Playing With Politics

A Blog on Law, Politics, Planning, Development, and Other Vices

Uncertainty for North Oakland, Berkeley Transit

Posted by Roobs on July 19, 2010

Over the weekend I joined many Democrats in San Jose for both the CDP’s and CYD’s Executive Committee Meetings.  While there, I met up with a representative of AC Transit at the hotel bar (because that is really where the business of the Democratic Party goes down).

After overhearing a conversation I was having about the recent BRT debacle in Berkeley, The AC Transit rep came over and we talked a bit more on the subject.  Once we moved past our shared frustration with the politics of Berkeley, I asked him what the future of transit was looking like for Berkeley and North Oakland.  His up-front honesty was refreshing but also troubling given his comment.  He told me that AC Transit’s BRT route will terminate somewhere in Oakland.  Period.  Whether that be in Downtown Oakland or at MacArthur BART station is still up for grabs but nevertheless, Temescal and Berkeley will be left out of BRT and all of its glorious economic and street-scape benefits.

How did we get here?

Ask Berkeley City Councilman Jesse Arreguin how we got here.  While it would be inappropriate to lay all blame solely on his desk, because the Berkeley City Council did vote against BRT back in April, he does carry a good proportion of it following his extremely disappointing flip-flopping behavior.

What happens to our bus?

I did ask the AC Transit rep if they still planned on cutting the 1/1R route, thus leaving North Oakland and Berkeley without a local bus service.  He said that a decision has not been made on that yet.

Whether or not a decision has been made on the 1/1R, this is a HUGE loss to the residents of North Oakland and Berkeley.  Because of misinformed and out-spoken critics of BRT, these residents are one step closer to losing their transit options.  How will they get around?

NIMBY’s in Berkeley and Councilman Arreguin did not seem to ask this question nor seemed to show much interest.

What of the older riders who depend on the bus to travel?  Are they now going to have to spend the extra money to call a taxi or paratransit to come and pick them up?  Are we asking them to walk to the nearest BART station and then to their destination?

What about the students trying to get to school and work on the bus?  Will they also have to pay the more expensive BART fare to get where they are going?  UC Berkeley student’s won’t have a direct bus route to Oakland and a wasted use of a Class Pass because it doesn’t work on BART.

Has Berkeley honestly favored cars over public transit?  It seems like it because if they do lose the 1/1R route, those who made the choice to use public transit even though they had access to a car (such as myself) now have to go back and rely on their car to get where they are going.  Traffic on Telegraph Avenue will increase and so will the amount of hazardous emissions into the atmosphere.

These are real questions that are slowly being answered by the outcomes of Berkeley City Council’s actions, both as a whole and by individual council members.  These are also real constituencies who do vote and who do care what happens in their community.

Moving Forward (though, without a bus)

The loss of the 1/1R in conjunction with BRT terminating in Oakland is the worst case scenario.  I cannot blame AC Transit for consolidating the BRT system into what is most efficient to them and the rest of the system’s future riders.  Also, I can have some sympathy for cutting the 1/1R given the agency’s large budget deficit thanks to state cuts in transit.  But I still think that the innocent residents of North Oakland and Berkeley should have access to the bus.

In my previous post, I suggested the best way to preserve access to transit in Berkeley is to have BRT terminate at MacArthur BART station and preserve the 1R route north of MacArthur station.  The 1R would run from the station through Temescal and Berkeley along Telegraph and Bancroft Aves. to Downtown Berkeley BART.  This would preserve the efficiency of the BRT system running from Downtown San Leandro to Oakland and still give Berkeley and North Oakland riders access to transit.

Again, I admit, this plan is far from ideal and will have a lot of problems associated with it.  Like the problems that have arisen with the splitting of the 51 route into a 51A and 51B routes, there will be issues with timing and clumping of buses at and on the way to MacArthur BART.  But the benefit i see with this is that it allows BRT supporters to regroup and fight another day.  If we can preserve the BRT route in San Leandro and most of Oakland, we can more easily return to Berkeley with an “extension” of the BRT route with dedicated lanes.  It may be the best way to move forward to an eventual complete BRT system in the East Bay.

Read my previous posts on BRT:

Why Berkeley is Wrong on BRT

Why Councilman Arreguin is Wrong on BRT

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One Response to “Uncertainty for North Oakland, Berkeley Transit”

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