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Security contracts for Transbay Transit Center approved ahead of opening

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Construction for the Temporary Transbay Terminal takes place near Main and Howard streets in San Francisco, Calif. on Monday, January 15, 2018. (Sarahbeth Maney/Special to S.F. Examiner)

San Francisco has approved contracts for police and private security guards to patrol the Transbay Transit Center, including a team to interact with homeless persons.

After seven years of construction and delays, The City’s “Grand Central Station of the West” is expected to open later this year with bus service, a five-story Transit Center building and a rooftop park.

Exactly when remains uncertain. But when the construction is finally complete, a security team will be up and running based out of an onsite Security Operations Center.

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The Transbay Joint Powers Authority Board of Directors approved a 3.5-year, $18.2 million contract with Universal Protection Service, LP, otherwise known as Allied, for unarmed security guard and ambassador services.

The ambassador services are modeled after community ambassadors used in community benefit districts like Union Square, Fisherman’s Wharf and Yerba Buena Gardens to provide a more friendly and less intimidating contact for those who may be homeless in area.

“They are trained to reach out to people in need and to really offer assistance,” said Sidonie Sansom, the TJPA’s chief security officer, during the board’s meeting last week. “By having this speciality we think that we are really going to be able to get to know our homeless population more.”

She added that these ambassadors “will probably be in polo shirts and khakis… They are trained to reach out to people in need.”

The board also approved a contract with the San Francisco Police Department to provide 10 officers daily, which will cost $2.3 million annually, with a cost increase of 3 percent each year.

The security plan is classified and was peer reviewed by the American Public Transportation Association, according to Sansom. Transbay staff also consulted with those operating other major metro transit hubs such as Los Angeles Union Station and Denver Union Station, which also incorporate private security services.

“2018 will be a very exciting year for the TJPA,” said Mark Zabaneh, executive director of the TJPA.

But there remains some uncertainty as construction delays have postponed completion dates, which remain subject to change. AC Transit Bus service is not expected to begin until late June, although it may be later depending on how work goes over the next two months, according to the latest schedule presented to the Transbay Joint Powers Authority Board of Directors last week. The Transbay Center building is now expected to open on May 11, and the rooftop park on May 18 — a previous estimate had them opening in April. The $2.2 billion Phase One project replaces the old Transbay Terminal at First and Mission streets with the new five-story Transit Center, which includes retail space.

Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru, who chairs the TJPA board, said he would “keep my fingers crossed that we meet all our deadlines this year.”

“I will encourage more teamwork and collaboration amongst your teams. I do feel we do have a deadline,” Nuru said, addressing the contractors at the meeting. “We are definitely looking forward to opening the station as planned.”

The security is for Phase One of the project, including the Transit Center, the bus ramp and the bus storage facility, as well as for rooftop park events. Security guards are paid a base hourly wage of $19.50.

Meanwhile, Phase Two of the major transportation hub remains in planning stages, including efforts to secure funding. The ultimate vision is to extend an electrified Caltrain to the transit hub and serve as a terminus for a high-speed train connecting Los Angeles and San Francisco.

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