Your chance to weigh in on BRT in Oakland

At long last, Oakland transit geeks are finally going to get a chance to talk about BRT! Talk about, that is, it somewhere other than the internet or a bar or AC Transit’s BRT Policy Steering Committee meetings, which are attended by only the absolute geekiest of transit geeks, anyway.

During January, Oaklanders will have seven – that’s right, seven chances to weigh in on their preferred route design and stop locations.

BRT is a big deal, and not just for bus riders. In a must-read post today on Future Oakland, dto510 explains how this project represents a once in a lifetime opportunity to turn two of Oakland’s major thoroughfares into a bona fide complete street:

Next week, the City of Oakland will begin a series of public meetings about a Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA) to create a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line crossing the entire city. BRT has been debated for a decade in the East Bay, and its key feature, exclusive bus lanes, has been the source of some consternation among residents in Berkeley and parts of Oakland. But since the City Councils of Berkeley, San Leandro and Oakland voted to move forward with BRT on Telegraph Ave and International Blvd in 2000, BRT has been an abstract concept. No more. Oakland planners have unveiled a proposal to create a fully-fledged complete street stretching 17 miles across the East Bay, substantially redesigned for pedestrian and bicycle use in addition to bus lanes. Crosswalks, sidewalk bulb-outs, streetlights, and bicycle lanes will complement a world-class transit system, with the potential to transform the heart of the East Bay.

The term “Complete Street” is used to refer to a street that is improved for all modes of transit: motorized, bicycle, and pedestrian. In Oakland, the Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plans and their associated policies provide compliance with the CA Complete Streets Act of 2008, but there are no concrete plans to add bike lanes or substantial pedestrian improvements to the entirety of Telegraph Avenue and International Blvd. The BRT plan drawn up by Oakland planners and engineers, formally if confusingly known as Oakland’s Locally Preferred Alternative, would make far-reaching and large-scale improvements to those streets, an opportunity unique in the city today.

It only gets better from there. Go read it now!

If you’re not up to speed on the concept of BRT yet – well, you can get caught up by reading through my archives or perusing the City’s BRT page, and AC Transit’s as well. You can get an idea of what it would be like riding the new route from the image below, which illustrates Oakland’s proposed preferred route and stop locations:

Click to enlarge

But the absolute best way to get your questions answered about BRT is to attend one of these meetings. Here’s the schedule:

  • Monday, January 11th, 6-8 PM
    Fruitvale Senior Center
    3301 E. 12th Street, Ste. 201

  • Tuesday, January 12th, 6-8 PM
    Eastside Arts Alliance
    2277 International Boulevard

  • Thursday, January 21st, 6-8 PM
    East Oakland Youth Development Center
    8200 International Boulevard

  • Tuesday, January 26th, 6-8 PM
    Faith Presbyterian Church
    420 49th Street

  • Wednesday, January 27th, 11 AM – 1 PM
    Oakland City Hall, Hearing Room 2
    1 Frank Ogawa Plaza

  • Wednesday, January 27th, 5-7 PM
    Oakland City Hall, Hearing Room 4
    1 Frank Ogawa Plaza

  • Thursday, January 28th, 6-8 PM
    St. Louis Bertrand Church
    1410 100th Avenue

With so many options, surely everyone can find space in their calendar for at least one of them! And before you go, make sure you read dto510′s blog about BRT.

41 thoughts on “Your chance to weigh in on BRT in Oakland

  1. Matt

    I beleive there are too many stops for this to be true BRT. The 72R goes at least 5 blocks between stops, but mostly goes 9. The proposed BRT goes as little as 3 blocks between stops and seems to average about 4 blocks between stops. The route looks more like a limited than true BRT.

  2. Brad

    Is the dedicated BRT lane going to wipe out the median on International between 33rd and 35th Streets? This median has nice trees and paving and really knits the heart of the Fruitvale shopping district together into a walkable area. It would be a shame to see the median go.

    Otherwise, I’m fine with the numerous stops. We already have BART which parallels this line providing limited stops and rapid transit times. This line with its more numerous stops IS more like a limited, but a fast one with dedicated lanes. Nice, because it offers convenience (numerous stops) but also rapid transit times.

