BRT at Planning Commission tonight

Tonight, the Oakland Planning Commission will discuss, among other things (PDF) the selection of a locally preferred alternative (PDF) for AC Transit’s proposed East Bay BRT project. Why are they meeting tonight at all, you ask? Yeah, BEATS THE HELL OUT OF ME. They’ve canceled meetings on Ash Wednesday in the past. Not this year, though. What are you going to do?

Anyway. So what does this mean, to select a locally preferred alternative?

First, here is what it does not mean. It does not mean that the Planning Commission (and in coming weeks, the City Council) is approving doing BRT. That is a decision that will come later, after AC Transit has completed their Final Environmental Impact (FEIR) Report for the proposal. Before they can complete the FEIR, each City in the corridor (Oakland, Berkeley, and San Leandro) has identify their preferred route for the project and preferred station locations.

With a detailed plan for the route and stop locations, AC Transit will be able to identify the actual impacts of BRT more precisely than in their Draft EIR. Once the concrete impacts have been identified, they can then try to come up with specific steps they can take to mitigate those impacts. When that is all finished, the Council can then decide to approve or not approve the project.

I think that BRT would be pretty much the best possible thing, transit-wise, that could happen for Oakland and really hope that when we get to that point, the Council will make the correct decision. But it is important to understand that we aren’t there yet. I feel like a great deal of the opposition to BRT is due to a lack of information about the project. Yes, there are, of course, some people who are fully informed and have well thought out rationale for not liking the project. I disagree with those people, but respect them.

However, most of the time when I encounter people who don’t want BRT, it takes all of two minutes of talking to them before you realize that they are aware of like, zero facts about the project besides the fact that it involves dedicated lanes. I think this is unfortunate, and largely due to a combination of poor press coverage and aggressive misinformation campaigns on the part of a few local organizations. It’s sad.

If BRT is a new concept to you, you can get up to speed on AC Transit’s BRT page, the City of Oakland’s BRT page, and of course, the BRT archives on this blog. Basically, BRT would replace the bus routes 1 and 1R. Buses would run from Berkeley to downtown Oakland along Telegraph Avenue, then from downtown Oakland to San Leandro along International Boulevard. The stops would be spaced every one-third of a mile. This will be closer together than the stops on the existing 1R, and farther apart than the stops on the current 1. Roughly, the bus would stop every four blocks instead of every two.

Passengers would board the buses from raised platforms in the median. The stations would feature ticket vending machines, so that fares are pre-purchased. The raised platforms would also allow for level boarding (no more painful waiting for the bus to go up and down to let wheelchairs on and off). The buses would run in dedicated lanes along the route, except in downtown Oakland. Combined, the features are intended to significantly improve speed along the route, but much more importantly, ensure reliability of service.

Oakland’s draft locally preferred alternative, which the Planning Commission will be discussing tonight, involves not only dedicated bus lanes, but also the transformation of International and Telegraph into what is called a “complete street,” featuring significant improvements for pedestrians and bicyclists along the corridor. Read dto510′s blog post on the subject for more context.

You can read the details of the City’s draft locally preferred alternative at the City’s BRT website.

The City held a series of public meetings to solicit feedback on the proposed locally preferred alternative during January. The comments received at these meetings are included in the agenda report for tonight’s discussion (PDF). The 46 pages of comments include a lot of good questions and useful suggestions for further study. They also include a lot of pointless, unproductive, and totally uninformed comments from crazy people who hate BRT and have no interest in learning any facts or having a conversation about how to improve the project. And there’s also a pretty healthy dose of the random and irrelevant. Below, I’ve listed some of my favorites from the document:

I will enjoy the bus rides

The City of Oakland needs to repair the underground infrastructure such as the ailing old Sewer System before this Transit project. Most of Oakland’s Neighborhoods have Sewer leaks, Leaking Raw Human waste into the Ground!

To improve bus transportation routes, this is good. But you’ve got to first repair the roads, because now many roads are broken and without repair. Therefore the roads cause accidents, not only to pedestrians but to automobiles. Therefore I suggest that Oakland fixes all the broken roads first, and then tries to improve the bus transportation route.

I adamantly oppose the implementation of AC Transit’s Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) plan. The havoc it woudl create for private autos and everyone else using the Tlegraph corridor is well beyond reason, with no great benefit to transit users. It would also make riding a bicycle on Telegraph Ave much less attractive, being hemmed in by long lines of autos and large buses whizzing by. And the idea that the City has no recourse to remove the infrastructure once the plan shows its not useful is beyond gall.

I’ve ridden AC Transit buses on Telegraph in Berkeley and Oakland for about thirty years. Never has there been any bus more dangerous (for a senior) and uncomfortable to ride than the BRT. In fact, I avoid BRT whenever possible, as do many others (witness the low ridership; I often see near empty BRT lumbering down Telegraph). It’s hard for me to believe you know or care how passengers are thrown around inside the BRT trying to grab something to hold onto or sit on. Did you think drivers waited for passengers to clasp something to hold onto or sit onto before driving off? It’s fairly obvious to we who ride buses that someone, somewhere, who never rides buses, took a big bribe to authorize such a mosterosity.

And my hands-down favorite of the comments? This one:

I can’t thank you enough for dropping your STOP BRT flyer on my Temescal home’s doorstep. I had heard nothing about this, and after reviewing various things on the web about it this afternoon, I am thrilled. What a creative proposal to improve public transportation in our city and help the environment.

Your flyer, by the way, is a bit of a downer. More the “politics of nope” than a “politics of hope.” My reaction to people who “just say no” is to always look at the other side, and in this case was so excited by the possibilities of Bus Rapid Transit that I have to wholeheartedly support it. To that end, I am cc’ing _brt@oaklandnet.com_ ( with this comment: Yes to BRT!

Yeah, you read that right. Temescal was papered with STOP BRT flyers filled with a bunch of lies about the proposal designed to terrify people about the concept of BRT. Happily, in at least one case, it backfired.

But the input received is by no means all silly or uninformed. There are a number of issues pop up repeatedly in the comments, and how these concerns can be addressed or mitigated, either through changes to the locally preferred alternative, or later through specific steps on the part of AC Transit, should be the focus of tonight’s discussion so that Oakland can end up with the best possible project when and if this finally happens. The common themes are as follows:

  • Prohibiting left turns will shift traffic onto side streets
  • Concern over bus only lanes limiting access for emergency vehicles
  • Concern about losing parking spaces
  • Concern about seniors walking too far for the bus

The Planning Commission meets at 6 PM tonight at City Hall, in Hearing Room 1. Oh, and if you feel like showing up early, the Planning Commission’s Zoning Update Committee will be meeting at 4:30 this afternoon to discuss a proposal to amend the Zoning Code (PDF) to allow conditional use permits for people to create new “temporary” surface parking lots on vacant property downtown. No, I am not making that up. There is more to the proposal than that – the parking lots are just one example. The idea is to allow “temporary” uses of things that otherwise wouldn’t be allowed throughout the City. What’s the point of even having zoning in the first place, you ask? Yeah, I don’t know either.

109 thoughts on “BRT at Planning Commission tonight

  1. dto510

    Anti-BRT activists in Berkeley also papered Telegraph with lies against BRT before the Nov 2008 election. The area along the BRT route mirrored Berkeley’s 77% rejection of the anti-BRT Measure KK. BRT haters are a tiny minority, using unpersuasive arguments.

  2. Brad


    What you say is true. But it’s also true that the draft BRT plan needs to be significantly improved. A number of the commenters provided cogent, specific criticisms, pointing out design flaws, and several offered potential solutions which must be given serious study.

  3. Brad

    Wow, no one comes off looking good in that video.

    Esp the camera woman egging them both on, screaming “say it again, pinky” to the white guy and “kick his white ass” to the black guy.

  4. livegreen

    Stupid, man just stupid. No wonder this City gets ready to explode after any violence. Today outside of O-High there was a group of kids running back and forth through traffic, with more kids on the side egging them on.

    A couple minutes later another student was about to cross the street and two of the kids jumped him. He fought them off, while others were egging the two on, but man, I can’t believe anybody has to put up with this…

  5. len raphael

    LG, i thought you said you lived in the hills?

    I read a bunch of the comments. What struck me was the local self styled smart growth group, proposing keeping on street parking as a barrier against all traffic, car and bus. To some extent that smart growth group has several active temescal merchants who might have tempered the group’s position with a strong dose of the reality the merchants face who want long term higher density but dont’ want to be sacrficed to achieve that.

    -len raphael

  6. livegreen

    Len, Cheapest gas around is across from Oakland High. I drive to-and-from work that way. (Am/Pm is almost always the least expensive fuel).

  7. Steve

    Yeah, keep broad-brushing BRT opponents with the “ignorant” paint, and see how far that gets you.

    At great expense, BRT will result in a marginal improvement in bus travel time and reliability along the Telegraph corridor. Unfortunately, it will also fundamentally disrupt traffic flow. If the plans are implemented as is, the area around 51st, Shattuck, and Telegraph will be a complete disaster during rush hour: effectively, a parking lot, full of angry drivers in stinky cars, belching stress and fumes into the Temescal neighborhood.

    Won’t that be great?

  8. Robert

    Steve, the most effective way to get more people to take mass transit is to make car driving less attractive.

  9. David

    Robert, you would really have to make driving terrible to make taking the bus with the guy Epic Beard Man beat down attractive. (seriously, if that guy was stupid enough to pick a fight with a crazy white dude wearing that t-shirt on a bus in Oakland, what won’t he do?)

    Again, once people make enough money (even in Europe), mass transit use drops.

    Why do you feel the need to punish people for driving? Why do you think (against all evidence) that you can socially engineer people to like mass transit/living in high-rises/etc etc.

    Instead of punishing drivers who might want to go cross-town, why not make Oakland a more attractive place to be?

  10. Don Macleay from Oakland CA

    I have real trouble with this plan. Shouldn’t the buses radiate out from the BART stations? Why build BRT mostly running along part of the BART route adding little more transit to an area that already has buses? The claimed advantage is not that much. 20% faster? But why would so many more people take it? Will it get them to shop? Will it get them to work? Will it be easier than driving in your car? Will the business along the route be able to stay in business or will their current clients who drive not just drive somewhere move convenient?

    We need a lot of investment in transit and a lot more planning that what we have. Most cities I have seen with good transit the bus company feeds the metro system and does not build parallel to it. Right now we have trouble ditching the car to get to BART only to take BART to another station where we will feel stranded without a car.

    How is BRT going to get more people out of their cars, on transit and getting to where we want to go? Where is MTC in all this? What is the overall plan for expanding mass transit in the Bay Area, or is there one?

  11. Max Allstadt


    Here are a few answers:

    1. The route was chosen based on extensive ridership studies, which indicated that the Telegraph-International path would generate the most ridership. I myself asked a while back why BRT wasn’t going up San Pablo or along Foothill. The straight answer is that we have many more transit oriented commuters on the route that was proposed.

    Once BRT is implemented and proven in the easiest place to get it going, there are plans to create more routes.

    2. 20% faster isn’t the biggest advantage. The biggest advantage is that dedicated lanes and absolute traffic signal priority add up to a massive boost in reliability. This is the sort of reliability that light rail offers, but at a much lower cost and with much more future adaptability. The main reason people don’t like busses is the fact that their departure, arrival and travel times are unpredictable. BRT fixes that.

