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Berkeley’s #5 in mass transit

By Devona Walker Daily Planet Staff
Thursday May 16, 2002

According to Census 2000 data released Tuesday, Berkeley is fifth among Bay Area cities when it comes to using mass transit to get to and from work, passing neighboring Oakland and coming in behind other neighbors Emeryville, Albany and El Cerrito. 

The city that uses mass transit the most in the Bay Area is San Francisco, according to census data. 

“San Francisco remains the flagship when it comes to using mass transit,” said Chuck Purvis. “But what is most important about this data is how each city compares with previous numbers; that’s where you see the trends. For instance, Berkeley has improved in the last 10 years. And Oakland has gone down in numbers in the last 10 years.” 

Purvis went onto to say that there is only a limited amount of analytical data available because the statistics lack a certain historical perspective. 

In addition, when it came to Bay Area cities where residents walk to work, Berkeley ranked no. 4 — behind Stanford, Elmire and Angwin.  

“Alone it may not say much that Berkeley showed that 18.6 percent using mass transit, but you also have to look at how many residents are using other alternative ways of getting to work such as walking.” 

According to Purvis, Berkeley’s overall numbers were very good as it ranked well in the number of residents who are using mass transit and in the numbers of residents who are walking to work.  

In addition, Berkeley ranked no. 5 among cities where residents have no car available to them. And it did not rank at all among Bay Area cities where commuters are driving alone to work. 

“All in all this cannot show how Berkeley is changing over the last 100 years, but it does indicate what’s happening over the last 10 or 20. More people are beginning to use mass transit.” 

This would seemingly come as good news to advocates of smart growth — who have been pushing for more housing along transportation corridors to coincide with a community that is willing to use mass transit as a means to get to and from work centers. The data could be used analytically to get more government dollars for development along the transportation corridor. Consequently this information probably does not bode well for those who oppose smart growth. 

Martha Nicoloff, a Berkeley neighborhood activist, former planning commissioner and author of a proposed height restriction ordinance, says she opposes smart growth and opposes increased development in any targeted areas. 

“We are for just-right growth,” Nicoloff said. “Smart growth wants to put high-density, high-rise apartments in low-income neighborhoods to revitalize them. But the low-income neighborhoods don’t agree with it, and certainly don’t necessarily want it. 

“Berkeley is already quite dense in comparison to other communities. And we it has already satisfied the ABAG housing requirement where other r cities have not. The objection to smart growth is that it is discriminating and it designates all development in certain neighborhoods.”