  3. Matt

    Is there is a demand or interest in another limited-type bus line? There has been a lot of discussion about BRTs that function like the pre-war street cars did in that they mainly stop at intersecting arterials or popular destinations allowing people to travel long distances quickly.

    I agree that the addition of the BRT should not compromise the integrity of existing streetscapes. I hope streetscape design will be in the scope of the outreach meetings.

  4. david vartanoff

    The stops shown are a DOWNGRADE of the current 1R on the Telegraph Ave segment. This is apparently the one size fits all neither genuine local nor real rapid that the Policy Com voted for last summer. At present, ridership on Telegraph is not high enough to justify Rapid service evenings or weekends–the R does run Saturdays on East 14th. Needs a rethink.

  5. Dave C.

    Pretty sure the median landscaping in Fruitvale will stay. If you click on the link in V’s post to the AC Transit’s BRT page, then you can find before and after drawings of how the BRT proposal is expected to look in various neighborhoods along the route. The “after” drawing for International Blvd at Fruitvale Ave shows the median kept the same, with the left car lane turned into a bus-only lane, and the right lane kept as a regular traffic lane (no added bike lane on that stretch, presumably because there’s just not enough room).

    Tearing out medians is a lot more expensive than repainting lanes, and tearing out the median would also be a step backwards for that section of International, so I’d be shocked if tearing out that median ever comes under serious consideration.

  6. Brad

    If they’re just going to be painting lines to delineate the dedicated BRT lane, then the BRT is not going to be effective. Motorists will simply drive in the BRT lane, slowing down the BRT buses. (Seriously, in a city where people turn major interstate arteries into arenas for sideshows, you think the painted lines for the BRT lane are going to be respected?).

    If they want to make the BRT lane effective, they need to add a raised concrete curb to separate the BRT lane from the car lanes. Preferably with some iron fencing added on top, to discourage people from jumping the curb, though they might want to leave it off to allow emergency vehicles to jump the curb if necessary.

    Otherwise this whole BRT lane is going to be a joke.

  7. Dave C.

    Sorry, I should have said the “after” drawing for International Blvd. at 34th Ave, not International Blvd. at Fruitvale Ave.

  8. Brad

    I just looked at the before and after pictures. They’re going to tear the trees out of an entire block of median. There are only two blocks of tree-lined median there! I would definitely oppose that.

  9. Dave C.

    Brad: Based on those AC Transit drawings (I don’t know how up-to-date they are), it looks like BRT lanes would be physically separated from the regular traffic lanes in almost all places. The existence of that median in Fruitvale might be the reason that the bus-only lane would be adjacent to the regular traffic lane in that stretch of International.

    Looks like the trees would be taken out to accommodate the bus stop shelter and waiting area. I think we’ll have to get used to these kinds of compromises—if people want to keep that median in roughly its current form, then we’ll probably have to accept having the BRT lane adjacent to the car lane, and having the bus stop on the median in lieu of some of the trees. Personally, I’d rather see the parking lane be removed in favor of a separated bike lane, but it ain’t gonna happen.

  10. Brad

    Yeah, I saw the raised curb separations in the other areas when I looked at the other before/after picture sets. Although, you would think that even in Fruitvale they could install some very narrow concrete curbs to separate the BRT lanes from the car lanes, something along the lines of the ones that separate the through lane and the lane that is required to stop when you’re driving westbound on First Avenue where it merges with Lakeshore Drive and 12th below Lake Merritt.

    I think there is physically enough space for bus patrons to wait on the current median without having to change the median — it looks like they want to take out the trees to accommodate the station structure. I wonder if there’s some way we can avoid this.

  11. Brad

    I don’t get why they want to put the station there and ruin that really great median by tearing out the trees. They could easily put the station on a new median located on International between Fruitvale and 33rd or between 35th and 36th. The latter alternative is currently a turning lane that might be missed by some drivers (not be me, and I live there) but the former alternative is currently dead space, walled off from the road by double yellow lines.