    3. “Will it be easier than driving in your car?” That depends. It also depends on whether or not you have a car. One of the key benefits of public transit is that it makes it easier to not own a car at all. Cities where you don’t need a car to get around are more able to attract new investment, retail, commerce and residents. Not owning a car give you thousands of dollars more in disposable income per year if you’re not poor.

    4. It’s somewhat unfair to characterize this BRT line as “parallel to BART”. The main reason is that BART stops are very spread out. On the Eastern portion of the route, there are no BART stops for almost 3 miles between Lake Merritt and Fruitvale. That area, the San Antonio neighborhood, is among the most densely populated in the East Bay. It’s as dense as the Mission, population-wise, but has no quality transit.

    Similarly, BRT on Telegraph would have multiple stops between BARTs 19th and Mac Arthur (quite a ways apart), and beyond the MacArthur stop, BRT on telegraph would veer uphill, covering a commercial portion of Berkeley which is actually quite a long walk from the Ashby and Downtown Berkeley Bart stops.

    Lastly, and I don’t want to be too mean about this, but it really is an issue: You’re the Green Party candidate for Mayor. I am baffled by your pro-car stances, and by your apparent animus toward what is likely the most viable transit project on the books in the East Bay. These stances seem utterly incompatible with the national Green Party platform.

    Transit is green. Autopia inspired city planning is the antithesis of green. Am I missing something here? cause I really just don’t get it. Perhaps you can set me straight. I’ve seen your videos and you seem like a reasonable guy. Please reason with me about this apparent contradiction.

  12. Matt

    Don, the geography of the region influences transit and development. The immediate region is narrow on the east-west axis and long on the north-south axis. From the water to the hills is 5 miles or less and from the Berkeley to San Leandro boarder is about 10 miles. The proposed BRT route is along a very dense corridor linking more residents to BART stations.

  13. David

    Transit is only green if you’re comparing 50%+ loaded busses/trains (or something like that proportion, depending on engine etc) versus single-occupancy, 20 mpg type cars/SUVs. Once you get 2 people in a 25, 35 mpg car, there’s no transit system that competes in terms of fuel consumed per passenger mile.

  14. Naomi Schiff

    Think of BART as the Long Island Railroad, not the subway! Ever since its first day, it has been more a suburban commuter line taking office workers into SF than anything else. As it has grown, it has continued to skip over the people who could really use a municipal rail system–city dwellers. I live half way between two stations. I am willing to walk much farther than the average person. Even so, am I willing to carry something heavy for a mile? Do I want to walk a mile in the rain? What will I do when I get a bit older and creakier? What if I feel a little weak that day? BART serves the central downtown of Oakland, but beyond that it is obvious that we need to improve bus service to accommodate the large percentage of Oaklanders for whom departure point or destination–or both–may not be anywhere near BART. Nobody above MacArthur Blvd. east of Broadway is really close to a BART station. The whole northern part of West Oakland is pretty far from BART. East Oakland is spectacularly ill-served. The hills are not served. If you don’t live right next to a station, bolstering AC Transit service is your best bet for non-automotive commutes.

    I do think that BRT planners need to work intensively with retailers along the routes to keep businesses from being damaged, and that the city planners need to be looking at how to support retail areas with parking accommodations where it is a problem. But don’t tell me that BART should be the main focus of Oakland transit policy. It just isn’t built for that.

  15. Don Macleay from Oakland CA


    If you want to tell Greens what views we should have, then join the movement.
    On my own, I tend to go to a lot of place on my bike. Your comments sound like you are just looking for a place to get a cheap dig in. Yes I am Green, NO I am not willing to jump on any idea with a bus in it. We do not need to cause working people hardships or put people out of business to increase transit, it should work the other way around.

    And we need to get the transit in to get the cars out.

    The problem with transit in the Bay Area is much bigger than anything BRT gets to. We have a mix of overlapping authorities that have shown that they do not cooperate well and plan even worse. The kind of transit the large metropolitan area needs is not being met. Funds that could be used for the kind of real infrastructure improvements are scarce. We need to spend them on BRT?

    This seems in keeping with a planning system that took BART around the bay and did not stop at one airport, train station or bus link and only stopped at one sports facility. We have been 9 years or more on just trying to get a common ticket when we need a lot more coordination like buses radiating out from the stations. One could go on like this for a long time. What I do not want to do is keep throwing the public’s money into this horrible planning process.

    The Green Party very much wants to see mass transit move forward. Is this it?

    How are we gong to get people out of cars and on transit? On this BRT link?
    The truth is that most people have cars, most working people have cars and depend on them. They are not going to drop them if they can not get to where they need to go in some reasonable time frame and with some security.

    And all the small business owners? Why are they ALMOST ALL against it?
    Will this bring them clients or drive them away.
    Their livelihood depends on that answer.
    How much unemployment are we willing to cause here?
    Historically Oakland has suffered this kind of project.

    If these routes have so much ridership or ridership potential, then let’s try it out and add buses and build it up. Let’s get some of these other things we can do to get buses from neighborhoods to BART and then from BART to where we need to go. And let’s think about the big infrastructure. BART should probably have another ring attached to it.

    Every major city I know with good transit spent a lot more on the backbone.
    Mexico city just never stops building. Montreal is now thinking to build to the south shore after linking most of the island together. What is the Bay Area doing? BRT? A trolley here and there? This sounds like pet projects and not to professional at that.

    Projects like BRT and the BART / Airport connector seem to me to be half measures on top of something already in place. How they really move transit forward, get people out of cars, help our city’s citizens and economy is not so clear. It needs to be a lot more clear before we throw more cash at it.

    Near my house there is a plan to paint a white stripe down the road.
    It will cost us a million dollars and they will call it a bike lane.
    And we tear out a community gardening project in the process.
    This took about ten years to plan too.

    As an avid bike rider, I will not use that bike lane because I do not risk my life behind a white line on a major road. Most of the bike lanes in my area are too dangerous to use because they are not respected by the drivers. Those lanes are used to park an make rapid right turns without coming to a real stop on red. They are on the list of “great achievements” of the Bike Route Master Plan.

    So please do not waive any old plan under our nose and tell us we have to accept it because the backers are trying to paint it Green.

    There is a term called Greenwashing and that is what this sounds like.

    Bike lanes people can not use and bus projects people will not use are not good ideas. We need better proposals than this.


  16. Patrick

    I would also like to comment on Don’s suggestion that busses should radiate out from BART stations. That works for people arriving from the suburbs for work, but BART stations are conveniently located in DTO already. This BRT route is meant to serve people locally, over relatively short distances- not move people from Pleasanton to Berkeley via San Leandro.

  17. V Smoothe

    Wow, Don. Clearly, you have a tremendous amount to learn about transportation planning, transit funding, transit administration in the Bay Area, and transit best practices and models both within the US and worldwide.

    I, and I’m sure many others who actually pay attention to these things would be more than happy to sit down with you and educate you on the fundamentals of these issues. The idea of someone running for Citywide public office and claiming to support mass transit while being so wildly uninformed on the subject is terrifying to me!

  18. Don Macleay from Oakland CA

    I see a lot of ideas about what BART is and is not and what it is supposed to be.

    For all its flaws, it is the only light rail we have and it is the backbone of regional transit. More should be added and a better job needs to be done end to end.

    Montreal has the same system working like a subway.
    Paris has a system like it called the RER and THEN they have a metro like MUNI

    What are we going to do in this area?
    There are a lot of ideas that might work.
    Feeder buses to major routes and BART
    Another ring of light rail that would work more like a local service?
    More local services?

    What is wrong with the local citizens demanding that the MTC, BART AC Transit and the many others do a better job of planning and answer that big question of how do we get people out of the cars without killing local business and jobs?

  19. Patrick

    Wow. All the requirements of a succesful politician: arrogance, emotionally-charged, unsupported statements, wild accusations, and grandiose plans with no identified funding source. Who knew Green was the new Republican?

  20. V Smoothe

    OMG, Don! Where to begin? How about with the most obvious? BART is not light rail! I strongly suggest, if you want to be seen by the environmental community as a credible Mayoral candidate, that you take some time to educate yourself at least a little bit about the basics of public transit before you continue to weigh in on the topic.

  21. Don Macleay from Oakland CA

    The idea that we keep doing all these projects so poorly, so over budget, so late and then get the results we have makes we wonder too.

    It also makes most of us lowly, uniformed poor fools called citizens upset.
    This is part of why there is so much distrust of government and so many tax initiatives with serious strings attached.

    Sometimes you have to get away from being so caught up in the way we are currently doing things and look around for other cities that do it well.

    Frankly I am not too impressed to learn about how they took 9 years not to get a common ticket or plan a million dollar white strip down 40th Street. This is the enlightened way to fund and plan? Where are the results?

    But are you involved in a conversation or just flaming on line?
    Some people are very good at making glib statements and personal attacks or just throwing stuff out there as facts when those facts are very much in doubt

    Some people are very good at that.

  22. Chris Kidd

    Um, BART isn’t light rail. It’s not a word game. It’s a heavy-gauge rail system that is incompatible with existing roadways. That’s not word play, that’s a fact.

  23. livegreen

    Don just performed another favorite political trick: ignoring a question or contrasting point. I agree with V, Patrick, Max, Naomi (& now Chris) on everything they’ve said to you so far Don. If you have a rebuttal to their points I’m all ears but sidestepping the question is not the same as answering.

    Besides their correcting you about BART not being “light rail” (which you’ve not answered), not even your examples of light rail are light rail. Like BART, the RER in Paris is simply not light rail.

    Part of this seems to depend on the definition of “light rail” and it being used inter-changeably with both BART and MUNI. Which are, of course, not at all the same as pointed out.

    I’m newer to transit issues than many posters here, so I defer to them on how “light rail” is accurately defined, but whether or not you agree with them on that definition, you should acknowledge their point about BART being more like a railroad for moving people regionally, vs. light rail/BRT moving people inside 1 or 2 municipalities and having more frequent stops.

    More frequent stops that like buses ARE more friendly for residents AND businesses inside a City.

    That is fundamentally different from BART. Please acknowledge this point they have made so well.

  24. Matt


    A diesel trunk line bus get’s ~4 MPG with 90 plus people on board. That’s ~.0027 gallons per passenger per mile. A hybrid Prius with 5 passengers gets ~40mpg. That’s ~.005 gallons per passenger per mile.

    A diesel trunk line bus get’s 6+ MPG with 30 plus people on board. That’s ~.005 gallons per passenger per mile. A carpooling hybrid Prius with 2 passengers gets ~44.5mpg. That’s ~.011 gallons per passenger per mile.

    Where did you come up with the idea private cars are more fuel efficient than transit?

  25. Andy K

    Don may have lost any potential for my vote with his rants.

    There should be ways to ameliorate the strong opposition to BRT in some of the more crowded business districts. What about “single tracking” from 51st to 48th or so? Or run the southbound buses down Shattuck through this area on a dedicated lane. Not ideal, but with advanced signaling, control of vehicle positioning, etc, this might work, or at least could be looked at. Traffic in this area is brutal at rush hour.

    @livegreen – if you think am/pm is cheap, try Quick Stop on BEAUMONT AVE. They are usually lower, and right around the corner. Also, this web site list gives you gas prices:

  26. Chris Kidd

    Considering the zoning update that is taking place *right now* for residential and commercial zoning in Oakland, BRT is absolutely essential. The entire route of BRT through Oakland will be through transit corridors that had been explicitly identified in the 1998 LUTE general plan as “growth and development” areas. Now that the city has finally gotten to bringing zoning into alignment with the general plan, these are areas that will see significant amounts of upzoning in order for Oakland to absorb the amount of growth that it is projected to receive without forcing that growth to crop up in residential neighborhoods. People can have all the misgivings they like about the upzoning of our transit corridors, but I don’t think you’d like it too much if they built that 6 story apartment building in your neighborhood instead.

