AC Transit service reduction workshop tonight

I know it’s been a little transit-heavy around here lately, and you guys are probably getting fatigued of hearing about the Oakland Airport Connector and the AC Transit service cuts. But you’re going to have to bear with me for just a little bit longer.

Today is the second (and final) AC Transit service reduction workshop in Oakland. I know I’m starting to sound like a broken record, but if you are a bus rider and you haven’t gone to one yet, I strongly urge you to attend. Going in person and talking to the planners about your route changes is going to have much, much more potential to result in some kind of mitigation when the final cuts get made than leaving a comment on the website, although you can do that too.

I went to the workshop last Saturday, and it was awesome. Well, I mean, it was kind of depressing – considering the subject matter, that’s unavoidable. Still, the whole thing was handled really well. It made be wish other transit agencies around here cared so much about their riders.

Planning staff gave a really good presentation (PDF) (and I’m not just saying that cause of the little shout-out they gave me) explaining the circumstances that led to the service cuts and the methodology behind the reduction plan, which was followed by a brief Q&A. Altogether, that part took about half an hour.

Then attendees (about 80 people showed up total) dispersed to go examine the maps and talk to planners about the proposed cuts. I’ve had a couple of people complain to me about this format, but honestly, I loved it. In fact, I was totally perplexed when somebody told me they thought AC Transit was trying to “silence the public’s voice” or something along those lines, since they actually seemed to be trying really hard to get useful feedback to me.

It wasn’t until I read John Knox White’s blog about the Alameda service reduction workshop that I understood what they were getting at. Some people are angry about their line being cut (which is legitimate), and want a public venting session. Certainly such an exercise could offer some degree of catharsis, but in a practical sense, it’s not going to do anything to make the cuts hurt any less.

The point of these meetings is not for people to show up and “protest” service cuts. Service cuts are going to be made no matter what. AC Transit doesn’t have a choice. The point of the meetings is to figure out how to make the necessary service cuts in the best possible way. The more the planners get to talk to people about how exactly they use the bus – where they’re coming from, where they’re going to, when, how often, and why – the better they can design the new routes and schedules to minimize rider pain. If you’re upset about your line being cut – please, do show up. But don’t come just to yell and complain. Talk to the staff politely about what you need from your line. There’s no guarantee, of course, that you’ll get it. But the chances are certainly a lot higher than if you don’t go.

I mentioned in an earlier post that the service reduction proposal was based on ridership, and at the meeting, AC Transit had a really helpful map illustrating the average number of weekday boardings at every bus stop in Oakland, with the new proposed system map laid on top.

Click here for full size map

It’s fascinating. And of course, looking at the map gives you a much better framework to understand the proposed route changes and cuts.

The comment I left on my form, and I know that at least a few other people at my workshop said this too, is that since this plan is going to require a lot of people to do more transferring to get the same service, the Board really should look at revising the transfer policy. Right now when I take the 15 to the Berkeley farmer’s market, I pay my fare, buy my food, and have enough time leftover to use my transfer for the trip home. Now, just to get there, I’ll have to take two buses (either that, or spend like an hour getting there on the 12′s long and windy route), then another two buses back, doubling the cost of my trip.

Transfers, if they’re going to remain available for only one use and an hour and a half, should become free. Alternatively, if AC Transit wants to keep charging for transfers, you should be able to use them for longer and more than once. If you agree with that and go to the meeting tonight, I encourage you to note something similar on your own comment card.

The workshop takes place tonight from 6:30 to 8:00 at the Fruitvale-San Antonio Senior Center in the Fruitvale BART Transit Village. (Accessible by bus lines 1, 1R, 14, 40, and 53 in case you’re like me and refuse to ride BART.)

Also, if you go, you get a free bus ticket and cool paper doll buses at the end!