communication to passengers, visitors and facility operators. The benefits of the mobile platform are dissemination of real time information to passengers, visitors and operators based on their specific profiles and needs.

“The future mobile app will identify where people enter the center, where they gather in the building, how long they stay in the building, and other details that will help improve information for retail negotiations,” Els said. “It will also provide capability for the public to contact emergency responders, and upload photos of safety or security concerns that can be forwarded to the proper authorities.”

“WSP was able to step up and help the owner discover what was possible with this technology,” Els said. “It anticipates public expectations in the future, and how a facility should interact with mobile devices and provide fast, secure service.” 

WSP also provided information technology design services for the transit facility including:

• a converged network approach to include VOIP/WAN/LAN/high-density WiFi networks
• visitor information systems through a large schedule board in the Grand Hall comprising 99 video screens, digital signage and mobile application aware technology
• emergency communications systems, utilizing two-way radio and telephony systems

Providing a digital platform inclusive of the future mobile app created another revenue opportunity considering the naming rights for the facility that led to the naming of the Salesforce Transit Center.


“It’s become more than just a name on the building,” Els said. “The naming includes the wayfinding app, which is something that will travel with people, and connect potential Salesforce investors with a much wider audience.” 


Branding the facility’s digital media taps another resource where the client can generate significant income.


“Any kind of infrastructure is a cost center,” Els said. “It costs money to continually upgrade and replace things within a facility. By creating this type of media platform, it transitions from just a cost center to a revenue stream.”

Milestone Marker

As preparations are made to celebrate the completed sections of the Salesforce Transit Center, work continues on other aspects of the facility, including the three-platform, six-track underground rail station and the which will bring the total project to 1.5 million square feet of public and private space when completed.

It has been a remarkable project for those who have been involved with its design and development.

“This celebrates a major milestone marker for an important project WSP has worked on for the past 10 years,” Fenlon-Harding said. “The Salesforce Transit Center pulls together a city center featuring surrounding buildings that WSP has designed through the years. It’s exciting to see how San Francisco has changed with expectation of its arrival, and to know how much WSP has contributed to bring about those changes.”

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