    ABAG projections called for 7,733 additional units of housing to be built in Oakland between 1999 and 2006. That’s a whole lot of new people. If people want to complain about the traffic problems that BRT would create, let’s think about the traffic implications of 12,000+ new residents (and all of their cars) in Oakland grouped around the transit corridors. BRT on Telegraph, or 5,000+ more cars on Telegraph? That’s not a tough decision for me. By implementing BRT, we are at least giving ourselves the *chance* to mitigate the traffic implications of the growth that Oakland not only *will* see, but also *should* see if we hope to revitalize our neighborhoods and make this city into the wonderful place we all know it can be.

  27. V Smoothe

    There are absolutely ways to ameliorate the impacts of BRT on business districts. As I tried to explain in the post, identifying specifically what those impacts will be, on a very micro level, and then identifying solutions to the problems identified is the entire point of this locally preferred alternative exercise.

    There are business and property owners along the corridor who understand this and are willing to work productively with the City and AC Transit to identify acceptable mitigations. Everyone involved understands that the end result may very well be that this very specific alignment doesn’t happen exactly as laid out in the draft LPA.

    Unfortunately, the people willing to work productively and be patient with the process so that we can identify real mitigations are not nearly as loud as the people who oppose the project altogether, so to someone not paying a lot of attention, it can seem like they don’t exist.

    In any case, the only way we will ever get to the point where we can address these issues is to allow the LPA process to move forward.

  28. Chris Kidd

    I’m also entirely discouraged by Mr. Macleay’s dismissive attitude towards bike lanes and bicycle infrastructure. Yes, installing bike lanes (even when it’s just paint) is expensive. That’s the nature of the beast. When a bike lane is proposed through a Department of Transit (DOT), a traffic study is a mandatory requirement studying the effect of a bike lane on the Level of Service (LOS) because the installation of bike lanes almost always necessitates the removal of either a lane of traffic or street parking. It’s not the most efficient system to get bike infrastructure built, but that’s just the way our modern bureaucracy works. So let’s not belittle the efforts of those within city government working for the betterment of bicyclists, let’s instead work towards changing DOT practices with regards to LOS. If a comprehensive system that measured the impact on Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) rather than the LOS effect on a specific intersection, it might be much easier to justify the installation of bicycle infrastructure, which would make it cheaper and more plentiful.

    What’s more, the only way to make existing bicycle infrastructure safer is to use it. Bike lanes, bike paths, bike boulevards, and sharrows all have their place in bicycle infrastructure and none of them should be discounted. As a long-time bicyclist, Mr. Macleay, you should be the first among us to know that.

  29. Chris Kidd

    Honestly, I think a lot of opposition to BRT stem from not understanding what a BRT system does and how fundamentally different it is from standard bus systems. Maybe this will help:

    And if that’s too exotic for you, here’s the success they’ve had with BRT in LA:

    If the spiritual capital of the automobile can implement wildly successful BRT, why can’t we do it?

  30. Max Allstadt

    I just want to say that I’m incredibly disappointed that a candidate for mayor would post a position on this blog, receive a civil point-by-point rebuttal from me, and then respond to my rebuttal by completely ignoring every point I brought up. That isn’t what I think of as engagement.

  31. livegreen

    Thanks for all the links. A lot of reading to do in (what?) spare time. But there’s only one way to learn…

    Matt, on the other side of the coin, and to pick-up what David & some of the other pro-car people have referred to in the past (or, to play devil’s advocate) it is mislead-ing to use full or even half-full buses in an MPG comparison with cars. I see plenty of buses with only 5-10 people on them. And in the evening 1-3 people on them.

    Does AC Transit have an average ridership transit-wide to base such a comparison on? (I would assume they do). & shouldnt’ they consider eliminating or at least reducing some late-night services for lines with low-ridership?

    It would both boost AC Transit ridership averages, improve the per passenger fuel consumption, and help reduce costs for those of us who are against robbing peter to pay paul (another Property Tax).

  32. Robert

    Don has the temerity to question whether the current holy grail of transit advocates, BRT, is the best way to spend our money, and he is, of course, attacked by those self-same transit advocates. Although you may not agree with everything he mentions, he has the courage to suggest that we look at the broader picture, and question whether incremental improvements will really accomplish anything substantial.

    Lets just look at one thing, greenhouse gas emissions. BRT is projected to attract 5000 new riders a day to transit in 2025, for something over $200 million. With an average trip of 5 miles, and 250 weekdays a year, that works out to a little over 6 million passenger miles a year. With current average gas mileage in the US, each mile driven emits about 1 pound of CO2, so the would be a decrease of 3100 tons of CO2 emissions a year. Sounds great, but… Amortized over 20 years, the $200 million is $10 million/year (ignoring interest). So that would work out to be about $3000/ton of CO2 removed. Now estimates I have seen for carbon offsets are between $10 and $100/ton. So the $3000/ton for BRT doesn’t look so good compared to alternative means. Now numbers are going to vary a little with different estimates, but there is such a huge gap here it doesn’t seem like BRT is ever going to be a reasonable choice for CO2 reduction

    So Don is absolutely right, that we have to look at the bigger picture, and most importantly try to understand what we are really trying to accomplish with a transportation (not transit only) policy. And the way you do that is to brainstorm ideas and have a discussion. It is not to attack somebody because he challenges your assumptions.

    V is correct about one thing, in that we won’t be fully able to judge impacts until the final EIR comes out. I hope that the same folks who complained about the OAC boondoggle look at the final numbers for BRT with the same skepticism.

  33. Robert

    BART is technically a heavy rail operation, but actually operates in a hybrid mode, with some aspects of traditional heavy rail commuter railroads and some aspects of light rail, street car type of systems. For the light rail comparison, look no further than Market Street in SF, where is is hard to distinguish operation characteristics between BART and MUNI. On the other hand, towards the end of the lines, it looks far more like a commuter railroad. So either everybody is wrong or everybody is right, you pick.

    Historically BART was built to bring people from the suburbs (which included San Leandro and Hayward) into the commercial centers of Oakland and SF, but that does not mean that it can’t be better leveraged now to serve a wider role. And some suggestions on this very blog have suggested adding stations to help accomplish that.

  34. Brad


    As if that really stacks up against the other mayoral candidates.

    Who do we have? Mr. disengaged-and-out -of-touch Dellums, who has logged three hour workdays, says his job isn’t to fill potholes, and soaks up the city travel expense account. Jean Quan, who puts ideology before reality and helped drive OUSD into a 100 million dollar hole, then went on to help drive the city into a hole millions dollars deep, and is still at it, saying at the recent budget meeting that she wants to put off the hard issues til later. And then there’s always Don Perata, investigated by the FBI for corruption, who brazenly flouts campaign finance laws.

    An out-of-touch sponge, an ideologue, and a crook.

    Not that I’m a Don Macleay supporter. He’s definitely not getting my vote.

    Shit, with choices like these, this just might be the first election in my life that I sit out completely.

  35. Max Allstadt


    It’s not just that I disagree with what I read, it’s that I laid out multiple answers to his first batch of challenges, and he completely ignored them.

    An your numbers are just flat out spurious. You have created a highly questionable analysis which seems to suggest that the only value of the investment in BRT is the reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

    You ignore the fact that there will be a fare that generates revenue for operations and debt service. You ignore the fact that we’ll middle income people who don’t own cars, and because of this, they’ll have more disposable income to spend in our city. You ignore the fact that transit lines spur real estate development which in turn increases our tax base.

    The only people fighting BRT with any sort of tenacity are a handful of conspiracists and STAND. STAND is dumb. Their entire platform is that they want no-growth in one of the few neighborhoods in Oakland that has a very high potential for growth. They fear that BRT will cause growth. Fortunately, our planning commissioners have heard enough of STANDs histrionics that they know to ignore them. They rarely if ever get what they want, and I take great satisfaction is watching their agenda fail, because it’s an agenda that is selfish, anti-urban and flat out bad for oakland.

  36. Chris Kidd

    No, Robert. Don is attacked because a lot of the information he is using is wrong. He should be free to disagree as long as he can use correct information. I think we certainly should be looking at the bigger picture; for me, that means looking at what Oakland will look like in 2025, not how it looks today. Under those circumstances, I find BRT to be absolutely essential.

    And the projected ridership increase by 2025 is from 24,000 riders to 49,000 riders.
    I’m not sure where your 5K number came from.

    And why are we amortizing BRT over 20 years? Are we expecting AC Transit to stop running BRT after this period? This is a hard cost that will leave us with infrastructure that we can use for the foreseeable future.

  37. Chris Kidd

    Agreed on Max’s point about the added benefits of transit infrastructure. Look at what the Silver Line did for the Pearl district in Portland. That’s one of the slowest light-rail systems around, yet it was enough of a place-maker to skyrocket the property values of the Pearl District and turn it into a major destination in downtown Portland.

  38. Matt


    Average US private car fuel economy is ~17mpg and average passenger count in private cars is 1.3. That’s .045 gallons per passenger per mile. It only takes an average of 4 passengers per bus for the bus system to use less gas per passenger mile than the private car system. I’ll bet my last dollar that even at 11pm there is an average of 4 passengers per bus. I really think we can stop playing devils advocate with David.

    I suggest you research the ridership situation before you prescribe solutions like route elimination. Why do people so often waste there time coming up with solutions to problems they don’t even research first? It’s very frustrating.

    We need the BRT in question and we need more of them period.

  39. Max Allstadt


    I think that we definitely would be better off if the field of candidates was expanded. That’s what IRV is supposed to do, and that’s why Don’s in the race. I’m glad he’s adding another voice, but he also has made a blunder here that he should have known better than to get into.

    Politicians, particularly candidates, are unwise to get into discussions on blogs except on very rare occasions. The smartest politicians I know will occasionally make a statement on a blog comment thread. But they almost never engage beyond that. It’s a recipe for a petty back and forth argument where the blog readers will almost certainly get the last word, and if they don’t and the politician persists on responding ad nauseum, the politician looks crazy and aggressive.

    This is why we have candidate forums and debates, because in those formats, a politician cannot be cornered and harangued. Moderators, time limits, and question formats act as a buffer.

    I also don’t think Dellums will run. I have a hunch that tells me that his recent press conferences are not about setting up re-election campaign, but more about setting him up to declare his tenure a success so he can act like he’s leaving on a high note. He’s an experienced politician and he knows his poll numbers well enough to know not to run.

    All that said, Brad you are absolutely right. This race needs another real contender, and hopefully one that people can actually believe in, rather than begrudgingly vote for as the lesser of two or three evils.

  40. Robert

    Chris, that ridership is specifically for the BRT line itself. Most of that increase comes from cannibalizing other transit riders, both other ACT lines and BART. The total increase in transit ridership is in the dEIR. And that document still overestimates the benefits because it uses a no-build scenario of traditional local buses, not the current rapid bus system. If you want better numbers, wait for the final EIR.

    Amortize it over 30, years, or 50. It still doesn’t look good. Particularly if you include interest or alternative return on investments for the $200 million.

  41. Max Allstadt

    Now you’re portraying the $200 million as the sort of investment where the goal is solely to make money. That isn’t the case. We’re buying something useful for $200 million. It has an impact that is both financially beneficial and improves quality of life.

