AC Transit BRT project in jeopardy

This Friday evening, the AC Transit Board of Directors will hold a special meeting to consider taking some steps that could seriously threaten the East Bay BRT project. OMG Yikes, I know!

First let’s take a quick look at how we got here and why this is on the table, then we’ll move on to what is actually being considered. First, you are all aware by now that AC Transit is currently look at proposals to reduce service by 15%. This is necessary for a number of reasons. Steep declines in sales tax revenue due to the poor economy should have been offset by the overwhelming passage of Measure VV, a parcel tax increase for AC Transit, last November. Unfortunately, the State, because of their own budget problems, then went ahead and cut basically all of the operating assistance they provide to local transit agencies, putting AC Transit back in the hole. AC Transit took another hit with the State’s decision to steal “borrow” local property tax revenues, and although they had a fairly hefty reserve, it wasn’t enough to keep the buses going forever without State assistance. As a result, the agency had to raise fares and cut service to make up the shortfall.

If the service cuts currently being considered are implemented, AC Transit’s service hours will be at their second lowest level in, well, basically forever, but since the actual figures I’m working off only go back to 1986, we’ll just say over 20 years. The service will not be at half the level it was 10 years ago, as some have claimed at recent (unrelated) meetings, it will be about 10% lower than it was 10 years ago, and marginally higher than it was in 1996-97. Of course, since AC Transit was in complete crisis back then and had slashed service to basically nothing in many areas, this is rather cold comfort.

The second issue is also the fault of problems with the State. A large portion of the planned funding for BRT was supposed to come from State dollars that get used for capital transportation improvement projects. Since the State is broke, these funds are no longer there. So BRT is now short a significant portion of the funding needed to build it no matter what.

Which brings us to tomorrow’s meeting. The question at hand is whether or not AC Transit should take some of the money that is left for BRT and use it instead to prevent some of the proposed service cuts. (PDF)

Now, for those of you who have heard many times that the BRT funding can’t be used for operations, this may be confusing news. You may be wondering if everyone has just been lying to you this whole time? The answer is no. Reprogramming the funds for operations is not simple and it may not even be possible. But to find out, the Board has to agree they even want to do it first, hence the special meeting. If they give the go ahead, here’s what would happen.

The BRT project is currently expected to be funded from (like all big transit projects) a variety of sources, including federal, state, and local funds. The State funds, like we said, are gone. That leaves us with a number of other sources, two of which AC Transit thinks they might be able to divert to service.

First, we have $35 million in Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality money. CMAQ money is supposed to do, well, pretty much what it sounds like – reduce congestion and improve air quality, and are permitted to be used for operations on new and/or expanded bus lines for no more than three years. So, if (and that is a big if, because these funds are supposed to be used for BRT) both the MTC and the FTA say yes, AC Transit might be able to use this money to restore service on more heavily used lines that are getting sliced under the service reduction plan.

The second funding source potentially available for diversion is $45.6 million from Regional Measure 2. Regional Measure 2 was a bridge toll passed in 2004 by Bay Area voters. The money from the tolls is funding a wide variety of capital projects around the Bay Area, all of which were specifically included in a spending plan that was part of the measure. Included in this spending plan is funding for the East 14th/Telegraph BRT project, and it is explicitly earmarked for that project.

But RM2 also provides some funding for transit operations. What AC Transit is considering asking the MTC to do is basically to take away their RM2 money for BRT and give it to some other capital project (which is allowed – a recent example is the MTC taking away $50 million in RM2 funds earmarked for the Transbay Tube seismic retrofit project and giving it to the Oakland Airport Connector instead). Then, the MTC would take the same amount of money (split up over a number of years) out of the operating funding they give to whatever agency is getting the BRT capital funds and give it to AC Transit instead.

Whether the MTC will agree to do this is not yet clear. AC Transit has asked MTC Executive Director about the possibility of a funding shift, and the response was that they should have a meeting and talk about it in October.

