A Better 1R

So. One of the questions that keeps coming up over and over again during this whole BRT discussion that’s been going on is why AC Transit doesn’t just try to figure out what’s wrong with the 1R and see what they can do about it?

Well, as a matter of fact, that’s exactly what they have been doing. And conveniently, AC Transit has recently issued a report (PDF) on exactly that subject and will be hosting a community forum to discuss it on Thursday.

Let’s start from the beginning.

What is the 1R?

AC Transit’s has been running a bus line called the 1R since June of 2007. The line runs from downtown Berkeley to downtown Oakland along Telegraph, then from downtown Oakland to the Bayfair BART Station in San Leandro along International Boulevard. Along the same route, AC Transit also operates a line called the 1, which is in general, slower than the 1R, because it has way more stops. Previous to the summer of 2007, this corridor was served by two different buses, the 40 and the 82.

It is a tremendously popular line, carrying over 12,000 passengers daily as of November 2008 (an 11.4% increase from 2007). This is on top of all the passengers that ride the 1. Although riding the 1R is substantially faster than riding the 1, many people choose to take the 1 anyway because the 1R stops are quite far apart, and often not particularly close to one’s destination.

Theoretically, the 1R arrives every 12 minutes between 6 AM and 7 PM at each of the 36 stops along its 17 mile line. The total trip from downtown Berkeley to Bayfair BART is supposed to take 73 minutes in the morning and 78 minutes during the afternoon rush hour.

The superior speed of the 1R versus the 1 is due to the two factors. First, the 1R stops a whole lot less than the 1. 1 stops are spaced between 800 and 1,300 feet apart. The minimum distance between 1R stops outside of downtown Oakland is about 1,200 feet, but they average a much longer 2,400 feet and some are spaced nearly 5,200 feet apart.

Besides the stop spacing, the 1R is also faster than the 1 because of something called Transit Signal Priority. This is a neat-o high-tech tool that you put both on the bus and the traffic light. When the bus is approaching the traffic light, the tool can tell, and it will keep the light green for a couple seconds so the bus can get across.

Sounds great. But do people ride it?

So this is an issue that comes up a lot when people are talking about transit. It is not uncommon whatsoever to hear people talk about the bus as if only buses are only ridden by the destitute and crazy transit freaks. Often, when talking about the bus – in public meetings, in comments on, say, this blog, or in general conversation, you will hear people say things like “Oh, I would never ride a bus” or “Nothing could make me ride a bus” or “Nobody who has a choice of doing something else would ever make me ride a bus.” Maybe. Maybe not.

Obviously there are always going to be some people who will just never ride the bus anywhere. You can’t do anything about that. But there are also lots of people – normal people – who ride the bus because it gets them to where they need to go, and it’s simply easier than driving a car. One of my favorite things I’ve read in the last year was this interview with Mad Men and Angel star Vincent Kartheiser, where he says he takes the bus to work. The interviewer acts all shocked. Like, where do you live that you can do that? And he’s so casual about it, all “Oh, I live here, but you can take the bus from lots of places. It’s not a big deal.” It is so rare in the media to see taking the bus portrayed as a normal thing to do, even though, in reality, it is incredibly normal. More Oaklanders take the bus to work than take BART.

Anyway, enough with the tangent. Do people ride the 1R? Um, yes. The 1R carries roughly 12,000 passengers a day. And they ride it in growing numbers. Between October 2007, a few months after the line debuted, and November 2008, ridership on the 1R increased by 11.4%.

And why do they ride it? Well, a lot of people take the 1R to work. The chart below illustrates the number of people on the bus during AM commute hours, along with how many people are boarding and exiting (alighting) at each stop.

1R AM Passenger Load

Click to enlarge

Also, contrary to what some people seem to believe, people don’t only ride the bus during commute hours. If you ride the bus during the middle of the day, you know this already. If you don’t, well, the chart below illustrates the line usage during midday hours.

1R Midday Passenger Load

Click to enlarge

Overall, the 1R averages 89 passengers per trip.

Okay. So why don’t even more people ride it?

Well, big problem with the 1R is reliability. As I said above, the entire route is supposed to take 73 minutes. In reality, it can take as much as 115 minutes. That’s a big difference.

Of course, most runs don’t go so crazy far over schedule. The average running time for the 1R going south during peak afternoon periods is 89 minutes, 11 minutes longer than it’s supposed to. The deviation from scheduled running time varies throughout the day, but it’s almost always longer. See the chart below.

1R Average Runtime

Click to enlarge

A more sobering way to look at it is to consider how many trips are completed within 5 minutes of the scheduled runtime. In AM peak periods, this figure can be as low as 21%. Yikes!

The full report includes lots of great charts that give a little more context to the problem, showing where exactly the bus gets so slowed down, but for the sake of space, we won’t get too much into it here.

When buses get behind schedule, the result is often something called “bunching.” This is when multiple buses arrive at or near the same time. The bunching is probably the most serious problem with the 1R, as it means riders end up having to wait much longer than they should for a bus to show up. It means the service is unreliable. And when people can’t count on the bus to take them where they want to go when it’s supposed to, then they are much less likely to ride it.

For purposes of the report, bunching was defined as buses arriving within 2 minutes of each other. During peak afternoon periods, 16.5% of buses were found to be bunched. The report defines “normal” headways as buses arriving 10 to 14 minutes apart. During peak afternoon periods, only 14.8% of buses were found to be normal. Terrible! The bunching percentage increases and normal percentage decreases as the bus gets further and further along the route.

What makes the bus so slow?