  42. Robert

    Max, I only mentioned one thing, although it is the thing that is frequently cited as a big benefit of transit. Yes there are multiple benefits, and it is possible that when all benefits are taken into account BRT is a net positive. But you haven’t done the analysis, and basically engage in hand waving about how these other benefits will make it all worthwhile.

    ACTransit fares only cover about 20% of operating costs, and BRT is not going to change that in any substantial way. So there is not going to be any fare money to pay off the capital costs of building the system. And then of course I ignored the CO2 emissions of the buses themselves, which will reduce the carbon reduction of diverting people from cars to buses. And the fact that the CO2 reduction was based on current average mileage for cars, and not the gas mileage in 2025 (certainly higher).

    Although you and others don’t like the numbers, I was fairly conservative. Feel free to challenge my numbers, but please have some analysis to back it up, not just broad generalizations.

  43. Robert

    As has been pointed out somewhere, as far as anybody can tell, ACTransit has never bothered to do any type of marketing study on the impacts of implementing BRT on businesses in the corridor. So many businesses say the loss of parking is going to hurt, many transit advocates say BRT will help because of the increase in foot traffic, but nobody really knows anything.

  44. david vartanoff

    Why buses at all or BRT in its various permutations? It is a 10 min walk from my front door to the nearest BART station. If I am heading to DTO, or DT Berkeley, a 1R 2-3 min walk away is time competitive especially since I can access Nextbus to decide when to leave. For many destinations the bus is nearly door to door. The “mode choice” depends on where one is going, and as Naomi pointed out weather and other issues like how much freight you are carrying back from the store. Well deployed transit systems have locals, expresses and what might be called super expresses–these categories transcend whether the vehicle is rail or rubber tire. Unfortunately our super express BART acts as if it would prefer not to convenience urban riders in the East Bay even though there are more of us than the favored residents of sprawlburbia

    About the “nine year wait for” TL, NO it is closer to 15, BUT we already had most of it with a highly useful ticket called BART Plus which was good on AC, SamTrans,Muni,WestCat CCTA, VTA, WHEELS, etc. It was cheap and easy to use until AC quit — no bells no whistles.

    As to the present BRT proposal, there are flaws, but if we can insist on better design (and $$ value) it should be useful. A common complaint is that end to end it will not be fast enough–well if you are traveling from DT Berkeley straight to Bay Fair Mall, take BART–it is faster. And if our fare structures get fixed even a trip from DT Berkeley to somewhere near BF should be BART and a transfer to a bus. That said, the real utility is, as others have pointed out, from/to the intermediate stops not directly served by BART. Which brings up a flaw in the present scheme. The “all in one” 45 stops route plan SLOWS down end to end running time and makes the so called BRT less Rapid. At the same time, it shafts the riders living close to the stops AC wants to abolish who will have to walk further in all cases. The far better plan is to maintain the local as the finer grain service and have the Rapid be the very fast express–for example 3 stops from my home to UC.

    About lanes/stations. Leaving out AC’s desire “the East Bay deserves a marquee project” (paraphrasing an AC director) spending millions to build “stations” in the median of Telegraph and reserve the center lane for buses is a waste. AC only runs the current 1R Rapid half the hours there is regular service on Telegraph–why? Because the ridership isn’t there for a separate express the other hours. Once evening rush has thinned out, the local between DTO and Berkeley make as much speed as the Rapids–they just stop more randomly as few of the stops are busy. What this tells me is that strictly enforced striped off lanes during daytime would get the Rapids through more reliably without the expense of laying new concrete. Deploying more functional signal preempts, and queue jump lanes at traffic signals can be done for a fraction of the proposed project.
    The station design being promoted calls for custom buses with doors on both sides using center platforms — bad idea. If the stations require a custom bus, there is no flexibility in the fleet for special events, such as parades or Cal sports, or simply maintenance issues unless dedicated spares are bought which then cannot be used on other routes (more unproductive $$).
    One of the common attributes of BRT in some cities is Proof of Payment rather than the current pay as you board system. As anyone who rides AC knows, paying, particularly cash or even the dip swipe cards is slow. So the theory is have people buy their ticket on the street, and have random fare checkers “challenge” just frequently enough to instill uncertainty. The mix of cash versus pass/Translink cards is already moving away from single fare throughout ACs. Thus POP as done by Muni on the LRVs (enter.front if you need to pay cash otherwise use all doors, could be instituted now if AC wanted to. Fare paying delay on the 1R, however, is very concentrated in a few places such that other measures could improve the throughput without deploying Ticket Vending Machine (vandalism/robbery targets). The worst place is downtown Berkeley and this is also true for the 51. Employing a “rear door loader/fare checker” who serviced the several lines most used by UC students who get passes as part of the fee structure would speed both routes. The same strategy @ 11th & B’way where many riders change between the 1/1R and the 40, would also speed these routes at minimal cost. No hardware cost, minimal labor likely made up for in less driver OT caused by delays.

    So bottom line from my POV, yes a modified BRT should move forward, NO the current plan has too many flaws as is.

  45. Robert

    Chris, the Silver line is a light rail line, and for some obscure reason light rail tend to have better public perception that bus lines. So I am not sure how relevant the example is.

  46. livegreen

    Matt, I didn’t say “route elimination” (quoting you). I said “eliminating or at least reducing some late-night services for lines with low-ridership”. I’ve seen plenty of buses 9-11pm with 1, or 2 or even 0 people on it. Keep the routes, scale them back during way-off-peak ours.

    Keep the routes & services, while saving costs. Good for everybody.

  47. Matt

    livegreen, I’m sorry about the misquote.

    Still, you’re proposing service cuts based on your personal observations. Let me tell ya, one person’s perception isn’t enough to start talking service cuts. Look, David brought up fuel efficiency. The bus system is more fuel efficient than the private car system even if you see five empty buses bumping along as long as there are two buses with 14 passengers on each somewhere.

    Last night I saw just that on 12th and Broadway. I couldn’t have missed it. Two AC Transit buses ran the light on 12th crossing Franklin and then took up two and a half of the three lanes of 12th street. I had a moment to take in the view: two buses with about a dozen people on each.

    We need to be looking at the big picture if we’re going to make the right transit decisions. Like street lights, sidewalks and FREEways, transit will never be a profitable business! Some lines will have low ridership, others will have high ridership. The issue is does the system work? The BRT will help it work and with less fuel per passenger per mile than a private car system.

  48. David

    Matt. How often do you take the bus? Have you EVER seen an ACTransit bus with 90 people on it? 30 people is a stretch on most lines. I actually take the bus. Transbay and local, and on the Transbay, during peak commuter time (7-8 am, 5-6 pm), I count maybe 45-60 people on one of the big buses, max. Locals? I’ve seen 30 people+ only on the 51 or maybe the 1/1R, and the 57, which you’ll admit are main lines. The less frequented routes, which comprise the majority of bus runs with AC Transit are like the 40, which I maybe see 4 people on at any given time.

    You’re also not counting the deadhead time, (like with Transbay) of buses returning back to the start of the route.

    In there, you see that busses are actually on average the least efficient ground transit, and heavy rail (i.e. BART) is the most efficient. In fact, they break down BART, and it’s by far the most efficient heavy rail system, and more efficient than “average” driving. You’ll also see that your estimates on passenger etc are not correct, Matt.

    You cannot argue for more standard buses on an energy efficiency argument (I won’t even comment on the fraudulent “greenhouse effect” rationale). You can argue that mass transit is a public good/service that we have a responsibility to provide. As for commercial zones etc, I don’t believe it–look across the border at Emeryville. They do just fine with essentially car-only shopping areas. You can also argue that diesel-electric hybrid buses etc are valid for reducing fuel consumption as they are truly efficient. I doubt they’re cost-efficient, but reasonable people can argue about technology benefits etc.

    I take the bus and BART quite a bit. I don’t do it for kicks. I don’t do it to “be green.” I do it because I have to, or because I’m commuting. Even then, I don’t support wasteful projects. I’m actually undecided on the merits of BRT, but any evaluation has to be done in terms of costs to a bankrupt city/county versus benefits in a culture that, like it or not, prefers automobiles.

  49. Ken O

    People who are confused about LRT:

    Brush up on your light rail transit knowledge:

    Why is light rail more popular than a bus? A bus is jerky. Noisy. Smells like diesel exhaust fumes. Light rail is none of these. It also can’t up and move its route like a bus line can, so therefore real estate values go up a lot.

    If DETROIT can put in LRT from downtown to 8 Mile for $150M paid for by private donors (rich local CEOs and successful startup founders) I don’t see why we can’t do the same in Oakland.

    Don, I don’t think I can vote for you based on your BRT ignorance. But I will wait until the election to make my final choice. (My hunch is it doesn’t matter, the city will go broke fine on its own.)

    I’d run for Mayor, but who would vote for me? I will support any of the pro-BRT posters here who want to run if I don’t.

    Agree with Len and others that AC needs to work with retail merchants to do the utmost to not hurt their business.

  50. david vartanoff

    Anectdote check. August into Sept 2009 I was commuting to/from a job using the 1R and the 40. (other) David’s “like the 40, which I maybe see 4 people on at any given time.” is NOT what I experienced. My trips were outside rush but the average load leaving11th & B’way was more like 25. Returning from the Fruitvale area, much the same. OTOH, some evening trips home from favorite Pho 84 on a 1 local are sometimes less than 10 riders between 17th and Alcatraz NB. However, when those buses load SB in the evening, more than 10 riders often board @ Dwight & Tele alone. We also need to remember that if you whack the later evening runs you lose the earlier evening riders who now can’t use transit because they won’t be able to come home from the movie, restaurant, music. Doesn’t make for more customers.
    As to 90 persons on an AC bus, no not likely, but 30 to 50? yup. and often.

  51. len raphael

    Max, not so that only STAND criticizes BRT in N Oakland. ULTRA proposed major changes to the design. it’s in the city staff LPA document and confirmed to me by a ULTRA member last night.

    -len raphael

  52. Ken O

    Which US cities/metros now have interurban light rail or streetcar light rail?