I’m a little bit torn about this from a process perspective. I voted for RM2, and I’ve complained repeatedly on this blog about the City playing funny games with the way they use money from special taxes. If you ask the voters for extra money and tell them you will do something specific with it, then you need to keep that promise. So in that sense, reprogramming the money is just plain wrong. On the other hand, that ship sailed a long time ago with respect to RM2, and it’s clear at this point that there isn’t going to be enough money to do many of the projects in that spending plan. So I can’t really get all that worked up about one more diversion at this point.

So if the Board decides they want to go this route and if the MTC gives them the OK to do it, what happens? Well, they would have enough new money to prevent half of the proposed service cuts and keep funding those lines for the next six years, at which point we all hope the economy will have recovered, and maybe the State will even start giving back the transit assistance they stole. (As if!)

As for where it leaves BRT, well, that part is less clear. AC Transit will continue their current work to select locally preferred alternatives and complete work on the Final EIR/EIS. But they’ll have spent or lost most of the money they had available to build the damn thing. They can of course pursue new dedicated funding from some other sources, but there is absolutely no question that this decision would be a drastic setback to the project. It could leave us in a situation where it will either never be built, be built years after we had all hoped, or in the best possible scenario, re-scoped so it is a much smaller project (running initially only down East 14th and not up Telegraph, for example).

Which brings us to the big question – is this the right thing to do or not? I have to say, when I first heard that AC Transit was considering this, I was so stunned and upset and that I couldn’t even think of any questions to ask about it. Now that I’ve had some time to think about it, I still pretty much hate the idea. Many people have worked very hard for years to get BRT off the ground. The East Bay deserves fast and reliable transit service, and we are never going to be able to attract people to public transit in substantial numbers if we can’t offer them a real, practical alternative to driving, something BRT can actually do. And for a fraction of the cost of other systems with similar benefits.

But as I’ve had more time to think about it over the past couple weeks, I’ve warmed to the idea considerably. As important of a project as BRT is, now is simply not the right time to be pursuing legacy projects. Every time I start thinking about how it would be short-sighted to delay BRT or even risk not building it, I remember the Airport Connector and how angry it makes me that BART is so desperate to pour millions into it at the expense of both their present and future riders. The difference, of course, is that the Airport Connector is a terrible project and BRT is a good one. But still.

Any lingering doubts I may have had about whether trying to divert the money is the right thing to do completely evaporated last night as I sat through AC Transit’s public hearing on the service reductions and listened to scores of people stand up and beg and plead for AC Transit to spare their bus. These people weren’t angry or obnoxious or horrible, entitled assholes like those parking meter people who showed up at Council the other night. (I should note that not all the anti-parking meter people are assholes – Carl Chan of the Chinatown Chamber of Commerce spoke very reasonably at the meeting, and there are merchant groups who want the hours rolled back, but are trying to help the City find ways to do it that don’t compromise services. I disagree with these people, but do not think they are acting irresponsibly, and just want to make it very clear that they’re not the ones I’m complaining about here.) The overwhelming majority of people at last night’s hearing were polite, respectful, and understanding of the situation AC Transit is in. They didn’t angrily demand that their service stay exactly the same. Instead, person after person stood up and offered their heartbreaking story of how this route or that is a lifeline that they need to get to school or to work or to services, explaining how they would be left totally stranded without it. They begged for service as little as once an hour (or even less), happily offering to let go of their weekend or night service without complaint as long as they could just have some access at all.

It is, of course, an extremely difficult decision, and I would hate to be sitting on that dais having to choose between potentially compromising the agency’s future and avoiding cuts today. But when it comes down to it, preserving a vital service for people with no other options is more important than someday getting more people out of their cars and attracting choice riders and spurring green, transit-oriented development and all that. People need these buses, and if there is any way at all to keep them running and prevent the worst of the cuts, then going down that road is really the only ethical thing to do. It is heartbreaking, though.

26 thoughts on “AC Transit BRT project in jeopardy

  1. PRE

    So the terrible OAC project gets built, while the good BRT project on Tele and 14th doesn’t. Is there any wonder that we don’t all just throw our hands up in the air and let whatever happen, happen?