Well, obviously, there’s traffic. And along with it, stop lights. 19% of the 1R’s running time is spent waiting at traffic lights. But there are other factors as well.

24% of the 1R’s running time is spent at stops, waiting for passengers to get on and off. This is an issue with busy bus routes. It takes time for people to get on and off the bus, and when you have a lot of people getting on and off, it ends up taking a lot of time. At the worst stop, International and 34th Avenue, it takes an average of 78 seconds to get everybody onto the bus.

Part of the reason it takes so long is because it takes people a while to pay. People paying cash take the longest. Often people (irritatingly) have not gotten their money ready beforehand, and end up standing at the farebox fishing for change and making everyone wait behind them. 34% of 1R passengers pay cash.

The fastest way to pay is using something you can just flash and go, like a TransLink card or flash pass. Riders using TransLink take as little as 2 seconds to load. Sadly, TransLink payment accounted for only 3% of the 1R’s passengers as of the time of this study, although that figure is surely increasing now due to the more widespread adoption of TransLink and policy changes on the part of AC Transit.

Besides the general loading time, the 1R also has to deal with the additional time it takes to load strollers and wheelchairs. There are also a lot of strollers and wheelchairs on the 1R. Obviously, there are, in general, going to be more strollers and wheelchairs on high traffic lines simply because there are more people riding the bus total. But it does sometimes seem that the 1R, particularly on the East Oakland portion, gets a disproportionate number of strollers.

Strollers and wheelchairs slow down the bus because it takes a much longer time to get them on. The ramp has to come out, people have to get on it, then the ramp has to come back up, then once they’re on the bus, strollers have to find a place to go and wheelchairs have to be secured. The average loading time for a stroller was found to be 1 minute and 34 seconds, and the average loading time for a wheelchair was found to be 4 minutes and 10 seconds.

How do we fix it?


No, just kidding! Seriously! I don’t want this discussion to turn into another debate about BRT, it’s about improving the 1R. Various features of a BRT system would eliminate or significantly reduce some of the dwell time problems delineated above, but even if AC Transit ended up deciding to go through with totally full fledged BRT as designed in the maximum alternative, that still wouldn’t be operating until like 2015. That’s a long time to wait for a better bus.

The report identifies a number of ways to improve speed and reliability on the current 1R. Read the full report (PDF) to see them all, I’m just going to do the highlights here.

First, the bus can be made safer for the large number of strollers if they have a place to go. Additionally, the time associated with loading the strollers and having people stuck in line behind them could be decreased it they don’t have to hunt for a place to park. The suggestion here is to replace some of the normal seats on the 1R with seats that flip up and down. That way, if there are lots of strollers on a run, more space can be available to accommodate them. If there aren’t, then people can use the space to sit down.

For wheelchairs, the report suggests marking clearly the space at the bus stop where everyone should be waiting – one space for people using the front door and another space for passengers who will need the ramp. This would be helpful, but of course, only works if the bus always stops in the exact same place. As frequent riders know, that doesn’t always happen. The report suggests that this problem could be ameliorated by separating 1R stops in certain high locations from the stops used by other buses, so the 1R wouldn’t be stopping all the way behind the other bus.

Additionally, the report suggests that 1R drivers get special training to familiarize them with the unique operating needs of the rapid line and that the line be managed more closely to lessen the impact of bunching. For example, when a bus reaches the end of the line, the driver would be instructed to not depart in the other direction until 12 minutes have passed since the last bus left. The ideal departure time would be indicated through the use of a countdown clock, and would hopefully put a stop to the snowball effect created by bunching, where each instance of bunching ends up making the problem even worse for the next bus.

Finally, the report suggests that the time spent loading passengers could be reduced by encouraging less time consuming payment methods. Specifically, it proposes exploring the use of some sort of ticket vending machine at the line’s busiest stops (Shattuck and Allston in downtown Berkeley, 20th and Telegraph, 14th and Broadway, 11th and Broadway, 12th and Broadway 11th and Harrison, and 12th and Harrison in downtown Oakland, International and 34th in the Fruitvale district, and Bayfair BART). If passengers could buy a flash pass before they get on the bus, then the time waiting for people to hunt for change could be significantly reduced. Passengers could be encouraged to use the vending machines instead of on-board cash payment if the vending machines offered some kind of fare discount. Clearly, there are a variety of issues that would have to be addressed before AC Transit could implement ticket vending machines, but it seems like a promising concept.

If you find all this as fascinating as I do and want to know more, you have two options. First, you can just sit down and read all 88 pages of the report (PDF). It’s not anywhere near as bad as it sounds – there are lots of big maps and charts, and the whole thing is written in admirably clear and non-jargony language. Second, you can go to the community forum AC Transit is hosting tomorrow. At the forum, AC Transit staff will present the findings of the study, answer questions, and take suggestions from the public about how to improve 1R service.

The meeting will be held tomorrow, Thursday, February 25th at AC Transit’s headquarters at 1600 Franklin Street in downtown Oakland from 6 to 8 PM.

49 thoughts on “A Better 1R

  1. Andy K

    Ticket machines are the way to go. This seems like a no brainier. The next step would be a POP system. That would really speed things up.

    Once you go to a ticketing system, I would like to see a group or family ticket – or the ability to purchase an all day ticket – but this is off topic.

    Regarding translink – the use of this should be encouraged through discounts. The MTC provided healthy discounts to get people to purchase Fastak passes to use on the bridges, and the same should be done with translink as this benefits all users by speeding things up.

