Page One

Transit panel looking for advisors

By Erika Fricke Daily Planet Staff
Wednesday February 14, 2001

The AC Transit Board is looking for a few good bus riders. 

Applications are being accepted for bus riders interested in serving on one of two advisory committees: the Accessibility Advisory Committee and the Bus Riders Advisory Committee. Directors appoint two members from each of their wards to serve on the advisory committees and give the rider’s perspective.  

Joe Wallace served as president of the Rider Advisory Committee prior to being elected AC Transit director in November. He is the natural liaison between committees and the board of directors, and said that the Advisory Committees are a necessary part of the administrative system.  

“Basically the role that they play is to give the community’s view on how the service is, or what complaints they may have about non-existing services,” he said. “They are our ears and eyes out there every single day, they’re up and down on the buses.”  

More importantly, he said, the committees represent the space for public participation in any bureaucracy. “I think the community should always have a word in whatever public agency they’re dealing with.” 

Bruce DeBenedictis has served on the Rider Advisory Committee since its inception in 1996. He lists work on Measure B, the transportation bond passed in November, as the most important activity undertaken by the committee. In addition to helping garner funds for more and better transit, in the past year the committee has examined the complaint system, discussed public information materials, and inevitably, discussed service problems such as missed runs. “The major issues are always there, late buses, buses that don’t show, badly trained drivers,” said Charlie Betcher, another long-term member of that committee. 

DeBenedictis said in the coming year, the committee will be able to give feedback on service changes paid for with Measure B. “The rider should have a say about what services we do get for our money,” he said. 

The Accessibility Advisory Committee ensures AC Transit remains accessible to elderly and disabled bus riders, by making sure that equipment is in working order and that signs and signals convey the necessary information to riders.  

The directors are looking for a diverse group of riders to serve on the committees to provide a varied perspective. DeBenedictis said that it’s hard to realize the details that affect disabled riders until someone tells you that he has to distinguish buses by the different sounds that they make.  

The most important qualification to serve on the advisory committees is to have lived with AC Transit. “I think anybody who’s a dedicated bus rider and wants to improve the service would do us all a service by applying,” said Betcher. 

DeBenedictis said mastering the AC Transit kvetch is not enough, committee members must be “exceptional riders,” willing to listen hard to community members and think about what is best for the community as a whole. 

Wallace, whose ward encompasses north and west parts of Berkeley, will be appointing at least one person this year. “What I would be looking for is a person that uses public transportation,” he said. “A person that will not only serve on those committees but will get back to their communities about what goes on with AC Transit and with the issues that both committees represent.” 

Greg Harper, whose AC Transit district includes parts of south Berkeley as well as parts of Oakland and Emeryville, was not available to interview. 

Applications for the Advisory Committees are available from the AC Transit District Secretary at 1600 Franklin, Oakland 94612. They are due Feb. 23. 

For more information about serving on the advisory committees call 891-4851