Berkeley with a Transit First policy should approach zoning in an evolutionary manner.
As a minimum, for the area along Hearst Street that is clearly within two major transit corridors, University and San Pablo, via a short accessible walk should maintain status quo zoning, not downzone. Actually, Berkeley should increase density to maintain, support and improve transit.
Last June on a transit study tour, I visited Curitiba, Brazil, a city that United Nation considers the most Livable and Sustainable City. I viewed transit corridors with 6-10 story buildings lining transitways but a block back they had 3-4 story buildings and further beyond were single storied homes. People use transit for
65% of all their trips, still surprising, they provide 1.3 million trips/day via only a bus system that is not publicly subsidized.
Here, AC Transit is upgrading the bus service along San Pablo that will be similar to Los Angeles’ Wilshire Metro Rapid Bus. LA, using signal priority with low-floor buses and special boarding stops has attracted over 40,000 additional riders per day with buses operating at 2 minutes intervals during peak periods and still they are crowded.
The major reason for its high ridership is the high corridor density. With additional riders, transit service need not be subsidized as much.
Downzoning leads to less access to transit and negates the effort of AC Transit’s attempt to improve transit through Berkeley. If our intent is to be a Transit First City we should support development of higher density transit corridors and educate the public that this is what we are working towards. In the long run, it will provide for the livability, health, environment and viability of the city similar to Curitiba.
Roy Nakadegawa P.E.
BART Director, District 3