  2. oakie

    The reason I don’t think there’s hope to grow the ridership has nothing to do with how fast you can make trips here. I would love to take mass transit (I do take BART when it makes sense).

    It’s the crime, stupid. The level of lawlessness and impunity with which thugs have free range of this city makes it unwise to expose yourself to the added vulnerability walking to the bus stop, waiting at the bus stop, riding the bus or walking to your destination after disembarking.

    Fix the crime problem and then mass transit ridership will be able to grow. The way it is now, if you look at total cost of a single ride, including fare paid plus all the various subsidies, you could probably hire someone to carry you on their backs to your destination.

  3. david vartanoff

    Nice summary of the situation, V. Secondly kudos to AC for the effort. Let’s look a little more carefully at the fare paying delays. First the hot spots on a southbound 1R are Berkeley BART Dwight & Tele and 11th & B’way among others. In the Berkeley case most of the riders HAVE ASUC student passes–the problem is the poorly designed choke point entering the VH buses. When I board w/ my Translink, I can’t tag and move without bumping someone or waiting for them to be checked. What to do? Other transit systems figured this out years ago–you station a “loader” at the middle door checking passes and cut the time in half. When AC ordered the artics, there were some equipped w/ TL readers at these doors–they were REMOVED! Putting them back is cheap and can speed boarding. A human loader at Berkeley BART would be useful not only for the 1R but also the 51 which no surprise has some of the same major delay points because of slow boarding and unlike a Ticket Vending Machine is neither a target for vandals nor requiring a lengthy RFP, Bid, delivery process.
    The 11th & B’way SB stop is the major change point for 1, 1R, 40, and a downtown outpost of CalState EB. another good candidate for a loader during busy hours.
    See you at the meeting.

  4. david vartanoff

    Take 2, While the signal preempt idea is great, I have no personal evidence that they actually are working. Worse, there is by policy a 10 minute “lockout” WHY?
    Crime, yes Oakland has crime. In my 39 years riding AC and BART I have never been a victim either on board or at a stop. There are the occasional fare evasion bozos, but drivers mostly handle them quietly. Anyone who regularly reads bartrage.com knows BART riders complain of crime as well.

  5. Robert

    Let me start with the rant. Strollers on the bus?! What are people thinking? Seriously, whatever happened to those fold-able strollers that were meant for exactly this situation. If the time boarding a stroller is a real issue, just ban non-collapsible strollers.

    Run times that exceed 73 minutes. It sounds to me like the 73 minutes is in ideal circumstances, not real world. Does it really matter if it takes 85 minutes or 73 minutes? Not really, it only matters because you can’t plan on it taking the shorter period of time. So just start saying that the expected time for the trip is 85 minutes and you will allow the riders to adequately plan.

    Minimum wait times at the end of 12 minutes. While it increases the appearance of bunching, all this will do is guarantee that the average time between buses is greater than 12 minutes. The key issue for service reliability is trying to ensure that the next bus is no more than 12 minutes later. So the goal should be to have a bus depart 12 minutes before the next bus is due to arrive at the end of line. With the next bus technology, it should be possible to do this. (You do need to maintain the no more than 12 minutes after the previous bus.

    Buying tickets on the bus is a time consuming process, particularly for the casual user. Ticket vending machines should help with this. POP systems are more problematic for the casual rider, unless there is a means of enforcement such as a gate, as the systems are usually not self explanatory.

    Old Robert

  6. Art

    I can’t speak for the 1R since honestly I never, ever ride the regular 1 to compare, but on the 72R the signal priority absolutely makes a difference. The plain old 72 takes far longer to get down San Pablo even when there are few people waiting so it’s not making any more stops than the Rapid. My personal rule of thumb is that I’ll wait 15 minutes longer for the Rapid; if the gap is bigger than that, I’ll just get on the 72, but even then I’ve sometimes been passed by a 72R that was trailing by 20 minutes according to NextBus (which, granted, isn’t always on the ball with such things, but does at least provide a rough approximation of arrival times). The difference in travel time averages an extra 15-20 minutes just from Berkeley to DTO.

    Changing the fare paying system is critical, though. I’ve had a Translink card since the pilot program launched 2+ years ago. It’s great when no one’s waiting. When there’s a long line of people paying cash, though, it’s not super useful, because ACT’s buses don’t really have the space to scoot around the side so I can flash my card and get on while someone asks how much the fare is and starts counting it all out (not that it’s stopped me from trying!!) The routes I ride often have half or more of riders with either Translink or ASUC passes, but there’s just no good way to separate that line so that they can pass through (especially since the driver is at the farebox and also needs to look at the ASUC passes).

  7. Brad

    Oakie is absolutely right. Right now I drive to the BART station and take BART to work. There is a bus line that runs a few blocks away from my current home, but I sometimes return from work late, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to be waiting for the bus and then walking back from the bus stop late at night.

    Many Oaklanders, of all backgrounds, choose to drive from place to place, rather than walk or use public transit, because the streets simply aren’t safe. In this blog post, the author relates how her husband “should’ve driven to Farmer Joe’s” for a few potatoes rather than walk around the block to the local corner store: http://slowbydesign.blogspot.com/2010/02/40-potato.html.

    One last comment. I used to actually take the 1R to work, back when I lived half a block from a bus stop and worked different hours. Every single day, I’d watch half a dozen people get on the bus for free. They get on, tell the bus driver they didn’t have any money, and he or she would wave them by. This only worked for some people, however. At whim, the bus driver would tell people they couldn’t get on. I could never figure out what the criteria was for who got free rides and who didn’t. For those who did get free rides, this was a lot of fare revenue that AC Transit didn’t collect.