    Personally, I think times like now are EXACTLY when big legacy projects should get built and another age seemed to know that full well. Today however we think small.

  2. Patrick

    As a person who spends $2 per day, 5 days a week on RM1 and RM2, I am sorry to have to disagree that AC Transit should ask MTC to further cook those RM2 books. How about they refund the money for not using it for the intended purpose? After all, they are proposing to increase the bridge tolls 25% next year to make up for a 4% shortfall. This is why people mistrust government entities: because they are given every reason to do so at every opportunity. Although I give AC Transit kudos for being relatively responsible (unlike BART), I cannot condone bending the law – again – just because BART, the MTC and the State of California have already done so, leaving AC Transit in this miserable situation

    I hate to sound cold and heartless. But if AC Transit cannot afford to provide a certain level of service than service should be cut, or fares should be raised to mitigate those revenue losses. This is how it works in the real world. I am already subsidizing public transit daily by using the Bay Bridge to get to work: if they don’t use the money as promised, then they have stolen that money from me – and they need to give it back. Alternately, they can allow me to vote for a change in the way RM2 funds are used. Kind of like they do in democracies.

  3. V Smoothe

    Well it isn’t like the RM2 money would be going to something that wasn’t promised to voters. It would go to another project in the spending plan, and in exchange, AC Transit would get an extra share of the operating funding that is also included in RM2. There isn’t enough money to build everything in the RM2 spending plan no matter what, so while the idea of BRT being one of the projects that doesn’t get any of the money definitely hurts, I don’t think calling the action “cooking the books” is quite accurate.

  4. Patrick

    You’re right, but it appears to be improper. Besides, the next time they come begging for money for BRT, won’t people start wondering “wait a minute…didn’t we already vote for that?” I guess my anger over the OAC has spilled over – and CalTrans and the Bay Bridge Authority’s MASSIVE FAIL over the restructuring of the FasTrak lanes makes my blood boil for hours every morning.

  5. dto510

    It was so much worse for BART to siphon off seismically-strengthening the TransBay Tube, which was RM2′s marquee project, for the damn OAC, then for ACT to try to divert its BRT money for operations. But it’s true that it’s terrible that RM2 is both a slush fund and a failure, and it will make it harder to ask for bridge toll increases in the future.

  6. david vartanoff

    With the caveat that shifting funding is dodgey at best, although MTC and AC are past masters–Dumbarton Rail money embezzled to cover overruns on BART to Warm Springs, Van Hool funding– I favor this gambit. Given that AC has been cheated of many millions from both Sate Transit funds and Spillover money,, I’m not sure ANY state official has moral standing to complain.
    Now, @ Patrick and others, this is the real world where green washing and take transit as I say meet drive as I do. As to bridge tolls, if we truly want to reduce GHG, $25 for single drivers sliding down as cars are filled up is my plan while eliminating the farebox of transit.

  7. Patrick

    When transit can provide service that equates to even <3x the travel time that driving allows, I'm with ya'. Until then, I'm cruisin' in my car. I don't care to give up 3 hours of my life, daily, smelling pee. In addition, the cost is almost 2x. No thanks! It's the California Conundrum. Either we foster mass transit or we don't. FYI: we don't.

    It is funny that so many tout the alternative of BART – even though BART itself admits that the TransBay portion of their service is at capacity. AT CAPACITY. Anyone who attempts to use BART during "rush hour" (between 6am and 8pm) is thwarted by their lack of planning. I tried. Didn't work.

  8. len raphael

    Steve, referring to probable cancellaton of BRT? my objection to it was implementation, timetable and protection of existing business’s, not opposed to greatly reducing car traffic. it was counter productive to let the public transit planning nazis imperiously implement brt. btw, i didn’t like the way robert moses imposed his car centric agenda either.