    In Operation
    Baltimore(rapid LRT)
    Boston(legacy surface electric railway upgraded to modern LRT)
    Buffalo (modern semi-metro LRT)
    Charlotte (modern interurban LRT, heritage streetcar)
    Cleveland (legacy surface electric railway upgraded to modern LRT)
    Dallas (modern interurban LRT, heritage streetcar)
    Denver(rapid interurban LRT)
    Houston(rapid LRT)
    Hudson-Bergen(rapid interurban LRT)
    Kenosha (heritage streetcar)
    Little Rock (heritage streetcar)
    Los Angeles(rapid interurban LRT)
    Memphis (currently heritage streetcar; modern LRT planned)
    Minneapolis (interurban LRT in operation, streetcar proposed)
    Newark(legacy surface electric railway upgraded to rapid LRT)
    New Orleans (heritage streetcar)
    Philadelphia (legacy surface electric railway upgraded to modern LRT, heritage streetcar)
    Phoenix (rapid LRT)
    Pittsburgh(legacy surface electric railway upgraded to rapid LRT)
    Portland(rapid interurban LRT)
    Sacramento(rapid interurban LRT in operation, heritage streetcar proposed)
    St. Louis(rapid interurban LRT in operation, heritage streetcar proposed)
    Salt Lake City(rapid interurban LRT in operation, heritage streetcar proposed)
    San Diego(rapid interurban LRT in operation, heritage streetcar proposed)
    San Francisco (legacy surface electric railway upgraded to rapid LRT, heritage streetcar)
    San Jose(modern interurban LRT, heritage streetcar)
    San Pedro(heritage streetcar)
    Seattle (modern streetcar, modern semi-metro LRT)
    Tacoma(modern LRT streetcar)
    Tampa (currently heritage streetcar; modern LRT planned)

    Albany – rapid LRT proposed
    Albuquerque – regional rail under construction, LRT proposed
    Arlington, Va – streetcar system planned
    Atlanta – regional rail and streetcar projects in planning
    Augusta, Georgia – streetcar system proposed
    Austin – light regional railway project under way, streetcar system proposed
    Bayonne – streetcar in development
    Birmingham – rapid LRT proposed, streetcar system in development
    Boise – LRT (interurban, streetcar) proposed
    Boulder – streetcar proposed
    Charlotte – historic trolley upgrade under construction, modern LRT planned
    Charlottesville – streetcar proposed
    Cincinnati – streetcar LRT project under way; interurban LRT proposed
    Columbus – LRT (interurban, streetcar) in planning
    Corpus Christi – streetcar proposed
    Dayton – streetcar proposed
    Des Moines – LRT streetcar proposed
    Detroit – interurban and streetcar LRT, regional passenger rail proposed
    Denton – regional rail in development
    El Paso – LRT streetcar system proposed
    Fayetteville, Arkansas – LRT or regional rail proposed
    Ft. Lauderdale – streetcar and rapid LRT proposed
    Ft. Worth – regional passenger rail planned, streetcar proposed
    Fresno – streetcar proposed
    Glendale, Ca – streetcar proposed
    Grand Rapids – streetcar proposed
    Harrisburg – regional rail in development
    Honolulu – rail rapid transit planned
    Huntington, WV – heritage streetcar proposed
    Huntington Beach, Ca – LRT proposed
    Indianapolis – rapid LRT proposed, streetcar proposed
    Jacksonville – light regional railway and LRT streetcar proposed
    Kansas City – rapid LRT proposed
    Lancaster, Pa – heritage streetcar proposed
    Las Vegas – proposed
    Louisville – LRT proposed
    Madison – regional rail and streetcar proposed
    Memphis – heritage streetcar in operation, modern LRT planned
    Miami – streetcar projects in planning
    Milwaukee – streetcar LRT project under way; interurban LRT and regional passenger rail proposed
    Minneapolis – modern LRT in operation, streetcar proposed
    Montgomery, Alabama – heritage streetcar proposed
    Nashville – regional “commuter” rail project under way
    New Haven – streetcar proposed
    New York City – various light rail/streetcar systems proposed
    Norfolk – interurban LRT project under way
    Ogden – modern streetcar proposed
    Oklahoma City – LRT (interurban and streetcar), regional passenger rail proposed
    Omaha – heritage streetcar proposed
    Orange County (Ca) – LRT (interurban or streetcar) in planning
    Orlando – regional passenger rail project under way, rapid LRT in planning
    Phoenix – regional passenger rail, streetcar system proposed
    Providence – streetcar proposed
    Raleigh – regional rail system in planning
    Reading, Pa – streetcar proposed
    Reno – modern streetcar proposed
    Richmond – heritage streetcar proposed
    Roanoke – heritage streetcar proposed
    Rochester, NY – Various LRT systems proposed
    Salem, Or – streetcar proposed
    San Antonio – proposed
    Savannah – heritage streetcar (self-propelled) project under way
    Seattle – Regional rail and modern streetcar in operation, interurban LRT project under way
    Spokane – light railway proposed
    Stamford – light rail streetcar proposed
    Tampa – historic streetcar in operation, modern LRT streetcar proposed
    Toledo – streetcar proposed
    Tucson – heritage streetcar system being expanded, LRT proposed
    Tulsa – streetcar system proposed, regional passenger rail proposed
    Union County, NJ – LRT project under development
    Waco – LRT streetcar proposed
    Washington – LRT in planning
    Winston-Salem – streetcar project in planning
    Yakima – heritage tourist streetcar system being expanded into transit line

    Since Oakland is broke, the best we can hope for near-term is BRT. Not as elegant, but much cheaper than LRT.

    David, isn’t CATO in line with AEI, Heritage Foundation and other “neoconservative” and or Exxon-Mobil connected groups?

  53. Karen Smulevitz

    David, I think living a 10 minute walk from BART is a luxury, and I’m a little jealous. It’s about 40 minutes to Coliseum BART, my closest station.
    Don. I’ve supported the Green Party in spirit and at the ballot whenever I could, but your remarks have taken me by surprise. You sound very Don-centric; Green is your immediate sphere, not a holistic view of the entire city. No doubt the earnest and hardworking neighbors on 40th street had the best of intentions, and achieved an improvement over blight, but the fact is, that landscaping was illegal, and should have been considered temporary anyway. Why couldn’t the neighbors have worked with the city and contributed to the Bicycle Master Plan and worked in coalition with other groups who also want to improve conditions in Oakland?

  54. Karen Smulevitz

    As to filling up the buses, in East Oakland, I can’t count the number of passengers when people are figuratively packed in like sardines without the oil when the schools let out or in evening commute hours, but many people are left standing at stops because there’s no way even one more person could squeeze on. There is NextBus at a couple of International stops, but not at Eastmont Transit Center, the most logical placement. It would be a great help to have reliable arrival information, and schedules we can count on. The majority of Eastside riders don’t have mobile access to NextBus, and calling 511 is frustrating. I believe BRT is a step (a ride?) in the right direction.

  55. Robert

    Nation wide, buses average about 10 passengers at a time, which is above the fuel economy break-even point of about 5 passengers. I don’t have the ACTransit specific numbers handy. The fuel economy numbers overestimate the bus advantage slightly because diesel has a higher density and therefore higher energy density and higher CO2 emission per gallon than does gasoline (about 20% higher energy density).

  56. Max Allstadt

    Len Raphael:

    Was it ULTRA’s objection, or was it Joyce Roy’s objection, put into a letter that said it was from ULTRA? Did ULTRA vote on it? I don’t see anything about it on their website.

    If in fact they as a group proposed major design changes, it’s not the same as what STAND wants, which appears to be no change, as usual.

  57. david vartanoff

    @ Ken O Much as I love streetcars/rail of all kinds, I think the list you provided requires some correction. Anyone who describes Muni’s Metro service as “rapid” is some kind of pollyanna. Now THERE is an example of deliberate sabotage of transit–both by dumb Stop signs at lightly used intersections, and general auto interference w/ the streetcars — especially on Ocean(K) and near SF State (M) not to mention the completely botched 3rd Street line.
    and yes CATO is a libertarian “think” tank. These are the folks who prefer private Fire Departments; think Crassus (a partner of J Caesar) and the root of crass.

  58. Max Allstadt


    I have confirmation that the letter that ULTRA submitted with STAND was not brought to ULTRA’s membership first. If I was an ULTRA member, I’d be extraordinarily peeved about that, and would call for the expulsion of whoever is responsible.

  59. livegreen

    Matt, I’m not arguing against BRT. I was very limited, very specific in what I said to cut-back or reduce, the times when there is 0 to 3 riders (zero esp.). If there are more than that fine, leave it be, I’m all for it. (Or are you saying we should keep buses circulating even when there are 0 riders?)

    Don’t say I said something I didn’t say. I’m with you man…

  60. Robert

    David, I wouldn’t rely on the CATO report too much. The easy number to check for me was auto CO2 emissions, which are almost a factor of 2 off from what I have seen and calculated. Also, CATO focuses on energy consumption, which has no particular downside, rather than CO2 emissions, which have been linked to greenhouse warming.

    The Feds collect data from the transit agencies around the country, with immense amounts of information if you every need to do a reality check. I recommend it whenever you see something that just doesn’t make a lot of sense.

  61. Matt


    You need to take your ASSumptions about my transit knowledge and shelve them. I used transit as my only means of transportation from 2002 to 2007. When I temporarily relocated to SJ in 2007 I used the train at least three days a week from SJ to Berkeley. I know Bay Area transit better than 90% of my fellow citizens. My entire life I’ve studied urban planning and did so in school at SFSU as a minor.

    My estimates are not perfect, but they aren’t bullshit either. An articulating bus holds 60 people seated and 30 or more standing. If you see an articulating bus with people standing from the front door to nearly the back you’re looking at about 90 bus passengers. Yes, I’ve seen that -I see it all the time during rush hour.

    I am not claiming buses are the most fuel efficient or clean transit option. I just totally debased your claim that buses are less fuel efficient than private cars. Again, it still only takes an average of 4 bus passengers per bus in (any sort of) service for the bus system to be more fuel efficient than the private cars on the road.

    Emeryville is not a transportation planning success story. I personally dread having to go there because of the traffic. Don’t take my word for it…hey everyone raise your digital hand if you enjoy driving in Emeryville…

    livingreen, again, I’m sorry for misquoting you. Yes, I do say that it is perfectly fine that some bus lines run with low ridership at some times of the day. It doesn’t matter as long as that transit line completes the system. Think about the big picture.

  62. David

    Sorry, the “greenhouse effect” is a fraud.

    The above poster takes the 40 in a very different ‘hood than I do.

    When in doubt, don’t question the data (CATO), just question the motives. I post links with data, you guys just ASSert I’m full of it. Fine, find some counter data. Forgive me for not taking your rush hour anecdotes in downtown for solid data on par with a nationally-recognized think tank, whatever their political leanings.
    While you’re looking, here’s some more. Including US DOE and Transportation dept findings:
    The U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics confirms that the average city bus requires 20% more energy per passenger than the average car.

    The U.S. Department of Energy’s Data Book shows that while transit’s energy efficiency has worsened in recent decades — transit buses today consume 4,315 BTUs per passenger mile, or about 50% more energy than in 1980 — the trend in cars has been the opposite direction: Today’s cars are already nearly 20% more efficient than they were 25 years ago, down from 4,348 BTUs per passenger mile in 1980 to 3,514 in 2007.

    I guess I have a different job Karen, and am not on the bus when the schools let out. I do share your wish that ACTransit would move a bit on the NextBus technology.

    Matt, I don’t care how long you’ve “studied” urban transit or taken the bus. I drive to E-ville pretty regularly and don’t hate it. What, I’m going to take the bus to IKEA? Really?

    A lot of y’all seem to focus on downtown lines…Temescal, downtown, Broadway, Lake Merritt/Grand. Yes, they’re full. However, I take lines in Deep East–the soon to be extinct 50, 57, 1, 40. As I posted above, yes, the 51 is full. The 40 at 98th and Bancroft? Not so much. The 50 at 106th and Mac? not so much. Matt, come by 98th and Bancroft with me. Take a survey on the 40. not a lot of people over here.

    Anyway, like I wrote, if you’d read it, I’m not necessarily opposed to mass transit if it’s done in a reasonable, relatively cost-efficient manner. I just don’t kid myself that it’s anything other than a subsidy for 1) poor people or 2) weird berkeley/north Oakland hippies who get a kick out of patting themselves on the back for taking the bus and 3) myself when I’m commuting or without a car. It’s not more fuel-efficient, certainly not more time-efficient, and not generally tax-dollar efficient.

  63. East Lake Biker

    The Emery Go Round shuttle serves Emeryville from MacArthur BART. (Here, Don, is your BART connection. Happy now?) It’s a free service paid by companies in the city which throws a wrinkle into this whole $ for transit discussion.