  8. David

    An hour and a half to go 17 miles. Seriously. That’s all you need to know. An awesome average of 12 mph.

  9. Ken O

    David: In Japan it takes an hour and a half to go 15 miles.

    By Car or By Train.

    I lived there and tried both. I know.

    Welcome to a shrinking world.

  10. Chris Kidd

    If everything you need is developed compactly and within 17 miles of you, it’s more efficient than having everything you need spaced out so far that you have to drive an hour and a half to get there.

  11. Becks

    Thanks so much for this summary V. Though I’ve had the PDF open on my computer for the past week, I’ve yet to get past a few pages.

    I’m looking forward to the meeting tomorrow night and am hopeful they can implement some temporary fixes while we wait for BRT. As I told the Planning Commission last week, last Wednesday I ended up being 20 minutes late to work because of the unreliability and bunching of the 1R. Other days, I’m 20 minutes early. The huge amount of time fluctuation is unacceptable so anything that can be done to help would be greatly appreciated.

  12. David

    Um, yeah. Except it takes me around 15 minutes to drive from the 100′s in the ‘Town to Beckett’s in Berkeley. And about $1.50 in gas, instead of $2.00 in bus fare. So 14 mph doesn’t make me feel better, nor does how slow transit systems are in Japan.

    I lived in Chicago. Took me 23 minutes to go 6 miles, by bus, car, cab, train or bicycle. There were many times it would have been faster for me to walk 2 miles than take the bus or drive (and I did the experiment). Difference is that here, driving is actually faster. Why you seem to want to eliminate that convenience and the Bay Area’s relative lack of traffic problems is mystifying to me.

  13. Chris Kidd

    We keep having these circular arguments over and over where you say the same thing. It makes me feel like I’m trapped in Samsara. Where is Smart Growth Buddha to break this cycle of pain?

  14. len raphael

    Chris, SGB was dismantled last night and carried off in shopping carts for scrap metal.


    The only thing worse than a low density dysfunctional city, is a high density dysfunctional one.

  15. OaklandSpaceAcademy

    I’m confused, which convenience is proposed to be eliminated? I thought this meeting was about making things more convenient.

    One of the things that would have made the 1R better for me up until a few months ago would have been a couple more timepoints on the schedule to facilitate trip planning. I remember distinctly looking at the 1R schedule and thinking, “I have no idea when the next bus will arrive.”

    Twelve minutes is a long headway when your home and office are a couple minutes from a stop. And 73 minutes is a long way between timepoints. Obviously having 7-10 timepoints would slow things down considerably, but I could see one or two more (DTO & Coliseum?). But maybe the 1R is just much faster without them.

    Of course, now I’m one of the lucky folks who gets real time bus info right to my phone. I’m also lucky because I’m over 16, physically able to drive, and can afford private motoring. But if I’m going to work, going somewhere popular, or going to get drunk, the bus is usually much more convenient.

  16. david vartanoff

    @OSA. Indeed the doc does discuss the lack of published intermediate time points. Send AC a comment on the issue.

  17. Ken O

    Chris K:

    I think you are describing a slum?

    You should read the book Shadow Cities by Robert Neuwirth if you haven’t already. Great read.

    That is where this country is headed for various reasons. Just ask all the people living in tents by freeways now. I saw some not too long ago. I’ve read about homeless tent encampments not just in Sacto and Ontario but in Rhode Island and other venues.

    Good luck,

  18. David

    Well, Chris, perhaps you don’t understand why 95% or so of people here prefer to drive. I’m trying to de-mystify it.

    Choice A: Walk 5-10 minutes to a bus stop. Wait up to 12 minutes (optimally) or maybe 20 minutes for vehicular conveyance. Pay $2 for the privilege of sitting next to a crazy person, a thug, or maybe someone normal. Travel at 12-14 mph.

    Choice B: Walk 30 seconds to vehicular conveyance. Drive to destination, average speed 60+mph. Pay $1.50 in fuel costs. Sit next to no one or perhaps friend, S.O. or family.

    Gee, why don’t more people choose A?

  19. Chris Kidd

    I’ve seen Sacramento’s Tent City in person. It reminded me a lot of the photos of Oakland’s “Pipe City”, set up in a yard full of unused storm water pipes during the Great Depression.

    “Slum” is a relative term. Its definition changes depending on historical, technological, and cultural circumstance. Neighborhoods considered in the past to be slums have been able to completely revitalize themselves and become prime examples of successes in urbanism, while some of the characteristics that previous defined the area as a “slum” barely changed.

    It certainly is the responsibility of the planner to plan for the worst, but not to such an extent that it precludes the possibility of the best. I refuse to fight the battle of “who can decline the slowest”.

  20. Ken O

    David, i think it’s called planning for the future.

    Or going back to the future.

    Whichever you prefer.

    You seem really impatient and maybe easily bored, not saying that I’m not (I am), but that’s coming across in your posts. Yes life is dementedly short but it pays to slow down most of the time.

    You seem to have left out these expenses YOU ALSO PAY in that “buck fifty” trip fare calculation:

    AAA membership if you have it, car insurance if you have it, oil and oil filter changes, tire rotation and replacement, timing belt replacement, car purchase price deamortization, wiper blade replacement, burnt light bulb replacement, time you spend filling up the gas in your car, time you spend vacuuming and washing your car (if you do), paid street or off-street parking, bridge toll charges, and car-related healthcare/gym membership costs.