  9. V Smoothe Post author

    TransForm has come up with what appears to me to be a very reasonable suggestion. With the caveat that it isn’t completely fleshed out yet, here’s what they’re proposing be done:

    1. A CMAQ Swap which will provide the needed operating funds AC Transit has identified for the next three years
    2. Do not proceed with the RM2 swap. This is a major policy decision that should not be rushed and with the CMAQ funding covering the first three years there is no rush.
    3. The OAC project is still not completed and if the project does not proceed, AC Transit will receive another several million in stimulus funding to save important jobs. This would give AC Transit an additional year before needing to use RM2 funding.
    4. Commit to forming a task force with board members, community members and staff to look at the financial issues that AC Transit is facing and recommend solutions. This task force will have the appropriate time and focus to decide whether using RM2 funds in a manner that is different than voters intended is appropriate or even legal.

  10. Julie

    The proposed cuts include entire communities losing ALL public transit. The human suffering manifested in Wednesday night’s Public Hearings, where approximately 60 people (many of which were seniors, parents of school aged children, parents of challenged adults, administrators of state agencies, etc.) spoke begging not to have, in some cases, even the most fundamental level of service eliminated (the last single bus line to Marina Bay in troubled Richmond, for example) could be greatly alleviated by the proposed reallocation of funds. Augmenting one community’s already ample public transit at the cost of isolating entire communities from any public transportation core belies the “public” component of “public transportation.” While laudable, the BRT project simply isn’t worth sacrificing the ability of so many hundreds of AC Transit riders to survive.

  11. david vartanoff

    @ V and Julie, YES!!! The questionable benefits of the full BRT are certainly less valuable than simply being able to get from home to…

  12. David

    Again, always amusing when voters are shocked, shocked, that when they vote to let politicians steal more money out of their pockets, the politicians then waste that money.

    When do you guys start feeling like Charlie Brown with the football and Lucy, and when do you guys learn who the rubes are?

    Stop voting for tax/toll etc increases for heaven’s sake and vote for someone who actually feels responsible to voters for once.

  13. Drunk Engineer

    AC Transit has both a revenue and spending problem. The revenue problems (cuts in state and Federal support, sales tax declines, etc) have been well covered.

    The spending problem is the huge amount of resources devoted to maintaining existing schedules on trunk lines. As traffic congestion increases, the agency has had to throw more and more resources (i.e. drivers and buses) on trunk lines just to maintain existing schedule. The whole point of BRT is that it fixes this problem. Once cars are out of the way (thanks to the exclusive transit lanes), AC can obtain increased frequency AND lower operating cost.

    Thus, any delay in BRT is not good for AC long term financial health. There are many Phase 1 capital projects in RM2 which are underfunded and defunded — any one of which could provide the needed operating funds.

    And even among the funded RM2 projects, can anyone argue that the Berkeley water transit ferry is more important than neighborhood AC Transit service? The rider subsidies for the proposed ferries are utterly obscene, and the whole endeavor merely replicates existing transbay transit service.

  14. david vartanoff

    @Drunk Engineer and all,
    Agree on the boutique ferry service.
    Certainly auto interference is an issue, but the current BRT plan does little where the major problems are.

    Telegraph Ave south from Dwight to B’way in downtown Oakland is not plugged much of the day. (I ride both north and south at many different hours). Coming home from the AC board mtg Fri night the trip from 14th to Alcatraz was shorter than the wait for the bus–in fact the trip was just as fast @ 9PM on a local as on a typical R when they are running. So I ask what is the value in building the reserved lanes which are unneeded evenings and weekends when the 1R doesn’t run? Dwight Way to Bancroft as well as Bancroft itself is a disaster because delivery trucks and street vendor vehicles freely park in the traffic lanes. This has been the case for years, but Berkeley PCOs do nothing. Fixing that is not a multimillion $ issue. Putting TVMs @ the downtown Berkeley BART station would be useful for ALL of the bus lines there, although in my experience cash fares are becoming rare compared to the UC students/others w/flash passes and Translink users. Why are we waiting to do POP?
    Auto generated bus delay is far more of an issue for the 51 both on University (particularly on game days) and College between Bancroft and Claremont. AC’s 51 improvement study shows major delays in downtown Berkeley and Oakland–THESE are places where reserved bus lanes for multiple routes would be useful for many riders. The BRT project was tailored to getting Fed and other monies not for rider utility.