    I’m happy that I have the option of taking my bus home late at night. Yes the 18 can run empty on Park Blvd., but the whole point of the public transport business is to serve the community, not make a buck (or even break even). There would be no service in south county if this was the case. How would transit dependent people supposed to get around in Fremont then? ACT is a lifeline service.

    @David, I guess I fall under #2) Oakland hippie

  64. david vartanoff

    @ (other) David, No surprise you experience lighter usage on route segments in low density ‘hoods. But the point is that those buses DO fill up as they collect riders heading to the CBD or some other area of density. When I board a 57 @ 40th & Tele midday on a Saturday there is a seated load.
    As to CATO and data,, I have listened to their spokespersons on various media going back to the seventies. While they might actually have some honest ##, I don’t trust them to understand them, interpret them based on science as I understand it, or EVER promote ANY policies that might benefit me. I defend their and your rights to continue working against my best interests, but don’t expect me to be your ally when I perceive your efforts as detrimental to my survival.

  65. livegreen

    EastLakeBiker, I’m sorry but an empty bus late at night is NOT serving the community, especially when AC Transit is hiking our property taxes to pay for an empty bus.

    I’m fine with mass transit when it serves a purpose. But when it’s not, it’s waste.
    & just like other waste, when it’s not serving anybody, it should be cut (that means the service that’s a waste should be cut, not when it is service…Just anticipating ELB & Matt). If you justify running empty buses late at night, where do you stop?

  66. n

    God, all this bitching about property taxes for transit and schools.

    Question: How much stuff do you tea party guys buy from online instead of purchasing in Oakland? Skipping out on paying sales tax and not supporting local business. This is revenue that the state and local municipalities need to operate.

    Something is wrong when brick in mortar retail plummets and amazon is making a profit. More empty store fronts and blight. Think about that when you’re saving 10% cheap O’s.

  67. David

    So, David (V.), do you dispute the Department of Energy’s numbers? And the Bureau of Transportation? This is a matter of your survival? Really? Get off this blog then, and try to hustle some more cash, cuz you’re living on the knife’s edge, brother.

    I provided 3 sources. An admittedly free-market think tank, and two US Government sources that show traditional diesel buses in general are less fuel efficient per passenger mile than general automobile use.

    Where are your data that show I’m wrong? Your seat of the pants calculations based on…peak hour ridership in peak locations?

    Again, I have no problem with arguments that communities should provide transportation for less fortunate folks etc. Arguments based on fuel consumption are not grounded in fact, unless you’re talking rail. Arguments based on cost efficiencies are also often not grounded in fact, unless/until we finally cut transit workers’ pay&benefits.

    I’ll consider this fuel efficiency discussion won by me, until you guys actually provide numbers similar in quality to mine, i.e., reasonably sourced.

  68. n

    One other thing. You selfish baby boomers benefited from the much higher, over three times higher, tax rates of the 50s and 60s. These taxes that brought you great schools and infrastructure. But what about your children and grandchildren? They are left with a government in shambles, broken economy, shitty schools and little hope in the future. Thanks guys for doing such a great job. I say we lower taxes but cutting medicare to all baby boomers. Your parents were the greatest generation, your generation is the worst.

  69. Robert

    David, at the risk of my own anti-transit reputation on this blog, the CATO numbers are a pile of s**t. The Vancuver Sun article references CATO, which is itself the source for the DOT/DOE references. So you only have one source, CATO. The CATO numbers themselves are not ‘data’, they are an analysis of the actual data available from the feds – you do need to know the difference.

    Now as for the analysis. In 2007, ACTransit used 6,500,000 gallons of diesel, and put 26,000,000 total miles on it’s buses (data reported by ACT to DOT). Cars average 17 mpg (see Matt above, but the number comes from DOE or DOT). Diesel generates 38.6 MJ/l (mega-joules per liter), and gasoline generates 32 MJ/l (Wikipedia/DOE). Multiplying things out and doing some unit conversions, buses use 40,800 BTU/mile while cars use 6800 BTU/mile. So your average ACT bus with 9 passengers (see above, but derived from data provided to DOT from ACT) uses 4500 BTU/passenger mile, or about 2/3rds of the energy usage by a car carrying one passenger.

    While it is not spectacular, it is better than driving, and is still better even if you use the 1.3 passengers per car average.

    So I guess you can say that I do dispute CATO’s analysis of the DOT numbers.

  70. david vartanoff

    @ (other) David Nowhere in my screeds have I specifically disputed mpg ##. What I said was, I saw different ## of riders. You write “peak hour ridership in peak locations?” I EXPLICITLY cited non rush data — midday Saturday for example. My comment about CATO stands. They are an enemy; they desire to destroy the nation I want to live in much as I desire to destroy their dream. Therefore, I consider info filtered through them as suspect–you know kinda like Soviet production figures. As to cost of transit, you have not nor ever will you see me justify TWU/ATU contract deals as currently written. Have you BTW ever read the text of AC’s or Muni’s MOUs? I have. During Rescue Muni discussions, TWU members have accused me of being anti-union (untrue). All that however, does not mean I want a Ward and June 1950′s suburban auto centric city. And FWIW, I don’t want everyone in cars because I find acres of parking lots and huge freeways butt ugly. I like dense cities. And as to rail being preferable, I’ve been a train fan longer I suspect than you have been on the planet. I was at an early scoping meeting for what is now the BRT project where the overwhelming citizen comment was pro LRT. You see what we are getting. Expensive but still buses.

  71. Naomi Schiff

    CATO is a dubious source, founded by earnest and extremely wealthy limited-government libertarians with a pre-existing agenda leading to the biased use of statistics. I’m not saying they are always necessarily evil, but their information needs to be scrutinized very closely before you believe any of it.

    When it was first started by some rich guys in the 1970s in San Francisco, I was hired and worked for their magazine for a couple weeks before I figured out who/what they were, whereupon I quit.

  72. david vartanoff

    @ len, for fun you might request from AC the Alternative Modes Analysis which is the antecedent of the BRT ptoject. It is interestingly out of date on some issues–ridership on every line studied has gone DOWN not up as predicted. However there are many numbers for LR ETB, “enhanced bus” (now touted as BRT, Entertainingly, many of the cheapest but most directly useful strategies are rejected out of hand in favor of high $ “projects”.

  73. Robert

    len, There are numbers for light rail. they would take a while to break down and convert, because the database is organized by transit agency. In any case, the link to the fed database is
    I will see if I can pick out a transit agency quickly that allows a calculation of the LR numbers.

    david v, the description I read made it sound like enhanced bus is more like the current Rapid bus than BRT, but I could be wrong about that one. But you are right about ACTransit going for “projects” over other solutions. I personally think that comes from a lack a clear understanding/articulation/prioritization of its conflicting goals – social justice (transportation for the poor), energy consumption (or global warming these days), and congestion mitigation. Each goal can have a different optimal solution, but ACTransit tends to pick a solution that does something for each goal, even if that solution does a poor job of accomplishing every objective.

  74. Robert

    San Diego LR
    42,673,116 Kwh
    3,265,582 train revenue miles
    206,923,846 passenger miles

    = avg. 63 passengers/train
    = 44,586 BTU/revenue mile
    = 707 BTU/passenger mile

    So LR uses about 10% of the energy/passenger mile as does you typical car.Muni gets about 1400 BTU/passenger mile.

  75. David

    David (V). You really need to repeat, “the political is NOT the personal” with a few deep breaths. CATO is not the “enemy” any more than silly Socialists like Barry and kooks like Babs Lee are my enemy.

    The DOE claims 3500 BTUs/passenger mile for new cars, so there’s one difference. You’re using a current fleet average. Problem is, of course, that cars are becoming more and more efficient, where I don’t think buses are.

    The direct link:

    Shows that the national fleet average for passenger cars is 22.5 mpg (new cars at 32 mpg+), nearly 30% higher than what you claim. If you assume that roughly 50% of current vehicles are SUVs/trucks (the next line), you see that the entire fleet average, even counting SUVs/trucks would be about 20 mpg, or 15% higher than your number, which would make buses and passengers cars pretty equal (going with the usual 1.3 ridership per car, not 1.0–of course in the Bay Area with commuting, it’s probably higher), even with ACTransit’s higher-than-US-average bus ridership.

    Care to try to disprove anything else, since you failed with this one? To repeat,

    1) Buses are less efficient than cars in practice in most areas. Even in a high-transit area like Oakland, they are pretty equal.
    2) The advantage will continue to accrue to cars, unless buses become more efficient (see my point about diesel/electric hybrid buses).
    3) This is, of course, not even accounting for lost time on a bus ride that takes 45-60 minutes, i.e. going from DEO to DTO on the 1/1R, whereas the same trip in my car takes less than 15.
    4) Again, I’m not advocating the destruction of mass transit, just a more realistic appraisal of projects such as BRT (and rail) and what benefits it might bring compared to the costs it will CERTAINLY bring (case in point, the atrocity that is the BART connector to SFO and the proposed OAK connector).

    It’s really awesome to see what happens when someone disagrees with liberal orthodoxy though. Can’t say I’m surprised, having lived here for so long, but it’s always fascinating to see the party of tolerance express disagreement.

  76. Robert

    David, so you have gone from cars are better than buses to cars are about the same as buses, and you’ve been right all along???

  77. Matt


    “Matt, I don’t care how long you’ve “studied” urban transit or taken the bus.” Nice use of quotes. You don’t seem all that interested in a civilized discussion. Well, I’m not interested in your anecdotal caca. Arguing for the sake of it is dead ended.

    You said that the bus system is less fuel efficient than the private car system. I proved that to be false. Perhaps you could prove me wrong if you would spend your time locating data on annual AC Transit miles traveled, ridership and average coach gas millage? Prove me wrong and I’ll concede.

    Regarding Emeryville transportation planning, again, the anecdotal crap is just that. Show me how residents of Emeryville spend less money on transportation than people in Oakland. Show me that they spend less time en route than people in Oakland. Show me that they use less energy on transportation than people in Oakland. Show me that people in Emeryville are healthier than the residence of Oakland. I concede Emeryville probably has higher property values than Oakland.

  78. Chris Kidd

    I was hoping not to have to jump back into the fray (since we had drifted back towards actual discussion of BRT for a bit), but since the conversation has gone entirely off the rails (so to speak), this is as good a time as any.

    I’d like to dispose of the canard that public transit somehow needs to pay for itself, or that it is some sort of “subsidy” for the poor. My apologies for the long post in advance, but let’s take it way back.

    The purpose of government is to
    (1) maintain social cohesion for the benefit of competitive markets [I say "competitive" and not "free" because the primary assumption necessary for a market to work is respect for private property. The right to private property is safeguarded by government, which needs to impose law and order to be able to establish that right. This safeguarding is, in and of itself, a form of regulation. A "regulated" market cannot be truly "free". There is not, never was, and never will be a "free market", QED. Just stop it. /side-rant over]. Things like courts, police, regulatory agencies, provide this.
    (2) maintain social cohesive by providing public services that cannot, and have not, been provided equitably by the competitive market because they are not profitable when provided equitably (ie public schools serving what the market -private schools- won’t handle. If it were equitably profitable, all schools would be private),
    and (3) provide comprehensive service to society that advances both society and the competitive market, but needs an uniform application across society that the competitive market cannot provide (ie we can’t have 5 companies running sewer systems in the same city with different sized pipes and some areas getting no sewer access at all because they’re too poor. An uniform standard needs to be set and applied across the entire city for the city to prosper from the implementation of a sewer system. The same could be said for roads, lighting, etc.).

