San Francisco's Transbay Transit Center

Archaeological Investigations and Public Outreach at Transbay Transit Center

Chronicle Heritage, operating at the time as PaleoWest, is conducting archaeological investigations for the 22-Block Transbay Transit Center Project in downtown San Francisco. The project would extend the Peninsula commuter rail service to a terminal in the South of Market neighborhood, and, in the process, relocate necessary utilities, demolish the existing Transbay Terminal and viaduct structure, construct a new Transbay Terminal building, and integrate bus and high speed rail service serving the city.

In addition to the archaeological investigations conducted by Chronicle Heritage for the Transbay Transit Center Project in San Francisco, several other noteworthy aspects of their involvement can be highlighted:

Field Surveys and Excavations:

Chronicle Heritage conducted extensive field surveys and excavations throughout the 22-block project area. These activities aimed to identify, document, and recover any archaeological artifacts or features that could provide insights into the area’s history and cultural significance. The surveys involved systematic walkovers, shovel testing, and, when necessary, larger-scale excavations to uncover buried remains.

Artifact Analysis and Interpretation:

Following the excavation and recovery of artifacts, Chronicle Heritage undertook a comprehensive analysis to understand the cultural context and significance of the findings. This analysis involved studying the artifacts’ material, style, and manufacturing techniques, as well as their spatial distribution within the project area. By interpreting the artifacts, Chronicle Heritage gained valuable insights into the historical and cultural aspects of the site.

Cultural Resources Program:

Chronicle Heritage developed and implemented a cultural resources program as part of the Transbay Transit Center Project. This program ensured compliance with federal and state regulations concerning the identification, evaluation, and mitigation of impacts to cultural resources. It included the establishment of protocols, procedures, and guidelines to guide the project’s interaction with the archaeological and cultural heritage of the area.

Exhibit Design and Installation:

As a component of the project’s cultural resources program, Chronicle Heritage took the initiative to design and install an exhibit that showcased the history of the project area and its connection to the artifacts discovered during the investigations. This exhibit served to educate the public about the significance of the site and foster an appreciation for the cultural heritage of San Francisco. The exhibit’s design and content received recognition, as it was honored with a Preservation Design Award from the California Preservation Foundation.

Public Outreach and Education:

Chronicle Heritage actively engaged in public outreach and education efforts related to the Transbay Transit Center Project. They organized public events, presentations, and workshops to share information about the archaeological discoveries, the project’s cultural significance, and the importance of preserving and understanding the region’s history. Through these efforts, Chronicle Heritage fostered awareness and appreciation for the project’s cultural resources among the local community and beyond.

It is worth noting that the Transbay Transit Center Project involved various other aspects beyond the scope of Chronicle Heritage’s archaeological investigations. These included the relocation of utilities, demolition of existing structures, construction of a new terminal building, and integration of bus and high-speed rail services. Chronicle Heritage’s contribution to the project, specifically in the realm of cultural resources, ensured that archaeological heritage was appropriately considered, documented, and shared with the public through the exhibit and educational initiatives.

Additional Information


URS Corporation


Transbay Joint Powers Authority, San Francisco, California


  • Land Development
  • Transportation


  • Archaeology

Case Study Type

  • Main

Results at a Glance

  • Delivered wide-ranging cultural resource services from field surveys to data recovery and artifact analysis
  • Chronicle Heritage designed and installed an exhibit that describes the history of the project area and relates that history to the artifacts that are on display as part of the exhibit.
  • The exhibit received a Preservation Design Award from the California Preservation Foundation.

The aim wasn’t simply an update of the bus terminal, a concrete hulk that opened in 1939, but the West Coast equivalent of New York City’s Grand Central Terminal — “a world-class facility for the city and Bay Area to be proud of,”

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