    Most of which assume your own time (at some cost you derive) or an auto mechanic’s paid labor. And yes if you spend the time tallying these up, the cost can be whittled down to a unit per-day or per-mile.

    These are just internal costs to you, and do not include the costs of “market externalities” which aren’t always the same dollar amount to various people. What might those externalities include?

    Opportunity cost: you could have been: sightseeing, people-watching, reading a newspaper or book, jamming to your ipod, hanging out with Epic Beard Man, analyzing graffiti on the bus, chatting with your fellow Oaklanders, or talking to a friend by phone without needing to be both Bored and Afraid of driving. (Routine driving is boring and dangerous, but maybe you enjoy that? Or is it the radio? Or acceleration? Feeling in control? Not having to share? A feeling of rugged independence?)

    Every car uses 400 square feet of paid and paved parking space in an urban area.

    Think of what else could have been in that space besides an off-gassing cube of steel, aluminum, pvc, rubber, oil, fabric and precious metals. Think of how much LESS material and energy our society would consume if we all didn’t drive everywhere. Oakland needs more PARK SPACE, not Parking Space.

    Perchance, some cars hit and kill/injure pedestrians, bicyclists, other car drivers and wild animals. Probably never you, but Laura Bush did. I drove over a squirrel a while ago. I see car-kill every other day. Some hotheads in San Jose did. Those criminals from San Pablo/Richmond did by running over that Art school student in San Francisco last week after shooting their gun in the air outside a nightclub on Columbus.

    Cars are noisy. Our cities are much quieter without cars. Think of how much less Prozac/Paxil/Zoloft people might need without all this driving.

    Cars kill street-life. Since we “have to” drive everywhere here, many Americans up till 2008 were taking vacations to Europe, Asia and Latina America to enjoy life WITHOUT DRIVING. And WITH STREET LIFE.

    Cars enable crime. Imagine robbing a bank, then having to get away on bike or by running. Seems less likely.

    Buses and trains kill people too. They are just easier to see, hear, maintain and regulate.

    Freeways lower property values. Think of what Oakland could be with Fewer Freeways and Boulevards-as-Freeways. (Think Park Blvd. – Thanks DavidColbern) After the 1989 Quake, SF tore out its Embarcadero double-decker freeway. Do you enjoy the Embarcadero as it is today, or would you prefer a pancake stack freeway? I bet you’d say the latter. I mean, you’d be able to DRIVE to SF Chinatown faster than by BARTing and walking right?

    Turning the tables, you also probably pay for public transit out of your sales, income and income taxes. Maybe thru rent too (indirect property taxes). But without public transit, your easy hop skip and jump drive from “100s to Beckett’s” would probably be slower, due to More Cars On the Road.

    There are definitely “good” uses for a car the way our needs and wants are distributed over long distances. I suppose when gas is $6 a gallon or unavailable, we’ll still hanker for it.

    I drove a car yesterday to deliver a bunch of stuff and people, both coming and going. I’m not saying we get rid of cars, but that we advocate and put in place mechanisms for people to enjoy life more without needing the physical and psychological prosthetic of a car.

    Cities that do this will retain and attract the remaining “creative classes” and have better quality of life. Examples: Hong Kong, Shanghai, Osaka, Bangkok, Oakland (hello bike amenities), San Francisco, Portland, Vancouver, Toronto, NYC, Boston, Charlotte, Phoenix, Detroit, Los Angeles. And unfortunately that means rich people move in (so-called gentrification) and push everyone else out of the formerly sort of nice but definitely cheaper place.

    (See Disneyland, er, San Francisco — 17,000 households moved in in 2007-08 with incomes over 150k; 16,000 HHs making less than 150k moved out, many probably to Oakland.)

    Part of that is making public mass transit sexy and attracting more choice riders. I am a choice rider–I don’t need to take transit. I choose to because I like it and generally it fits my needs. For times it doesn’t, there are: taxi cabs, ferries, ZipCar, UHaul, wife’s car, friend’s cars/trucks, my multitude of bicycles, shoes.

    All of you interested in this transportation stuff also probably realize that with better land use (not having to GO very far to get what we need, whether by bus or car or bike) we get a good result too. (see: http://transformca.org/ )

    Pardon my length.


  21. Chris Kidd

    Okay, I’m done.

    No more responding to overly-simplistic, intellectually dishonest claptrap that serves no purpose other than to buoy the ego of a willful contrarian who is more interested in proving he’s the smartest hombre in the room than actually finding practicable solutions for a city that I love.

    Congrats, David. You win. Now go do another 100 pull-ups.

  22. Ken O

    David, that is a lie. Your average speed is NOT 60+MPH.

    You forget all the rush hour choke points on 880. I was easily doing 25MPH, 30MPH, 40MPH for extended periods of time just in 880 alone.

    Then there’s time “wasted” (as in my post above) filling up your gas, doing paperwork for car insurance, mailing in payments, setting up FasTrak transponder, doing routine and major car maintenance, waiting at stop lights, stop signs, pedestrian crosswalks. Not saying buses don’t have all this, but most of it is taken care of by other people.

    Let’s say your trip is 20 miles from downtown to a friend’s place in Hayward.

    You probably hit about 5-10 red lights, waiting oh maybe 10 minutes total before getting to the “free” way. But at least you have your radio/SO to listen to. (At the bus stop you could’ve had a walkman or ipod.)

    Then you get on the freeway. You’re flying in the clouds above humanity, though still on a paved concrete and rebar surface. You’re enjoying whatever radio station you keep the dial at. Chatting with friends while avoiding hitting other cars, and dodging crappy drivers. Attempting to obey the speed limit with cruise control or by scanning your rearview for Mr. CHP. Avoiding pot holes. Oh, so stress free. Not.