  15. Steve Lowe

    “But at the local level, a well informed constituent can still wield much more influence at City Hall than any paid lobbyist.”

    Not if that poor schmoe has only a minute to plead his or her case, especially before a policymaking group that has already made up its mind. And, as we’ve all too often seen that the public forum that our City Council hosts is inadequate for the purpose of informed decisionmaking, the only real way to reach a reasoned consensus is to participate in focused, interactive discussions with the various subcommittees of the Council, Commissions, etc., and arrive together at the obvious highest and best solution.

    Obviously that can’t happen on a national level with our loyal K Street volunteers out there greasing every skid in Washington; however, at the local level I’d agree that there’s generally not enough hard cash on either side of any debate to clinch a specific vote, especially if this Commissioner or that appointee is serving voluntarily. In the case of the Industrial Land Use policy, for instance, the Planning Commissioners on the Zoning Update Committee dispensed with speakers cards (thanks to Mike Lighty, Nicole Franklin, Doug Boxer and Annie Mudge) to engage as openly and as constructively as possible with actual stakeholders in the audience. And, lo, real ideas got examined, and realistic policy emerged – not the usual opining, excuses and babbetrry that we all know and cherish in those select politicians many insist on returning to office over and over again.

    So it boils down to face time, earnest engagement, provenance and respectful discussion if we really want good governance and not the virtual cavalcade of tomfoolery we’ve got now. But the question remains, can we hope that the same sort of intelligent, informed and interactive dialogue will be encouraged when it comes to historic preservation, one of the key ingredients of any city’s personality?

    Over and over, despite continued reaffirmation by Council of the policies and points spelled out in Oakland’s General Plan, the best interests of the city are given short shrift where preservation is concerned. It always boggles the mind to hear the oohs and aahs of those who’ve just returned from Europe, exclaiming how wonderful it was just about everywhere that this castle or that palace or even some ancient pile of rubble had been preserved, lending ineffable charm to the trip of a lifetime. But here in Oakland…come on! Maybe it’s time to get down to brass tacks and really figure out what this town should look like and feel like and whether we truly want wall-to-wall highrise at the expense of the personality that our grandparents and their contemporaries built here.

    Take for instance, Oakland’s historic (c. 1916) Produce Market, obviously unique in California. Where else can anyone find a survivor as colorful or fun or as intact in the four blocks it covers? We all know that the produce wholesalers are having a hard time there and should be out on the Base in a new facility where there’s loading docks and all the other efficiencies that could add to their bottom line – a promise made by Jerry when running for office but abandoned when something more glittery came along, in this case, the Casino-on-the-Base concept. A decade later, we’re back to semi-firm policy to relocate the wholesalers, but this time without a reuse plan for the historic Market. Does that mean we simply rip out Oakland’s history so some developer can erect more and more Ellingtons there? That’s sort of the Diamondhead effect, isn’t it: let’s encircle this beautiful beach with a virtual barricade of jammed-in hotels so that the original beach disappears entirely, leaving us with a resort for androids.

    Here in Oakland, because there’s scant leadership when it comes to preservation, the emerging theme is, let’s evacuate the wholesalers and encircle the area that’s left with a phalanx of the least inspired architecture possible. If that’s the secret intent of our Council because of the costs involved and the potential for development (as soon as the Estuary Policy Plan can be overridden, of course, which is how the Ellington got entitled), then we’ll soon see, as we have already with the Ellington itself, how much the personality of this city has come to reflect the personalities we’ve elected.

    ????

    – S

  16. dto510

    David V – While it’s true that auto-related delays are a problem for the 51 route, that is not a reason not to do BRT on the Telegraph – International route. The main problem with BRT on the 51 route is that College Ave is too narrow to take a lane away. But there are other reasons why AC Transit and the East Bay cities chose the 1R route back in 2001(ish?) for BRT – it’s has more potential for ridership gains and for transit-oriented development.

    Drunk Engineer is totally right – AC Transit’s biggest structural problem is that increasing congestion takes a toll on the bus service. BRT is the solution to that problem. Postponing BRT for a decade will only make the core system worse – capital funds are only a short-term band-aid if diverted toward operations.