    BART to BRT transfers will only have to walk and extra half block if they do either alternative. But really the area is very walkable, precisely because the medians do a good job of tying the area together.

  12. dto510

    Brad, AC Transit is confident they will be able to enforce the bus-only lanes. Some BRT systems use something like red-light cameras.

  13. Becks

    I encourage everyone who has questions to attend these meetings. The images on the AC Transit website are not up to date since they were created long before Oakland weighed in. The Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee was lucky enough to see a huge image of what nearly the entire length of Telegraph in Oakland would look like with BRT, and it is really astounding. I couldn’t be much more excited about the pedestrian improvements. Unfortunately, the draft design doesn’t appear to be online yet so you’ll have to go to the meetings to check it out. It’s well worth seeing – I promise.

    Please don’t assume any medians will be taken out until you see the actual design put forward by Oakland.

  14. Matt

    In spite of my issues with stop distance -median and ped improvements along Telegraph would almost be enough cause alone for me to support this project. That corridor is trying so hard to improve and it’s about time the city come on board, too.

  15. len raphael

    asked three different under 35 year old temescal telegraph ave business owners today about their opinion of the BRT. I was taken aback by the vehemence of their opposition to it. i wouldn’t say their reactions made the grand lake guy look calmly rational, but they are flat convinced it will seriously hurt their fledgling retail businesses.

    one person was describing how his sales drop 30% when parking spaces fill up on the stretch near him. (he only laughed when i asked whether the higher rates had increased turnover enough to help. his response was the whole meter thing total killed off the customers he used to get from SF driving here.).

    surely, with all the thought going into BRT, there are some kind of parking mitigation planned and funded for the merchants? Or are we telling them to hold on for ten years until density increases? Collateral road kill for building a better oakland?

    -len raphael

  16. dto510

    Len, it is anticipated that AC Transit will attempt to mitigate much of the parking loss by adding new parking. This could be in the form of building a parking structure, or metering more spaces in the commercial districts. But since cars now make up about 56% of motorized trips on Telegraph, and after BRT this should fall to 43%, there won’t need to be as much parking with a better transit infrastructure. Also, the MacArthur BART transit village may add parking / reduce parking needs.

    The Temescal merchants’ organization, of course, is supportive of the BRT project though concerned about parking mitigations.

  17. Robert

    dto, The draft EIR explicitly eliminates the option of adding a parking structure as a mitigation. Metering parking spaces is not the addition of parking. I think it will be an extremely difficult sell to say that metering some of the existing spots makes up for elimination of existing parking. Fewer spaces are fewer spaces, and therefore fewer customers at any given time. Now maybe higher turnover through metering will make up for fewer customers at any given time, but I don’t think many merchants will readily buy into that idea. Besides, by the time BRT is finally built, Oakland will most likely have gone to better demand management for parking, so that will no longer be an option for a mitigation strategy for parking displacement by BRT.

  18. Max Allstadt

    I really don’t see the problem with losing a little parking in Temescal. I have never had to park more than 2 blocks from any destination in Temescal, even at peak shopping and dining times.

    Say I’m going to Barlata, I drive there, do a 1 block radius circle, maybe do another at two blocks out. Never ever ever have I not found a place to park. Walking two blocks is not a disincentive unless you’re disabled, lazy, or psychotically paranoid about crime. And there are plenty of handicapped spots.

    There’s just no reason to be concerned about losing a couple spaces.

  19. Robert

    It is actually about 15% of the parking in the Temescal area, not a couple of spots. Your experience is different than mine in finding parking on Thur-Sat nites. And while you might think that walking a couple of blocks should not be a disincentive to anybody, it almost certainly is for some people, which will have a negative impact on business.

    However, if you believe and understand Donald Shoup, there is a straightforward answer. Which is for ACTransit to compensate on an ongoing basis for the parking lost to BRT. That compensation should go to to a Temescal business association, and not to the city. The bus stops are, after all, occupying parking spots that could otherwise be sold to shoppers. So it only makes sense to collect the lost revenue from those parking spots. The rate per spot should be set based on the meter rate for the remaining parking in the area.