    So you drive 17 miles to Hayward on the highway. Whoopee.

    After you get off, there’s easily another 5-10 minutes of city driving with stops, starts, stops, starts.

    Sure you are making the trip in down to half the time, but there’s additional stress and underlying costs of time and money (which you don’t admit) involved.

    But hey, life is short.

  23. Ken O

    One’s time on PT can be productive.
    One’s time in a car generally is not.
    Anyone disagree?

    ChrisK, don’t be discouraged :)

    I wasn’t saying slum in a negative way. A slum is eminently sustainable. It represents the bulk of human livelihoods today and maybe yesterday.

    Unforch “slowing decline slowly” is what sustainability is all about. We had our big, neon colored FD&C blue red and yellow cake. Now we do dishes and go back to baking a smaller, buckwheat or barley cake =)

    David, I appreciate your comments, even if you don’t think I do. They help more than you know.

  24. Matt

    What made my commute from SJ to Berkeley on the Capitol Corridor train tolerable was the ability to work on a large table that fit my paperwork and laptop. At first my boss was worried that by letting me come in 15 min late I’d be less productive. Not the case, I did more work. My accounts nicknamed me Trainman because I mentioned to them more than once that I finished their project while on the train. If I drove, then the commute would be 30 min shorter, but no work could be done.

    Taking BART from Civic Center to DT Berkeley allowed me to read literature and catch up on project status. Wi-fi on either commute would have been a boon!

  25. David

    Um. I have precisely 3 stop signs to drive through on my way to the 106th Ave on-ramp to 580. Then I drive around 70-80 mph on 580 (admittedly, non-rush hour, at say, 9 pm to go to Beckett’s). Then I get off the freeway on MLK, drive down Adeline/Shattuck and arrive at my destination. I leave at 9 pm, I get to Beckett’s, ok, maybe 9:20 after taking 5 minutes to park and walk there.

    I’ve written enough times, too, Chris K, that mass transit is fine and is a social good that most of us can and do pay for, despite its myriad inefficiencies. The evidence is that mass transit is emphatically NOT a preferred option for the vast majority of people here in Oakland, across the bay in SF (although it’s more widely used there, obviously), even overseas (witness declining transit use in Europe etc). This is despite massive social engineering efforts (ultra high gas taxes in Europe/Japan, subsidizing transit operations here, despite the lack of sufficient density to justify capital outlays, etc).

    I’m sorry that people don’t conform to your way of thought. It sucks, but who’s being the contrarian here (as if that’s bad anyway, I thought all you hippies loved “speaking truth to power”)–you’re the one who’s denying human nature as witnessed across the globe, for heaven’s sake.

    With the time I saved running errands by car, I’ll go do those 100 pull-ups. Healthier for me than sitting on the bus getting hearing damage from listening to an iPod (or getting mugged for it, like many have around my ‘hood).

  26. Ken O

    Hey David,

    Found an interesting post for you from 2006:

    “For western countries such as the UK, the first major problems of Peak Oil, assuming there are no oil shocks, will not be the shortage of oil but the economic crises that will occur.”


    That pretty much jives with your comment about economic upheaval before ever “running out” comment.

    What makes sense for an individual – driving – begins to suck for everyone involved once everyone’s doing it, and the people doing it increase every year. I don’t listen to an ipod either for hearing damage reasons. I assume you still listen to a radio in-car. I don’t.

    The most gas-efficient highway speed is between 45-55 mph. I see that you are nowhere near poor so of course you should drive as fast as you can. More money for the oil and auto industry. “Infinite consumption = good.”

    David I think you are trying to claim moral high ground, while you haven’t responded to my comment on all the equivalent “subsidized costs” of your own personal auto driving.

    Of course people want speed, convenience and prestige. We are animals who enjoy nothing better than a windfall. I get that.

    Most people just don’t get how little time they have left to enjoy their cars.

    Enjoy driving while you can. You’ll probably be in the last 20% of those still driving in the Bay Area, 10 years from now.

    Human nature across the globe is collectively — dumb. What Chris is after is that your behavior is probably fine, but multiply it by millions of people and collectively we are killing ourselves, using up all possible resources with utmost haste. Do as you like.

    Similar arguments to yours are made by people who like eating beef, raw tuna, etc.

    Thanks for arguing for Dick Cheney’s “non-negotiable way of life.”

  27. Ken O

    “Using less” is something only masochists would enjoy. That’s what sustainability means.

    I see why David’s viewpoint is more common than new urbanists’. Most of us aren’t masochists. We all tend toward the lazy.

    That’s why I started a pedicab biz – to make “using less” fun.

    The USSR was in much better shape to fall apart than the USA: with ample public transit and everyone in public housing, most of society was “equal” to begin with and had basic needs met.

    No rent to worry about. A way to move around. People were already growing lots of kitchen garden food because the centrally planned communist system sucked.

    Compare that to the USA.

    I’m afraid we’re in for rough times.

    Perhaps more carjackings in Berkeley, limiting those late night Berkeley pub runs. Plan ahead.

  28. David

    I’m for equal protection and enforcement of the law.

    No, I’m not poor. No, I don’t live in the hills. I shop at FoodMaxx, not Whole Foods. My car is 12 years old, and my household has only the one car. But I have money in the bank, just bought an investment property, and will close a deal for a second one in 6 months (seller needs to arrange things).