    Now, public transit is one of those services. It is provided publicly because it is not something that can be provided equitably by the market, yet it is still essential for the benefit of the market. An entire segment the population is dependent upon public transit in order to work. Making public transit “pay for itself” and thereby putting it beyond the means of those who need it for their jobs keeps those people from contributing to the economy. It means more people forced onto the road (often without insurance) to get to work. More unregistered/uninsured/unlicensed drivers. More accidents, more death. It means crippling the bottom end of the economy. And that’s not just a problem for *them*, that’s a problem for all of us.

    But let’s take a different tack. We can all agree that public transit is a public service. And yet, we still pay a user fee when we ride it. Do our children deposit $5 every time they set foot in a classroom? Do you have to pay a police officer $300 when he responds to your 911 call? No, those are paid for by taxes, much like [gasp!] public transit. “But I don’t ride the bus” you might say. Yet, you reap the benefits of the bus even when not riding it, just as you reap the benefits that police power provides by living in a civil society, or you reap the benefits that public education has provided by living in the country with the largest GDP in the world. Every additional bus rider provides a marginally increasing benefit for those driving on the road, reducing congestion, commute time, and car emissions. Every worker who uses the bus out of necessity further bolsters the economy and secures the underpinnings of the American market.

    And let’s look at farebox recovery. Rates are low, we can all agree. But I just have to laugh when people condemn farebox recovery and then praise car drivers for being able to pay for themselves through gas taxes and registration fees. Car drivers, they claim, pay for the roadways (though it’s actually closer to 50% of infrastructure costs. but anyways…). But why are we comparing apples and oranges? No one considers the hours driven by the private driver, yet we figure in the hourly wage of the bus driver. We don’t figure in the cost of insurance, yet insurance is part of the operating costs to calculate farebox recovery. If we want to look at farebox recovery, let’s look instead at the fares collected versus the impact that the bus has on the roadway. As long as a bus can pay for its impact on the roads, anything more is gravy.

    Here’s the dirty little secret of the planning profession: Traffic is bad and it will never get better in your lifetime.
    The overwhelming majority of our auto-infrastructure was built in an era with a significantly smaller population that usually had only 1 car per household. This same infrastructure today is now expected to accommodate more than double that population and even more drivers than population growth, due to the rise of 2-car, 2-income households. And we wonder why traffic sucks?
    And here’s the kicker: *it’ll only get worse*. We’re still seeing population growth, and whether we want to direct that growth into our existing built environment (oh, I’m sorry, “social engineering” =P) or if we want to direct that growth to far-flung exurban SFR’s, those people are going to be getting on the roads as well unless they have a viable alternative. We need to aggressively pursue public transit infrastructure *if we even hope to tread water* with regards to traffic. If we want to appraise public transit infrastructure costs, let’s also look at what the costs of doing nothing are. Longer commutes, more congestion, greater emissions due to increased time stuck in traffic, lost productivity, greater consumption of foreign resources, etc.

    I think everyone here is agreed that public transit, in its current state, needs a lot of improvement. In efficiency, operations, infrastructure, etc. But it’s not someone else’s problem. It’s all of our problem. And the success of public transit means success for everyone, even if you never set foot on a bus or train in your lifetime. Let’s treat it that way.

    Oh, and Davd: you must have some really great ‘lats from carrying that heavy chip on your shoulder around all the time. Just make sure to alternate; you don’t want to get all bulked up on one side.

  79. John Gatewood

    Speaking on behalf of ULTRA. I want to make very clear that what ULTRA submitted did NOT say we were opposed to BRT. Nor did the joint letter from ULTRA, STAND AND RCPC say we opposed BRT. The joint letter listed what needs to be studied and what our joint concerns were about possible BRT impacts.
    What ULTRA’s letter said was that what city staff is calling the “Rapid Bus Plus” option needs to be fully studied. ULTRA’s letter went into detail as to what specific elements should be part of any “Rapid Bus Plus” alternative.
    For those interested I would be happy to email them a copy of it.
    Look if we are going to make an informed decision about BRT we have GOT to study how effective Rapid Bus Plus would be OR a combination of BRT elements in certain areas and Rapid Bus in others. BRT is a huge expenditure and we need more data before we can make an informed decision.
    I attended Wednesday night’s meeting and was glad to see all sides of the debate present and commenting. For me the larger issue is that AC Transit has not fully realized the efficiencies possible with Rapid Bus on Telegraph Ave. They have NOT turned on signal priority and have NOT built bulb outs at the Rapid Bus stops to make the runs as efficient as possible.
    What struck me about the supporters of BRT is that most spoke to the importance of reliability as being the reason they support it. Well…improving reliability doesn’t necessarily lead to building a BRT. For example some spoke about how the 1R buses are late or arrive bunched up. Is this a result of traffic congestion or is it a result of staffing problems? I would like to see a thorough analysis of AC Transit’s existing management systems to see what needs fixing there. It just doesn’t make sense to me to spend $274 million BEFORE analyzing the existing INTERNAL AC Transit structure. That isn’t something an EIR does but it is something that needs to be done.
    Also Commissioner Gibbs spoke about the financing – a very good point. AC Transit is proposing “borrowing” $17.5 million in capital improvement bond money to help cover the deficit they have in operating expenses. This is ILLEGAL under California law but somehow they think they can do it. Whether they actually can has not been decided yet. I am very skeptical that a transit agency in such dire financial condition should be embarking on a major capital project like BRT. Furthermore the last few years AC Transit has NOT acted in the best financial interests of their agency. A short list – buying Van Hool buses from a Belgium company that cost more than similar buses manufactured in the US. Keeping an AC Transit employee FULL TIME in Belgium at the factory when no other transit agency does that (not to mention the multiple trips to Europe by AC managers.) Taking years to rein in an out-of-control General Manager who the Board finally fired a few months ago after they were presented with undeniable evidence that he was lying to the board about the cost to maintain the Van Hool buses. The AC Transit board has NOT been adequately overseeing their agency. Until they reform themselves why should we trust them with a $274 million capital project?
    Lastly I have yet to hear anyone who supports this project actually discuss AC Transit’s OWN ridership data and if this ridership can support a project of this magnitude. I think it can’t. As I mentioned in the last public meeting in Temescal, AC Transit’s own data says they have just under 24,000 boardings per weekday on the lines that would comprise BRT. MUNI which is studying BRT on Geary Blvd. has just over 49,000 boardings per weekday on the lines that would comprise Geary BRT. I seriously question that AC Transit needs to build the same system that MUNI is contemplating on Geary when they have HALF the ridership.

  80. V Smoothe Post author

    John, virtually every single thing Commissioner Gibbs said about the project financing was completely inaccurate. He was clearly 100% ignorant on the subject of transportation funding. Your assertion about AC Transit borrowing capital improvement bond money to pay for operating expenses is completely untrue, and I’m not sure where you came up with it.

    I agree that enhanced rapid bus should be studied by AC Transit, and of course, doing so is already part of this process. In general, John, you seem to have gotten a great deal of misinformation about both this project and AC Transit in general.

  81. dto510

    John, bus bunching is caused by traffic congestion, not “staffing problems.” To answer your question about ridership, the Telegraph corridor has more riders than the entire Santa Clara County light-rail system. In any event, the investment in the corridor has been approved by County voters, the cities, and the elected AC Transit Board. The idea that the most heavily-travelled bus corridor in the East Bay doesn’t have enough riders to justify an investment is, frankly, quite sad. I appreciate that ULTRA wants the full study that AC Transit also wants and that you are keeping an open mind on the project details once the study comes out.

  82. dto510

    John, where did you hear that GM Fernandez was fired for misinforming the Board? He resigned. My understanding is that the Board was unhappy with him, but not because of the Van Hools. I think you’re getting a little too much of your ACT info from the anti-Van Hool crowd: there is much more to BRT than the specific make of bus that may be serving it.

  83. Robert

    Matt, the numbers you are looking for for ACTransit mileage, ridership, etc., have been posted upstream somewhere, along with (in a separate comment) the link to the DOT raw data.

    Chris, “Car drivers, they claim, pay for the roadways (though it’s actually closer to 50% of infrastructure costs. but anyways…). But why are we comparing apples and oranges? No one considers the hours driven by the private driver, yet we figure in the hourly wage of the bus driver. We don’t figure in the cost of insurance, yet insurance is part of the operating costs to calculate farebox recovery. ” Pretty much everything in this statement is incorrect, except for the part about hours for the drivers, which is just nonsensical. Buses paying for impact on the roads? Since they are pretty much all public agencies, they are exempt from most of the taxes and fees that pay for the roads. And buses, like trucks, because they are heavier, cause substantially more damage to the streets than cars. So I assume you mean congestion, which is one place where transit does help, but that is only for a few hours a day.

  84. Robert

    dto, I agree that bus bunching is caused by traffic and rider bunching, but even I can think of operational mechanisms to lessen the problem without resorting to dedicated lanes. It is going to be very interesting to see the final EIR and what the ridership claims end up at.

  85. len raphael

    Matt to back up your impression, 12 or so years ago, when much of the redevelopment was unfinished, i was sitting next to Kofi Bonner, the development director for Emeryville. His response to my question as to traffic planning was: Not my problem. Someone else will have to deal with that later.

  86. david vartanoff

    AC has made the effort to study how well or badly the 1R is. go here
    charts, graphics, ## geek out!
    Seriously, there are some useful tidbits as well as some decent ideas for improvement as we;; as previously not public hobbling of the service by policy. 1Rand 72R services are differently managed internally. See p 60 secs 5.1.8 and 5.1.9 The report misses some other opportunities for improvement

  87. East Lake Biker

    Outside of peak times in the morning and afternoon rush hour every transit system runs at less than full capacity. So what? If ACT axed all the low ridership runs there could be gaps in the middle of the day and late at night. How am I supposed to get around then. Why don’t they just ax the All-Nighter then? The 1R runs less than full at either end (Cal and Bayfair). Should BRT be shortened too?

    FYI the most expensive part of running buses is the driver, not fuel or bus maintenance. Check out this cool pie chart from ACT’s budget.

  88. david vartanoff

    indeed, Transit in order to be useful must operate outside rush hours so that one can do more than merely commute to/from day shift jobs. Sadly you are correct about the labor cast. Within that figure the fastest growing cost is…no surprise healthcare. Funny thing, axing the health insurance co’s and simply extending Medicare would save transit agencies billions nationally.

  89. Ken O

    John Gatewood and others with BRT critiques.

    Thanks for bringing up your concerns about cost-benefit. I hope AC Transit staff are hearing you, for continual improvement.

    With respect to the 1R bunching up (I’ve seen this as a rider)… sometimes it’s because one 1R stops to pick up passengers, and a second 1R right behind it LEAP-FROGS the first 1R… I’m sure traffic congestion and lack of signal pre-emption for ‘R’ buses hurts too.

    But I think the main reason is that the Rapids have no DEDICATED LANE.

    Imagine if magically people who drive along the BART route on freeways could say, jump onto the BART tracks in their CARS. They’d do it if they could, especially if it allowed them to bypass highway bottlenecks. Now what do you think that would do to BART’s “reliability”?

    That’s the scenario regular bus service sees on US streets these days. Unreliable service during rush hours…

    Agree in theory we shouldn’t spend money on CapEx but if we don’t have to. I just think it’ll cost us more later not to, and not only in terms of money/energy.