  20. david vartanoff

    This assumes no shift from cars to transit/bicycles/walking. Not a future I wish for. If the patrons of the resurgent Temescal are so fickle as to need to park closer than two blocks, one wonders where they will drive when gas becomes more expensive.

  21. Robert

    If that comment is directed to me, it does not make any assumption about a shift in transit modes. If parking demand drops, then compensation from ACTransit to the BID would also drop. Shoup is a very free market guy. And you assume that gas will remain the only energy source for cars as it becomes more expensive.

  22. Max Allstadt

    Define “the Temescal Area”. Does that include side streets within two blocks of Telegraph? I doubt it.

    And there’s no way AC Transit should be paying merchants. That’s deranged. BRT will bring business, not scare it off.

    There may be a transition time, however. That would be the time period when people who don’t find parking fast enough for their impatient personalties notice something: The new shiny public transportation system they could take in order to avoid having to park.

  23. Max Allstadt

    What the hell is free market about a transit agency giving public money directly to businesses in the form of cash? Subsidies aren’t free market.

  24. Robert

    It is not a subsidy, it is compensation for consumption of a resource – parking spots. Shoup writes that parking fees should go to the businesses in the area where the paring is located.

    As defined in the dEIR, the Temescal area includes 44th to 55th, one block on either side of Telegraph. You think that BRT will bring customers, the merchants do not think it will make up for the lost parking.

  25. Max Allstadt

    Yeah. That’s called a parking benefit district. But there isn’t one in Temescal.

    The city owns those parking spots and all the revenue, so the merchants don’t get to make a claim on the value of the spots. If the merchants were able to concur on creating a parking benefit district before spots get taken, they might have an obtuse claim that they’re entitled to compensation similar to what happens when the government makes an imminent domain seizure.

  26. len raphael

    dt, i would think a couple of small parking structures, and parking permits would keep the merchants healthy and the residents calm. was there any budgeting for land acquisition and parking structure costs in any portion of the BRT route? if not, would think the merchants and many of their customers would be as skeptical of that commitment as we all are of BART promises.

    max, most of the residents around here aren’t made of the stronger stuff found in west and east oakland.

    after 630pm not a pedestrian to be found 1 block east of telegraph. a little better west of telegraph.

    but if the plan in temescal (and much of oakland) is to go with current flow and support the growth of a gourmet ghetto, i’d like to think AC transit has commissioned independent studies of the economic impact of the likely parking takeaway’s under different scenarios and time framework. if nothing else, it’s good politics to do that.

    -len raphael

  27. Robert

    the dEIR removed added parking from consideration because it did not fit with in with the goals of ‘transit first’ . So no money and no plans anywhere along the route. An economic analysis is not required for the EIR, so ACT has not looked into it.

  28. len raphael

    Rbt, strange world. wouldn’t think that even if not required for the impact report, ACT would want to minimize the impact on the sales tax revenue, or if that doesn’t matter to ACT, would want to smooth the way politically.

    btw, I would not want to piss off Korean American business owners along Telegraph. They’d make the Grand Lake crew look like polite.

    -len raphael

  29. david vartanoff

    While I understand the concept of mitigating lost parking, I have no interest in same. Though I have MAJOR objections to many aspects of AC’s. BRT plans, inconveniencing autos is not one. If the merchants are genuinely afraid their patrons will evaporate, maybe they should lease the dead video store lot for validated parking. You’d think places like Bakesale have enough cachet to keep their clientele even if parking became more difficult. The six hundred foot mall rule should not apply to unique businesses
    (Joel Garreau’s analysis of the maximum distance mall shoppers are willing to walk.)

  30. len raphael

    DV, bb has a large enough walking customer base that she would do just fine. that’s true for a few of the others. but most of them wouldn’t make it thru a 10 year drought till high density arrives. especially when walgreens and genova’s tightens up on the use of that parking lot.

