Recent rains have been a harsh reminder to local public transit users that 125 promised bus shelters are apparently bogged down in the city’s permitting process. It has been nearly a year since the city approved an agreement for their installation.
“I’m absolutely undone we don’t have these shelters,” Mayor Shirley Dean said. “They’re up in Hayward and San Leandro, why aren’t they up in Berkeley?”
Officials in the Advanced Planning Division of the Planning Department did not return calls on the question Wednesday.
Last January the City Council unanimously approved a deal with Lamar Outdoor Advertising of Alameda County to install the shelters at no charge to the city in exchange for advertising rights on each shelter’s two-sided, 4-by-6-foot, fluorescent panels. As part of the agreement, Lamar would also be responsible for the maintenance of the shelters, which cost $8,000 each.
Berkeley’s agreement with Lamar was one element of an umbrella contract between AC Transit and Lamar to install bus shelters in seven cities, including Emeryville and Albany.
But now that winter is setting in and there are still no shelters, transit users are beginning to complain. After receiving several dozen phone calls, Dean and Councilmember Miriam Hawley have placed a recommendation on Tuesday’s agenda asking the city manager to investigate the shelters’ status.
“Bus riders are getting very impatient because the rain is here now,” Hawley said. “Apparently there was a hold up because of merchant concerns about the locations of the shelters, but that has been cleared up and now the shelters are awaiting permits.”
Hawley said she was told by city staff that the shelters had arrived and would be installed once they received permits from Advanced Planning.
Lamar spokesperson Cordell Davenport said Operations Manager Tom Darnel recently met with city officials to discuss the shelters.
“Lamar management is very anxious to get going on the Berkeley bus shelters,” he said. “We are reasonably sure there will be some movement soon.”
The Commission on Aging and the Commission on Disability signed onto the agreement with Lamar late last year. Both commissions worked with the advertising agency to select the most advantageous locations for the shelters.
The council approved the agreement with Lamar on Jan. 16 after seeking assurances from Operations Manager Brendan Marcum about the type
of advertising that would be displayed on the shelters and the frequency of shelter maintenance.
Councilmember Dona Spring wanted a guarantee that Lamar would not display advertising for alcohol, tobacco or firearms. Marcum said Lamar would conform to city regulations on advertising subject matter.
Councilmember Polly Armstrong was concerned that the shelters would fall into neglect and might become a blight on city streets.
Marcum said the contract with AC Transit specifically requires the shelters to be washed every two weeks with an all-purpose detergent and cleaned with a high-pressure spray once a month. In addition Lamar guaranteed that any graffiti that appeared on the shelters would be cleaned as soon as possible.
Dean and Hawley will also ask the city manager for a installment schedule and ideas about how to get the installation of the shelters on the fast track because “bus riders in Berkeley are standing in the rain or huddling under the inadequate shelter of doorways and overhangs in buildings near bus stops,” the recommendation reads.