  17. Drunk Engineer

    David V,
    You are greatly underestimating the delays caused to 1R due to auto traffic. Moreover, late evening service is not the best time to measure this effect.

    As an experiment, AC Transit measured delay to buses coming out of the downtown Berkeley area (BART station) headed south. During peak hours, it was often the case that by time reaching Telegraph, delays were already greater than the scheduled headway.

  18. david vartanoff

    @ D E, and all, While I cannot claim this time check didn’t happen, I am skeptical because in my 30 + years of riding this route, I haver NEVER experienced 12 min of delay between Berkeley BART and Dwight except when the driver parked to wait for police to remove a problem rider. FWIW, Berkeley is refining its LPA for how to route the downtown segment, so I remain agnostic on what that will be. I should say, downtown Berkeley needs major work starting with the rearrangement of Shattuck and BART station access.

    I explicitly spoke (speak) to the segment from Dwight/Tele to Tele/B’way. This route is closest to my home so I use it in preference to any other. As such I think I have a fairly accurate picture of how it runs or doesn’t. In PM rush the SB clog is mostly cars heading to 24. The alleged signal preempts for the R’s don’t seem to function in my experience so I wonder how they would work if actually in service.(and how much better the locals would be if they also were so equipped) NB, my experience is clear sailing except for the Dwight/Bancroft segment referenced above. As I am a non driver, I certainly want better transit, but having previously lived in several cities with same, I don’t think paving two bus lanes on Tele is the answer.

  19. Drunk Engineer

    David,
    Headway out of downtown BART is less than 12 minutes for the 51(remember: other routes besides the 1 would benefit from exclusive lanes downtown). I also live along the 1 on Telegraph, and frequently see bunching for buses coming north — as many as 5 buses at a time. That is 4 drivers who could have been driving neighborhood routes.

    You are correct that the signal preemption doesn’t really work right now for the Rapid. By design, signal preemption can only extend a green light (not ‘override’) — and even then, it can only extend under the right circumstances. Thus, the bus has to arrive at exactly the right moment for preemption to work. This is where the main benefit of exclusive transit lanes comes into play — because they allow much tighter scheduling so that bus arrival is synchronized for when it would benefit from the preemption.

  20. david vartanoff

    @ dto510, I was at one of the early scoping meetings for what has now become the BRT project. The majority at that meeting (Berkeley Senior Center Hearst & MLK) were in favor of Light Rail. So when AC proudly announced that after “consulting” the citizenry, they were going for what they used to call enhanced bus, I was not impressed. So much for “choice”.
    In the early 90′s AC had a study done on improving the trunk corridors.
    That study consistently recommended against diamond lanes and signal preempts while projecting highest ridership and fastest trips with LRT at cost per trip differentials as low as .06 greater than Busway (proto BRT branding) . I conversely think giving the 1 R diamond lanes in rush hour w/ severe enforcement would be a much better $$/results mix and could be done much sooner.

  21. david vartanoff

    D E The 51, if AC’s study is to be believed, is delayed 80% by traffic signals. Would that not lead one to believe traffic signals are the “low hanging fruit”? If signal preempts only work in a very tight window, then better design is needed. I long ago suggested to AC that at the very least they add prempt transponders to the non Rapid fleet so that any bus on equipped streets would benefit. San Pablo, Shattuck in dntn Berkeley, Broadway, 11th, 12th prime examples. Absolutely agree all routes would benefit from a thorough redo of downtown Berkeley. I envision bulldozing the BART rotunda, straightening Shattuck (west) as the through bi directional street and taking the rest of the wide ROW Center to Allston for a real transit station. THAT is where TVMs etc would be useful. flattening the parking as far as Durant to make bus lanes there would also be highly useful–because so many buses pass through.

  22. dto510

    DV – I agree that ACT should pursue signal preemption on College. But I think the 80% delay at traffic signals is mostly about ONE signal, at Ashby and College, that CalTrans controls, and uses to favor Ashby traffic over College traffic. I don’t know whether they would be amenable to signal preemption there.

