October 23, 1997
(Early settlers in San Francisco gave the name
to the area now bounded by Stevenson, First, Natoma, and
Second streets, the present site of the Transbay Transit Terminal.)
I'll tell you a story, and maybe it's true,
And maybe it happened to someone you knew.
Or I could have dreamed it, but then maybe not.
You be the judge: I'll tell you the plot.
Yes, you be the judge as I tell you the plot.
Won't you look back to that day long ago
When buses and trains started to go
Across the Bay Bridge and into the city
Like a daily parade --- my, it was pretty.
Yes, the daily parade was certainly pretty.
They all made a journey to Mission and First
Where, swelling with pride as though it would burst,
A brand new building, neat as a pin,
Stretched out its ramps and ushered them in.
Yes, it stretched out its ramps and ushered them in.
A much older building, off to the north,
Had welcomed the ferries that sped back and forth.
Now nearly forgotten, it stood white and tall,
And turned quite forlorn at the hint of a squall.
Yes, it turned quite forlorn at the hint of a squall.
For the age of the ship had decidedly passed.
With wheel-borne commuting so chic and so fast,
Only nostalgia would make people pay
To bobble like duckies as they crossed the bay.
Yes, they bobbled like duckies as they crossed the bay.
But south of the slot, at the end of the line,
The gray Transbay Terminal stood as a sign,
(A shining prediction to gladden the glum)
Of the prosperous splendor that was going to come.
Yes, a prosperous splendor was going to come.
The people who rose from its depths every morn
Neglected to notice the walls getting worn,
So happy were they with their beepers and faxes,
And gauging success by each rise in their taxes.
Yes, they gauged their success by each rise in their taxes.
Small matter it was that the land all around,
Once the happiest valley that ever was found,
Had changed over time --- and no one knew why for ---
Until it became an industrial eyesore.
Yes, at last it became an industrial eyesore.
The clatter of trains at the platforms soon stopped
And the number of buses then gradually dropped.
To travel by auto became the new rule ---
And you don't need a terminal when you carpool.
Yes, no need for a terminal when you carpool.
The '89 earthquake was marking the end
When Caltrans stepped in, very willing to spend
The money required to shore up the place,
To perk up its image and lift up its face.
Yes, the money would lift up its now-sagging face.
But some in the city had different plans
And paid no attention to the words of Caltrans.
They wanted to use an entirely new site
And develop the old one as they thought was right.
Yes, they'd develop the old one as they thought was right.
No matter the offer to change Caltrain's route
And tie in a tunnel to BART lines to boot.
The mayor, with grandiose dreams in his head,
Called out, "Damn public transit! Full speed ahead!"
Yes, damn public transit and full speed ahead.
Then early one morning the city went dark ---
With the flip of a switch someone left us his mark ---
And out of the chaos I heard a faint shout,
"Where was our Willie when the lights all went out?"
Yes, where was our Willie when the lights all went out?
For the test of a city is making it work
When accidents happen and minds go berserk.
Though solo construction may be lots of fun,
It's building together that gets the job done.
Yessir, building together will get the job done.