    If/when we’re forced to make efficiencies, we will. I remember Geo Metros from 1990. They got 50 mpg. Throw in more hybrid technologies and we’ll be fine, throw in compact, melt-down proof nuke reactors, and we have plenty of energy.

    It makes sense for me to use mass transit during commute times, and really no other time. And that’s the way it is.

    And yes, I enjoy fish, beef, pork and chicken. If we need to, I will grow the chickens myself in the backyard (or perhaps rabbits, as the suitable protein source for a more urban lot). But no, I’m not going to kill myself for what you believe to be society’s benefit. In fact, I think I’ll go have another kid to use up some more resources. Better tell the wife…see ya.

  29. Ken O

    Hey I figured it out.

    David’s real qualms with PT are criminals, pedophiles and crazies. (Duh.) Most women don’t like them either. If taking the train was filled with people he is comfortable with (ie, mostly normal, avg to higher income, sexy people) then it would be less of an issue, even though he doesn’t like the slowness of our transit systems.

    And slowness is where we reach an American viewpoint: convenience. The microwaved TV dinner. The remote control. Disposable packaging.

    See, in the rest of the world, people work with what little they have to be efficient for the group. In America, corporations tug money out of folks by offering convenience. Witness the center aisles of any grocery store.

    Well here’s the bigger picture, as MLK himself expressed it:

    “we have a problem as a nation when rich people can speed by our old inner city neighborhoods on expressways and not acknowledge them” (rough paraphrase)

    This is my beef with the FAILED bart OAC project. And with highways 24/980. They tore out perfectly good housing in downtown Oakland so richer people could sail overhead from SF to Lafayette/ Orinda /Moraga /Montclair/ Walnut Creek and the 680 Corridor.

    Hard to blame them–who WANTS to deal with crime everyday? At least OPD gets paid. But if you don’t take things into your own hands, even to the level of Patrick McCullough’s bravery against drug dealing street gangs, you let “thugs” and other people take over your ‘hood. They win.

    The Car is a technology which allows us to Ignore and Deny social ills, and Delay dealing with them. That is a losing proposition.

    If you are afraid of crime, you don’t have to go thru the “hippy/dellums” root causes route (even though OPD acknowledges that police are never going to be a total solution) to address the issues of CIA’s inserted crack cocaine into inner cities which destroyed a generation of families and led to our current loose/non existent parenting culture in “the ghetto.” This discrimination is also seen in substantially different sentencing of crack cocaine cases (poor/’ghetto people) vs white powdered cocaine cases (bankers, lawyers, ‘respectable’ people).

    I’m not defending ANYone peddling cocaine. But on the other hand I’m not defending lying CEOs of Big Pharma either, pushing their drugs through our hospitals onto patients for uses un-approved by the FDA.

    If you are afraid of homelessness, you can Drive By It, instead of talking to these people and helping them as a community. Even at a drive thru window.

    Don’t want to deal with social problems? Drive a car!

    Want to deal with social problems? Take PT!

    I’ve dealt with crazies and thugs on BART and done my best to help the situations, yell at people or whatnot.

    Criminals. Well, the easiest way to enrich yourself is to TAKE from others. Every corporation in the world is great at this. So are the better beggars, thieves and burglars out there.

    We’ll never have NO crime. No way about it. Thus, we need police of some kind. (I’m all for OPD by the way, other than any corruption/discrimination within, including their apparent work w/ the FBI to bomb some EarthFirsters. — remember Judi Berry? or particular detectives covering up for the Yusuf Bey black muslim bakery mafia.)

    However, we CAN have REDUCED crime, especially on public transit. EBM/Bernie Goetz is part of that, so is having more regular people and police use it. When I was taking the train from JFK to NYC the train police were present and quite helpful. I never see cops riding AC Transit or BART.

    Having police or ‘ambassadors’ ride PT is a good idea.

    That is an intelligent response to David’s legitimate worries about crime on PT.


  30. David

    Actually, no, it’s not entirely due to the nuts on the local buses (the Transbay, which I take frequently, of course, is entirely populated by gainfully employed folks). I don’t usually take mass transit outside of commute time because I can better use that time. I could play with my kids. I could fix up something (there’s always something) on my house. I could exercise. I could cook. I could pick oranges off my tree. Or rosemary in the backyard. I could think about my business/work.

    You see, in the real world, people who are businessmen/own businesses/are management, are constantly thinking about PRODUCTIVITY. Wasting time in transit is by definition not productive.

    It’s always amusing to see liberals ascribe certain motives to me, as most of them live in the hills in houses worth twice as much and drive their Volvos/Benzes/VW’s that cost 6-10 times as much as my $4,000 beater of a car. Because a “conservative” could never be simply just worried about making a living, he has to be mean. Give me a break.


    PS. Taking the train/etc isn’t literally killing myself, talking about the hairshirt mentality.

  31. OaklandSpaceAcademy

    There are so many stereotypes in that last post by David, it is hard to know where to begin. So I’ll begin with the easily refutable, “businessmen…are constantly thinking about productivity. Wasting time in transit is by definition not productive.”

    The gentlemen who own the firm I work for “waste” time in transit. They located their office in the DTO so they could be a short BART ride into SF to meet with clients, or pop out to the WC to meet clients out there. During these trips they do a final review of their presentations and download the latest on each from the project manager. On the trip back, they are able to review the meeting’s outcome and plan next steps.

    I’ll never forget our first client meeting for a new project on Russian Hill. For some reason we decided to drive. The meeting went longer than expected and we left just as rush hour was beginning. It took us over an hour to get to the Bay Bridge – talk about wasting time!

