Is this the best Oakland can do? The 1R route with limited stops
The East Bay Bus Rapid Transit - BRT - system is on its way to be one of Oakland's most controversial issues in 2011, just like it was in 2010.
The idea of dedicating lanes to buses on Telegraph and International Boulevard has been around for years, and like a game of Telephone, the story seems to have gotten muddled.
This is the first in Oakland Local's series of the most common misconceptions about BRT heard in Oakland.
Many people opposed to BRT cite the removal of parking on Telegraph and International Boulevard. Of the several numbers and statistics I've heard floating around, the highest (80 percent of parking on Telegraph) was spoken by Councilwoman Jane Brunner in a City Council meeting. What's the truth?
From AC Transit's BRT project manager, Jim Cunradi:
"There is only one block on all of Telegraph where we might remove 80 percent of the parking (at 42nd Street). For all of Telegraph, we would remove 51 percent of the parking. Telegraph Avenue is not densely developed. In most locations, the on-street parking can be removed without creating a shortage."
How does AC Transit define a shortage? The project's planners committed to ensure the corridor maintains a 15 percent vacancy rate. That means that at any given time, if BRT is built, there will be enough room in Temescal for 15 percent more cars to park. AC Transit will accomplish this by leasing and building parking lots around the areas that will fall below the 15 percent surplus parking level - 66th and Telegraph, North Street and Telegraph, Temescal, International and Fruitvale.
Honestly, doesn't that sound like an improvement? I admit that I both drive and take AC Transit, but it would never occur to me to park directly on Telegraph in Temescal. I'm not a great parallel parker anyway, and especially in Temescal with all the cars, bicyclists and buses, I always prefer to park off Telegraph. Consider the Lakeside Business District lot behind Trader Joe's on Lakeshore - who would want to bother with parking on Lakeshore when there's a spacious lot that's so close? Temescal could win twice with BRT: more reliable bus service and more parking.
In 2010, the three cities considering BRT (Oakland, Berkeley and San Leandro) each had to approve the version of BRT they wanted AC Transit to study. Oakland unanimously voted to study BRT and Berkeley famously declined. San Leandro received much less attention.
What's happening in San Leandro?
Though Oakland Councilman Larry Reid claimed in the March 1 City Council meeting that San Leandro voted against BRT, this is untrue. San Leandro voted 6-1 to approve the study of BRT on May 17, 2010.
San Leandro did ask that AC Transit run the BRT route to the San Leandro BART station instead of Bay Fair BART station. This is a shorter route, certainly, but San Leandro did not "kill the project," as Reid stated.
Like most transit agencies, AC Transit is not doing well financially. Hence, AC Transit is using only regional and federal funds to construct the BRT project.
Before Berkeley voted against BRT, the Federal Transit Administration gave the East Bay BRT its highest rating and approved it for a $75 million grant. Even after Berkeley pulled out, the FTA recently scheduled $25 million for 2012, right on schedule. The rest of the construction costs for BRT will come from regional sources - not AC Transit or the city of Oakland.
Why does the FTA support BRT so strongly? Because once the system is built, it will run more cheaply and efficiently than other buses (See page 1-8). Lower operating costs per passenger will reduce future service cuts. Plus, the system is expected to reduce traffic on the route by 9,300 cars a day - saving the Oakland a considerable number of pothole repairs.
What have you heard about the proposed BRT project? What BRT myths would you like to see busted next week?
Ruth is a policy fellow with Walk Oakland Bike Oakland.