    Chris K, explain to me what i’m missing when i see some parallels in the rationales of dedicated BRT supporters for overriding local merchant or resident objections, to the mindset of the more principled OAC supporters, or even some of the theoreticians (apologists?) for the freeways that cut up Oakland in the 50′s and 60′s. Yeah, BRT supporters have Gaea on their side, and motives unsullied by economics. But there’s still a strong whiff of ends justifying means, damn the local benighted yahoos.

    -len raphael

  31. len raphael

    Naomi, what was the program in the early 70′s of selling or was it moving victorians west of DTO? i recall someone telling me how Oakland was selling houses for super cheap. was that related to the historic district?

  32. Naomi Schiff

    I’m not sure, Len, but maybe you are referring to the moving of some of the historic houses into what is now Preservation Park. Also moved was the former Greek Orthodox church. These structures were moved out of the way of the Grove Shafter project.

    I’m not sure about the “selling houses for super cheap” part. This was in the 70s? They might have been selling houses for people to move, but I don’t know of that part (I only got to Oakland in 74). Best neighborhood informant is Ellen Wyrick Parkinson. Also, the Oakland Cultural Heritage Survey in the planning dept. of the city has documented West Oakland very thoroughly, and they have a lot of detail available concerning the 70s period.

    Something intriguing was that our late Mayor Lionel Wilson took a somewhat dim view of Victorian houses, thought of them as blighted and vermin-infested, and symbols of poverty and decay. But his brother, Warren B. Wilson, lovingly restored one and has appreciated them. Not only did he refurbish the “Victorian Legal Center” on 11th St., and put his law office there, but he applied for and received landmark status for it.

  33. KenO


    Americans will be driving less and less each year from here on out. That is a fact of nature driven by the inexorable decline of the limited natural resource which pushes our 2-ton vehicles: oil. Even GM’s senior engineer said that ICE engines will go the way of the carrier pigeon by 2020 or 2030. That’s 10-20 years out at MOST.

    You can verify this by looking at the federal government’s published VMT numbers. Scroll for chart:

    So why exactly does anyone want to save car parking spaces? Cars are awful, awful things — and yes they have also been positive in many ways — democratizing and liberating for youth and women and all kinds of folks, us included — but we’re in denial about our futures if we think cars are here forever. The ox cart, whale oil and chariot went away too!

    I understand that many people who grew up “living the dream” (America c. 1945-1979 and to an extent 1980-2006) are trying to protect a “non-negotiable way of life” (Dick Cheney, 2001), save what is nostalgic, comfortable, convenient, SAFE, etc.

    For me it’s like watching elderly pensioners in post-USSR Russia marching around with portraits of Lenin and Stalin. Someday maybe we’ll see folks in the US of a certain age marching about with Ronald Reagan photos in frames, and perhaps covered in “flair” of their fave automakers of old. Or perhaps framed photos of “free” parking spaces would be the equivalent.

    People who want suburbs should live in exurbs.

    Who benefits from all this free parking?
    The suburban dream machine: big oil, big auto, real estate developers, car mechanics, tire makers, fast food joints who don’t pay their fair share of property taxes post Prop 13, big pharma and private hospitals and health insurance companies and liposuction doctors. Yes, some other merchants too.

    There are solutions to the less-parking problem.

    A) pay someone else to ship the bulky item(s) you just bought
    B) make pub transit more sexy (see: LA Metro) to compete w/ all the car commercials/ads out there
    C) bicycle, walk

    There are others.

    Closing quote by Paul Hawken:

    “For too long, we believed that more meant better, that energy-, concrete-, and automobile-intensive cities would bring us a better life. That tall tale is being replaced by common sense understanding that what makes for a fulfilling urban existence is neighborhoods, farmer’s markets, parks, mobility, quiet, greenery, and meaningful livelihoods, all of which require less resources and better design.”

    Richard Register’s “EcoCity Berkeley” (1987) is a good example of a powered down future most people could accept — a more European style urban norcal. (Otherwise it’s feudalism or chaos.) We can go there kicking and screaming (Robert) or with open arms embracing these changes, for all their pros and cons (David).

  34. David

    The European future? where more Europeans are driving? (Their transit use has gone steadily down for the past 20, 30 years).