    Claiming that businessmen avoid transit because they are constantly thinking of productivity is simplistic and silly. As is the notion that “most” liberals live in the hills and drive European automobiles. I like to do many of the things that David does, it’s one of the reasons I take transit, so I don’t have to waste my time driving.

  32. Max Allstadt

    Depending on your situation and on your personal pet peeves, there are a host of reasons to go for personal or public transit.

    What I hate about driving: Parking. Tickets. Insurance bills. Random repair costs that can be cheap to exorbitant. The fact that mechanics work the same hours as carpenters. Being isolated from people. The fact that some jackass could forget to look in the mirror and make me dead. The fact that I could forget to look in the mirror and make some poor shlub dead.

    What I hate about transit: It doesn’t go to enough places yet. Taking a table saw on the BART isn’t feasible. The need to be ready to throw down at any moment.

  33. Naomi Schiff

    Some businessmen are women.
    Some businesswomen are liberals.
    Some liberals live in the flats.
    Some who live in the flats are businesswomen who do not drive pricey cars.

  34. Ralph

    OSA, David has a valid point; you distorted it for your own purposes while completely ignoring the meaning. You are being dishonest if you do not think that there are times that you could make better use of your time versus time spent using public transportation. My time is significantly more valuable to me than using public transit. At the same time, I find public transportation highly desirable.

    Thus, I opt to live in a transit hub. It takes me 6 min to walk to BART. I rarely wait longer than 6 minutes for a train. (I still have no idea how the following happens: walk 5-10 minutes to a bus stop. Wait up to 12 minutes (optimally) or maybe 20 minutes for vehicular conveyance.) Whenever, I can I ride BART. But I digress.

    The problem with certain modes of public transportation is both the variability in trip time and the time it takes to go the same distance versus me driving. When I have stuff to get done, I am going to consider the time it would take using P.T. versus the time it would take me to drive and make the appropriate decision.

    For example, last yr, I had PT on College Ave. All in on BART and walk probably 23 minutes. Bus no idea but probably about the same if not a little more. Driving less than 10 minutes. Walking 24-26 minutes. I opted to walk. For the distance I had to go, it just made more sense. Separately, when I have flexibility to schedule my trips to Palo Alto I do it b/w commute hours, my time is valuable.

    Reduce the time and variability for the bus option, and it becomes a real viable option for many more people.

    Naomi, I am confused. Who are these businessmen who are women and if they work in Oakland do they where clothes of the opposite gender in public in opposition of the city charter. :)

  35. len raphael

    Max, just when the bus fanatics here have me half convinced that taking ac transit is way better than driving, you’re reminding me that safety on buses ain’t so great. on subways at least you could move to another car if a wierdo got on or sat next to you.

    so what are the crime stats for different ACT lines at different hours?

  36. Max Allstadt

    I’m wiling to bet that your chances of getting injured or killed are higher in a car. Per mile even.

    When I say I feel like I need to be ready to throw down, it’s partially about being ready to intervene. I feel a duty to do that. But I don’t hold it against anybody if they choose to disappear instead of engage when there’s trouble. Be like Amber Lamps, and you’ll probably never have a problem.

  37. Matt

    Our personal experience is just anecdote. While it can be the catalyst for research, it does not constitute research and not worthy of policy making.

  38. david vartanoff

    anectdote–a consultant’s dismissive term for actual experiences not conforming to the results desired by the client.

  39. Matt

    The actual experience of hundreds (research) should overrule the experience of one snarky snark (~anecdote).

    DV, I’m advocating for the inclusion of many experiences over the bossy voice of one. My comment was made to politely remind some commenters that they’re just one piece of the puzzle. That in spite of what they, their experience alone is not enough to justify why things should change or stay the same for everyone else.

    So back to the topic. I think traffic signal optimization should be the top priority to improve the 1R. It’s almost 20% of 1R travel time and improving it wouldn’t require major changes to the built environment (some turn lanes might need to be lengthened).

  40. Matt

    “That in spite of what they think, their experience alone is not enough to justify why things should change or stay the same for everyone else.”

    (sorry Ajax won’t let me fix that line)

  41. Robert

    Matt, you forgotten that the new standard is truthiness, wherein the gut is more important than information, and reality must change to match our beliefs.

  42. david vartanoff

    @ Matt “traffic signal optimization should be the top priority” Agree. I believe that serious signal work, a few queue jump lanes, and much more active line management–a supervisor w/ nextbus feeds and a radio to sort out the bunching, could get us much better service at a fraction of the cost of the full BRT, and more importantly right away. At the meeting it turned out that the ten minute lockout is some AC specific deal on signal preempts–SF doesn’t do that. So, if that gets erased, and AC spends to both fully equip the fleet and maintain the transponders, we would see all buses moving faster. BTW, my snarky comment was mostly to remind all that many a research survey is tailored for desired results so not all are holy writ. If you ask the wrong questions sometimes the answers are too.

  43. Ken O

    “high quality public transit typically requires about $268 in additional subsidies and $104 in additional fares annually per capita, but provides vehicle, parking and road cost savings averaging $1,040 per capita, plus other benefits including congestion reductions, increased traffic safety, pollution reductions, improved mobility for non-drivers, improved fitness and health. This indicates that residents should rationally support tax increases if needed to create high quality public transit systems in their communities. Current planning practices tend to overlook or undervalue many of these savings and benefits and so result in underinvestment in transit quality improvements.”


    People who would rather drive are seeking to maximize personal benefit, not collective benefit.

    We’re in this together vs You’re on your own.