  90. Robert

    ELB, “How am I supposed to get around then.” Why do you think that I should have to pay for you to get around at all? What is the benefit to society?

    dv, “Transit in order to be useful must operate outside rush hours so that one can do more than merely commute to/from day shift jobs.” Sort of the same question, but your formulation leads to the question of what the heck are the supposed goals and objectives of a publicly subsidized transit system. And they seem to me to be whatever might work in the current discussion.

    ELB, the labor costs in the pie chart also include maintenance and administrative personnel, so it is hard to know how much is actually the bus driver.

  91. len raphael

    BRT re unexpected RCPC STAND ULTRA joint comment letter, it shouldn’t be such a surprise because ULTRA members live or own businesses in temescal and rockridge.

    Ironically that results in a position on BRT which some on abo would deride as nimbyism if it had come from STAND. To some extent it’s also a young turks vs old guard smart growthers. But it’s also that ACT is acting like a Robert Moses wannabe for mass transit. It’s harder to play simcity with the lives and livelihoods of people you live next to and whose stores you patronize.

    -len raphael

  92. Robert

    len, I think the problem for business owners in the areas is that no one really knows what the impact on business will actually be. ACT and Oakland haven’t done any studies to find out, so we are left with pro-transit saying it will help and business saying it will hurt. And neither ACT or Oak is going to have the balls to say that even if it does hurt they are going to do it anyway because of overall benefits – they just ignore the problem. And I am sort of left favoring the business owners, because they are the ones who deal with the actual customers every day.

    If you assume that their current customers are evenly distributed between transit and cars, I can see the concern. Try weighing making it somewhat harder for 90+% of my customers to get here vs. making is somewhat easier for 6% of my customers to get here. I can guess which way I would go in the absence of solid data.

  93. david vartanoff

    @ Robert, re ELB. Why…? Society benefits because transit wastes less land than parking lots and freeways. Society also benefits because transit to CBD’s, event venues, and employment clusters oils the economy. Ask Freight and Salvage why they moved to a half block from a BART station. And for those of us who believe fossil fuel usage is detrimental to public health, there are some advantages to reducing fuel use. For a lovely contrarian viewpoint check out a Harlan Ellison story of traffic control in NYC from F&SF in the early 70s. By the end the last skyscraper in Manhattan The Empire State Building is being torn down so more lanes can be built. Not the future I desire.

    As to the R Moses comment, I think the following. AC in the early 90s was trying to figure hpw to improve/not wither. Out of that first came a consultant study of possible upgrades on the half dozen major trunk lines. So they began planning and studies on a more serious level. The deal on San Pablo was the new all Green paint job w/ city names and a Limited which has since become the 72 Rapid. Meanwhile when they did a public outreach session in Berkeley, no surprise, the attendees overwhelmingly asked for Light Rail. I suspect (I have no proof, just hints) that when the planners got back to HQ, someone allowed as how MYC would fund free transit for all before they would allocate a dime to AC for ANYTHING on rails. Note MTC’s recent sleight of hand w/ $91 million from Dumbarton Rail given to BART to help cover cost overruns to Warm Springs.
    So, faced w/ a desire to do something and a roadblock on the best route, they moved toward BRT in tandem w/ the general push in the transit industry.
    Despite years of planning, when the 72R debuted, most of the special bus shelters weren’t deployed and even less of the Nextbus signage was installed. But the 72R was a big PR deal even though express buses have been common in the industry since at least the 50s. One shoul;d note that AC had systematicly ABOLISHED its bus shelters in the 90s so they had to spend capital funds to reinstall them for the Rapid.
    So fast forward to the 1R debut which was nearly a year late because of some arguments with the drivers union. Despite the extra time, like the 72R, on day one only a few of the shelters were in place and fewer still had functioning Nextbus. I have never experienced signal preempt extending the green light, and despite all the hoopla over buses with extra doors to facilitate POP, it has yet to be introduced.
    AC has recently published a study of problems on the 1R. No surprise, many are the same as detailed in last years’ similar study of the 51.
    So here we are with 2 Rapids that mostly work, and with a few tweaks could be much better, but the improvements aren’t enough to constitute a “marquee” project–no photo ops, no spin and grin to use as stepping stones to higher office for directors.
    And while some AC employees actually use the buses, there IS a parking facility at HQ for employees.

  94. David


    Cars and buses appear to be almost equivalent in Oakland in fuel efficiency, I’ll admit within the margin of error. Are buses here becoming more efficient? I doubt it. Because a new car is, on average, 30-50% more efficient than the fleet average, and only getting better every year. If buses aren’t less efficient with the more recent mileage numbers, I’d be shocked (the numbers above are from 2007, IIRC). Then of course we can go back to cost. Again, there’s a catch-22 with transit, especially buses–a $2 fare is too expensive for a quick 2 mile hop, but anything longer is too slow–might as well drive. But again, it’s a public service for poor people. As always, I’d like more efficient delivery of services. Just don’t kid yourself that buses are more efficient than cars, because ‘equivalent’ don’t equal ‘better’ (and again, with newer numbers, buses will have fallen behind).

    Chris, I just did 60 pull-ups this morning. My lats are just fine. However, if the chip is on my shoulder, I think you mean my traps, but they’re ok too.

  95. Robert

    David, This actually came out worse than I thought it would after I actually ran the numbers, although I think that the important number really is 7 passengers on a bus is equal to one driver in a car for energy efficiency. If you remove the buses during commute hours, the average occupancy on a bus is almost certainly below the 7 number needed for energy break-even for the rest of the day. Which means that for most of the day, we are losing ground buy running the buses. I used to think that buses saved energy, and were just a very poor financial bet to cut down on CO2 (I know you don’t believe, but I do.) They just look a hundred times worse for CO2 reduction if they don’t actually save energy after all.

    So buses are good for congestion during peak hours, save energy (and CO2) during peak hours, and the only real benefit off peak is that they provide a transit option to the poor. The really ironic thing is is that the bus system would probably be operating cost neutral if it only ran during peak hours. And I would be willing to bet that if you took that $400 million or so that ACTransit needs as a subsidy, you could provide a far better transportation option to the folks who are actually poor. After all, I am not sure that anybody would say that the current bus system provides social equity to the poor compared to the well off driving around in their cars.

  96. Ken O

    David/Robert: since we are headed toward ordinary human poverty within several decades here in the States, it might be instructive to see what passes for pub transpo in the “third world.”

    When I visited Cambodia five years ago, I noticed that there was no public transport. Not that I could see.

    Everyone paid their own way, either on foot, bicycle, scooter, motorcycle or occasionally by car. Most cars were used as taxis. I was in a bus without a suspension and don’t recommend that for taking the dirt roads from Thailand to Cambodia. Most people seemed to stay in place their whole lives.

    I suspect that is our future. Public transit is more fuel and space efficient when well designed and used. In most suburbs — and Oakland is largely suburbs — you won’t get great usage. Plus if people don’t have jobs, there is little reason to commute far. Oakland’s jobless and poverty rates exceed 40% in some areas.

    I asked an older lady who grew up in Richmond what it was like after the shipyards shut down after WWII. She said they pretty quickly became somewhat “ghetto” like and “weren’t safe to drive through at night.”

    I can’t imagine that, but if over a ten year period, most people who came to a city for jobs lost those jobs evap overnight, I think I could see it. I’m curious why the great southern migration didn’t go back to the south, but I’d have to ask some old-timers that question someday. Or for that matter, why most people think city life is better, and that everyone should move to cities.

    I guess there are more people here, so more chances to have fun, eat cool dishes, see cool art, meet a mate/mates, and get paid more (although it costs much more to live here and you’ll have less personal time)… maybe the excitement and biological diversity makes it worth the risk.

  97. david vartanoff

    Robert. I ask as information–I don’t have the answers. So how do you, or whoever, decide the ## for AC? Do you have the ## for each class in the fleet and what the daily usage is? I ask because the 30′ buses clearly have less to move than the artics, thus like a sub compact v a hummer the ##s should be very different. I have seen a fleet deployment document, but it is not current, and come next month with the serious route restructuring, the data will be different again. As an aside, the giant Green intercity buses used on some transbay routes are likely even less efficient but conversely see many fewer miles per day.

  98. Robert

    dv, no I don’t have that specific information. What I have is what ACT reports to the feds, which is total fuel usage and total miles and passengers. We both know that the commute hour buses are way more packed than off hours. Which means if the fleet average is 9, then there have to be a lot of vehicle hours below 9 passengers to make up for the vehicle hours at 30+ during peak. Yeah, the small buses will get better mileage than the articulated, but it just isn’t going to be enough to pull down the break-even point to what the average ridership is outside of the peak. But I hedged and said almost certainly. The point here is to try and think outside the standard transit box about what are effective solutions to deliver the goals of mass transit.

    ACT is going to be very reluctant to do any of this analysis, or even provide the data, because when you are a bus company, every solution has to look like a bus.

  99. Robert

    ken, I don’t know why the immigrants from the south stayed after the war either, but segregation and discrimination, while they certainly existed here, were much less of a dominant force than in the South. My parents and grandparents came out from the Midwest during the depression, and they never had any desire to go back after the war. I think CA was just a much better opportunity compared to the rest of the country back then.

  100. Ken O

    hey Robert,

    thanks for the anecdote. I don’t know what Uhaul’s one-way numbers are, but I read that the outflow from California these days far outnumber one-way numbers to California — to Texas at least.

    On the other hand, I see plenty of cars in Oakland these days with plates from all over — Northeast, Deep South, Texas, Ohio (well of course Ohio), etc.

    I think we’ll see a slow outflow from cities back to smaller towns and rural areas over the next few decades. Especially as cities lose employers and jobs.

    On the other hand, we should see a fair number of suburbanites returning to cities. WSJ has already reported on so-called reverse white flight.

  101. len raphael

    i’m nowhere as pessimistic as ken on future growth in oakland, but i’d expect ABAG will have to reduce it’s projections for bay area growth to adjust for the outsourcing and relocation of tech jobs, and the drop in immigration. one more reason i don’t expect oakland to be able to outgrow its financial troubles.

  102. Ken O

    Hey Len, I’m only pessimistic because when Oakland starts not seeing any oil shipments, that means our gas stations will be having spot shortages, meaning grocery stores won’t be fully stocked every day, meaning not all city workers will get to work on time every day, and so on…

    And before that happens, the city might default by then.

    Growth is dead. (free tip: if you’re a city politician, just name your solution growth, even if it isn’t, so it’ll be popular :)

  103. David

    From 2004 through 2007, about 275,000 Californians left the Golden State for the old Dust Bowl states of Oklahoma and Texas, twice the number that left those two states for California, recent Internal Revenue Service figures show. In fact, the mid-South gained more residents from California during those four years than either Oregon, Nevada or Arizona. The trend continued into 2008.

    I agree, though, the trend is likely to reverse at least a little bit (and would be more if the state could rationalize its spending & taxes), as California’s main problem–housing prices–are correcting.

    For example, a house in Chicago in a similar ‘hood to where I am now costs about 20% more, with higher property taxes, higher utility/home heating costs. I think I’m not the only one who can pull out a calculator and figure that out.

  104. Samantha Robinson

    Oakland BRT is fifth on the City Council agenda tomorrow night!

    April 20, 6:30 pm: City Council Meeting
    BRT is 5th item on the “Non-consent” calendar (“Non-consent” = items for discussion)
    Agenda: <– BRT is on pg. 16
    Meeting held at One Frank Ogawa Plaza, Oakland, CA

    Please come voice your thoughts on BRT.