    As for Light Rail, yes, people prefer light rail (though I think that’s a shallow aesthetic preference that evaporates once people see how fast and convenient BRT is). The problem is that LRT is really, really expensive. Maybe if Alameda County didn’t spend 90% of its transportation dollars on freeways and BART, LRT would be an option. But it’s not.

    I still don’t see how the fact that people like unaffordable LRT, or that the 51 deserves improvements, are arguments against BRT on Telegraph / International. Certainly setting a precedent for abandoning transit improvements during an economic downturn will not help bring BRT (or LRT) anywhere.

  23. david vartanoff

    @ dto510 and all, as background, and perhaps better understanding of my POV. I am well aware of the pitfalls of fudging operations out of capital funds. The sad history of the still not running Second Avenue Subway in NYC is a caution for us all. go here
    http://www.nycsubway.org/articles/historyindependentsubway.html
    and weep. That said the 51 study does not sustain the comment about Ashby although that is a major irritant. see page 20 here
    http://www.actransit.org/planning_focus/details.wu?item_id=50&PHPSESSID=71683fd1c33f7cde7437eeee154404db

    Much as we (riders) all know the College segment sucks, the ## in the chart show University to Shattuck Durant is worse. The physics are that College has no lanes to grab unless we can sell rush hour no parking, University has a median.
    As to pining for rail, I will admit I love rail, but I use transit whatever the mode. Certainly in my life I have ridden more miles on rubber tires than steel wheels. On a recent trip to Chicago, I chose to use the Museum Express bus from the Loop to Science and Industry rather than the rail route, ’cause it was more convenient. (And, FWIW, this mirrors getting from my old neighborhood to the Loop on a CTA express bus rather than taking the more expensive and less frequent train from the very same corner when I was a teen.)
    You are correct that the money wasted on freeways puts us in the bind of arguing over the scraps for transit funding. That and the desire for a marquee project do not a good plan make.
    The recent decision in the BRT policy group to abolish the local in favor of all Rapid service will not increase ridership in my view–especially since, if recent history is any guide, the claimed 5 minute headways will never be funded. MTC’s relentless drive for ‘shiny suburban aesthetic’ projects–OAC, the GHG enhancing Fourth Bore– is not likely to change near term. I see AC Transit as similar to what was happening in the late 50s when transit was being starved before the cement vendors discovered how much graft was available building things like BART and WMATA. The latter, despite having overtaken every other system old or new except NYC is constantly behind on maintenance because operating funds are a year by year fight.

  24. Drunk Engineer

    David,
    So let me get this straight. You say the BRT is too expensive, yet you propose: demolishing the downtown Berkeley BART rotunda, bulldozing all of Shattuck Ave, and building an LRT?

    As for merging the local and Rapid stops — this is consistent with District policy not to have a bus stop every frickin block. A similar proposal is in the works for the 51. Yes, this will be inconvenient for little old ladies and the disabled, but it is also how modern bus transit systems operate.

  25. david vartanoff

    @ D E
    As to the who cares about LOLs attitude, there really aren’t many “stops every frickin block” except in areas of dense ridership–like downtown Oakland or Berkeley. The real question is how many riders get on/ off at any given location. As an instance, Webster (Berkeley) is only one block from Ashby. Normally transit systems have stops where routes cross (Ashby) AND where major rider origins/destinations exist (Webster–Alta Bates and associated medical offices + Whole Foods.) I would have merged these stops in the block South of Ashby rather than having the R skip Ashby, but instead many $$ have been spent to add bus shelters at all four stops. So, no, I do not automatically support retaining all stops, but I look at whether they attract riders.

    downtown Berkeley is due for some makeover. There is a downtown remodel plan in dscussion stage including perhaps closing some of Center Street along with the proposed boutique hotel, convention center, new University Art Museum/PFA. Given the size of the potential project and the various entities involved maybe there might be money to do some of it better this time around without much from AC. We aren’t getting LRT, so I don’t propose anything about same.
    .